LSC Updates - February 7, 2008
On February 1, LSC submitted its request to Congress for an appropriation of $471.4 for FY 2009, a $40.7 million increase over LSC's request for FY 2008. LSC's Board approved the FY 2009 request in September 2007.
Over 95 percent of LSC's appropriation would be distributed as basic field grants to programs providing civil legal assistance to low-income Americans, as grants for innovative technology projects that improve efficiency and effectiveness, and as loan repayment assistance for legal services lawyers. The remainder would fund the administration of LSC and its Office of Inspector General.
This increase is necessary to continue addressing the vast unmet need for civil legal services documented in LSC's groundbreaking report, Documenting the Justice Gap in America: The Current Unmet Civil Legal Needs of Low-Income Americans. The report found that 50 percent of eligible Americans seeking assistance from LSC-funded programs are turned away due to lack of resources. Recent state legal needs studies show that the need for services may well have been understated in the Justice Gap report. In addition, America's foreclosure crisis and the ongoing impact of Hurricane Katrina and other natural disasters have placed additional burdens on LSC-funded programs.
Click here to download LSC's FY 2009 Budget Request. ( 700k)
On January 24, LSC's Board of Directors hosted a reception in the historic Lyndon Baines Johnson room of the US Capitol to honor Senators Pete V. Domenici, R-N.M., and Tom Harkin, D-IA, for their dedication to the principle of equal justice under law.
Senator Domenici is a long-time supporter of LSC. He led the bipartisan effort to save LSC from elimination in the mid-90's and has supported increased funding for legal aid ever since. "To underfund LSC, limiting the number of Americans served, is to deny justice to underprivileged persons in need," said Domenici in a 2007 press release.
As a former legal aid lawyer, Senator Harkin has first-hand knowledge of the meaningful difference that civil legal programs can make in the lives of low-income Americans. He brings that knowledge to the Senate floor, where he never fails to champion increases and defend the budget of LSC. "LSC puts the justice' in equal justice,'" said Harkin in his acceptance speech.
Senators Ted Stevens, R-AK, and Thad Cochran, R-Miss., Ranking Member of the Appropriations Committee, were in attendance to honor their colleagues. Representatives from LSC-funded legal aid programs also attended, along with advocates from organizations like the American Bar Association and the National Legal Aid and Defender Association.
Click here to see photos from the event.
LSC's Board of Directors met at LSC headquarters in Washington, D.C., on January 25-26.
Highlights from the meeting include the Board's decision to establish an ad hoc committee to address issues contained in the recent Government Accountability Office report on Grants Management and Oversight. The Board also announced that it had made an offer to a candidate for the job of Inspector General.
The meeting began with a series of presentations by LSC staff on a variety of LSC initiatives, including an evaluation of the Technology Initiative Grant program, the development of a minimum technology standard for LSC-funded programs, the service delivery and funding issues of Native American legal services programs, and the legal needs of veterans.
The Provision for the Delivery of Legal Services Committee heard an additional series of staff presentations, on LSC's Private Attorney Involvement Initiative, the final report from the Leadership Mentoring Pilot Project, and an evaluation of the first year of LSC's Pilot Loan Repayment Assistance Program.
The Operations and Regulations Committee heard a presentation on LSC's complaint investigation process, the need for additional sanctions to discipline non-compliant LSC-funded programs, and had an extensive discussion on a proposed code of ethics and conduct for LSC Board members and employees.
The Finance Committee heard presentations on LSC's annual financial audit for FY 2007, the outcome of the FY 2008 appropriations process, and the establishment of an audit committee of the LSC Board. The committee also adopted a consolidated operating budget for FY 2008.
Click here for more information about LSC's Board of Directors.
LSC hosted its 8th Annual Technology Initiative Grant (TIG) Conference in Austin, Texas, from January 31 through February 2.
Prior to the conference, LSC and the State Justice Institute (SJI) hosted a two-day training on creating plain language forms. Twenty-five people from 19 jurisdictions, including Guam, attended to learn how to create court forms using plain language. The training was led by Maria Mindlin, CEO of Transcend, a language consulting firm.
