(TOP LEFT) U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
(TOP RIGHT) Chief Judge Merrick Garland, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
(BOTTOM LEFT) L-R: Judge David S. Tatel, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit; Edith Tatel; Justice Ginsburg (BOTTOM RIGHT) L-R: Shari Redstone, Vice Chair of the Board, CBS Corporation; Jim Harbaugh, University of Michigan head football coach
Regional Judicial Forums
Panel: “The Importance of Access to Justice to the Judiciary.” L-R: Judge William A. Van Nortwick, Florida First District Court of Appeal (ret.); Chief Justice Liana Fiol Matta, Tribunal Supremo de Puerto Rico; Martha Minow, Harvard Law School Dean and LSC Board Vice Chair; Chief Justice Jorge Labarga, Florida Supreme Court; Judge Marcia G. Cooke, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida; Richard K. Leefe, Leefe, Gibbs, Sullivan & Dupré, LLC (on behalf of Louisiana Chief Justice Bernette J. Johnson, Louisiana Supreme Court)
The LSC Board also convened judicial forums across the country in conjunction with its quarterly meetings.
Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Jorge Labarga, leading judges, attorneys, and technology experts gathered in Miami on Jan. 23 for two panels on civil legal aid. LSC Board Chair John G. Levi and LSC Board Member Gloria Valencia-Weber provided introductory remarks.
Judge Marcia G. Cooke of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida; Richard K. Leefe, founding Partner of Leefe, Gibbs, Sullivan & Dupre in Louisiana; Tribunal Supremo de Puerto Rico Chief Justice Liana Fiol Matta; and retired Florida First District Court of Appeal Judge William A. Van Nortwick Jr. joined Chief Justice Labarga to discuss the importance of access to justice issues for the judiciary. Martha Minow, Vice Chair of the LSC Board and Dean of Harvard Law School, moderated the discussion.
A second panel focused on how technology can expand access to justice and showcased LSC’s Technology Initiative Grants program. Panelists included Glenn Rawdon, LSC program counsel for technology; Jane Ribadeneyra, LSC program analyst; and Bethany A. Bandstra and William D. Mueller, legal interns for the University of Miami School of Law Health Rights Clinic.
(TOP ROW) L-R: Chief Justice Jorge Labarga, Florida Supreme Court; Judge Marcia G. Cooke, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Richard K. Leefe, Leefe, Gibbs, Sullivan & Dupré, LLC
(BOTTOM ROW) L-R: Chief Justice Liana Fiol Matta, Tribunal Supremo de Puerto Rico; Judge William A. Van Nortwick, Florida First District Court of Appeal (ret.)
LSC Board Member Gloria Valencia-Weber
Minnesota Chief Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea and leading jurists and lawyers from the Midwest gathered in Minneapolis for two panels at the University of St. Thomas School of Law on July 17.
Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson, LSC Board Chair Levi, and Dean Robert Vischer of the University of St. Thomas School of Law delivered remarks before the discussions.
The first panel, which focused on the importance of access to justice to the judiciary, included Chief Justice Gildea, Justice Shirley Abrahamson of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, Judge Michael Davis of the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota, and Justice Thomas Kilbride of the Illinois Supreme Court. Dean Minow moderated the discussion.
The second panel examined the role of LSC-funded legal aid programs in the development of Indian Law. Panelists included Christopher Allery, Co-Executive Director, Anishinabe Legal Services; Rosalie Chavez, Manager, Santa Ana office and the Native American Program, New Mexico Legal Aid; Professor Richard Collins, University of Colorado Law School; John Echohawk, Executive Director, Native American Rights Fund; and Judge Ron Whitener, Tulalip Tribal Court. LSC Board Member Valencia-Weber, a professor at the University of New Mexico Law School, served as moderator.
Representative Tom Emmer, a Republican who represents Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District, and Dean David Wippman of the University of Minnesota Law School, delivered remarks at a luncheon following the panel discussions.
On Oct. 5, LSC held two panel discussions on civil legal aid in conjunction with its quarterly board meeting.
LSC Board Chair Levi; Dean Sujit Choudhry of the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law; Dean Kevin Johnson of the University of California, Davis, School of Law; and Dean M. Elizabeth Magill of the Stanford Law School delivered remarks before the discussions.
The first panel focused on the importance of access to justice to the judiciary and featured Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye of the California Supreme Court, Chief Justice Thomas Balmer of the Oregon Supreme Court, Chief Justice Scott Bales of the Arizona Supreme Court, Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald of the Hawaii Supreme Court, and Judge William Orrick of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. Dean Minow moderated the panel.
