What’s Happening with LSC Funding During the Congressional Recess?

An update from Ann Carmichael of the ABA Governmental Affairs Office:

Congress has now passed a continuing resolution that will keep the government funded at current levels through December 11.  We anticipate that the President will sign the CR into law.  In this event LSC will continue to receive its current $365 million level of funding.  Once the Members return after the November elections, they will have to keep the government funded past December 11 (this is most likely going to be another continuing resolution, but amounts and length of the CR are undetermined and difficult to forecast at this point).

The ABA Governmental Affairs Office will closely track developments.

Present at the 2015 Equal Justice Conference in Austin! Oct. 10 RFP Deadline.

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My colleagues have sent out a Request for Proposals for 2015 Equal Justice Conference breakout workshops.  The EJC will take place from May 7-9, 2015 at the Hilton Austin.  Austin is beautiful.  Austin in May is beautifuller.

One piece of advice, as I’ve now been on both sides of EJC proposals: submitting them and evaluating them.  You should build interactivity into the proposed workshop.  And that means more than using the word “interactive” in the proposal, or writing “panelists will engage in dialogue with attendees” (as I’m sure I’ve been guilty of doing).  The best proposals often leverage the experience and expertise that attendees will bring to the workshop.  So any and all engagement with attendees is good.

For instance, I co-conspired last year on a Pro Bono Jeopardy! workshop.  We broke the room into teams and used software that allowed us to run a Jeopardy!-style game on PowerPoint.  Will this approach work for all workshops? Of course not.  But for this program we recognized that our attendees would all be content experts, would by and large know each other, and would have fun with some friendly competition.  So we found what we felt was the best interactive format.  My two cents.

Deadline to submit RFPs: October 10, 2014.

Here are proposal guidelines.

Here’s the online proposal submission system.

Questions?  Contact my colleague Erin Wellin: erin.wellin@americanbar.org.

A New Era for Civil Legal Aid – ATJ Commissions and Philanthropic Partners

The Public Welfare Foundation, which supports Access to Justice initiatives throughout the U.S. (including us!),PWF Logo highlights the importance of a broad, inclusive ATJ community in reaching our shared equal justice goals.  This is especially true during these trying fiscal times, when the two largest sources of legal aid funding – Legal Services Corporation grants and Interest on Lawyers Trust Account (IOLTA) proceeds – have dwindled:

Since 2011, the Public Welfare Foundation has supported a special initiative on civil legal aid, investing a total of nearly $4 million to date. The Kresge Foundation has partnered with Public Welfare on several grants, and both foundations have tried to spur broader philanthropic investment in civil legal aid.  [Ed. note: check out Public Welfare's "Natural Allies" pamphlet to educate foundation funders about legal aid's importance.]

Among the most important pieces of the civil legal aid infrastructure are state-based Access to Justice Commissions, which bring together many stakeholders, including the bar, courts, legal aid providers, law schools, and other justice system participants, as well as new partners in health care, business and other fields. The most effective commissions have been able to mobilize creative and energetic leaders who have credibility and connections within the legal community and beyond in order to raise the visibility of access-to-justice issues, develop approaches to address them, and successfully implement their plans.

With help from Public Welfare and Kresge, the total number of active commissions increased from 26 in early 2012 to 34 as of August, 2014 – with at least two more coming on board by the end of 2014. Commissions have also undertaken innovative models that have been funded in 14 states.

Several such states have been able to reach out to more people with civil legal aid issues through creative online programs. For example, North Carolina’s ATJ commission recently launched a website with state-specific legal resources and referral information that helps link veterans – a vulnerable population that often needs help obtaining benefits – to pro bono attorneys who specialize in representing them.

Clearly, a key component of expanding effective model programs is to share information nationwide – to the legal aid community, to consumers of legal aid, and to the public at large. To that end, four foundations to date – Public Welfare, Kresge, JPB and Ford – have pooled resources in support of a newly launched communications hub, called Voices for Civil Justice.

The more broadly information can be circulated about civil legal aid, the better its value can be understood. In turn, the more public and private funding that can be generated, the more likely that the gap between supply and demand can be eliminated.

