Member Spotlight

Louisiana Bar Foundation

Nov 1, 2020

The Louisiana Bar Foundation (LBF) is a non-profit 501 (c) (3) entity organized under the State of Louisiana. As the largest state funder of civil legal aid, the LBF supports non-profits throughout Louisiana that provide free, civil legal representation to the indigent, law-related education to the public and administration of justice projects. Since 1989, the LBF has distributed nearly $86 million to hundreds of Louisiana non-profit organizations to meet these goals. LBF serves as the fiscal administrator for the State of Louisiana Child in Need of Care Program which provides free legal representation to all children in foster care and for the Louisiana Supreme Court Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts Program. Each year, the LBF awards grants to more than 70 non-profit organizations that provide access to the justice system and civil legal assistance to Louisiana’s low-income citizens. Through grants, they assist women, children, the elderly, people with disabilities, the newly unemployed, those facing loss of their homes, disaster victims and many others by providing services that go to the very heart of the health, safety and security of many of our citizens and their families. 

Funding Civil Legal Aid and Promoting Access to Justice

The Louisiana Bar Foundation exists to preserve, honor, and improve our system of justice by funding, developing or otherwise promoting efforts which enhance the legal profession, increase public understanding of the legal system and advance the reality of equal justice under the law. 

LBF Establishes Hurricane Laura Disaster Fund 

After a disaster, civil legal aid needs are dramatically increased.  Displaced families and individuals experience a variety of legal needs.  Many need help with successions and title clearing to access federal recovery dollars.  Domestic violence centers are impacted with increased residents.  Vulnerable children need protection due to family instability and separation.  The economic security of the elderly is in jeopardy.  The stories are powerful and heartbreaking. 

As a result of Hurricane Laura, the LBF is working with stakeholders on the local, state and national level to efficiently and effectively respond to the many disaster-related legal service needs, prioritizing the impacted areas.  LBF has established the  Hurricane Laura Disaster Fund  to address the following needs: 

1.  Civil Legal Assistance for Victims – immediate legal services is a significant need facing Hurricane Laura victims.  Basic needs such as housing, employment, insurance and federal program benefits are issues for most citizens in the affected areas and not just for those living in poverty.   

2.  Assistance for Members of the Legal Community – direct relief to attorneys who lost their office or homes in the storm. 

3.  Office Recovery Assistance – to provide displaced attorneys with access to computers, internet, copiers, phones, and office furniture lost in the storm. 

Donations may be directed to the area of your choice or prioritized as needed by the LBF.   Make a donation to the Hurricane Laura Disaster Fund.   Checks payable to the Louisiana Bar Foundation/Hurricane Laura Disaster Fund may be mailed to 1615 Poydras Street, Suite 1000, New Orleans, LA 70112.   For more information, please contact LBF Associate Executive Director  Laura Sewell  at (504) 561-1046. 

The Louisiana Bar Foundation has a robust network of well-established partnerships with more than 70 legal aid providers across the state’s 64 parishes who are working hard to meet emergency civil legal needs. LBF stands with our community partners who are working even harder as more families need the help of Louisiana’s civil legal aid safety net to recover from the impact of Hurricane Laura and the pandemic. 

Stories of Justice – COVID-19 Legal Aid Success Stories: 

Unfair Eviction – Protecting Homes 

 Although Orleans Civil District Court judges halted all residential evictions due to the pandemic, sanitation worker John Parker found himself locked out of his apartment for paying his rent four days late. His landlady refused to comply.  She received a flood of phone calls, including staff from the Mayor’s Office who heard about it on social media.  After working with a Southeast Louisiana Legal Services attorney who filed a petition on Parker’s behalf, the judge ruled the eviction unlawful and ordered the landlady to allow him entry. Soon after, Parker had a shiny, brass key in his hand.  This time, thanks to his legal aid lawyer, the door opened. 

Domestic Violence – Protecting Families 

Kelly Smith endured years of abuse at the hands of her boyfriend. He berated her, beat her, and choked her. In the fall of 2019, when she was several months pregnant with their child, he threatened to kill her. In fear for her life, she finally broke of the relationship. She believed it was important for her child to have a relationship with his father, so she allowed him to have limited visitation.    

In April, with the stay at home order still in place, the child’s father asked to deliver a gift to the child. As soon as he arrived, he snatched the child and fled. He refused to answer her phone calls or respond to any of her attempts to contact him. She called the police and was told they could not do anything without a restraining order from the court. With the help of a SLLS legal aid attorney, Kelly was able to obtain a temporary restraining order and her baby was safely returned to her. 

Unemployment – Protecting Benefits 

After spending months balancing several part-time jobs, Sharon Wise was excited to start a new full-time job in January 2020. She was relieved that she would finally be earning enough money to meet her family’s monthly expenses. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit our state. In April 2020, Sharon was laid off. 

She immediately applied for unemployment benefits hoping they would provide enough income to stabilize her family until she could get back to work. Weeks passed without any word on the status of her application. When she checked her application status online, she was shocked to find she had been disqualified. She was unable to resolve the problem and sought the help of a SLLS legal aid attorney. Within two days, the Unemployment Office removed Sharon’s disqualification and approved her for unemployment benefits. 

Staff and Leadership 

The Louisiana Bar Foundation is supported by ten  staff  members, led by Executive Director Donna C. Cuneo. The Foundation’s leadership consists of a 23-member Board of Trustees. 

Connect with LBF 

We encourage you to connect with LBF on TwitterFacebookInstagramYouTube, and LinkedIn! Please visit us at  raisingthebar.org to read more about their work.