The second discussion focused on how business and technology can help expand access to justice. Dean John Trasviña of the University of San Francisco School of Law delivered remarks before this panel, which featured Jeff Hyman, General Counsel, Corporate Secretary and Head of Human Resources, Pebble; Charles Rampenthal, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, LegalZoom.com; and Alon Rotem, General Counsel, Rocket Lawyer. LSC President Sandman moderated the panel.
At a luncheon following the panel discussions, Bonnie Hough, Managing Attorney of the California Administrative Office of the Courts, and John Simpson, Manager of Community and Publishing Services, Legal Services Society (Legal Aid British Columbia), discussed the collaboration between California and British Columbia to expand access to justice.
Briefing Congress about Civil Legal Aid
Briefing members of Congress about the crisis in civil legal aid and LSC’s efforts to address it is a crucial component of our work. In addition to regular outreach to federal lawmakers and their staff, in 2015 LSC co-sponsored briefings in both the Senate and House and invited Members of Congress to a half-dozen events across the country.
On April 15, four state supreme court chief justices gathered at the Dirksen Senate Office Building to discuss the problems posed by the millions of pro se litigants crowding America’s state courts.
“Litigants Without Lawyers: Equal Justice Under Threat in State Courts” was sponsored by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and featured Texas Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht, Florida Chief Justice Jorge Labarga, Tennessee Chief Justice Sharon G. Lee, and Kentucky Chief Justice John D. Minton, Jr.
LSC Board Chairman John G. Levi delivered the opening remarks for the Senate briefing, and LSC President Jim Sandman moderated the discussion.
Staff from 30 congressional offices representing both parties attended.
A month later, LSC hosted a panel of experts on veterans’ issues at a congressional briefing on May 12 at the Rayburn House Office Building.
Patrick Murphy, former Congressman (D-PA) and Iraq war veteran
Panelists at the event, which was co-sponsored by Rep. David Jolly (R-FL) and Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA), were:
- Patrick Murphy, member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 2007 to 2011 for the 8th Congressional District of Pennsylvania and Iraq war veteran;
- Will Gunn, former General Counsel of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and retired Air Force colonel;
- Nan Heald, Executive Director of Pine Tree Legal Assistance; and
- Bryan Noyes, Iraq war veteran and former client of Pine Tree Legal Assistance.
L-R: Bryan Noyes, Iraq War Veteran and former client of Pine Tree Legal Services; Nan Heald, Executive Director, Pine Tree Legal Services; Will A. Gunn, former General Counsel, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and retired Air Force Colonel; The Hon. Patrick J. Murphy, former U.S. Representative for the 8th District of Pennsylvania and Iraq War Veteran; LSC President James J. Sandman; Victor B. Maddox, LSC Board of Directors
LSC President Jim Sandman moderated the panel, and LSC Board Member Victor Maddox provided opening remarks for the briefing, which focused on how civil legal aid can help veterans and their families.
Forty-five congressional staffers from both parties and 15 different states were among those in attendance.
LSC also held press conferences across the country with Members of Congress to discuss specific grants and projects.
New York Congressman Jerry Nadler (NY-10), President Sandman, and leaders of Legal Services NYC gathered in New York on Sept. 22 to announce LSNYC’s grant to address student debt issues for low-income individuals.
The project will enlist volunteers who are transactional lawyers at large firms and corporations, as well as law students and others, to help secure appropriate debt discharges, consolidation, and income-related relief.
“For more than 40 years, Legal Services Corporation has fought against poverty and sought justice for low-income residents by providing them with high quality free legal help on various civil legal cases ranging from housing, domestic violence to public benefits issues,” said Nadler. “Today I’m proud to join LSC and announce these grants from the Pro Bono Innovation Fund. Grants such as the $346,738 to Legal Services NYC will address student debt issues, which has reached crisis level in our country today.”
The next week in Albany, New York Congressman Paul Tonko (NY-20), President Sandman, and leaders of the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York announced its grant to expand service to low-income people in rural areas.
The organization will partner with Legal Assistance of Western New York and the Volunteer Legal Services Project of Monroe County to create a virtual platform that connects rural clients to urban volunteer attorneys. This will allow lawyers to conduct online interviews and share documents so they can help review and prepare pleadings for self-represented litigants in housing and consumer law matters.
“I thank LSC for the important legal support they provide our friends and neighbors most in need,” said Tonko. “The funds allocated to LASNNY will assist communities throughout the Capital Region, creating essential infrastructure to connect urban volunteers with the rural clients they represent. This will go a long way in expanding these services by enlisting new volunteers and ensuring there is enough support for them to effectively represent their clients.”
Later in October, Illinois Congressman Mike Quigley (IL-5) and Chairman John Levi joined leaders of LAF (formerly Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago) to announce LAF’s pro bono innovation grant to help low-income seniors, as well as a Technology Initiative Grant (TIG) to expand text message access to legal services.
