MACON, Ga. — Sometimes, you may need legal help, but affording a lawyer is out of reach, even with a lower rate.
One Macon group sees that need and wants to help. Middle Georgia Justice provides free legal services for people across Central Georgia, and they're getting a $250,000 grant from Macon-Bibb County to advance their mission.
"We have substantial unmet legal needs in Bibb County and middle Georgia, and I saw that as a judge," said Middle Georgia Justice President Bill Adams.
That's where the story began for the organization, just months after Adams retired as a judge in 2017.
"People coming to the courthouse without a lawyer and getting adverse outcomes because of it," he said.
Adams estimates about 80% of Central Georgia can't afford a lawyer. Middle Georgia Justice started small, but it's expanded to serve seven counties, with six full-time employees. Adams says the $250,000 from Macon-Bibb will help them hire more people and expand their reach. There's a need, especially in a few key areas.
"People with family law issues, and need a divorce or legitimation. Custody issues come to us all the time," Adams explained.
The group has a self-help center for people to sit with an attorney, and get aid in filling out documents for those cases. In some cases, their three staff attorneys will represent people in court. In others, their work even trickles down into the community, helping the county fight blight.
"Probably 70% of the blighted houses in town started with a problem with the title to the property, so we help folks clear up the title to the property so they become the title owner to their home," he said.
They're always looking for volunteers, especially volunteer attorneys. Adams says they also have some positions that don't require legal experience. To get involved, you can check out their website.
Commissioners are set to take their final vote for the grant on Tuesday. It's part of the latest round of American Rescue Plan Act money: about $2.1 million. Other groups getting some of the money include Macon Mental Health Matters, Loaves and Fishes, and Middle Georgia Regional Food Bank.