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Legal Aid, Private Lawyers and Marlborough Community In Kansas City Gain Federal Funds

Timothy Dorset
Stinson Leonard Street LLP

It’s not often you see a bunch of high priced lawyers sitting side by side community activists in a neighborhood meeting hall.

That’s what happened Friday.

They showed up at the Marlborough Community Center at 82nd and Paseo in Kansas City, Missouri becauseLegal Aid of Western Missouri was getting a grant.

Legal Aid received $257,441 to fund a program that pairs private law firms with blighted neighborhoods. The project is called Adopt-A –Neighborhood.

The Washington-based Legal Services Corporation presented a gigantic cardboard check to Gregg Lombardi, Executive Director of Legal Aid, and Brenda Thomas, President of the Marlborough Neighborhood Coalition , a group of five midtown communities. The funds will be used to support Legal Aid and the firms that are donating their time.

Thomas says some firms have already provided pro bono legal services to bring a grocery store and deal with neglected homes. But with some seven thousand abandoned properties in Kansas City, she says it is impossible to track down deeds, tax records and owners without legal assistance.

“We’ve had people from Australia to buy in Marlborough. That’s crazy. They leave (the houses) to rot,” she said.

President of the Legal Services Corporation Jim Sandman told the group the U.S. spends more on Halloween costumes for our pets than we do on federal funding for the Legal Services Corp. ($365 million in 2014.)

“I think we have our national priorities wrong," Sandman said. 

Credit Timothy Dorset / Stinson Leonard Street LLP
Stinson Leonard Street LLP
5th District Congressman Emanuel Cleaver said blighted communities need legal assistance to thrive.

Fifth District Congressman Emanuel Cleaver has pushed for the federal funds.  He said the money is critical to fix wounded parts of our communities.

  “If a community is neglected it means, in many ways, justice in that community is going to be neglected,” he said. “They need people to stand up for them.”

According to a press release from Legal Aid, the firms involved in the Adopt-A- Neighborhood project are Husch Blackwell LLP, Kutak Rock LLP, Polsinelli PC, Stinson Leonard Street LLP and White Goss.

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