LSC Updates - January 8, 2010
President Obama has nominated three individuals to serve on the Board of Directors of the Legal Services Corporation. The nominees are: Sharon L. Browne, an attorney with the Pacific Legal Foundation of Sacramento, California; Charles Norman Wiltse Keckler, a professor at Pennsylvania State University's Dickinson School of Law; and Victor B. Maddox, a partner in the Kentucky law firm of Fultz Maddox Hovious & Dickens PLC.
Sharon L. Browne ( 242k) is a principal attorney in the Pacific Legal Foundation's Individual Rights Practice Group. She joined the foundation as a staff attorney in 1985 after graduating from law school. She left the foundation in 1991 to serve as a senior trial attorney with the law firm of Zumbrun, Best & Findley, and returned to the foundation in 1995. She has also served as an adjunct professor at the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law, where she received her law degree, and is currently serving on the California Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and the Executive Committee for the Federalist Society's Civil Rights Practice Group.
Charles Norman Wiltse Keckler is a visiting assistant professor at the Pennsylvania State University's Dickinson School of Law, where he teaches civil procedure and evidence. From 2007 to 2009 he served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Senior Adviser at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families. Prior to that, he taught civil procedure and comparative law for two years at the George Mason University School of Law in Virginia. He has also been an appellate and trial litigator for the Chicago law firm of Mayer Brown, and clerked for a judge on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Victor B. Maddox is a partner in the Louisville, Ky., law firm of Fultz Maddox Hovious & Dickens PLC, where he has worked since 1995. His practice focuses on commercial and constitutional trials, appeals, and arbitrations. Prior to joining the firm, he was a partner with Brown, Todd & Heyburn, one of Kentucky's largest law firms. He has also served as a trial attorney for the Civil Division Commercial Litigation Branch at the U.S. Department of Justice and as counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on behalf of Sen. Mitch McConnell. He earned his law degree from Indiana University, Bloomington in 1981.
The Board of Directors of the Legal Services Corporation selected Victor M. Fortuno to be Interim President of LSC on Dec. 22, 2009. His appointment became effective on Jan. 1, 2010. He succeeds Helaine M. Barnett, who stepped down on Dec. 31, 2009.
Mr. Fortuno currently serves as Vice President for Legal Affairs, General Counsel & Corporate Secretary at LSC and, other than taking a temporary leave from the office of Corporate Secretary, he will remain in those positions concurrent with his service as Interim President.
In announcing the appointment, Frank B. Strickland, Chairman of the Board of Directors, said, "Vic brings a wealth of experience at LSC to this position and we are confident in his leadership during this interim period." Mr. Fortuno will remain in the position until either another interim or a new President is named by the Board of Directors.
In a memo to the executive directors of LSC's grantees, Mr. Fortuno said, "It is both an honor and a privilege to take on this additional responsibility. My career began as a legal aid attorney at Community Legal Services in Philadelphia, which was then an LSC grantee, and I have always considered the delivery of high-quality, free legal services for those who cannot afford it a touchstone of our system of justice and a hallmark of LSC and our grantees."
Patricia D. Batie has been appointed Acting Corporate Secretary of the Legal Services Corporation. In this capacity she will be primarily responsible for supporting the activities of LSC's Board of Directors.
Ms. Batie currently serves as the Corporation's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Officer and Manager of Board Operations. She previously served as Manager of LSC's former Audit Division from 1987 to 1991 and as LSC Corporate Secretary from 1991 to 1995, after which she left LSC to work as a business manager for National Public Radio. She returned to LSC in 2002 to manage LSC's FOIA responsibilities and became Manager of Board Operations in 2004.
The Justice Gap. Quality Initiative. Increased Funding.
These are among the projects and themes discussed in "Reflections on My Six Years as President of the Legal Services Corporation," by Helaine M. Barnett, who stepped down as LSC president at the end of 2009 and is the longest serving president in the history of the Corporation.
In the paper, the former LSC president writes that the improvements in the delivery of civil legal services to low-income Americans were made possible by the hard work and dedication of everyone in the LSC community, including the Corporation's Board of Directors and the executive directors at 137 nonprofit programs that receive funding from LSC.