Highlights from this year's conference, which set a record for attendance, included a Return On Investment session led by Beth Kanter, an expert on non-profits and technology, who discussed ways that legal aid programs can gauge the cost/benefit ratio of technology investments. Ben Baumann from Isovera, an internet consulting firm for non-profits, and Liz Keith from Pro Bono Net discussed ways that legal aid programs can measure and improve the impact of their websites. Rick Borstein of Adobe Systems demonstrated how lawyers can use Adobe Acrobat to increase efficiency. Craig D. Ball, a certified computer forensics examiner, discussed how computer forensics and e-discovery can be used to make the case. Cynthia Martinez from the LSC-funded Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA) discussed how her program's new blog is generating media attention and helping to spread TRLA's message. Judy Wilson from the LSC-funded Northwestern Legal Services led a session on how she used evidence from the social networking web site MySPace.com to win a child custody case.
Staff from the Legal Services National Technology Assistance Project covered many conference sessions on the organization's blog, which is available here: http://lsntap.org/&q=blog. According to one blogger, LSC's TIG Conference "has become THE technology conference for the poverty law community...The conference is chock full o' sessions that are direct[ly] relevant to doing technology in the poverty law community."
LSC is currently compiling materials from the conference to make available on the Technology Initiative Grant website: www.tig.lsc.gov.
On January 29, LSC Board Chairman Frank B. Strickland received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the State Bar of Georgia and the Chief Justice's Commission on Professionalism.
The award--the highest recognition given by the two groups--honors lawyers who have demonstrated an extraordinarily long and distinguished commitment to volunteer participation in the community throughout their legal career.
Left to right: W. Seaborn Jones, Owen Gleaton, Egan, Jones & Sweeney; Avarita L. Hanson, Executive Director of the Chief Justice's Commission on Professionalism; Frank B. Strickland, LSC Board Chairman; Justice Robert Benham, Supreme Court of Georgia; Patrise M. Perkins-Hooker, Hollowell Foster & Gepp.
Strickland's dedication to equal access to justice spans his entire legal career. In the mid-80's, as President of the Atlanta Bar Association, he led the effort to recruit over 400 volunteer lawyers to represent over 800 Cubans detained in Federal prison after arriving in the U.S. as part of the Mariel Boatlift. Strickland has also served as director and member of the executive committee of the Georgia Legal Services Program and a director of the Atlanta Legal Aid Society, in addition to serving in leadership positions on numerous other civic organizations.
In regards to his service at the helm of LSC's Board, Kenneth L. Shigley of the Atlanta-based Shigley Law Firm, who nominated Strickland, said, "As a result of Frank's hard work, total dedication and outstanding leadership, LSC has received bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress. As the Chair, Frank contributes an extraordinary amount of time and effort in working with Congress to achieve support for legal services for the poor nationwide--a course that has not always been popular with friends and peers."
Click here for Frank Strickland's full biography.
LSC's Office of Program Performance (OPP) is seeking consultants to assist with on-site evaluations of LSC-funded programs.
Duties include conducting preparation work prior to the visit, five working days at the grantee's offices interviewing staff, working with OPP staff to plan the exit conference, and transcribing interviews and other document preparation following the visit.
Interested persons must have at least five years of experience with a legal aid or similar program as a lawyer, paralegal, or program administrator, must be thoroughly conversant with LSC's Performance Criteria, and have expertise or experience in one or more of the areas listed on the application form (see link below).
If interested, submit an application and rsum to John Eidleman, Senior Program Counsel, at OPPconsultants@lsc.gov.
Click here to download the cover letter and application form.
LSC has issued its income eligibility guidelines for 2008, which establish maximum income levels for individuals and families to be eligible for LSC-funded services. LSC's guidelines are based on 125 percent of the federal poverty level as established by the US Department of Health and Human Services.
LSC has also published a chart listing income levels that are 200 percent of the federal poverty guidelines, to help LSC-funded programs assess income eligibility in certain limited cases.
Click here to download the full notice from the Federal Register. ( 48k)
The Boards of Directors of four more LSC-funded programs have adopted resolutions aimed at increasing the involvement of private attorneys in the delivery of legal services to their clients, bringing to 76 the total number of programs who have adopted such resolutions. The four programs are:
- Atlanta Legal Aid Society (Ga.)
- Legal Services of North Dakota
- Legal Services of the Virgin Islands
- North Penn Legal Services (Pa.)
