With newest project, Post hopes to increase access to attorneys

Published 12:10 am Saturday, March 12, 2016

With his bright green bus and a bit of help from local attorneys, David Post hopes to make it easy for low-income Rowan residents to obtain legal representation.

Inside Post’s bus sit a couple tables and several chairs. He renovated the inside of an RV and wrapped the vehicle with a bright, green exterior that bears the name of Post’s newest project — The Center for Access to Justice. The bus will serve as a traveling office. Post has also made significant renovations to a small building on West Innes Street, between South Merritt and Ackert avenues.

The building sits adjacent to MedExpress Pharmacy, which he owned for a number of years. During his time as owner, Post brought MedExpress Pharmacy out of bankruptcy. The business sold in 2014 for a large sum of money.

Post — a city councilman, attorney and businessman — says the goal of his latest project is to do exactly what its title suggests: increase access to justice.

When describing the reason for his project, Post told a story about a Rowan County resident facing eviction from their home. The Rowan resident had representation from Ed Sharpe, a legal aid lawyer who serves Rowan. Sharpe and other legal aid lawyers provide free legal services in civil matters to low-income people. Post, who was in the courtroom, said Sharpe made a simple motion. The judge quickly dismissed the case. It happened again with a subsequent case, Post said.

“If those people hadn’t had lawyers, they would’ve gotten kicked out of their house,” Post said. “They wouldn’t have known what to do.”

Attorneys who provide legal aid to low-income residents, however, are responsible for a large swath of territory, Post said. There’s also no legal aid office in Rowan County.

Post’s concept will be similar to legal aid. The Center for Access to Justice would serve as a middle-man between low-income clients and local attorneys, who would volunteer time to represent Rowan residents in civil cases.

“After coming in contact with so many attorneys in this community, I would say very confidently that every single one does at least one pro-bono case,” said attorney Katie Setzer, past president of the Rowan County Bar Association. “However, it’s not about whether or not attorneys are doing these cases. It’s about getting the information to empower people to have access to it. That’s why I think this idea is off-the-charts brilliant because it is the organization piece that is so critical.”

The Center for Access to Justice wouldn’t serve low-income clients involved in criminal matters because of the right to a court-appointed attorney.

Setzer, who Post asked to serve on the organization’s board of directors, said a majority of people who need access to an attorney are uninformed about the process.

“I come across people all the time that say ‘I wish I’d met you when I was being evicted,'” Setzer said.

In addition to free legal representation, Post said the organization would also provide free classes about legal matters such as landlord-tenant rights.

Although he’s just started, Post says he’s worked on 10 cases. He’ll continue to work on cases, if needed. However, the key will be recruiting local attorneys to commit to pro-bono time, Post and Setzer said.

Post hopes every attorney in Rowan will allocate one hour of time per week to pro-bono work. He pitched the idea at a recent Rowan County Bar Association meeting.

Post’s Center for Access to Justice would align with the American Bar Association’s rule 6.1, which states “every lawyer has a professional responsibility to provide legal services to those unable to pay.” The rule asks attorneys to commit 50 hours of time per year to pro-bono work.

Setzer estimates 150 attorneys practice law in Rowan County. If all 150 donated one hour of time, the time would nearly equal four full-time attorneys. Post says he can provide office space if needed for retired or retiring lawyers, paralegals and judges.

Ultimately, Post says he hopes to donate the Center for Access to Justice to the Rowan County Bar Association.

For now, Post is footing the bill for all costs associated with the Center for Access to Justice. Post says he may apply for grants to pay an administrative assistant to help with the workload.

For more information about the Center for Access to Justice, contact Post at 704-216-1600.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.