Here’s Public Welfare Foundation Prsident Mary McClymont on civil legal aid’s importance:

ATJ White Paper from American Association of Law Libraries

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Brain candy for ATJ nerds.  This impressive AALL release, “Law Libraries and Access to Justice,” is the product of one year’s deliberation about the role of law librarians and libraries in promoting ATJ.  I’m particularly intrigued by the role that law librarians can play in training their counterparts in public libraries.

While core collections for court law libraries are well established, there are fewer standard guides for public library legal collections. Given some of the geographic disparities and unevenness of public law library access in the states, public libraries can provide basic legal resources and serve as gateways to access to legal information. Public libraries are more prevalent than law libraries; they also typically offer evening and weekend access. Thus, partnerships with public libraries to expand access to core legal resources are critical. Law librarians can teach public librarians basic legal research skills, how to conduct an effective legal reference interview, and how to avoid the unauthorized practice of law (UPL)—all to better serve the legal research needs of their patrons and thus promote access to justice.

Free ABA Phone Seminar on ATJ Partnerships between the Courts, Legal Aid, and the Private Bar

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Catch Conference Call Fever!

Forging Equal Access Partnerships: Judges, Legal Aid & the  Private Bar

Sponsored by: ABA Section of Litigation

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

1:00 pm – 2:00 pm Eastern

This is a free program, open to all.  Register here.

Access to Justice Commissions or similar partnerships in several states have produced concrete results in making our justice systems work for low-income and vulnerable client communities. Join us to discuss why and how it is critical to bring several stakeholders – like the judiciary and courts, legal aid, and the organized bar – together to address Access to Justice challenges. We will explore our experiences in very different states, and will concentrate on principles and practices that you use in your states.

Moderator: Steve Grumm, ABA Resource Center for Access to Justice Initiatives

Speakers:

The Access to Justice Headlines Strike Back – September 8, 2014

Credit: Daniel Schwen

Chicago Dawn (Daniel Schwen)

Happy Monday, lords and ladies.  ATJ Headlines returns from its summer hiatus as pale-skinned as ever but otherwise energized and ready for autumn.  We’ll use this edition to catch up on late-summer developments.  (There is music, too.  Great, great music.)

As is customary, before the ATJ news some items of general interest:

  • Middle-class America ain’t recovering.  From the New York Times “Upshot” blog: “For five years, the [U.S.] economy has been  expanding at a steady clip…. Yet public opinion polling shows most Americans still think the economy is pretty miserable.  What might account for the paradox? New data from a research firm offers a simple, frustrating answer: Middle-class American families’ income is lower now, when adjusted for inflation, than when the recovery began half a decade ago.”
    • Along similar lines, the Times more recently reported on income-gap data coming out of the Federal Reserve: “Economic growth since the Great Recession has improved the fortunes of the most affluent Americans even as the incomes and wealth of most American families continue to decline, the Federal Reserve said Thursday.  For the most affluent 10 percent of American families, average incomes rose by 10 percent from 2010 to 2013. For the rest of the population, average incomes were flat or falling.  The least affluent families had the largest decline.
  • Opinion writer Thomas Edsall looks at the “expanding universe of poverty capitalism. In this unique sector of the economy, costs of essential government services are shifted to the poor [often when they are criminal defendants]….  N.P.R. reported in May, services that ‘were once free, including those that are constitutionally required,’ are now frequently billed to offenders: the cost of a public defender, room and board when jailed, probation and parole supervision, electronic monitoring devices, arrest warrants, drug and alcohol testing, and D.N.A. sampling.
  • Lighter fare.  Based on Facebook information, here’s a map showing NFL team loyalties throughout the 50 states.  Wow, the Broncos, Cowboys, and Seahawks (they have Alaska, too) rule over sprawling kingdoms.  Good to see my Glorious Philadelphia Iggles Football Franchise maintaining a small but densely populated redoubt in Southeast PA and Downashore NJ.

