Access to Justice Headlines – June 16, 2014


Marcin Klapczynski (WikiMedia Commons)

Happy Monday, ATJ Enthusiasts!  “What’s happening, Steve, in the world of sports?”, you did not ask.  The World Cup – or, in Dutch: “Wereldkampioenschap voetbal.”  Tighten it up, Dutch people! – has begun.  And Americans have begun their quadrennial ritual of reading as many “Everything You Need to Know To Fake Your Way Through a Soccer Conversation” guides as possible.  Closer to home, I’m sorry to report that the treacherous Cubs of my adopted hometown Chicago took two of three from the Glorious Philadelphia Phillies Baseball Franchise.  The Cubs won not through superior play, but through chicanery and high jinx.  Disappointing.

Before the ATJ news, four items for your consideration:

The ATJ news, in very very short:

  • Required pro bono reporting coming to an Indiana near you?
  • NYC City Council considers right-to-counsel in some housing matters
  • ATJ reforms in a Canadian administrative agency
  • FL Gov. vetoes civil legal aid funding in state budget
  • NY State Bar and court administrators to meet over pro bono reporting impasse
  • New edition of ABA’s “Legal Services Now” newsletter
  • Educating “Limited License Legal Technicians” in WA
  • New AmeriCorps legal aid program to aid unaccompanied minors in immigration proceedings
  • Lawyers’ roles in breaking down veterans benefit barriers
  • The “court–aided one-day divorce” process in CA
  • Tech and legal aid in The Natural State (yes, that’s really Arkansas’s boring nickname)
  • An ATJ consortium forms in Ontario
  • CA Bar Foundation raising bar-prep scholarship $ for to-be public interest lawyers
  • A “renewed vision” for legal aid as a poverty-fighting weapon
  • The successes of Legal Aid of East Tennessee in securing unemployment benefits to keep families afloat
  • Putting together a national map/index of medical-legal partnerships
  • The emergence of Veterans Treatment Courts in the states
  • New law-practice incubator program in Vermont
  • MUSIC!

