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

 

LSC Updates - November 02, 2005

FORMER LSC PRESIDENT/VICE CHAIRMAN ERLENBORN PASSES AWAY

Congressman John N. Erlenborn, who was President of LSC from June 2001 to January 2004 and Vice Chairman of the LSC Board from 1989-1990 and 1996-2003, passed away on Sunday, October 30, at the age of 78.

Congressman Erlenborn served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1965-1985, representing a suburban Chicago district. He is best known for being a primary author of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), the federal law that governs employee benefits to this day. He was also one of the original co-sponsors of the Legal Services Corporation Act, which became law in 1974.

Congressman Erlenborn was appointed to the LSC Board on two occasions: by President Bush in 1989 and by President Clinton in 1996. On both occasions, he was elected Vice Chairman by the LSC Board. In 2001, the Board selected him as President of LSC, a position he held until President Helaine M. Barnett took office in January of 2004.

"John Erlenborn was one of the driving forces in creating and sustaining the Legal Services Corporation over the last thirty years," according to President Barnett. "Speaking for the entire legal services community, we will miss him."

There will be an announcement at a later date about a memorial service.

(For a more detailed obituary that appeared in the Chicago Tribune, go to:
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/obituaries/chi-
0511020069nov02,1,4145935.story?ctrack=1&cset=true)

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LSC BOARD APPROVES FY 2007 BUDGET REQUEST
$411 million approved to help close the "Justice Gap" and serve those impacted by natural disasters

At its October 29th meeting in Boise, Idaho, the Legal Services Corporation Board of Directors approved its Fiscal Year 2007 budget request to Congress in the amount of $411,800,000. By comparison, the Board requested $363.8 million in FY06.

The FY07 request seeks to provide funding to begin to close the justice gap in America. Earlier this month, LSC released "Documenting the Justice Gap in America: The Current Unmet Civil Legal Needs of Low-Income Americans." The report concluded that at least 80 percent of the civil legal needs of low-income Americans are not being met. The report was a culmination of a year-long study by LSC to document the extent to which current civil legal needs of low-income Americans are not being met.

"We are asking Congress to help us close the justice gap in America. Our findings show that for every client who receives service from an LSC-funded program, at least one applicant was turned away, indicating that 50 percent of the potential clients requesting assistance from an LSC grantee were turned away for lack of resources on the part of the program," said LSC President Helaine M. Barnett. "We are seeking to close the gap in measured steps over the next five years," added Barnett.

LSC is also requesting $5 million in Technology Initiative Grant (TIG) funding. The TIG program provides critical seed money for projects that improve access to justice through the innovative use of technology. One million is being requested to continue LSC's pilot Loan Repayment Assistance Program, and one million is also being requested for an Emergency Relief Fund to ensure that LSC will be able to fund emergency civil legal aid services in the event of a natural disaster.

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LSC BOARD INITIATES RULEMAKINGS ON THREE REGULATIONS

At its October 29th meeting in Boise, Idaho, the LSC Board of Directors agreed to initiate rulemaking proceedings on three LSC regulations. LSC will issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to repeal 45 CFR Part 1631, a regulation which requires that pre-FY 1982 funds be spent in accordance with the restrictions contained in the FY 1986 Appropriations Act governing LSC. Inasmuch as the FY 1986 restrictions are no longer in effect and LSC believes there are no pre-1982 funds in the system, LSC will recommend that the rule is obsolete and be repealed.

LSC plans to review the rules on client grievance procedures (45 CFR Part 1621) and prohibiting discrimination on the basis of handicap or disability (45 CFR Part 1624). The two regulations were written in 1977 and 1979, respectively, and may require updating. LSC will begin by convening a workshop for each regulation, the purpose of which will be to have open discussions to elicit information about problems and concerns with each rule and provide an opportunity to share ideas on how to address those issues. LSC will invite grantees and other interested parties to participate in the workshops, and the meetings will be open to the public. After each workshop, LSC management will report to the Board on the issues discussed and seek guidance on how to proceed with respect to a rulemaking. Additional information on the workshops will be sent to grantees and be published in the Federal Register next week.

