On January 31, 2007, the United States House of Representatives approved a joint continuing appropriations resolution (H.J. Res. 20) that includes $348.5 million for LSC in FY 2007. The sub-accounts will be decided on in the near future.
The resolution will now go to the Senate for action, before being sent to the President for final approval.
An FY 2007 appropriation of $348.5 million would be LSC's first budget increase since FY 2003, when LSC received $7.3 million more than in FY 2002, and would be LSC's largest appropriation since 1995, when LSC received $400 million.
The funding level contained in the resolution represents an approximate mid-point between the $338.8 million approved by the House for LSC in FY 2007, and the $358.5 million approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee. The full Senate did not act on the bill containing LSC's appropriation before the 109th Congress adjourned.
LSC is currently operating at FY 2006 levels, which total $326.5 million, under a continuing appropriations resolution that expires on February 15, 2007.
On January 19-20, LSC's Board of Directors met at LSC headquarters in Washington, D.C. for its annual meeting in 2007.
On the 19th, the Board Committee on the Provision for the Delivery of Legal Services ("Provisions Committee") was presented with LSC's strategic plan to more effectively increase private attorney involvement with LSC grantees in the delivery of legal services. The plan, entitled "Help Close the Justice Gap, Unleash the Power of Pro Bono," lists a number of ways that LSC's Board of Directors and LSC staff will work to increase private attorney involvement. LSC has designated OPP Program Counsels Stephanie Edelstein and Guy Lescault to serve as staff resources to assist in this effort. The plan was reviewed and unanimously adopted by the Board.
The Provisions Committee then heard a presentation on LSC's Leadership Mentoring Pilot Project, which seeks to develop a well-trained, diverse corps of future leaders in the legal services community. The first part of the presentation was delivered by the African-American Project Directors Association, represented by Lillian Johnson, Executive Director of Community Legal Aid Services in Arizona, Joan Howard, Chief Counsel for the Legal Aid and Defender Association of Detroit, and Don Isaac, Executive Director of Florida Rural Legal Services. They presented LSC President Helaine M. Barnett and LSC's Board of Directors with awards recognizing their "dedicated efforts to ensure diverse leadership in legal services programs." LSC staff briefed the Provisions Committee on the evaluation phase of the project, which should result in a report by mid-April. The Provisions Committee then heard from 3 pairs of mentors and protgs about their experiences participating in the project, which were universally positive. Each pair expressed a desire to continue building the relationship that began as part of the project.
LSC President Helaine M. Barnett and LSC Board Chairman Frank B. Strickland
receive an award from the African-American Project Directors Association.
Following the Provisions Committee, the Board Committee on Operations and Regulations approved revisions to LSC's regulation on client grievance procedures, 45 CFR Part 1621. The revised regulation clarifies the procedures available to clients and applicants, emphasizes the importance of the grievance procedures, and clarifies the requirements as they relate to "hotline" programs, and programs serving large and widely dispersed geographic areas.
Other highlights of the meeting include a presentation on the evolution and current status of LSC's Technology Initiative Grant program, and a presentation on LSC's competitive grant process.
On January 17-19, 2007, LSC hosted its 7th Annual Technology Initiative Grant (TIG) Conference in Austin, Texas.
This year's conference, which served as the official launch of projects funded by 2006 TIG grants, was a success despite a severe ice storm that effectively shut down Austin's airport. A number of presenters and guests were temporarily stranded in neighboring cities, and some were not able to attend at all.
LSC President Helaine M. Barnett, whose flight to Austin was cancelled due to the inclement weather, welcomed the attendees via video. She congratulated the recipients of 2006 TIG grants for "submitting excellent proposals that were selected for funding from among very stiff competition. The LSC grant reflects our investment in your success."
President Barnett went on to announce that LSC has received a grant from Google to participate in the Google Ads program. Working with the company behind the popular search engine, LSC will create an ad campaign for all the statewide legal assistance websites it helps fund. The campaign will provide a four-line ad, specific to each state or territory, that will display on the right-hand side of Google's search results page whenever specific search terms are entered. LSC will be working with Google and members of the legal services community to identify and select the most relevant search terms. In announcing the grant, Google stated: "We are pleased to be able to offer a grant to the Legal Services Corporation and assist in their mission of helping more poor Americans gain equal access to the judicial system."
Ms. Barnett also announced LSC's plan to develop a Technology Advisory Committee to help LSC develop a strategic vision for LSC's technology investments. The committee will be comprised primarily of technology experts from within the legal services community, although other members might include staff of technology companies, LSC's partner organizations, and other funders.
