Legal Aid Society of Louisville

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Legal Aid Society, Inc., originally incorporated as Legal Aid Society of Louisville,[1] is a non-profit legal aid organization based in Louisville, Kentucky. One of four legal aid programs in Kentucky,[2] it serves Jefferson County (Louisville Metro) and the fourteen surrounding counties of Breckinridge, Bullitt, Grayson, Hardin, Henry, LaRue, Marion, Meade, Nelson, Oldham, Shelby, Spencer, Trimble, and Washington.[3]


Under Kentucky law, nonprofit legal services agencies such as the Legal Aid Society are only allowed to represent needy clients in civil cases.[4] Needy clients in criminal cases are eligible for representation by the Department of Public Advocacy, an agency under the Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet.[5]

The Legal Aid Society primarily represents individuals under 125% of the poverty line (although exceptions can be made up to 200% of the poverty line).[6] They also can represent individuals over the age of 60, even if they do not meet income qualifications.

While Legal Aid is allowed to represent clients in all civil cases, its main areas of advocacy are: landlord-tenant, family law, foreclosures, consumer, government benefits, community development, bankruptcy, grandparents rights, special education advocacy, assistance for individuals with HIV/AIDS, small claims, homeless rights and tenant counseling. In 2007 they assisted over 4500 individuals.[7]


The first legal aid organization, the Deutscher Rechts-Schutz Verein (German Legal Aid Society), was incorporated in New York City in 1876 "to render legal aid and assistance, gratuitously, to those of German birth, who may appear worthy thereof, but who from poverty are unable to procure it."[8] Chicago's Ethical Culture Society formed the Bureau of Justice in 1888, which sought to provide legal services to all poor persons. This, according to a chronology of the history of legal services, was the first true legal aid organization.

In 1896, the New York society amended its charter, dropping the word "German" to become "The Legal Aid Society," and in 1899 it opened three branch offices. Following these pioneers, legal aid societies were organized in Boston (1900), Philadelphia (1902), and Cleveland (1905).[9]

The Legal Aid Society of Louisville followed this tradition of public service as it spread across the country and on December 15, 1921 opened its doors for the first time. The original incorporators of the Legal Aid Society, included Mrs. Alfred Brandeis, sister-in-law of Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, and Mr. John G. Heyburn. In 1928 the Volunteer Lawyer Program was established to help assist private attorneys in providing pro-bono legal services. In 1975, the Community Development program was established to assist in providing legal services to local non-profit organisations. In 1978 the program was expanded from Jefferson County to assist the 14 surrounding counties. In 1992 a special program was developed to assist individuals living with HIV/ AIDS in the Louisville Metro community.[10] The organization adopted its current name in 1980.[1]

The organization was led for 30 years (1975–2005) by Dennis Bricking, who during his tenure was honored with the Louisville Bar Association's Lawyer of the Year and the American Bar Association's John Minor Wisdom Public Service and Professionalism Award.[11]

Notable Legal Aid alumni include the founders of Hawley-Cooke bookstore; numerous Kentucky judges, including Denise Clayton who was the first African American woman to be appointed to the Kentucky Court of Appeals;[12] and David Friedman who successfully argued the McCreary County v. ACLU case before the United States Supreme Court.[13]


The Legal Aid Society receives funding from the Legal Services Corporation,[14] the Commonwealth of Kentucky,[15] the United Way, IOLTA funds, the Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government and numerous other grants and donations. The Legal Aid Society also employees a fellow, who specializes in domestic violence advocacy who is employed with funds from the law firm of Wyatt, Tarrant and Combs. They also have a program with the law magnet program at Louisville Central High School and work with the Louis D. Brandeis School of Law at the University of Louisville.


  1. ^ a b "Legal Aid Society, Inc.". Online Business Data Base. Kentucky Secretary of State. Retrieved 2010-02-05. [dead link]
  2. ^ "Legal Aid Programs in Kentucky". Kentucky Bar Association. Retrieved 2009-11-10. 
  3. ^ KY Justice - Legal Service
  4. ^ Kentucky Revised Statutes § 27A.600 (1).
  5. ^ Kentucky Revised Statutes § 31.010.
  6. ^ Legal Services Corporation - PDF
  7. ^ See Legal Aid Society Louisville
  8. ^ John MacArthur Maguire. The Lance of Justice: A Semi-Centennial History of the Legal Aid Society, 1876–1926 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1928).
  9. ^ Arthur F. Bigelow, "Epitome of Legal Aid History in the United States, 1876–1925," in "Legal Aid Work," John S. Bradway and Reginald Heber Smith, eds., special issue, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 124 (March 1926): 20–22.
  10. ^ Legal Aid Society Louisville - Winter 2006.pdf
  11. ^ Legal Aid Society Louisville - Spring 2005.pdf
  12. ^ Kentucky Courts of Justice - Judge Clayton
  13. ^ - Take two tablets
  14. ^ Legal Service
  15. ^ Beshear budget eliminates Legal Aid funding by Deborah Yetter The Courier-Journal February 27, 2008

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