Ms. Barnett notes that "we are fortunate to enjoy strong bipartisan Congressional support for LSC." During her tenure, she writes, the LSC appropriation rose from $326 million to $420 million-a 29 percent increase.
"LSC's challenges in meeting the huge civil legal needs of eligible Americans have always been formidable, but have been made more acute by the current recession," Ms. Barnett writes. She adds, "By providing the assistance that can prevent foreclosure and eviction, LSC-funded programs save lives and taxpayer dollars by averting more costly interventions by state and local social services and public assistance agencies, a safety net that is under great strain due to the dire financial conditions of many state and local governments."
Ms. Barnett's "Reflections" was recently sent to the LSC Board, staff and leaders in the equal access to justice community.
More than 150 technology experts, advocates, administrators and others interested in using technology to improve the delivery of legal services will gather in Austin, Texas, from January 13-15 for LSC's 10th Annual Technology Initiative Grant (TIG) Conference.
The sold-out TIG Conference will include 24 sessions organized into tracks for technology staff, administrators, lawyers, and website/document assembly coordinators. Click here to download the full agenda and schedule of sessions. Anyone who is unable to attend the conference can watch live webcasts of the sessions courtesy of Illinois Legal Aid Online.
This year, LSC is partnering with the Management Information Exchange, which is holding its Administrators Conference in Austin on January 12 and 13, to facilitate collaborative sessions for legal services administrators. The Self-Represented Litigation Network is also holding its Training on Public Libraries and Access to Justice in connection with the TIG Conference. The training is co-sponsored by LSC and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The Board of Directors of the Philadelphia Legal Assistance Center has adopted a resolution aimed at increasing the involvement of private attorneys in the delivery of legal services to their clients, bringing to 108 the total number of programs who have adopted such 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."
John T. Broderick Jr., chief justice of New Hampshire and a former LSC Board member, and Ronald M. George, the chief justice of California, authored an op-ed article published in the January 2, 2010, New York Times that called for enhanced efforts to close the justice gap.
"As the economy has worsened, the ranks of the self-represented poor have expanded," they wrote, adding that "as judges, we believe more needs to be done to meet this growing challenge: an inaccessible, overburdened justice system serves none of us well."
Members of the legal profession can help meet the challenge of ensuring equal justice for unrepresented litigants through innovative solutions, such as "unbundling" legal services and providing self-help websites, online assistance programs and court self-help centers, they wrote.
To read their article, "A Nation of Do-It-Yourself Lawyers," click here.
The National Association of Law Placement (NALP) is conducting a survey of public interest and government law offices to gather data on attorney salaries, benefits packages and loan repayment assistance programs.
In past years, the data collected for this survey has shown that the average starting salary for civil legal aid lawyers is the lowest in the legal profession, both in the private and public sector. According to NALP, public interest groups have also used the data to adjust salary scales, advocate for expanded loan repayment assistance programs and more.
Hard copies of the survey will be mailed to public interest groups in late January. The survey will also be available online. Participants will receive a free electronic copy of the report containing the survey's results when it is published later this year.
For more information, contact Steve Grumm, NALP's Director of Public Service Initiatives, at email@example.com or (202) 296-0057.
Learn more about NALP at: www.nalp.org.
Press Release, New York State Bar Association – January 4, 2010
As the New York State Legislature and Congress prepare for their respective 2010 legislative sessions, the State Bar Association today called on state and federal lawmakers to provide greater access to the justice system for the indigent, to protect the independence of the judiciary, to ensure that equal legal rights are afforded to same-sex couples, and to enhance the support of the legal profession, according to President Michael E. Getnick (Getnick Livingston Atkinson & Priore, LLP of Utica and of counsel to Getnick & Getnick of New York City).
"Advocating on behalf of the public and the legal profession remains a core mission of the State Bar," said President Getnick. "These difficult economic times make it all the more imperative that we do everything possible to ensure that each citizen obtains equal access to our justice system. In speaking out on these and other important state and federal issues, we are fulfilling our role as the chief proponent of the rule of law, promoting legal reform and facilitating the due administration of justice."