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LSC BOARD VISITS IDAHO LEGAL AID SERVICES

On October 28, the LSC Board spent a half day at Idaho Legal Aid Services (ILAS) receiving a comprehensive briefing on the program's operations throughout Idaho. The briefing was led by ILAS Executive Director Ernie Sanchez who was assisted by his excellent staff. Briefing topics included ILAS's Indian and migrant farmworker law units, the senior and domestic legal advice hotlines, the Pro Se Technology Project being undertaken in partnership with the Idaho Supreme Court (and which is partly funded by LSC), and ILAS's extensive development activities. The LSC Board thought the presentations were excellent and helpful to the Board, and expressed their appreciation for the high quality work undertaken by ILAS.

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PARTICIPANTS CHOSEN FOR LSC'S LEADERSHIP MENTORING PILOT PROGRAM

LSC has chosen ten mentors and ten protgs to participate in its previously announced Leadership Mentoring Pilot Program, an initiative aimed at developing a new generation of leaders in the legal services community. Participants in the program will benefit from collaborative learning through several mentoring activities, including group training events, brainstorming sessions, and one-on-one conversations. The first meetings of mentors and protgs will be held in about two weeks.

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LSC NOTABLES HONORED FOR PRO BONO ACHIEVEMENTS

On October 15, the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland honored three members of the LSC community for committing themselves to pro bono work throughout their careers, and for truly embodying the spirit of pro bono service.

John C. Eidleman, LSC's Senior Program Counsel, was recognized for his thirty-six year career working to increase access to justice for those too poor to afford legal representation. For twenty five years he provided distinguished service to Maryland's Legal Aid Bureau. In his current position, John advises LSC-funded programs on how they can best provide high-quality services to their clients. He has also consistently provided pro bono representation throughout his career. He co-founded the Homeless Person's Representation Project, which helps thousands of homeless and near-homeless persons each year, and established the 60 Plus Legal Program, which provides reduced-rate representation to low-income seniors.

Herbert S. Garten, LSC Board Member and Senior Partner at Fedder and Garten Professional Association, was honored for his energetic and determined effort to invigorate the voluntary pro bono effort in Maryland during his term as President of the Maryland State Bar Association. Garten launched the People's Pro Bono Campaign which infused the pro bono delivery system with thousands of potential volunteers, and set in motion the development of a diverse and sophisticated structure for pro bono involvement.

Wilhelm Joseph, Executive Director of the Legal Aid Bureau, was recognized for his commitment to engaging the private bar in the mission of ensuring equal access to justice. His vision and leadership have inspired several new partnerships with bar members, including a pilot mediation project and a children's education program. Joseph also serves on a number of local and national boards of directors, including the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, the National Conference of Black Lawyers, and Maryland's Commission on Public Trust and Confidence in the Judicial System.

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LSC in the News

NEW ORLEANS LANDLORDS READY WAVE OF EVICTIONS
Travis Tritten, The Olympian (WA) - October 24, 2004

A flood of legal battles is set to be unleashed Tuesday [October 25] in New Orleans when Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco lifts a post-Hurricane Katrina ban on evictions and 8,000 to 10,000 absentee tenants face the losses of their homes and possessions.

Landlords are expected to begin filing eviction requests with the courts immediately. If they're successful, they can clear out abandoned apartments and move tons of molding, waterlogged belongings to the streets within five to 10 days. In some cases, the landlords alone can make the decision to evict.

Attorneys and volunteers who represent low-income Louisiana residents are expected to gather Tuesday in Lafayette for briefings on eviction law and to rally in defense of a possible cascade of tenant grievances.

"That is somebody's life in there: pictures of their babies and school photos ... you would want a chance to save it," said Laura Tuttle, a lawyer with Southeast Louisiana Legal Services.

Many residents fled Katrina hurriedly, leaving even their most valuable possessions behind. Some of those people remain scattered throughout the United States nearly two months later.

