‘Justice Bus’ Rolls On, Helping Low-Income Arizonans

By Courtney Crowder

Apr 22, 2010 3:00pm

ABC News on Campus reporter Brian McBride blogs: It’s a charter bus fit for a rock star with an Arizona State University logo plastered on to the side.
 
The bus, filled with law students from the Sandra Day O’Conner College of Law at ASU, tours Arizona offering legal services. Last month they set up shop for a day in Prescott Valley. Located in central Arizona, 85 miles north of Phoenix, Prescott Valley is a town that is growing quickly but currently lacks legal services for many of its residents.  (Images courtesy of Todd Story)
 
The student-run Consumer Advocacy Protection Program (CAPP) organized the Justice Bus, in which roughly 25 students helped low-income people through tax preparations, consumer protection and unemployment insurance seminars. 
 
The crew set up shop in two locations, one at the local fire station and the other at one of Northern Arizona University’s newer campuses, since ASU doesn’t have a campus in Prescott Valley.
 
Mary Juetten is a third-year law student and the president of CAPP. Rather than having clients pay to visit her, or her team, for a consultation, she brings her skills to them by bringing tables and boxes of legal documents to the locations – free of charge.  The idea for what’s now been coined the Justice Bus surfaced around the same time as the housing market collapsed in 2008. Juetten felt inspired to help Arizona residents underwater in their mortgage payments – what some experts called ground zero of the foreclosure crisis. She also wanted to help prevent others from following suit.
 
“Our group was really pleased with the maiden voyage of the bus and we had a lot of fun,” Juetten said. “Seeing the first person come to the CAPP presentation made our day.”
 
Marcy Karin, faculty director for CAPP, saw the program as a way for her students to not only help others in need, but to excel within their own careers as well.
 
“The Justice Bus has empowered ASU law students to make a difference in their state,” Karin said. “It showed them that they could diagnose a problem and think creatively to propose solutions.”
 
James Kimes, 63, a retired Prescott Valley resident wanted help in getting a debt, in the thousands of dollars, paid to him. After consulting with the law students, he’s still not sure he will get his money back, but was grateful to receive help for free.   “I wasn’t in financial distress, but sure wish I could get my money returned to me,” Kimes said. “I very much appreciated the session and am grateful for the personal attention I received.” In addition to offering free legal advice, a small group from the Justice Bus crew operated the Wills for Heroes program. Working with a large group of firefighters, students drafted wills for first responders in the public safety field in case tragedy occurs. The program generated so much interest within the firehouse that a waiting list was created to meet demand. The Justice Bus served more than 60 people from that first “tour” alone. Karin was pleased to see the positive attention from a project her students had initiated.
 
“The reaction has been very positive,” Karin told ABCNews.com. “You could see it in the faces of people who came to the Bus event for information and advice. And you could hear it in the ‘thank you’s’ the volunteers received throughout the day.”
 
Because this is their first year doing the tour, money and volunteer services are limited. The bus won’t hit the road again until the fall semester, but the law students are now holding information sessions in the Phoenix area.
 
The Justice Bus program is funded by donations from the Shoumakers, a local Phoenix family, the Law Student Division of the American Bar Association and other partners. The group can be reached at justicebus@asu.edu or call 480-965-4450.

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