LSC Updates - March 8, 2006
Florentino "Lico" Subia, a member of the Board of Directors of the Legal Services Corporation since 2003, died March 5 in El Paso, Texas, where he made his home. It was his 75th birthday.
Appointed to the LSC board by President George W. Bush, Mr. Subia was known for his dedication to motorcycles and good deeds. In 1978, he combined the two by founding the Iron Horses Motorcycle Club. It raised money for local charities such as the Reach for the Stars Foundation, which helps individuals with cystic fibrosis and their families.
LSC President Helaine M. Barnett said, "Lico's heart was as big as the open roads he loved to travel on his motorcycles. He had an abundance of common sense as well. I know that I speak for the entire legal services community when I say he will be missed."
Mr. Subia is survived by his wife, Mickie Subia, and four children: Cheryl, Alex, Theresa and Ricardo. He was also a grandfather and great-grandfather. Mr. Subia will be buried at the Fort Bliss Cemetery in El Paso, Texas.
On March 2, United States Representative Artur Davis (D-AL) visited LSC's headquarters in Washington, D.C., to deliver a keynote speech as part of LSC's annual Black History Month Celebration. Following the theme of this year's event, "Knowing Our Past...Seizing Our Future," Rep. Davis spoke about the important role legal services played, and will continue to play, in America's civil rights movement. He affirmed that members of the legal services community are "modern day civil rights activists" whose "constant challenge is to make sure that the practice [of law] lives up to the theory...so when we pronounce that we are a government of, for and by the people, there is a real meaning to it."
As part of LSC's Black History Month Celebration, Vice President Karen J. Sarjeant and other staff visited two local public schools to share with the students their experiences working in the equal justice community. The staff discussed the variety of ways they each contribute to securing equal access to justice for low-income Americans, their diverse career paths, and the challenges and successes they experienced along the way. The staff wanted to show the students all the different ways one could contribute to such an important mission. The students were then asked to read brief summaries of the lives of prominent African-Americans, and then write their own life stories discussing how the lessons they have learned so far will help them formulate plans for the future.
LSC President Helaine M. Barnett Addresses Southeast Project Directors Association; Tours Center for Arkansas Legal Services
On February 28, LSC President Helaine M. Barnett spoke in Little Rock, Arkansas, at the winter meeting of the Southeast Project Directors Association. Ms. Barnett spoke about LSC's Justice Gap report, which highlights the huge gap in unmet civil legal needs for low-income Americans, and how LSC's budget would have to be substantially increased over the next few years in light of these findings. Ms. Barnett also spoke about LSC's primary strategic goals for the next five years, which include increasing public awareness of the work of LSC-funded programs and enhancing the quality of services delivered to clients, among others. As part of LSC's focus on quality, Ms. Barnett discussed the progress and scope of LSC's revised Performance Criteria. The results of this effort are expected to be released this April.
Ms. Barnett then visited the Center for Arkansas Legal Services to hear from staff about their work, innovative projects like their statewide legal assistance website and toll-free telephone hotline, and their pro bono program. Ms. Barnett thanked the Center's staff for their dedication and hard work in helping to bring about a more just and equitable society.
The American Bar Association's (ABA) Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants (SCLAID) is requesting public comment on the Proposed Revisions to the ABA Standards for Providers of Civil Legal Services to the Poor.
The Standards Revision Task force will be grateful for your input on this important project and believes that the resulting product will be an important contribution to the delivery of high quality, effective legal services to low-income persons.
SCLAID hopes to present the revised Standards to the ABA House of Delegates for adoption at its annual meeting in August 2006.
The proposed Standards can be found at http://www.abanet.org/legalservices/sclaid/civilstandards.html. Comments are due March 24, 2006 and should be submitted to Terry Brooks at email@example.com or to John Tull at firstname.lastname@example.org.
LSC Updates Now Available as RSS Feed
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Want more? Check out LSC's homepage to access other information available via RSS. Just click on any of the orange "XML" buttons, and copy the web address into your news reader.
C. Lyonel Jones, a national leader in the equal justice community, passed away March 7 at the age of 72. Jones spent his entire legal career tirelessly working to secure equal access to justice for the poor, not just in Ohio, but throughout the country. For 40 years Jones worked at the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, leading the organization as Executive Director for 38 years. On the national level, Jones served as President of the National Legal Aid and Defender Association from 1979 to 1982, helping to lead the equal justice community through some uncertain times. He will be missed.
