Street Law

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Street Law is a Hispanic National Bar Association Program where law students, assisted and supervised by licensed attorneys, will go out into the Hispanic community to teach and give information about bankruptcy, foreclosure, and consumer rights.

José Cárdenas: Thank you for joining us. I'm José Cárdenas. The street law program is grass-roots efforts where law students will educate the Latino community about foreclosure, consumer rights and more. With me to talk more about this program is Tom Tollison, regional president with the Hispanic national bar association. Tom, thanks for joining us on "Horizonte."

Tom Tollison: Thank you Josè, it's an honor.

Josè Càrdenas: A few words about the HNBA. What is it and what are its priorities?

Tom Tollison: The Hispanic National Bar Association, as it goes by HNBA. It's basically a group organization committed to the Hispanic community through membership with Hispanic attorneys. The goal of the HNBA are to support the community, Hispanic community across the United States without reach, with classes, with information sessions, and with certain initiatives to support and improve the lives of the Hispanic community.

Josè Càrdenas: And you've been a long-time member and currently serve as regional president. What does that mean for folks in Arizona?

Tom Tollison: I've been a member for about 10 years, the Hispanic National Bar Association, and I've wanted to up my level of commitment to the Hispanic community, particularly here in Arizona. And one way that I realized could I do that is to get involved with initiatives, get involved with policy making, and I was asked and appointed, elected to be the regional president of the Hispanic national bar association, which serves Arizona and Nevada.

Josè Càrdenas: And this year the HNBA has a number of initiatives, one being this street law program. Describe that.

Tom Tollison: The street law program really excites me, because it's going to be a grass-roots efforts, face-to-face effort, if you will, with members of the Hispanic community here in Arizona. Phoenix, Tucson, and even in the smaller towns. And what we're going to do with the program is to go out to the community teach Hispanic community about certain consumer issues, consumer debt, foreclosure, and bankruptcy. And what we want to teach the Hispanic community or inform them about those issues is resources that they have rights that they have about the law, under the law, options they have and it's basically an information session for the Hispanic community.

Josè Càrdenas: And when we say we, in this case we're talking about volunteer lawyers, working with law students.

Tom Tollison: That's exactly right. The program is derived around law students. I'm excited and happy to report we have many law schools that have committed to participating in this program, from University of Arizona, Arizona State, and Phoenix school of law. We also have a committed volunteer group of attorneys who are going to supervise these law students as they go out and educate and inform the Hispanic community.

Josè Càrdenas: And exactly how will you be doing this?

Tom Tollison: Well, my goal is to go out to venue of all sides in Phoenix, not just have one big meeting and say at a convention center, but go out to even the churches and go out to other nonprofit organizations. Use any type of meeting rooms we can to get people in the door, hand out materials, answer their questions, let them know there are attorneys and even law students in the community that are committed to serving them and committed to helping them.

Josè Càrdenas: If they have questions or they need individual representation how do you deal with that?

Tom Tollison: I think it's very important to tell them right off the bat that we're not there to give specific legal advice on their specific legal matters. But we're there to encourage them to seek help. We will give them list of row sources of pro bono clinics site; they can go and call for additional help over and above what we will provide.

Josè Càrdenas: And the program is focused on the Hispanic community so you'll be going into predominantly Hispanic majority population areas?

Tom Tollison: That's right.

Josè Càrdenas: And if you have a Spanish speakers, I know you speak Spanish beautifully, you can have other people available that can communicate in Spanish?

Tom Tollison: Not only that, all our materials will be translated into Spanish, so they'll have the benefit of the spoken Spanish language and the written Spanish language.

Josè Càrdenas: How significant are these problems for the Hispanic communities?
Tom Tollison: Extremely significant there. Was a big push from the federal in the private sector to pass down loans and credit to the Hispanic community? And those were efforts that have been accumulating over the last 20 years. With the loss of jobs and the economy, Hispanics particularly Hispanics within the middle class and even the working class have been hit hard. These are individuals, people that while they still may have a job, are teetering on the verge of foreclosure and bankruptcy, teetering on the verge of credit card default, and we want to let them know that there is a lifeline that there are people out there that can help them and point them in the right direction, because the truth is, under federal and state law we do have consumer rights, and that's what this program is going to be about, to help those people and give them a lifeline.

Josè Càrdenas: Now, as evidenced by the participation of U of A law students, this is a statewide program.

Tom Tollison: Yes, it is.

Josè Càrdenas: Your partners you're working with, are they local Hispanic attorneys or organizations?

Tom Tollison: Yes. We're going to reach out to all organizations. I think the more the merrier. But we have a strong commitment from people of different organizations here, we also have a commitment from other nonprofits that I have actually sat on and been involved with, and they are all on board about helping this effort.

Josè Càrdenas: Tom, last question. Going back to the national organization, HNBA, anything more about specific initiatives that they're undertaking or just a general philosophy in terms of their relationship to the Hispanic community?

Tom Tollison: I can tell you, and I'm proud to tell you I was also part of my membership of the HNBA, one of the lead drivers of the Dream Act initiative that we had with the HNBA, and part of that initiative was to draft a model resolution to get to state senators across the United States in support of the dream act. So immigration reform, the Dream Act, street law program and other initiatives are taking root, and we're going forward with them on a national level at the HNBA.

Josè Càrdenas: Tom Tollison, regional president of the Hispanic national bar association. Thank you joining for -- thank you for joining us on "Horizonte."

Tom Tollison: Thank you Josè.

Tom Tollison:Hispanic National Bar Association;

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