By ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS, AP Statehouse Correspondent
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Members of military reserves and the National Guard called to duty because of the terrorist attacks will be eligible for free legal help from the state, Attorney General Betty Montgomery announced Monday.
Staff lawyers with Montgomery and selected lawyers statewide will provide free legal assistance through the PATRIOT program. Montgomery is expanding the free legal help that about 100 of her attorneys now provide poor Ohio seniors.
"Every day since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, men and women are being called up to active duty to fight for our freedom," she said. "We must do all in our power to protect their families back home."
The Sept. 11 assistance is meant to help members of the National Guard and reservists get easier access to protections offered by the federal Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act.
That act typically allows civilians to return to jobs they left for military duty, avoid evictions and delay civil proceedings until they return from service, among other protections.
The Ohio lawyers will also help military personnel with estate planning and living wills. Ohioans who were already serving in the military, but whose duties were changed by Sept. 11 are also eligible to apply for the help.
In Wisconsin, military personnel called to active duty can contact lawyers from the State Bar of Wisconsin to ensure their affairs are in order.
In New York, the state will provide free legal service by private and state attorneys to help settle the estates of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Last week in Ohio, Gov. Bob Taft signed a bill providing that state employees on active military duty, including those in the war against terrorism, won't lose pay or benefits.
(Copyright 2001 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)