Access to Justice

ABE's annual grant program sends $300K to 12 innovative projects

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Low-income clients overburdened by debt, transgender and nonbinary people who need help changing their names, and youths experiencing homelessness are among the groups supported this year by the American Bar Endowment’s Opportunity Grant Program.

Earlier this month, the ABE announced that it awarded nearly $300,000 to 12 innovative projects that focus on improving access to legal assistance and providing resources to underserved communities. While this is the seventh consecutive year for the ABE’s Opportunity Grant Program, the independent, not-for-profit public charity has provided annual grants to assist local and national public service, educational and research programs for more than 65 years.

“The ABE is proud of having a long history of providing funding support to efforts across the country that address urgent legal issues affecting underserved communities and to help people understand their legal needs and access the justice system to solve them,” said ABE Executive Director Joanne Martin in a press release.

The 2023 Opportunity Grant recipients are:

Amara Legal Center, which provides free trauma-informed legal representation and access to support services to individuals impacted by sex trafficking or involved in sex work in the Washington, D.C., area. It aims to develop virtual training modules to help medical professionals, law enforcement and legal services organizations identify sex trafficking survivors and legal issues they encounter.

Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project, which provides more than 500,000 asylum seekers nationwide with legal and community support. The organization will use the grant to expand its state-level legal resources for asylum seekers.

Legal Aid of Nebraska, which will develop bankruptcy software to expand its capacity to virtually assist low-income clients in need of relief through assisted pro-se bankruptcy clinics in Nebraska.

Lone Star Justice Alliance, an Austin, Texas-based nonprofit legal organization that works with youths and young adults in the justice system. It aims to create and provide online trainings, practice forms and practice materials to attorneys who represent juvenile defendants.

Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, an advocacy organization that works with the trans, nonbinary and gender expansive community in Massachusetts. It is developing an online platform to assist community members with legal name, gender marker and identity document changes.

Memphis Public Interest Law Center, which aims to use the grant to initiate a new app that helps renters in Tennessee document, gather and organize relevant facts and evidence for their own self-advocacy efforts or for their legal counsel.

Mobile Pathways, which helps immigrants nationwide access reliable legal information via mobile phone technology. It will use the grant to expand the reach of Hola Asistente, its new text-based tool that communicates with clients about their cases and immigration law.

Montclair State University Legal Decision Making Lab, which studies the decision-making of prosecutors, defendants and other legal actors. The Montclair, New Jersey-based research group is developing a tool for attorneys who are helping juveniles understand the process and consequences of entering plea bargains in criminal cases.

New Friends New Life, a Dallas-based organization that supports trafficked and sexually exploited teenagers, women and their children. The grant will help fund and create curriculum for its new onsite Legal Advocacy Clinic.

Resources Inspiring Success and Empowering, which is based in Fort Worth, Texas, and supports youths and young adults who are transitioning from foster care or experiencing homelessness. It aims to develop an online community for youths ages 18 to 24 who need access to lawyers knowledgeable in housing law, consumer law and tenants’ rights.

The University of Nevada at Las Vegas’ William S. Boyd School of Law, which will partner with the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada and other legal service providers to host two Community Law Days. The grant will support the events’ auditorium-style information sessions, one-on-one attorney meetings and social services tabling fairs.

Women and Children’s Horizons, a Kenosha, Wisconsin-based organization that provides shelter, education and other services to victims of sexual and domestic abuse and their families. It is developing a web and app-based tool to connect clients to attorneys and provide a space for virtual meetings and court proceedings.

Established in 1942, the ABE sponsors insurance plans for ABA lawyer-members who can then donate any available dividends back to the charitable organization. The ABE uses those funds to make grants supporting law-related public service, educational and research programs and projects.

More information on the grant programs is available on the ABE’s website.

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