Several new staff members have joined New Hampshire Legal Assistance and the Legal Advice & Referral Center.
They spoke with the Campaign about their belief in equal access to justice for all:
Ellie Boisvert returned to LARC in March after interning there while a student at UNH School of Law for two years. In between, she interned and worked for the public defenders office.
Ellie is now an intake worker for LARC, the first line of contact for the many people who call every day seeking legal advice.
“You’d think it’s just over the phone, so it’s at arm’s distance, but people get so emotional and you get so involved,” she said.
She works primarily with the Foreclosure Relief Project, and works hard to earn clients’ trust.
“Our clients are so used to having bad things happen in their lives. It can take time for them to recognize when someone is truly trying to help them,” she said.
Karl Durand joined LARC in April after a career in many different legal roles: an attorney for inmates at the New Hampshire State Prison, an assistant county attorney, some time in private practice and some time teaching at McIntosh College and Kaplan University in Maine.
“It didn’t matter to me which side I was on, being a prosecutor or a defense attorney; both are helping people access justice. The prosecutors help victims access justice and defense attorneys help the accused,” he said.
Karl also does intake for LARC, and said while he wasn’t surprised by the types of issues facing legal aid clients, he has been surprised by the volume of people needing help, and the profound effect a sympathetic ear can have for them.
Karl and Ellie outside the LARC office this fall.
Maria Eveleth joined NHLA as Fair Housing Test Coordinator in July. For the past 16 years, she worked at New Hampshire Catholic Charities as an immigration counselor, a non-lawyer accredited by the Board of Immigration Appeals who can act as a representative in administrative hearings.
At NHLA, her work includes training people to conduct fair housing tests throughout the state to determine whether New Hampshire residents in protected classes face discrimination.
“It’s truly heartbreaking to think people may judge you for the way you look or if you have an accent,” she said. “It’s really sad and I want to try to help and fight to make sure people are treated fairly and have the same opportunities like every body else,” she said. “Having equal opportunities to access safe, affordable housing is so important to stability in people’s lives.”
And just last month, NHLA hired Stephen Tower to represent, counsel and advise clients in unemployment insurance cases, and participate in NHLA’s public utility advocacy work.
Tower comes to NHLA from Greater Boston Legal Services, where he also represented clients in unemployment benefit cases. In his first case in Boston, he represented an employee who had resigned after being disciplined for reporting safety violations.
“Greater Boston Legal Services was a great place to work,” he said. “Everyone was treated as a partner working together to represent our disenfranchised clients. I’ve already found the same attitude at NHLA.”
To read more from our fall edition of Justice Matters, click here.