LSC is encouraging all program Boards of Directors to adopt pro bono resolutions modeled after one adopted by LSC's Board in April 2007. Urging programs to adopt local resolutions is a key element of LSC's private attorney involvement action plan, entitled "Help Close the Justice Gap, Unleash the Power of Pro Bono."
Click here for the list of LSC-funded programs that have adopted pro bono resolutions.
Press Release, Legal Aid of Western Missouri – January 29, 2008
Richard "Dick" Halliburton, Executive Director of Legal Aid of Western Missouri (LAWMO), has announced his plans to retire from that position on February 29, 2008. Halliburton has been Executive Director of LAWMO since 1987. He joined LAWMO in 1970, and between 1970 and 1987 he served the organization as staff attorney, litigation director, managing attorney, associate director and deputy executive director.
LAWMO Board of Trustees, led by its President Lajuana Counts, has initiated a national search to fill Halliburton's position. "I am confident we will find a great person to succeed Dick as Executive Director," says Counts. "But we will never be able to replace him. Thanks to Dick's energy, vision, leadership, and integrity, the next Executive Director will inherit an outstanding, dynamic organization."
Click here to download the application for LAWMO Executive Director. ( 22k)
Hulett H. "Bucky" Askew, former LSC Board Member and staff person, has been selected by Emory Law School and the Emory Public Interest Committee (EPIC) to receive its Lifetime Commitment to Public Service Award.
Askew, an Emory Law School alumnus from 1967, was appointed to LSC's Board of Directors by President Clinton and served for nine years. He previously served as Director for a predecessor to LSC's Office of Program Performance, and served as a Deputy Regional Director for Legal Services in the Office of Economic Opportunity prior to the creation of LSC. Askew also led the civil division of the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, co-chaired the State Bar of Georgia's Access to Justice Committee, and directed the Georgia Bar's admissions office.
Askew will receive the award on February 12, at the Twelfth Annual EPIC Inspiration Awards Ceremony at the Emory School of Law.
Mike Monahan, State Bar of Georgia Pro Bono Program – January 28, 2008
The Mercer University Walter F. George School of Law has announced that it has selected Tomieka Daniel as the first recipient of its Law and Public Service Program Award for Outstanding Public Service by a Recent Graduate. The award recognizes recent Mercer graduates whose professional contributions reflect an ethic of public service.
Ms. Daniel is the Manufactured Housing Fellow for Georgia Legal Services Program. Daniel is piloting a new legal services project that addresses legal issues connected with manufactured housing in Georgia. The innovative project is funded by a national competitive grant award from the National Legal Aid and Defender Association and the National Consumer Law Center.
Daniel will be presented with the award on Thursday, February 28, 2008 at the Law School's Public Interest Show Case Benefit Concert.
Click here to read the article in its entirety.
Legal aid is about helping ordinary people with real-life problems. Client stories illustrate the day-to-day struggles-and victories-of poor Americans seeking justice under law.
Slumlord Forced to Make Repairs
The apartment building on East 21st street, near the University of Southern California, "was never particularly nice," according to long-time resident Maria Jimenez, quoted by the Los Angeles Times. When she moved into the building in the mid-80's, the building was home to drug dealers, drug users, and served as an office for at least one prostitute. Tenants were forced to share kitchens and bathrooms. Still, for $200 a month she and other residents were willing to call it home.
The building did not become completely unlivable until a new landlord, Joon Ho Lee, bought the building in 2005. Seeking to capitalize on the rising property values in the neighborhood, Lee began a campaign of destruction aimed at forcing the tenants out to make way for higher-paying residents. He ripped pipes out of the wall. He stripped off the building's faade. He removed windows, cut phone lines, allowed gas and water services to function intermittently.
Enough was enough. The tenants banded together and enlisted the help of Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA) attorney Tai Glenn, Michelle Manzo from McDermott Will & Emery, and a tenant-rights group, and took Lee to court. On January 18, 2008, Lee pleaded no-contest to 10 criminal counts. He was placed on probation for three years, ordered to repair the building within a year, perform 200 hours of community service, undergo property management training, and contribute $20,000 to an approved charity. Lee also has to pay relocation expenses for the tenants while he makes repairs to the building.
"It's not often we are able to send that message, that being a slumlord is not OK," Glenn told the Los Angeles Times.