2016 Annual Report
Summary / Overview
The Legal Services Corporation is the single largest funder of civil legal services in the country and plays a vital role in a public-private partnership focused on fulfilling America’s pledge of equal justice for all. Since its founding more than four decades ago, LSC has been making a difference in the lives of low-income Americans by funding high-quality civil legal assistance to veterans, the elderly, victims of domestic abuse, tenants facing unlawful evictions, and others who cannot afford to pay for legal assistance.
“The Congress finds and declares that—
(1) there is a need to provide equal access to the system of justice in our Nation for individuals who seek redress of grievances;
(2) there is a need to provide high quality legal assistance to those who would be otherwise unable to afford adequate legal counsel and to continue the present vital legal services program;
(3) providing legal assistance to those who face an economic barrier to adequate legal counsel will serve best the ends of justice and assist in improving opportunities for low-income persons consistent with the purposes of this Act.”
—Excerpt from the Legal Services Corporation Act Public Law 93-355, July 25, 1974
Message from the Chairman
Forging New Partnerships to Promote Our Equal Justice Mission
Throughout its tenure, the LSC Board has worked tirelessly to raise public awareness of the crisis in civil legal aid.
When we came into office six years ago, we recognized that the legal aid community’s message of concern was not resonating very far. We needed to do a better job of educating the greater legal community and the public at large about the crisis and what it means for the future of our democracy.
We formally kicked off a national dialogue about the challenges to civil legal aid at a Forum we co-hosted at the White House in April of 2012. We have held similar Forums at every LSC Board meeting around the country since and have returned annually to the White House four times as we continue to call attention to the crisis. These Forums have included leaders from business, government, and philanthropy as well as the greater legal community.
In 2016, the Board took an important step in widening the focus of this dialogue with the creation of the LSC Leaders Council. Comprised of leaders in the fields of law, business, academia, sports,and other disciplines, the Leaders Council will help raise awareness ofLSC and our grantees’ essential work. Former George W. Bush White House Counsel HarrietMiers and Merck CEO Ken Frazier agreed to be co-chairs, and members include former
Attorneys General Eric Holder and Richard Thornburgh, Viacom Vice Chair Shari Redstone, Microsoft Corporation President and CEO Brad Smith, Carlyle Group Co-CEO David Rubenstein, former Major League Baseball player Henry “Hank” Aaron, author John Grisham, and University of Michigan head football coach Jim Harbaugh.
In June, Leaders Council member and former United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young and Aaron joined Harbaugh in Atlanta for a meeting to discuss the Council and the importance of ensuring equal access to justice.
The Leaders Council held its first formal meeting, telephonically, in October. Featured speaker Rep. Joseph Kennedy III (Mass-4) applauded LSC for forming the Council and said it can play an important role in narrowing the justice gap. “By raising their collective voice and telling their stories, the LSC Leaders Council can channel their passion into action, level the playing field of our judicial system, and ensure access to justice,” he said.
In 2016, in partnership with Equal Justice Works, the LSC Board also launched another important initiative—the Rural Summer Legal Corps program. The program connects law students with LSC grantees to address pressing legal issues in rural communities, providing critical legal services to clients while engaging a new group of future lawyers with civil legal aid. The 30 law students selected in this inaugural class spent 8 to 10 weeks working on a variety of projects including domestic violence protection orders, tenant rights, and estate planning for the elderly.
The LSC Board also supported privately funded initiatives to produce a new report measuring the nation’s “justice gap,” to examine the challenges in providing legal services to low-income disaster survivors, to develop guidance for grantees on how to use outcome data to drive strategic and resource-allocation decisions, to fund leadership training for grantees, to examine the accessibility and usability of statewide legal websites, and to develop a curriculum to train public librarians to assist people with civil legal needs.
We also witnessed the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia, an influential jurist who left behind a profound legacy on the Supreme Court and American jurisprudence. At LSC’s 40th Anniversary Conference in 2014, he powerfully expressed his deep commitment to the principle of equal access to justice, and his words speak to the mission that guides LSC:
“The American ideal is not for some justice, it is as the Pledge of Allegiance says, ‘Liberty and justice for all,’ or as the Supreme Court pediment has it, ‘equal justice.’ I’ve always thought that’s somewhat redundant. Can there be justice if it is not equal? Can there be a just society when some do not have justice? Equality, equal treatment is perhaps the most fundamental element of justice.”
Every day, legal aid attorneys across our nation work to ensure this equal treatment for all, and we at LSC will do all that we can to support them as they selflessly pursue this vital endeavor.
John G. Levi
Chairman, LSC Bord of Directors
October 15, 2017
LSC President's Message: Using Technology and Data to Expand Access to Justice
Making justice accessible to everyone who can’t afford to pay for legal assistance is one of the most pressing challenges for our legal system.
In April, LSC announced a partnership with Microsoft Corporation and Pro Bono Net to help address this problem by developing online, statewide “legal portals” to direct individuals with civil legal needs to the most appropriate forms of assistance.
These portals will use cutting-edge technology to help ensure that all people with civil legal needs can navigate their options and access effective services available from legal aid, the courts, the private bar, and community partners.
The current system of accessing legal services is con-fusing and inefficient for many people. A Google search, for example, yields all kinds of resources, but how does a non-lawyer sort them out? Which one is best for the individual doing the search?
The portals will simplify the process by providing a single, statewide point of access to effective help for people needing civil legal assistance. Each user will be guided to available resources based on the nature of the matter and the user’s personal circumstances.
The project will begin with pilot projects in two states. The ultimate goal is to develop access to justice portals in every state.
The partnership with Microsoft illustrates the kind of commitment from organizations outside the legal aid community that is necessary if we are going to narrow the justice gap significantly.
Microsoft is contributing technical and staff resources and funding to this project. Pro Bono Net, a national non-profit dedicated to increasing access to justice through innovative technology solutions and with experience in building and mobilizing justice networks, will help convene local partners and provide service design expertise to execute the pilot.
LSC will manage a competitive state selection process, consulting with other national stakeholders to select promising jurisdictions to develop the pilot portals.
Creating access to justice portals in every state was one of the recommendations of LSC’s 2013 “Report of the Summit on the Use of Technology to Expand Access to Justice.” The portals, along with other developments called for in the report, are designed to help the legal aid community provide “some form of effective assistance to 100% of persons otherwise unable to afford an attorney for dealing with essential civil legal needs. Last year, the Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators adopted a resolution supporting “the aspirational goal of 100% access to effective assistance for essential civil legal needs.”
In 2016, LSC also addressed a problem that has plagued the legal community for years—a lack of adequate administrative and statistical data. We don’t have all the information and tools we need to make the most informed decisions about what strategies are most effective in achieving good outcomes and about how to allocate scarce resources.
LSC has launched a new department, the Office of Data Governance and Analysis, to improve data access, analysis, and support for LSC and our grantees. Director Carlos Manjarrez and his staff (which stood at four by year’s end) are employing technology LSC hasn’t used before, including new tools for statistical analysis, data access, data visualization, and mapping.
The office spent much of its early days re-viewing and analyzing existing data, building the foundation for the LSC Grantee Data page, and taking part in the early stages of a new LSC Justice Gap Report.
It also focused on Grant Activity Reports from earlier years to improve the data validation process and to develop comprehensive reporting guidance for LSC’s grantees.
With the Office of Data Governance and Analysis in place, and ambitious plans for the future, LSC will be better able to collect and analyze data from grantees and other sources and conduct research to help grantees improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the legal services they provide.
Our 2016 initiatives in technology and data offer important new prospects for bringing access to justice to more low-income Americans.
James J. Sandman
October 15, 2017
Board of Directors
LSC is headed by an 11-member* Board of Directors appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate.
John G. Levi, Chairman
Partner, Sidley Austin LLP, Chicago, Illinois
Martha Minow, Vice Chair
Morgan and Helen Chu Dean and Professor at the Harvard Law School
Robert J. Grey, Jr.
Partner, Hunton & Williams LLP, Richmond, Virginia
Charles N.W. Keckler
Presidential Scholar, George Mason University School of Policy, Government, and International Affairs
Harry J.F. Korrell III
Partner, Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, Seattle, Washington
Victor B. Maddox
Partner, Fultz Maddox Dickens PLC, Louisville, Kentucky
Assistant Clinical Professor at Northwestern Law School Bluhm Legal Clinic, and the Commissioner on the ILlinois Court of Claims
The Rev. Pius Pietrzyk, O.P.
