Community Legal Services (CLS) of Philadelphia


Since 1966, CLS provides free legal services in civil matters to low-income Philadelphians.
Organization website

Primary geographic focus: Pennsylvania
Organization type(s): Provider
Acronym or short name: CLS Phila

In 1966, the Philadelphia Bar Association established Community Legal Services (CLS) as an independent 501(c)(3) organization to provide free legal services, in civil matters, to low-income Philadelphians. Since its founding, CLS has served more than one million clients who could not afford to pay for legal representation and who would have faced a variety of devastating ends without dedicated, knowledgeable attorneys on their side.



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News Story

Fight Grows to Stop Expunged Criminal Records Living On in Background Checks

Joe Palazzolo, Gary Fields
Wall Street Journal (WSJ)
May 7, 2015
Criminal records live on in some reports even after being expunged from government databases leaving many with difficulties of getting jobs and housing.

Blog Post

New Ruling Highlights Why We Need the REDEEM Act

Sharon Dietrich
TalkPoverty.org
June 3, 2015

News Story

Wage theft hits those who can least afford it

Jake Blumgart
Philly Voice
June 4, 2015
Story about the work Community Legal Services does to protect Philadelphia workers from wage theft.

News Story

Legal aid group says Pennsylvania fell down on the job investigating nursing home complaints

Associated Press (AP)
June 12, 2015
A new report from a civil legal aid organization accuses the Pennsylvania Department of Health of failing to properly investigate complaints about nursing homes.

News Story

Pennsylvania AG sues operator of 14 nursing homes

Marc Levy
Associated Press (AP)
July 1, 2015
The Pennsylvania attorney general's office on Wednesday sued the operator of 36 nursing homes after a report from a local civil legal aid program.

Op-Ed

Pa. has to better protect nursing home residents

Sam Brooks
LNP News (PA)
August 2, 2015
The Pennsylvania Department of Health has been failing to do its job to protect nursing home residents for several years. This civil legal aid program works to change that.

News Story

City testing the water on income-based utility bills

Tricia L. Nadolny
Philadelphia Inquirer
September 7, 2015
Philadelphia is in the midst of crafting a broader program that could offer income-based bills and debt forgiveness. Advocates argue that fewer shutoffs can have stabilizing benefits in a community.

Op-Ed

7 Ways To Fight Poverty In Philly

Sharon Dietrich, Louise Hayes
October 9, 2015
A whopping 186,000 Philadelphians — 12 percent of the city’s residents — live below 50 percent of the federal poverty line. Here's a policy agenda to solve it.

Blog Post

Wage Theft Is an Epidemic. Here’s How We Can Help Fix It

Nadia Hewka, Michael Hollander
TalkPoverty.org
February 2, 2016
Underenforcement of wage-theft laws mean employers shrug off consequences and exploit low-wage workers.

News Story

Gov. Tom Wolf signs bill allowing ex-offenders to keep minor crimes off the public record

Charles Thompson
February 16, 2016
Gov. Tom Wolf signed a bill Tuesday that will let ex-offenders who have stayed out of trouble for 10 years after a conviction for most second- or third-degree misdemeanors petition courts to have records of the old crime sealed.

News Story

Pennsylvania tripled number of nursing home fines in 2015

Heather Stauffer
LNP News (PA)
March 6, 2016
Nursing homes across Pennsylvania are feeling more heat as state authorities crank up enforcement in response to criticism that residents are not being cared for adequately.

Blog Post

A new day for fair hiring practices in Phila.

Brendan Lynch
Philadelphia Inquirer
March 14, 2016
Today, new fair hiring rules that apply to nearly all employers take effect in Philadelphia, and they will vastly increase employment opportunities for people with criminal records.

News Story

As Pa. bolsters nursing home inspections, rate of penalties up

Ryan Briggs
WHYY (PA)
March 14, 2016
After scathing reports last year showed Pennsylvania routinely failed to detect or punish elder abuse, the state Department of Health is cracking down on lax nursing home inspections.