LAF will partner with the Center for Disability and Elder Law to adapt their pro bono workshop to help low-income seniors access important services, including powers of attorney for health care and property, living wills, and transfer-on-death instruments.
LAF will use its TIG to fund a project to integrate SMS texting into the statewide legal services website. The project will expand access to legal information through the use of text messaging.
“Legal Assistance Foundation in Chicago does amazing work, helping people living in poverty with free professional legal services,” said Quigley. “The grants that LAF is receiving will help seniors obtain legal services in their time of need, and will expand access to legal information through the use of text messaging. The promise of justice for all is an empty one without access to legal assistance, and I will continue to advocate for grants such as these through my role on the House Appropriations Committee.”
In Kansas City on Oct. 30, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (MO-5), President Sandman, and leaders of Legal Aid of Western Missouri announced that the legal aid provider will receive a 24-month $257,441 Pro Bono Innovation Fund grant to large law firm pro bono resources to the city’s urban core.
The Adopt-a-Neighborhood project will work with community partners to conduct need and asset assessments in five core neighborhoods to determine the best role for law firm and pro bono volunteers.
“I am thrilled that the Legal Services Corporation has chosen Legal Aid of Western Missouri as a recipient of a FY 2015 Pro Bono Grant,” said Cleaver. “This money will be vital in ensuring much needed resources, including legal assistance and community development, are available to those in the urban core. Legal Aid’s Adopt-A-Neighborhood project is doing incredible work already in revitalizing the community, but this grant is of principal importance in continuing their assistance to numerous individuals.”
In November, Rep. Adam Smith (WA-9), LSC Board member Harry Korrell, and leaders of the Northwest Justice Project announced a $500,000 TIG to develop standards and best practices for mobile-compatible, web-based legal education videos that will be available to other legal aid programs to replicate. Funds will also be used to make improvements to the Legal Services National Technology Assistance Project by supporting a core collection of services and resources and providing individualized program guidance on a variety of legal technologies.
“Legal aid programs provide critical support to low-income individuals by offering civil legal assistance in cases involving basic human needs. In our community, Northwest Justice Project (NJP) operates 17 locations, as well as a legal help hotline known as CLEAR (Coordinated Legal Education Advice and Referral),” said Congressman Smith. “I was pleased to see that this year they received two grants from the Legal Services Corporation for a Technology Initiative Grant. I have been a strong supporter of the LSC throughout my time in Congress and I look forward to seeing these vital funds expand access to justice for those who need it the most.”
Massachusetts Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy III (MA-4) and President Sandman joined leaders from five Massachusetts legal aid and technology organizations on Dec. 14 in Boston to announce an LSC technology grant to the Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association (VLP) and to convene a roundtable discussion on legal aid.
VLP’s $137,200 Technology Initiative Grant will be used to enhance mobile access to information and guidance for volunteer lawyers handling pro bono cases. The roundtable discussion focused on the need for legal aid in Massachusetts, how that need is being met, and funding challenges on both the state and national levels.
“Lack of access to legal representation leaves too many low-income families and individuals on unequal footing in our justice system,” said Kennedy, who several weeks before co-founded the bipartisan Access to Civil Legal Services Caucus in the House of Representatives in conjunction with Rep. Susan Brooks (IN-5). “When so many of those families have nowhere else to turn, the Volunteer Lawyers Project offers a guiding hand and ensures our Commonwealth and country make good on the promise of equal protection under the law. This grant will help even more people across Massachusetts benefit from the tireless work of their pro bono lawyers, and I look forward to working with them in the future to expand access to legal aid even further.”
Providing Critical Constituent Services in Every Congressional District
LSC grantees help individuals who live in households with annual incomes at or below 125% of the federal poverty guidelines—$14,713 for an individual, $30,313 for a family of four in 2015. Clients span every demographic and live in rural, suburban, and urban areas. They include veterans and military families, homeowners and renters, families with children, farmers, the disabled, and the elderly.
Millions of Americans cannot access the civil justice system because they cannot afford a lawyer. Some low-income Americans seek protection from an abusive spouse, or are fighting for custody of an abused or orphaned child. Others face homelessness because of a wrongful eviction or foreclosure. They may be Iraq or Afghanistan war veterans who have returned home to economic strain and now confront legal issues. Or they may be elderly citizens who have fallen victim to fraud and lost their life savings. Women—many of whom are struggling to keep their children safe and their families together—comprise 70% of clients at LSC-funded programs.
LSC grantees provide quality legal counsel at no cost to low-income constituents who could not otherwise afford an attorney. They employ experienced legal professionals who are experts in civil legal matters and help many of these low-income Americans with a wide variety of legal challenges.
- Family Law: 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. Approximately one-third of all cases closed by LSC grantees are family law cases.