Priest of the Order of Preachers (Dominicans), Province of St. Joseph
Julie A. Reiskin
Executive Director of the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition
Professor at the University of New Mexico School of Law
*Sharon L. Browne resigned from the Board in 2014.
Victor B. Maddox, Chair; Harry J.F. Korrell III; Gloria Valencia-Weber; David Hoffman*; Paul Snyder*
DELIVERY OF LEGAL SERVICES
Father Pius Pietrzyk, O.P., Co-Chair; Gloria Valencia-Weber, Co-Chair; Victor B. Maddox; Julie A. Reiskin
Robert J. Grey, Jr., Chair; Harry J. F. Korrell III; Laurie Mikva; Martha Minow; Father Pius Pietrzyk, O.P.; Robert E. Henley Jr.*; Allan Tanenbaum*
GOVERNANCE AND PERFORMANCE REVIEW
Martha Minow, Chair; Charles N.W. Keckler; Julie A. Reiskin
John G. Levi, Chair; Martha Minow; Robert J. Grey, Jr.; Charles N.W. Keckler; Father Pius Pietrzyk, O.P.; Julie A. Reiskin; Herbert S. Garten*; Thomas Smegal*; Frank B. Strickland*
OPERATIONS AND REGULATIONS
Charles N.W. Keckler, Chair; Robert J. Grey, Jr.; Harry J.F. Korrell III; Laurie Mikva (*Non-director member)
In 2016, the Legal Services Corporation provided grants to 134 independent, nonprofit organizations that provide free civil legal services to low-income Americans from more than 900 offices located in every state, the District of Columbia and the territories of the United States of America.
Legal Services Alabama
Alaska Legal Services Corporation
Community Legal Services
DNA-Peoples Legal Services
Southern Arizona Legal Aid
Center for Arkansas Legal Services
Legal Aid of Arkansas
Bay Area Legal Aid
California Indian Legal Services
California Rural Legal Assistance
Central California Legal Services
Greater Bakersfield Legal Assistance
Inland Counties Legal Services
Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles
Legal Aid Society of Orange County
Legal Aid Society of San Diego
Legal Services of Northern California
Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County
Colorado Legal Services
Statewide Legal Services of Connecticut
Legal Services Corporation of Delaware
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
Neighborhood Legal Services Program
Bay Area Legal Services
Coast to Coast Legal Aid of South Florida
Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida
Florida Rural Legal Services
Legal Services of Greater Miami
Legal Services of North Florida
Three Rivers Legal Services
Atlanta Legal Aid Society
Georgia Legal Services Program
Legal Aid Society of Hawaii
Idaho Legal Aid Services
Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation
LAF (formerly Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago)
Prairie State Legal Services
Indiana Legal Services
Iowa Legal Aid
Kansas Legal Services
Appalachian Research and Defense Fund of Kentucky
Kentucky Legal Aid
Legal Aid of the Blue Grass
Legal Aid Society
Acadiana Legal Service Corporation
Southeast Louisiana Legal Services Corporation
Pine Tree Legal Assistance
Legal Aid Bureau
Community Legal Aid
Merrimack Valley Legal Services
South Coastal Counties Legal Services
Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association
Lakeshore Legal Aid
Legal Aid of Western Michigan
Legal Services of Eastern Michigan
Legal Services of Northern Michigan
Legal Services of South Central Michigan
Michigan Indian Legal Services
Anishinabe Legal Services
Central Minnesota Legal Services
Legal Aid Service of Northeastern Minnesota
Legal Services of Northwest Minnesota Corporation
Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services
Mississippi Center for Legal Services
North Mississippi Rural Legal Services
Legal Aid of Western Missouri
Legal Services of Eastern Missouri
Legal Services of Southern Missouri
Mid-Missouri Legal Services Corporation
Montana Legal Services Association
Legal Aid of Nebraska
Nevada Legal Services
Legal Advice & Referral Center
Central Jersey Legal Services
Essex-Newark Legal Services Project
Legal Services of Northwest Jersey
Northeast New Jersey Legal Services Corporation
Ocean-Monmouth Legal Services
South Jersey Legal Services
New Mexico Legal Aid
Legal Aid Society of Mid-New York
Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York
Legal Assistance of Western New York
Legal Services NYC
Legal Services of the Hudson Valley
Nassau/Suffolk Law Services Committee
Neighborhood Legal Services
Legal Aid of North Carolina
Legal Services of North Dakota
Community Legal Aid Services
Legal Aid of Western Ohio
Legal Aid Society of Cleveland
Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati
Ohio State Legal Services
Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma
Oklahoma Indian Legal Services
Legal Aid Services of Oregon
Laurel Legal Services
Legal Aid of Southeastern Pennsylvania
MidPenn Legal Services
Neighborhood Legal Services Association
Northwestern Legal Services
North Penn Legal Services
Philadelphia Legal Assistance Center
Southwestern Pennsylvania Legal Services
Rhode Island Legal Services
South Carolina Legal Services
Dakota Plains Legal Services
East River Legal Services
Legal Aid of East Tennessee
Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands
Memphis Area Legal Services
West Tennessee Legal Services
Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas
Lone Star Legal Aid
Texas RioGrande Legal Aid
Utah Legal Services
Legal Services Law Line of Vermont
Blue Ridge Legal Services
Central Virginia Legal Aid Society
Legal Aid Society of Eastern Virginia
Legal Services of Northern Virginia
Southwest Virginia Legal Aid Society
Virginia Legal Aid Society
Northwest Justice Project
Legal Aid of West Virginia
Legal Action of Wisconsin
Legal Aid of Wyoming
American Samoa Legal Aid
Guam Legal Services Corporation
Micronesian Legal Services
Community Law Office
Puerto Rico Legal Services
Legal Services of the Virgin Islands
Promoting Equal Justice at White House Forum
In 2016, LSC continued to promote the need for a fair and accessible justice system for all Americans. Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Representative Joe Kennedy III (MA-4), senior administration figures, and leaders in the judicial, business, and pro bono communities gathered in April for the fifth White House Forum on Increasing Access to Justice. Other speakers included ABA President Paulette Brown, White House Counsel W. Neil Eggleston, and Patrick Murphy, Acting Secretary of the Army.
LSC Board Chair John G. Levi opened the forum by calling for broader public awareness of the crisis in civil legal aid funding. “No one expects a car to function well without changing the oil, rotating the tires, and performing routine maintenance,” he stated. “For some reason, we expect our justice system to operate smoothly without performing an even more basic function—putting enough gas in the tank.”
The forum convened three panels on crucial civil justice issues. The first, “Fines and Fees at the Intersection of Civil and Criminal Justice,” featured Chief Justice Scott Bales, Arizona Supreme Court; Chief Justice Patricia Breckenridge, Supreme Court of Missouri; Chief Justice David E. Gilbertson, South Dakota Supreme Court; Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht, Supreme Court of Texas; Chief Justice Jorge Labarga, Supreme Court of Florida; Chief Justice Mark D. Martin, Supreme Court of North Carolina; and Chief Judge Eric T. Washington, D.C. Court of Appeals.
They explained the negative impact that court fines and fees have on low-income Americans in both the civil and criminal justice systems and ways to eliminate barriers to justice. The “Pro Bono and Technology Innovation to Improve Access to Justice” panel included M. Nalani Fujimori Kaina, Executive Director, Legal Aid Society of Hawaii; Mark O’Brien, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Pro Bono Net; Julia R. Wilson, Chief Executive Officer, OneJustice; and Phong Wong, Pro Bono Director, Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles. They discussed the best ways to forge partnerships and share new technological initiatives that allow more Americans to obtain the legal help they need.
Finally, seven corporate executives spoke at the “Perspectives on Access to Justice from the Business Community” panel, sharing why access to justice matters to business and what lessons the business world can offer to legal services. The panel included Debra A. Cafaro, Chairman and CEO, Ventas, Inc.; Kenneth C. Frazier, Chairman and CEO, Merck & Co., Inc; John W. Rogers Jr., Chairman and CEO, Ariel Investments; David M. Rubenstein, Co-Founder and Co-CEO, The Carlyle Group; Amy W. Schulman, CEO, Arsia Therapeutics, and Chairman and CEO, Lyndra; Brad L. Smith, President and Chief Legal Officer, Microsoft Corporation; and Arne M. Sorenson, President and CEO, Marriott International.
