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LSC Media Contact

Carl Rauscher
Director of Media Relations
202.295.1615
rauscherc@lsc.gov

 

LSC Updates - May 19, 2005

LSC ANNOUNCES THREE ADDITIONS TO SENIOR MANAGEMENT TEAM
Washington, D.C. - May 4, 2005

LSC President Helaine M. Barnett has announced the hiring of three senior-level staff members to round out her management team. Karen Sarjeant has been named the Vice President for Programs and Compliance, Charles Jeffress has been named Chief Administrative Officer, and Tom Polgar has been named Director for Government Relations and Public Affairs.

Sarjeant held the position of Vice President for Programs at LSC in 1998 and 1999 under President John McKay. For the last several years, she has been a consultant conducting program evaluations of LSC funded and non-LSC funded programs, management reviews, and regional integration assessments at the request of IOLTA funders, state bars, and other consultants involved in peer reviews. Sarjeant has 30 years combined experience at LSC and with programs that directly deliver legal assistance to the poor. She will officially join the Corporation on June 6, 2005.

Jeffress' career spans 30 years in the public and private sectors, including service as the U.S. Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health and Chief Operation Officer of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board. In each of these organizations, he has overseen human resources, financial functions, information technology, and administrative services. Jeffress officially joined the LSC staff on May 9, 2005.

Polgar spent twelve years working in the Senate for Senator Warren Rudman (R-NH), nine as his legislative director. He has also worked as a senior government relations executive for two private corporations. Polgar has filled the position on an interim basis since January 18 and has demonstrated that he has the experience and professional skills necessary to manage government relations and public affairs for LSC.

To read more, go to www.lsc.gov/pressr/releases/050505pr.htm.

LSC UNVEILS PILOT LRAP PROGRAM
Washington, D.C. - May 11, 2005

LSC has finalized its plans to pilot a federally funded Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP) to alleviate some of the financial burden on aspiring and current legal services attorneys who face significant law school educational debt. The pilot LRAP will offer qualified attorneys chosen to participate as much as $5,000 in annual debt relief for three years. The pilot program is being implemented as LSC-funded grantees report significant difficulties attracting and retaining staff attorneys due to the high costs of a legal education and low starting salaries.

According to a 2003 American Bar Association report, law school tuition has more than doubled over the past decade, leaving law-school graduates saddled with an average educational debt of more than $80,000. Meanwhile, legal aid lawyers continue to be the lowest-paid members of the legal profession; the average starting salary of a staff attorney at a federally funded legal services program is $37,500. A small group of LSC-funded legal aid programs will be selected to participate in the pilot program this spring. Newly hired lawyers and attorneys who have less than three years of experience and an annual outstanding debt of at least $2,400 can apply for loan assistance if they meet eligibility requirements.

"We hope the pilot LRAP will allow programs to recruit well-qualified graduates with a passion for public service," says LSC President Helaine M. Barnett. "We also hope it will help more experienced lawyers remain in legal services, which will help improve the quality of program staff and result in higher-quality service for our clients."

To read more, go to www.lsc.gov/pressr/releases/05051201pr.htm

LSC BOARD APPROVES PROPOSED RULEMAKING SIMPLIFYING FINANCIAL ELIGIBILITY RULE
San Juan, Puerto Rico - April 30, 2005

At its most recent meeting in San Juan, Puerto Rico, the LSC Board approved for publication for public comment proposed revisions to its financial eligibility rule (45 CFR Part 1611) intended to simplify and streamline the regulation governing financial eligibility for LSC-funded legal services. Under the proposed rule, the focus of the regulation would be clarified and simplified, thereby aiding LSC in its enforcement of 1611. As revised, the proposed rule would also reduce the administrative burdens on LSC grantees. The proposed revisions to the rule will be published in the Federal Register later this month, providing all interested parties with 30 days to comment.

LSC PRESIDENT HELAINE M. BARNETT DELIVERS NYU SCHOOL OF LAW COMMENCEMENT ADDRESS
New York, New York - May 13, 2005

LSC President Helaine M. Barnett was honored to have been invited to give the commencement address at the New York University School of Law 2005 Convocation on May 13. Richard Revesz, Dean of the School of Law, invited Barnett to speak to the graduating class and talk about her distinguished career in public service. Barnett, a 1964 graduate of NYU School of Law, addressed an audience of nearly 6,000 people -- consisting of graduates, family members, and their friends - at The Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Duriing her address, she recounted the journey of her nearly 40-year legal career devoted exclusively to serving in the public interest. She talked about the rewards of having the opportunity to mak e a meaningful difference in the lives of clients. She spoke of the role of the Legal Services Corporation in trying to ensure equal access to justice for the poor and the challenges faced in trying to achieve this critical mission. She urged the graduates to find time in their professional lives to give back to society by protecting the rights of those less fortunate and encouraged them to work to bring us closer to achieving our democracy's promise that justice not just be for some, but for all.

