LSC Updates - March 22, 2006
On March 13, the U.S. Senate confirmed Sarah M. Singleton to be a member of LSC's Board of Directors for a term expiring July 13, 2008. Singleton is a lawyer in private practice in Santa Fe, New Mexico, at the law firm of Montgomery and Andrews. She currently serves as Co-Chair of the New Mexico Commission on Access to Justice. From 1995 to 1996, she served as President of the New Mexico State Bar. Singleton is replacing Ernestine P. Watlington, who joined the LSC Board in 1993 and had the longest consecutive service on the Board in LSC history.
On March 13, President Bush nominated Jonann C. Chiles to be a member of LSC's Board of Directors. If confirmed, she will fill the slot vacated by Robert J. Dieter, who became the U.S. Ambassador to Belize in June, 2005. Chiles is a partner in the largest law firm in Arkansas, Friday, Eldredge & Clark, where she focuses her practice on business and trade, mass torts, class actions, and product liability litigation. Chiles served as Chief Counsel to the Arkansas Department of Human Services from 1997 to 1998, and as an Arkansas Assistant Attorney General from 1993 to 1994.
LSC is conducting a Rulemaking Workshop on March 23, 2006, in connection with its efforts to revise its regulations on client grievance procedures at 45 CFR part 1621. The workshop is designed to facilitate open discussions among participants to elicit information about problems or concerns with the regulation, and will provide an opportunity for sharing ideas regarding how to address those issues. The workshop will be open to public observation, and will be held from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. in LSC's Conference Center, on the 3rd floor of 3333 K Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20007.
On March 8 and 9, LSC held the second of three training events for participants in its Leadership Mentoring Pilot Program. The event, held in San Antonio, Texas, presented an opportunity for mentors and protgs to meet and share their experiences and perspectives working for legal services programs, and to attend training workshops on topics like financial management and evaluation.
Participants also attended the Management Information Exchange's "Leading from the Middle" conference for legal services managers, also held in San Antonio. This year's conference offered a wide variety of training and information sessions for managers of legal services programs, ranging from the hiring and training of employees, to the ways in which successful marketing can attract new sources of funding.
LSC's next Mentoring training event will precede the National Legal Aid and Defender Association's Annual Conference, to be held in Charlotte, North Carolina in November, 2006.
Mike Maharry, The Idaho Statesman - March 12, 2006
Idaho residents can get do-it-yourself legal advice in all 44 counties through the Idaho Court Assistance Program, designed to help walk people through undisputed divorces, landlord-tenant disputes and other relatively uncomplicated legal matters.
Idaho's system is fairly cutting edge, providing more services to people wishing to avoid hiring an attorney than most other states, said 4th District Judge Michael Dennard, who oversees the state's court assistance offices.
Last year, about 40,000 Idaho residents received assistance through the program.
That number could balloon later this year when the judicial program, working with Idaho Legal Aid Services, launches an interactive web site that will allow residents to answer questions in either Spanish or English and print out the proper English-language court form.
Dennard said the online program, expected to launch in May, will let state residents produce legal forms for eviction, small claims, domestic violence, divorce without children and other of the "less-complicated" legal matters. Forms for more complicated cases, including divorce with children, will be added as they are developed.
Note: Idaho Legal Aid Services' legal assistance web site was funded by LSC's Technology Initiative Grant program.
Business Wire - March 9, 2006
The Union Bank of California Foundation presented the California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA) with a check for $125,000 as part of a three-year program in which the Foundation will match funds raised by CRLA as part of its 40th anniversary fundraising campaign.
Funds from the campaign will support CRLA's work to ensure safe, affordable and habitable housing for low-income rural populations. These efforts include outreach, education, counseling and legal assistance for housing related services.
"The people from the rural populations throughout the state are in desperate need of legal representation in the classrooms, in the fields and in the legislative rooms of California," said George Ramirez, market president for Union Bank. "Our grant to CRLA fills a vital need in these communities, and we are pleased that it will help CRLA continue providing these valuable services."
Jason Riley, The Courier-Journal (KY) - March 17, 2006
With its state funding repeatedly slashed, the nonprofit [Louisville-based Legal Aid Society] has struggled in recent years to provide civil legal services to the rising number of poor Kentuckians it represents.
