Linda Klein of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, Atlanta (Photo: Jason Doiy/ALM) Linda Klein of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, Atlanta (Photo: Jason Doiy/ALM)

The Judicial Council of Georgia Standing Committee on Grants announced Wednesday the award of $2.43 million to legal aid groups around the state for low-income victims of domestic violence and their children.

Linda Klein, senior managing shareholder at Baker Donelson and immediate past president of the American Bar Association, marked the news Wednesday on Twitter. “Proud to have been part of this program since it was an idea to help the indigent victims of domestic violence get lawyers,” Klein tweeted. “Thousands of families have been helped.”

This year’s awards totaled $2.43 million, to eight nonprofit agencies that won out in a competitive application process, the council said. The grants are designated for direct civil legal assistance to low-income Georgia residents affected by domestic violence. Unlike some other funding for legal aid groups, this money can be used for expenses related to divorce and custody when domestic violence is an issue, the council said. The funds also can be used to help secure protective orders for victims and for other designated purposes. They can also be directed to those Georgia counties with fewer than 10 registered lawyers, where legal aid attorneys travel to offer help.

Legal aid leaders say the grants have become particularly important given the attempts by the Trump administration to cut federal funding for legal aid providers.

The Georgia General Assembly first appropriated funds to the Judicial Council for its “Legal Assistance to Families Victimized by Domestic Violence Project” in 1999, and funding has continued in every legislative session since.

“Domestic violence is endemic throughout the nation and in Georgia,” the council says in its description of the grant program on its website. “From 2003 through 2016, nearly 1,700 Georgia citizens lost their lives due to domestic violence.”

Domestic violence shelters refer more than an estimated 10,000 victims to legal service agencies each year, according to the council. “Other legal resources are inadequate to meet the serious needs of these families. This project provides a framework under which Georgia’s non-profit legal services programs can serve approximately 6,300 families of domestic violence per year.”

The program covers civil legal assistance to persons victimized or threatened by domestic violence. Benefits can include help with immediate needs through protective orders or orders for custody and child support and include legal assistance with such issues as access to credit and bank accounts, housing, public benefits, employment and other consumer and financial problems that must be resolved to achieve safety, stability and economic security.

The council named the nonprofit agencies that received grants for fiscal 2019:

  • Atlanta Legal Aid Society—$699,504
  • Cherokee Family Violence Center Inc.—$9,000
  • Gateway House—$10,365
  • Georgia Legal Services Program—$1,604,038
  • Northeast Georgia Shelter Collaborative—$47,385
  • Northwest Georgia Family Crisis Center Inc.—$36,921
  • Southwest Georgia Victim’s Assistance Alliance—$ 5,000
  • Wayne County Protective Agency/Fair Haven—$12,787

More information about the grant program can be found at: www.georgiacourts.gov.