To learn more about the life and work of C. Lyonel Jones, visit the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland's website at: http://www.lasclev.org
Texas' Task Force on Indigent Defense, established by the state legislature in 2001 to facilitate cooperation between the state and local governments, has awarded Val Verde County, Texas a 4-year grant to establish the first regional public defender program in Texas. The County in turn has awarded a 3-year contract to Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA) to operate the indigent criminal defense system in four southwest Texas counties. The contract is a result of the Task Force's efforts to develop and promote high-quality local indigent criminal defense programs in rural communities. The Task Force will provide 80 percent of the funding for the first year, and the participating counties will provide the rest. Under the new contract, TRLA will handle the full gamut of criminal cases, including juvenile delinquency, misdemeanors, felonies, and capital felonies, although no death penalty cases will be accepted for the first two years.
Kansas City Daily Record (MO) - March 5, 2006
Lawyers and organizations providing legal assistance to the poor face unprecedented challenges from the impact of Hurricane Katrina, the new bankruptcy act, and the growing needs of immigrant clients. The demand for legal assistance in low- and moderate-income communities has exploded, while resources to support such services have not.
The 700 attendees of the 2006 Equal Justice Conference will discuss innovative ways to maximize legal services delivery to low- and moderate-income people. [To be] held March 30 - April 1 in Philadelphia, the conference will bring together pro bono and legal services program staff, judges, corporate counsel, private lawyers and others in the civil justice system. It is sponsored by the American Bar Association and the National Legal Aid & Defender Association.
"We are on the brink of perhaps the greatest legal services crisis in the history of our country," said ABA President Michael S. Greco. "The Equal Justice Conference provides indispensable help to lawyers on the front lines so that they in turn can more effectively provide legal services to the poor, disadvantaged and vulnerable among us."
"The Equal Justice Conference has long been a pivotal national forum for advocates who share critical skills and knowledge. With the destruction that hurricanes Katrina and Rita wreaked upon our community, this conference takes on even greater importance in the effort to provide legal representation to people who otherwise have no access to justice." said Jo-Ann Wallace, NLADA president and CEO.
The meeting will feature three keynote speakers: Greco, Judge Theodore A. McKee of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, and Rep. Chaka Fattah of Pennsylvania. The conference agenda is available at http://www.abanet.org/legalservices/ejc/home.html.
The Biloxi Sun Herald (MS) - March 6, 2006
Equal Justice Works has announced that 10 AmeriCorps attorneys and 65 law students will provide legal services to the Gulf Coast community thanks to a $298,075 grant from The Corporation for National and Community Service.
With this award, Equal Justice Works will administer two AmeriCorps programs: the Katrina Pro Bono Legal Corps (PBLC) and Katrina Summer Corps.
The AmeriCorps attorneys serving with the Katrina PBLC will be placed at nonprofit organizations to help the hundreds of thousands of people left without homes, jobs, access to health care and social services due to the damage from Hurricane Katrina. These attorneys will recruit hundreds of law students and lawyers to provide many types of disaster-related legal services to those affected by the hurricane.
Four AmeriCorps attorneys will be placed in Oxford, Jackson and Gulfport and will serve Mississippi Katrina victims statewide. Details: North Mississippi Rural Legal Services, www.nmrls.com or 1-888-808-8049.
Equal Justice Works will also add 65 positions to its Summer Corps program for law students who represent the nation's leading law schools. Summer Corps members will provide disaster-related legal services to low-income individuals, families and communities in the Gulf Coast region who would not otherwise have access to justice.
David Fitzgerald, Chicago Daily Law Bulletin - March 2, 2006
The Illinois Senate on Thursday approved legislation that would give unclaimed money from class-action lawsuits to charity--mostly legal aid groups.
"This bill deals with the situation where there is a fund created for class actions, it could either be through a settlement or a judgment, and what happens is sometimes the monies that are in that fund do not get totally distributed," said Sen. John J. Cullerton, a Chicago Democrat and the bill's sponsor.
The legislation is an initiative of The Chicago Bar Association. Senate Bill 2284 would redistribute up to 50 percent of residual funds, the result of unclaimed money in a class action common fund, to organizations that "have a principle purpose of promoting or providing access to the civil justice system for low-income residents."
