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Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network Recognizes Work in Support of Pro Bono with 2017 Excellence Awards

Wed, 04/05/2017 - 10:51am

The Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network (PLAN) honored the recipients of the 2017 Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network Excellence Awards on March 28, 2017 at the annual awards dinner held at the Hilton Harrisburg.The Keynote Speaker at the event was The Honorable Josh Shapiro, Attorney General of Pennsylvania.

Fulton Financial Corporation logoFulton Financial Corporation was presented with the Outstanding Leadership in Support of Legal Services Award in recognition of the bank’s long-standing support and investment in Pennsylvania IOLTA and civil legal aid as an IOLTA Platinum Leader Bank. Platinum Leader Banks exceed the PA IOLTA program requirements by paying a 1%, premium yield, on IOLTA accounts. Since 2009, Fulton Financial Corporation has contributed more than $2.4 million to the IOLTA program.

Excellence Award recipients recognized for outstanding pro bono service included Barbara Griffin of Pittsburgh, Michael D. LiPuma of Philadelphia, Jill Kelly McComsey of Bethlehem and Thomas B. Schmidt III of Harrisburg.

Barbara Griffin, Esq.Barbara Griffin, Esq. is the Director of the Allegheny County Bar Foundation Pro Bono Center where she creates, manages, and supports programs that provide legal services to low-income persons facing critical legal issues. Ms. Griffin supports 36 Pro Bono Center programs and member organizations in various pro bono initiatives that tackle inequality and poverty. She works closely with Neighborhood Legal Services Association and the Pittsburgh Pro Bono Partnership to expand access to legal services which benefitted over 6,600 people last year. In addition to the amazing and tireless support she offers to the community and the legal profession, Ms. Griffin will not turn away a compelling case, often representing the client herself, when she sees an unrepresented person who has nowhere else to turn. Ms. Griffin is also currently co-chairing the Host Committee of the 2017 Equal Justice Conference which will be held in Pittsburgh this spring.

Michael D. LiPuma, Esq.Michael D. LiPuma, Esq.served as the chair of the Boards of Community Legal Services (CLS) and Philadelphia Legal Assistance (PLA) from 2013 until February 2017 when his terms as Board Chair ended. He had served on CLS’ Board since 2008 and PLA’s Board since 2004. In addition to chairing both Boards and Executive Committees, Mr. LiPuma pioneered and chaired the Boards’ Overlapping Board Committee, an innovation which ensures that CLS and PLA are working collaboratively together to benefit clients. He challenged the two organizations to become better than before and offered the necessary support and resources to make it happen. Throughout his board service, Mr. LiPuma has been a visionary and tireless champion of equal justice by working to improve access to legal services and ensuring a well-coordinated service delivery system to meet the legal needs of Philadelphia’s client community.

Jill Kelly McComsey, Esq.Jill Kelly McComsey, Esq. is an associate attorney at Seidel Cohen Hof & Reid, LLC in Bethlehem, PA. She is a very active volunteer fundraiser for North Penn Legal Services, where she created the Raise a Glass to Justice fundraising event in 2012 and it has become an annual event. Since its inception it has generated, as a result of Ms. McComsey’s direct involvement, over $56,000 for North Penn Legal Services. As a result of Ms. McComsey’s efforts, NPLS is able to leverage event proceeds with an annual bar donation from Northampton County Bar Association to fund a full time attorney position, enabling assistance to 150 clients that would be otherwise turned away. Ms. McComsey is very active in the Northampton County Bar Association, the Bar Association of Lehigh County and is an alumna of the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s Bar Leadership Institute. 

Thomas B. Schmidt III, Esq.Thomas B. Schmidt III, Esq. is is currently of counsel with Pepper Hamilton LLP and the attorney-in-charge of the firm’s Harrisburg office. He is a pro bono attorney extraordinaire, always answering the call to assist Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network programs when the need for expert legal representation arises. On several occasions he has served as counsel for PLAN programs providing excellent representation, and has consulted with both Friends of Farmworkers and the Community Justice Project lawyers on proposed litigation, as well as having advised PLAN. Inc. on legal and ethical questions.

