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Pro Bono Collaborative to offer free legal clinic for people facing criminal charges in Cuyahoga County

IMG_0148 Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas.JPG
Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas

The Pro Bono Collaborative, a long-running program that offers free civil legal help, will offer a clinic this Friday to provide free legal help to those facing criminal charges in Cuyahoga County.

The clinic will pair volunteer attorneys with people struggling with housing, financial, child support and other civil legal issues in addition to their criminal cases.

The program, which is entering its sixth year, was born out of a recovery court focused on people dealing with substance abuse disorders and trauma.

Judge Joan Synenberg, who oversees that recovery court, said dealing with civil court matters like suspended driver's licenses or evictions can make recovery difficult, and she wanted to help.

"If somebody’s managing to actually free themselves of their addiction, get sober, stay sober, how do you do that if you have a looming child custody issue?" she said.

Synenberg worked to mobilize a group of volunteer lawyers to launch the free legal clinics, which offer advice on evictions, expungements, child support and more to people facing criminal charges in the county’s Common Pleas court.

Synenberg wants attorneys as well as people facing legal trouble to know about the collaborative.

"We’re just reaching anybody that practices law and reminding lawyers why did we go to law school in the first place, and it really is to help people," Synenberg said. "This is really a grassroots, inspirational effort with top-notch lawyers... meeting people where they're at."

Some lawyers will even offer to take participants on as clients, Synenberg said.

She said in a typical monthly clinic, about 25 lawyers assist about 60 clients, though she said they are working to expand the program for a larger reach.

The next clinic is Friday, November 15. Find more information on the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas website.

Abbey Marshall covers Cleveland-area government and politics for Ideastream Public Media.