KENTUCKY EQUAL JUSTICE CENTER

Lexington, KY   |  www.kyequaljustice.org

Mission

The mission of Kentucky Equal Justice Center is to promote equal justice for all residents of the Commonwealth by serving as an advocate for low income and other vulnerable members of society.

Ruling year info

1977

Principal Officer

Mr. Richard J. Seckel

Main address

201 W Short St Ste 310

Lexington, KY 40507 USA

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Formerly known as

Office of Kentucky Legal Services Programs, Inc.

EIN

61-0909545

NTEE code info

Legal Services (I80)

Ethnic/Immigrant Services (P84)

Alliance/Advocacy Organizations (R01)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Communication

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

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Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Maxwell Street Legal Clinic

Maxwell Street Legal Clinic helps low-income immigrants and their U.S. citizen family members navigate process of legal immigration—including the inspiring step of becoming a U.S. citizen.
The Clinic grew from conversations among local clergy, who challenged the legal community to respond to unmet legal needs of new immigrant neighbors. In October 1999, with support from Maxwell Street Presbyterian Church, Maxwell Street Legal Clinic opened its doors.  It soon became a trusted community resource.  Today, a growing professional staff and dedicated volunteers help: 

Refugees admitted by the U.S. who seek permanent residenceImmigrant victims of crime, domestic violence and human traffickingImmigrant youth and young adults eligible for "deferred action" status and youth in the child protection system
 
Maxwell Street also maintains a vibrant citizenship practice.  Dozens of "graduates" each year take the oath to become U.S. citizens—a key step toward the American Dream.

Population(s) Served

Our Health Care Team acts as a watchdog and advocate for low income and working families. We keep a special eye on public benefit programs to make that sure people don't get lost in a bureaucratic maze--and that they know their rights to appeal adverse decisions.  We've been leading advocates for Kentucky's successful roll out of the Affordable Care Act.  We've challenged the Kentucky HEALTH Medicaid waiver in court because it would raise costs, diminish care and create barriers to coverage.
 
We address issues on a wide spectrum of care, across all ages, from KCHIP for kids to long term care choices for seniors and people with disabilities to coverage under the Affordable Care Act for working families.
 
Our health advocacy team is anchored by our Health Law Fellow under matching grants from Interact for Health in Cincinnati and the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.
 
Though we focus on policy change, like proper implementation of the Affordable Care Act, we also provide individual legal representation on cases that might test or expand rights and remedies--or simply help people achieve coverage or handle medical bills. In 2014, we launched an Outreach Coordinator, with a mission to enroll children and a focus on Latino and immigrant communities.  The project has expanded to include other at-risk populations, including homeless people and the re-entry population.  We also have built a "Boots on the Ground" outreach partnership with Kentucky's legal services programs.

Population(s) Served

The story begins with workers themselves.  When our partnership with Maxwell Street Legal Clinic began, they came to our doors—and opened our eyes. 
 
Families seeking help with immigration law often brought up workplace problems:  unpaid wages, refusal of workers comp, denial of prevailing wage. 
 
We responded, meeting with state officials, filing wage claims, helping write and pass a state law making human trafficking a crime, getting health care for injured immigrant workers through workers comp. 
Today, our Employment Law Attorney helps low-income Kentucky workers get fair treatment under wage and hour laws through selected cases, community education and a monthly self-help wage claim clinic.
 
The project was launched with support from Public Welfare Foundation. We also have won approval for our AmeriCorps members to focus on financial literacy, including community education in English and Spanish on workers' rights.

Population(s) Served

Our statewide poverty law task force meetings provide information and collegial support for legal services practitioners and community partners. They help members stay on top of new laws and cases. They help identify emerging issues.
 
We provide staff support for task force meetings in multiple areas of law— consumer (and housing), family law, health (and public benefits) and workers' rights—and information about immigration law as needed in each.  We expect over 200 attendees a year.
 
Task Force meetings bring together staff from the four federally-funded civil legal services programs in Kentucky: 
Appalred Legal Aid (Eastern Kentucky)Kentucky Legal Aid  (Western Kentucky)Legal Aid of the Bluegrass (Lexington and Northeast Kentucky)Legal Aid Society (Louisville and nearby counties) One of our founders has said our task forces provide the "glue" for civil legal aid, promoting good legal work, staff morale and linkages with other community partners who serve low income people.

Population(s) Served

Kentucky Equal Justice Center acts as a public interest watchdog.  We provide information on proposed and enacted laws and regulations that affect low income people—through our website, task forces and email list serve. 
 