Andrew Wolfson, The Courier-Journal (KY) – December 28, 2009
Twenty-two years after it was recommended by the American Bar Association, Kentucky [in January] will finally make it mandatory for lawyers to participate in a banking program that raises money for legal aid to the poor.
Under what are known as IOLTA-Interest on Lawyers' Trust Accounts-the interest generated by small sums of clients' money, which lawyers frequently hold for brief periods, will be pooled statewide and used for public-interest projects.
Before IOLTA, lawyers put such money into bank accounts that earned no interest because lawyers are barred from earning interest on their clients' money and because the few pennies the client would earn would be offset by postage and accounting costs.
The Kentucky Supreme Court approved a lawyers' trust account program in 1986, with voluntary participation by lawyers. Five years later, it made lawyers "opt out" of it, but the court resisted making it mandatory until now.
Forty other states require mandatory participation.
Proponents of legal aid hope making participation mandatory in Kentucky will increase IOLTA contributions for the state's four legal-services programs, which have plummeted from $1.1million a few years ago to $400,000 last year because of declining interest rates.
Jeffrey Been, executive director of the Legal Aid Society of Louisville, also said a new rule requiring banks to pay the same interest on lawyers' trust accounts as other accounts will increase revenue.
"In a word, we are hopeful," Been said.
Washington Post – Dec. 28, 2009
The unemployment rate in Ward 8 stands at 28.3 percent, according to the District's Department of Employment Services. In Ward 7, 19.5 percent are jobless; in Ward 5, more than 15 percent.
These are tough times for many, but they are particularly hard on those who, like many residents of these economically challenged wards, were already hurting before the housing and economic collapse. These are people who often turn to legal aid lawyers for help in securing food stamps, housing assistance and unemployment benefits. While criminal defendants are guaranteed a lawyer, those with civil issues do not have the same right and either must pay for their own lawyers or, if unable to do so, rely on legal aid organizations.
Yet, as The Post's Mary Pat Flaherty reports, legal aid groups in the region are suffering. Entire offices have been shuttered. Lawyers and staff have been laid off. According to a recent report by the D.C. Access to Justice Commission and the D.C. Consortium of Legal Services Providers, "Programs report losing more than 25% in revenue and have shed approximately 12.5% of their lawyers and nearly 40% of non-lawyer staff, including paralegals, social workers, case managers and administrative support." The report concludes that "as a result of these staff cuts, thousands of District residents who need legal help did not get served."
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.
Veteran No Longer Homeless Thanks to Equal Justice Works Fellow
Audrey Parente, Daytona Beach News – Jan. 5, 2010
Many homeless veterans benefits are available, but navigating government programs often can seem overwhelming, even for a tough former Marine like Elbert "Bernard" Sipp.
In matching those with need to available resources, some like Sipp slip between the cracks.
The 53-year-old Daytona Beach man is among the one-fourth of all adult homeless men who have served their country in the military, and the 97 percent of single homeless male vets suffering from substance abuse problems and emotional disorders.
Recently he got free help from a young attorney who hopes to pluck veterans out of the cracks.
His daughter suggested Sipp meet with Shelly Campbell, a 29-year-old recent graduate of Barry University of Orlando she had met through a friend. Campbell is operating through Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida on an Equal Justice Works Fellowship.
"The fellowship is designed to meet unmet needs of veterans who have fallen through the cracks," Campbell said. She applied for the grant while still in college.
"My goal was to somehow get involved with veterans. There are a lot of homeless veterans out there with (post-traumatic stress disorder), which they are very aware of and are addressing now, but they didn't always address it," said Campbell. Before entering law school, she worked as a patient care planner for an AIDS non-profit group, determining how grants could be best used.
Campbell said the Equal Justice Works Fellowship provides $39,000 over two years, and matching funds from two contributors-$19,500 from the law firm Cobb Cole of Daytona Beach and $19,500 from the Florida Bar Foundation.
The extra guidance from Campbell worked for Sipp, who recently achieved interim housing and is on a path toward stabilizing his life.
"A lot of people don't know how hard it is to get a benefit or to find somebody who can help get benefits," Sipp said.