Early in his career, Mr. Schmidt was the attorney representing several organizations advocating on behalf of farmworker rights and was key to the passage of the Pennsylvania Seasonal Farmworker Act in 1978. Even earlier, he played an active role in the civil rights movement activities in Selma, Alabama. Mr. Schmidt continues to maintain a substantial pro bono practice. In addition to his volunteerism with PLAN programs, he continues to serve as Pepper Hamilton’s coordinating attorney on ACLU cases.

Others receiving Excellence Awards included legal aid staff members Pamela Lynn Dalton-Arlotti, Esq.of Neighborhood Legal Services Association; the Legal Aid of Southeastern PA Centralized Telephone Hotline Staff; Linda D. Renick of North Penn Legal Services; Patricia Shilling of MidPenn Legal Services; and Judith E. Wilson, Esq. of Northwestern Legal Services.

Video tributes were shown highlighting the accomplishments of each of the 2016 recipients of the award at the award dinner. Those video tributes and more information on the Award Winners is available on Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network, Inc. website.

Pennsylvania Bar Association Presents Community Service Awards to Five Attorneys

Mon, 04/03/2017 - 9:23am

Wills for Heroes - PA logoOrganizers of Wills for Heroes, a program providing free wills and other estate planning documents for Pennsylvania’s emergency responders, military veterans and their spouses or significant others, selected five attorneys for the Pennsylvania Bar Association (PBA) Verdina Y. Showell Award for their dedication and years of service to the program.

The award recognizes outstanding community service and commitment to the Wills for Heroes program and is named in memory of Verdina Y. Showell, a lawyer at Exelon Business Services Company LLC, who passed away suddenly on December 24, 2008. As Exelon Legal Department’s pro bono lead in Philadelphia, she helped to plan and execute the first Wills for Heroes clinic in Pennsylvania, which was held in 2008 at Exelon’s Limerick Nuclear Generating Station.

Showell Award recipients for 2015, 2016 and 2017 were recognized during a Wills for Heroes clinic on March 11, 2017 that was hosted by PECO Energy Company at its Gas Training and Fire Academy in Conshohocken. Those honorees were:

Allegheny County

  • Julianne Cutruzzula Beil of Pittsburgh, Wills for Heroes county co-coordinator and attorney at Cutruzzula & Nalducci
  • Amy Rees of Pittsburgh, Wills for Heroes county co-coordinator and attorney at Heritage Elder Law & Estate Planning LLC

Chester County

  • Jodi Dyan Oley of Downingtown, Wills for Heroes county co-coordinator and attorney at Eckert Seamans
  • Courtney Wiggins of Coatesville, Wills for Heroes county co-coordinator and attorney at Mauger & Meter

Montgomery County

  • Crystal M. Fritsch of Glenside, attorney at Pepper Hamilton LLP

“The efforts of dedicated volunteers like our current honorees have played an integral role in the success of the Wills for Heroes program in our state,” said Lisa Shearman, co-chair of the Wills for Heroes program in Pennsylvania and a partner at Hamburg Rubin Mullin Maxwell & Lupin in Lansdale. “Thanks to their commitment to the program and years of service, we have been able to help thousands of paramedics, EMTs, firefighters, police, veterans and their families ensure their legal affairs are in order before a tragedy strikes.”

“The Wills for Heroes program in Pennsylvania would not be successful or continue to be successful without our honorees and the many dedicated volunteers, all of whom spend countless hours each year volunteering with us—oftentimes missing things in their own professional and personal lives to provide this essential service to our heroes,” said Sandy Romaszewski, co-chair of the Wills for Heroes program in Pennsylvania and a partner at Fox Rothschild in Philadelphia.