We advocate in Frankfort on selected issues, in 2019 including potential new barriers to already restrictive public assistance programs.
Advocacy is the tip of an iceberg that starts with intensive monitoring.  We review all new Kentucky regulations each month.  During the General Assembly, we look online daily at all new bills and amendments.  We post a bill tracking chart on our website. 
Monitoring helps make government more transparent.  It also promotes effective advocacy, under the rules for nonprofit lobbying.  Our comments on new regulations often provide a template for other groups.  We also act as a "whistle blower" on legislation that might make life more difficult for vulnerable Kentuckians.As the saying goes, "Eternal vigilance is the cost of liberty."

Population(s) Served

Where we work

Awards

Affiliations & memberships

Kentucky Nonprofit Network 2019

United Way Member Agency 2019

Our Sustainable Development Goals

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

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Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

As director Rich Seckel told Consumer Reports, "At our best, and in some of our favorite work, we are creating opportunity." Kentucky Equal Justice Center is a watchdog and advocate for low income Kentuckians.   Our mission is to promote equal access to justice for all residents of the Commonwealth. 

Our founders sought to foster an effective statewide justice community.   To that end, we:

Foster partnerships among legal services programs and community partnersAct as vigorous and constructive advocates in the courts and policy making arenas

Fill the gaps in existing legal services

These longstanding roles come to life today in vibrant and responsive initiatives: Consumer Law:  We seek to protect the assets, earnings and homes of low income Kentuckians from unfair financial practices.



 Health Care:  We work to create access to quality, affordable care and to make public programs consumer-friendly.



 Immigration Law:  We are the administrative home of the primary nonprofit immigration law center in the Bluegrass Region, helping sustain Maxwell Street Clinic and build its staff and infrastructure.



 Workers’ Rights:   We educate low-wage and non-traditional workers about basic work place rights and remedies available if they go unpaid or underpaid in violation of the law.



 We also build capacity beyond our own doors. Director Rich Seckel was a founding board member of Kentucky Voices for Health. Senior Staff Attorney Anne Marie Regan has helped guide the Kentucky Coalition for Responsible Lending.
 


If the track record ahead is as strong as the one up to now, our work in the next five years could lead to:



New protections against the “debt trap” of payday loans New tools to help neighborhoods and cities redevelop vacant housing Health coverage for nearly all Kentuckians, with strong consumer protections
An ever more robust immigration law program at Maxwell Street



Family-friendly work place policies, fair treatment of low wage workers and an end to abusive practices



Our supportive board, energetic staff and dedicated volunteers are ready for the challenges.

Hallmarks of our work include creativity and responsiveness.   That means each initiative under the Kentucky Equal Justice “umbrella” may be unique in its approach.  But common elements include:

Recruiting, launching and supporting talented legal advocates with well-defined projects Building community partnerships necessary for successful advocacy


Tapping national sources of expertise as needed


Speaking clearly and knowledgeably to decision makers, the public and the media
Being a trusted source of help and information



Our rapid growth over the last several years means we must also address sustainability and infrastructure by developing:



An ever more diverse and robust funding base


Enhanced use of a variety of communications tools


"Next level" use of technology like our online legal case management software


New systems for back office support for our advocates



·       Enhanced staffing for administrative functions



We envision tackling all these things in a process of continuous improvement.  Near term projects and activities include:


Upgrades of tech systems at Maxwell Street Legal Clinic and "next level" use our legal case management software


A redesign of our website and movement to a more modern platform
Launch of a new internal team focused on development,  communications strategies and use of social media



In the advocacy realm, initiatives include:



Work in coalition with faith-based groups to address predatory lending
“Boots on the Ground” outreach through local legal services Health Advocacy Teams under a special grant initiative



A robust “211 for immigrants” intake system at Maxwell Street Legal Clinic

They say "the wheels of justice turn slowly."  Perhaps fittingly, we are more tortoise than hare.   We just don’t give up. With modest infrastructure and a small staff we’ve gotten enough done over the years to receive the Consumer Reports Excellence in Consumer Advocacy award. We are now as big as we ever were, even during early years of federal funding, long gone. We have four talented attorneys with varied expertise and a paralegal certified to handle immigration cases. We've launched new part-time staff focused on Health Outreach and social media communications.  We make creative use of AmeriCorps resources, benefit from the dedication of volunteers and have built many constructive partnerships.

Internal resources include:

 Respected advocacy staff:   From Senior Staff Attorney Anne Marie Regan to our newest project attorney and AmeriCorps member, KEJC attracts extraordinary talent. We believe both the mission and the track record attract able advocates.   In turn, they practice their advocacy diligently, knowledgeably and with distinction.

