Tucson Real Estate: Pro bono legal service group moves in near downtown

Gabriela Rico  |  Arizona Daily Star|  Mar 27, 2017

Step Up to Justice will serve Pima County residents living in poverty.

Step Up to Justice will serve Pima County residents living in poverty.

An effort to provide free legal services to Pima County residents living in poverty now has a roof over its head.

Step Up to Justice leased 1,783 square feet from the City of Tucson at 320 N. Commerce Park Loop, just west of Interstate 10 and Congress.

It was formed by a group of attorneys who have volunteered in social justice for many years, said Stacy Butler, chairman of the organization’s board.

“We have about 900 attorneys that have said they would volunteer their services,” she said. “We were lacking the infrastructure.”

The office has three staffers who recruit the attorneys and match them with clients.

“One attorney could help 20 people with paperwork on a certain subject,” Butler said. “Others really need one-on-one attention.”

The group only handles civil proceedings, such as foreclosures, evictions, divorce due to domestic abuse and guardianship cases where extended family members are caring for a child.

The operating budget comes from private donations, private grants and charitable state tax credits, Butler said.

It does not take federal grant money in order to assist people living in half-way homes as they transition from prison and people who are undocumented residents — both not allowed under federal guidelines.

Step Up to Justice also fills the conflict-of-interest gap when, for example, one party in a civil proceeding gets services from legal aid and the other party is left without representation, said Michele Mirto, executive director.

She said Tucsonans have been very supportive.

“We live in an amazingly generous community,” Mirto said. “I think people are particularly excited that it’s an all-volunteer model.”

Clients eligible for the free service must be at 125 percent of the Federal Poverty Level Guidelines. For a family of six, that would be an income of less than $41,200 a year.

Visit stepuptojustice.org for more information on services, donating or volunteering.

Ian Stuart and Bruce Suppes, with CBRE, represented the city in this lease.