Georgia Legal Services welcome new bilingual attorney to Savannah
Bilingual attorney Sarah Morris recently joined the Savannah office of Georgia Legal Services Program, Inc. (GLSP) to provide legal assistance to South Georgia's growing Hispanic population. GLSP is a non-profit agency serving state residents who cannot afford to pay for legal representation.
Morris was hired to replace staff-attorney, Andrea Guttin, and her position is funded by a grant from the Roberto C. Goizueta Foundation to provide legal assistance to the state's low-income Hispanic residents. She will assist Latinos living in the 11 counties served by the Savannah office including: Chatham, Effingham, Bryan, Long, Liberty, Evans, Toombs, Tattnall, Bulloch, Candler and Emanuel counties. The Goizueta grant also funds bilingual attorneys working at GLSP offices in Albany, Dalton and Gainesville.
Sarah Morris is originally from Ringgold, a Georgia city located 17 miles north of Dalton, home to one of the state's largest Hispanic populations.
"I've always been interested in learning about different cultures," she said. "I majored in language at Berry College and have studied abroad in both France and Argentina."
After earning her law degree from Indiana University, Morris accepted a position with the Albany office of Georgia Legal Services.
“Our agency deals with civil issues, such as access to health care and public benefits,” Morris said. “We do not handle any criminal or immigration cases. But we can assist low income families who need legal advice on a variety of problems including education, employment and consumer issues.”
GLSP is restricted by law from providing direct legal assistance to undocumented immigrants, but they can serve as advocates on behalf of their U.S.-born children as well as any victim of domestic violence, regardless of status.
"We are allowed by law to help undocumented residents who are victims of domestic violence," Morris said. "There's no charge for our services and we help with things like temporary protective orders, divorces, and child custody disputes."
"Lately, I've been involved in a number of petitions to the state Vital Records office for children's name changes," Morris said. "This process can get very complicated if parents delay getting the changes made. After one year, it becomes much more likely that a court order may be required."
Last Spring, Georgia Legal Services filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR), claiming that the statewide DFCS program was not fulfilling its language access obligations.
"DFCS has a system in place for providing client notices and information in Spanish but we kept getting complaints that DFCS persisted in sending out the notices in English, even after the request was made to provide them in Spanish," Morris said. "This case is still active and a decision is pending."
Sarah Morris said that engaging in community outreach and education with the goal of increasing Latino access to justice is an important part of her job here.
"I've met with Hispanic community leaders in Toombs County and I'm really looking forward to making new contacts throughout our eleven county service area," she said.
For more information, she invites you to contact her at 912-651-2180, toll-free at 888-220-8399 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.