On July 12, the House Appropriations Committee approved a $28 million increase for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) as part of its Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) funding bill for FY 2008. This increase would bring funding for the Corporation to a total of $377 million. The 8 percent increase for the Corporation is the second consecutive annual increase and would represent a $50 million gain over two years.
The bill passed the committee with a unanimous vote and is expected to go to the House floor prior to the August 6 recess.
Subcommittee Chairman Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.) reiterated his June 11 statement that he is "proud" of his support for LSC. Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), ranking member, has remained supportive throughout this year's process.
The Senate Appropriations Committee voted favorably on a 12 percent or $41.4 million increase for LSC in its meeting of June 28.
These proposed increases are, in part, recognition of LSC's groundbreaking report, Documenting the Justice Gap: The Current Unmet Civil Legal Needs of Low-Income Americans, which was completed in September 2005. The Justice Gap Report documents that nationwide, for every eligible person helped by LSC-funded programs, another is turned away. Fifty percent of those actually seeking help are turned away for one primary reason: lack of resources.
"On behalf of the additional tens of thousands of people the proposed budget increase would enable LSC-funded programs to help, I thank Congressmen Alan Mollohan, Rodney Frelinghuysen, David Obey, Jerry Lewis, and the entire Committee for their support," said LSC President Helaine M. Barnett.
LSC President Helaine M. Barnett and other LSC staff participated in a number of sessions at the annual meeting of the Southeast Project Directors Association, held in St. Petersburg, Fla., July 15-18.
Ms. Barnett updated the attendees on current developments at LSC. Staff from LSC's Office of Program Performance and Office of Compliance and Enforcement participated in a range of workshops covering subjects like LSC's revised Case Service Reporting Handbook, enhanced private attorney involvement with LSC-funded programs, LSC's quality agenda and performance criteria, and recruitment and retention of staff in LSC-funded programs.
The Boards of four more LSC-funded programs have adopted resolutions aimed at enhancing the involvement of private attorneys in the delivery of legal services to clients: Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, Legal Aid of Arkansas, Legal Aid of Southeastern Pennsylvania, and Legal Aid of East Tennessee. Their resolutions are based on a resolution adopted by LSC's Board of Directors on April 28, 2007. Legal Services for New York City was the first program to adopt such a resolution.
LSC is encouraging all program Boards of Directors to adopt similar resolutions. The adoption of local resolutions is an element of LSC's private attorney involvement action plan, entitled "Help Close the Justice Gap, Unleash the Power of Pro Bono."
LSC's Board of Directors will meet in Nashville, Tennessee, July 27-28. Board members will visit the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands to learn about their work and the work of the three other LSC-funded programs in the state: Legal Aid of East Tennessee, Memphis Area Legal Services, and West Tennessee Legal Services.
For more information on LSC's Board of Directors, click here.
On July 11, Legal Aid of Nebraska (LAN) released a report which found that 86 percent of the legal needs of low-income Nebraskans go unmet.
The report was based on surveys of poor people, legal services employees, judges, attorneys, human services providers, and focus group discussions with low-income communities. Other findings include:
LAN Executive Director Doug German told Nebraska's Grand Island Independent that he hopes local and state leaders will act on the report's findings and begin addressing the causes of poverty.
"As a community, Nebraska needs to look at these core, fundamental issues," said German
To download the report, click here.
To read "Legal Aid of Nebraska releases needs assessment" in the Grand Island Independent, click here.
On June 19, Iowa Legal Aid received a $1 million check from the Microsoft Corp. as part of a $180 million settlement agreement reached by the software company in a class action lawsuit.
Iowa Legal Aid was not a party to the lawsuit, which alleged that Microsoft engaged in anti-competitive practices to drive up the cost of its products for Iowa consumers. The program was slated to benefit from the settlement at the request of the plaintiffs' attorney, Roxanne Conlin.
The money will fund three staff members for two years at Iowa Legal Aid's Equal Justice Project, which litigates on behalf of domestic violence victims.
For more information, click here.
Guy Loranger, North Carolina Lawyers Weekly - July 2, 2007
Janet Ward Black
It's a common experience: A person goes to law school with notions of helping others and achieving equal access to justice for all.
Then, something happens.
"I think a lot of times we get out for 10 years or so, and we kind of get away from that," Janet Ward Black said. "Hopefully, we'll use this year to bring people back."
Black started her drive June 23, unveiling her "4ALL" campaign after being sworn in by Judge Allyson K. Duncan as the 113th president of the N.C. Bar Association.
The campaign will seek to improve civil legal services for the state's growing low-income population by targeting four goals--"Educate, Legislate, Donate and Participate"--and expanding support for Legal Aid of North Carolina.
"Provision of legal services to the poor is our professional responsibility. It is our duty as holders of these exclusive tickets to practice law," Black said in a speech at the NCBA's annual meeting at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville.
