U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES REJECTS $10 MILLION CUT
June 14, 2005
Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives debated and passed the FY 2006 Science, State, Justice and Commerce appropriations bill, which included a provision to fund LSC at $330.8 million. During the debate, Representative Cliff Stearns (R-FL) offered an amendment to take $10 million out of LSC's FY06 budget and transfer it to the Justice Assistance Grants program to fund local law enforcement initiatives. His proposal was met with strong bipartisan disapproval from the leaders of the funding subcommittee that approved the original legislation. Noting that "eighty percent of the leg al needs of people in poverty are not addressed," Chairman Frank R. Wolf (R-VA) warned his colleagues that "to take more money away to cut the Legal Services Corporation could dramatically impact the ability of low-income Americans to seek and obtain justice." Ranking Member Alan B. Mollohan (D-WV) stated his opposition in even starker terms. "This is awful," he said. "Can we not find a more vulnerable group in the country to take money away from? . This is a bad amendment. It cuts a program that is desperately needed, if we expect everybody in the country to participate in the American legal system." An overwhelming majority in the House agreed with Reps. Wolf and Mollohan, rejecting the amendment 316 to 112.
INDIANS LACK ACCESS TO LEGAL SERVICES
Chet Brokaw, Associated Press - June 13, 2005
Indian reservations across the country are experiencing a shortage of lawyers and legal services advocates to deal with civil cases involving divorce, child custody, wills and land issues, says Ron Hutchinson, executive director of Dakota Plains (S.D.) Legal Services. Although the Native American population needs legal assistance at the state and federal levels, perhaps the greatest area of need is in tribal court, he says, where many Native Americans represent themselves. "The bottom line here is we don't have the resources to help everyone who needs help," Hutchinson says. "We don't even come close." A $50,000 grant recently awarded by the American College of Trial Lawyers is intended to help those seeking justice by establishing a website dedicated to Indian legal issues. "There is an appalling need for legal services to the poor everywhere in the country," says Jimmy Morris, president of the American College of Trial Lawyers. "But it is particul arly acute among Native Americans."
OKLAHOMA BAR LOOKS AT ACCESS TO SYSTEM
Janice Francis-Smith, The Journal Record (OK) - June 15, 2005
In a keynote speech at an inaugural luncheon of the newly created Oklahoma Access to Justice Commission, former Texas Supreme Court Justice Deborah Hankinson told the audience that the lack of access to justice for the nation's poor undermines our nation's commitment to equality under the law. "We cannot assure equal justice for all without assuring access to justice for all," she said. "The present need for legal services by the poor reflects a failure of our social structure." After spearheading the effort to establish the Texas Access to Justice Commission, Hankinson initially pledged her state's assistance in the creation of the Oklahoma Commission in February 2004. She proceeded to lay out a framework for bringing in the legal community and other organizations to change the public's perceptions, citing Texas as an example. "When they received an explanation of who was served by legal aid, what kinds of basic human needs were at issue, 85 percen t of Texans supported legal aid," Hankinson said. After selecting State Court of Appeals Judge Gary Lumpkin as chair and State Senator Richard Lerblance as vice chair, the Oklahoma Commission is now focusing on creating a budget and forming committees to study obstacles impeding access to justice.
STATE LEGAL GROUPS POOL RESOURCES TO BETTER SERVE THE POOR, DISABLED
The Times Union (NY) - June 9, 2005
Two legal services agencies pooled their resources to increase training and technical assistance to other legal aid organizations across the state, as the Greater Upstate Law Project and the Public Interest Law Office became the Empire Justice Center. "Most of what we do is help local programs," says President and CEO Anne Erickson, citing beneficiaries such as the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York and the Nassau/Suffolk Law Services agency. The public interest firm "looks at how the laws are impacting poor people in New York State," Erickson says. "We work to change the law. Once the laws are changed, we go out and train legal services attorneys, domestic violence shelters, and independent-living centers to keep everybody up to date." The center is also a nonprofit agency and law firm that provides legal services in some cases, Erickson says. It operates on a $2.7 million budget, which includes federal, state, and local grants.
EIGHT LAW DEANS PRESS TO RESTORE FUNDING
The Boston Globe (MA) - June 9, 2005
Law school deans from throughout the Greater Boston area urged Massachusetts lawmakers to increase funding for legal aid offices by $1 million, which would bring the total state legal services allotment to $8.56 million. The funding request's chances of passing are unknown, as the state House and Senate have offered conflicting budget proposals for legal aid programs, says Pattye Comfort, director of the Equal Justice Coalition, which spearheads such funding recommendations. She notes that, if passed, the increase would enable legal services providers to tackle 1,000 more cases and help nearly 4,000 more low-income clients.
