LSC Updates - January 10, 2008

Temporary Forestry Workers Now Eligible for LSC-Funded Legal Services

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LSC-funded legal services programs can now provide limited representation to temporary forestry workers, according to a provision in the recently enacted FY 2008 omnibus appropriations act (H.R. 2764).

The provision allows LSC-funded programs to represent non-citizens legally employed in the U.S. as temporary forestry workers under the "H2B" visa program. The representation provided must be in regards to wages, housing, transportation, or other issues specifically relating to the terms of the workers' employment contracts.

Senator Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., introduced the measure as an amendment to the spending bill containing LSC's appropriation in October 2007. Speaking on the Senate floor in May 2006 about a hearing on the issue, Bingaman said, "We heard that making H-2B forestry workers eligible for legal aid is the single most effective thing Congress could do to address the problem of exploitation of forestry workers."

In November 2005, California's Sacramento Bee published an award-winning series of articles on the plight of temporary forestry workers. The series detailed a range of abuses including sub-standard living conditions, low wages, horrific injuries, and more.

To read "The Pineros: Men of the Pines," from the Sacramento Bee, click here.

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LSC's Google AdWords Campaign

Screenshot of LSC's Google AdWords campaign in action. Screenshot of LSC's Google AdWords campaign in action.

Thanks to a generous grant from Google, the popular search engine company, LSC has free ad space to help internet users access valuable legal education materials and find LSC-funded legal services programs in their communities.

Google users searching for terms like "free legal aid" will see ads designed by LSC at the top of the search results page. When clicked, the ads bring users to a page on LSC's web site with a map of the U.S. containing links to legal assistance web sites in every state and territory. The web sites contain valuable legal information and resources, and allow users to quickly identify the LSC-funded legal services programs in their communities.

Since the campaign began in April 2007, LSC's ads have appeared 4 million times and been clicked 124,000 times. This campaign has created a very significant opportunity for LSC to raise public awareness of its programs nationwide.

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LSC Issues Guidance for Establishing Leadership Mentoring Activities

On December 31, 2007, LSC issued its Leadership Mentoring Pilot Program Report and guidance to all LSC-funded programs.

LSC implemented its Pilot Program to determine the elements of a leadership mentoring program that are most likely to support the development of a diverse corps of well-trained future leaders for the legal services community. The report provides guidance to help LSC-funded programs replicate LSC's Pilot Program or develop their own leadership mentoring activities.

When LSC began to develop its leadership mentoring initiative in 2004, more than 40 percent of Executive Directors of LSC-funded programs had been in their positions for longer than 25 years. There were 114 male and 45 female directors. These realities illustrated the need to plan for deliberate leadership development and transition.

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LSC Issues Guidance for Enhanced Private Attorney Involvement

LSC has issued guidance to all its grantees on increasing the involvement of private attorneys in the delivery of legal services to their clients.

Program Letter 07-2, issued on December 20, contains detailed discussions of innovative strategies and valuable resources LSC-funded programs can use to enlist private attorneys--whether in large law firms, corporate legal departments, small firms, solo offices, or law school students and members of state and local judiciaries and bar associations--in the delivery of legal services to their clients. The letter also contains examples of successful pro bono partnerships already in place at LSC-funded programs throughout the country.

The Program Letter is the latest product resulting from LSC's focus on enhancing private attorney involvement with LSC-funded programs. In January 2007, LSC's Board of Directors adopted an action plan prepared by LSC staff entitled "Help Close the Justice Gap, Unleash the Power of Pro Bono." Three months later, LSC's Board adopted a resolution urging LSC-funded programs to increase their efforts to recruit pro bono attorneys, and committing itself to promote, encourage, and support private attorney involvement initiatives.

To download the program letter, click here.

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Five More LSC-Funded Programs Adopt Pro Bono Resolutions

The Boards of Directors of five 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 69 the total number of programs who have adopted such resolutions. The five programs are:

  • Indiana Legal Services
  • Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles
  • Legal Aid of Western Ohio
  • Lone Star Legal Aid
  • South Carolina Legal Services

Currently, half of all LSC-funded programs have adopted pro bono resolutions. There are approximately 24 states in which all LSC-funded programs have adopted resolutions.