But even as the agency has cut back on staff and limited the cases it takes, one local firm is stepping up to help.
Earlier this week, Shawna Scheidel, a recent DePaul University College of Law graduate, joined the Louisville Legal Aid office as part of a grant funded through the Wyatt Tarrant & Combs law firm.
"Legal Aid does a great job with the resources they have, but frankly, they are not able to serve everybody who is in need because of a lack of funding," said Bill Hollander, a partner at the law firm. "This was a way to help them serve a few more people."
While many local firms and attorneys contribute money and time to Legal Aid, Wyatt is the first to pay for an attorney for Legal Aid, which represents people in areas such as consumer problems, domestic cases, predatory lending and government benefits. The law firm is paying $60,000 a year in salary and benefits for Scheidel, who is from La Porte, Ind.
Jamey Elliott, development director for Legal Aid, said the three Legal Aid offices in the state have a total of only 19 attorneys, while serving more than 4,000 people a year.
"It's a tremendous boost to us," he said of the help from Wyatt. "It allows us to provide our services to more people. We're extremely grateful."
Katherine Webster, The Associated Press - March 14, 2006
A panel investigating how to make the state courts more user-friendly will recommend that the state fully fund existing legal services for low-income people.
The New Hampshire Citizens Commission on the State Courts also is considering whether to recommend that the state be required to provide lawyers for people in civil cases who face a "significant loss such as the custody of a child or the loss of a home."
The commission met Monday to take preliminary votes on 34 recommendations, ranging from improving and increasing alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation, in all courts to fully funding drug and alcohol treatment so nonviolent offenders can be sentenced to treatment instead of jail.
Some recommendations were approved, a few were rejected and about half were scheduled for further debate and amendment next week. The commission expects to present a final report to the state Supreme Court in May.
Ron Wood, The Morning News (AR) - March 19, 2006
A town hall meeting in Springdale this week could be critical to funding an agency [Legal Aid of Arkansas] providing free legal service to those who can't afford to hire a lawyer for a civil case.
The Arkansas Access to Justice Commission will meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Jones Center for Families in Springdale.
The commission was established to examine the needs of low-income Arkansans and propose solutions. The first step in the process is understanding the nature and extent of those needs. To that end, the commission will meet in each of the state's congressional districts.
Residents, members of the legal profession and representatives of human services agencies are encouraged to attend and share their problems and experiences with low-income access to civil justice with commissioners.
"We hope that the ideas that come out of these meetings in each congressional district will, one, raise awareness of the problem and, number two, will give us some feedback which we can then go to the Arkansas Bar Association and go to the legislature in 2007, go to the Supreme Court and show what the needs are and how the public perceives the needs and try to get some additional funding," said Lee Richardson, executive director of Arkansas Legal Services. "Our funding has continuously fallen since 2002."
Prescription Assistance Available For Seniors; Grant Funds Program To Help Low-Income People With New Medicare Plan
Barbara Anderson, The Fresno Bee (CA) - March 12, 2006
Low-income seniors facing decisions about a new Medicare prescription drug plan can call the Fresno Health Consumer Center for help.
The health consumer center offers workshops and individual counseling for seniors who need to pick a Medicare drug plan.
A portion of an $835,000 three-year grant from The California Endowment is paying for the service, said Chris Schneider, executive director of Central California Legal Services in Fresno.
The health consumer center is a project of the legal services agency.
At the beginning of the year, about 50% of telephone calls and walk-ins to the consumer center were people with questions about the Medicare prescription plan, Schneider said.
"It has started to slow, but not that much," he said.
Dania Akkad, Monterey County Herald (CA) - March 9, 2006
The state agency in charge of regulating pesticides failed to follow recommended health regulations when issuing methyl bromide exposure standards in 2004, a San Francisco Superior Court judge has ruled.
The ruling could mean a reduction in the amount of methyl bromide that farmworkers and rural residents are exposed to over a period of weeks or months.
Methyl bromide is a colorless, odorless pesticide used on more than 100 crops grown in California, including strawberries, and also is used to fumigate a variety of exported and imported food items. Overexposure to the chemical can cause long-term neurological problems.
