Sarah Patrice Loeffler

  • Hosted by Montgomery County Women's Center
  • Sponsored by Texas Access to Justice Foundation, The John M. O'Quinn Foundation
  • Service location Conroe, Texas
  • Law school University of Houston Law Center
  • Issue area Domestic Violence
  • Fellowship class year 2012
  • Program Design-Your-Own Fellowship

The Project

Sarah provided permanent legal solutions to domestic violence victims in Montgomery County, Texas, through direct representation, public education, and development of a robust pro bono program.

The Inspiration

Need Addressed By Project

The absence of permanent legal solutions traps many domestic violence victims in horrific situations. Domestic violence has increased by more than 50 percent in Montgomery County since 2007. The need for family legal services among domestic violence victims has increased with the county’s rising low-income population. The Montgomery County Women’s Center (MCWC) and Lone Star Legal Aid help secure protective orders for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Limited resources, however, prevent the agencies from prioritizing divorce and custody suits for these victims. Texas has a high standard for obtaining protective orders against abusers, which historically has resulted in the courts requiring a pattern of severe abuse over a span of many years for protective order approval. Achieving permanent legal solutions before abuse becomes perpetual protects victims and helps them escape their abuser.

Fellowship Highlights

During her Fellowship, Sarah:

  • Built MCWC’s first sustainable pro bono program to assist pro se litigants and provide direct representation in divorce and custody matters
  • Recruited and trained 21 lawyers, 24 law students, and one paralegal to provide pro bono services
  • Produced practice handbooks for volunteer advocates
  • Trained counseling staff to identify their clients’ domestic abuse legal issues
  • Provided brief advice, pro se help, or referrals to 140 clients
  • Represented 50 clients in divorce, custody, adoption, or other family law matters
  • Garnered a $90,000 grant to fund her attorney position at MCWC given her project’s success in narrowing the gap between the long-term needs of domestic violence victims and access to legal services

Access to the legal system should not be reserved for any one class of persons.

Sarah Patrice Loeffler

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