Now, with city officials eager to begin rebuilding, those tenants' belongings are keeping precious apartment space out of the market, landlords said. That's space where imported workers could live.

Landlords "have residents who have not returned, not called or checked in, and their wet, mildewing units are causing havoc for the owners," said Tammy Esponge, associate executive of the Apartment Association of Greater New Orleans Inc., who estimated the number of abandoned units in and around the city at 10,000 to 20,000.

Landlords want to help in the rebuilding process but "we can't do that if we can't bring in the people," Esponge said.

David Abbenante, the president of the management group for HRI Properties, said it was a "lose-lose" situation because both landlords and tenants had major property damage. Landlords are "trying to do the right thing" but must get back to business, he said.

The property group gets about 30 calls a day asking for housing - sometimes from contractors who are looking for up to 1,000 units for workers - but the company is stymied. Tenants who lived in about 100 of its Orleans Parish units are unreachable, and HRI Properties can't rent them to someone else, Abbenante said.

But he said he'd work with the tenants. "The last thing I am going to do is file an eviction on someone," he said.

The hurricane damage caused major hurdles for residents who want to return to their apartments. And evictions could eliminate any chance of recovering what's left of their belongings, Tuttle said.

Communications systems were down in the city for weeks and mail service still hasn't been completely restored, she said. Since the storm, phone numbers have changed and addresses are gone.

"You would be surprised at the number of tenants who don't know how to get in touch with their landlord in normal times," Tuttle said.

She said the law was weighted in landlords' favor but that evictions in New Orleans might lead to changes that gave tenants more power.

Louisiana law requires landlords to file with the courts and receive judges' rulings before evicting tenants for not paying rent, but if the owner thinks the property was abandoned, the unit can be cleared out without a court order.

Blanco reinstated the law by executive order last week and released a statement that said it was an important step in returning commerce and a "state of normalcy" to the New Orleans area. Her office didn't return repeated calls asking for comment.

Blanco did, however, extend eviction protection in areas that were affected by Hurricane Rita as well as Katrina, including Calcasieu, Cameron, Jefferson Davis and Vermilion parishes.

(To read the article in its entirety, go to:
http://www.theolympian.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/
20051024/NEWS/51024014/-1/NEWS0701
)

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GEORGIA LEGAL SERVICES PROGRAM AMONG WINNERS IN CISCO CONTEST
LocalTechWire.com - October 21, 2005

Georgia Legal Services Program, which is based in Atlanta, is one of the grand prize winners in Cisco's sixth annual "Growing with Technology Awards".

The legal services group was cited as the top Innovator in Non-Profit category. As a result, the firm will receive $25,000 worth of Cisco networking gear.

One grand prize winner and two runners-up were selected in five categories of competition. The contest is focused on small- and medium-sized businesses as well as non-profit and public sector operations.

"Selecting winners for the Cisco Growing with Technology Award was a challenging process for our judging panel since we received so many quality applications from organizations who have dramatically improved their business through the use of technology," said Peter Alexander, Cisco's vice president of commercial marketing. "The winners have proven that there is a direct correlation between a company's network and its ongoing business success."

For more information about the program, see:
http://www.cisco.com/go/technology_awards

(To read the article in its entirety, go to:
http://www.localtechwire.com/article.cfm?u=12549)

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BLIND LAWYER IN PLANTATION SHARES INSPIRATION TO OVERCOME DISABILITIES
Lisa J. Huriash, South Florida Sun-Sentinel - October 20, 2005

He wants his hopeless-to-happy story to help others.

Ronald Dixon went back to college, received several advanced degrees, graduated from law school, remarried, had a child, and persevered in several different law jobs, most recently at [Coast to Coast Legal Aid of South Florida] in Plantation.

He did all this while blind, unable to see the memos he writes, the clients he helps, or even the judges in Broward's circuit court.

Wednesday [October 19] designated as Florida Disability Mentoring Day, Dixon worked to inspire a blind teenager to overcome her worries and follow him around the Broward courthouse for the day as proof there are no limits.

"You have to conquer your fear," he said. "You have to think through the panic. The fear is what will get you down. If you panic, you're lost."

