For Us Who Strive For Equality in the Legal System – We Just Lost a Great Friend, by Annette Gomez, LDA
In my present sadness I write this to let you know that attorney Stephen Elias passed away on Thursday December 29, 2011. For those of you who have come to us for help with your bankruptcy filings, you might only know him as the attorney who counseled you so that you could stand up on your own in a system that presumed you were abusing your right to due process, but were only trying to survive a hardship with your dignity intact.
But as for me, he was played a very important part in my desire to help people who can’t afford an attorney’s retainer fee. For a small fee he provided unlimited legal advice to many of our bankruptcy clients, from his first telephone consultation until the close of their case, which during the height of the court’s backlog, took about 5 months. As they were filing for bankruptcy, many of my clients were also dealing with the loss of their jobs and homes and sometimes their marriages. No matter how many times they called or emailed him with questions, Stephen was available so they could understand their rights and options. He detailed his information on a written report which they could use to complete their court paperwork and allow us to prepare their petitions correctly so their case would be resolved smoothly.
Stephen spent much of life advocating people’s right to legal self representation. Through his published books, his radio show, pro bono work, advisory work and other efforts, he helped to make some positive change in the legal establishment, which quite bluntly has been very unfriendly to my profession. Until Stephen started personally helping my clients, I had been ordered to court more times than I can count for alleged “unauthorized practice of law” for preparing bankruptcy petitions. While some in my field quit preparing bankruptcy petitions fearing the prosecutors’ in the U.S. Trustee’s office, I continued, I’ll admit, not just for our right to equality, but because I’ve never really liked people telling me what to do. With Stephen helping my clients, I was able to do my job without fear of harassment in court and my clients had the utmost confidence in representing themselves in court.
I met Stephen Elias in the California Association of Legal Document Assistants, whose core membership consists of grassroots pioneers in the self-help legal movement. He was a longtime advisor to the board, of which I served. At first sight, he could fool you as ordinary, but his passion & strength in his moral convictions, his ethics and drive to make “justice for all” a reality made him very extraordinary. He was an attorney who sincerely wanted to help people not have to hire attorneys unnecessarily. He was available to any individual, legal document professional, and attorney who requested his guidance. As I look at all his efforts it is obvious to me that he found his purpose in life and accomplished it well. There is so much more to tell about him that you can read about in his hometown newspaper if you so desire. http://lakeconews.com/content/view/23022/919/ I am so glad that our paths had crossed and honored that many of my clients lives were enriched by his touch.