LSC Updates - August 18, 2005

August 2, 2005

A study conducted and published by the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago and the Chicago Appleseed Fund for Justice has concluded that a videoconferencing system used in removal proceedings in the Chicago Immigration Court is ineffective and unfair. The study recommends a moratorium on the system's use until significant changes correcting its many problems are made. Deficiencies were observed involving access to counsel, presentation of evidence, interpretation, as well as in other situations. Latino immigrants in particular seemed to be adversely affected during the hearings. Non-English speakers were given little interpretation, often only discovering what had transpired when the hearing concluded. Those observed had few opportunities to speak or ask questions, and had difficulties communicating with their lawyers if they were, in fact, represented. Technical problems were noted in one in five hearings. Overall, 45% of the observed cases were found to have one or more problems. The videoconferencing system was introduced to the immigration courtrooms by the Executive Office for Immigration Review in 2002.

Program News


Anchorage Daily News (AK) - August 4, 2005

Alaska Legal Services Corp. (ALSC), along with state and nonprofit agencies, has formed a committee to review civil legal problems facing Spanish speakers. The group hopes to re-open Spanish language clinics in Anchorage and to create a telephone hotline. "Demand for legal services by Spanish speakers has slowly, but steadily, increased," says Erick Cordero on behalf of ALSC.



August 2, 2005

The Foundation for Improvement of Justice recently awarded the Montana Legal Services Association their prestigious Paul H. Chapman Award. One of eight awards given annually, it includes a $10,000 donation in recognition of the organization's "efforts and proven results at using technology to provide free legal assistance to low-income Montanans in civil cases," according to the foundation's website. The agency was nominated for the award by Montana Chief Justice Karla Gray.

July 25, 2005

Legal Aid of the Bluegrass (LABG) was presented with the 2005 Hodson Award, given in recognition of an "outstanding government or public sector law office," by the American Bar Association at its annual meeting held earlier this month in Chicago. Executive Director Richard A. Cullison accepted the award on behalf of the program, which serves nearly 140,000 residents of Kentucky living in poverty. LABG is noted for its effective handling of crises in cases involving family law, consumer protection, housing, domestic violence, and elder law. One such example occurred two years ago when new regulations made Medicaid eligibility requirements more stringent, placing approximately 3,500 low-income and elderly persons in danger of losing their benefits and being evicted from nursing homes. LAGB led the fight against the regulations, which were eventually declared illegal. The agency was nominated for the award by the Northern Kentucky Bar Association. LAGB is the second LSC-funded program to receive this prestigious award.

August 12, 2005

Norman K. Janes, executive director of Statewide Legal Services, Inc., was installed as the Connecticut Bar Association's (CBA) president, taking office on July 1st for the 2005-2006 year. Janes has long been a leading figure in the Connecticut legal services community, serving as executive director of Connecticut Legal Services from 1980 to 1995. In addition to his work in legal aid, Janes has held a variety of leadership positions with the CBA, having served as secretary, treasurer, and vice president. He is believed to be the first career legal services attorney to be named as a state bar association president.



Michael Greco, The National Law Journal -
August 1, 2005

It is my great honor to serve as the 129th president of the American Bar Association during what promises to be a momentous year for the legal profession and our country. Our plate is more than full.

Scores of thousands of lawyers throughout America provide pro bono legal services and engage in wonderful public service activities that benefit our communities in countless ways. They embody the idealism of our profession, they make us proud and I salute them.

It is in this spirit of public service that I am calling for a Renaissance of Idealism in our profession. I want to help reinvigorate and re-energize our commitment to pro bono and public service work, to enable even greater numbers of our lawyers to honor that commitment - and then nurture and expand it for generations of lawyers to come.

To help me implement this initiative, I have appointed the ABA Commission on the Renaissance of Idealism in the Legal Profession. U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Theodore C. Sorensen, former legal adviser to President John F. Kennedy, have agreed to serve as honorary co-chairs of the commission. Mark D. Agrast of the Center for American Progress in Washington is the commission's working chair. The outcome of this initiative will be a challenge to the profession - a challenge that will inspire us to make changes that will benefit all lawyers, the profession, and the American people.

The need for a Renaissance of Idealism in the legal profession has never been greater. It has been reliably documented that between 70% and 80% of the legal needs of poor people in this nation go unaddressed year after year. In order to address these persistent unmet legal needs, I have appointed a distinguished ABA Task Force on Access to Civil Justice. Howard H. Dana Jr., associate justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court and former member of the Legal Services Corp., is chairing the task force. This group will examine efforts to expand access to justice to the nation's poor, with a particular focus on the very successful and expanding work of state-level access-to-justice commissions that the ABA helped to launch several years ago.

I will also ask the task force to consider the idea of a defined right to counsel in certain serious civil cases. In the 1962 decision in Gideon v. Wainwright, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized that under our Constitution, an indigent caught up in the criminal justice system must be provided a lawyer before he or she may be imprisoned behind bars of steel. But 43 years after Gideon, we have not yet recognized such a right for poor Americans facing equally serious civil legal problems - problems that they cannot address without the help of counsel and which threaten to imprison them in chains of poverty or discrimination.

I look forward to working with the lawyers of America to advance the cause of equal justice for all. American lawyers have the idealism, the capacity and the commitment to serve the public and advance the noblest purposes of the legal profession. If we devote the time and energy to honor our idealism and our commitment, we will accomplish great things for the American people and our society.

I invite all lawyers to join in the ABA's important efforts and initiatives during the coming year.

Michael S. Greco was installed as president of the ABA at the organization's annual meeting held earlier this month in Chicago. He has named LSC President Helaine M. Barnett and LSC Board Member David Hall to the Task Force on Access to Civil Justice.

Client Success Story



August 10, 2005

LAFLA, joined by other groups including Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County, recently announced the settlement of a federal lawsuit against the County of Los Angeles filed on behalf of 10 indigent patients and two groups. A federal injunction prevented the county from closing Rancho Los Amigos Rehabilitation Center, the only such rehab facility in the county for the uninsured, and reducing 100 beds at L.A. County USC Medical Center.

"We are pleased an agreement has been reached that will keep Rancho open and will help preserve critical health care services at L.A. County USC Medical Center for the working poor and low-income patients," says Yolanda Arias, a staff attorney with LAFLA.

The county will continue to operate Rancho as a 162-bed facility. During the next three years, the county will be looking for an entity interested in taking over Rancho. Any proposed takeover agreement must ensure that there is continued access to Rancho's inpatient and outpatient services by county indigents and Medi-Cal rehabilitation patients. For those indigent patients who cannot be treated in the new facility after it is taken over, the county still has an obligation to contract for their inpatient and outpatient care at qualified facilities.

The county also cannot reduce the beds at the current L.A. County USC Medical Center unless it meets certain minimum standards regarding the average length of stay for patients, and the median time ER patients wait for a bed.

"We're heartened that we were able to maintain the core services at Rancho and worked to decompress the emergency room at County USC," says Elena Ackel and Silvia Argueta, staff attorneys with LAFLA.