Media Highlights

NLADA BOARD OF DIRECTORS APPOINTS NEW PRESIDENT AND CEO
Washington, D.C. - April 13, 2005

The National Legal Aid and Defender Association (NLADA) has announced the appointment of Jo-Ann Wallace as the new president and CEO, effective July 1. Wallace is currently the senior vice president for programs at NLADA. She will replace President and CEO Clint Lyons, who has led the organization for 23 years and will remain with NLADA as the Chairman and CEO of the Insurance Program. "Jo-Ann's passion and commitment are natural extensions of her life's work in the equal justice community," says Harrison D. McIver, III, NLADA board chair. "The board is confident in Ms. Wallace's abilities to navigate the waters of challenging times and looks forward to a productive partnership."

GEORGIA STATE BAR APPROVES OPT-OUT CONTRIBUTION TO BENEFIT LEGAL SERVICES
Atlanta, GA - April 29, 2005

The Georgia State Bar Association has approved a $150 opt-out contribution to be added to lawyers' dues notices to benefit the Georgia Legal Services Program, meaning members of the bar will automatically donate $150 unless they check a box on the form indicating otherwise. The previous system operated on an opt-in basis. "We're really excited about it," says Phyllis J. Holmen, executive director of the Georgia Legal Services Program. "To the best of my knowledge, the $150 figure is the largest opt-out amount to benefit legal services in the nation." The change will go into effect on the next round of dues notices sent out this summer.

ABA HONORS CONGRESSMEN WOLF AND SERRANO FOR THEIR COMMITMENT TO EQUAL JUSTICE
Washington, D.C. - May 9, 2005

Two champions of equal access to justice were recognized at an awards reception held by the American Bar Association (ABA) on April 27th. U.S. Representatives Frank R. Wolf (R-VA) and Jos E. Serrano (D-NY) were honored for their extraordinary contributions to the cause of justice for all as Chairman and Ranking Member, respectively, of the House subcommittee responsible for funding the Legal Services Corporation. In his presentation of the awards, ABA President Robert J. Grey said, "The idea of 'justice for all' is a cornerstone of our democracy. Reps. Wolf and Serrano have a strong record of supporting programs that make those not just words, but reality." Rep. Wolf's support for LSC's mission and stable a nnual appropriation was noted, while Rep. Serrano was lauded for his "passionate advocacy" on behalf of the program. Rep. Serrano expressed appreciation for the award, stating, "I am so thrilled to be honored by the ABA in this way. I am firmly committed to the fight for equal access to justice in this country, and that's why the Legal Services Corporation is so important to me." The reception was held as part of "ABA Day in Washington," a yearly event that draws hundreds of lawyers from across the country to Washington, D.C., for education and advocacy.

TEXAS LEGAL AID GROUPS AUTHORIZED TO CERTIFY DOMESTIC VIOLENCE VICTIMS
Business Wire - April 1, 2005

The Public Utility Commission gave legal services providers funded by the Texas Equal Access to Justice Foundation the go-ahead to certify individuals as domestic violence victims. Once certified, victims are eligible for waivers of deposit requirements from telephone and electricity providers in their area of Texas. Utility deposits are often cited by domestic violence victims advocates as putting a financial burden on victims that risks keeping them tied to their abusers. "Victims of abuse should not be chained to their abuser because high utility deposits prevent them from setting up their own homes," says Randy Chapman, executive director of the Texas Legal Services Center. Other organizations approved to certify domestic violence victims include family violence agencies, law enforcement organizations, and the Texas Office of the Attorney General.

KILBRIDE WAVERS ON PROPOSAL MEANT TO STIMULATE PRO BONO
Daniel C. Vock, Chicago Daily Law Bulletin (IL) April 21, 2005

Illinois Supreme Court Justice Thomas L. Kilbride remains undecided about a recent proposal that would require attorneys to report how much time they devote to pro bono activities each year. "Maybe there's another way to do it," Kilbride says. "I don't know if...I were to step into the shoes of what I did five years ago...that I'd be for or against it." Justice Kilbride left private practice in 2000 after being appointed to the Court; he had worked as a legal services attorney for seven years earlier in his career. The court plans to hear recommendations from the Illinois State Bar Association on the proposal, which was developed by the Special Supreme Court Committee on Pro Bono Legal Service.