Dixon, 49, used to be a locomotive engineer. When he was 29 in Chicago, he was a passenger in a Jeep that hit a curb coming off the expressway, slid and flipped over, landing on Dixon's head. Doctors thought he wouldn't live.

He lost his vision immediately, and eventually his wife and his livelihood. He envisioned himself standing on a street corner, begging strangers for money or selling pencils.

"You think you got it bad, Mr. Dixon?" a nurse asked him. A woman had been burned in a fire, lost her sight, and both arms and legs were amputated.

"Don't think you have it bad," she told him.

"Whenever I feel depressed and self-pity I think of that," he said.

Dixon decided to pull himself together. He went to college and was denied entry to only one of the 12 law schools where he applied. He chose the University of California at Berkeley. Now he works for Legal Aid as an attorney for foster children.

On Wednesday, he mentored Sheniqua Miller, 16, of Fort Lauderdale, a junior at South Plantation High School. Partially blind from birth, Sheniqua is considering a career as a social worker or attorney.

Dixon took her as a challenge, eager to inspire her. With his 120-pound guide dog Abe at his side, he showed the teen his technology: the watch with a button that tells him what time it is; the computer that reads him his e-mail; the GPS system that directs him and his assistant to the homes of abused children. And he took Sheniqua to court, too.

"This is a motivator," said Sheniqua, of Fort Lauderdale, between court hearings.

(To read the article online, go to:
http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/local/broward/sfl-
cblindlawyer20oct20,0,1151267.story?coll=sfla-news-broward
)

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ILS OFFERS FREE LEGAL SERVICES FOR SENIORS
Katie Albright, The Chronicle Tribune (IN) - October 18, 2005

The Marion-Grant County Senior Center is hosting attorneys from Indiana Legal Services Inc. on the second Wednesday of every month to provide legal help to people 60 and older.

The first session was held Wednesday [October 12], when attorney Price A. Jackson Jr. traveled from Indianapolis to meet with concerned Grant County senior citizens to discuss health care, housing and consumer issues.

ILS, a nonprofit law firm that provides free civil legal assistance to low-income individuals throughout the state, became associated with the senior center after Center Director Carolyn Williams asked Marion attorney Warren Haas about finding representation for center clients.

"Other than an 800 number, there hasn't really been much of an outreach here," she said. "We would get phone calls periodically with people asking where they can get legal aid. (Hass) put me in touch with this program."

Residents can consult with an experienced lawyer for free from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

"I think this will have a positive impact on Grant County and the problems local seniors are experiencing with their legal matters," Price said.

Jackson said he takes each subject on a case-by-case basis and is available for any sort of legal representation or review of documents.

"I think it's fantastic," Williams said. "I think it will be a relief for people to know that there is a place to come and meet with someone face-to-face, instead of talking over the phone."

Jackson said his trips to Marion could be more frequent depending on the needs of his clients.

"I'll be back up here more than once a month if representation or a meeting is needed," he said. "I'd come up Thursday (after meeting with the client Wednesday) if they needed me."

Robert and Wanda Alter were Jackson's first clients at the center.

"I was sent a letter in the mail about new programs for prescription drugs," Wanda said. "He filled everything out for us, and was really good and informative about everything.

"I even gave him a hug when we were done."

(To read the article in its entirety, go to:
http://www.chronicle-tribune.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/
20051018/NEWS01/510180325&SearchID=73224347666448
)

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LAURA TUGGLE SELECTED FOR NLADA REGINALD HEBER SMITH AWARD
Southeast Louisiana Legal Services - October 17, 2005

[Southeast Louisiana Legal Services] staff attorney, Laura Tuggle, has been selected by the National Legal Aid and Defender Association (NLADA) for the prestigious 2005 Reginald Heber Smith Award.

NLADA is the nation's leading nonprofit membership association of civil and criminal legal aid attorneys.

The Reginald Heber Smith Award is given at NLADA's national conference. This Award recognizes a civil or criminal legal aid attorney for dedicated service and outstanding achievements. It is one of the highest national awards that a legal aid attorney can receive.

