New justice center to provide civil legal resources for at-risk Utahns

A ribbon is cut by Robert Graham, a member of the Florence J. Gillmor Foundation board of directors, at the James. B. Lee Justice Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday.

A ribbon is cut by Robert Graham, a member of the Florence J. Gillmor Foundation board of directors, at the James. B. Lee Justice Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)


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SALT LAKE CITY — A justice center combining three law agencies opened in Salt Lake City Thursday, offering a centralized way to provide legal counsel to Utah's most vulnerable populations.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held at the James B. Lee Justice Center, 960 S. Main. The center was founded by "and Justice for all," an organization dedicated to creating greater access to justice. The foundation, and the center, partner with three agencies designed to give free and low-cost legal resources to Utahns: Disability Law Center, Legal Aid Society of Salt Lake and Utah Legal Services.

Combined, these agencies helped around 30,000 Utahns in 2022 by providing legal assistance for various issues including low incomes, housing, domestic violence, family law cases and more.

A portrait of James B. Lee is unveiled at the James B. Lee Justice Center ceremony in Salt Lake City on Thursday.
A portrait of James B. Lee is unveiled at the James B. Lee Justice Center ceremony in Salt Lake City on Thursday. (Photo: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

Stewart Ralphs, director of the Legal Aid Society of Salt Lake, said most people know they have access to legal counsel in criminal cases, but many are unaware of the nonprofit resources available for civil cases. The justice center will provide services for victims of domestic violence, including protective orders and stalking injunctions, as well as divorce and custody cases. They also help with Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility, Social Security benefits and more issues for low-income families.

Bringing the three agencies under one roof will also save approximately $500,000 annually in rent, utilities and other costs, meaning those funds can go toward helping more Utahns, Ralphs said. The center is funded by grants and donations.

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said around 80% of the people who use these three organizations' services are at or below the poverty line. Additionally, more than 690,000 families, or approximately 67% of Utah households, have at least one legal issue a year, the center said.

"That means that most of us, as Utahns, may need this space and these resources at some time," Mendenhall said.

She said the consequences of not getting access to these resources could be "catastrophic" for women, children and at-risk communities.

"This is a day-to-day experience that's playing out right now, outside of these doors, across the state of Utah," Mendenhall said from inside the justice center Thursday. "But we'll find some resolution and assistance through the generosity, passion and mission of this organization. I'm grateful that you're in Salt Lake City."

The center includes conference rooms and offices for in-person services, as well as resources designed to help people remotely and in rural areas.

Adina Zahradnikova talks with Maya Anderson at the James. B. Lee Justice Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday.
Adina Zahradnikova talks with Maya Anderson at the James. B. Lee Justice Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday. (Photo: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

"The James B. Lee Justice Center will enable the next generation of staff to reach more clients with more services, and with more legal services, wherever they live across the state," said Gil Miller, former president of "and Justice for all."

The center is a tribute to Florence J. Gillmor, a longtime supporter of "and Justice for all." The building is named for Gillmor Foundation trustee James B. Lee (1930-2021), who founded Utah Legal Services and was a long-time trustee of Legal Aid Society of Salt Lake.

"The James B. Lee Justice Center will serve as a legacy of Mr. Lee's service and commitment to access to justice for everyone," a plaque at the center reads.

Ralphs encourages anyone who needs civil legal assistance to check out the websites for each organization or call the justice center at 801-924-9000 for more information.

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Gabrielle Shiozawa is a reporter for KSL.com.

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