"Only we have the right to represent the members of our community before the judicial system. Only we have the duty to represent them. "
For more information on the 4ALL campaign, click here.
Lynchburg News & Advance – July 5, 2007
When it comes to improving health care for low-income families in Central Virginia, a team of doctors and lawyers is a natural. And when those families have good health--or better health--they become a stronger, more vital part of the community.
Known as the HEAL Project, the program is a partnership between the Lynchburg-based Virginia Legal Aid Society and the Lynchburg Family Practice Residency Center. Both of those groups serve low-income residents free of charge.
By working together, however, they can more efficiently reach more people in the area.
"Low-income people have lots of obstacles to living healthy lives," said David Neumeyer, executive director of the Legal Aid Society. So when the lawyers assisting them discover health problems in their surroundings, they will now be able to call on a team of doctors to help out.
Jeremy White, managing attorney for the Legal Aid Society, said the program uses the legal system to ensure that low-income residents and their children receive public benefits, such as food stamps and Medicaid, and to identify mental health issues in the families.
The combination of medical services and legal services can introduce low-income families to options they may not have known were available. And that, in the long run, could save money.
To read the article in its entirety, click here.
Press Release, Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles – July 13, 2007
The Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA) today announced that Mario Salgado has been named to the post of Executive Director, effective September 17, 2007.
"Mario Salgado brings to LAFLA a unique combination of passion to bring equal justice to our city's disadvantaged residents, and successful experience managing organizations dedicated to public service," said Glenn Pomerantz, president of LAFLA's board of directors.
"I am honored to assume the leadership of such an experienced and dedicated staff, and of an organization which for more than three quarters of a century has been in the forefront of promoting access to justice, fighting discrimination, strengthening our communities and effecting systemic change," said Mr. Salgado.
As a young immigrant from Colombia, Mr. Salgado worked as an organizer for the Farmworkers Union in the mid-1970s. This sparked an interest in a career in law, and his enrollment in People's College of Law.
To read the press release in its entirety, click here.
Sachida Raman (left) with Louisiana State Bar President Marta-Ann Schnabel
Sachida R. Raman, head of the family law unit for Louisiana's Acadiana Legal Services, received the Career Public Interest Award from the Louisiana State Bar Association. The award is given to an attorney who has devoted at least 10 years of his or her career to public interest legal work, has demonstrated excellence and leadership, and has provided significant services on behalf of the poor and disenfranchised.
South Jersey Legal Services has been recognized as "Champions of Diversity" by New Jersey's Courier Post for its work in the state's Camden community. Citing contributions to the low-income population in the areas of housing, domestic violence, and Medicaid, the paper said, "South Jersey Legal Services' staff of attorneys and paralegals helps level the playing field for low-income residents involved in civil cases." For more information, click here.
(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.)
Texas RioGrande Legal Aid – July 17, 2207
Julie remembers with vivid detail the event that would mark the beginning of her abusive relationship with Robert, her husband. One day, a simple trip to the grocery store quickly became the scene of intense arguing. With her daughter riding in the front child seat of a grocery cart, Robert raced the cart up and down the aisles, turning corners violently. After finding bruises on her daughter's inner thighs once they returned home, she confronted him.
A fistful of hair. A bathroom mirror. Robert made use of both, grabbing her hair and slamming her face into the mirror. A phone call. An arrest. Three days later, Robert returned home begging for forgiveness through tears, promising nothing similar would ever happen again.
But the violence didn't stop. Over a 15-year period, Julie found herself caught in a cycle of violence colored by conflict and empty reconciliation amidst physical and emotional abuse.
In 2001, Julie tried to break free. After seeing her eight-year-old son Jacob stand between her and Robert as the arguing once again escalated one evening, she left and spent four months at the Guadalupe Family Violence Shelter. Four months later, she had a protective order and a new place for her to live. Robert would be arrested multiple times for violation of the protective order. Despite her attempts to distance herself from him, her financial problems led her right back to him. And so the cycle continued, until one fateful day in 2006, when Robert beat her repeatedly with a baseball bat until she was rendered unconscious on the floor.
After coming to, Robert passed out on the bed beside her, Julie walked out the door and vowed never to look back. With the help of the Guadalupe Family Violence Shelter and Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA), Julie was welcomed with open arms at the shelter and assigned a TRLA family law attorney, Veronica Medina, to re-start divorce proceedings.
"The partnership between the Guadalupe Family Violence Shelter and TRLA has changed my life tremendously," Julie said. "Without the help of TRLA, my legal advocate, and my attorney, I have no doubt that I would still be running and hiding from Robert and searching for a way out."
The shelter's legal advocate and TRLA staff worked with Julie to move things forward. Months later, Julie followed through on her divorce, and she left Robert for good.
"The lessons I've learned throughout this process are that I have the right to make decisions about my life," Julie said. "I have the right to say no and mean it. I have the right to embrace life fully and enjoy my life. And I have the right to not be abused and to reach out for help when I need it."
For more information, click here.