Laura Tuggle has worked as a staff attorney for New Orleans Legal Assistance since 1994. Laura's primary work has been for low-income tenants in New Orleans and Louisiana. She is recognized by NLADA for her outstanding advocacy achievements for tenants.

Since Hurricane Katrina, Laura has been working for [the] Disaster Law Project which is temporarily based in Shreveport.

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ADVOCATE OF POOR TURNS 40
Rachel Uranga, The LA Daily News (CA) - October 15, 2005

Created at the height of the civil rights era in a shabby storefront in Pacoima, the Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County was a modest place where the poor could get help for their problems - large and small.

In the decades since, the center has become one of the nation's leading advocates for the poor, with a $10 million budget and a small army of attorneys.

"Thirty years ago people used to tell me that if they had money, they would go to a real lawyer. They don't say that anymore," said Yvonne Maria Jimenez, who started as a paralegal and is now an attorney and one of the directors of the nonprofit agency.

Those kinds of stories abound at the center, which is marking its 40th anniversary this month.

Kathi Frazier, another board member, was a client more than a decade ago, fighting with a landlord who was threatening to withdraw from a subsidized housing program and raise rents more than $200 per unit.

After a two-year legal battle, Neighborhood Legal Services won the case for the tenants and set a precedent: Landlords in California who withdraw from federal rent subsidy programs are subject to local rent control rules.

The outcome so inspired Frazier that she returned to school and helped found the West Valley Community Development Corp., a nonprofit company that builds homes for low-income people like herself.

"The rich can afford an attorney when they need it; people in my case can't. It is a service so desperately needed in the poor, working-class communities.

"A lot of people don't know how to access the system, how to do things as simple as suing a landlord for not doing things the proper way," she said.

It's evident outside the Van Nuys Self Help Center, where dozens of people gather nearly every day of the week for the simplest legal advice or at the Pacoima office, where the phones are hardly ever silent.

Legal assistance is available in nine languages, from Korean to Armenian. Every year, the staff of 40 attorneys and 25 paralegals assists thousands of poor clients in everything from evictions to consumer fraud.

The federally funded center, which has two fully staffed offices and three self-help centers, is expanding this year. It is home to one of the nation's largest health advocacy programs of its kind for the poor.

A Glendale office staffed with 14 attorneys will open next month. And four more self-help centers - where poor clients can find free legal assistance on family law and housing matters - will open in courthouses in San Fernando, Long Beach and Santa Monica.

"There is no other legal service in the Northeast Valley that has done as much in protecting people in the Valley, whether it's consumer protection, health care and renters' right. They do everything they can to protect them from the basic necessities," said Assemblywoman Cindy Montanez, D-San Fernando.

The center also has taken on several high-profile cases, including a challenge to the Los Angeles Unified School District's practice of allocating more money to wealthy schools. The litigation resulted in a 1992 consent decree mandating the most basic educational funds be distributed equally.

In another contentious case, nearly two decades old, it challenged the Los Angeles Police Department's response to domestic violence calls and won a court order ordering the new training procedures for officers.

"If this wasn't here, I don't know what I would do," said Margarita Vazquez, a 66-year-old Pacoima grandmother, who sought help from the Pacoima center earlier this month after her dentist threatened to charge her for a surgery he didn't perform.

"The people that don't have insurance or don't know what to do, they help us."

(To read the article in its entirety, go to:
http://www2.dailynews.com/search/ci_3118321
)

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LAW FIRM DONATES TO LEGAL AID
The West Virginia Gazette - October 13, 2005

The Charleston law firm of Hill, Peterson, Carper, Bee & Deitzler has given $10,000 to Legal Aid of West Virginia to support their legal work for low-income West Virginians.

The check is the second from the firm and was made as part of the Campaign for Legal Aid. The campaign, headed by lawyers Al Emch and Scott Segal, has raised more than $1 million to support legal services statewide. In the last three years, more than 37 firms have given more than $400,000, and more than 338 individuals have given or pledged more than $300,000 to the campaign.

