Ridley-Thomas has plans for more pro bono legal clinics in the future.
By Blake Carter
Assemblymember Sebastian Ridley-Thomas’ office on Crenshaw Blvd. was packed on a recent Tuesday night with locals who were seeking advice from attorneys.
“We have not had as much in the way of legal services concentrated in the Crenshaw district,” he said. “This is the investment in hoping to change that. Specifically, we’re talking about small claims, consumer concerns, and the like that can be addressed here with professional attorneys.”
Many people were dealing with tax disputes, will and trusts, acquisition of property, and small claims issues.
“If you have a dispute with anybody who works on your house, that’s a small claims issue,” Ridley-Thomas said. “You need to know how to navigate that system affectively. We think that this helps all of that.”
Services that night were offered on a walk-in basis, and people were able to speak to volunteer attorneys for 15-20 minutes.
William Patton, a Mid City resident, has a dispute with his landlord. Paying expensive attorney fees could limit his abilities to fight for his rights.
“This is a great alternative because you get to come down and get the free legal consultation on what you can do, what your rights are, and what you should not continue to do,” Patton said. “One of the things that I was advised to do here is to pay the rent, and then further push this in a small claims court.”
The advice that Patton received allows him to handle the issue on his own, instead of going to court with an attorney. The information that he received allows him to do the leg work himself.
Ridley-Thomas partnered with the Korean American Bar Association of Southern California (KABA), the Asian Americans Advancing Justice, and the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles for this clinic.
The KABA holds this clinic on the second Tuesday of each month at the Karsh Center of Wilshire Boulevard Temple, which is located at 3750 W. 6th Street, in Koreatown.
“We’ve helped people file their small claims filings or review their paperwork before filing,” said Vivian Kim, president of the KABA. “We’ll advise them if there is something missing. Sometimes the instructions on the forms are not clear, so we have been able to assist people to complete their forms. And we explain to people what the notices that they receive from court mean.”
Kim said that the KABA has clients who come in monthly to speak with an attorney. They receive advice as their issues progress.
The KABA will continue to host their monthly clinic in Koreatown, and Ridley-Thomas will plan more of these events in the greater Crenshaw area in the future.
“This is the beginning of what we hope will be a regular series, probably quarterly, of legal aid and free legal services for our residents,” Ridley-Thomas said. “The legal system belongs to all Californians. This is a part of making government reach the people.”
For more information on these free legal clinics, contact Ridley-Thomas’ office at (323) 291-5441, visit his website at https://a54.asmdc.org/, and follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. For information about the KABA’s monthly clinic, visit their website at kabasocal.org.
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