LSC Updates - April 11, 2007
On April 10, 2007, Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) delivered a speech on the Senate floor in honor of Robert D. Evans, who recently retired from the American Bar Association (ABA) after 35 years of service--the last 25 as Director of Government Affairs in the ABA's Washington D.C. office.
"Perhaps what people will remember most," said Sen. Kennedy, "is Bob's career-long effort to guarantee access to justice for all through the development and preservation of the Legal Services Corporation.
"He has improved the administration of justice, and brought greater access to legal representation and American justice for all persons, regardless of their economic or social condition. Bob will be greatly missed."
LSC President Helaine M. Barnett said, "Bob is a true pillar of the civil equal justice community. His years of tireless advocacy on behalf of the Legal Services Corporation have helped place the idea of 'equal access to justice' in the forefront of the minds of some of the most important decision makers in the country. For that, we thank him."
The full text of Senator Kennedy's speech was printed in the Congressional Record. Go to thomas.loc.gov to access it.
LSC has a new general information brochure that highlights the mission and work of LSC and its grantees--the 138 local legal aid programs providing high-quality civil legal assistance to low-income Americans throughout the country.
The brochure quotes former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell, who said, "Equal justice under law is not merely a caption on the faade of the Supreme Court building. It is perhaps the most inspiring ideal of our society...it is fundamental that justice should be the same in substance and availability without regard to economic status."
Copies will be mailed to all LSC-funded programs next week.
A printer-friendly version is available on LSC's website. Click here to download.
To request copies, e-mail Kathleen Connors.
On April 1, 2007, New York's legislature approved the 2007-2008 state budget, which includes $14.8 million for the provision of civil legal services--more than doubling the state's $6.8 million investment from last year. Of the total, $5 million is included in funding for the judiciary, and $9.8 million is included in Governor Eliot Spitzer's executive budget.
In January, Governor Spitzer made history by including civil legal services funding in his proposed budget for the first time ever. Previously, state funding for civil legal services was added later in the budget process through amendments submitted by state legislators referred to as "member items."
New York's Statewide Campaign for Civil Legal Services, a coalition of groups who advocate for an increased investment in civil legal services, issued a press release thanking Governor Spitzer and other state leaders for working to address the documented lack of access to civil justice in New York.
"Despite having to struggle with massive issues concerning billions of dollars in health and education, Gov. Spitzer and legislative leaders made sure that access to justice was not lost in the shuffle," said Anne Erickson, President and CEO of the Empire Justice Center and member of the Campaign.
Edwina Martin Frances, Director of Communications and Government Relations at the LSC-funded Legal Services for New York City said, "Gov. Spitzer's inclusion of this funding in the Executive Budget was a strong signal to the Assembly that civil legal services were a clear priority for him. And, by their own actions, it's clear that Assembly leaders continue to understand just how critical the provision of these services is to New York's lower income residents."
To read the Campaign's press release in its entirety, click here.
Press Release, Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati - April 2, 2007
The Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati has created a new affiliate organization, the Legal Aid Society of Southwest Ohio, LLC. On April 1 this organization [began] conducting advocacy programs and legal assistance based on expanded priorities set by Legal Aid's board of trustees.
"With this new affiliate, we can dedicate funding to a broader range of cases," explains Mary Asbury, executive director of the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati, "The new name affirms our commitment to all the communities in our service area."
When the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati was founded in 1908 it was located in downtown Cincinnati, but by 2004 the organization was serving seven counties--Hamilton, Brown, Clermont, Butler, Warren, Highland and Clinton. In April, the Legal Aid Society of Southwest Ohio will operate the offices in Hamilton and Wilmington, as well as an office in downtown Cincinnati.
The Legal Aid Society of Southwest Ohio will be under the direction of John Schrider, who has been with the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati since 1974 and currently serves as its director of litigation. Funding will be separate from the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati, but as the parent company, the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati will provide general management and support.
The Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati will continue to focus on partnership with community agencies and legal programs that promote employment opportunities, and family and economic stability. It will also continue to provide management for the Volunteer Lawyers Project.
For more information on the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati, click here.
On April 1, 2007, Ocean-Monmouth Legal Services opened a fourth branch office in the city of Long Branch, in Monmouth County, New Jersey.
The new office will focus primarily on housing issues, being located near neighborhoods undergoing redevelopment, which often results in low-income people confronting eminent domain issues, public housing assistance, foreclosures, and evictions.
In an Asbury Park Press article, Harold Creacy, Executive Director of Ocean-Monmouth Legal Services, said "There (has been) a very good response from the community because we always knew the need was here. We also know there are problems and people who need to be served."
The new office will also provide a full range of other legal services related to family law, healthcare, bankruptcy, and legal issues confronted by the elderly.
To read the full article from the Asbury Park Press, click here.
Beth Potter, Denver Business Journal - April 9, 2007
It's an open secret in the law world--most attorneys don't do pro bono work.
Colorado Supreme Court justices are out to change that by asking lawyers at Denver firms to commit to doing 50 hours of volunteer legal work per year with poor people or with groups that help poor people.
While helping poor people deal with the justice system "is at the heart of the profession," lawyers just don't make volunteering a priority these days, said state Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs.
Because of that, one of every two potential clients looking for legal help is turned way, Hobbs said, quoting statistics from Colorado Legal Services, a nonprofit group that works with poor people.
Those who are eligible for free legal services make $1,021 or less in gross income per month under federal poverty income guidelines, or $2,038 or less for a family of four, said Debra Wagner, Metro Volunteer Lawyers, another legal nonprofit group.
The help agency sees about 2,100-2,400 cases per year.
"Pro bono fell off in the '90s and 2000s, because there's such a pressure to get billable hours and get money in the door," Hobbs said. "I'd like to think the brightest [lawyers] can get these law firms to realize it will be in their self-interest."
In 2006, the first year of the judge group's emphasis on pro bono work, 33 Denver-area firms followed through on commitments to do 50 hours per attorney on average, Hobbs said. The Colorado Supreme Court honored those firms at a luncheon in March. So far this year, 45 firms have signed up for the program.
"It's pleasing that 33 firms made it, and none who signed up dropped out," Hobbs said. "But it's still far under what we'd like to see."
To read the article in its entirety, click here.
On March 20, 2007, the Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network held its annual Excellence Awards Dinner to recognize outstanding providers of civil legal services to the poor. Among the honorees were a number of staff from LSC-funded programs in Pennsylvania, including:
- James Kearney, Director of Development, MidPenn Legal Services;
- Donald F. Smith, Jr., Member, MidPenn Legal Services Board of Directors;
- Claudia Bistyga, Paralegal, Neighborhood Legal Services Association;
- John P. Bogdanovicz, Director of Advocacy, North Penn Legal Services;
- Catherine Herman, Fiscal Manager, Legal Aid of Southeastern Pennsylvania; and
- Evelyn Pankey, Administrative Coordinator of Community Legal Services.
The individual achievements of each award recipient are highlighted in video tributes available on the Network's website.
To watch the videos, click here.
For more information on the awards ceremony, click here.