"Without Legal Aid," Harry Deitzler said, "many low-income people would be unable to cope with our complex legal system and their problems would never be solved."

Adrienne Worthy, executive director of Legal Aid, said the donation comes at a time when local charities are focused on helping victims of Hurricane Katrina.

"The community has done a great job responding to the hurricane disaster, but at the same time has continued to support community needs like Legal Aid," she said.

Legal Aid's staff works to stabilize client incomes, keep people in their homes, combat consumer fraud and prevent family violence. Other agency staff members advocate for the needs of the elderly and disabled who live in long-term care facilities and state mental health facilities.

Last year, Legal Aid closed more than 7,400 cases statewide, helping more than 18,000 people.

For information about Legal Aid of West Virginia's local services and programs, call 343-4481.

(To read the article in its entirety, go to:
http://www.wvgazette.com/section/News/Other%20News/
2005101212
)

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OKLAHOMA LAWYERS TO AID CHILDREN AND FAMILIES
The Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise - October 10, 2005

Children and families in need will receive a financial boost from Oklahoma attorneys. The Oklahoma Bar Foundation, the charitable arm of the state bar association, has granted funds totaling $387,750 to statewide programs benefiting children's programs, education, legal aid services, and domestic violence prevention and intervention.

Funds raised through lawyers' private donations as well as the interest on lawyers' trust accounts will go to a variety of programs.

Oklahoma Indian Legal Services will receive $10,000 to go toward work in its domestic violence division, which assists battered women and children with legal service needs. Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma will receive a $200,000 award to help upgrade its compensation plans and to assist in providing legal services to low-income and elderly Oklahomans.

"Legal aid services to Oklahoma's poor and elderly have been continuously funded by OBF since 1986 and remain a priority for the foundation," said OBF President Judy Hamilton Morse.

The new Oklahoma Access to Justice Commission founded in June 2005 received a $50,000 grant. The commission, in collaboration with other legal aid programs, is dedicated to helping those with limited economic resources overcome barriers they often face in resolving legal matters. The foundation will also award law school scholarships totaling $30,250 to Oklahoma students enrolled at each of the three Oklahoma law schools.

The Oklahoma Bar Foundation is a charitable, 501(c)(3) organization with the mission of advancing education, citizenship and justice for all. It gives annual grants for law student scholarships, citizenship rights and responsibilities educational programs for school children, judicial education programs and civil legal services for Oklahoma's poor and elderly.

(To read the article in its entirety, go to:
http://www.examiner-enterprise.com/articles/2005/
10/10/news/4150.prt
)

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AVON ATTORNEY WINS PUBLIC SERVICE AWARD
Susan West, The Outer Banks Sentinel (NC) - October 8, 2005

Robin Ames was presented the 2005 Gwyneth B. Davis Award by the North Carolina Association of Women Attorneys (NCAWA) at the association's annual conference in Wrightsville Beach last weekend. NCAWA is a non-profit organization with more than 600 members.

The public service award recognized Ames' outstanding work in promoting the rights of women under the law. The Avon resident is an attorney with Legal Aid of North Carolina in Ahoskie. Legal Aid of North Carolina provides legal assistance in civil matters to low-income clients. The Ahoskie office serves 11 counties, including Dare.

Ames began her career in 1983 with a small firm in Charlotte, and in 1987 joined the staff of Legal Services of Southern Piedmont. "At that time, legal aid offices didn't routinely handle domestic violence cases," she recalled. "I remember thinking that if legal aid didn't take care of these cases, no one would, so I pushed for legal aid to move in that direction."

Charlotte-Anne Alexander, managing attorney for Legal Aid of North Carolina, nominated Ames for the Gwyneth B. Davis Award, and described Ames as a trailblazer in establishing domestic violence advocacy as a part of legal aid in North Carolina. "Robin is among the most knowledgeable and capable attorneys regarding legal representation of domestic violence victims in the state. She is a fearless client advocate and a passionate champion of women's rights," said Alexander.

