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VLJ's mission is to improve the lives of economically disadvantaged adults, children and families in New Jersey by empowering them with information, advice and pro bono representation with the goal of securing fair and equal treatment within the legal system.
To carry out its mission, VLJ recruits and trains volunteer attorneys and some other professionals to provide free civil legal assistance to low income clients throughout New Jersey. VLJ's volunteers provide assistance in almost every civil area of law, most falling under the heading of family, consumer, housing, special education and reentry. VLJ does not provide assistance in criminal law mattes. VLJ currently operates a number of distinct projects including: clinics with a family law focus; educational seminars in the areas of family, bankruptcy and special education; a project with Merck & Co., Inc. assisting clients obtain guardianship over incapacitated relatives; a clinic in partnership with Broadway House and UMDNJ in Newark assisting HIV/AIDS and cancer patients with wills and health care documents; a clinic assisting individuals with personal bankruptcy filings; and VLJ's most recent project, the Newark Reentry Legal Services (ReLeSe) Network, initiated by Newark Mayor Cory Booker and now a program of VLJ, to assist ex-offenders with legal issues that serve as barriers to successful community reentry. VLJ plans to continue to grow its existing programs, and to develop new programs, to respond to the critical need for free legal services for New Jersey's poorest residents. VLJ's clients are individuals residing, or having cases heard, in New Jersey. Their income must fall under 175% of the yearly Federal Poverty Guidelines. VLJ was established as a program of LSF in 2001 by a small group of attorneys in New Jersey concerned about the limited availability of free civil legal resources to the poor. Since its inception, VLJ has grown from a program of 30 volunteers to an organization utilizing the services of over 1,000 volunteer lawyers, paralegals, law students and others who have donated their time and expertise to thousands of clients with almost every civil legal issue.
- Tracy Nelson
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