LSC Updates - November 9, 2010
The Legal Services Corporation will dedicate its conference center on Nov. 19 in honor of F. William McCalpin, former chairman of LSC's Board of Directors and a towering figure in the civil legal aid movement.
McCalpin, who passed away last year at the age of 88, was one of the longest-serving Board members in LSC history. He sat on the Board for a total of 13 years-including two as chairman-during two terms of service.
But his dedication to securing equal access to justice for all Americans preceded and extended far beyond his time with LSC. His career included terms as president of the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, head of two legal aid programs in his home state of Missouri and chairman of numerous American Bar Association committees on legal aid issues.
John T. Broderick Jr., chief justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court and McCalpin's former colleague on the LSC Board, will give the keynote address at LSC's dedication ceremony.
The Legal Services Corporation and the American Red Cross have renewed an agreement to cooperate in the delivery of services to victims of natural disasters.
Under the agreement, which was originally signed in 2008 and renewed this September, LSC-funded legal aid programs will have access to Red Cross Service Delivery sites in order to provide legal counseling to disaster victims.
"Legal aid programs play a vital role in helping people recover from natural disasters," said LSC President Victor M. Fortuno. "This agreement with the Red Cross ensures that victims will have access to the legal resources they need to get their lives back on track following a devastating disaster."
The agreement also stipulates that LSC and the Red Cross will keep in close contact regarding natural disasters and will encourage their grantees or local chapters to coordinate on issues related to pre-disaster planning and disaster response activities.
The agreement is non-binding and will expire in two years, but may be renewed at that time.
Download the agreement. ( 239k)
LSC Board Chairman John G. Levi will speak on Nov. 11 at the Civil Caucus of the National Legal Aid and Defender Association's 2010 Annual Conference.
According to the NLADA, the Civil Caucus will focus on the new LSC Board of Directors and will also address the changing demographics of poverty in the U.S. and how civil legal aid programs can mitigate the financial challenges they face.
The conference will be held in Atlanta from Nov. 10-13. For more information about the event, visit the NLADA website at www.nlada.org/Training/Train_Annual/.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced on Oct. 27 a new rule aimed at protecting victims of domestic violence from eviction and eventual homelessness.
The rule includes requirements that housing authorities or management agents must work to protect victims-by transferring them to a new home, barring the abuser from the property, increasing police presence on the property-before evicting them.
"This rule recognizes the need to protect victims of domestic abuse from being evicted just because they were victimized. No one should be afraid of losing their home if they report abuse," said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan in the announcement.
The announcement notes that domestic violence has been identified as a major cause of homelessness among families.
Legal aid programs throughout the country helped recognize the important contributions of volunteer lawyers during the National Pro Bono Celebration sponsored by the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service from Oct. 24-30.
The week-long celebration, which began in 2009, is a coordinated national effort aimed at encouraging and supporting local efforts to expand the delivery of pro bono services to the country's most vulnerable citizens.
As part of this year's celebration, legal aid programs participated in a variety of events showcasing the many ways that pro bono lawyers help to ensure access to justice for low-income Americans.
Legal Services of Northern California, for example, partnered with students at the University of the Pacific's McGeorge School of Law to host eight landlord-tenant clinics throughout the week. Heading east, Kansas Legal Services hosted a Continuing Legal Education training for pro bono domestic violence advocates. In Maryland, the Legal Aid Bureau and the Pro Bono Resource Center held a pro bono day where members of the public could get advice in many different areas of law.
For more information on the celebration, go to www.celebrateprobono.org.
Press Release, Georgia Legal Services Program – Nov. 4, 2010
The Georgia Legal Services Program announced the launch of a new website today that will help lawyers in Georgia better serve veterans and service members.
In response to the ever-growing need for legal assistance, Georgia Legal Services and the State Bar of Georgia Pro Bono Project teamed up to create an online resource to encourage and support lawyers in delivering critical legal help to our country's defenders. The website is also designed to support the work of the Military Legal Assistance Program of the State Bar of Georgia, a new initiative of the State Bar that connects pro bono and reduced-fee lawyers with veterans and service members in Georgia.
