Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt on Wednesday formally launched a program to provide free legal assistance to members of the military, pointing to a service gap that arises because military lawyers are limited in their ability to help with civilian court matters and private attorneys are often too expensive for service members.
At a news conference in Carson City, Laxalt marked the debut of the Office of Military Legal Assistance, which is believed to be the first attorney general-led program in the country that connects military members and veterans to pro bono legal services.
“I am proud to honor these military heroes who have given so much in service to this country and state,” Laxalt said in a statement. “It is my hope that the Office of Military Legal Assistance will continue to expand its services and become a lasting legacy for the military families of Nevada.”
The program is a response to military members who say one of their biggest unmet needs is affordable legal services. Laxalt said that when he was a Navy judge advocate general (JAG), he was restricted in assisting service members because they needed help from civilian lawyers practicing law in state courts.
More than 100 lawyers have pledged to donate at least 10 hours to service members seeking help through the program. Applicants will be able to get help with civil matters including landlord/tenant disputes, consumer fraud problems and immigration issues.
Military personnel seeking assistance should contact their local JAG for a referral, while veterans should contact the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Laxalt announced in February that he’d assembled an advisory committee for the program that included representatives from the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada, military bases in the state and several Nevada bar associations.
Under pilot program status, the initiative has already taken up the cases of nearly 30 service members, including one who said a lawyer working pro bono helped stave off an impending eviction.
Nevada elected officials have praised the initiative, which Laxalt’s office is already sharing with attorneys general in other states in hopes of expanding the concept.
“This innovative program should serve as an example to the rest of the country on how to get military communities the legal representation they need on issues, which, in many cases, may arise as a result of service to our nation,” said Nevada Republican Rep. Mark Amodei.