Legal class offered in Spanish
Published Tuesday August 23 2005
The Island Packet
Finding your way through the legal system can be tough enough -- but it gets tougher when you can't speak the language.
That's where the next installment of the Law School for Non-lawyers comes in. Lowcountry Legal Aid and the South Carolina Bar Pro Bono Program will offer a free, six-week program starting in September to educate the area's Spanish-speaking population about the legal system.

The six weekly programs will feature interpreters translating the sessions into Spanish as the presenters speak.

"We want people to be educated on what their rights and responsibilities are," said Keri Olivetti, executive director of Lowcountry Legal Aid.

Two sessions on different aspects of the law will be held each evening, the topics ranging from arbitration to family law to an overview of criminal prosecution and defense.

About a dozen local lawyers and judges have volunteered to present the programs. Judge Maureen Coffey of the Hilton Head Island Municipal Court will kick off the sessions with an overview of the state court system.

Olivetti's employment law session will touch on what to do if someone is not compensated for their work -- one of the major problems for legal-aid clients who don't speak English.

About 35 percent of Lowcountry Legal Aid's clients are Hispanic, most of whom speak little English, Olivetti said.

The sessions are based on a program presented by the South Carolina Bar, but were given a twist to serve an audience in the Hilton Head area that sometimes gets overlooked, Olivetti said.

The bar plans to present a program in English only on Hilton Head sometime in the near future.

English-only speaking guests are invited to the upcoming session but are warned that they'll have to wade through the translations.

"If you only speak English," Olivetti said, "you'll have to be patient."

The program will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. starting Sept. 6 at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church, 20 Pope Ave. A session will be held on each of the five following Tuesdays.