Arizona programs to assist domestic violence victims expanded
PHOENIX – The expansion of two pilot programs that provide free legal assistance to domestic violence victims has been authorized by the Arizona Supreme Court.
The Licensed Legal Advocate Program will be a source of advice and consultation, while the Domestic Violence Legal Document Preparer Program will provide legal document preparation help for victims, the court announced Thursday.
Licensed Legal Advocates are not licensed attorneys, but are required to have a bachelor’s degree, at least 2,000 hours of domestic violence advocacy work experience and to complete a certification program at the University of Arizona College of Law.
They will be allowed to give advice on legal issues related to urgent and high-risk needs of domestic violence victims, including protective orders and family law matters.
The LLAs will be allowed to accompany clients to court and provide consultation.
University of Arizona Innovation for Justice Director Stacy Butler said in a statement that this pilot program “has the potential to significantly improve the delivery of civil legal services for low-income populations nationwide.”
“Creating a new and sustainable tier of civil legal service provider could be a huge boost for non-profit, civil legal aid and social service communities,” Butler said.
The pilot is limited to employees and clients of the Emerge! Center Against Domestic Abuse, which is in Tucson.
The certified members of the Domestic Violence Legal Document Preparer Program will not be allowed to give advice, but can provide legal information and help fill out forms and documents for victims.
Prior to receiving certification, they must have worked under the supervision of a legal aid attorney and have passed an exam.
They will receive authorization from the Arizona’s Administrative Office of the Courts’ Certified Document Preparer program.
Though these workers will be allowed to accompany clients to court, they won’t be able to give legal consultation unless asked direct factual questions by a judicial officer or court personnel.
Kevin Ruegg, the CEO and executive director of the Arizona Bar Foundation, which proposed this program, said he expects the pilot program to bring more safety to victims.
“The DVLDP offers us the opportunity to expand services to domestic violence victims,” Ruegg said in a statement.
“With the expertise of the lay legal advocates and the legal aid attorneys, the scope of services being offered through this initiative will increase the safety and security for the victims and their family.”