POTTER MINTON is the first large law firm in Smith County to make a firm wide commitment to provide volunteer attorney services to needy Smith County residents referred to them by Lone Star Legal Aid. This is consistent with the Firm’s mission of helping individuals and businesses achieve their goals and solve and prevent problems. This commitment has made it possible for the attorneys in the Firm to volunteer on a regular basis to assist those in need and has served to motivate and challenge other large firms in the Tyler area to provide the same volunteer opportunities to their attorneys.
In 2007, the Board of the Smith County Bar Foundation voted to include the Volunteer Attorney Program as a primary activity of the Foundation. The Foundation which strives to establish programs designed to educate members of the public regarding their legal rights and responsibilities, promoting and facilitating the exercise of legal rights of the poor, and serving the community through programs designed to assist those affected by the justice system.
POTTER MINTON values its attorneys exercising leadership roles in professional activities and in civic affairs in the Tyler area. The Firm’s Foundation Charter Fellows John Bufe, John Minton, and Michael Jones provided the strong financial lead needed to establish the volunteer attorney program that was adopted by the Smith County Bar Foundation.
POTTER MINTON engages in a general civil practice and the expertise provided by the Firm attorneys in multiple areas has been a great benefit to pro bono clients with a variety of legal needs who have been referred by Lone Star Legal Aid. For instance, an associate at the Firm who normally practices in the area of intellectual property recently represented an indigent client who had eviction proceedings pending in the Justice Court in Smith County.
This associate zealously jumped into the case after the client had been served with process and immediately filed an Answer, counterclaimed for retaliatory eviction, seeking statutory damages, and moved for a jury trial. As a result his representation, the client was able to relocate herself, her child and grandchildren to another home with the assistance of a $500 lump sum settlement that she received from her Landlord, as well as a waiver of a few months of unpaid rent that she owed. Now, she lives in a safer and more stable environment, which allowed her to obtain employment at a local turkey factory.
Other problems tackled by the Firm include a client facing a homestead exemption issue with the Smith County Appraisal District, as well as heir property problems which plague many East Texans. The client was represented by the Hon. Diane V. DeVasto, Former Judge for the 241st Judicial District and 12th Court of Appeals. Also, a 79 year old widow, represented by Jon Rowan, obtained assistance with having her husband’s will probated, as well as assistance with debt collections issues that she faced.
The Smith County Bar Foundation volunteer attorney program is intended to expand access to and enhance the quality of equal justice in civil cases for low income residents of Smith County. Thanks to the commitment and assistance provided by POTTER MINTON, equal access to justice is becoming a reality in Smith County, Texas and the surrounding areas.