The program was initially brought to Pennsylvania by Daniel J.T. McKenna, a partner at Ballard Spahr LLP in Philadelphia and president of the Wills for Heroes Foundation, a national nonprofit that provides estate planning documents for veterans, first responders and emergency personnel. McKenna was honored with the Showell Award in 2014, as well as the Sandra Day O’Connor Award, for his work with Wills for Heroes.

The Pennsylvania Bar Association Young Lawyers Division adopted Wills for Heroes in 2008 as one of its major community service projects. To date, the program has provided wills and other estate planning documents to more than 10,000 first responders, military veterans and their spouses or significant others.

Despite the inherently dangerous nature of their jobs, an overwhelmingly large number of emergency responders — approximately 80 – 90% — do not have wills. This figure is based on experiential data from state and national first responder organizations.

Wills for Heroes events are being held in Pennsylvania communities upon request of leaders from local police, fire and emergency medical personnel organizations, military veteran organizations and county bar associations. On a scheduled day, a team of lawyers bring computer laptops to a meeting location and spend at least an hour with each participant who pre-registers to attend the event.  Volunteer non-attorneys who serve as witnesses, notaries and event organizers also are crucial to the success of each clinic.

A participant sits with a lawyer to review a questionnaire that the participant has filled out in advance. Answers are entered into a computer-based program. The lawyer reviews the resulting document with the participant to ensure its accuracy. After a final review by an estate planning lawyer and any necessary corrections are made, the will is printed, signed and notarized.

Upon request, lawyer volunteers also work with each participant to prepare a healthcare power of attorney and an advance medical directive, often called a “living will,” which specify what actions should be taken for the participant’s health in the event that he or she can no longer make decisions due to illness or incapacity.

In addition, lawyers prepare a durable power of attorney, a document that gives another person legal authority to act on behalf of the participant if the participant becomes incapacitated or unable to handle his or her financial matters.

ABA Military Pro Bono Project – Winter 2017 Newsletter for Volunteer Attorneys

Mon, 03/06/2017 - 5:46pm

PRO BONO ATTORNEY NEWSLETTER Winter 2017 Case Spotlight! Airman Awarded $20,000 in Car Dealership Fraud Claim with Pro Bono Legal Help

An Air Force servicemember purchased a vehicle from a car dealership with a loan of over $15,000 on which he was making regular monthly payments. However, the airman never received possession of the vehicle and he was at risk of his loan being turned into a personal loan at any time which would increase the interest rate significantly. Meanwhile, the car dealership was being investigated for multiple fraud cases against servicemembers and its dealer license had been revoked. Therefore, the servicemember needed help to quickly obtain a judgment against the dealership in order to pursue recovery. Read more...

Find additional case stories on our blog to see how you, our volunteers, are successfully helping military families.

Get Involved

ABA Military Pro Bono Project: Pro Bono Representation

The ABA Military Pro Bono Project accepts case referrals from military legal assistance offices anywhere in the world on behalf of junior enlisted servicemembers facing civil legal issues, and it places these cases with pro bono attorneys where the legal assistance is needed in the U.S.

Explore pro bono case opportunities on our website, which is updated daily. 

Operation Stand-By: Providing Legal Guidance to Military Attorneys

Through the Military Pro Bono Project’s Operation Stand-By, you may offer to provide attorney-to-attorney guidance to military attorneys so they can further assist their servicemember clients. Join by logging onto the Project website to update your profile by clicking on “I am registering to join the Project's Operation Stand-By."

Already signed up with Operation Stand-By? Please log onto the Project website to ensure that your profile information is up-to-date.

Press Highlights

ABA Military Pro Bono Project Outstanding Services Awards Announced 

The Project's success depends on its volunteers! Attorneys from law firms, corporate law departments, and other legal organizations throughout the nation accept pro bono cases from the Project. Thank you to all of the attorneys and pro bono coordinators who have registered with the Project and have accepted pro bono cases on behalf of our servicemembers!

Special thanks to the recipients of the ABA Military Pro Bono Project Outstanding Services Award, from the ABA Standing Committee on Legal Assistance for Military Personnel (LAMP), for their extraordinary pro bono services through the Project. View the 2016 recipients!