The lawsuit was filed in 2001 by the California Rural Legal Assistance on behalf of two Monterey County farmworkers, Jorge Fernandez and Guillermo Ruiz, and the Environmental Defense Center, a nonprofit company with headquarters in Santa Barbara.
Charles Greenfield, head of Legal Services of Northern Virginia (LSNV), a non-LSC-funded-program, has been appointed the new Executive Director of the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii (LASH). He will replace Victor Geminiani, who left the program to serve as Executive Director of the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles. Greenfield has over 30 years of experience in the legal aid community, as a paralegal and staff attorney with the Legal Aid Society of Santa Clara County in San Jose, California, as a Director of Litigation with the Micronesian Legal Services Corporation, and then as Executive Director of LSNV. During his tenure, Greenfield helped implement the "Campaign For Legal Aid," which increased annual private bar donations from less than $20,000 to $225,000.
Greenfield is expected to begin work at LASH in April, 2006.
[By LSC Staff]
On April 1, the San Antonio Bar Foundation will be holding its 2006 Peacemaker's Gala to honor individuals who have worked to develop a culture of nonviolence and peace. This year, Ann Zaragoza, a staff attorney with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, will receive the 2006 Individual Community Service Award for promoting nonviolent solutions to community conflicts. Zaragoza is also participating in LSC's Leadership Mentoring Pilot Program, the goal of which is to develop a diverse group of future leaders in the national legal services community.
Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network Presents Excellence Awards to Advocates for Legal Services to the Poor
March 20, 2006
The Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network (PLAN), formerly Pennsylvania Legal Services, [held] its annual Excellence Awards Dinner on Tuesday, March 21, 2006, at the Harrisburg Hilton and Towers. McKonly & Asbury, a Harrisburg-based accounting/auditing firm, is the premier sponsor of the event, which pays tribute to those each year who demonstrate exemplary commitment and achievements on behalf of poor and vulnerable people needing civil legal assistance throughout the Commonwealth. A keynote address [was] delivered by The Honorable J. Michael Eakin, Justice, Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.
"There is an ongoing need for legal assistance to low-income people and victims of domestic violence in the state of Pennsylvania and nationwide," said Justice Eakin. "I am proud to salute those who deliver on the promise of equal access to justice."
Winners of 2006 Excellence Awards include:
- Sylvia E. Basich: Client Advocate and Board Member, Neighborhood Legal Services Association
- Donald Marritz, Esq.: Legal Services Attorney, MidPenn Legal Services
- Lori A. Molloy, Esq.: Legal Services Attorney, North Penn Legal Services
- Robert V. Racunas, Esq.: Executive Director, Neighborhood Legal Services Association
- Paul J. Troskosky, Esq.: Legal Services Attorney, Northwestern Legal Services
Sylvia E. Basich, a client advocate and board member of Neighborhood Legal Services Association, was selected for excellence in community leadership and advocacy in Beaver County, Southwestern Pennsylvania and throughout the Commonwealth. She is the founder of Beaver County Client Council, one of the nation's first organizations of its kind.
Donald Marritz, Esq., an attorney with MidPenn Legal Services in Gettysburg, was selected as an "inspiring example" who has conducted a nearly 30-year career in legal services with "enthusiasm, generosity, persistence, volunteerism and success."
Attorney Lori A. Molloy of North Penn Legal Services in Bethlehem was singled out for her ability to "focus on solutions with intelligence, courage and the passion to make a difference."
Robert V. Racunas, Esq., Executive Director, Neighborhood Legal Services Association in Pittsburgh, was chosen for his "success in building bridges between legal services and the private bar through leadership in both spheres."
Attorney Paul J. Troskosky, Esq. of Northwestern Legal Services in Bradford was noted for his profound commitment to legal aid, collegial mentoring and "unfailing professionalism while providing quality services to low-income clients."
(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.)
Attorneys from Inland Counties Legal Services (ICLS) helped resolve a lengthy legal battle over attempts by the City of Colton to shut down the Colton Palms, a 101-unit low income senior housing complex, without providing alternatives to the tenants. ICLS was able to secure a favorable result for the elderly residents facing eviction.
As a result of ICLS's efforts:
- The Palms will remain open until June 30, 2007
- Relocation costs of $1.4 million will be distributed among the remaining tenants
- The city will pay moving expenses for the tenants
- The city will provide the tenants with information about alternative housing