- Housing and Foreclosure Cases: The second largest category of cases closed involves efforts to resolve landlord-tenant disputes, avoid wrongful foreclosures or renegotiate mortgages, and assist renters whose landlords are being foreclosed upon.
- 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.
- Income Maintenance: LSC grantees also help clients obtain veterans’, unemployment, disability, and healthcare benefits for which they are eligible and provide representation when benefits are wrongly denied.
FAMILY KEEPS THEIR HOME
After 32 years of marriage, Jacqueline’s husband abruptly left her and their two children. Over the next two years, she struggled to pay her mortgage and provide for her family while working as a certified nursing assistant. Because her estranged husband paid no child support and made no other financial contributions, Jacqueline had to work two or three jobs just to stay afloat. In March 2014, she lost her primary job and could not make her mortgage payments. Her home fell into foreclosure. With the assistance of an attorney at Legal Aid of North Carolina, the foreclosure sale was deferred and Jacqueline received financial assistance from a federal program to keep her home. Legal aid was able to negotiate a settlement that included 15 months of additional help with her mortgage while she got back on her feet. Jacqueline now has the safety and security she needs to raise her children and restart her career.
MOTHER ESCAPES ABUSIVE SPOUSE
Betigist, a mother of a one-and-a-half-year-old son, was in fear for her life. Her husband started to abuse her after she got pregnant. He would hit her, punch her, drag her by the hair, and threaten to kill her with a pair of scissors. She left her husband and went into a shelter program. She went to legal aid to get help. With the assistance from an attorney at Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, she was able to get a five-year restraining order and sole legal custody of her son. She said she was hopeless, but after legal aid, she got her hope back. Betigist is now enrolled in school and wants to be a doctor one day. “Legal aid saved me and my son’s life.”
VETERAN RECEIVES THE SERVICES HE NEEDS
U.S. Army Veteran Ronald Amador served as a combat medic in Iraq and Afghanistan. He suffered from severe PTSD from his years in service, resulting in suicide attempts, involuntary hospitalizations, and substance abuse. With the help of Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida’s (CLSMF) Veterans Advocacy Unit, he was able to get his life back. His attorney managed to secure a 100% disability rating from the VA, a settlement for retroactive benefits, and an increase in his monthly compensation. With stability and a renewed hope for his future, Ronald was empowered to help others. He donated $1,000 to Community Legal Services and appeared on a TV news interview to give a human face to the problems veterans face when seeking help after their military service. In a letter to his attorney, Ronald expressed his gratitude and explained the difference legal assistance made in his life. “[You] made me have a little hope even when I didn’t. It is real special to have someone who will stay with you ‘til the end,” he wrote. “You got me believing a little more in life and make me very proud and honored to have defended and help enjoy the freedom you have today. You have made an everlasting mark in my life.”
MOTHER AVOIDS FORECLOSURE OF HER FLOODED HOME
The floods of 2008 devastated Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and one of its victims was Ethel. She is a single mother and owner of a catering business. The floods severely damaged Ethel’s home and her business suffered cancellations. She fell behind on her payments, and Ethel’s home went into foreclosure. An attorney at Iowa Legal Aid helped Ethel get a loan modification and stay in her home with an affordable monthly payment. She now has a safe and secure place to raise her young daughter. She is grateful to legal aid for saving her home, and giving her confidence and hope for a better future.
LSC STORIES ACROSS THE COUNTRY
In 2015, LSC launched a social media initiative to raise awareness of civil legal aid’s importance to low-income Americans. LSC worked to spread the word on the impact legal aid has on the lives of low-income Americans by collecting real stories of clients who had been helped by LSC grantees. For several weeks in spring, LSC posted a compelling client story daily from grantees on the LSC40 website, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
These stories were then brought together in a user-friendly interactive map on LSC’s website that highlights a compelling story from all fifty states, Micronesia, and the Virgin Islands. Stories range from a domestic violence survivor who was able to save her home to a cancer patient who managed to access critical healthcare coverage with the help of a legal aid attorney.
HELPING RURAL CLIENTS KEEP THEIR HOMES
Georgia Legal Services Program
When Linda’s* elderly mother grew ill with a terminal sickness, Linda moved into the old family home in a rural area of Georgia to take care of her. She learned that no one had been paying the property taxes on the home and was shocked to discover the property had been sold at a tax sale. Linda tried to get the tax sale purchaser to allow her to redeem the property, but he refused. Overwhelmed with the possibility of losing the family home, she turned to the legal aid attorneys at Georgia Legal Services Program (GLSP) for help. The tax sale purchaser also refused GLSP’s efforts to negotiate a redemption before the statutory period passed. GLSP promptly filed a lawsuit. After GLSP’s opening statement at the temporary hearing, the tax sale purchaser decided to accept Linda’s offer to redeem the home by paying the property taxes and the statutory penalty. Had it not been for Linda’s representation by GLSP legal aid attorneys, Linda’s mother would have lost the family home during a critical period.
