The Motion Picture-TV Rank and File Legal Services Foundation, a Beverly-Hills based nonprofit organization, is considering expanding to the South Bay and has begun collecting data to determine the legal needs of the elderly.
"We don't want to limit ourselves to the (entertainment) industry," said Ed Kerr, president of the legal services foundation, established in 1980. "Since I live in Rancho Palos Verdes, the needs of senior citizens in the South Bay have come to my attention."
If it expands to include this area, the foundation will provide free services ranging from legal advice to court representation and litigation. Kerr hopes to organize two panels to match legal problems with the appropriate attorneys.
The first panel would provide relatively uncomplicated legal services, with retired or semi-retired judges, attorneys and paralegals donating their services to work with senior citizens.
More difficult legal problems, extensive consultation or cases involving court representation would be referred to the second panel. Attorneys offering their services would decide which cases to take and would probably be paid on a contingency basis with their fees coming out of settlements or judgments.
To cover court or other costs that senior citizens might not be able to pay, Kerr hopes to establish a trust fund.
Kerr said a preliminary survey of 225 senior citizens in Lawndale confirmed a "dire need" for services among those who cannot pay for legal assistance.
Indication of Need
According to the survey, 93% of the respondents said they would not be able to afford an attorney, and 89% said they would be unable to pay any type of legal fees.
A Lawndale official agreed that the help is needed.
"We're hoping to relieve some of the problems that senior citizens are experiencing here in the South Bay," said Brady Cherry, supervisor of social services for the city. "They just aren't able to pay legal fees."