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."

For a complete list of LSC-funded programs who have adopted pro bono resolutions, click here.

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LSC in the News

New Rules To Improve Funding for Legal Services Alabama

Change Comes as Staff Cuts Loom

Alabama's State Bar and Supreme Court have recently approved changes to the state's Interest on Lawyer Trust Account (IOLTA) program that should improve funding for the LSC-funded Legal Services Alabama.

Under the new rules, the interest earned on client funds held in trust by attorneys must be directed to organizations providing legal services to low-income clients. Previously, it was not required that the money be spent for that purpose. Also, banks will now have to pay interest rates on IOLTA accounts similar to rates on accounts of comparable size. Sam Crosby, President of the Alabama Bar told the Press-Register that he expects the new rules to generate "millions and millions in the future for civil legal services to the poor."

This news comes as Legal Services Alabama (LSA) contemplates layoffs as a result of funding shortages. According to another Press-Register article, LSA has lost 15 staff positions recently as a result of layoffs. Jimmy Fry, LSA Executive Director, told the Press-Register that more layoffs would be necessary if their funding situation did not improve.

"We have cut about everywhere we can cut," said Fry. "Staff is not where you want to cut, but we have got to be able to pay people."

Click to read "Legal assistance for state's poor receives boost," and "Cash crisis shrinks staff, threatens help for low-income clients," in Alabama's Press-Register.

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Legal Aid of W. Va. To Help Parents of Emotionally Disturbed Children

Kimberly Beary, WBOY-TV (W.Va.) – January 8, 2008

Legal Aid of West Virginia unveil[ed] a program [January 8] in which children with behavioral and emotional health disorders can get legal help fast.

The new program is called FAST. It's an acronym for Family Advocacy, Support Training.

The program is designed to help parents and guardians of children with behavioral and emotional health disorders advocate for their children.

One parent says the program has helped his children get out of a horrible situation.

"I really can't say enough about these guys. They give with their hearts. They've reached into their own pockets, they take their own time, they do this because they care," Scott Lavigne of Dunbar said following the announcement.

To read the article in its entirety, click here.

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Legal Aid Society of Mid-New York Selects New Executive Director

Paul J. Lupia, new Executive Director of the Legal Aid Society of Mid-New York. Paul J. Lupia, new Executive Director of the Legal Aid Society of Mid-New York.

Paul J. Lupia has been selected as the new Executive Director of the Legal Aid Society of Mid-New York (LASMNY). He assumes the helm following the departure of Robert Salzman, retiring after more than 30 years of leadership.

"Paul's background, history with the organization and obvious commitment to the ideals and goals of legal services for the poor, elderly and disabled make him the perfect choice to head the organization," said David M. Hayes, President of LASMNY. "I know we made the right choice and I am certain that the organization has a bright future under Paul's leadership."

A graduate of Hobart College and Case Western Reserve University School of Law, Mr. Lupia was a Legal Aid Society of Mid-New York staff attorney from 1980 to 2004, where his case work included family, consumer, education, housing, health, civil rights and disability-related issues.

About the new position, Lupia says, "In his last three years the organization has faced the difficult challenge of reconfiguration and unifying former offices and staff of three diverse programs over a large geographic area. Now we have a balanced $4 million budget, the Central New York Legal HelpLine is in place, and we have a strong Managing Attorney team stretching across office lines. It is an exciting time to be the Executive Director of the Legal Aid Society of Mid-New York."

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Legal Services of North Florida Pro Bono Partner Honored

The Florida Bar has selected the Tallahassee City Attorney's Office to receive the 2008 Law Firm Commendation, an award honoring significant contributions to the delivery of pro bono legal services.

Attorneys in the office have provided organized pro bono legal services through Legal Services of North Florida (LSNF). The attorneys staff the LSNF telephone legal advice hotline for one week each month and provide support for the LSNF legal intake night clinic at least once each quarter of the year. In total, attorneys from the city attorney's office have provided more than 5,000 hours of pro bono services in support of LSNF.