The CBA wanted to ensure that the money would go directly to help people gain access to the courts and not to fund lobbyists or other ancillary actions, CBA legislative counselor Lawrence J. Suffredin Jr. said Thursday.
Vanessa Coln, The Fresno Bee (CA) - February 22, 2006
Parents of migrant children have sued the governor, the state and other agencies because they don't want $19.2 million of unspent migrant-education money diverted to underperforming schools.
Maria Medina, a Fresno County resident and one of the plaintiffs, said many migrant children, including her daughters, will miss out on services because they don't attend underperforming schools.
"It's strictly for migrant kids...It's supplemental funding," Medina said of the money. "It's to help them during the summer in English language arts and mathematics."
The suit was filed Friday in San Francisco Superior Court by California Rural Legal Assistance Inc. The legal-services group is representing two mothers and their children. The other parent is Adelaida Gutierrez of Coachella in Riverside County.
"It means summer programs that help teach literacy won't be there...Children won't be able to read and write as well," said Jack Daniel, directing attorney of the Fresno Migrant Farmworker Project at California Rural Legal Assistance.
Tracy Clemons, Jr., The Cavalier Daily (VA) - February 24, 2006
A small group of University of Virginia law school students have recently organized a program to raise awareness in the Charlottesville community about domestic violence and assist the increasing number of victims in the area.
The students, led by third-year law student Cristi Head, have established the Domestic Violence Project, which works with the Central Virginia Legal Aid Society to support victims of domestic violence.
Third-year student Neil Dermody, the only undergraduate student volunteer, said the Domestic Violence Project gives students an opportunity to serve a group of people that is not generally served by the student population.
"The work that the project does helps out a subset of the population that U.Va. students don't typically come in contact with on a daily basis," Dermody said. "This is an area of the community that desperately needs help."
The Associated Press - March 3, 2006
Pine Tree Legal Assistance, a nonprofit that provides legal services for Maine's poor, is suing over what it claims are deceptive Internet ads.
According to its lawsuit, advertisements from California-based LegalMatch Corp. appear when a computer user types "Pine Tree Legal Assistance" into Web search engines including Yahoo!, AltaVista, MSN, Lycos, InfoSpace and Hotbot.
The advertisements read "Find Pine Tree Legal Assistance Services" and take users to LegalMatch's Web site. Unlike Pine Tree Legal, which provides free services, LegalMatch's services come with a fee, according to the lawsuit.
Due to the generosity of more than 800 attorneys, individuals, law firms, judges, corporations, banks and foundations, Delaware's Combined Campaign for Justice met and exceeded its 2005 fundraising goal of $650,000 by more than $100,000, according to Allen M. Terrell, one of the co-chairs of the Campaign.
The funds raised by the Campaign support the valuable work of Delaware's three legal services agencies that provide free legal representation to low-income people, including the Legal Services Corporation of Delaware, Inc. In 2004, among other services provided, the three agencies helped nearly 4,000 Delaware residents obtain financial and medical assistance, decent housing and protection from domestic abuse.
The Delaware State Bar Association organized the Campaign in 1999 to coordinate the appeal for support by the three agencies from Delaware lawyers. Since that time the Campaign has provided valuable resources for low-income Delawareans in need of free civil legal services. The Campaign received national recognition for its work when it received the 2000 Harrison Tweed Award from the American Bar Association.
[Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago] Veteran Built a Career Around Public Interest Law
Libby Sander, Chicago Lawyer (IL) - March 2006
The Vietnam War was raging when Wallace C. Winter, fresh out of law school, joined the Peace Corps and landed in a remote outpost in northeastern Brazil. Winter's two-year stint working for a rural cooperative that loaned seed and fertilizer to impoverished farmers was a "transformative experience," he said. It was also where he cultivated a philosophy that has guided him through more than 35 years as a public interest lawyer.
Winter, 63, has spent his entire career at the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago. He started out as a summer intern during law school, and after returning from Brazil, became a full-time staff attorney there.
During that time, he has supervised LAF's Disability Law Project and brought class-action lawsuits on behalf of disabled adults and wards of the state that resulted in consent decrees still being enforced today. For the past decade, he has represented wards of the Department of Children and Family Services whose special education needs are unmet by public schools or who are facing school expulsion.