News Story

Bi-partisan Clean Slate Bill To Be Introduced In PA Today

Cherri Gregg
KYW (local CBS, Philadelphia)
April 12, 2016
Pennsylvania lawmakers will introduce a first-of-its-kind bill Wednesday that would automatically seal certain criminal records after a period of time.

News Story

Nursing homes turn to eviction to drop difficult patients

Associated Press (AP)
May 5, 2016
Nursing homes are increasingly evicting their most challenging residents, advocates for the aged and disabled say, testing protections for some of society's most vulnerable.

News Story

This is how we fight back: Race, big banks and a secret weapon for justice

Daniel Denvir
Salon
May 19, 2016
There's a way to surprise the system and battle for your job, home and rights -- more people need to know about it

News Story

Hoping for a clean slate in Philly

Hayden Mitman
Philly Voice
June 2, 2016
Legislators are working on measures that would seal the criminal records of non-violent offenders convicted of misdemeanors and summary offenses.

News Story

Here’s why many Americans don’t clear their criminal records

Rebecca Beitsch
PBS News Hour
June 8, 2016
Part of the reason is ignorance of the remedies that the laws allow, part of the reason is the cost.

News Story

Philadelphia Wants To Crack Down On Tax Delinquents

Pat Loeb
KYW (local CBS, Philadelphia)
August 12, 2016
Philadelphia is actively pursuing a tax lien sale, as a way to recoup some of the nearly half-a-billion dollars it’s owed in back taxes and penalties.

News Story

Advocates For Needy Urge Changes To PA Welfare System

Aaron Moselle
WESA (Pittsburgh)
August 18, 2016
In a report released Monday called Mending the Safety Net, CLS said the cash assistance program's requirements are too burdensome and that it doesn't provide families with nearly enough money each month.

News Story

Effort to bolster subsidized job opportunities underway in Pa.

Katie Colaneri
WHYY (PA)
September 5, 2016
Gullen and her colleagues at Community Legal Services, an advocacy group that assists low-income families, are teaming up with Redeemed PA to launch a campaign urging the city and state to create a robust subsidized jobs program.

Interview

If you have a criminal record, read this

Jane Von Bergen
Philadelphia Inquirer
November 19, 2016
Effective November 14, people with certain misdemeanor convictions can ask the court to seal their records.

Feature

Legal advocate helps workers under shadow of criminal records

Jane Von Bergen
Philadelphia Inquirer
November 20, 2016
When it comes to how poor people are treated at work, Sharon Dietrich gets mad.

Op-Ed

Commentary: Civil legal aid needed to help expunge criminal records, reduce poverty

Gaetan J. Alfano, Deborah R. Gross, Mary F. Platt
Philadelphia Inquirer
December 1, 2016
An investment in civil legal aid will ultimately help to transform the social and economic landscape of Philadelphia.

Op-Ed

Can Other U.S. Cities Follow in NYC’s Footsteps to Help Renters?

Alexis Stephens
NextCity.org
February 21, 2017
Other cities, including Philadelphia and Boston, are taking cues from New York’s playbook.

News Story

Why Philly went after a domestic-violence victim for thousands in child support

Samantha Melamed
Philadelphia Inquirer
February 26, 2017
In fact, it reflects standard practice in Philadelphia, whose Department of Human Services (DHS) removes children from their homes at a rate much higher than most big U.S. cities and collects nearly $2 million per year in child support from their parents.

News Story

To reduce unfair evictions tenants need lawyers

Jake Blumgart
WHYY (PA)
March 16, 2017
In a city with a staggeringly high eviction rate, landlord-tenant court is one of the busiest corners of Philadelphia's municipal judiciary.

Op-Ed

Philly should relieve eviction crisis by funding legal representation for low-income tenants

Kathy Desmond
WHYY (PA)
March 24, 2017
The cost of representation for an eviction hearing is out of reach for too many Philly residents. Although 81 percent of landlords attend court with legal counsel, only 1 percent of low-income renters attend with legal representation.

