In 2008, the U.S. Veterans Administration estimated there are over 400,000 veterans residing in our twelve-county Central Florida region. With over 60,000 at or below the federal poverty line, Shelly reached out to veterans by providing free legal assistance and access to justice. Additionally, Shelly provided assistance on matters including VA benefits assistance, foreclosure prevention and bankruptcy. Other issues to be addressed include consumer issues, wills, housing issues, family law matters and re-employment issues.
Xinmia provided outreach, education, and legal representation to low-income consumers facing unlawful debt collection and other unscrupulous consumer practices in small claims courts in two Florida counties.
This project met a critical need in twelve Florida counties for low-income people who would have gone unrepresented in debt collection lawsuits, wage garnishments, identity theft, and other related issues in small claims court. This issue was and still is of particular importance in Florida, which ranked first in the nation in 2015 for consumer fraud complaints and third in the nation for identity theft complaints filed with the FTC. When Florida’s consumers self-represent, most dispositions end in judgments, and this “zombie debt” follows the consumer. When low-income consumers lose such cases through lack of understanding or representation, the results are devastating; bank accounts are emptied, wages taken, and cars and personal property seized. Judgments obtained in small claims court negatively reflect on the credit of consumers, hindering their ability to obtain housing, utilities, transportation, and even employment. Currently, in Central FL, no organization is providing free legal education and representation to consumers in small claims court. By filling the gap, this project reduced the hold debt collectors have over Central Florida consumers and helped defeat debt collection agencies’ unscrupulous practices disproportionately impacting low-income households.
Mrs. Malave assisted lead counsel in the full representation of 17 low-income consumers who were being sued by third-party debt collectors in Small Claims Court, all of which resulted in settlements and saving the clients approximately $71,000. Additionally, she educated a large number of individual defendants facing debt collection lawsuits by informing them about the process of a Small Claims proceeding from beginning to end, preparing and providing them with the necessary court documents required for their defense. Lastly, Mrs. Malave educated consumers with final judgments and wage garnishments on their right to claim an exemption due to exempt and assets. Mrs. Malave ultimately provided a voice to consumers who believed the only right they had against debt collectors was to remain silent.
Mrs. Malave will remain with her host organization, Community Legal Services of Mid Florida. She will continue to work in the Consumer Unit, assisting consumers facing debt-collection lawsuits.
Delmarie Alicea is a 2018 Equal Justice Works Fellow serving in the Disaster Recovery Legal Corps. Prior to joining the DRLC, Delmarie worked as a Fair Housing Advocate with Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida and as a litigation paralegal at Morgan & Morgan, P.A. She also has prior experience processing home and automobile insurance claims and as a real estate salesperson and pre-marketing analyst. As a law student, Delmarie represented immigrants seeking benefits and defended against removal proceedings through her school’s Immigration Clinic. Delmarie graduated from the University of Central Florida with a B.A. in legal studies and from Barry University Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law. She is also fluent in Spanish.
Her project includes collaborating with local organizations to identify systemic legal issues affecting disaster recovery, including monitoring the distribution of federal recovery funding to ensure that it meets the unmet needs of low-income renters and complies with federal civil rights laws. She operates a disaster helpline and provides informational materials regarding disaster preparedness and recovery regarding issues related to housing, employment, homeowners’/flood insurance, public benefits, and other problems that may arise in the context of a disaster.