LSC’s Rural Justice Task Force to Hold Oklahoma City Field Hearing

Carl Rauscher          
Director of Communications and Media Relations    

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WASHINGTON — The Legal Services Corporation (LSC) is convening a field hearing for its Rural Justice Task Force on Tuesday, October 25 from 9:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. CDT at the Sheraton Oklahoma City Downtown Hotel. This is the third meeting of the task force, which began in December 2021 to identify major issues that prevent rural Americans from accessing justice in the civil legal system and to promote effective solutions.

According to LSC’s 2022 Justice Gap Report, low-income Americans in rural households did not receive any or enough legal help for 94% of their civil legal problems. The survey findings showed that 77% of low-income rural households experienced at least one civil legal problem in the past year, and 40% experienced at least five. The most common types of problems related to consumer issues, health care and income maintenance.

The goals of the Rural Justice Task Force include raising awareness of the civil legal needs of rural residents, profiling model programs that provide effective legal services to rural communities, recommending strategies for engaging private attorneys to provide pro bono services, and identifying opportunities for state and federal legislative assistance. The final report of findings and recommendations of the Rural Justice Task Force is expected to be released in the spring of 2023.

The Oklahoma City hearing for the Rural Justice Task Force will feature remarks from Chief Gary Batton of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and General Counsel for the Cheyenne-Arapaho Tribe, Hershel Gorham.

The event will continue with three panel discussions:

  • Looking Beyond Lawyers to Shrink the Justice Gap: Legal Paraprofessionals and Non-Lawyer Navigators
    • Moderator: Dean William Hubbard, University of South Carolina School of Law
    • Nancy Ivarinen, Program Director, Paralegal Studies Program, Whatcom Community College; Former Chair Washington State Limited License Legal Technician Program
    • Alison Paul, Executive Director, Montana Legal Services Association
    • Hon. Kirsten Thompson, Senior Circuit Court Judge, Oregon Circuit Court; Chair, Paraprofessional Licensing Implementation Committee, Oregon State Bar
    • Hallie Bongar White, Dean, National Tribal Trial College; Executive Director, Southwest Center for Law and Policy
  • Recruitment and Retention of Rural Lawyers
    • Moderator: Alison Paul, Executive Director, Montana Legal Services AssociationoFuronda Brasfield, Managing Attorney, The Law Office of Furonda Brasfield, PLLC
    • Sally Holewa, State Court Administrator, North Dakota Rural Recruitment Program
    • Anthony Schutz, Director of the Rural Law Opportunities Program; Associate Dean for Faculty and Associate Professor of Law, University of Nebraska-LincolnoTaier Perlman, Staff Attorney, Legal Services of the Hudson Valley
  • Community Partnerships that Increase Access to Justice in Rural Areas
    • Moderator: Nikole Nelson, Executive Director, Alaska Legal Services CorporationoJen Cuesta, Rural Pro Bono Program Attorney, Colorado Legal ServicesoChrista Figgins, Director of Mission Advancement, Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, Inc.
    • Helen Gratil, Beyond Opioids Project Director, Arkansas Legal Services
    • Rodolf (Rudy) Sanchez, Executive Director, DNA People’s Services
    • Kate White, Access to Services Manager, Legal Aid of West Virginia.

The field hearing will also feature remarks from LSC President Ronald Flagg, Rural Justice Task Force Co-Chair and General Counsel & Chief Privacy Officer at Ascendium Education Group, Rebecca Rapp, and National Pro Bono Partner at Quarles & Brady LLP, Mike Levey.

The full agenda for the Rural Justice Task Force field hearing is available here. Virtual access to observe the event is available through Zoom.

The law firm of Quarles & Brady LLP is providing pro bono project assistance to the task force, and Ascendium Education Group, Inc., a philanthropy and federal loan guarantor committed to increasing access to and success in post-secondary education and training, has underwritten the initiative.

Legal Services Corporation (LSC) is an independent nonprofit established by Congress in 1974. For 50 years, LSC has provided financial support for civil legal aid to low-income Americans. The Corporation currently provides funding to 131 independent nonprofit legal aid programs in every state, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories.