Students get legal help
September 6, 2007 1:07 PM
SF State's Legal Resource Center offers free legal assistance to students from its office on the mezzanine level of the Cesar Chavez Student Center.
Students may not know how to handle problems with landlords or other civil or criminal offenses, said Criminal Law Attorney Joseph Morehead, and by visiting the LRC, students can learn how to handle court dates and other legal discrepancies.
“So that minor legal issues can be dealt with in a timely manor, and not turn into any sort of true legal trouble," said Morehead.
Students enrolled in Counseling 630 and 631, instructed by Morehead, volunteer in the office under the guidance of director Alonzo Jones.
These volunteers direct fellow students to the appropriate services, be it pamphlet material or specific assistance by a Bay Area agency or attorney.
“If a student [volunteer] doesn’t know where to direct someone, there are always lawyers on standby available by phone,” Morehead adds.
Legal help can only be offered to students who know about the LRC. One student who didn’t know the school offered free legal advice was senior Amanda Smith, 22.
“If I knew about these services as a freshman, I may have been there a few times by now," Smith said. "I think many students run up against their first legal problems while in college, and getting the right advice from the start seems invaluable.”
Senior Cameron Ottens has used the LRC before, and found their referral assistance helpful.
“I think more students need to know about it [the LRC],” says Ottens, 22. “Everyone is going to have at least some minor legal issue at some point, and these services can help students if they know they are there.”
These minor legal issues can include skipping court dates, which can lead to a warrant. The legal system, unlike some professors, does not tolerate procrastination, says Morehead.
“A student may have been issued a citation and think that because they have class and are too busy, they can skip their court date; this is a bad idea," said Morehead.
The LRC aims to provide information to students of how the legal system will handle their specific cases and give them the confidence to resolve legal troubles in a timely and professional manor, he said.
Veronica Castellanos, a 21-year-old Political Science student, decided to enroll in the class and volunteer at the LRC after she ran into some legal troubles herself.
“It seemed like a good way to help others out and build a good resume,” said Castellanos. She will receive training on how to do intakes and work within the office before she assists other students.
“Often the legal questions students have don’t require exponential attorney rates,” says Morehead, and adds that $10 for legal advice from an attorney is the best rate that anyone will ever receive.
The LRC is located on the second floor of the Cesar Chavez Center at M-113A, and the door is open weekdays during school hours.
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