After decades of service, couple retires from William Booth Legal Aid Clinic

After nearly two decades of service to the William Booth Legal Aid Clinic, Robert and Ellen Dickman announced their retirement in January. The couple founded the clinic in 1994 as an independent 501(c)3 with the goal of paving the way to fresh starts and new opportunities by providing quality legal services for low income individuals and families. After many years in private practice and in the business world, the Dickmans recognized that indigency had become an impediment to adequately accessing and navigating the legal system and they decided to dedicate their careers to help balance the scales.

Since 2000, when the WBLAC was absorbed by The Salvation Army, the clinic has collaborated  with the Salvation Army’s Harbor Light Program, it’s shelters and other similar projects while representing indigent clients throughout the community — Monroe, Wayne, Oakland and Macomb Counties.  With the assistance of student interns, the clinic has now resolved more than 19,380 cases involving landlord-tenant issues, support, custody, consumer advocacy, tickets, probation, parenting time and credit issues.  

To assist WBLAC with short and long term planning, an advisory board was formed and currently boasts many members of the legal community including retired Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Fred Mester, Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Denise Langford Morris, Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Maria Oxholm; and Board President Roger Smith of Garan Lucow.

“As the first chairman of the board, I was there from the beginning,” said Mester. “We saw the total commitment of Bob and Ellen to not only ensure equal justice for the indigent, but also their commitment to re-enage him or her with their families and have a successful return to the community.”

“The community has been privileged to have citizen soldiers like Robert and Ellen Dickman in a leadership position within the Salvation Army,” said Morris. “They were tested repeatedly and withstood immense challenges with grace and fortitude resulting in a legal clinic that all can be proud of.

The WBLAC has recently incorporated its services with the Salvation Army’s  program involving veterans and their families. In this recent program it will partner with other veterans organization to ensure there are complete services for the veteran and his/her family.

Attorney Amy M. Roemer, who now serves as clinic director, was appointed by the board as WBLAC’s assistant director.

“While the clinic will forever be indebted to Robert and Ellen Dickman for their vision, dedication and sacrifices on behalf of thousands of clients these past nineteen years, we look
forward to continued service to the community under the auspices of Ms. Amy Roemer, our new clinic director,” said Board President Smith.

The WBLAC relies on private contributions—from law firms, corporations, foundations, and individuals—and it is this generous private support that allows the clinic to be a powerful and positive force in the lives of low-income tri-county residents by providing counsel on several thousand legal matters each year. But for each client it helps, the clinic turns away many others because it simply lacks the necessary resources.

The WBLAC is looking for contributions and support in its mission to make the legal system accessible for all. To help the clinic achieve its goals, it will be hosting its first Walk for Justice Fundraiser on Saturday, April 6, at the Detroit Zoo. For a modest donation, participants will receive free admission to the zoo, a t shirt and refreshments.  Discounted group rates will also be available.

To make a tax deductible contribution to The William Booth Legal Aid Clinic, visit donate.salvationarmyusa.org/easternmichigan/WBLAC.

For more information about The Salvation Army, call 877-SAL-MICH, or visit www.salmich.org.