Ames' next career move took her east in 1992 to Pamlico Sound Legal Services in Greenville. After her marriage, Ames and her husband, Mark O'Neal, maintained homes in Greenville and in Avon to accommodate her career and O'Neal's career with the Ferry Division of N.C. Department of Transportation.

When Ames moved to Hatteras Island full-time in 1996, she handled cases on a pro bono basis for Hotline Crisis Intervention Center, a non-profit organization that assists domestic violence victims.

In 1998, the Ahoskie office of Legal Aid hired Ames to work on domestic violence cases. She works from her home in Avon, handling cases referred from the Hotline Crisis Center.

"The work I do is just one part of the counseling, safe shelter, and other services offered to domestic violence victims through Hotline," Ames said. Her clients have usually filed a civil protection order, and it's Ames' job to investigate the case and prepare for the court hearing.

"I pull together all the information that the district attorney might not have time to gather," she explained. She said that two domestic violence investigators hired by the Dare County Sheriff Department under special grant funding have made an invaluable contribution in the county.

Ames said that there's really no description of a typical client, other than the fact that they've all experienced domestic violence. Some are living in a shelter and others still live at home. She has helped female and male clients, young and old, from varied socio-economic backgrounds. "Some of my clients come from middle-class homes, but have no assess to the family's financial resources," explained Ames.

Ames noted that October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Victims of domestic violence can call Hotline Crisis at 252-473-3366. Persons needing help with civil matters, ranging from problems with social security or public assistance benefits to problems with landlords, can contact the Ahoskie Legal Aid office at 800-682-0010.

(To read the article in its entirety, go to:
http://www.womacknewspapers.com/obsentinel/
)

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Client Success Story

SUCCESS STORY FROM LEGAL SERVICES FOR NEW YORK CITY

(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.)

NY ASSOCIATES REGAIN CUSTODY OF SON FOR FALSELY ACCUSED IMMIGRANT
Thomas Adcock, New York Lawyer - October 14, 2005

For the client, a hard-working immigrant supporting her young son and student husband, it was an ordeal in which she nearly lost custody of her child.

For Sally Kim Christie and Virginia H. Johnson, third-year litigation associates at Weil, Gotshal & Manges who took on the woman's case pro bono and won the day five months later, it was a powerful lesson in a lawyer's obligation to sometimes perform above and beyond the neat strictures of the law.

"There are no parts of this story that are not worthy of daytime soap opera," said Steven Bernstein, Brooklyn project director at Legal Services for New York City, where the Weil Gotshal attorneys served as pro bono externs this year.

At issue, he said, was the child's now-estranged father and paternal grandparents attempt in Brooklyn Family Court to steal the boy away by falsely claiming the mother to be a suicidal drug abuser who abandoned her child.

According to court papers, the case began one day in March. A young Egyptian woman in an arranged marriage of Muslim tradition arrived at a Brooklyn hospital to pick up her 3-year-old son following a minor surgical procedure. Hospital officials refused to release the boy to her, informing the mother that, unbeknownst to her, an order from Judge Grosvenor had stripped her of custody rights.

An attorney for the hospital directed the distraught woman to a clerk at Family Court, who in turn referred her to Legal Services.

Ms. Christie and Ms. Johnson assembled an arsenal of documentation, researched applications under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act and interviewed corroborating witnesses in the cause of their petition to Judge Hepner, seeking to vacate Judge Grosvenor's original order.

"What they did, in terms of offering emotional support, was superb," said Mr. Bernstein. "They were sensitive and supportive, and their lawyering was thoroughly professional. I admire them enormously."

Ms. Johnson said the experience with Legal Services - her first social justice work since student days at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, where she participated in the Innocence Project - was beneficial to both her client and herself.

The two Weil Gotshal associates believe their professional skills were enhanced by the stint at Legal Services.

"It's obvious that this was beyond legal," Ms. Christie said. "It's a whole new dimension that law school doesn't prepare you for. Nothing prepares you for this but life experience."

(To read the article in its entirety, go to: http://www.nylawyer.com/display.php/file=/probono/
news/05/101405a
)

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