LSC Updates - June 8, 2005
HOUSE COMMITTEE APPROVES EVEN FUNDING OF $330.8 MILLION FOR LSC IN FY06
On June 7, the House Appropriations Committee approved LSC's Fiscal Year 2006 budget, voting for the same $330.8 million budget awarded to LSC in FY05. In making its decision, the Committee supported the recommendation of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Science, State, Justice and Commerce - which recommended the $330.8 million figure on May 24.
Under the Appropriations Committee's FY06 bill, LSC would receive $313,683,700 for basic field programs, $1,755,010 for Technology Initiative Grants, $12,826,362 for Management and Administration, and $2,538,633 for the Office of the Inspector General. While the Committee did not approve LSC's request for an increase to $363.8 million, it also rejected the Administration's FY06 proposal of $318 million for LSC.
LSC's budget must still be approved by the full House of Representatives, as well as the Senate Appropriations Committee and the full Senate. Any differences between the House and Senate versions would then be reconciled in a House-Senate conference committee.
LATEST EQUAL JUSTICE MAGAZINE NOW AVAILABLE ONLINE
The Spring 2005 edition of Equal Justice Magazine can now be read in its entirety online at www.ejm.lsc.gov. The issue's cover story highlights the exemplary work of the Texas legal services community and the leadership of the Supreme Court of Texas and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison in expanding access to justice for the poor in the Lone Star state. Also featured is the work of LSC's Puerto Rico grantees, who close more than 58,000 cases a year on behalf of the island's poor. EJM readers will also learn more about a federally funded pilot loan repayment assistance program launched this spring by LSC to help defray the high costs of a legal education for attorneys with aspirations for a career in legal services.
EQUAL JUSTICE CONFERENCE BRINGS TOGETHER PRIVATE BAR, LEGAL SERVICES
Robert Rhudy, The Daily Record (MD) - May 20, 2005
The Equal Justice Conference, the largest conference in the country devoted to access to justice issues for the poor, was held in early May in Austin, Texas. Sponsored by the American Bar Association and the National Legal Aid and Defender Association (NLADA), its theme was "Celebrating the Pro Bono and Legal Services Partnership." Featuring nearly 90 workshops examining issues such as opportunities for law students and retired lawyers, "Civil Gideon" litigation, hotlines and numerous other topics, the conference saw increased attendance and participation from the private bar. "The numbers were impressive," said Don Saunders, director of civil legal services at NLADA. "But what really struck me was the diversity of the people who attended and the quality of attorneys and judges who chose to participate in the conference. Plus, we had chairs of access-to-justice commissions from nearly 40 states, as well as chief justices, judges, and bar presidents. " Sharon Goldsmith, executive director of Baltimore's Pro Bono Resource Center, agreed: "The idea is that legal services should understand the needs of the private bar and vice versa. More and more, we're seeing unique ways for private lawyers to get involved in pro bono work. In an ideal world, legal services has a strong pro bono component."
CEREMONY CELEBRATES LAWYERScWHO AID THOSE IN NEED
Bill Myers, Chicago Daily Law Bulletin (IL) - June 1, 2005
The American Bar Association (ABA) will soon rededicate itself to increasing access to justice for the poor in civil cases, said the ABA President-elect at a pro bono awards ceremony. "Public service work, pro bono representation, and the provision of legal services to people of limited means are core components of the lawyer's pursuit of equal justice under the law," said Michael S. Greco, who will take office in August. Noting that the poor must fend for themselves in nearly 80 percent of civil cases, Greco announced that increasing civil legal representation for the poor would be the cornerstone of his presidency. Saying justice "can't be rationed by the teaspoon," Greco announced plans to appoint an ABA "Commission on the Renaissance of Idealism in the Legal Profession," as well as other efforts to expand access to justice.
ILLINOIS LAWMAKERS APPROVE INCREASE IN FUNDING FOR EQUAL JUSTICE
Daniel C. Vock, Chicago Daily Law Bulletin (IL) - June 1, 2005
Illinois lawmakers have approved a spending plan that quadruples spending on legal aid to the poor by allocating $2 million to the Equal Justice Foundation, which distributes money to legal services groups throughout Illinois. Leslie Corbett, the Foundation's executive director, says the appropriation will more than offset the decrease in federal funding, adding that the board will have to determine how to distribute the money. "We didn't anticipate this big of an increase," she says. The allocation relies on transferring funds from hundreds of earmarked accounts to general purposes.
FIRM'S LOCAL BRANCH LENDS LAWYERS TO THE POOR
Robert Miller, The Dallas Morning News (TX) - May 15, 2005
A new program in Dallas is seeking creative ways to increase equal justice for Texas' poor. The Lend-A-Lawyer initiative was created by the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program (DVAP), a partnership between the Dallas Bar Association, Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas, and private firms. "While helpful to an agency, what we wanted when we began studying the problem a couple of years ago was a more effective way to serve the community," said Jonathan S. Blum, an attorney at Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP. Blum, along with Vance Beagles, Lori Browne, and Rob Castle, helped to introduce the new initiative, which involves a private firm lending one of its lawyers to Legal Aid for a certain amount of time. The firm provides the attorney's salary and benefits, along with furniture, office supplies, law books, and other incidentals. "Working on-site at the DVAP offices on Main Street, the Lend-A-Lawyer attorney will handle civil cases for many of Dallas' poor, will participate in weekly legal clinics, and will work closely with DVAP's mentoring attorneys to assist clients during a three-month tenure," says Tim Mountz, president of the Dallas Bar Association. Richard Stewart, chairman of Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas and a senior counsel at Verizon, says, "We hope that other law firms will follow. We'll take everybody because we need others."