PROTECTING CONSUMERS AGAINST FINANCIAL PREDATORS
Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas
David*, a retired Vietnam War veteran on a fixed income, purchased a car on a 72-month lease. As the note neared maturity, David received a notice that the loan had been extended for nearly a year. David tried to resolve the issue himself, contacting the Better Business Bureau and attempting to negotiate with the car company. The car company alleged that David had requested five deferrals and made eighteen late payments. David denied all of this and contacted Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas (LANWT) for help. LANWT provided David with a pro bono attorney who was able to prove that the veteran owed only $750 on the car. David was eventually able to settle the claim for that amount to be paid over three months. The case was dismissed with prejudice, and David retained his vehicle. Real stories of low-income families in need of legal aid and how their lives have been helped by the work of LSC and LSC Grantees.
*Names have been changed
LSC’s Campaign for Justice Enhances Work of Grantees
Growing out of LSC’s 40th Anniversary commemoration, in 2015 the Campaign for Justice continued LSC’s carefully targeted effort to raise private funds to complement its congressional allocation. These projects will expand access to justice and enhance the work of LSC’s 134 grantees by funding projects no single grantee could undertake. By year’s end, contributions from foundations, national law firms, and individuals surpassed $5 million.
Project: Midwest Legal Disaster Coordination Project
Funder: Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies
LSC awarded grants to Iowa Legal Aid and Legal Aid of Nebraska to support projects that develop coordinated plans between disaster preparedness organizations and legal services providers in the region. They will also work closely with local pro bono attorneys to provide free onsite legal aid services to disaster victims in affected areas and create a multi-component toolkit for use by other legal aid organizations across the country.
Project: Data Collection Toolkit and Data-Driven Management for Civil Legal Aid Providers
Funder: Public Welfare Foundation
Using funding from the Public Welfare Foundation, LSC has created an online toolkit and training program for legal aid providers on measuring outcomes. A self-guided, interactive e-learning course guides research on effective outcomes data collection practices and on how outcomes measurement can be used legal aid providers on how to collect, analyze, and use outcomes data to improve client services and program effectiveness.
A second Public Welfare Foundation grant funds research on effective outcomes data collection practices and on how outcomes measurement can be used to drive strategic and resource-allocation decisions.
Project: G. Duane Vieth Leadership Development Program
Funder: Arnold & Porter Foundation
Thanks to a generous five-year pledge from the Arnold & Porter Foundation, LSC is funding its first national grant initiative to support leadership training and development for civil legal aid providers. LSC awarded grants to seven legal aid organizations: Appalachian Research and Defense Fund of Kentucky, California Rural Legal Assistance, Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida, Indiana Legal Services, Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County, New Mexico Legal Aid, and Legal Aid of Wyoming.
Project: Statewide Legal Aid Website Evaluation
Funder: Ford Foundation
The Ford Foundation’s two-year grant will allow LSC to assess the accessibility and usability of the statewide legal aid websites in every state and territory. LSC will identify best practices for statewide legal aid websites and offer recommendations for replicating the content and features of the websites deemed most effective.
Project: Planning Grant to Partner with Public Libraries to Improve Access to Justice
Funder: Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
This planning project will establish the essential components of a curriculum to train public librarians to assist people with civil legal needs. The project will lay the groundwork to transform public libraries into hubs for accessible and useful information about civil legal matters for people who cannot afford a lawyer.
Project: Rural Summer Legal Corps
Funder: Private Funds
In partnership with Equal Justice Works, LSC established a new fellowship program to improve access to legal assistance in rural areas by recruiting law students to serve as fellows at rural legal aid providers each summer. The program will increase the availability of legal services to low-income people in rural areas, develop law students’ skills in serving low-income and rural clients, and increase rural legal aid programs’ ability to recruit highly qualified new attorneys. There are sufficient funds to continue the program for at least five summers.
Project: 2016 Justice Gap Report
Funder: William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and Kresge Foundation
With support from these two funders, LSC will produce an updated national report documenting the “justice gap”—the difference between the need for civil legal services and LSC grantee resources available to meet that need. LSC will update its 2009 Justice Gap Report and use new data to compare states, urban versus rural needs, and areas of the law that are most underserved to inform resource-investment and advocacy priorities for access to justice stakeholders.
LSC Concludes 40th Anniversary Commemoration in San Francisco
New York Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht, ABA President Paulette Brown, and legal, business, and government leaders convened on Oct. 6 in San Francisco for LSC’s 40th Anniversary closing event.