This year's conference featured the first-ever "Lawyer Track," which is aimed at providing legal services attorneys with information on technologies and products to make their work easier and more efficient. The Lawyer Track featured information sessions on topics like providing navigational assistance on statewide websites, document assembly programs, and case management systems.
On January 10, 2007, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger submitted his proposed budget for 2007-2008 to the state legislature that includes $5 million to implement a three-year "Access to Justice Pilot Program" in three of the state's 58 Superior Courts. According to the description of the pilot program in the budget, its purpose is to "identify and provide representation to unrepresented litigants in a wide range of civil matters, including domestic violence restraining orders, family law, child support, paternity, unlawful detainer, and probate." The description also notes that this pilot program "will improve the courts' ability to handle its entire caseload and help relieve court congestion."
Robert J. Rhudy, former Executive Director of the Maryland Legal Services Corporation, has written an article for Maryland's Daily Record highlighting how California's Access to Justice Commission worked to help bring about this development.
For more information on Governor Schwarzenegger's proposed budget, click here.
To read Robert Rhudy's article, click here. (REGISTRATION REQUIRED)
Robert Rodriguez, The Fresno Bee (CA) - January 23, 2007
A coalition of community groups is launching its annual campaign to encourage low-to-moderate income wage earners to apply for a special federal tax credit that could give a family up to $4,500.
Each year, hundreds of families and individual tax filers fail to apply for the federal earned income tax credit, a program designed to give lower-wage workers a financial boost. When the credit exceeds the amount of tax owed, it results in a refund. To qualify, taxpayers must meet certain requirements and file a return, even if they did not earn enough to be obligated to file.
Many don't apply because they simply aren't aware they are eligible, said Jesse Weller of the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS estimates that 20% to 25% of those who qualify are not claiming it. "We want to increase awareness," Weller said.
That's the goal of several community groups...[a]mong them: Central California Legal Services; Catholic Charities; Proteus Inc.; Centro La Familia; Fresno Center for New Americans; Lao Family Community of Fresno; and Fresno West Coalition for Economic Development.
Chris Schneider of Central California Legal Services said the credit could help many people improve their lives, especially those affected by the recent freeze that has crippled the Valley's citrus industry.
"The fact that millions are unclaimed every year is amazing," Schneider said. "But this year it is particularly important because the freeze has thrown thousands of people out of work."
Nearly two dozen organizations will be setting up sites where those who qualify can file their taxes for free and apply for the credit. Information on how to better handle your finances will also be available.
Among those offering help is Central California Legal Services, where Shoua Her of Fresno recently filed. She will receive $1,700 this year. "This is really going to help me and my family," Her said. "I am going to be able to pay some bills, so I can try and get ahead a little bit."
To read the article in its entirety, click here.
Colette M. Jenkins, The Akron Beacon Journal (OH) - January 20, 2007
When it comes to justice, the Rev. Cara Stultz Costello believes the church should follow the example of Jesus.
"Jesus was all about justice and bringing justice to people who might not otherwise receive it," said Costello, who's the pastor of Spencer United Methodist Church. "It's just right for the church to be involved in legal clinics."
On Thursday, the Matthew 25 Coalition and Community Legal Aid Services Inc. will hold the first in a series of six bimonthly legal clinics at three Medina County churches, including Costello's.
The clinics will offer free legal advice to Lodi area residents of all income levels. Lawyers are volunteering through Legal Aid's Volunteer Legal Services Program.
One of those lawyers, Maryann Chandler, said the clinics are a good way for people to get the legal services they deserve. "I am committed to helping those who may not have access to the legal advice that they need," said Chandler, whose office is in Medina. "Anytime religious organizations and the legal community can come together to help people, it's a good thing."
"Churches exist to help people, and we believe by coming together, we can meet the social needs of our community," said the Rev. David Dake, pastor of First Congregational Church of Lodi. "Everything that we do shows the community that the church is here to help people with life's problems. The legal clinics are one way to show that we want to help."
The churches provide the buildings, and Community Legal Aid supplies the volunteer lawyers.
To read the article in its entirety, click here.
John Flynn Rooney, The Chicago Daily Law Bulletin - January 17, 2007
The Illinois Equal Justice Foundation is doling out $3.3 million in grants to 26 not-for-profit organizations that help low-income Illinoisans obtain legal assistance.
"The funds are designed to continue to provide legal access for the poor in countless areas and in countless ways," Victor P. Henderson, the foundation's president, said in a telephone interview Wednesday.
