Each spring, members of the law school community partner with two different programs to assist hundreds of low income wage earners with their federal and state tax returns in one of our most popular pro bono projects. Providing income tax assistance is truly a family affair, with JD and LLM students, faculty, and administration volunteering their time.
The Campaign for Working Families provides free tax preparation services at several tax sites throughout Philadelphia, including one on Temple’s Main Campus. Professors Alice Abreu, Robert Bartow, Jan Ting and several students helped staff this site, one of the largest in the city. In Spring 2010, the tax site helped prepare over 900 returns which resulted in over $1.5 million in refunds.
The Pennsylvania Farmworker Project of Philadelphia Legal Assistance operates a VITA clinic on Saturdays in February and April serving the Spanish-speaking community in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. The clinic has benefited from Temple students' language and tax preparation skills for many years, and many students return to the clinic year after year.
Established in 2007 by Magistrate Judges Timothy Rice ’86 and L. Felipe Restrepo of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania along with the United States Attorney’s office, STAR is an innovative court reentry program designed to assist former inmates with the transition to life outside the prison system. Every two weeks, up to 30 participants appear as a group before the court to report on their progress. The court and federal probation office assist with education, training, employment, and other needs and impose sanctions where necessary. After participants successfully complete 52 weeks, they are eligible for reduction of up to one year in their term of supervised release. Many participants have issues such as driver license suspensions or child support cases that require legal assistance. Law students from Temple and the other area law schools perform intake interviews at the court sessions and prepare the cases for referral to Philadelphia VIP.
This project, developed by The Women’s Law Project, in cooperation with Philadelphia Legal Assistance, helps domestic violence victims who are filing for a Protection from Abuse (PFA) order in Philadelphia Family Court. Trained law students staff the PFA filing site during business hours, providing information on the legal process and safety planning as well as referrals to free legal assistance. Volunteers bridge the information gap for many victims who are experiencing the court system for the first time under very stressful circumstances.
Safeguarding elections is essential in any democracy. Temple students are trained by the Committee of Seventy to serve as non-partisan election protection volunteers each election day. Volunteers act as watchdogs either in the field or behind the scenes. Field volunteers randomly visit hundreds of polling places to ensure that proper procedures are followed, investigate public complaints, and report irregularities. Other volunteers operate an Election Day Hotline from the time polls open until they close, taking calls from Philadelphians -- who may have questions about the conduct of polling-place officials or may just need to know where to go to vote.