The program featured panels and presentations on a number of topics, including “The Creation and Early Years of the Legal Services Corporation,” “Quick Tips: Technology Innovations to Increase Access to Justice,” “The Role of Corporate Counsel in Expanding Access to Justice,” and “The Impact of Pro Bono Lawyers on Narrowing the Justice Gap.” Two former clients of LSC grantees also spoke.
In a highlight of the occasion, Lippman and Hecht discussed access to justice issues in a conversation moderated by Harvard Law School Dean and LSC Vice Chair Martha Minow.
ABA President Paulette Brown, Sidley Austin Partner Dan Clivner, California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, LSC Board Chair John Levi, and LSC President Jim Sandman delivered remarks.
LSC is grateful for all of our private funders who support new initiatives that extend and amplify the work of civil legal aid providers around the country, helping them keep America’s promise of “Justice for All.”
Mayealie Adams, Anonymous (2), Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Carol Bergman, Ben Bishop, Andrea Boulanger, Anais Chakerian, Daniel Clivner, David Cohen, Charles Crispen, Crown Goodman Family, Karen Damianick, Dechert LLP, Christopher Devlin, DirectLaw, Inc., DLA Piper LLP (US), Leilani Dornfeld, Faegre Baker Daniels Foundation, Faegre Baker Daniels LLP, Flextronics International Ltd., Ford Foundation, Hebert Garten, Thomas Hair, Paige Harrington, Leonard Hobbs, Michael Hughes, Dennis Hughes, Ariel Jacobson, Abraham Joyal, Melinda Kennedy, Harry Korrell, The Kresge Foundation, Devendra Latchman, Laurence H. Tribe Charitable Foundation, Inc., Candice Lee, Legal Files Software, Inc., LegalZoom.com, Inc., John Levi, David Levi, Victor Maddox, Harper Makowsky, Christopher Mayer-Bacon, Laurie Mikva, Martha Minow, Jodin Morey, Molly Morman, Sylvia Moyes, Vitas Povilaitis, Rachel Presser, Public Welfare Foundation, Stephanie Quinn, Matthew Raebel, Erin Reed, Allan Reiskin, Julie Reiskin, Reynolds Family Foundation, Felicia Samponaro, Andrew Schriver, Stacy Sciarra, Sidley Austin Foundation, Thomas Smegal, Souleles Family Charitable Fund, Chris Swanson, Allan Tanenbaum, Tyler Technologies, Inc., Van Ness Feldman LLP, Robert Webber, Preston Whisenant, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Anne Worth
Pro Bono Innovation Fund Bolsters LSC’s Support for Private Bar Efforts
LSC’s Pro Bono Innovation Fund enhances LSC’s efforts to promote pro bono service by the private bar. Over the past two years, LSC has invested more than $6 million in 26 different projects in 19 states and supported pro bono collaborations with more than 30 partners and other organizations.
Projects funded by LSC’s Pro Bono Innovation Fund (PBIF) develop, test, and replicate innovative pro bono efforts that enable LSC grantees to expand and promote initiatives using volunteer lawyers throughout the country. The grant criteria require both innovation (new ideas or new applications of existing best practices) and replicability (likelihood that the innovation, if successful, could be implemented by other legal aid programs). The Fund leverages federal dollars to increase free civil legal aid for low-income Americans by engaging private attorneys.
In 2015, LSC awarded grants to 15 legal aid organizations in 13 states to support innovations in pro bono legal services for low-income clients. Pro Bono grants are competitive; LSC received 59 letters of intent from 55 LSC grantees from 40 states.
The 2015 proposals reflected important trends and challenges for legal services organizations and the pro bono delivery system. They included:
- Rural delivery and remote access. Thirty-six percent of the applications sought to improve access to legal assistance for rural clients, veterans, older Americans, limited English-speaking clients, and other hard-to-reach and vulnerable populations.
- Technology. Thirty-seven percent sought to expand services, streamline volunteer management, or heighten awareness of volunteer opportunities using technology.
- Leveraging partnerships. All applications proposed to collaborate with partners to reach more clients, target special populations, and recruit new volunteers to pro bono service. These included partnerships with large law firms, corporate legal departments, law schools, state courts, bar associations, state access to justice commissions, community service providers, and major healthcare providers.
Southeast Louisiana Legal Services Corporation, Healthy Justice Partnership Project
Ten years after Hurricane Katrina decimated New Orleans’ healthcare delivery system, a new model of community health clinics has emerged to serve the city’s most vulnerable populations. This partnership between Southeast Louisiana Legal Services (SLLS), the Pro Bono Project based in New Orleans, and the Daughters of Charity Services of New Orleans will:
- Launch a medical-legal partnership to integrate legal aid with healthcare in eight community-based health clinics.
- Remove access barriers for low-income clients through new and expanded pro bono services delivered by volunteer lawyers, paralegals, and law students.