Okay, the ATJ news.  Let’s begin with the Legal Services Corporation turning 40. LSC is using its 40th anniversary to look both backward – at its history and accomplishments – and forward, with a “ground-breaking campaign to expand the impact and capacity of civil legal aid providers across the country.”  The campaign focuses on four areas: launching fellowships, integrating technology into service delivery, providing leadership training, and boosting awareness of legal aid.

As for the remaining news, here’s the short-short version, with fuller summaries below.  Because of this digest’s length, we’ve also broken stories up topically: ATJ Commission activity, legal aid funding, pro bono, and legal aid service delivery.  Enjoy.

  • New “outcome evaluations” tool for ATJ Commissions
  • Arizona launches an ATJ Commission(!)
  • New PA court surcharge hike will fund legal aid
  • Funding strains for Jacksonville Area Legal Aid (FL)
  • Ditto the Mississippi Center for Legal Services
  • Bank of America lending-practices settlement with federal/state regulators will produce civil legal aid funding
  • Forthcoming research on private lawyers’ perception of, and support for, civil legal aid
  • SC Bar Foundation announces $1.9m in FY15 grants
  • New pro hac vice fee revenues will support legal aid in GA
  • New ABA Resolution supports practice rules freeing in-house counsel to do more pro bono
  • Changes in ABA law school accreditation standard on pro bono
  • VP Biden calls for pro bono lawyers to aid undocumented minors facing deportation
  • The ABA’s 2014 Pro Bono Award winners
  • “Legal aid in the news” update from Voices for Civil Justice
  • What is the “Innovating Justice Forum”?
  • Nat’l. Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel (NCCRC) launches shiny new website
  • Legal aid funding in Ontario will support law student-run legal aid projects
  • Courthouse Assistance Program to launch as pro bono project in Maine
  • City of San Francisco funding legal aid for undocumented minors
  • The ABA and legal DIY site Rocket Lawyer team up
  • The Hacksess to Justice legal aid hackathon produces web-based legal aid tools
  • Legal Aid of Center of Southern Nevada launches self-help legal support website
  • American Bar Foundation research on why people don’t seek legal help when they should
  • Two newly-minted Utah lawyers launch a nonprofit, but fee-generating, law practice
  • Is “Legal Aid Legal Services”, doing business in Maryland, actually a legal aid organization?
  • Updated ABA white paper on state limited scope-representation (a/k/a “unbundling”) practice rules
  • DC court launches a web chat support service
  • Georgia Legal Services Program gets ABA honors
  • a medical-legal partnership in Ohio
  • Equal Justice Works announces Class of 2014 fellows
  • MUSIC x 3

The summaries:

ATJ Commission Activity

  • Sept. 2014 – we just released a new resource for Commissions.  The Framework for Outcome Evaluations is a specialized tool offering ATJ Commissions a means by which to assess the impact of their work.  Big thanks to legal aid consultant John Tull for his work on this.  The man’s also a snazzy dresser.
  • 8.22.14 – from the AP: “A new commission will make recommendations on ways to improve access to justice, including use of Arizona’s legal system and obtaining legal representation.  Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Scott Bales ordered the formation of the Commission on Access to Justice, naming Court of Appeals Judge Lawrence Winthrop as its chairman.  Other members include lower court judges, court officials and legal aid providers.”