Program News

 

SEN. CLINTON PRAISES LEGAL AID SOCIETY AT 100TH ANNIVERSARY GALA IN CLEVELAND
Angela D. Chatman, The Plain Dealer (OH) May 1, 2005

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) was the keynote speaker at the Legal Aid Society's gala celebrating the organization's 100th anniversary in Cleveland, Ohio. "We have built a justice system that is the envy of the world. But we must be vigilant that it serves all citizens," Clinton told an audience of about 950. "Every time a client of the Legal Aid Society is helped, I think it helps us." She also praised outgoing director C. Lyonel Jones, who will retire later this year. The $250-a-plate dinner was the organ ization's first major fundraiser, kicking off a campaign to raise $250,000.

GOVERNMENTAL BUDGET CUTS FORCE LAYOFFS AT NEIGHBORHOOD LEGAL SERVICES IN BUFFALO
Staff, The Daily Record of Rochester (NY) April 1, 2005

Ten staff members of Neighborhood Legal Services (NLS) in Buffalo were laid off recently, says William Hawkes, executive director. A result of decreased funding at the federal, state, and local levels, the layoffs included four attorneys, five paralegals, and a receptionist - 20 percent of the staff in the Buffalo office. "The layoffs are needed to adjust to the funding reductions but come at a time when demand for NLS services is increasing," says Hawkes, noting that this reduction is part of a nationwide trend. "The impact on the low-income community will be a dramatic reduction of NLS intake and cases accepted in 2005. The impact will be felt by the working poor, th e homeless, the disabled, domestic violence victims, single mothers seeking child support, and others who cannot afford to hire a lawyer."

LAWYERS STRUGGLE TO MEET LEGAL NEEDS OF RURAL POOR
Jaime Levy Pessin, Chicago Lawyer (IL) April 2005

A study released in February, "The Legal Aid Safety Net," comprehensively documented problems of geography and scarce resources that affect rural legal aid providers in Illinois. The report - sponsored by a team of legal services organizations, bar associations, and bar foundations - found that Cook County (encompassing metropolitan Chicago) accounts for 51.8 percent of legal problems in low-income households throughout Illinois. While this figure was not surprising considering the large population, the county also receives more than two-thirds of all legal aid funding in the state, including 90 percent of pro bono work and 86.8 percent of private voluntary donations. In addition, 17 of the state's 23 legal aid agencies are located in Cook County. "We've known for a long time that most of the resources were in Chicago," said Mark Marquandt , assistant director of the Lawyers Trust Fund of Illinois. "We now have hard numbers. We can now look back and say, 'Wow, look at all the towns that used to have a legal aid presence but don't anymore.'" As Illinois addresses legal aid funding shortfalls and a push by advocates to quadruple the level of state appropriations, the question of allocation of funds becomes an even larger issue, especially considering Land of Lincoln is facing the possibility of layoffs for the second time in five years. "It's not that anyone is trying to deprive rural areas of money," says Lois Wood, executive director of Land of Lincoln. "There just isn't money out there."

Awards/Notes

 

HOLMEN RECEIVES LEADERSHIP AWARD
Atlanta, GA - April 21, 2005

The Atlanta Bar Association honored Phyllis Holmen, executive director of the Georgia Legal Services Program (GLSP), with its Leadership Award. The honor is presented to members of the bar "who inspire by their example, challenge by their deeds, and remind us all of our debt to our profession and our community." Holmen has directed GLSP since 1990 and recently celebrated three decades of service to the program. Also honored with a Leadership Award was Georgia Attorney General Thurbert E. Baker.

RAMSEY COUNTY BAR ASSOCIATION TO HONOR SOUTHERN MINNESOTA REGIONAL LEGAL SERVICES

Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services (SMRLS) has been selected to receive the Ramsey County Bar Association's Diversity Award in recognition of SMRLS' internal and external work to promote the value of diversity. Bruce Beneke, executive director of SMRLS, will accept the award on May 17 in St. Paul. "The award offers an empowering opportunity to recommit ourselves in our anti-racism efforts and for each of us to work daily to honor SMRLS' commitment to fully implement the spirit of SMRLS' mission and the critical values of diversity and inclusion," says Beneke, noting that diversity and inclusion are major Board goals of his program in 2005 and beyond.

FOUNDATION GRANTS HELP CITY'S YOUTH; MONEY WILL ASSIST IN 16 NEIGHBORHOODS
Sheryl Edelen, The Courier-Journal (KY) April 7, 2005

The Community Foundation of Louisville recently distributed a total of $350,000 to 20 Louisville-area organizations that sponsor programs targeting poor children and young adults. The Legal Aid Society will receive $25,000, the highest amount awarded. "We try to fund programs that are effective, have good outcomes, and that are on point with what we're trying to accomplish," says Dennis Riggs, president of the foundation.

