Protecting Iowans’ Rights

Published: April 27, 2018 | By: Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation | Category:
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“You don’t go to a lawyer because things are great; you go to a lawyer because you have a problem.”

When Casie Trimble first connected with Iowa Legal Aid, she was experiencing the worst year of her life. A victim of domestic violence, Casie had few resources at her disposal. To protect herself and her children from her partner’s abuse, she needed the law to step in and help.

Fortunately, Casie was able to connect with the staff attorneys at Iowa Legal Aid. They were able to help her through the legal battles that would ensue.

In total, Iowa Legal Aid represented Casie in obtaining a protective order, three extensions to the protective order, multiple violations of the protective order, child support, and sole physical custody.

The legal advocacy mattered for Casie, and the support the Iowa Legal Aid attorneys offered in the courtroom made a potentially traumatizing experience more manageable. “It was terrifying,” she recalls. “It was so fresh, and I kept thinking: he knows where I live – he’s stalking me. And then seeing him in court – it was awful.”

Still, the support she got in the courtroom from her legal representative encouraged her. “Seeing my lawyer in action was when I got comfortable,” she explains. “Just being in a courthouse trying to fight for and defend my kids and myself is awful, but with her help, I was able to feel that I could get some closure.”

Ultimately, Iowa Legal Aid was able to get Casie the justice she was seeking. “When I got that decision I was at work, and I couldn’t stop crying,” she remembers. “I just felt like I was on a cloud, it was just everything. I owe my life and my kids’ futures to Iowa Legal Aid.”

Because of her experience with Iowa Legal Aid, Casie is an outspoken advocate for the organization. “Reach out to Iowa Legal Aid first,” she advises. “Even if they can’t help you, they can direct you where to go.”

Jim Kringlen has worked for 29 years as a staff attorney for Legal Aid organizations in many states.

He does not know precisely why he is drawn to this work. “I guess it’s my social conscience,” he shrugs.  “I’ve always felt compelled to help underdogs. They may have very little money, but they have rights. To see our legal system protect those rights and enforce them is nice. It’s rewarding.”

Kringlen acknowledges that without the services of Iowa Legal Aid, many clients would go to court alone or not at all. He has seen cases where people avoid court due to fear and lack of information or lose cases they should have won had they had access to representation. “A lot of bad things can happen when people need a lawyer and they don’t have one,” he says.

Kringlen believes that our justice system is designed to serve everyone equally, but acknowledges, “No system can dispense equal justice when only some of the people have access to professional assistance.”

Still, despite the justice system’s challenges, Kringlen is confident that it works as intended – to promote justice.

“I think Iowa has one of the best justice systems in the country,” he says. He admits the court system struggles to have the resources it needs, and that makes it hard for the courts to serve the public as they should.

He sees the work of Iowa Legal Aid and other pro-bono legal services as essential. “Lawyers, as a profession, have an obligation to help those who can’t afford it,” he says.

Stories like Casie’s remind him why that obligation is so important.

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