Attorney’s dream of helping the disadvantaged comes true at LSA

LSA welcomed Kentucky native Laura Yetter as its Court Debt Project Staff Attorney, on Aug. 19, 2019. In collaboration with the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Yetter will be based out of LSA’s Central office.

With a bachelor’s degree in History from the University of Louisville and a J.D. from Cumberland School of Law, Yetter served as a Court Attendant for the Honorable Judge Jim Hughey III of Jefferson County [10th Judicial Circuit] before joining LSA.

Yetter, who enjoyed her experience as a clerk, stated helping those with court debt issues is a “dream come true.”

“I’m excited and thankful for this position,” Yetter said. “I wanted to do something in the public service sector. The timing is perfect, and based on my interest, it seems like a blessing! It’s a dream to work on court costs.”

In her role, Yetter will advocate for waiving or reducing client court debt and assist clients in avoiding penalties due to an inability to pay. Her primary responsibilities will include: developing and coordinating intake procedures to identify prospective clients and streamline services, and organizing and conducting legal materials, training, clinics and strategy sessions to assist attorneys, litigants and community partners.

Michael Forton, LSA Director of Advocacy, said LSA is grateful to SPLC for funding the position of Court Debt Project Staff Attorney.

“Providing free individual representation in cases involving criminal court debt is a huge stride forward for Alabama,” Forton said. “This project will allow LSA to begin the process of educating judges in all of Alabama’s counties regarding indigency and court debt. I am very hopeful that this is a first step in treating Alabamians with criminal court debt more equitably across the state.”

Samuel Brooke, deputy legal director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Economic Justice Project, said the position could help the most vulnerable citizens in Alabama as they navigate the court system.

“Court debt has become one of the prime reasons why people struggle to get out of poverty,” Brooke said. “Adding this position, and getting someone as qualified as Laura Yetter, will bring needed advocacy to court collection proceedings and create a model for that advocacy. We at SPLC are proud to partner with LSA on this important project, and we welcome Laura to the team.”

With an older sister as a Public Defender in the state of Washington and mother who is a reporter covering social justice/poverty issues in Louisville, Ky, Yetter stated she always had a desire for public interest work.

“I had an externship during law school with the Birmingham Municipal Court. I was there with the Legal Aid Society,” Yetter stated. “I saw how people were being charged with heavy fines. I started doing research and realized where the money was going – the bigger issues of underfunding the state’s court system. I was upset and wanted to do something about the injustice.”

Yetter desires to make an impact through her new role at LSA.

“I like the reputation that LSA has,” she said. “I want to find some type of system to reform court costs instead of addressing them on a need-by-need basis. Law gives me an avenue to effectuate change and help people.”

Yetter is the youngest of three and enjoys cooking, caring for indoor plants, vintage film photography, and spending time with her husband in her spare time.

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