Holland & Knight Supports the Legal Needs of Military Families and Veterans  

Holland & Knight LLP highlights its longstanding partnership with the ABA Military Pro Bono Project in announcing its generous donation for the second consecutive year in support of our pro bono projects.

Upcoming CLEs

3/31 FREE CLE in Richmond, VA: Military Legal Assistance Issues

5/3 All Day Military CLE in Savannah, GA: FREE to local JAG Officers

Stay updated about other news and events.


Useful Books in the ABA Web Store:

The American Bar Association Legal Guide for Military Families: Legal resource for servicemembers, veterans, and their families. 

The Military Divorce Handbook: Resource for representing servicemembers and spouses.

Ripped Off!: Guide for military personnel about certain types of sales, scams and abusive commercial practices.

Veterans Appeals Guidebook:
Guide to representing veterans in the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. 

ABA Military Pro Bono Project’s Online Library:

The Project has an online library with resources that focus on legal issues faced by servicemembers, veterans, and military family members. Log onto the website and visit the Library.

Support Us

Along with our Star Ranking Supporters, special thanks to the following:

ABA Section of Antitrust Law

ABA Section of Litigation

Holland & Knight LLP

Lockheed Martin







Chief Justice Saylor Thanks Bar for Support of Legal Aid and Encourages Additional Commitment Through Pro Bono

Mon, 02/27/2017 - 12:07pm

Chief Justice Thomas G. Saylor at 2014 PA Legal Aid Network Excellence AwardsChief Justice of Pennsylvania Thomas G. Saylor has directed a letter to all members of the bar of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania thanking them for their financial support of legal aid, and joined with Pennsylvania Bar Association President Sara Austin in requesting that attorneys consider making an additional personal commitment through the provision of pro bono representation of the poor and through financial support of Pennsylvania's legal aid programs.

The Chief Justice cited Rule of Professional Conduct 6.1, which calls for lawyers to "render public interest legal service." stating that it is the voluntary efforts of attorneys that most greatly impact those in need.

The letter outlines that "[t]he Pennsylvania Supreme Court is dedicated to ensuring that the civil legal needs of those who cannot afford the services of a lawyer are met," citing the Court's support of civil legal aid in a variety of ways, from securing funding for a loan forgiveness program for legal services practitioners to honoring the work of pro bono volunteers.

Chief Justice Saylor stated that "[w]e can take pride in what we have done, but must realize there is more to do," and encouraged the bar to see the many pro bono opportunities that exist by visting and by registering at

The letter concluded by quoting the words of former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Conner regarding an attorney's responsibility to perform community service:

"Certainly, life as a lawyer is a bit more complex today than it was a century ago. The ever-increasing pressures of the legal marketplace, the need to bill hours, to market to clients, and to attend to the bottom line, have made fulfilling the responsibilities of community service quite difficult. But public service marks the difference between a business and a profession. While a business can afford to focus solely on profits, a profession cannot. It must devote itself first to the community it is responsible to serve. I can imagine no greater duty than fulfilling this obligation. And I can imagine no greater pleasure." - Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, speech at the University of Oregon (1999)

Letter of Chief Justice of Pennsylvania Thomas G. Saylor

Nominations Sought for ABA Pro Bono Publico Awards

Tue, 02/21/2017 - 11:48am

Nominations are currently being accepted for the 2017 American Bar Association Pro Bono Publico Awards.

The Pro Bono Publico Awards program seeks to identify and honor individual lawyers and small and large law firms, government attorney offices, corporate law departments and other institutions in the legal profession that have enhanced the human dignity of others by improving or delivering volunteer legal services to our nation's poor and disadvantaged. These services are of critical importance to the increasing number of people in this country living in a state of poverty who are in need of legal representation to improve their lives.