- Provide services on critical disability, Medicaid, and housing issues and seek to measure improved health and legal outcomes of clients served through the project.
Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, Lawyers for Entrepreneurs
Lawyers for Entrepreneurs will leverage the resources and skills of volunteer business attorneys to provide free business legal assistance and education to low-income entrepreneurs starting or expanding community businesses, with an emphasis on minority and women entrepreneurs who have limited access to capital to afford legal resources.
The project will:
- Increase pro bono opportunities for transactional attorneys and recruit new volunteers, meet the legal needs of a larger number of disadvantaged entrepreneurs, and produce online pro bono training materials.
- Fund a national survey of existing transactional pro bono projects for micro-entrepreneurs and develop a manual of best practices that can be shared with other legal aid programs interested in launching similar efforts.
Legal Services NYC, Student Debt Initiative
Low-income people are especially targeted by predatory, for-profit trade schools that make misleading promises about the training offered and job prospects post-graduation. Legal Services NYC will engage pro bono attorneys to obtain relief for these individuals. The project will enlist volunteers who are transactional lawyers at large firms and corporations, as well as law students and others. Volunteers will secure debt discharges, consolidation, and income-related relief for low-income people. The project will also create a national database of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) materials on predatory for-profit schools in partnership with Pro Bono Net. Legal Services NYC will create comprehensive training manuals and videos for volunteers that will be available on probono.net for other legal aid programs.
Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, ACT 2 Project
Twenty-nine percent of active attorneys in the greater Cleveland area are age 60 years or older, and that figure is expected to grow in the next ten years. The ACT 2 Project will create well-structured and supported pro bono opportunities to engage late-career and retired attorneys to serve more low-income clients. ACT 2 attorneys will serve in a variety of capacities, such as:
- Volunteers handling extended representation cases as part of a practice group.
- Volunteers responsible for a specific pro bono project.
- Traditional pro bono service through any of the organization’s existing efforts.
The project will provide space and administrative and paralegal support in addition to the traditional support for volunteers. It will also match senior lawyers with law students and new lawyers for mentoring.
Recognizing Pro Bono Service
The LSC Board of Directors continued its tradition of recognizing exemplary pro bono work done for clients of LSC-funded legal aid programs at three quarterly board meetings held outside of Washington, D.C. In 2015, lawyers and law firms in California, Florida, and Minnesota received LSC Pro Bono Service Awards for their service.
|2015 PBIF Grants
||Alaska Legal Services Corporation will create a Pro Bono Training Academy for private attorneys to assist low- income Alaskans, particularly Alaska Natives, who live in extremely remote locations throughout the state. With no law school in Alaska, the organization will partner with the University of Washington School of Law, which recently opened an extension office in Anchorage. The project will also create additional online resources for volunteers, including forms, manuals, pleadings, and brief banks.
||Bay Area Legal Aid will develop specialized pro bono opportunities for law firm partners that involve complex litigation and will benefit a larger number of low-income people. This will build broader and deeper relationships with law firm partners and meet their expressed desire to work on more complex and far- reaching issues for low-income communities.
||Georgia Legal Services Program will create a “pro bono learning lab” within a nonprofit legal incubator. “Lawyers for Equal Justice” is a new, freestanding incubator program established by the State Bar of Georgia, the Georgia Access to Justice Commission, and the five Georgia law schools. The incubator is designed to support recent law graduates in establishing practices that use technology, alternative fee arrangements, new models of practice, and enhanced pro bono to serve the large population of underserved low-income clients.
||Idaho Legal Aid Services, in partnership with the Idaho Volunteers Lawyers Program, will create a pro bono website to assist private attorneys find statewide volunteer opportunities. The project will make pro bono services a more robust part of Idaho’s low-income legal service delivery system by increasing the number of low-income Idahoans who receive legal representation, expanding the cases and services for which attorneys can volunteer.
||LAF, formerly Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago, will partner with the Center for Disability and Elder Law to adapt a successful pro bono workshop model into LAF’s intake and scheduling system to enable trained volunteer lawyers to provide assistance to low-income seniors. Documents will be automated and integrated into LAF’s case management system to simplify and streamline the work of the volunteer attorneys. In collaboration with Illinois Legal Aid Online, the project will also create eLearning curriculum that will be available to any volunteer attorney statewide.
||Legal Aid Society (Louisville), in partnership with the three other LSC-funded programs in Kentucky, will create a statewide pro bono program for eligible military veterans to receive legal assistance. The project will coordinate recruitment and training of volunteer lawyers between the four legal aid organizations and create uniform and streamlined intake protocols and case acceptance policies. It will also create a statewide hotline to connect any veteran to trained legal aid staff who will triage their legal issue to volunteers, and enhance the KY Justice Online system to create more content for veterans and to allow volunteer lawyers to provide assistance to clients on their legal questions through a pro bono portal on the website.