Legal Aid Funding

  • 9.2.14 – “A $1 increase in court surcharges that took effect Aug. 8 is generating more revenue to fund legal services for low-income Pennsylvanians, a step in a broader effort to expand access to justice.The money will support the Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network which assists the poor in civil cases that often involve domestic violence, eviction and emergency custody issues.” PLAN administers much of the state-based legal aid funding to various providers throughout PA.  (The Standard Speaker)
  • 8.26.14 – “Jacksonville’s Finance Committee has made the decision to defund legal services to the poor, causing Jacksonville Area Legal Aid to furlough employees one day per week and cut staff salaries by approximately 20 percent. The recent decision could also lead to staff members being terminated.”  Since the Florida state government makes no civil legal aid appropriation, JALA has been struggling mightily. (WJXT)
  • 8.23.14 – from the Clarion-Ledger in Mississippi, a look at the resource struggles of a provider, and state-based efforts to boost funding: “The Mississippi Center for Legal Services has 18 lawyers to represent low-income people in 43 central and south Mississippi counties. That’s an average of one…attorney for every 21,000 poor people eligible for legal assistance.  At its peak of funding, 48 attorneys served the southern half of the state….  [State[ House Bill 579…includes a $2.77 special assessment on some misdemeanor fines, generating money for the Civil Legal Assistance Fund. The legislation went into effect July 1.”
  • 8.21.14 – civil legal aid providers may benefit in several ways from Bank of America’s $16.5 billion settlement with the federal government over home-lending practices. The settlement funds will go to a variety of federal and state entities which are likely to use them to support legal and other aid to distressed home-buyers.  In addition, “If Bank of America fails to live up to its agreement by [8/31/18], it must pay liquidated damages in the amount of the shortfall to organizations that will use the funds for state-based Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Account (IOLTA) organizations and NeighborWorks America, a non-profit organization.”  (Imperial Valley News)
    • 8.28.14 – an argument for greater investment in legal aid to prevent foreclosures: “The [B of A settlement] agreement includes $30 million for states to distribute to their legal aid programs. This is encouraging news for the 1.75 million homeowners who are still in default on their mortgages, as well as the 9.5 million borrowers who are underwater and at risk of foreclosure. But it’s not enough…  (Talk Poverty website)
    • 8.29.14 – the Wall Street Journal Law Blog picks up on the importance of the funding which will be channeled to/through IOLTA administrators.
  • 8.19.14 – the folks at Voices for Civil Justice commissioned research into lawyers’ perceptions of civil legal aid.  The findings, resulting from individual interviews and an online survey of 368 lawyers, are summarized by Voices as follows:  “A full report of the findings will be posted next month. Here are a few headlines:
    • Unlike voters, who are largely unaware of civil legal aid, lawyers are nearly universally familiar with the term and have solidly positive impressions.
    • A strong majority of lawyers – 59 percent – indicate a previous or current involvement with civil legal aid as donors or volunteers.  By a margin of two to one, they are more likely to volunteer their services than to make a monetary donation.
    • By a margin of 65 percent to 25 percent (with just 10 percent undecided), lawyers express initial support for increasing government funding for civil legal aid.  With 29 percent expressing strong support, the intensity in support outweighs all opposition among lawyers.
    • The new, broader definition of civil legal aid is well received by lawyers, especially by those who previously or currently volunteer or donate.  In fact, it increases support and intensity from already robust initial levels.  (See slide 20 of this slideshow for a look at the ‘new definition.’)
    • Lawyers are less receptive than voters to delivery innovations like self-help centers and forms.”
  • August, 2014 – The South Carolina Bar Foundation is disbursing a total amount of $1.9m in grant funding among nineteen providers.
  • 7.8.14 – “Georgia’s high court has become the latest judicial body to agree to levy fees against out-of-state lawyers in order to shore up legal aid programs.  The Supreme Court last month amended its Rule 4 to require that every non-Georgia lawyer applying for permission to appear as counsel pay a $200 fee per case. The fee went into effect on July 1 and will go directly to the Georgia Bar Foundation, which financially supports Georgia Legal Services and Atlanta Legal Aid Society.  The Georgia Court of Appeals adopted a similar fee requirement in April.  (Daily Report)