The five organizations receiving the most in grant money from the justice foundation [including the following LSC grantees]:
The grant to Land of Lincoln marks a 42 percent increase over last year's $435,000 grant. Land of Lincoln serves thousands of low-income persons in 65 counties in central and southern Illinois.
"In this case, the money from the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation has been a huge benefit for our clients," Lois J. Wood, Land of Lincoln's executive director, said in a telephone interview Wednesday.
Prairie State Legal Services will benefit from a 38 percent increase over the $398,000 the foundation gave in 2006. Prairie State's territory covers 35 counties in northern and central Illinois, excluding Cook County.
"What those dollars are going to do is allow us to expand services to a small degree even in the face of flat federal funding," Michael T. O'Connor, Prairie State's executive director, said in a telephone interview.
Federal funding from the Legal Services Corp. has been reauthorized under a continuing resolution in Congress. That allows the LSC to continue providing funds at the same level as during fiscal year 2006, which represented a decrease from the previous year, O'Connor said.
Sheldon F. Roodman, executive director of the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago, said, "And because the federal funding is frozen, this increase in state funding through the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation is critical for our continued services to the elderly and the poor."
To read the article in its entirety, click here. (REGISTRATION REQUIRED)
The Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation has awarded Legal Aid of North Carolina (LANC) with two grants totaling $360,000 to fight predatory lending and domestic violence.
A grant of $300,000 will help LANC combat foreclosure through its participation in the Fair Lending and Home Defense Project. The statewide project combines seven nonprofit organizations that bring different resources and strategies to bear to help people stay in their homes.
George Hausen, Executive Director of LANC, said "Foreclosures in North Carolina are up nearly 200% over the past few years, and the Foundation's enlightened understanding of the problem and its scope has resulted in our ability to expand our response to help hundreds more families and to leverage the interest and financial support of other critical players."
A grant of $60,000 will help support LANC's Battered Immigrant Project, which provides free legal services to eligible immigrants and holds community training sessions on issues related to domestic violence in immigrant communities.
TeAndra Miller, project director of LANC's Domestic Violence Prevention Initiative, which coordinates the Battered Immigrant Project, said, "Domestic violence is a pervasive problem among North Carolina's immigrant population, just as it is among U.S. citizens. Due to the constantly changing and regulatory nature of immigration law, it is necessary to have specially trained immigration attorneys as part of our domestic violence corps of attorneys."
The Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation helps fund projects throughout North Carolina that focus on community economic development, democracy and civic engagement, the environment, pre-collegiate education, and social justice and equity.
For more information, click here.
Press Release, D.C. Bar Foundation - January 16, 2007
As of January 1, 2007, Citibank joined PNC Bank, First Horizon, and Adams Bank, as a "DC IOLTA Preferred Bank," providing one of the DC area's highest interest rates on special accounts known as IOLTA (Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts). The interest earned on these accounts comes to the DC Bar Foundation to support legal services to DC's poor and disadvantaged. Last year, IOLTA funds from banks in DC provided nearly $1 million in funding for legal services providers. Citibank's rate change--which currently provides tiered rates ranging up to 4% on the largest accounts--will produce, by itself, an estimated $500,000 per year in additional funds for legal services.
"Citibank's decision to offer significantly higher interest rates will dramatically improve the funding for critical legal services in DC. As a result, there will be more lawyers helping solve more problems for our city's least advantaged," said Rob Weiner, President of the DC Bar Foundation.
To read the press release in its entirety, click here.
On January 25, 2007, the Florida Bar honored 21 lawyers with Pro Bono Service Awards, given in recognition of their commitment to providing free legal services to the poor. A number of the recipients work with clients from LSC-funded programs, including:
For more information, click here.
Andrew Scherer, Executive Director of Legal Services for New York City (LSNY) and graduate of New York University's School of Law ('78), has been named Alumnus of the Month by his alma matter.
The NYU School of Law website notes that "[u]nder Scherer's stewardship, LSNY is expanding into new areas of law that affect the poor, employing innovative approaches and cutting-edge technology, broadening its use of pro bono attorneys, and increasing government, foundation and private funding. LSNY has new projects to assist low wage workers, to improve access to legal and other services for people with limited proficiency in English, and to provide multidisciplinary help on-site at community organizations throughout NYC."
For more information, click here.
On January 22, 2007, The Honolulu Advertiser published an interview with Chuck Greenfield, Executive Director of the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii (LASH). The interview ran in the business section of the paper, and focuses on Greenfield's role as a leader of his organization. In the interview he discusses the general work of LASH, his management philosophy, hiring, employee turnover, and other subjects.
To read a transcript of the interview, click here.
To listen to the interview, click here.