The panelists explained why investment in business depends on Americans believing that the law and legal systems are accessible and fair.
“You cannot have a stable business community, and you cannot have a good economic environment, if you don’t have the rule of law,” explained Rubenstein.During his remarks, Vice President Biden noted that the forum’s many attendees were united in LSC’s goal of advancing a fair society and equitable justice system:
“It’s stamped into the DNA of this organization, and everyone connected with it, an intense sense of what constitutes justice and an overwhelming intolerance for what my father used to refer to as the abuse of power.”
While speaking of his own connection and history with LSC, Biden also thanked everyone who works to advance equal access to justice. “You have changed the life circumstances of tens of thousands of people who would have had no opportunity but for you,” said Biden. “And it matters to us that it matters to you, because unless you keep fighting to maintain these services and increase them, all the rest of the superstructure will collapse.”
Attorney General Loretta Lynch delivered closing remarks, noting the crucial work that supporters of legal aid accomplish and the importance of LSC’s mission, which she described as cen-tral to the tenets of a civil society. “That mission is nothing less than the fulfillment of one of our fundamental promises to every American—the promise, the conviction, the commitment that here in the United States every single person should be equal under the law,” said Lynch.
Regional Judicial Forums
State supreme court justices, other distinguished jurists, and leaders of the legal aid community gathered in Charleston, South Carolina on January 29 for panels on how to expand access to justice for low-income Americans. Among the event highlights was an address by U.S. District Court Judge Richard Gergel. He dis-cussed the groundbreaking work that took place in the very Charleston courtroom where meeting attendees convened. He spoke compellingly about the important civil rights contributions of the late U.S. Judge Waties Waring in dismantling segregation in South Carolina and helping pave the way for Brown v. Board of Education.
South Carolina Access to Justice Commission Chair Matthew T. Richardson was introduced by LSC Board Member Father Pius Pietrzyk, O.P., and made opening remarks. He was joined by University of South Carolina School of Law Dean Robert M. Wilcox, introduced by LSC Board Member Laurie Mikva. The first panel, “The Importance of Access to Justice to the Judiciary,” was moderated by LSC Vice Chair Martha Minow, Dean of Harvard Law School. Panelists included Justice Cheri Beasley, Supreme Court of North Carolina; Justice Donald W. Beatty, South Carolina Supreme Court; Judge Stephen R. McCullough, Court of Appeals of Virginia; Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, Supreme Court of Ohio; and Judge Jill Pryor, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.
The second panel, “Leading and Managing a Cohesive, Statewide Legal Aid Program,” included Phyllis Holmen, Executive Director, Georgia Legal Services Program; Andrea Loney, Executive Director, South Carolina Legal Services, Inc.; Janice Morgan, Executive Director, Legal Aid Services of Oregon; and Adrienne Worthy, Executive Director, Legal Aid of West Virginia, Inc. LSC President James Sandman served as moderator. The panelists discussed how legal aid providers tackle the challenges of delivering effective legal services to constituents statewide.
Vermont Governor Peter E. Shumlin, Representative Peter Welch (VT-At-Large), distinguished jurists, and leaders of the legal aid community in New England and Canada met in Burlington, Vermont on July 18 for discussions on the importance of access to justice. The program featured two panels focused on the importance of high-quality civil legal assistance. Governor Shumlin, Representative Welch, and LSC Board Chair John Levi made introductory remarks. The first panel, “The Importance of Access to Justice to the Judiciary,” featured Judge Peter Hall, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit; Justice Gary Hicks, New Hampshire Supreme Court; Judge Joseph LaPlante, U.S. District Court, District of New Hampshire; Justice Andrew Mead, Maine Supreme Judicial Court; Chief Justice Paul Reiber, Vermont Supreme Court; and Justice Beth Robinson, Vermont Supreme Court.
LSC General Counsel and Vice President for Legal Affairs Ron Flagg moderated the session. Lisa Foster, Director of the U.S. Department of Justice Office for Access to Justice, moderated the second panel, “Access to Justice in Canada,” which provided an international perspective on civil legal aid. This discussion included Mark Benton, Chief Executive Officer, British Columbia Legal Services Society; Ab Currie, Senior Research Fellow, Canadian Forum on Civil Justice; and Michele Leering, Access to Justice Committee, Canadian Bar Association.
New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas, distinguished jurists, and leaders of the legal aid community gathered in Albuquerque on October 17 for panel discussions on how to ensure low-income Americans receive the legal help they need. Attorney General Balderas joined University of New Mexico Law School Dean Sergio Pareja and LSC Board Chair John Levi in making opening remarks for the forum.
The two panels focused on ways to increase access to civil legal assistance for low-income Americans. The first panel, “The Importance of Access to Justice to the Judiciary,” featured Chief Judge M. Christina Armijo, U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico; Justice Eva Guzman, Supreme Court of Texas; Justice William Hood, III, Colorado Supreme Court; Judge William Johnson, Acoma Pueblo Tribal Court; and Justice Petra Jimenez Maes, New Mexico Supreme Court. Harvard Law School Dean and LSC Board Vice Chair Martha Minow moderated the discussion.
The second panel, “Legal Services and Law School Collaborations to Expand Access to Justice,” included Jennifer Barnes, Director of the Externship Program, Arizona State University Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law; Pamela Bridge, Director of Litigation and Advocacy, Community Legal Services in Arizona; Beth Gillia, Director, Corinne Wolfe Children’s Law Center at University of New Mexico School of Law; and Ed Marks, Executive Director, New Mexico Legal Aid. LSC President James Sandman moderated the panel.
Congressional and Community Outreach: Communication the Value of Civil Legal Aid on Capitol Hill and Beyond
In 2016, LSC co-sponsored briefings on justice issues in the Senate and House and invited Members of Congress to events focused on justice issues across the country.
On March 10, LSC organized a congressional briefing on the important ways legal aid programs provide critical help to veterans and military families. The event was co-hosted by Republican Senator Roy Blunt (MO) and Democratic Senator Patty Murray (WA).
The briefing, “Serving Those Who Have Served Our Country: How Legal Aid Helps Veterans,” featured a panel of experts on veterans issues. Panelists included:
• Will Gunn, former General Counsel, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and retired Air Force colonel;
• Susan Lutton, Executive Director, Mid-Missouri Legal Services Corporation;
• Maura Weber, Staff Attorney, Legal Aid of Western Missouri; and
• Ronnie Pitcock, Army veteran and client of Legal Aid of Western Missouri.
LSC Chairman John Levi made introductory remarks and LSC President James Sandman served as moderator.
“Ensuring that our nation’s veterans and military families enjoy equal access to justice is one of the most important aspects of LSC’s mission,” said Levi.
For veterans struggling with legal problems such as foreclosures, evictions, and wrongful denial of benefits, local legal aid offices act as a critical gateway. According to Gunn, six of 10 of veterans’ most pressing needs are legal problems.
“Veterans don’t need a handout, they need a hand up,” explained Pitcock, who credits his attorney at Legal Aid of Western Missouri for helping him get his life back on track.
Nationwide, an estimated 1.8 million veterans are eligible for LSC-funded legal services. LSC held a second briefing on April 20, “Why Is Legal Aid Important to American Business?” Four corporate general counsel from leading American companies came together to discuss the importance of a fair and accessible justice system to the business community. The panelists included:
• Kate Adams, Senior Vice President and General Counsel, Honeywell International;
• The Honorable Sven Holmes, Vice Chairman and Chief Legal Officer, KPMG;
• Robert Millen, Chief Legal Officer and General Counsel, Pizza Hut; and
• Laura Stein, Executive Vice President and General Counsel, The Clorox Company.
The briefing was held in cooperation with Republican Representative Susan Brooks (IN-5) and Democratic Representative Joe Kennedy III (MA-4), co-chairs of the newly formed House Access to Civil Legal Services Caucus, both of whom also provided remarks. Sandman moderated the discussion and Levi made opening remarks.
The speakers described how unstable nations with malfunctioning justice systems hinder enterprise and investment.
They explained that for American businesses to succeed, consumers, employees, and employers must be able to rely on the enforceability of contracts and the fair resolution of disputes. “Our business, like many businesses, relies on a society that is predictable, and that is stable,” explained Millen. “And access to justice and the promise of access to justice plays an important part in that.”