 An ability to launch projects:  During our recent period of growth we found we had the capacity to launch projects and people successfully—in part through a strong and conscious element of “meet and greet” with community partners.
 A diverse and creative board:   Our board members from legal services programs keep up us in touch with our roots.  New community members on the board bring diverse perspectives and ideas. The board’s engagement in strategic planning recently saw us through the most rapid and creative period of growth since our founding in 1976.

 External resources include: 
Partnerships and coalitions:   From health care to payday lending and now to workers’ rights, we have helped build coalitions big and small and have backed them up with the best possible legal and policy expertise.  Trust:  Perhaps part of our success is that we give credit as often as than we take it.   We are a trusted ally to many partners, across sectors from faith-based to labor.

 Constructive relations with officials:   While we don’t “pull our punches” on advocacy—we take positions that are well-founded in law and policy—KEJC advocates are respected for the thoughtful diligence of our advocacy.   We have built constructive relationships with officials, especially around health care and public benefits.

Credibility:   Our approach to media is to earn it. Over the years we have become a trusted source on issues that affect real people and that touch on basic human values of fairness and opportunity—the public interest instead of special interests. We can speak clearly to policy choices and, very often, link reporters with real people.  The main challenge now is to build an administrative infrastructure commensurate with our new size. (In the video produced by Consumer Reports, our Health Law Fellow says, “Rich is our infrastructure.")    We would love to invest “capacity building.”

They say that “eternal vigilance is the cost of liberty.”  During the General Assembly, we are vividly reminded of the importance of our watchdog role. It is unlikely we will work ourselves out of a job.In that sense, the work is never done. The challenge is to fulfill our role as advocates with competence, creativity and care.

 We have a worthy track record. We see progress on policies. We see changes for people. Our capacity is growing.

 This section recaps some of the track record and some of the progress. It points to the fence on a few unresolved issues. And it envisions the growing, vibrant Kentucky Equal Justice Center of the future.

 The track record contains elements of both protection and empowerment. We have helped defeat proposals to double the cap on payday loans. We successfully challenged denials of long term care for several thousand Kentuckians. We helped write and pass Kentucky laws making human trafficking a crime.

 Turning to empowerment, we helped win new policies that let low income parents chose post-secondary education as their required “welfare to work” activity. Through Maxwell Street Legal Clinic, we have helped over 6,500 new neighbors take steps toward the American Dream.

The work continues with new initiatives around access to health care and workers’ rights.

 Along the way, we have grown. We have also helped create capacity outside our own doors. We have helped launch the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, Kentucky Voices for Health and the Kentucky Coalition for Responsible Lending—plus a new network of community partners concerned about low wage and non-traditional workers.

 Together with our partners, we may yet see stronger laws enacted on payday loans. We will keep working to ensure that Kentuckians have access to high quality, affordable health care—and are empowered to use it. We want to see hard work earn a living wage.

 For ourselves, we envision a strong infrastructure to sustain our progress, support our work and foster a culture of creative advocacy. That will likely mean a greater division of labor and new staffing for functions other than our advocacy: communications, development, technology, human resources and bookkeeping.

 We have grown from two advocates in 2002 to become a vibrant, multi-project advocacy center. Today, four attorneys and five other staff work on issues from immigration to consumer law to health care and workers’ rights.

 At Maxwell Street, our CLINIC Immigration Fellow helps deliver high quality help to new neighbors. Our AmeriCorps and VISTA members and newly full-time Outreach Coordinator help assure that community members know about help available to workers and families.

 It’s an overnight success years in the making. We have a winner here. We want to make investments that give it a solid foundation for the future.

Financials

KENTUCKY EQUAL JUSTICE CENTER
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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KENTUCKY EQUAL JUSTICE CENTER

Board of directors
as of 8/11/2020
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Mr. Robert Brown

Wyatt Tarrant & Combs

Term: 2020 - 2021

Robert Brown

Wyatt, Tarrant and Combs

Lisa Gabbard

Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Christopher Frost

UK College of Law

Joshua Crabtree

Legal Aid of the Bluegrass

Amanda Young

Kentucky Legal Aid

Robert Johns

Appalachian Research and Defense Fund

John Rosenberg

Retired

Neva-Marie Polley Scott

Louisville Legal Aid Society

Angela Zeek

Legal Aid of the Bluegrass

Brenda Combs

Legal Aid of the Bluegrass

Rick Clewett

Retired

Hailey O'Hair

Georgetown College (Student)

Nick Maraman

Legal Aid Society

Amanda Kool

Community Member

Jackie Arakaki

Lexington Public Library