The Merced County Public Defenders Office on Sept. 17 held a legal clinic geared toward assisting members of the county's Hmong community, in a continuing effort to educate underserved communities about the workings of the court system.
Held at Applegate Park, the free event was the second the public defender's office has held in recent months. The first clinic took place in Winton on July 9.
During the clinic, which was held from 1 to 5 p.m., several attorneys from the office volunteered their time to advise attendees about their rights under the legal system, and offer advice to those with questions.
Chief Deputy Public Defender Vincent Andrade pointed out the clinic wasn't restricted to just members of the Hmong community, and all were welcome.
Sponsors of the event included UC Merced Law Clinic, Central California Legal Services and Valley Crisis Center.
Andrade said the role of the clinic is to assist communities who might feel isolated and don't have as much information about how to address their legal issues. That can be a particular problem in rural areas such as Merced County, Andrade said, compared to large cities where there's better access to information and more attorneys who can devote their time to pro bono legal work.
"A lot of this community outreach complements what we do every day in court," Andrade said.
Student volunteers from UC Merced's Hmong Club assisted with the event by providing translation services.
Andrade said his office plans to hold more free legal clinics in Merced County, particularly in the areas of Planada, Le Grand and Dos Palos. The office also hopes to have another legal clinic during the Hmong New Year.
Managing Editor Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.