Pro Bono

  • 8.11.14 – “Appellate courts in each jurisdiction should adopt a rule permitting in-house counsel to provide pro bono services in the jurisdiction in which they work, a new ABA policy urges.  The ABA House of Delegates on Monday adopted Resolution 104B (PDF), calling on appellate courts to adopt a rule permitting and encouraging in-house counsel already authorized to practice law, while employed by an organization in a jurisdiction in which they are not licensed, to provide pro bono services.” (ABA Journal)
  • 8.11.14 – the arm of the ABA that regulates law school accreditation standards has approved changes that will impact law school pro bono.  At present, Standard 302-b-2 requires that schools provide “substantial opportunities” for “student participation in pro bono activities.”  The new language, which appears in a new Standard, 303-b-2, also includes an accompanying interpretation – Interpretation 303-3 – which encourages schools to align their pro bono offerings with the type of work contemplated in Model Rule of Professional Conduct 6.1.  Interpretation 303-3 also encourages schools to provide opportunities for students to perform at least 50 hours of pro bono over their law school careers.  It’s difficult to summarize this, so here is the redlined version of the Accreditation Standards.  See p. 22 et seq.  (Here’s National Law Journal coverage of the change.)
  • 8.6.14 – “U.S. Vice President Joe Biden made an impassioned plea to U.S. law firms on Wednesday to free up attorneys to help deal with the surge of Central American children who have entered the country illegally by providing more pro bono representation.  At the end of a meeting with about 60 people – some from white-collar law firms, others from nonprofit organizations who work with immigrants – Biden urged lawyers to step up and help deal with a backlog of court cases.”  (Reuters)
    • 7.31.14 – “Lawyers from the biggest U.S. firms are stepping up to help the tens of thousands of unaccompanied immigrant children fleeing violence of Central America.  Their work has ranged from assisting individual children in navigating the immigration system to lobbying state and federal governments.”  (Bloomberg News)
  • August, 2014 – congrats to the 2014 ABA Pro Bono Publico Award winners, who were honored at the ABA’s Annual Meeting last month.  The winners, two law firms and three individuals, are:

Service Delivery

  • 9.8.14 – an update from Voices for Civil Justice on some recent, national media stories that mention legal aid, along with insight on how to engage media about the work of civil legal aid providers.
  • September, 2014 –  I recently came across the “Innovating Justice Forum”, an online platform dedicated to supporting Rule of Law and ATJ developments.  They solicit proposals for innovative ATJ solutions.  One such proposal, out of the Connecticut civil legal aid community, is for a system that would allow self-represented litigants to participate in computer game-based scenarios to help them understand how the court functions:
    • “With no access to affordable legal representation, increasing numbers of people must represent themselves in legal proceedings….  We think self-represented parties could benefit from an online interactive “serious game” simulating aspects of an actual legal proceeding. Self-represented parties “are asking for practical tools and skills that they can apply in practice” (Macfarlane, 2013). Games have proven to make a positive impact on cognition and behaviour because they are experiential learning environments that allow users, through trial and retrial, to attain the necessary (virtual) experience that will help guide future action in reality (Steinkuehler, 2013).”  (This is actually an LSC TIG-supported project.)
  • The National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel has a shiny new website with some cool interactive features leading to info on right-to-counsel statutes and rules in the states.  Congrats to my main man John Pollock (and collaborators) on this step forward.
  • 9.2.14 – News from the North: “Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) is providing over $2 million over three years to six university-operated legal clinics to provide family law services for low-income Ontarians.  Starting in September (January for the University of Windsor), four student legal aid services societies will begin offering family law services. The University of Toronto’s Downtown Legal Services will be using the funds to expand its existing family law division. All of these societies will use a combination of summer students, in-term students and staff lawyers to broaden access to justice by addressing the unmet legal needs of family litigants.”
  • 8.30.14 – “The Maine Volunteer Lawyers Project, with the cooperation of lawyers in Washington County, is getting ready to launch a new legal aid program to serve needy people.  The Courthouse Assistance Program will provide legal aid to people on a walk-in, first-come, first-served basis. They will receive a free initial consultation with a volunteer lawyer.  People will be screened according to income level using the same guidelines as [LSC grantee organization] Pine Tree Legal Assistance and social service agencies.  The new program, which begins in September, will be offered at both county courthouses in Machias and Calais.”  (Bangor Daily News)
  • 8.27.14 – San Francisco grabs the bull by the horns in addressing the dilemma of minors who face deportation without legal counsel:  “The program [to provide counsel]…makes San Francisco the first California city to offer such legal help. It is an expansion of an existing Right to Civil Counsel program created in 2012 that has so far focused on tenants facing evictions.  The city will give $100,000 this year to the nonprofit Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, which will use the funds to provide pro bono legal representation to San Francisco residents facing deportation, including children and families.”  (San Francisco Chronicle)
  • 8.11.14 – “The [ABA] is teaming up with a startup whose business model—targeting people who would not otherwise retain an attorney—also challenges the traditional delivery of legal services. As the [ABA] kicked off its annual meeting last week in Boston, it announced a partnership with Rocket Lawyer Inc. intended to help the bar group’s members connect with potential clients online. The goal is twofold: to boost business for lawyers at a time when demand for their services is fairly slack, while expanding access to affordable legal help for small businesses.  (Wall Street Journal Law Blog)
  • 8.9.14 – “A disaster-relief mobile app that provides individuals with legal information, resources, and forms for assistance. An interactive tool that calculates whether a user is eligible for indigent legal services, as well as how much prison time criminal defendants face. A game that determines whether a user is in need of legal representation. A website that guides Massachusetts residents through the state’s divorce process. An iOS app that creates legally binding health care proxies and nonbinding living wills.  All these tools were created on Thursday and Friday by lawyers and developers participating in the inaugural ‘Hackcess to Justice’ legal hackathon [which took place alongside the ABA Annual Meeting in Boston].”  (ABA Journal)
  • 8.8.14 – “Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada has launched a new, user-friendly website for the Civil Law Self-Help Center.  The new website can be accessed at www.civillawselfhelpcenter.orgIn partnership with the Clark County Justice Courts and the Eighth Judicial District Court, Legal Aid Center runs the Self-Help Center located on the first floor of the Regional Justice Center.” (KSNV)
  • 8.8.14 – new research from the American Bar Foundation (ABF) suggests that people don’t look for legal help in large part because they don’t self-diagnose as having a legal problem: “Using a list of 12 common types of civil justice issues that people are likely to encounter, including employment disputes; financial and housing matters; relationship breakdowns and their aftermath; and personal injury, the ‘Community Needs and Services Study’ determined that individuals seldom turn to lawyers and courts to help them find solutions.  But despite the common thinking that people don’t hire lawyers due to concerns about the cost of legal services, the study findings suggest that ‘Americans do not take most of their justice situations to lawyers or courts for another very important reason: they do not understand these situations to be legal’.  The findings (PDF) were presented by Rebecca L. Sandefur, a faculty fellow at the ABF…”  (ABA Journal)
  • 8.7.14 – a story about two U. of Utah Law graduates who entered into a “demoralizing job market, especially for jobs in public-interest law. So they decided to start a small nonprofit firm of their own, with four full-time equivalents and two part-time volunteers, catering to local, middle-class clients in a creative way. Instead of providing representation for free and surviving on grants, they decided to charge for their services.  But instead of charging a flat fee, they index their hourly rates to each client’s income on a simple sliding scale that’s published on their website. As their pricing table shows, a client’s rate is determined only by family size and family income….”  (Story, and pricing table, in the The Atlantic)
  • 8.1.14 – in Baltimore, an outfit called “Legal Aid Legal Services,” which is not a law office (and thus not a legal aid office), catches the attention of the Daily Record and the Maryland Legal Aid Bureau.
  • August, 2014 – the ABA’s newly updated white paper, “AN ANALYSIS OF RULES THAT ENABLE LAWYERS TO SERVE SELF-REPRESENTED LITIGANTS” (a/k/a the “unbundling white paper”) is available.  It comes courtesy of the ABA’s Standing Committee for the Delivery of Legal Services.  The Committee’s staffers work down the hall from me and eat a lot of my office candy stash.  Not as much as the rascals from the Standing Comm. for Legal Aid & Indigent Defendants, though.
  • 7.29.14 – with my thanks to ProBonoNet’s Claudia Johnson for pointing this out: “Washington D.C. Superior Court officials on Tuesday announced a new online Web chat feature where court users can ask questions of court employees about their cases within the civil division.  Individuals with cases in small claims court…, landlord and tenant, and civil actions ( involving disputes of more than $5,000) can access the various Web chats through the court’s main Web site.  The chat was created for the civil cases, which are often tried by individuals who don’t have attorneys. However, court officials said the employees on the other end of the chat, will not be able to give legal advice to questioners about their case. Instead, the employees can answer such questions as the status of their pleading, directions to probate court and other general court process questions.  (Washington Post)
  • 7.24.14 – congrats to the Georgia Legal Services Program, which one the ABA Government & Public Sector Lawyers Division’s 2014 Hodson Award for excellence in public service.  (Henry Daily Herald)
  • 7.17.14 – in “When Poverty Makes You Sick, A Lawyer Can Be the Cure”, the NYT’s Opinionator blog focuses on the work of the Cincinnati Child Health-Law Partnership (Child HeLP), a collaboration between the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
  • July, 2014 – Equal Justice Works announced its (huge) Class of 2014 Fellows, many of whom are moving into the civil legal aid community.

