Kentucky ranks low in legal services for impoverished

If you ever need a public defender, Kentucky is one of the hardest places to get one.

Public defenders are appointed for people living below the poverty line, are disabled, or disadvantaged. According to the Justice Index Rankings, Kentucky ranks 49th of 50 states.

And this impacts a large number of people. There are more than 4 million people living in Kentucky, and according to the latest US Census, 19 percent live below the poverty line.

In McCracken County alone, it included more than 11,000 people.

Of course not everyone requires legal representation, but lawyers say with so many in need, the problem lies in trying to keep up with this need.
Kentucky Legal Aid Managing Attorney, Natalie Bash works to defend civil cases for people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford legal help, but can’t possibly assist every person who needs them. Bash says she values her work, “I get to feel like I’m doing good without charging a fee.”

But she says there are still those who fall through the cracks, “There are quite a few people who need in court representation and sometimes due to funding we can only provide advice.”

Bash says eligibility requirements marginally diminish their workload, “We are spread incredibly thin and there is more need out there than we can possibly assist.”

Even County Attorney, Michael Murphy sees this problem reflected in his office daily, “Everyday I have some people come in with some kind of problem they don’t understand and I try to explain it to them.”

Murphy says it’s a perpetual nationwide problem, even more so in Kentucky’s rural counties, “Its very difficult for very busy people to provide legal services in that context.”

So Bash continues to be motivated by her career, “Law in itself is a helping profession,” she says.

There is no legal requirement to provide representation in civil cases to people who can’t afford to pay. This is different from criminal cases.

There are lawyers in our area who provide their services pro-bono, but these lawyers are different in that they donate their time they would otherwise charge for.

Serving the disabled and people who speak limited English were also components included in the rankings.

If you are seeking legal help, click here for Kentucky Legal Aid.

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