The Washington Post recently published an article reporting that for the second year in a row, Atlanta has taken the title of the most unequal city in the United States. A new report by the Brookings Institute shows that the household incomes of the wealthiest households are close to 20 times the incomes of the most impoverished. In Atlanta, this means that the households in the 98th percentile have incomes of more than $288,000 per year, while those in the 20th percentile earn less than $15,000. This means the households that earn more than 98% of the other households in Atlanta make an average of $288,000 per year. These households earn more than 20 times the average yearly incomes of the poorest households.Read more
Please share your quick snapshot (name, education, current and past jobs, etc.): Elizabeth Finn Johnson, Harvard University A.B. with honors in Government, University of Virginia Law School J.D. 1987; just retired as Senior Counsel, Employee Relations at The Coca-Cola Company, which I joined in 1990 as Litigation Counsel. Associate at Troutman Sanders 1987-1990.
How did you get involved with AVLF? My first introduction to AVLF was through the Winetasting when I was a young lawyer. In terms of work with AVLF, that started in 2001, after we formed our Pro Bono Committee at the Company and our first project was Wills on Wheels with AVLF. In addition, my husband was a longtime Saturday Lawyers volunteer.Read more
Quick snapshot (name, education, current and past jobs, etc.):
Avital Stadler, Duke University 1993 (BA in Public Policy Studies) and Emory University School of Law 1998. Clerked for the Honorable Julie E. Carnes on the Northern District of Georgia out of law school. Served two stints each with McKenna Long & Aldridge and Sutherland Asbill & Brennan. Now, General Counsel at Esquire Deposition Solutions, LLC.
How long have you been involved with AVLF?
I took my first Saturday Lawyer case in 2002. I have regularly accepted cases through AVLF. I joined the Board in 2006 and have served every executive committee role from secretary to board president.Read more
Adria Perez is a Partner at Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP. Her connection with AVLF began when she was a summer associate at Kilpatrick Townsend when she represented domestic violence victims through the Safe Families Office. Adria credits AVLF for teaching her how obtaining a protective order for a victim can create a ripple effect that will change the victim’s and the victim’s family’s future for the better. Recently, Adria received an email from a client for whom she helped obtain a protective order in 2007. The client wrote: “Things are going as good as can be…but the thing that matters the most is that my daughter and I are together which is priceless. I just wanted to say thanks because without you it could have been so much worse…I just wanted to let you know that you made a difference to me and my daughter which we will be forever thankful for you.” From her experience with AVLF, and now being a member of the AVLF Board, Adria has learned how AVLF truly saves lives, and is very proud to be a part of such a great Atlanta institution.Read more
Esteemed board member Avi Stadler always says “AVLF saves lives.” Sometimes we really do. Other times, we aren’t enough. With the Domestic Violence Project and the GAL program, however, we – volunteers, staff, donors – have the distinct privilege of playing a pivotal role at turning point in the life of the vulnerable. As I look back over 2014, I would like to acknowledge the loss of a client to the violence we battle daily. I also look back and see hundreds of lives that are now safer and more secure because they knew us. I look forward to 2015 and envision a sea of women, men and children whose stories, still to be written, will be richer for having us as minor characters.Read more
Over the course of 38 Saturdays in 2014, 286 volunteer attorneys met with 353 low-income Atlantans via AVLF’s Saturday Lawyer Program.
Most of these clients – over 80 percent of them – came to us because of problems with their landlords: lack of repairs, unreturned security deposits, illegal evictions. These clients included Ms. Murphy, who told us that she slept with cotton balls in her ears to keep out the cockroach infestation while she slept. They included Ms. Watson, whose landlord ignored her complaints about the cracking, sagging ceiling – until the ceiling caved in on her and damaged her neck. The remaining clients were evenly split between unpaid wage issues and consumer debt disputes.Read more
Ms. Travis was a low-income single mother in Fulton County who was thrilled to sign a lease and pay a deposit on a new apartment. But when she moved in, she discovered that the unit had no running water, no functional electricity or appliances, and no working door locks. She reported the problems to the landlord, whose response was essentially “too bad.” He refused to repair the unit or release Ms. Travis from her lease. She reached out to the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation for help, and I accepted the case pro bono.Read more
Walt Davis is a Partner in the Atlanta office of Jones Day, the largest law firm in the U.S. and among the largest worldwide. At Jones Day, Walt’s practice principally focuses on shareholder litigation and corporate governance matters, and he regularly counsels corporate boards, board committees, and senior management in connection with internal and governmental investigations. In recent years, Walt has been named a “Rising Star” in the area of Securities Litigation by Georgia Super Lawyers magazine, and in 2013, he was named one of the Fulton County Daily Report’s “40 Legal Rising Stars to Watch” in Georgia. Walt is also a graduating member of LEAD Atlanta, Class of 2007.Read more
Jim McGinnis, a partner at Warner Bates McGough McGinnis & Portnoy, has assisted clients for more than 30 years in his work before judges and juries across Georgia as one of the state’s leading family lawyers. (Warner Bates is the oldest family law firm in the state.) His practice includes divorce and custody cases, and his 13 appeals cases before the State Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court of Georgia resulted in published opinions.
“The work of the Volunteer Lawyers Foundation is vitally necessary and, from a personal standpoint, personally gratifying,” said Jim of his board position. “I value every minute of my time here and recommend it to others.”
Jim works with every aspect of AVLF as treasurer but has done the most work with the Guardian ad Litem program. “Navigating the legal system has its challenges, and no child should ever shoulder that burden,” he says. “Time spent helping children is always time well-spent.”Read more
On September 15, AVLF sponsored a screening of the documentary American Winter. Through the stories of eight families, the documentary vividly shows how one lost job can cascade into depleted savings, utility shutoffs, eviction, homelessness, hunger, and profound hopelessness.
The film follows one woman visiting a food bank for the first time. As a worker places food in her basket, the woman breaks down crying. She explains that she’s never had to turn to a food bank before; the groceries will make a huge difference to her family. The worker hugs her, touches her hand, looks in her eyes. “You can help somebody another time,” the worker says.Read more
In the four years I’ve worked at the Safe Families Office, I have seen and heard some terrible things. I speak often about worst-case scenarios, be it in trainings or presentations, but there is a distance in the recounting. Last week, however, there was no distance when a voice on the other end of the phone said “Liz, there’s been a shooting.” It was the police calling, a call the likes of which I’d never before received and I hope I never do again. The fact that it was happening at all, though, meant a client of ours was involved.Read more
At age 53, I went back to school and got a Bachelor’s Degree in behavioral sciences. I was living in New Jersey at the time. I almost didn’t finish school because of a serious health problem that was nearly fatal. After I graduated, I worked with the families and children of incarcerated people. But I soon began to slip into a deep depression because my health problems caused lasting impairments.
To get a fresh start on life, I decided to move to Georgia, near a childhood friend. I was optimistic about this new beginning. Soon after I got here, I rented an apartment. There were some red flags from the very beginning, but I wasn’t sure if that was because I was in a new state. The apartment complex took my down payment, but kept making excuses for why they wouldn’t show me the unit that I was supposed to rent. Eventually, their headquarters explained to me that there were major electrical problems in the unit, but they told me they were being repaired.Read more