Nominees must meet criteria set forth by the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service. The Committee is currently accepting nominations from the following two categories:

  • Individuals: Individual attorneys who do not obtain their income delivering legal services to persons of limited means are eligible. (Compensated pro bono coordinators are not eligible.) Individual Nomination Form.  
  • Organizations: Small and large law firms, government attorney offices, corporate law departments, law schools and other institutions in the legal profession whose members have collectively made an outstanding contribution toward one or more of the criteria are eligible. Organization Nomination Form

International pro bono work is eligible for nomination, but domestic pro bono work is given priority by the Committee. No more than five awardees will be selected from those who have excelled consistent with the criteria set forth in the nomination application requirements.

Nominations will be accepted through March 3, 2017.

The Committee will select award recipients in April 2017. All nominators will be notified about the status of the nomination as soon as possible after selections are made.

The 2017 award will be presented at the ABA Annual Meeting in New York on Saturday, August 12, 2017.

For more information on the awards, visit

American Bar Association launches ImmigrationJustice.US website

Wed, 02/15/2017 - 2:53pm

The American Bar Association has launched  the ImmigrationJustice.US portal, a rapid emergency response website to coordinate the efforts of volunteer lawyers helping immigrants in response to President Trump’s Executive Orders altering the U.S. immigration system.

“The Law Practice Division Futures Committee and the ABA Center for Innovation accelerated a project to coordinate the volunteer efforts of lawyers responding to the president’s travel ban,” ABA President Linda A. Klein told the ABA’s House of Delegates at its Midyear Meeting this week. “Working with the American Immigration Lawyers Association, they helped set up a website in one afternoon, with links to relevant law, habeas resources, how-to-help guides and volunteer forms.”

The site also provides information on:

  • Relevant case law and statutes
  • Volunteer coordination forms
  • American Immigration Lawyers Association resources
  • Habeas corpus guides
  • Immigration news
  • Deportation waivers and relief forms and information
  • Detention fact sheets and reports, practice advisories, litigation and advocacy
  • Link to Help the Lawyers GoFundMe to raise funds to feed clients and volunteer attorneys, and purchase necessary supplies for attorneys helping detained individuals at airports.

The website is organized by the American Immigration Lawyers Association, American Immigration Council, and the ABA Center for Innovation. It was built through the efforts of the ABA Law Practice Division Futures Initiative with technical assistance from Aaron Street and Sam Glover of; Catherine Sanders Reach of the Chicago Bar Association, Dan Lear of Avvo, and Ed Walters of Fastcase.

Nominations for 2017 Kutak-Dodds Prizes Now Open

Wed, 02/15/2017 - 2:43pm

National Legal Aid & Defender Association logoThe National Legal Aid and Defender Association (NLADA), in partnership with the Robert J. Kutak Foundation, has opened the nominations for the 2017 Kutak-Dodds Prizes. The deadline to submit a nomination is Thursday, April 6, 2017.

Since 1989, the prizes have been awarded to attorneys who have significantly contributed to the human dignity and quality of life of individuals unable to afford legal representation. This annual award honors two longstanding advocates for equal justice, one from the civil legal aid community and another from the public defense community. Each prize carries a cash award of $10,000.

To qualify, the nominee must be an attorney employed by or affiliated with an organization serving persons who cannot afford to pay for legal representation. The nominee also may be an attorney working for a public interest, nonprofit organization. Nominees must have at least ten (10) years of practice in legal services or public interest work and must be currently involved in legal advocacy and /or active representation of clients on a daily basis.

The Kutak-Dodds Prizes are jointly sponsored by the Robert J. Kutak Foundation and NLADA and bestowed in memory of Robert J. Kutak and Kenneth R. Dodds. Both men were former partners in the Omaha, Nebraska, office of Kutak Rock LLP and advocates of public service, legal education, and high ethical standards throughout their lives. In addition to legal services for the poor, the Kutak Foundation supports education in professional ethics, minority scholarships, and a variety of other public interest projects. The foundation is maintained by Mr. Kutak’s former friends and associates.

