NHLA program for low-income debtors expands
Program for low-income debtors at Candia court to expand to Plymouth
Just 18 months after it began in Candia, the Periodic Payment Clinic is expanding to Plymouth, offering advice, counsel and protection to low-income debtors.
Many of New Hampshire’s poorest residents have only “protected income,” such as Social Security or aid to the disabled. But when they fall into debt, many don’t know that income is supposed to be exempt when a judge orders they pay. Some people use their protected income in an increasingly desperate attempt to pay their creditors, while attempting to feed themselves at soup kitchens and food pantries.
Using “limited appearance” procedures, attorneys at the Periodic Payment Clinic advise and sometimes represent individuals to help ensure they receive all of the federal and state protections to which they are entitled.
New Hampshire Legal Assistance established the first monthly periodic payment clinic at Candia District Division court in February 2014. Plymouth attorney Quentin Blaine, a volunteer with the New Hampshire Bar Association’s Pro Bono Referral Program who has been trained by NHLA staff at the Candia clinic, will assume the role of lead volunteer for the new Plymouth location beginning in May.
“We are thrilled to see this project grow and reach more vulnerable New Hampshire residents,” said Cheryl Steinberg, NHLA Senior Law Project director. “Our clients want to do the right thing and pay their debts. With the clinic’s help, they can do that without sacrificing their limited subsistence income.”
“Pro Bono is pleased to be involved with this important effort,” said Virginia Martin, New Hampshire Bar Association Legal Services Director. “The project provides another opportunity for lawyers to give back, in line with the strong tradition of pro bono services by private attorneys throughout New Hampshire.”
NH Circuit Court Chief Administrative Judge Edwin Kelly said he sees this project as a great way for attorneys to provide public service and help streamline the hearing process.
“Virtually all of the debtors that come before the court in periodic payment hearings are without counsel, confused about the process and unaware of the laws that are in place to protect them,” Kelly said. “This project helps balance the scales of justice for these self-represented litigants.”