Blog Post , Op-Ed

Hearing Health and Eviction in Philadelphia

Abraham Gutham
Huffington Post
March 24, 2017
The Philadelphia City Council held a hearing on Monday, March 20, about evictions in Philadelphia, their impact on wellbeing and health, and one possible solution: the right to counsel in housing court.

News Story

Lives on hold, literally, laid-off in Pennsylvania can’t get jobless benefits

Jane Von Bergen
Philadelphia Inquirer
April 17, 2017
What has Salvato in a tizzy is the near-collapse of Pennsylvania’s unemployment compensation system. In mid-December, the state closed three service centers and furloughed 521 workers, or a third of the people who deal with unemployment compensation.

News Story

City Funds Legal Assistance To Ease Eviction Crisis

Pat Loeb
KYW (local CBS, Philadelphia)
June 29, 2017
The money was added to the budget after city council hearings that described an eviction “crisis.”

Op-Ed

Expungements can erase the stigma that haunts people of color

Tracie Johnson, Jarrett Drake
WHYY (PA)
August 2, 2017
Black Lives Matter Philadelphia sheds light on the over-policing of communities of color and is partnering with Community Legal Services to address the long-term consequences.

News Story

Philly legal aid group urging colleges to stop asking applicants about criminal record

Aaron Moselle
WHYY (PA)
August 31, 2017
One of Philadelphia's largest legal assistance organizations, is pushing area colleges and universities to stop asking prospective students about any crimes in their past.

News Story

A Philadelphia Story: No Running Water For Eight Years

Brett Walton
Circle of Blue
December 13, 2017
Legal barriers block water access for residents in ‘tangled title’ cases.

News Story

SSI backlog: Thousands around Philly waiting more than two years for disability hearing

Philadelphia Inquirer
January 5, 2018
Across the country, more than one million people are waiting — sometimes for more than two years — for an appeal hearing to determine whether they qualify for these disability benefits.

News Story

People will sign anything: how legal odds are stacked against the evicted

Matt Krupnick
Guardian
January 24, 2018
Evicted tenants in the US often struggle to get an attorney, leaving them at a disadvantage against lawyered-up landlords.

Investigative

Behind the minimum wage fight, a sweeping failure to enforce the law

Marianne LeVine
Politico
February 18, 2018
Raising hourly pay is a rallying cry for 2018, but states often fail to get workers the money that’s owed them.

News Story

Problems continue with state investigation of nursing home complaints, report says

Harold Brubaker
Philadelphia Inquirer
February 22, 2018
From 2015 through 2017, nursing-home inspectors dismissed 85 percent of complaints against Philadelphia nursing homes as unsubstantiated, just a small improvement from the previous three-year period.

News Story

Why 1 in 14 Philly renters faces eviction every year

Julia Terruso
Philadelphia Inquirer
April 19, 2018
With aging housing stock, rising rental costs, and a lack of affordable units, evictions have become a national crisis.

News Story

Cities Are Starting To Address The Eviction Crisis That’s Devastated Poor Tenants

Huffington Post
June 12, 2018
Evictions can plunge an already struggling tenant even deeper into poverty.

Feature

The Solace of Oblivion

Jeffrey Toobin
New Yorker
September 29, 2014
Do we have the right to be forgotten on the Internet? They do in Europe, in America the reverse is true. A fascinating read on the right to privacy against freedom of speech.

News Story

Making the Safety Net More Visible in Philadelphia

Jon Hurdle
New York Times (NYT)
August 20, 2013
Community Legal Services (CLS) of Philadelphia helped a 92-year-old woman living on Social Security qualify to pay lower water bills and get help with chores.

News Story , Video

Living with a record: How past crimes may drive job seekers into poverty

Stephen Fee
PBS News Hour
January 24, 2015
Applicants with criminal backgrounds, including those with nonviolent criminal convictions or even arrests, are increasingly being driven into poverty.

Blog Post

Unsung Heroes of Obamacare’s Enrollment Surge

Martha Bergmark
Huffington Post
April 3, 2014
From coast to coast, legal aid organizations helped low- and moderate-income Americans sign up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act.



This page last modified: Wed, April 15, 2015 -- 3:22 pm ET