For more information on the Kutak-Dodds Prizes, please contact Helen Katz, Chief Development Officer, at 202-452-0620, ext. 223 or via email at

More Information on the Award Criteria and Nominations Process

Elder Justice Resource Center Volunteer Attorney Training Program Offered by First Judicial District

Fri, 02/10/2017 - 4:03pm

The First Judicial District of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia) will be holding an Elder Justice Resource Center Volunteer Attorney Training Program on Wednesday, February 22, 2017 from 8:30 am to 12:30 pm.

The program will be held at the Philadelphia Municipal Court Conference Center, 1339 Chestnut Street, 10th Floor, Widener Building, Philadelphia, PA 19107. Registration will begin at 8:30 a.m., with the program beginning at 9:00 a.m.

The Elder Justice Resource Center (EJRC) first opened in October 2016 and is Pennsylvania’s first senior justice resource center. The EJRC offers free legal information, advice, and limited representation to unrepresented seniors.

The EJRC is overseen by the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania and court employees provide administrative and coordination services. The EJRC is also supported by numerous key service organizations including the Center for Advocacy for the Rights & Interests of the Elderly (CARIE), the SeniorLAW Center, Community Legal Services (CLS), Philadelphia Corporation for Aging (PCA), and Temple University Beasley School of Law School.

The training program for volunteers will provide training on the following topics:

  • Ethics for Serving Seniors / Aging
  • Elder Justice Resource Center / Elder Justice Initiatives
  • Housing: Landlord-Tenant / Homeowners Mortgage & Tax / Ejectment
  • Orphans Court Issues: Guardianship, Probate, & Protective Services
  • Elder Abuse and Financial Exploitation Overview
  • Aging and Legal Services Network / Resources

The training is free of charge to volunteer attorneys and offers two (2) hours of substantive PA CLE credit and one (1) hour of ethics PA CLE credit. The fees for non-volunteers are $90.00 for lawyers and $40.00 for non-lawyers,

Pre-Registration for the program is available online at or by email to


FJD's Elder Justice Resource Center to Work with Temple University Beasley School of Law to Provide Free Legal Assistance to Seniors

Wed, 01/25/2017 - 2:01pm

The First Judicial District’s Elder Justice Resource Center will begin working with Temple University Beasley School of Law on February 1, 2017 to offer free legal assistance to unrepresented seniors, age 60 and above, via the school's Elderly Law In-House Clinical Program.

Located in Room 278, City Hall, the Elder Justice Resource Center will be open Monday through Friday, from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. In-house clinical services will be offered every Wednesday.

“As our elderly population continues to grow, it's more important than ever that we continue our efforts to provide necessary legal resources to help them navigate challenging questions and situations that may arise. As judges we hear horror stories about seniors who've been taken advantage of due to limited access to legal help,” said President Judge Sheila Woods-Skipper, who led the Philadelphia Courts’ efforts to develop the resource center. “The Elderly Law In-House Clinical Program at the FJD’s Elder Justice Resource Center is another step toward ensuring that seniors receive much-needed quality legal assistance.”

The clinic will be staffed by Temple law students, under the supervision of Professor Debra H. Kroll, who will assist seniors with intake services, interviews, and the limited preparation of legal documents by appointment. No in-court representation will be available.

This coordination between the Philadelphia Courts and Temple Beasley School of Law’s Elderly Law In-House Clinical project provides valuable legal services to seniors who cannot afford, or otherwise obtain, access to legal assistance, while simultaneously offering students practical hands-on legal experience.

“We have such great hope and excitement for how our Elderly Law In-House clinical program can positively affect the lives of so many seniors in Philadelphia,” said Kroll, an associate clinical professor at Temple Law School, who specializes in Elder Law. “This is a valuable resource which we believe can help those who otherwise would not have assistance in accessing and dealing with our judicial system.”

The Elder Justice Resource Center (EJRC) first opened in October 2016 and is Pennsylvania’s first senior justice resource center. The EJRC offers free legal information, advice, and limited representation to unrepresented seniors.