"Georgia Legal Services believes that the State Bar's new Military Legal Assistance Program has shown great potential in meeting the legal needs of our service members in Georgia. We wanted to add some fire power to their effort, and we're happy that we can provide this wonderful service to Bar members who are involved in that project," says Phyllis J. Holmen, the Executive Director of Georgia Legal Services Program.
Mary Swanton, Inside Counsel – Nov. 1, 2010
Southeast Michigan's auto-dependent economy has suffered devastating blows during the recent recession. The attorneys who work at Ford Motor Co.'s headquarters are acutely aware of the pain many of their neighbors have endured.
"People in this office feel fortunate to be working at Ford Motor Co.," says David Leitch, Ford's general counsel. "So there is a real spirit of giving back, particularly at this time and in this community. I've been very proud of the professionals for stepping up and pitching in."
Companywide Accelerated Action Days sponsored quarterly by the Ford Volunteer Corps provide a focus for the pro bono efforts. The Office of the General Counsel's pro bono committee organizes legal clinics on the action days. The clinics, run in conjunction with the non-profit Legal Aid and Defender Association (LADA) and Community Legal Resources organizations, include an expungement clinic and a clinic to assist non-profit organizations with issues arising from the recession.
In a pilot program initiated by LADA and supported by the Ford Fund, this year Ford attorneys are also helping low income families determine their eligibility for food stamps. A skyrocketing caseload of food stamp applicants in the past two years and the learning curve for a new online application system have contributed to a high negative error rate in Michigan that hurts people whose benefits are unfairly terminated or denied, according to Julie Nuse, a staff attorney at LADA.
Lark Reynolds, The Greenville News – Nov. 3, 2010
There are a lot of jokes floating around about lawyers. But there are times when their assistance is invaluable in dealing with things that most certainly are not laughing matters, such as when a tenant faces unfair eviction.
Legal expertise, though, generally comes at a price that low-income residents of the Upstate can't afford.
That's where South Carolina Legal Services comes in. The Greenville office sits right in the heart of the West End, and opens its doors to low-income individuals who need legal help in civil-not criminal-matters.
"It's a huge range of things," said Kirby Mitchell, managing attorney at the Greenville office. "We do a lot in Family Court, in tenant-landlord cases, consumer bankruptcy, elder law and tax cases."
The office's eight full-time attorneys keep active caseloads in a variety of areas, but each does have a specialty, such as housing or consumer bankruptcy. Clients walk in the door seeking help with problems ranging from divorce to eviction, and everything in between.
"There's just a constant demand for free legal help, as you can imagine," Mitchell said.
Legal aid is about helping ordinary people with real-life problems. Client stories illustrate the day-to-day struggles-and victories-of poor Americans seeking justice under law.
Legal Aid Program Honors its Clients
Most award ceremonies in the legal aid community honor lawyers-staff attorneys or pro bono volunteers-for outstanding service to clients. It's rare for clients to win awards of their own.
"In quiet juxtaposition" to other awards ceremonies, every year the Board of Directors of Iowa Legal Aid honors a select group of clients "whose courage and strength of character epitomize the standards to which Iowa Legal Aid aspires."
This year, the clients honored were a victim of domestic violence who safely removed herself from an abusive environment, a woman with health problems who fought a collections agency that was hounding her over a debt she didn't owe, and a woman who helped herself and her fellow tenants recover fees illegally charged them by their landlord.
"These stories make clear the courage Iowa Legal Aid's clients exhibit as they live their lives with hope and dignity on a playing field inclined against them by virtue of their poverty or disability," concludes an Iowa Legal Aid newsletter article on the clients.
Learn more about Iowa Legal Aid at www.iowalegalaid.org.
Created by Congress in 1974, LSC’s mission is to promote equal access to justice in our Nation and to provide high quality civil legal assistance to low-income persons. LSC Updates is produced by LSC’s Office of Government Relations & Public Affairs. Questions, comments, or articles can be submitted to Sean Driscoll, Special Assistant, at firstname.lastname@example.org.