An example of a case handled by one of the pro bono attorneys involved the mother of a soldier stationed in Iraq. She was being harassed by a creditor regarding money owed by her son. The creditor implied that she could be arrested for her son's debt. The attorney resolved the matter, ending the harassment without litigation.

For more information, click here.

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Iowa Legal Aid Celebrates Thirty Years In Operation

Associated Press – January 7, 2008

Ten years ago, Cathy Soto lived in fear.

An on-again-off-again boyfriend of two years was having trouble taking no for an answer. She tried to break up with him after an argument during which, she says, he choked her with a phone cord. But he wouldn't go away.

"He was threatening me," she said. "Sometimes he'd just show up and try to get back together."

Then a single mother, she didn't know where to turn for help, but decided to contact Iowa Legal Aid's office in Waterloo. Within days, staff members helped her set up a restraining order and told her how to strengthen the order when the man discovered a loophole.

"I found that they were really helpful," said Soto.

This year Iowa Legal Aid is celebrating its 30th anniversary, and Soto serves on local and state boards for the agency.

Each year, thousands of people are assisted by Iowa Legal Aid, an agency charged with guiding people with limited means through civil and family courts.

People who are charged with crimes are entitled to state-sponsored legal assistance if they can't afford a lawyer. But no such guarantee exists for people caught in civil proceedings or who need an attorney to assert their rights in areas such as housing, employment, health care and child custody.

Iowa Legal Aid attempts to bridge that gap. Across the state, the program helped more than 37,500 people during 2006. Still, the agency turned away thousands because of shortfalls in staffing and funding.

To read the article in its entirety, click here.

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Kansas Legal Services: Success By Numbers

In the tradition of end-of-the-year lists--biggest news stories, best movies, memorable quotes--Kansas Legal Services has compiled the following statistics to highlight their important achievements in 2007. Here is a mere glimpse into the range of work completed by the program on behalf of the state's low-income.

  • 9,355 clients received timely legal advice as they faced family law, housing or consumer related crises in their lives
  • 1,458 victims of domestic violence obtained Protection From Abuse orders through the representation of a KLS advocate
  • 631 parents received child support orders benefiting 984 children in divorce and paternity cases filed by KLS staff
  • 170 families got a fresh financial start from a bankruptcy filed by KLS offices
  • 1,622 hours of legal services provided at no cost to 116 clients from private attorneys partnering with KLS

For more information about Kansas Legal Services, click here.

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Success Story from the Legal Aid Foundatoin of Metropolitan Chicago

(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.)

Guardianship Granted, Eviction Prevented

The Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago recently helped a woman secure guardianship of her nine-year-old sister following the death of their mother, forestalling the young girl's eviction from her subsidized apartment. This is their story.

Twenty-seven-year-old Lianka was living on her own when her mother suddenly died in October 2007. She decided to move into her mother's subsidized apartment to care for her nine-year-old sister Lorrie. Lianka was still unpacking when the landlord presented Lorrie with an eviction notice, saying she could no longer stay in the apartment because her mother, the leaseholder, had died.

The sisters buried their mother and then met with the landlord to straighten things out. He was adamant: Lorrie had to be evicted. Even though the Department of Housing and Urban Affairs (HUD) had a rule that any adult family member could keep a subsidized apartment after the leaseholder died, the landlord insisted that the rule did not apply when the surviving family member was a child.

The landlord's position made no sense to Lianka, and she could not afford to provide for her sister without the housing subsidy. Desperate and afraid they would both become homeless, Lianka turned to LAF for help. LAF attorneys Nareen Kim, Charlie Petrof, and Richard Wheelock swung into action. They got Lianka named Lorrie's temporary guardian, but still the landlord would not budge.

Several weeks later, the landlord came to the apartment demanding to know when Lorrie and Lianka were moving. Lianka replied that she and her sister were trying to stay. His response to Lianka was, "I'll see that child living on the streets!"

On December 18, LAF filed suit in federal court on the grounds that the landlord was misinterpreting the HUD rule. On December 19, the judge granted a temporary restraining order to keep Lorrie from being evicted, and scheduled a full hearing for December 21. On December 20, the landlord gave in, agreeing to let Lorrie stay in the apartment and Lianka to apply to take over the lease.

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