Last updated: October 29, 2013
Even in the Insurance Capital of the World people find themselves in need of legal assistance, but not always with enough cash to hire a private attorney. Fortunately, Connecticut’s capital has you covered with a variety of organizations that can offer advice, representation, or self help materials. Here is a list of agencies you may wish to contact that provide free or low cost legal aid in Hartford to those who qualify.
This telephone hotline is a good place to start your search for legal help with non-criminal matters in Connecticut. The staff at Statewide Legal Services (SLS) can answer your calls regarding bankruptcy, benefits, consumer issues, disability assistance, education, elder law, energy assistance, family law, foreclosure, housing, medical and health care, social security, and work and unemployment. They may be able to provide legal advice over the phone, may refer you to other legal providers, or may direct you to the self-help materials at CTLawHelp.Org. Eligibility for services is generally restricted to those earning at or below 125% of the federal poverty level. Call the hotline Monday, Tuesday, Thursday or Friday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. or Wednesday 1pm to 3pm.
Greater Hartford Legal Aid, Inc. (GHLA) is one of the providers that SLS may refer you to. GHLA provides free legal representation to low-income individuals in the following areas: Employment, Disability, Family, Government Benefits, HIV/AIDS, Housing, Immigration, and Elder law. To apply for services, first call Statewide Legal Services (SLS) at (860) 344-0380 or apply online. SLS will screen you to determine whether you qualify for free services and, if so, will refer you onto GHLA.
If you meet the income guidelines and have been charged with a crime that carries a risk of incarceration or are involved in a child welfare, family, or child support matter, the Division of Public Defender Services may be able to help you. Check here for income eligibility guidelines.
If you have a tax problem with either the IRS or the Connecticut Department of Revenue Services and qualify within the income and amount owed guidelines, you may be eligible for free legal assistance from the tax clinic. Here is additional information about the types of matters the clinic can assist you with.
In addition to the Tax Clinic, the UConn School of Law operates a number of other clinics where law students provide legal services under the supervision of faculty. Clinics include Asylum and Human Rights, Poverty Law, Criminal Law, and more.
If you have an immigration issue, Catholic Charities may be able to help you with “application assistance with USCIS immigration forms, adjustment of status/Green Card applications, T & U Visas, passport and travel documents, replacement and renewal of documents such as I-94 arrival/departure records, and family petitions/ reunification.” They also offer free citizenship/naturalization classes and mock interviews.
If you believe you have experienced housing discrimination, report it here and the Connecticut Fair Housing Center (CFHT) will investigate, offer advice and counseling, and will provide free legal representation, including (if necessary) legal enforcement actions at the CT Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, HUD or state or federal court. If you are facing foreclosure, CFHT sponsors Foreclosure Prevention Clinics and also participates in the Judicial Branch Foreclosure Advice Program’s weekly clinics in which volunteer attorneys are available to give advice and answer foreclosure questions. You may also be interested in reviewing their booklet entitled “Representing Yourself in Foreclosure: A Guide for Connecticut Homeowners.”
If you have a civil rights legal issue that affects many people, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) may be able to assist you. Be forewarned, though, that they generally file “cases that affect the civil liberties of large numbers of people, rather than those involving a dispute between two parties” and generally do not accept the following types of cases: landlord/tenant, workers’ compensation, unemployment, criminal cases, contractual matters, domestic matters, and challenges to criminal convictions or prison sentences. Refer here for the criteria they use for accepting cases and the form to submit if you wish to submit a complaint.
While Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund (CWEALF) does not provide direct legal representation in individual cases, its mission is to provide “an information, referral and advocacy service, while also training and empowering women in Connecticut to advocate for themselves.” Accordingly, they have many legal education resources you may wish to check out, including informational booklets on a variety of topics such as child support, divorce and sexual harassment, among others.
International Institute of Connecticut (IICONN) offers legal immigration services to help “families that have been separated by the migration experience to reunify.” They do this through “assistance with family visa petitions, helping legal residents gain citizenship, assisting undocumented battered immigrant women and children gain legal status, helping with Temporary Protected Status (TPS), and providing advice and counsel on immigration legal matters.” They also operate a Pro Bono Court Representation Project where individuals can get assistance at no or low cost with issues including asylum, cancellation of removal, adjustment of status, deportation, etc.