The panelists also discussed corporate involvement in civil legal aid and the power of private-public partnerships.
In 2016, LSC President James Sandman made a number of visits across the country to spread the word on access to justice issues. In March, he visited St. Louis, Missouri, and took part in a full day of events highlighting the pressing legal aid needs in that area. Sandman began his day with a reception hosted by the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis, where he met with leaders and supporters of Legal Services of Eastern Missouri (LSEM), an LSC grantee. He discussed the importance of LSEM’s work and encouraged attendees to promote pro bono participation.
During a visit to Saint Louis University Law School later in the day, Sandman met with clinical faculty and students interested in public interest work. He delivered a speech, “An American Paradox: How the Legal System Really Functions Today in a Nation That Espouses ‘Justice for All.’” “The American commitment to equal justice under law actually predates the founding of the Republic,” Sandman explained. “Yet today many Americans are denied access to the legal services they so desperately need.”
Sandman pointed to studies showing that legal aid offices are forced to turn away 50% or more of people who come to them seeking help. The speech was covered by the local public radio outlet, and Sandman was later interviewed on a CBS radio station. He also took time to speak to media outlets about the importance of civil legal aid, including the St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial page editor and several Post-Dispatch staff members.
In April, Sandman visited LSC grantee Legal Services of North Florida (LSNF) and delivered the keynote address during the organization’s 40th anniversary celebration. He was on hand to honor retiring Executive Director Kris Knab and thank her for 38 years of service at LSNF.
In August, Sandman attended an Oklahoma Access to Justice Commission meeting in Oklahoma City. The goal of the meeting was to discuss methods for expanding access to civil legal justice across the state. Topics covered included a newly launched interactive website providing free legal information to low-income Oklahoma citizens and a statewide assessment survey on legal needs.
Sandman highlighted the importance of court-houses becoming more user-friendly for self-represented litigants and of simplifying court processes. Explaining the challenges of communicating civil legal aid’s value, he encouraged supporters to work on spreading the message that these pro-grams have a significant impact on individual lives, whether it is a grandparent obtaining guardianship of a grandchild, a veteran helped through bankruptcy court, or a family that is able to avoid eviction by filing a fair housing complaint.
During his visit to Oklahoma, Sandman also met with staff from Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma and Oklahoma Indian Legal Services, both LSC grantees.
Leaders Council Formed to Help Raise Public Awareness of LSC, Justice Gap
To bolster its efforts to raise public awareness of the current crisis in civil legal aid, the LSC Board of Directors created a high-profile Leaders Council in April.
LSC Chairman John Levi said the organization will benefit from the strategic thinking, innovative ideas, and leadership of council members.
"We are thrilled that these distinguished Americans recognize the crisis that exists in the accessibility of our civil justice system for low-income Americans, and through the Council, want to be better informed and in their own ways help LSC narrow our country’s ‘justice gap,’” said Levi. Members of the Council include former Attorneys General Eric Holder and Richard Thornburgh, Viacom Vice Chair Shari Redstone, Microsoft Corporation President and CEO Brad L. Smith, Carlyle Group Co-CEO David M. Rubenstein, former Major League Baseball player Henry “Hank” Aaron, author John Grisham, and University of Michigan head football coach Jim Harbaugh, Kenneth C. Frazier, CEO of pharmaceutical company Merck & Co., and Harriet Miers, a partner at Locke Lord and former White House Counsel to President George W. Bush, serve as co-chairs of the Leaders Council.
By year’s end, the Council had enlisted 55 members. In June, Leaders Council member and former United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young, Aaron, and other prominent Atlantans joined Harbaugh in Atlanta for a meeting to discuss the Council and the importance of ensuring equal access to justice.“
Each year, millions of low-income Americans are denied equal access to justice because they cannot afford a lawyer. We need to change that,” Aaron explained. “I’m looking forward to joining LSC’s Leaders Council to help ensure fairness in our system of justice.”
“I have spent my life working for equal rights, so I am more than happy to join the efforts of LSC’s Leaders Council to support free civil legal aid for low-income Americans,” said Young. “Everyone should have access to justice, regardless of income.”
The Leaders Council held its first formal meeting, telephonically, in October.
Council Co-Chair Harriet Miers opened the meeting by describing the “cause” of the Council:
“The genius of this Council is that lawyers and non-lawyers, legal profession leaders and community leaders, can work together, more effectively together than alone, in making our justice system work for everyone,” she said. “We can show how LSC is already encouraging wiser ways to provide legal services, increasing efficiency in addressing the legal needs of the poor, utilizing technology, streamlining procedures, and recruiting more volunteers. In short, LSC are good stewards. Providing legal services to the poor and vulnerable is not partisan, it is not liberal or conservative, it is righteous, it is a noble undertaking. It is this Council’s cause.”
Featured speaker Representative Joe Kennedy III (MA-4) described the magnitude of the crisis in civil legal aid and steps he, LSC, and others are taking to address it. “Guided by the efforts of the Legal Services Corporation Leaders Council, much of my work in Congress is focused on raising awareness about the importance of and critical need for civil legal aid,” Kennedy said in a statement afterwards. “Through the first ever bipartisan Access to Civil Legal Services Caucus, we are educating members and staff about civil legal aid so that we can build strong bipartisan support for this cause. And not only will I continue to fight to restore and maintain LSC funding, I will work tirelessly to increase it. By raising their collective voice and telling their stories, the LSC Leaders Council can channel their passion into action, level the playing field of our judicial system and ensure access to justice.”
LSC's Leaders Council Roll Call
Henry “Hank” Aaron
Sven Erik Holmes
M. Elizabeth Magill
Teresa Wynn Roseborough
Providing Critical Constituent Services in Every Congressional District
LSC grantees help individuals who live in households with incomes at or below 125% of the federal poverty guidelines—$14,850 for an individual, $30,375 for a family of four in 2016. Clients span every demographic and live in rural, suburban, and urban areas. They include veterans and military families, homeowners and renters, families with children, the disabled, survivors of domestic violence, and the elderly.
Millions of Americans are unable to access the civil justice system because they cannot afford a lawyer. Low-income Americans seek help to address a vast variety of problems. They are veterans, elderly citizens, and disabled persons. LSC grantees support eligible constituents in navigating the legal system. In 2016, they helped nearly 1.8 million people in all households served. More than 71% of the people assisted were women. LSC grantees employ experienced and specialized legal professionals who are experts in a wide range of civil legal matters.
• Family Law: Nearly one-third of all cases closed by LSC grantees are family law cases. LSC grantees help parents obtain and keep custody of their children, family members secure guardianship of orphaned and abused children, and victims of domestic violence get protective orders. A victim obtaining a protective order is the most effective way to help reduce domestic violence. According to one study, having an attorney enabled battered women to get a protective order 83% of the time in 2016, while only 32% received an order without an attorney.
• Housing: The second largest category of cases closed includes efforts to re-solve landlord-tenant disputes, avoid wrongful foreclosures or renegotiate mort-gages, and assist renters whose landlords are being foreclosed upon. Renters represented by an attorney were twice as likely to avoid eviction as those without an attorney according to one study. In 2016, LSC grantees helped more than half a million (507,123) people secure or retain access to safe, affordable housing.
• Income Maintenance: LSC grantees help clients obtain veterans’ unemployment, disability, and health care benefits for which they are eligible and provide representation when benefits are wrongfully denied. Twenty-eight percent of Americans with disabilities qualify for LSC-funded services.
• Consumer Issues: Many cases involve protecting the elderly and other vulnerable individuals from being victimized by unscrupulous lenders or merchants and providing legal advice about debt management and consumer rights. Seniors are especially vulnerable to consumer scams and predatory lending practices. In 2016, 18% of all clients assisted by LSC grantees were seniors.
Legal Aid of Western Missouri
Disabled Veteran Gets the Help He Needs
Ronnie Pitcock, a disabled veteran, was living with his wife of 20 years when he had to get his leg amputated. After he came out of surgery, Ronnie’s spouse left him and took all his money. With no other options, Ronnie moved into a homeless shelter and was referred to the veteran’s relief project at Legal Aid of Western Missouri. Living only on Social Security Disability benefits, Ronnie could not pay his medical and other expenses. With the help of an attorney at LAWM, Ronnie was able to discharge his student loans on the basis of his disability, obtain a divorce settlement, and terminate the power of attorney he signed previously to protect his income going forward. Ronnie is now living in stable housing and is grateful for the help of legal aid.