The EJRC is overseen by the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania and court employees provide administrative and coordination services. The EJRC is also supported by numerous key service organizations including the Center for Advocacy for the Rights & Interests of the Elderly (CARIE), the SeniorLAW Center, Community Legal Services (CLS), Philadelphia Corporation for Aging (PCA), and Temple University Beasley School of Law School.

Elder Justice Resource Center visitors can walk-in or, if in need of limited document preparation, schedule an appointment in advance. For more information, visit, or call 215-686-7027.

Low-Income Women in Abusive Marriages in Beaver, Butler Counties Can Now Get Free Legal Help through ‘New Beginnings’ Program

Thu, 01/19/2017 - 4:26pm
Allegheny County Bar Foundation Expands Program into Neighboring Counties

Many women are trapped in abusive marriages because they can’t afford the legal representation needed in to navigate the divorce process. The Allegheny County Bar Foundation aims to help women in these situations through its New Beginnings program.

Through the program, ACBF staff and volunteer attorneys provide free legal representation to women with very low incomes who have experienced abuse in their marriages and wish to be divorced in order to move on with their lives. The program has been in place in Allegheny County for decades and is now expanding into Beaver and Butler Counties.

“It is tragic that so many women in our community feel trapped in abusive marriages simply because they don’t have the financial resources to hire an attorney,” said Barbara Griffin, director of the ACBF Pro Bono Center. “We have successfully helped hundreds of women in Allegheny County escape these situations, but until now, there have been few resources to help low-income women in the surrounding counties.”

The program’s expansion into Beaver and Butler counties is possible thanks to a $20,000 grant from the FISA Foundation.

“We are extremely grateful to the FISA Foundation for the providing the funds necessary to allow us to help people in need,” said Griffin. “This generosity is making such a big difference in the lives of women in our community.”


The project will serve vulnerable individuals who currently have little or no access to free legal services for divorce. The basic eligibility requirements are as follows. To be eligible, applicants must:

  • Be a female resident of Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, or Lawrence County for at least 6 months.
  • Have experienced physical or emotional abuse in her marriage as evidenced by the applicant having sought or been granted a Protection from Abuse order; by criminal charges for domestic violence filed against the applicant’s spouse; or by the client’s self-identification.
  • Have a household income at 125% of the federal poverty level or below.
  • Be willing to proceed as a simple divorce with no claims for equitable distribution or custody. Other legal aid, pro bono, or reduced-fee services may be available for child support and child custody matters.

Attorneys’ services will be provided at no charge. The ACBF will seek permission from the courts for our clients to proceed in forma pauperis so that court filing fees will be waived.

Those interested in applying for help through the project should call 412-402-6714. For more information, visit

About the ACBF

Known as “The Heart of Pittsburgh’s Legal Community,” the ACBF provides educational programming, promotes public awareness of the legal and judicial systems, renders legal services to low-income clients and provides financial assistance and grants to legal-related organizations. The foundation’s Pro Bono Center helps attorneys fulfill their professional responsibility to provide public interest legal services by creating, managing, and supporting programs that match volunteer attorneys with low-income individuals facing legal issues that threaten their basic human needs. For more information, visit

About the FISA Foundation

The mission of FISA Foundation is to build a culture of respect and improve the quality of life for three populations in southwestern Pennsylvania: women, girls and people with disabilities. For over 100 years, FISA has been led by women and focused on responding to unmet community needs. Originally founded in 1911 by an organization that became known as the Federation of Independent School Alumnae to improve the lives of poor and working class women, the organization underwent a metamorphosis over the years. In 1956, to meet the needs of people with disabilities, the Federation converted its convalescent home into Harmarville Rehabilitation Center, which became recognized internationally for excellence and innovation. In 1996, Harmarville was sold and the FISA Foundation was established to continue the charitable work of the Federation in southwestern Pennsylvania region. Learn more about FISA at

Original News Release