Justice for All: Five Organizations Helping People Navigate Our Legal System
With millions of court cases filed each year in the many different levels of the U.S. court system, it’s obvious that there is always a need for organizations specializing in the legal system. The system can be complicated and very expensive. From immigration status to foster families, tax issues to parking tickets, the courts handle so much more than just violent crimes.
We are showcasing five different nonprofit organizations that help Americans work through their legal battles and fight to make sure justice is served for all parties as often as possible.
Cold Case Investigative Research Institute
With shows like Unsolved Mysteries making a return on Netflix, it’s clear that there is still a huge amount of public interest in cold cases being solved. This organization is a group of volunteer crime fighters made up of detectives, prosecutors, analysts, investigators, students, and more. They volunteer to help families and law enforcement with unsolved homicides, missing persons, and kidnapping cases. Their most recent project is called Wines & Crimes where they feature cases on wine bottles in hopes that it will bring in new leads on cold cases.
Here is a recent review from a volunteer:
I have never met a more selfless person than Sheryl McCollum of the Cold Case Investigative Research Institute. She is dedicated to being a help to all people dealing with the loss of a loved one. She goes above and beyond to inform us about the inner working of cases we are covering. She has a kind heart and her work with our #LoveWins campaign is just incredible. I don’t have enough words to convey how important the work they do truly is.
National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association
This is a nationwide program that matches volunteers with children who need an adult to advocate for them in court. Many of these children have faced abuse or neglect and are currently placed in foster care. The Court Appointed Special Advocate volunteer speaks on behalf of the children and ensures that they are safe, have a permanent home, and opportunities to succeed. With more than 250,000 children served annually, this organization is doing everything in its power to make sure that children are taken care of within our legal system.
Here is a note from one of the amazing volunteers who works with the children:
I have had incredibly fulfilling and powerful experiences as a CASA. Amazing what a difference a small effort and a real commitment can make with great support staff in our county!! We change kids’ lives by just showing up for them consistently, being positive, caring, and showing them they have options no matter what they have suffered. Our voices in court have made big differences with great judges for suffering children.
For most people, legal help is usually not very affordable. Administer Justice works with low-income individuals with civil legal matters and IRS tax issues. They are able to provide comprehensive legal assistance and education to get their clients resolution. Without their help, the clients could end up paying much higher fines or serving time due to lack of proper representation.
Here is a lovely note from one of their volunteers:
As an attorney volunteer, I have seen the deep need of clients who come to Administer Justice who have nowhere else to turn. Administer Justice provides genuine hope and real assistance to many people who have been shut out of the legal system because they lack the resources to access the system. I have seen clients rescued from dire legal and financial consequences because Administer Justice stepped in. Beyond legal assistance the organization also provides various forms of counseling and training. As a donor, I appreciate the accountability and oversight of the gifts that come in.
New Beginnings Law Center
San Rafael, CA
Using their Clean Slate Program, the New Beginnings Law Center is able to use legal and policy tools to help people stay out of the criminal justice system and find jobs and housing. There can be many barriers for those who have been convicted or served time in jail. There is an understanding in the organization that everyone makes mistakes and they work tirelessly to help those who don’t want to repeat the same mistakes. They use all the resources in their power to make sure that their clients do not re-enter the system. They are able to ensure that the most vulnerable members of the community are given legal advocacy and representation.
Here are some kind words from their first client:
I often see five-star ratings and wonder if they really deserve it. NBLC is the real deal. Elissa Lasserre is not just a top-notch lawyer, but her commitment to the people she serves is amazing. Not only does this service allow its clients an opportunity to clear up some of the wreckage of their past, it also allows dreams to come true. I say this as I contemplate my experience of seeing this service and Elissa in action. As the first client of NBLC my journey is now coming to an end. Elissa has been my champion with the judicial system, fighting and bringing me closer to my dream of “completion.” This is a wonderful agency with an awesome lawyer at the helm. Thank you Elissa for all you do!
WATCH started as a community response to reporting that the justice system was failing to process cases of sexual assault and domestic abuse effectively. Volunteers now monitor these types of cases as they move through the court system. Their main focus is on sex trafficked juveniles. The main goal is to make sure the justice system is responsive to these crimes of violence. With a few recent grants, they’ve been able to expand their training system and grow their operation outside of Hennepin County. By involving the community, more people become aware of some of the failures of the justice system. It is now a model for court monitoring programs around the country.
Here is a personal note from one of their volunteers:
I had just graduated from paralegal school when one of my friends referred me to WATCH. I thought it would be a great opportunity to gain experience in the legal field, but it became more than that. When I go to volunteer, I feel like I am making a difference by monitoring and taking notes of what I see. Court monitors are the eyes and the ears of the public. WATCH strives to make the justice system more fair and effective in handling cases of violence against women and children. Anyone interested in our justice system should definitely look into volunteering at WATCH.
All of these organizations are working hard to have a positive impact on those that have to navigate our legal system in their lifetime. As a country that has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world, we need people that focus their time and energy on breaking the cycle and helping people positively participate in society again. Thanks to all the volunteers and donors. Make sure to check out these and more to volunteer or make a donation today.