Projects and Issues
The Ohio Poverty Law Center focuses its work in the mail substantive areas in which Ohio's legal aid organizations represent clients: public benefits law, housing law, family law, consumer law, health law, and education law.
Current Issues and Projects:
December 5, 2013
The Ohio Poverty Law Center partnered with the Ohio Domestic Violence Network (ODVN) and the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence to produce two self-help manuals for survivors of domestic violence, sexual violence and stalking. Mike Smalz, Senior Staff Attorney for the Poverty Law Center, was principal coauthor for both manuals. The first manual, which can be found here, is for DV survivors in the general population. The second, specifically designed for incarcerated victims, can be found here. Both manuals may also be accessed through ODVN's website: http://www.odvn.org/.
August 8, 2013
The Ohio Poverty Law Center partnered with Pro Seniors, Inc., to construct a foreclosure self help website. The website, AvoidForeclosureOhio.org, is designed to provide legal information to homeowners struggling with foreclosure, financial and family stability issues.
July 23, 2012
In the sixth and final educational webinar for housing counselors, OPLC staff attorney Joe Maskovyak joins Linda Cook to discuss rental housing options for families losing a home to foreclosure.
June 25, 2013
Gene King, Director of the Ohio Poverty Law Center, explains how access to health care and health care coverage can help families increase resources to help make their mortgages more affordable.
June 19, 2013
Senior Staff Attorney Linda Cook testified in opposition to legislation proposing to exempt for-profit debt settlement companies from Ohio's Debt Adjustor Act, thereby removing the fee caps that protect Ohio consumers from excessive charges. HB 173 is currently pending in the Financial institutions, Housing and Urban Development Committee of the Ohio House.
May 21, 2013
In the fourth of OPLC's educational webinars for housing counselors, attorney Mike Smalz, senior staff attorney of the Ohio poverty Law Center, joins Linda Cook to discuss the intersection of family law and foreclosure.
April 23, 2013
In this third of OPLC's educational webinars for housing counselors, attorney Melissa Skilliter, Director of Southeastern Ohio Legal Services' Low Income Tax Clinic joins Linda Cook of the Ohio Poverty Law Center to discuss the tax consequences of debt cancellation associated with foreclosure and home loan modifications.
March 26, 2013
In this second of OPLC's series of webinars for housing counselors, attorney Brian Howe for The Legal Aid Society of Southwest Ohio joins OPLC attorney Linda Cook to discuss origination and servicing issues surrounding FHA, USDA and VA home loans.
March 19, 2013
OPLC attorneys Mike Smalz and Joe Maskovyak led a group of legal aid and low income advocates in writing and submitting initial comments to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio in its initial investigation of Ohio's retail electric services market. This sounds like an esoteric issues, but further electric deregulation could cost Ohio's low income consumers money they can ill afford. These comments focus on the impact of further electric deregulation on Ohio's most vulnerable citizens.
March 13, 2013:
OPLC attorney Sarah Biehl presented testimony before the Ohio Senate Joint Task Force on School Safety on March 12, 2013, emphasizing the importance of creating positive school climates, eliminating zero tolerance policies, and improving school discipline practices as a means of improving school safety and security.
February 26, 2013:
OPLC began a series of educational webinars for housing counselors in cooperation with the Ohio Housing Finance Agency. The first webinar presented by Linda Cook and Joseph Maskovyak on February 26 discusses issues concerning housing counselors and the unauthorized practice of law.
January 3, 2013:
If your landlord stops making mortgage payments, the lender may foreclose on the property you're renting. Joe Maskovyak of the Ohio Poverty Law Center in Columbus explains what tenants need to know. Click here for the video
October 30, 2012:
On October 24, 2012, OPLC and Legal Aid of Western Ohio submitted joint comments to the Ohio Department of Education on the Department's proposed policy and rule on implementation of positive behavior interventions and supports and restrictions on restraint and seclusion in Ohio schools. Among other things, OPLC and LAWO call for a complete prohibition on the use of seclusion in schools and the use of "transitional holds," and the creation of separate policies on the use of positive behavior interventions and supports and restraint & seclusion.
October 16, 2012:
On Oct. 9, 2012, OPLC and the legal aid community filed an amicus brief in the Ohio Supreme Court in Anderson v. HomeEq.
April 3, 2012:
On April 2, 2012, OPLC and a statewide legal aid payday lending litigation work group filed an amicus brief in the 9th District Court of Appeals challenging Cashland's blatant disregard of Ohio's payday lending reform. We were joined on the brief by the Coalition on Housing and Homelessness in Ohio (COHHIO), the Center for Responsible Lending, and the National Consumer Law Center.
Previous Issues, Projects, and Achievements:
In 2011, OPLC attorneys:
- Lobbied in the Ohio General Assembly on pending consumer protection, domestic relations, education, employment, and housing legislation affecting low-income Ohioans.
- Chaired and/or participated in Ohio Supreme Court committees that developed new civil rules on magistrates and civil protection orderss and communications in domestic violence cases.
- Submitted comments and negotiated with state executive agencies on dozens of current and proposed regulations to administer financial, nutritional and medical public assistance.
- Co-counseled and coordinated statewide amicus briefs in the Supreme Court of Ohio on home foreclosure and consumer protection issues.
- Co-counseled a complaint to the United States Department of Justice based on school discipline practices of the Toledo Public Schools.
- Organized and facilitated three warrant clearing days for residents of Marion and Muskingham counties to have pending criminal warrants dismissed. We also developed and distributed a manual to help other legal aid programs and counties to present warrant clearing days.
- Presented a series of employer awareness workshops to encourage employers to hire job applicants with criminal records.
- Orchestrated a statewide meeting of legal aid and public defender staff to discuss overlapping issues and strategies to improve services to our clients.
- Initiated Ohio Speaks, a statewide coalition to collect and publicize stories about the day-to-day challenges facing low-income Ohioans.
- Advocated for a Ban the Box initiative to encourage employers not to ask for criminal history on initial employment applications.
- Advocated for the return of $43 million to Central and Southern Ohio electricity consumers in the American Electric Power Significantly Excessive Earnings Test case, .
- Produced and presented a week long trial skills training for legal aid staff from Ohio, Michigan, and West Virginia to improve the effectiveness of their litigation advocacy.
- Served as the watch dog on legislative, administrative and public policy issues affecting low-income Ohioans.