The summaries

  • 6.16.14 – “An Indiana Supreme Court task force plans to submit recommendations next week for how to increase the amount of free legal services Hoosier attorneys donate to the poor.  The Supreme Court has already decided against mandatory pro bono services, instead asking a task force to suggest ways to implement mandatory reporting of pro bono hours.”  (Network Indiana)  Here’s the ABA’s page with info on required and voluntary reporting pro bono states.
  • 6.11.14 – a right to counsel for NYC residents facing eviction/foreclosure?  “Nearly 30,000 New Yorkers were evicted from their homes last year, and many were unfairly booted because they did not know their rights and did not have legal counsel, said Councilman Mark Levine, who is sponsoring a bill to provide services to low-income tenants facing eviction, ejectment or foreclosure.  The estimated cost for the services would be roughly $100 million, aides said, but Levine said it would help save more money in the long-run because it prevents people from going into homeless shelters.”  (New York Daily News)
  • 6.11.14 – one lesser heralded but important facet to civil ATJ involves focusing on administrative agency adjudicative systems.  So this announcement from Canada’s Transportation Agency caught my eye: “The Agency is launching new dispute adjudication rules and a new website to provide more user-friendly, transparent and timely service….  The new Rules will make dispute adjudication processes faster…and more predictable. The improvements in the Rules reflect feedback from client surveys and consultations indicating a need for faster service and…plain language information….   The revamped website supports the new Rules with a…reorganized structure and user-friendly web tools, informed by extensive usability testing. And – for the first time ever – users  can file adjudication disputes and upload documents electronically.  (Digital Journal)
  • 6.11.14 – “For the fourth year running, Gov. Rick Scott has vetoed funding earmarked to provide legal service for low-income Florida residents.  According to the News Service of Florida, the June 2 veto eliminated $2 million that the 2014-15 state budget of $77.1 billion described as ‘civil legal assistance.’ Scott vetoed $1 million for the same low-income legal services in 2011, as well as $2 million in 2012 and 2013. The total is $7 million in four years.  (Florida Keys Info Net)  This Tampa Tribune article adds some context about what a lack of state funding means for legal aid in Florida.
  • 6.9.14 – “State court administrators have accepted an offer from leaders of the New York State Bar Association to meet and discuss the group’s opposition to Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman’s requirement that lawyers report their pro bono activities to the state.” (New York Law Journal)
  • 6.10.14 – here’s the latest edition of Legal Services Now, an ABA newsletter intended to keep local/state bar leaders looped in on civil legal aid news.  It’s a joint publication from the ABA’s Divisions for Bar Services and for Legal Services.
  • 6.8.14 – lots of ATJ stakeholders are curious to see how Washington States new “Limited License Legal Technician” (LLLT) program will work out.  This piece in The Columbian looks in at LLLT classes offered at Clark College, which “…is one of five community colleges offering prerequisite classes for a groundbreaking state program designed to provide more affordable legal advice for those who can’t afford a lawyer.”  Here’s the Wash. State Bar Association’s LLLT webpage, too.
  • 6.6.14 – “The Obama administration [is] starting a program to provide lawyers for children facing deportation as it scrambles to deal with the soaring number of unaccompanied minors illegally crossing the border from Mexico.Under the plan, the federal government will issue $2 million in grants to enroll about 100 lawyers and paralegals [funded through AmeriCorps] to represent immigrant children making their way through the immigration court system.”  (New York Times)  This announcement got a ton of media coverage, from USA Today, Reuters, Fox News Latino, Mother Jones, ABC News and many, many other outlets.  Use the Googles.
  • 6.6.14 – a look at the barriers which many veterans face in accessing VA benefits, how important legal aid can be to helping veterans break through those barriers, and role of the Connecticut Veterans Legal Center in delivering that aid.  (Hartford Courant op-ed)
  • 6.6.14 – from the New York Times, “California Pioneers the Court-Aided One-Day Divorce”: “Sacramento Superior Court began offering a one-day program…more than a year ago, and San Diego Superior Court began offering a similar option in March. Details of the programs vary (the Sacramento program has income limits, while San Diego’s currently does not, for instance), but both are free.  Under the San Diego program, you answer a series of questions online to see whether you qualify to use the program; a family law expert, acting as the program’s coordinator, advises you ahead of time what forms and documentation you must bring to court.”
  • 6.5.14 – a look at the legal aid landscape in Arkansas, and in particular how the Arkansas Legal Services Partnership has created and deployed technological solutions – like automated court forms – to serve more clients and empower self-represented litigants.  (Arkansas Times)
  • 6.4.14 – a new consortium of ATJ stakeholders forms in Ontario: “Justice sector partners met on June 3 for the inaugural meeting of TAG – The Action Group on Access to Justice, a forum to foster collaboration on initiatives to make justice more accessible.  Through TAG, organizations with similar goals will connect, share knowledge and build solutions to improve access to justice for Ontarians. The Law Society of Upper Canada will act as facilitator and provide administrative and other resources to support the forum.” (Media release.)
  • 6.4.14 – “The California Bar Foundation has launched a monthlong crowdfunding campaign to raise money for law school grads who are going into public interest work.  The legal nonprofit is trying to bring in $10,000 by July 10 for its Public Interest Bar Exam Scholarship program, which annually provides 15 law school graduates with a BarBri review course and a $1,000 living stipend. Recipients must have graduated from a California law school and plan to take jobs in the nonprofit or government sectors.”  (The Recorder)
  • 6.3.14 – former Community Legal Services (Philly!) lawyer Rebecca Vallas calls for “A Renewed Vision of Civil Legal Services as Anti-poverty Work” (Talk Poverty website)
  • 6.2.14 – “Unemployed Chattanooga-area residents received nearly $2.5 million through Legal Aid of East Tennessee’s Family Stabilization Project over the past four years.  Attorneys in the group—who have appealed and won 744 cases—provide legal services to recently unemployed members of the community who lost a job through no fault of their own but were denied unemployment benefits….  [T]he program began in 2010 as a response to the recession.  Money to fund the project comes from a $34,000 anonymous grant. Over the past year, it helped 168 unemployed low-income families access $839,078 in employee benefits.” ( news site)
  • 6.2.14 – the National Center for Medical Legal Partnership is collecting information on U.S. MLPs to include in a national map: “If you are currently part of a medical-legal partnership that is not included on the map below, we encourage you to complete this short online form with information about your partnership.” Deadline: July 2.
  • June, 2014 – a look at the emergence of Veterans Treatment Courts (VTCs) from National Center for State Courts “Trends in State Courts” journal: “Veterans treatment courts have spread across the United States in recent years and are currently operating in the majority of states. Their foundation, emergence, and current national status are described in this article.”
  • June, 2014 – The Vermont Bar Association and Vermont Law School are partnering on a Lawyer Incubator Pilot Project to test a model of encouraging new lawyers to establish law practices in underserved areas of Vermont. The Incubator Pilot will run 18 months in 2014-15 and will involve 2 -3 new lawyers, existing staff of VLS and VBA, and volunteer seasoned attorneys. The Pilot staff will oversee the development of each new lawyer’s practice skills, and set up CLE trainings and mentorship opportunities.  (Announcement, including 18-month program schedule.)

MUSIC!  Let us today hear from the Stone Roses, who came out of Manchester, England in the late 1980s.  Here’s one of my favorites, “Elephant Stone.”  One of the coolest things about this song is that if you play it backwards and call it “Full Fathom Five”, it’s still a great song.

Stay cool.  Have a great week.

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