A Chinese immigrant was living in fear for the safety of herself and her family. Yan’s abusive ex had attacked her, her one-year old child, and her elderly mother. While she had filed for a temporary restraining order, she was unable to afford an attorney. Left unrepresented in court, Yan feared for her family’s continued safety.She could not return to her home country, as single mothers in China face steep fines and painful social stigma. Fortunately, Yan found help at Bay Area Legal Aid. They provided Mandarin interpreters and connected her with an experienced family law and domestic violence lawyer. With the support of her lawyer, Yan received legal help to secure a domestic violence restraining order, primary physical custody of her child, and life-changing emotional support. Her advice to other survivors: “Be brave; speak up; and seek help from organizations like BayLegal.”
Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles
Advocate for Foster Youth Regains Driver’s License
Ernesto, an advocate for foster youth, a student, and father, first called Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles’ (LAFLA) hotline with driving tickets. Not having a li-cense made it much more difficult to work, study, and care for his children.Ernesto is an emancipated foster youth living in a transitional housing program who had been working hard to turn his life around while supporting his own community. A LAFLA attorney was able to tell the judge Ernesto’s inspiring story, and the judge dismissed the tickets in the interest of justice. Ernesto can now advocate for even more people in his community.
Southeast Louisiana Legal Services
Natural Disaster Survivor Keeps Her Home
Ms. S, 60 years old, lived in her Baton Rouge home for decades with her husband and three children. In August 2016, severe floods devastated the Baton Rouge area. Ms. S’s home suffered extensive damage. During the process of rebuilding her life, she filed a claim under her flood insurance policy. Because there was still a mortgage on the home, the insurance company explained that the check would be payable to her and the mortgage company. A few weeks later, a $70,000 check arrived and Ms. S was relieved—until she realized the check was also made pay-able to her deceased husband. Not knowing what to do, Ms. S sought help from Southeast Louisiana Legal Services (SLLS). A legal aid attorney was able to complete the probate matter for her and file the proper legal documentation to clear her mortgage title. She is now using the insurance proceeds to rebuild her home.
LSC’s Privately Funded Initiatives Enhance Work of Grantees
LSC works to raise private funds to complement our congressional appropriation. These privately funded projects expand access to justice and enhance the work of LSC’s 134 grantees. The initiatives are all projects that would be difficult for a single grantee to under-take alone.
Rural Summer Legal Corps
In 2016, LSC launched the Rural Summer Legal Corps program in partnership with Equal Justice Works.The project connects law students with LSC’s grantees with the goal of providing critical legal services to rural clients while engaging a new group of future lawyers with civil legal aid. The inaugural fellowship class spent their summer on important legal projects, such as advocating for the rights of low-income tenants of mobile homes in rural Virginia, helping with estate planning for elderly communities in the Kau District of Hawaii, and assisting with order of protection proceedings for domestic violence survivors in eastern Missouri.
Before embarking on their summer of service, the 30 law students selected for the program met in Alexandria, Virginia, and received training on the challenges of serving rural clients. Sessions focused on how to do effective outreach to rural populations, the potential roadblocks to providing service, and innovative ways to engage with clients living in remote areas.
The program was made possible by the generous contributions of law firms, private foundations, and individual donors.
Midwest Legal Disaster Coordination Project
LSC’s Midwest Disaster Legal Coordination Project seeks to address challenges in pro-viding legal services to low-income disaster survivors. Disasters have a far-reaching impact, but low-income families and individuals are the most vulnerable when disaster strikes. These individuals require preparedness planning support, and in the event of a disaster, they need experts who understand the legal issues involved.
The first phase ended in 2016, but LSC is expanding the project, partnering with its sub-grantees from the first phase, Iowa Legal Aid and Legal Aid of Nebraska, and working to ensure that at-risk communities throughout the Midwest are better prepared when a disaster occurs and have access to relief programs. Solutions include engaging faith-based communities as key partners in connecting survivors to legal aid providers and creating an online interactive tool to explain significant changes in the National Flood Insurance Program. LSC and Legal Aid of Nebraska will also develop targeted materials to support disaster prepared-ness with four Native American tribes.
The project is made possible thanks to the contributions of an anonymous funder in the Midwest.
Justice Gap Report
With support from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Kresge Foundation, LSC will produce an updated national report documenting the “justice gap”—the difference between the need for civil legal services and the resources available to meet them. LSC has contracted with NORC at the University of Chicago to help prepare this report, which updates LSC’s 2009 Justice Gap Report with new data to compare states, urban versus rural needs, and areas of the law that impact underserved communities and populations. The report will be released in 2017.
Data Collection Toolkit and Data-Driven Management for Civil Legal Aid Providers
Using funding from the Public Welfare Foundation, LSC examined what case outcomes data grantees collect and use. LSC developed key recommenda-ions for grantees and a toolkit on collecting and utilizing specific outcomes data in order to improve client services and drive resource allocation decisions.
G. Duane Vieth Leadership Development Program
Funded by the Arnold & Porter LLP Foundation, this national grant initiative supports leadership training and development for LSC’s grantee leaders. By creating a dedicated pool of funds specifically for leadership development, the program provides civil legal aid leaders with targeted support to improve their effectiveness. LSC awarded five grants in 2016.
Statewide Legal Aid Website Evaluation
The Ford Foundation’s two-year grant allows LSC to assess the accessibility and usability of the statewide legal aid websites in every state and territory. LSC works to identify best practices and offer recommendations for replicating the content and features of the websites deemed most effective.
Planning Grant to Partner with Public Libraries
Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, this project plans for a curriculum to train public librarians to assist people with civil legal needs. Libraries are frequently the first stop for low-income people when researching their legal problems. This project’s goal was to lay the necessary groundwork to transform public libraries into hubs for accessible and useful information about civil legal matters for people who cannot afford a lawyer. The report was finished in December, and the project has been extended into 2017.
Increasing Pro Bono Among the Private Bar
Although pro bono volunteers cannot replace the work of legal aid lawyers, many of whom are subject-matter experts on the legal issues most common among low-income people, the private bar continues to be a critical resource in addressing the civil legal needs of the low-income community. Private practitioners, in-house corporate counsel, retired lawyers, law students, and paralegals are eager to assist by donating their time.
Over the past three years, PBIF has invested more than $10 million in 37 different projects in 27 states. These projects have involved collaborations with more than 30 partners, including bar-sponsored volunteer lawyer’s programs, health care providers, technology providers, and law schools.
In September 2016, LSC awarded grants to 11 legal aid organizations in 10 states to support innovations in pro bono legal services for low-income clients. Many of the FY 2016 projects use technology to connect low-income populations to resources and services, while others aim to increase efficiency and effective-ness through partnerships with law schools, corporate legal departments, and community organizations. Some projects address issues affecting specific populations such as elderly and disabled clients.
Pro Bono grants are competitive, with significant interest from LSC grantees. In 2016, LSC received 56 letters of intent from 28 states requesting an estimated $11.8 million in funding.
The following are examples of projects funded in 2016:
Neighborhood Legal Services Program (NLSP) of DC, Unlocking Unemployment: Pro Bono Partnership to Remove Barriers to Employment
NLSP aims to build on its current collaboration with the DC Public Library to provide free legal resources to job seekers in the city’s poorest neighborhoods through the use of volunteer attorneys. This project:
• Provides workshops, offers one-on-one consultations, and screens attendees who need in-depth assistance to provide information, advice, and ex-tended representation.
• Reduces or eliminates significant barriers to employment by concentrating on sealing or expunging non-violent criminal records, preventing revocations or suspensions of drivers licenses, and resolving problems associated with credit checking, inaccurate credit reports, and student loans.
Legal Services Law Line of Vermont
Law Line plans to expand its successful legal clinic that offers pro bono representation to defendants in eviction cases to three additional counties where limited scope representation is critical. Vermont Legal Aid is partnering with Law Line to provide volunteer mentoring and:
• Help tenants fill out complaint forms, identify and evaluate counterclaims, and file motions to dismiss. Assist tenants with negotiation and appear on behalf of tenants in front of judges.
• Bring new attorneys into pro bono work.
• Establish a similar pilot clinic for debt collection cases to see if the model can be successfully transferred to another docket.
