Legal aid service opens BR office

Southeast Louisiana Legal Services, recently selected to provide free civil legal aid in Baton Rouge and other parishes previously served by the Capital Area Legal Services Corp., announced Friday the opening of a temporary office on Thomas Delpit Drive.

Brian Lenard, executive director of program operations for SLLS, said the nonprofit group is eyeing other locations for a permanent Baton Rouge office.

SLLS will not use CALSC’s headquarters on Third Street, he said.

For the time being, SLLS’s Baton Rouge office will be located at 1520 Thomas Delpit Drive. That office officially opened Wednesday, Lenard said.

The federal Legal Services Corp. notified CALSC in early June that the $1.6 million annual grant it previously held had been awarded to SLLS.

CALSC’s grant loss came after an audit report by the Legal Services Corp.’s Office of Inspector General questioned nearly $320,000 in CALSC spending, including more than $11,400 for then-CALSC executive director James Wayne Sr.’s meals at the private Camelot Club and restaurants in the city, and $78,000 for his leased Toyota Camry and fuel.

Wayne, who served as executive director for 21 years, was put on paid administrative leave last fall and fired earlier this year.

The Legal Services Corp. grant to SLLS began this month, but the entire grant for the Baton Rouge area will not be available to SLLS until January, Lenard noted.

With only limited funding for the next few months, SLLS has started to provide legal aid to Baton Rouge residents who face serious emergencies that threaten them with loss of homes, children and survival income, he said.

SLLS has awarded a subcontract to the Baton Rouge Bar Association to provide free pro bono legal aid for non-emergency family, consumer, housing and employment cases, Lenard added.

SLLS also announced that Baton Rouge lawyer Janice McAlpine will serve as directing attorney of SLLS’s Baton Rouge office.

McAlpine, who has extensive experience running legal aid programs and supervising legal work, most recently served as director of legal services for the Capital Area Alliance for the Homeless in Baton Rouge, Lenard said.

SLLS plans to staff the Baton Rouge office with 10 full-time attorneys to serve the Baton Rouge area.

SLLS will serve 22 parishes, including the 12 previously served by CALSC.

SLLS’s total coverage area includes Ascension, Assumption, East Baton Rouge, West Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, West Feliciana, Iberville, Lafourche, Pointe Coupee, St. James, St. John the Baptist, Terrebonne, Jefferson, Livingston, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St.

Helena, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa and Washington parishes.

SLLS also will have law offices in Covington, Donaldsonville, Hammond, Houma, Marrero and New Orleans.

SLLS says more than 500,000 southeast Louisiana residents are poor and may qualify for legal aid.