OKLA. CITY COMMUNITY FOUNDATION AWARDS GRANTS
Staff, The Journal Record (OK) - April 7, 2005

The Oklahoma City Community Foundation Board of Trustees has awarded $99,307 in community program grants to 17 nonprofit organizations in the metropolitan area. Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma received $5,000 and was among the agencies awarded a total of $34,400 in grants from the Agency Capacity Building Program.

UNITED WAY OF NW LOUISIANA GIVES MORE TO LEGAL SERVICES THIS YEAR
Diane Haag, The Times (LA) - April 13, 2005

United Way of Northwest Louisiana has awarded a total $1.755 million this year, representing a $150,000 increase from last year's awards. Among the organizations receiving grants: Legal Services of North Louisiana, which received $25,271, an increase of more than $5,000.

Opinions

 

PROTECTING LEGAL RIGHTS OF LOW-INCOME FAMILIES
Commentary, Chicago Tribune (IL) - April 3, 2005

Everyone, regardless of his or her income, deserves access to the justice system. This is one of the fundamental principles our nation prides itself on. Too often, though, this fundamental principle comes up short in Illinois for our poor residents who are most in need of the civil justice system to protect them.

Recently the Illinois State Bar Association, the Chicago Bar Association, and the Lawyers Trust Fund of Illinois released "The Legal Aid Safety Net: A Report on the Legal Needs of Low-Income Illinoisans," which found that low-income households in Illinois had legal assistance for only one out of every six legal problems they encountered in 2003.

These same families attempted to resolve 80 percent of these legal problems on their own due to a variety of factors, including a lack of available legal aid resources. Many of these problems were complex matters with potentially serious consequences, including evictions, domestic violence, child custody, bankruptcy, and divorce.

Illinois faces a crisis when it comes to helping low-income families protect their legal rights. There are only the equivalent of 280 full-time legal aid lawyers in the entire state - a ratio of one legal aid lawyer for every 4,752 legal problems faced by the poor. Out of the 10 most populous states, Illinois ranks last, spending less than $500,000 annually for civil legal aid, versus the national average of $6.8 million. These figures are simply unacceptable.

As co-chairs of the Equal Justice Illinois Campaign, we are calling on the state to do its share to ensure that Illinois' poor have equal access to justice. By increasing state funding for legal aid to $2 million, the state could help well over 30,000 residents obtain the legal assistance they need that is often essential to their safety and independence. Yes the state is in a budget crisis. But the low-income residents of our state are facing crises every day, such as domestic violence, predatory lending, and child-support difficulties, without any sort of legal assistance.

Legal aid is a critical piece of the Illinois safety net, saving taxpayer money by reducing the need for costly government services and increasing the efficiency of our court system. It is a solid investment for the state and a necessity for our residents. We call on the governor and the General Assembly to protect the legal needs of Illinois residents and provide appropriate funding for legal aid.

James R. Thompson and Philip J. Rock are co-chairmen of the Equal Justice Illinois Campaign.

Program Resources

 

LSC Resource Library Update
Sponsor: Legal Aid of East Tennessee
Project: Student Assisted Legal Research
Date: April 2005

Legal Aid of East Tennessee recently developed the web-based Student Assisted Legal Research project. The secure website enables legal aid staff to post calls for research assistance from University of Tennessee law students, allowing student coordinators to match interested students with the agency's requests for help. Student are assigned a research project overseen by a faculty advisor, who ensures that the legal research collected is accurate and properly transmitted back to the legal aid staff through the site.

For more information on this and other projects, please visit http://www.lri.lsc.gov/rs.htm.

Client Success Story

(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.)

Mr. Bradley, a 74-year old disabled man, lived with his mother until her death in 2003. Following her passing, his two brothers, ages 69 and 72, moved into the house with him. Subsequently, Mr. Bradley received a condolence letter from Medi-Cal, which went on to demand more than $20,000 for health care services received by his mother. In the event they could not pay the amount, the letter noted that the state would put a lien on their home.

The family home was owned jointly by the two younger brothers and their late mother. Living on a fixed income, the brothers could not afford to sell the house, as rent would be too high for them. They turned to LAFLA for help and were put in touch with paralegal Roseland Williams. Williams filed a hardship waiver on their behalf. It was subsequently approved by the state, and the brothers were allowed to keep their home.