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Berks County Latino Chamber of Commerce 10th Annual Gala

Recently, the Berks County Latino Chamber of Commerce recognized the Executive Director of the Berks County Bar Association and the Law Foundation of Berks County, Donald F. Smith, Jr., as its 2014 “Community Partner of the Year” for the Bar Association’s work with the Latino Chamber.  The Award presentation was made at the Chamber’s 10th Annual Gala.

Beginning in 2009,  the Berks County Bar Association began addressing issues involving diversity in our community to further our mission of “providing educational programs for the public, assuring access to justice and protecting the integrity of the legal system in Berks County.” 

Above: BCBA President, Jesse L. Pleet, Esquire and Executive Director, Donald F. Smith, Jr., Esquire

The Association undertook providing funding to  MidPenn Legal Services directed at supporting the placement of a bilingual Latino attorney for its Reading office for the first time in MidPenn’s history.  That was Bernardo Carbajal. Thereafter, the Berks County Bar Association hosted an Immigration Summit, bringing together many agencies and groups for the first time to discuss issues immigrants face.  The Greater Reading Immigration Project is an outgrowth of that effort.

The Summit also led the Community Justice Project, another legal services organization, to place a fulltime bilingual attorney in its Reading office thanks in large part to the funding received from the Berks County Bar Association and its Law Foundation.  That attorney was Abraham Cepeda.  Recognizing that members of the Latino Community have lost rights and suffered as a result of the unauthorized practice of law by some notary publics.  The Bar Association has created a Task Force on Notario Fraud, and the Task Force includes non-lawyer members of the Latino Chamber.  Current efforts are being directed at providing educational programs in the Latino community as to the proper role of Notary Publics.

To assist with its educational efforts, in 2014 the Bar Association hired Rainy Leonor-Lake as Community Outreach Coordinator.  As a bilingual Latino, she assists Spanish-speaking individuals seeking an attorney through the Association’s Lawyer Referral Service.  Having Rainy on staff is a further demonstration of the Bar Association’s commitment to providing access to justice for Latinos.

The Bar Association has also taken the lead in efforts to increase the number of Latino foster parents to lessen the need for placement of Latino children in foster homes outside of their culture and outside of the county.

In 2010, at the urging of the Bar Association, PACE Institute provided an education curriculum to prepare individuals to become certified court interpreters.  While PACE is no longer in operation, the Berks County Bar Association continues to have as a goal increasing the number of certified court interpreters in Berks County.  Not only will it improve access to justice, but having better trained interpreters protects the integrity of the legal system.

Through multiple sponsorships, the Berks County Bar Association is pleased to provide funding to the Latino Chamber, thereby supporting its important mission in the community.


Looking for a Lawyer?

Have you just been served with a complaint seeking to foreclose on your home or to change the child custody arrangement or to evict you from your apartment?  Or are you considering bankruptcy?

You need to consult with an attorney.  Our members are skilled attorneys who can fight for your rights, draft valid legal documents and stand by you in the courtroom.  Don’t be misled by television ads for online legal forms.  Notaries and petition preparers cannot give legal advice or accompany you to court.  And “do-it-yourself” law is a fast lane to disaster.   Our members know Pennsylvania law, are available for personal consultations and are accountable to you. 

If you feel overwhelmed looking for the attorney right for you, go here for more information on what the Berks County Bar Association can do for you.

Foreclosure Mediation Program Continues

The Berks County Bar Association, in conjunction with the Berks County Courts and Neighborhood Housing Services, have created a program by which those threatened with the loss of their home can seek relief. The program began January 1 and is continuing.  Those served with a complaint in a consumer debt or home mortgage case may take advantage of the program.

Read More› for a description of the program.

The program is also explained on a recent "Ask a Lawyer" television show. Go here to view the program. As of July 16, 216 cases have requested to participate. Go here for a detailed update.


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