Legal Aid of West Virginia, School and Community Legal Partnership
This project will use pro bono attorneys to provide free onsite advice, brief services, and assistance at pro se clinics at the Mary C. Snow West Side Elementary School in Charleston, where over 90% of students come from low-income families and live in a community with one of the highest rates of concentrated poverty. In partnership with Handle with Care, a nationally recognized collaboration between the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia, school staff, and the surrounding community to support neighborhood families, the project also:
• Creates follow-up plans for every client who obtained advice to ensure that staff and pro bono attorneys can provide additional assistance if needed.
• Increases efforts to engage Charleston’s largest law firms and school-based clinics in the project.
Recognizing Pro Bono Service
|State||Grantee||Grant Amount||Grant Description|
|CA||Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles||$413,088||
Create an online language-access pro bono training tool for attorneys and interpreters that will connect interpreters with pro bono attorneys. By improving and sharing volunteer resources online, the project will better serve limited-English proficient individuals in communities across the state. It may also act as a model for other legal services organizations serving linguistically diverse client populations.
|CA||Legal Aid Society of San Diego||$371,497||In-Home Supportive Services Pro Bono Project will provide advice and representation to elderly and disabled clients receiving in-home assistance. The statewide program allows disabled individuals to stay in their homes rather than be forced into more expensive settings such as nursing homes or board-and-care facilities. The new pro bono project will use volunteer attorneys to assist clients seeking help from In-Home Supportive Services. It will also pilot use of a new case referral and placement system to increase efficiency, resulting in more clients served.|
|DC||Neighborhood Legal Services Program of the District of Columbia||$386,825||The Unlocking Unemployment project will bring volunteer attorneys to walk-in legal clinics located at public libraries readily accessible to community members, and where Wards 7 and 8 residents routinely go to find assistance and computer access for job searches. The clinics will provide in-person information to job seekers as well as connect those with greater legal needs to a legal services organization.|
|GA||Atlanta Legal Aid Society||$421,310||Create web-based resources and a centralized structure for pro bono efforts to promote the coordination of resources, volunteer experience, learning, and collaboration. By focusing on strong pro bono administration, the project will enhance pro bono in Atlanta and provide best practices for other legal services organizations trying to create an effective and efficient pro bono program.|
|IN||Indiana Legal Services||$325,837||Integrate ILS into the state’s existing pro bono system, which consists of 12 independent non-profit “Pro Bono Districts” established by the state supreme court and funded by IOLTA and other sources. A Project Attorney will work with two of the 12 pro bono districts to strengthen the capacity to match volunteers with ILS clients and provide more effective support, training, mentoring, and recognition. The project is designed as a pilot to determine whether this type of participation by ILS could be replicated in other Pro Bono Districts in the state. The project will initially focus on recruiting pro bono engagement from Indianapolis’ ten largest firms.|
|IA||Iowa Legal Aid||$364,709||Create a pro bono program that is more strategic, efficient, and effective in referring appropriate cases to pro bono attorneys. The project will enlist the help of judges and attorneys to educate attorneys about the benefits of pro bono service. Through a structured and targeted approach, Iowa Legal Aid will create a well-supported and long-lasting pro bono program.|
|MN||Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services||$286,000||Expand its medical-legal partnership to include clinics staffed by volunteer attorneys performing “legal check-ups.” The project highlights the challenge providing legal services to rural areas that are extremely large and where there is little program visibility. This is exacerbated by the recent and rapid growth of the immigrant and refugee population in the area. Through “legal check-ups” volunteer attorneys will provide advice and brief services; cases requiring extended representation will be referred to other volunteer attorneys or staff. The clinics will be located in and around the city of Mankato, which has the one of the highest poverty rates in the state.|
|VT||Legal Services Law Line of Vermont||$246,034||Expand its pilot eviction clinic into at least three more counties. The project also seeks to establish a similar pilot clinic for debt collection cases in one county, to see if this model can be transferred successfully to another docket. These clinics will provide services that could have long-term effects on clients’ housing and income. Staffed with volunteer attorneys, the clinic provides representation to tenants facing eviction.|
|VA||Virginia Legal Aid Society||$327,899||Expand its pro bono program, under the direction of a new pro bono director, to develop strategic partnerships with judges and prominent attorneys in the service area. Other goals include creating a new clinical program with the Liberty University School of Law in which law students will provide services to clients, and supporting the development of a statewide system allowing attorneys to provide pro bono representation to clients through an online pro bono portal.|
|WV||Legal Aid of West Virginia||$279,028||Create a school and community legal partnership in which pro bono attorneys will provide onsite advice, brief services, and assistance in completing pleadings at clinics held at the school. The project includes partnering with Handle with Care, a nationally recognized collaboration between the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia, school staff, and the surrounding community to support neighborhood families.|
|WI||Legal Action of Wisconsin||$377,773||Provide free legal assistance to tenants facing eviction in the high-volume Milwaukee County courthouse. Clinics, staffed by volunteer attorneys, will be held every afternoon at the self-help center at the courthouse to provide advice and brief services to clients coming in for an initial hearing. Volunteer attorneys will assist in evaluating cases, reviewing evidence, identifying evidence, and advising clients. In some cases, volunteer attorneys may assist in negotiating stipulations with landlords. Law students will assist by doing intake and providing other client services. Volunteer attorneys will be staffed at the evidentiary hearings, providing limited scope representation to pre-screened clients who appear for their hearings. Law students will be available to assist volunteer attorneys with representation and presentation during the hearing.|
Leveraging Technology to Expand Access to Justice
TIG has funded more than 600 projects totaling more than $57 million. With these grants, LSC grantees have been able to build a foundation for better service delivery that includes statewide websites; enhanced capacity for intake and case management systems; and automated forms to support clients, staff, and pro bono efforts.
Congress appropriated $4 million for TIG in FY 2016, and LSC awarded 34 technology grants to 27 grantees in 20 states and one U.S. territory (see chart, pp. 33-35). The grants support a variety of initiatives, including developing a mobile platform for a self-help legal website, creating an online intake platform in English and Spanish to help domestic violence survivors, and implementing a video-conferencing system for remote client interviews.
Examples of projects funded include:
Expanding Legal Aid Access to Mobile Devices
LSC grantees in California, Connecticut, and Virginia received grants to expand legal access through the use of mobile devices. Mobile online platforms allow clients to apply for services outside of normal business hours. The websites save clients time by clearly ex-plaining and guiding them through legal options. The SMS/MMS text message systems allow clients to keep track of their cases, share documents with attorneys, and allow further conversation between attorneys and clients if necessary.
• Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles will develop an online intake system in six languages that is accessible by smartphone, tablet, and personal computer.
• Statewide Legal Services of Connecticut will make the self-help portion of its website more accessible on a mobile platform, making sure those who are mobile-dependent can receive the same information as those using laptops or PCs.
• Legal Aid Society of Orange County (CA) will use text messaging services to communicate with clients, allowing attorneys to quickly review the case and documents, determining via text if a longer conversation is necessary. This makes communication easier and more efficient for both the clients and lawyers.
• Legal Services of Northern Virginia will develop a text and voice message system that will allow Spanish speakers to be notified of upcoming office appointments and court hearings.
Use of mobile devices in-creases the number of clients served through increased access and efficiency. The TIG program has encouraged replication and improvement of mobile platforms across the country.
Expanded Access for Remote Populations
American Samoa Legal Aid’s All-Island Access to Legal Aid project will allow residents of the isolated Manu’a Islands to gain access to legal aid services. This project is a partnership to establish four interview locations on three separate islands, each with a desk-top computer, scanner/printer, and internet access. This technology will increase service levels across American Samoa.
Nearly 300 attendees gathered in San Antonio in January for the 16th Annual Technology Initiative Grants (TIG) Conference. The TIG Conference is the only national event focused exclusively on the use of technology to address the civil legal needs of low-income Americans. Participants included legal aid staff members, technology consultants, software developers, leading academics, and lawyers from a variety of practice settings.
Sessions during the conference tackled a wide array of topics on how technology can improve the delivery of legal services. A plenary session explored user-centered de-sign principles, an important topic for service providers dealing with a large and diverse user base. Several sessions focused on important issues for IT professionals, such as information security, business continuity, and advanced cloud computing. Other workshops and presentations explored ways that technology can enhance internal operations, improve client services, address access and triage issues, and effectively provide legal information to low-income people.
