Ohio Justice Bus: Delivering justice across Ohio

The Ohio Justice Bus is a mobile legal aid office and technology hotspot that allows legal aid and pro bono attorneys to travel to and provide legal services to rural Ohioans at no cost to clients.

The Ohio Justice Bus, ran by Jack Maib, visited the Clermont County Domestic Relations Court on July 14. The mobile legal aid office is free to the Court, as well as the Clermont County community.  Maib has run and operated the bus by setting up clinics and meeting various clients throughout Ohio since about August of 2019 as his first job out of law school. Maib is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and a graduate of Case Western Reserve School of Law. He has a strong interest in public and health law which has helped spark interest in providing legal services to clients in the rural areas of Ohio. Maib is one of the many attorneys that volunteer to provide legal aid at no cost to clients. The main goal of the Ohio Justice Bus is to provide legal services to rural and underserved clients throughout Ohio.

The mobile legal aid office, headquartered in Columbus, is funded by Ohio Access to Justice Foundation, other grantees, and sponsored by AEP. Around 2017 there was a summit held on how to increase access and interaction with attorneys across Ohio. The mobile office idea stems from a school bus of attorneys that traveled around California a few years ago. In 2019, the Justice Bus in Ohio was created and has helped over 900 clients in the first few years, averaging about six clients per visit. Clients are welcome to visit at any location of the Justice Bus clinics; the Justice Bus also partners with other organizations to help branch out and reach more clients in rural areas. Additionally, there are volunteer opportunities for students still enrolled in law school. Law students are encouraged to join the Justice Bus to explore the world of legal aid and help network with many attorneys and organizations across the state.

Kay Heile of the Clermont County Domestic Relations Staff discovered the bus while having a law clinic meeting with Legal Aid Society of Cincinnati. During their meeting, Jessica A. Ramos, managing attorney of the Volunteer Lawyer Project, mentioned the mobile legal aid office as a resource used to offer access to justice. Heile stated, “It offers low-income litigants a chance to receive legal advice without having to retain an attorney.” She additionally stated, “The Supreme Court has challenged local courts to find more ways for low-income access to attorneys – this is a great opportunity for all involved.”

While visiting Clermont County, Maib was present on the bus to provide legal services, including another joining him in person and other attorneys joining by Zoom. Zoom has been beneficial to the bus services as it allows more attorneys to volunteer and help remotely without the commute. The bus is designed to meet with up to two clients inside with a divider in between to keep client confidentiality. It is usually stationed in a library or court parking lot, making it easy for members of the community to visit a central, familiar location. The bus is equipped with laptops and printers which allows attorneys to print out any necessary forms a client may need.

The Justice Bus will be returning to Clermont County Domestic Relations Court on Aug. 11, and Sept. 8, 9 a.m.-noon. Additionally, the Domestic Relations Court holds a monthly law clinic at the Public Library Administrative Building that also offers legal aid at no cost to clients. The next law clinic will be held Aug. 7, and Sept. 4, 9 a.m.-noon.