FUND DRIVE WILL HELP HIRE LAWYER FOR NEEDY
Janet Kelley, Lancaster New Era (PA) - May 20, 2005
Last Christmas, the Lancaster Bar Association Foundation announced an ambitious goal to raise $120,000 to hire an attorney for three years who would be responsible for custody cases at MidPenn Legal Services. In mid-May, the Citizens Bank Foundation brought them $20,000 closer to its goal. The donation - the largest single donation the group has received - brings the total amount of money raised to $104,350. "In most cases, the client needs somebody yesterday," says Jim Kearney, an attorney with MidPenn. "You've got to deal with them right away. There is a lot of stress on the family these days. A lot of breakups, tensions; things aren't nearly as orderly as they used to be. These resolutions are of the utmost importance."
TEXAS LEGAL AID LAWYERS BENEFIT FROM TRIAL ACADEMY TRAINING
Austin, Texas - May 15-19
As part of a broad-based plan to increase the availability of legal aid for the poor, the Texas Access to Justice Commission hosted the first Texas Trial Academy to enhance the litigation skills of legal aid lawyers at The University of Texas School of Law. Members of the elite American College of Trial Lawyers donated their time to share their extensive trial knowledge and skills with the front-line lawyers who advocate for the poor. Membership in the American College of Trial Lawyers is by invitation only, extended to experienced trial lawyers who have demonstrated exceptional skill and the highest standards of ethics and professionalism.
The Texas Trial Academy, the brainchild of Commission Chairman James B. Sales of Fulbright and Jaworski in Houston, offered training sessions for legal aid lawyers from throughout Texas. The program schedule included workshops on voir dire, direct and cross examination of witnesses, and preparation and delivery of opening and closing statements. The University provided its state-of-the-art courtrooms as well as staff assistance for videotaping the sessions.
LEGAL GROUP GETS GRANT OF $47,500
Toledo Blade (OH) - May 18, 2005
Legal Aid of Western Ohio has received a state grant of $47,500 to benefit victims of domestic violence. Announced by State Rep. Bob Latta (R-Bowling Green) and administered by the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services, the grant will better enable attorneys in the agency's Domestic Violence Legal Assistance Project to serve eligible clients.
LEGAL SERVICES OF ALABAMA AWARDED GRANT
Jon Anderson, Birmingham News (AL) - May 27, 2005
The Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham announced nearly $200,000 in grants to nonprofit groups in early May. Legal Services of Alabama was awarded $20,500 to be used for subpoenas, record searches, and depositions in domestic violence cases.
A "DEEP THROAT" CONNECTION
In his June 2 article for the Washington Post in which Bob Woodward discusses the real identity of the infamous Watergate source ("How Mark Felt Became Deep Throat"), the legendary reporter talks about his first-ever meeting with Felt. Woodward was a Navy lieutenant acting as a courier taking documents to the White House, when he found himself sitting next to Felt one day in a West Wing waiting room. Struggling to make small talk with the FBI assistant director, Woodward found two things he had in common with Felt, who was many years his senior. Both had done graduate work at George Washington University and both had worked for a member of Congress from their home state.
Who was the hometown Congressman for whom Woodward had been doing volunteer work? None other than John N. Erlenborn, the man who helped pass the LSC Act of 1974 and later served as LSC President from 2001 2004.
Client Success Story
SUCCESS STORY FROM LEGAL AID SOCIETY OF CLEVELAND
(Legal aid is about helping ordinary people with real-life problems. Client stories from the field illustrate the day-to-day struggles - and victories - of poor Americans seeking justice under law.)
Ulah was plagued with claustrophobia. After signing a year-long lease for a one-bedroom apartment, she was overwhelmed. She repeatedly requested to be moved into one of the many vacant two-bedroom units, but the property management company ignored or denied her pleas each time, according to court records. So after four months of trying to tough it out - which often found her sleeping at her daughter's house - she moved out. "I was choking," Garrison testified. "I felt like the whole place was going to close in on me."
Ulah contacted the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, which represented her throughout her court ordeal. Garrison first lost a ruling at the municipal court level when the court ruled she was liable for the remaining eight months of rent. However, the 11th District Court of Appeals reversed the decision, finding that the property management company violated the Fair Housing Act provision that requires a landlord to make "reasonable accommodations" for tenants with disabilities, and that transferring her to a larger apartment was, in fact, a reasonable accommodation that she was denied.
The case was remanded back to the municipal court in order to determine whether she was also owed a refund of her security deposit and an additional $1,500 for pain and suffering.