Former ABA President William C. Hubbard joined LSC President James Sandman for a luncheon ad-dress on how technology and innovation can expand access to justice.
Partnering with Microsoft, Pro Bono Net on Access to Justice Portals
LSC is partnering with Microsoft and Pro Bono Net to develop online, statewide access to justice portals to direct individuals to the most appropriate civil legal assistance. The project was announced during the April 19 White House Forum by LSC President James Sandman, who was joined by Brad L. Smith, Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer, and Mark O’Brien, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Pro Bono Net.
“The current system of accessing legal services is confusing, opaque, and inefficient for many people,” said Sandman. “The goal of the portals is to simplify the process by providing a single, statewide point of access to effective help for people needing civil legal assistance. Each user will be guided to available resources based on the nature of the matter and the user’s personal circumstances.”
Microsoft is contributing technical and staff resources and additional funding to this project. Pro Bono Net will help convene local partners and provide service design expertise. LSC, in consultation with national stakeholders, is developing a request for proposals so that interested jurisdictions may compete for the opportunity to develop two pilot portals.
As the initiative moves forward, LSC will work to attract other institutional funders and identify local re-sources to help ensure that the pilots are a success. Ultimately, the goal is to develop access to justice portals in every state to reach anyone with a significant civil legal problem.
New Tech Newsletter
LSC launched a new email newsletter in 2016, LSC’s Tech Download, which highlights innovation in legal aid technology. Each issue features stories on new developments in legal technology, profiles a project funded by TIG, reviews apps useful to the legal aid community, and lists upcoming legal technology events.2016 TIG Grants (Total Funding $4,203,221)
|State||Grantee||Grant Amount||Grant Description|
|AS||American Samoa Legal Aid||$61,740||
Establish four interview locations on three islands within the Manu’a Islands, each with a desktop computer, scanner/printer and internet access to allow residents of the isolated Manu’a Islands in American Samoa to gain access to legal aid services.
|AZ||Southern Arizona Legal Aid||$80,957||Use video conferencing to engage urban attorneys with rural clients and clients without access to legal aid due to lack of transportation. The project will enable SALA to move program training and cross-office collaborations into the virtual world by using the video conferencing features, reducing program costs.|
|CA||Legal Aid Society of Orange County||$94,064||Develop a system to send and receive text and multimedia-enhanced messages, including the ability for clients to securely send digital copies of key documents so that an attorney can review immediately. Texts from the program will also remind clients of appointments, and all client-sent texts will route automatically into the case and document management system.|
|CA||Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles||$159,695||Develop an online intake system in six languages to better connect with eligible clients. The online intake will be accessible to prospective clients 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and be accessible by smartphone, tablet, and personal computers using the A2J Author 5.0 platform. The system will be able to provide just-in-time legal information and resources to prospective clients as they make their way through the online intake system.|
|CT||Statewide Legal Services of Connecticut||$88,178||Enhance its self-help website, CTLawHelp.org, to make it more accessible for users on mobile devices. This will create an innovative website interface that feels and works more naturally on a mobile device and will incorporate cutting edge design practices to create a high-quality user experience.|
|CT||Statewide Legal Services of Connecticut||$152,000||Support improvements to Connecticut RePresent, an interactive learning experience that helps prepare self-represented individuals for court. SLSC will modify the RePresent to create jurisdiction-specific versions for clients in Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. It will also create a new version to educate clients on how to navigate eviction proceedings in housing court.|
|FL||Legal Services of North Florida||$130,121||Improve its phone system to increase ease of access for clients and improve staff ability to obtain client information. The upgraded phone system will use Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology, which uses internet services to send and receive calls. The ultimate goal is to foster a more cohesive system creating interfaces among the organization’s case management system, SharePoint, Office 365/Outlook, and VoIP.|
|FL||Coast to Coast Legal Aid of South Florida||$66,379||In partnership with PS Technologies, CCLA will develop an appointment and event reminder system. Legal aid clients will be notified via text message of upcoming appointments, court appearances, and other important deadlines. This technology will strengthen communication and improve outcomes for legal aid client.|
|FL||Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida||$139,200||Florida Legal Services Open Referral Initiative will enable all of the state’s legal services providers to share real-time information about their services in an open and easily accessible format. The project will make it easier to locate information about available community resources and help low-income Floridians receive legal assistance.|
|ID||Idaho Legal Aid Services||$80,934||Make legal aid websites in the state more accessible for individuals facing legal issues. The project will make it easier to share and find important information about legal resources. It will also increase legal aid organizations’ online presence and direct users to relevant legal information.|
|ID||Idaho Legal Aid Services||$251,985||In partnership with the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction and the Illinois Tech Chicago-Kent College of Law, ILAS will improve A2J Guided Interviews for the legal aid community. A2J Guided Interviews are interfaces that take complex legal information and present it in a straightforward way to self-represented litigants. This project will ensure that the catalog of more than 1,000 A2J Guided Interviews currently available to the legal aid community is easy to use, accurate, and up-to-date.|
|IL||Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation||$142,930||Enhance the Illinois statewide website, Illinois Legal Aid Online, to tailor content to individual users and leverage usage data to improve user experience and engagement. The project team will develop a sophisticated personalization engine that uses data modeling to anticipate both individual users’ needs and the appropriate time to present them information.|
|IA||Iowa Legal Aid||$59,734||Update and expand the A2J Author to migrate the program’s current online intake interview from the desktop to the cloud version, which will expand access to online applications to mobile device users. The project will also put the A2J author application to new uses for referrals and training and provide a Spanish language version of the online application and referral tools.|
|MI||Michigan Advocacy Program||$57,000||Build text messaging capacity into the Pika Case Management System to enable advocates to easily and confidentially communicate with clients via text messaging; schedule automated reminder texts to be sent to clients alerting them to court dates, office appointments, and case progress actions; and communicate with clients in emergencies via advocates’ personal phones through the Pika interface (while keeping phone numbers private and storing conversations in Pika).|
|MI||Michigan Advocacy Program||$127,000||Create four toolkits to help legal aid organizations evaluate and implement specific technology solutions recommended by the LSC Technology Baselines. The toolkits will help program leaders understand the benefits of specific operations and service delivery technologies, demystify the implementation process, and assist leaders in making smart decisions.|
|MT||Montana Legal Services Association||$116,537||Develop several packages of automated legal forms, including a will for Native Americans (usable across four states), simple wills for low-income people in Montana, living wills, and related affidavits. These forms will be available to self-represented individuals, pro bono attorneys, and legal aid staff.|
|NE||Legal Aid of Nebraska||$132,000||Develop a unified intake and triage system in English and Spanish to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the delivery of civil legal services across the state. The development and implementation of this project will enhance previous work under a TIG grant to build an expert system designed to be a technological hub for pro bono and assisted pro se litigants.|
|NY||Legal Services NYC||$77,500||Add a new and innovative e-learning component to the program’s poverty law CLE curriculum, the nation’s largest and most comprehensive legal aid-focused training program.|
|NY||Legal Assistance of Western New York||$114,223||The Raising the Bar project will use the LSC Technology Baselines to develop and pilot an online, interactive training and assessment program that can be utilized by legal aid providers to train staff on the technology skills needed to effectively and efficiently serve their clients.|
|NY||Legal Assistance of Western New York||$47,000||Enhance the LegalServer case management system, focusing on building efficiency. The enhancements to LegalServer will allow clients to stay connected with advocates throughout their case, enable legal service providers to deliver more holistic legal services to their current clients, and create new efficiencies in the way that advocates handle cases.|
|OH||Ohio State Legal Services||$808,000||Maintain LawHelp Interactive (LHI), the national online document assembly platform, used in more than 40 states to provide innovative services to clients and self-represented litigants. The grant will ensure that the LHI platform continues to provide a robust, reliable, and secure platform for the delivery of legal services by state justice communities. The service helps users fill out complicated legal forms by answering a series of questions.|
|OH||Ohio State Legal Services||$46,576||Create automated documents and court forms specially designed for legal services staff. The goal is to automate more work, freeing up staff to focus on higher-level service delivery. This project will also enable clients to assist in the completion of document.|
