Pontifical Catholic’s Legal Aid Clinic offers free advice to avoid foreclosures
The Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico’s Legal Aid Clinic students are offering free advisory services to the community to help them avoid foreclosures, as well as the procedures related to civil and criminal cases.
The clinic works as practice for law students who are finishing up their studies and is a graduation requirement. It works as an internship with guidance from one of 10 assigned professors who are licensed attorneys.
The program’s foreclosure area is financed by the Access to Justice Fund, which has been investing in it since 2017. Its most recent contract granted more than $155,000 for the foreclosure prevention program, university officials said.
The money pays for the case’s compulsory mediations under Act 184, referred by the Superior Courts to the clinic and written up by the students with their certified mediator.
A specific requirement for the foreclosures is that the debt must not be more than $150,000 and the people must comply with a certain minimum income requirement. Nevertheless, because of COVID-19, they are being flexible, and most participants qualify, program officials said.
According to data recently revealed by nonprofit organization, Puerto Rico Legal Aid, 758 foreclosure lawsuits were filed from December 2019 to March 2020 — right at the start of the government-mandated lockdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Of those, 27.4% were against female heads of household.
The goal of the program is to help the students develop interviewing and litigation techniques, and to offer the community the advisory service for free.
“Our mission is to foment the attorney’s preparation to respond to local and global necessities, and so they can serve as an instrument to reach social justice and the human’s dignification,” said Rosalba Fourquet, director of the Pontifical Catholic University’ Legal Aid Clinic.
Since the program began, the Clinic’s lawyers, professors and students have assisted 570 people in the complex legal process of foreclosure and mediation in these types of cases.
People who want to participate of the service must be deserving, yet the clinic urges everyone to request the initial interview. If the legal clinic cannot help, it will refer the client to another organization that can help, she said.
Other legal areas that the clinic addresses are civil law, in which they manage adoptions, affiliations, declaration of heirs — one of the most requested services — and others. Clients also seek the clinic’s legal advice on criminal cases related to stalking, breaking and entering, illegal appropriation, traffic law and minors.
“The important thing from this is that the people get empowered by knowledge, because if you know your rights, you can defend yourself and avoid losing your property,” Fourquet said.