Music potpourri!

  • Uno.  The New Pornographers, melody-loving Canucks, have just released a gorgeous album.  I first heard these pornographers around 2001.  I was captivated by how they married both pop and soul sounds from the 70s with punk dynamism from the 80s.  Punk was in a lot of ways a reaction against saccharine 70s pop, so it’s no small feat to marry these genres.  Here’s “Brill Bruisers” (and the “Brill” may be a reference to the Brill Building in Manhattan, in which so many hit records were written throughout the 1900s).
  • Dos.  Speaking of the 1900s, here’s the inimitable Lightnin’ Hopkins with some not-so-sad blues: “Trouble in Mind” 
  • Tres.  New Orleans-based Benjamin Booker.  If blues and punk had a kid she would be called Violent Shiver.  Listen to Letterman’s reaction at the end of the song.  Heh.

Access to Justice Headlines – July 14, 2014

Greetings.  The latest ATJ news in brief:

  • new edition of ABA’s legal aid-focused Dialogue e-magazine
  • championing innovations in legal aid service delivery
  • IL Bar Foundation announces nearly $250K in civil legal aid grants
  • limited right to counsel development in FL
  • law practice incubator updates (PA, VT)
  • the importance of local and state governments investing in civil legal aid
  • in NJ, pro bono attorneys get more leeway to help debtors in bankruptcy proceedings
  • in NYC, nation’s oldest legal aid office gets new chief
  • call for increased legal aid funding and an ATJ Commission in PA
  • MN rolls out online, free legal aid advice portal
  • two state supreme court justices weigh in on the role of ATJ Commissions
  • PA courts roll out new electronic portals to promote ease of access to court info
  • tough news for state legal aid funding in NJ
  • new ATJ Commission liaison from TX Supreme Court
  • VP Biden hosts Association of Pro Bono Counsel
  • developments in supporting self-represented litigants in Canada
  • insights on how law firm pro bono counsel can recruit/retain new pro bono volunteers

The summaries:

