Free Medical and Legal Services Clinic in Hazleton

Imagine lawyers and doctors working together for the common good instead of attacking each other over the medical malpractice crisis, and you will capture the unique nature of an exciting new initiative in Hazleton. The Lower Luzerne Bar Association is pleased to announce the creation of a new vehicle for its members to render pro bono legal services to various members of the Hazleton community in a free, non-sectarian medical/legal clinic hosted by St. Gabriel's Church, 122 South Wyoming Avenue, Hazleton.


During the summer of 2003, Pennsylvania Bar Association Pro Bono Award winner Bernard Walter began talking with Hazleton's Monsignor Delaney about adding legal services to the free medical services clinic run by Anthony Veglia, M.D. and Nan Smith, parish nurse. The Hazleton clinic began providing free medical services this spring, primarily to Spanish speaking people. Walter saw the Hazleton clinic as the perfect spot to replicate the Free Medical/Legal Clinic that he set up in 1996 in Shavertown, Pa., north of Wilkes-Barre.Under the heading, "Doctors and lawyers at your service," the clinic is open throughout the year on Friday evenings between 6:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.The Hazleton Medical/Legal Clinic may work up to that frequency when more physicians are available, but is starting with monthly service at 6:00 p.m. the first Tuesday of every month.The inaugural evening was Oct. 7, 2003.


The legal side of the clinic was organized in August 2003 when Monsignor Michael Delaney, pastor of St. Gabriels, met with Bernard Walter, Charles Petrillo (North Penn Legal Services), Tom Kennedy (Kennedy & Lucadamo of Hazleton) and David Glassberg (president, Luzerne County Lower Bar) to discuss the practical details of setting up a legal clinic. Among the issues discussed and resolved were processing procedures and documentation, malpractice coverage, staffing issues and case referral methods to private practitioners. One month later, President Glassberg met with the Lower Bar members to seek their approval of this innovation and to seek volunteers among the 42 members present. Glassberg received unanimous approval of the plan and the agreement of every attorney present to participate as pro bono volunteers for the clinic. The Lower Bar is creating a flexible schedule for volunteers as the clinic initiates publicity to make the public aware of the medical and legal services now available.


Without any advance publicity, the first dual function clinic evening took place on Oct. 7, 2003, with five attorneys present including Glassberg, Petrillo, Walter, Brian Price and Jerald Wassil. Every lawyer brought skill and a commitment to public service to the clinic. Price, a lawyer at Dougherty, Leventhal & Price, also brought his experience as a Peace Corp volunteer in Central America to the session. Wassil, married to a Spanish teacher, added his experience from a practice that includes immigration law. Spanish language skills and immigration law expertise are important at this clinic because of the large number of Hazleton workers and their families who only speak spanish. Another volunteer immigration attorney signed up for the clinic is Salvatore Savatteri, Perry Law Firm in Scranton, who will commute to Hazleton every other month.


The legal side of the clinic serves everyone who comes to the clinic on a first come, first served basis. The legal clinic deals with whatever problems the visitors bring including landlord-tenant problems, child support troubles, unemployment insurance coverage issues, estate planning, criminal defense, small business concerns, consumer issues and more. The clinic handout states the following:


Our non-sectarian goal is to provide legal services to good people who:

1.  Are unable to pay for such services in the private sector; or

2.  May be alienated from the traditional justice system; or

3.  Have a small problem warranting prompt preventative care; or

4.  Would benefit from candid discussion with legal counsel;

all without obligation, cost, or strings attached.


The Legal Clinic is not designed to handle active pending litigation or to undertake actual representation beyond what can be done in the Clinic counseling context.  Some problems demand more comprehensive services appropriate for an attorney of record in protracted conflict situations. Such situations are beyond the scope of the clinic, and the visitor may be referred to private counsel in the community with knowledge in the needed area of the law. The Legal Clinic staff may assist in referring the visitor to local counsel who may be willing to offer services at reduced fees.


The Legal Clinic relies upon the voluntary donation of time by local attorneys who have sufficient general background to respond to a foreseeable range of problems. Advice is given based upon the information visitors provide and reflects only the opinions of the volunteer attorney with best wishes for a favorable outcome, but without any guarantee of any particular results.

Visitors are welcome to return, to bring their friends and to see the doctor.


Anyone interested in volunteering as a physician should call Anthony Veglia at 570-454-5554; as a nurse call Nan Smith at 570-454-3542; as an attorney call David Glassberg at 570-455-8533; as a greeter for visitors call Kate Conahan at 570-454-0212; or as an organizer of a similar clinic call Bernard Walter at 570-674-9000.