CLEVELAND CORPORATION, LAW FIRM JOIN FORCES TO STAFF VOLUNTEER CLINIC
PR Newswire - June 6, 2005
RPM International Inc. and Calfee, Halter & Griswold LLP recently joined forces in staffing a volunteer clinic hosted by the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland and the Cleveland Bar Association, a first-of-its kind partnership for the city. "It is vital that all members of Cleveland's legal community unite to address the challenge of meeting the legal needs of the poor in our city," said President-Elect P. Kelly Tompkins of the Cleveland Bar Association. "Yet some in-house legal departments hesitate to embrace pro bono work because they are unable to make extended commitments and their expertise varies from the needs of low-income individuals." Prior to hosting the clinic, the Legal Aid Society held a training session for volunteer lawyers with limited experience in legal services issues. Law students also volunteered in conducting intake interviews. The clinic is part of an ongoing collaboration between the Legal Aid Society and the Cleveland Bar Assoc iation that offers information and advice regarding civil legal matters including family, health, education, employment, housing, and consumer issues.
LEGAL AID SOCIETY MARKS 55 YEARS
The Honolulu Advertiser (HI) - June 8, 2005
An event marking the 55th anniversary of the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii raised more than $97,000 for the organization. Thirty law firms, 14 corporations, eight foundations, and 25 individuals contributed to the event, which also honored legal aid advocates and supporters with awards and recognition, including Senator Daniel Inouye, who received a Lifetime Achievement Award.
IOWA LEGAL AID RECEIVES GRANT
Iowa City Press-Citizen (IA) - June 1, 2005
Senator Tom Harkin announced that Iowa Legal Aid has been awarded an AmeriCorps grant totaling $124,001 for National and Community Service, "AmeriCorps volunteers will help Iowa Legal Aid provide their valuable services to more low-income Iowans," Harkin said.
LEGAL AID OF WESTERN MISSOURI DIRECTOR RECEIVES DEAN OF THE TRIAL BAR AWARD
Richard Halliburton, executive director of Legal Aid of Western Missouri (LAWMO), received the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association's Dean of the Trial Bar award at this year's Bench-Bar Conference in April. The prestigious honor is awarded annually to individuals whose litigation skills and professional demeanor have been consistently excellent over the years, according to local barristers.
Halliburton began his legal career at LAWMO in 1970 as a staff attorney. He served as managing attorney of a LAWMO neighborhood office until 1974. He spent the next four years in the program's litigation unit, gaining expertise in consumer and administrative law. In 1980, Halliburton became Deputy Director and was promoted to executive director in 1987. Halliburton serves on a number of bar committees and is active in many civic organizations. He has served on the Missouri Bar Board of Governors since 1996 and is on the Board's Executive and Finance Committees. For the past three years, he also has chaired the state bar's Delivery of Legal Services Committee.
LSC RESOURCE LIBRARY UPDATE
Sponsor: Pennsylvania Legal Services, Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network, Community Justice Project, Community Legal Services
Project: Pennsylvania Public Benefits Project
Date: April 2005
The Pennsylvania Public Benefits Project was created to ensure proper, humanitarian delivery of welfare benefits to Pennsylvania's poor in an effort to help them work their way out of poverty. This innovative collaboration combines the expertise of substantive law projects (e.g., the Health Law Project and Community Justice Project), client groups including the Welfare Rights Organization and Pennsylvania Clients Council, and regional legal services programs. They work collaboratively to enhance the delivery of public benefits throughout the state. Special areas of emphasis include helping clients successfully transition from welfare to work and ensuring that they receive proper education and training to succeed in the workforce. The project was created with funding from Pennsylvania's Access to Justice Act.
For more information on this and other projects, please visit http://www.lri.lsc.gov/rs.htm.
SUCCESS STORY FROM UTAH LEGAL SERVICES (ULS)
(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.)
"Lucy's" subsidized housing was terminated by the Salt Lake Housing Authority based upon allegations that her unit was overcrowded. She attended an administrative hearing with no representation, the only witness from whom the hearing officer who took testimony was a caseworker with no personal knowledge of her situation who merely read aloud police reports to the hearing office. Lucy was not given the opportunity to cross-examine the police officers or to even review the police report. Following the 15-minute hearing, her housing assistance was terminated and she was subsequently sued by her landlord for non-payment of rent.
ULS received Lucy's complaint and filed a third-party action against the Housing Authority on the grounds that Lucy's procedural due process rights were denied. The case went to trial, only this time - with competent representation making Lucy's case for her - the court ruled in her favor. Her housing assistance was reinstated and the Housing Authority was ordered to compensate the landlord for 14 months of rent. The ruling explained that Lucy had been denied a right to a fair hearing, and reinforced the right of self-represented litigants such as Lucy to confront and cross-examine witnesses.