  • 7.12.14 – the latest edition of the ABA’s Dialogue magazine, featuring news on IOLTA funding for civil legal aid, pro bono, and more is available here.
  • 7.11.14 – Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation director Lonnie Powers’ latest ATJ piece in the Huffington Post reviews legal aid service delivery innovation: “Demand for civil legal aid continues to outstrip supply. Among attorneys and others in the field, this is known as the ‘justice gap.’  It’s clear that we will never close this gap unless our federal and state funders dramatically increase their support. In the meantime, we must also find ways to expand access to information that can help those in need. While there is no one way to do this, self-help legal centers and smarter use of technology are surely part of the solution.”
  • 7.7.14 – “The Illinois Bar Foundation has approved 30 grants totaling $242,500 which will be distributed to nonprofit legal aid organizations statewide.” Here’s the media announcement with the list of grant recipients.  Here’s some context on past years’ ISBF legal aid grant info.
  • 7.3.14 – a civil right to counsel development in the Sunshine State: “According to HB 561, signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott on June 25, it is mandatory that dependent children with special needs receive an attorney in court. The $4.5 million allocated by the Florida legislature will go towards paying any lawyer who agrees to represent these clients, making legal services available for these children.” (Here’s the news site NationSwell’s article, which leads off with this unfortunate inaccuracy: “Liberty and the pursuit of happiness aren’t the only rights you have in this country. You’re also entitled to an attorney.”)
  • 7.3.14 – two incubator updates from PA and VT, respectively:
  • 7.2.14 – a Florida Times Union op-ed, focusing on the work of Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, calls for increased local and state government investment in civil legal aid.
  • 7.2.14 – “The Supreme Court of New Jersey on Wednesday said attorneys who offer pro bono representation to indigent debtors in bankruptcy proceedings do not create a conflict of interest if their firm represents an impacted creditor in unrelated matters, bolstering a state legal aid program.” (Password-protected article from Law360)
  • 7.1.14 – from the AP: “A lawyer with four decades’ experience at the Legal Aid Society in New York City has been tapped to lead it. It’s the nation’s oldest nonprofit organization providing free legal help to the poor.  The society announced Tuesday that Seymour W. James Jr. will be its attorney-in-chief.  The 138-year-old Legal Aid Society handles more than 300,000 civil, criminal, and juvenile cases a year.”  Mr. James is a member of the ABA’s Standing Committee for Legal Aid & Indigent Defendants.
  • 7.1.14 – a PA-based radio show on station WITF featured a sit-down with representatives of the Pennsylvania Civil Legal Justice Coalition, which recently released a report calling for significantly increased legislative funding for legal aid, creating an ATJ Commission, and exploring a limited civil right to counsel.
  • July, 2014 – Minnesota is the latest state offering a free, online legal advice portal for income-eligible users.  Here’s Minnesota Legal Advice.org.
  • July, 2014 – the latest edition of the Nat’l. Center for State Courts’ Trends in State Courts journal includes a nice piece on ATJ Commissions, authored by Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht and Supreme Court of Illinois Justice (and former Chief) Thomas L. Kilbride.
  • 6.30.14 – “Pennsylvania’s judiciary today unveiled the second in a series of interactive, Web-based data dashboards that will allow interested users to quickly analyze and interpret data related to court cases and court operations. The latest dashboards provide a detailed look at civil cases, including individual displays for mortgage foreclosure filings, medical malpractice cases and protection from abuse cases.”  (Media release)
  • 6.30.14 – the Star-Ledger reports on New Jersey budget activity, including bad news for civil legal aid funding: “The governor also voided several funding increases Democrats had included for women’s health centers ($7.5 million), legal services for the poor ($5 million), and other areas.”
  • 6.30.14 – “Justice Eva M. Guzman has been appointed liaison to the Texas Access to Justice Commission and the foundation that supports the commission’s work to provide civil legal services to the poor. Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht, who had had been liaison to the commission and Texas Access to Justice Foundation since 2010, announced Justice Guzman’s new assignment…” (Media release)
  • 6.30.14 –  “Vice President Joe Biden expressed his support for law firm pro bono programs during a meeting this month with representatives from more than a dozen firms.  Representatives from 15 law firms—members of the Board of Directors of the Association of Pro Bono Counsel—briefed the vice president on a variety of pro bono initiatives, including programs focused on domestic violence, providing legal advice to small businesses, immigration and homeless youth.  According to the association, Biden said he supported firms’ efforts to institutionalize pro bono by hiring full-time professionals to oversee pro bono efforts.”  (National Law Journal)
  • 6.27.14 – Canada’s National Self-Represented Litigants Project’s June newsletter has good updates about NSRLP’s latest undertakings.
  • 6.25.14 – here’s a nice Metropolitan Corporate Counsel Q&A with Akin Gump Pro Bono Partner Steve Schulman, including this tip for law firm pro bono counsel: “I think the most important tip I can give is that, as in any other job, a lot of it is just being out there in the community, hearing what is going on, meeting with legal services organizations and understanding what their needs are, but also getting out around the firm, knowing people in the firm and listening to what issues motivate and interest them so that we can find opportunities. I think the biggest tip is resisting the temptation to sit at your desk all day because, like all legal jobs, there’s a lot of emailing and working on the computer. I think the biggest tip for somebody running a pro bono practice is to get out there, get to meet people both within the firm and within the community.”