|OK||Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma||$135,217||In partnership with the Tulsa Family Safety Center, LASO will improve outcomes for victims of domestic violence by improving the workflow at the Center by consolidating the current series of oral and written interviews into one interview with an advocate.|
|OK||Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma||$221,746||Develop a statewide online triage program for all Oklahomans seeking civil legal services. It will identify and recommend the best sources of assistance for an individual’s circumstances, based on variables such as type of legal problem, income, location, and language.|
|PA||Philadelphia Legal Assistance Center||$42,000||Create a statewide database of landlord-tenant eviction cases and analyze the data under the direction of a steering committee of justice community members in order to measure outcomes, determine gaps in access to counsel, and identify priority areas for increased pro bono participation. A toolkit will be developed based on this demonstration project to assist other states undertaking similar projects.|
|SC||South Carolina Legal Services||$86,245||Develop and distribute online classroom training modules for pro bono attorneys, self-represented litigants, legal aid attorneys, and court personnel. The classrooms will include videos, written materials, and automated interviews to help complete legal form.|
|SC||South Carolina Legal Services||$122,000||In partnership with the University of South Carolina School of Library and Information Science, SCLS will develop and implement an information management system. This project will enable legal services providers to seamlessly store, search, locate, and share documents statewide to enhance and improve client services.|
|TN||West Tennessee Legal Services||$557,860||Replicate and expand Legal Aid of Western Michigan’s (LAWM) A2J online intake project. The system will utilize the case management system (CMS) Interview Connector developed by LAWM for seamless transfer of applicant data from the A2J Interview to the CMS. Implementation will focus on the 16 rural counties within the WTLS 17-county service area, and increase efficiency. Applicants will have 24/7 access to the system from any geographical location without needing available mobile phone minutes to complete telephone intake.|
|TN||Memphis Area Legal Services||$53,400||Create an online portal allowing legal aid intake staff to conduct guided interviews with clients. Written by attorneys in different areas of the law, the scripts will guide staff in providing case-specific advice to clients.|
|TX||Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas||$52,000||Develop an online intake portal in English and Spanish for the 114-county service area of Northwest Texas. The portal will support desktop and mobile users and be accessible at all times. The program will encourage applicants to access the system at branch offices, legal clinics, and community outreach centers to facilitate a more expedited application process.|
|UT||Utah Legal Services||$202,000||Build several new modules in its case management system, LegalServer. Attorneys and staff use LegalServer to collect and organize client data, capture case activities, and other important functions. The new modules will allow ULS to use data already collected to streamline and enhance communications with clients, preserve institutional knowledge, and improve oversight of case work.|
|VA||Central Virginia Legal Aid Society||$62,000||Create an A2J guided interview for bankruptcy applicants to obtain information needed to determine whether bankruptcy is appropriate. The software will then produce an instruction letter to the applicant explaining the bankruptcy process in general and which bankruptcy (Chapter 7 or 13) is best suited to the applicant.|
|VA||Legal Services of Northern Virginia||$52,000||Legal Services of Northern Virginia’s Spanish Online Intake and Appointment Reminder Project is designed to: (1) help clients with limited proficiency to use an A2J online application that will be developed in a simplified easy-to-understand Spanish language that incorporates audio, video, and graphics, to help applicants apply for services, and (2) have SMS text and voice messages sent to clients in Spanish reminding them of upcoming office appointments and court hearings.|
|WA||Northwest Justice Project||$83,000||Enhance NJP’s online intake system, CLEAR Online, as a more robust triage system. The project will also make CLEAR Online mobile-friendly and bring a Spanish mirror online intake system to serve the significant monolingual Spanish-speaking population of the state.|
Improving Management, Oversight, and Accountability
LSC’s Office of Program Performance (OPP) and Office of Compliance and Enforcement (OCE) work to improve grantees’ service delivery to clients by ensuring compliance with good fiscal management practices and regulatory and statutory requirements.
OPP continues to invest in program assessment visits, technical assistance, and other initiatives to support grantees. The office has primary responsibility for administering the competitive grants application and awards process, assessing the quality of grantees’ legal services delivery, sharing best practices for providing high-quality civil legal services, and promoting innovative uses of technology by grantees. In 2016, OPP conducted 43 onsite assessment visits in 27 states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin. OPP monitored 21 grantees that had special grant conditions to improve performance. OPP expects to complete 51 onsite assessment visits in 2017.
OCE has primary responsibility for monitoring grantee compliance with the LSC Act, regulations, and funding restrictions. OCE also enforces LSC’s Accounting Guide; conducts oversight reviews regarding compliance with the LSC Act and other LSC guidance, including fiscal-related regulations; initiates questioned-cost proceedings; identifies required corrective actions and necessary follow-ups; and provides technical assistance and training to grantees. In 2016, OCE conducted 21 onsite visits in 19 states: California, Florida, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. OCE expects to complete 20 compliance visits in 2017. LSC continues to take appropriate corrective actions against grantees that do not comply with the LSC Act and other laws and regulations. Questioned-cost proceedings were completed against four grantees in 2016, and funds were recouped and issues resolved via informal negotiations with three other grantees.
Helping to Improve and Protect LSC Programs
The Office of Inspector General (OIG) was established under the federal Inspector General Act as an inde-pendent office within LSC. It has the dual mission of preventing and detecting fraud and abuse and of pro-moting economy, efficiency, and effectiveness in LSC’s programs and operations. I believe that the OIG’s role is especially vital in the legal services arena, where the resource needs are urgent and the consequences so critical for the clients of LSC-funded programs. I am pleased to report that throughout FY 2016 we continued to make substantial contributions to protect-ing and improving the programs of LSC and its grant recipients. Some highlights included:
• Audited internal controls covering over $17,000,000 in LSC grant funds. Provided 129 recommendations for program improvements via nine audit reports issued to grantees.
• Identified over $147,000 in questioned costs through OIG audits and investigative referrals. LSC management sustained or recovered $123,000 in questioned costs from prior referrals, restoring significant funds to provide legal services to the client community.
• Provided oversight for the annual audit process for LSC’s 133 grantees.
• Continued the OIG’s comprehensive quality control program under which all firms conducting grantee audits are subject to a special review at least once every four years. Debarred two independent public accounting firms for faulty audit work, identified through our quality control program.
• Issued the revised Compliance Supplement for Audits of LSC Recipients (April 2016), and released a compendium report of findings and recommendations of our FY 2014 and FY 2015 grantee internal control audits, to enable LSC and grantee management to better recognize and respond to recurring problems.
• Performed four vulnerability assessments of grantee Information Technology (IT) networks under our new IT security review program, to help strengthen technology security and to prevent and protect grantees from unwanted IT intrusions.
• Made six criminal fraud referrals to prosecutorial authorities. During the year, we opened and conducted 60 investigations, involving a variety of criminal and regulatory matters including fraud, false claims, and improper use of LSC funds, and we closed 44 investigations.
I am especially pleased that our efforts continued to reflect strong and effective working relationships with our stakeholders.
• We kept Congress informed of our activities through periodic meetings and reports, and responded to multiple Congressional requests.
• We continued working in coordination with the Board and LSC management on a variety of regulatory matters, including: purchasing and property management; cost standards and procedures; subgrants and membership fees; procedures for disclosure of information under the Freedom of Information Act; and bonding of recipients. Additionally, we worked with LSC management on many policy initiatives, providing comments and recommendations with respect to the update of LSC’s Strategic Plan, grant assurances, purchasing and contracting, and ethics and conflicts of interest.
• In April, the OIG released a memorandum to LSC management identifying concerns related to grantee contracting policies, procedures, and practices. In short-order, management responded in a coordinated fashion by releasing supplemental guidance to LSC recipients on effective procurement policy and best practices in contract management.
• The OIG continued to place special emphasis on fraud prevention through a vigorous program of outreach and education activities. We performed several onsite vulnerability assessments to help programs identify and correct specific weaknesses in their controls and operations. In FY 2016, we conducted eight fraud vulnerability assessments, seven regulatory vulnerability assessments, and three fraud awareness briefings. We released a fraud alert to the legal services community regarding potential internal and external risks related to client trust accounts to help protect recipients from fraud, waste, and abuse.
I am gratified by the continuing contributions we have been able to make. Together with all the OIG’s staff members, I am dedicated to doing all that we can to help improve and protect LSC’s programs. I look forward to continuing to work with LSC’s Board of Directors, its President, and the LSC staff in support of our common commitment to equal access to justice for low-income Americans.
October 15, 2017