Winter's companions in Chicago's legal aid community point to his ability to embrace new areas of law and to represent his clients with tenacity and compassion.
"He's shown a talent for adapting to new challenges, new roles and new initiatives, and that's why I think he's been invaluable to our organization," said Sheldon Roodman, executive director of LAF who has known Winter for 35 years. "He stands out as being versatile, talented, dedicated and energetic. Wally's had an extraordinary record of achievement."
Gail Appleson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO) - February 24, 2006 Friday
Imagine a ballroom filled with hundreds of lawyers-without any long--winded speeches. Hard to believe, but true.
The Justice for All Ball, a fundraiser for Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, started 16 years ago and has become a major networking event for lawyers and judges throughout the state.
The group provides civil legal services to low-income residents of 21 counties in eastern Missouri. A third of its $5.5 million budget comes from Legal Services Corp., a nonprofit organization established by Congress. But the rest comes from grants, private donations and special events, such as the Justice for All Ball.
"It's a consistent revenue source each year, something we know we can count on," said Dan Glazier, executive director of Legal Services of Eastern Missouri.
The first year, 400 people attended; now more than 700 attend, with tickets starting at $150 a person.
"It's the social event of the year for the legal community," Ortbals said.
He added: "There are no speeches, there are no awards. For lawyers, that is a particularly attractive proposition."
St. Louis Daily Record (MO) - February 26, 2006
Shulamith Simon, Gayle Williams and Rep. Margaret Donnelly, D-St. Louis County, will be honored at the 8th annual St. Louis Daily Record Women's Justice Awards Banquet on Thursday, April 6, at the Starlight Roof at the Chase Park Plaza. The Women's Justice Awards Committee announced the selection of the three on Wednesday.
Williams will receive the Justice Award for her services to the nonprofit sector of law. She started her career 30 years ago as a legal intern for the Legal Aid Society of the City and County of St. Louis and served as interim executive director of Legal Services of Eastern Missouri. She is now the associate director of administration for LSEM.
Wilhelm H. Joseph, Jr. and Joe Surkiewicz, The Daily Record (MD) - March 3, 2006
The concept of providing legal counsel to low-income people in civil cases isn't novel. For example, the right to a lawyer is recognized in England, whose legal system we adopted when the United States was founded. The right to counsel in civil cases has also been accepted and supported in most countries throughout Western Europe and has spread to South Africa, Australia, Germany and the Czech Republic, to name a few. It's also taking shape more concretely in Japan, Taiwan and Vietnam (among others).
In October, the Legal Aid Foundation of Taiwan took a giant step forward when it convened an international conference on the right to counsel. The U.S. delegation consisted of one of this column's authors, Legal Aid Bureau Executive Director Wilhelm Joseph, and Helaine Barnett, president of the national Legal Services Corp., who shared the American experience with civil legal services leaders from around the world.
One conclusion of the gathering in Taipei, which included representatives from 30 countries, was that the right to counsel is crucial to building democracy and a strong, independent and credible judicial system. At the conference, it was embarrassing to hear from the mouth of the British representative that England spends many multiples of what the United States spends on civil legal services.
Here in Maryland the crisis in access to justice continues to be exacerbated by several factors: the numbers of poor people are on the increase and budget cuts at both the federal and state levels have the harshest impact on social programs that affect the poor. As a result, this group loses access to health care and education, and sees increases in consumer, housing and public benefits problems (which become even more complex as a result of the cuts).
From any perspective, providing access to justice for all is a sensible public policy. The approach engenders civility and order in our society and to the extent it's adopted nationally, it enhances America's ability to implant the rule of law - and strengthens opportunities for low-income people to emerge from poverty.
Wilhelm H. Joseph Jr. is the executive director of the Legal Aid Bureau. He can be reached at email@example.com. Joe Surkiewicz is the Legal Aid Bureau's director of communications. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sponsors: Supreme Court of Texas and Texas Access to Justice Commission
Project: Protective Order Kit
Date: February 22, 2006
A Texas Supreme Court Task Force and the Texas Access to Justice Commission have developed a kit to help victims of domestic violence apply for a domestic order. The kit includes instructions on filling out the necessary forms, information on how victims can plan to protect their personal safety, and information on how to prepare for a court appearance.
To learn more about this project, visit http://www.lri.lsc.gov.