||Southeast Louisiana Legal Services Corporation, in partnership with the New Orleans Pro Bono Project and the Daughters of Charity Services, will launch a medical-legal partnership to integrate legal aid as part of healthcare in eight community-based health clinics. The project will provide services on critical disability, Medicaid, and housing issues and seek to measure improved health and legal outcomes of clients served through the project.
||Community Legal Aid (Worcester) will develop a Medical-Legal Partnership to provide legal help to patients participating in a new primary care model at the UMass Memorial Medical Center (UMMMC), the fourth largest safety net health provider in the state. In partnership with the UMMMC General Counsel’s Office and Office of Community Benefits, this project will recruit private attorneys in Central Massachusetts to conduct full assessments of patients’ legal needs and partner with a CLA attorney to integrate legal services into the new primary care model. The project will include a rigorous evaluation to measure the impact of the medical-legal partnership intervention on the new primary care model.
||Legal Services of Eastern Missouri will leverage the resources and skills of volunteer business attorneys to provide free business legal assistance and education to low-income entrepreneurs starting or expanding community businesses with an emphasis on minority and women entrepreneurs. The project will also conduct a national survey of existing transactional pro bono projects for micro-entrepreneurs and will develop a manual of best practices that can be shared with other legal aid programs interested in launching similar efforts.
||The Adopt-a-Neighborhood project seeks to expand Legal Aid of Western Missouri’s efforts to bring large law firm resources to the urban core of Kansas City to improve neighborhood conditions. Based on a successful six-year partnership between a major law firm and the Marlborough neighborhood in Kansas City, the project will expand opportunities for large- and mid-sized firms to form long-term pro bono partnerships and will conduct need and asset assessments in five urban core neighborhoods to determine the best role for law firm and pro bono volunteers.
||New Mexico Legal Aid (NMLA) will create a web-linked statewide coalition of pro bono attorneys, law students, and paralegals to assist low-income families in communities with some of the highest poverty rates in the state. The project will connect pro bono lawyers in urban areas to rural clients via videoconferencing and train law students and paralegals to use the DirectLaw system to provide remote research and other support for pro bono attorneys. In partnership with the Southwest Women’s Law Center and the New Mexico Women’s Bar Association, NMLA will create a statewide “One Woman, One Case” campaign to expand the number of attorneys who can handle family law matters and other legal issues that address persistent poverty.
||Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York, in partnership with Legal Assistance of Western New York and the Volunteer Legal Services Project of Monroe County, will create a virtual platform to connect rural clients to urban volunteer lawyers on housing and consumer law matters. The project includes an active campaign to recruit, support, and sustain volunteers and clients in using the new system. The project will create a scalable technology infrastructure that creates efficiencies, expands services, and lowers the cost of serving rural areas.
||Legal Services NYC will engage pro bono attorneys to assist low-income people who are targeted by predatory, for-profit trade schools that make misleading promises about the training offered and job prospects post-graduation. The project will enlist volunteers who are transactional lawyers at large firms and corporations, as well as law students and others. Volunteers will secure debt discharges, consolidation, and income-related relief for low-income people. The project will also create a national database of FOIA materials on predatory for-profit schools in partnership with probono.net, and create training manuals and videos for volunteers that will be available on probono.net for other legal aid programs.
||Legal Aid Society of Cleveland will create a program to engage late-career and retired attorneys to serve more low-income clients. The project will provide space, administrative, paralegal, and other support for the volunteers. It will also match senior lawyers with law students and new lawyers so these early-career lawyers can be mentored and introduced to pro bono by their more experienced colleagues.
||Blue Ridge Legal Services seeks universal pro bono participation by attorneys in the 25th Judicial Circuit by working with the circuit’s 12 judges and bar association leaders to pilot a project of the Virginia Access to Justice Commission. This project will test the effectiveness of engaging the judiciary in encouraging the private bar to undertake pro bono to meet the civil legal needs of the region’s low-income clients. It will create a pro bono planning committee to expand pro bono participation among the circuit’s rural bar associations. The project will also seek to engage the only law school in the circuit, Washington & Lee Law School, to identify the best ways to incorporate law students into the new pro bono efforts.
Supporting Innovation in the Delivery of Civil Legal Services
LSC continues to be a leader in promoting the development of technology to improve the delivery of civil legal aid, largely through its Technology Initiative Grants (TIG) program, which has played a major role in expanding access to justice since it was established 15 years ago.
Since 2000, TIG has funded more than 647 projects totaling more than $53 million. In 2015, Congress increased funding for the TIG program by $550,000 to $4 million. Thirty LSC grantees in 25 states received technology grants.
TIGs have supported a variety of initiatives, including developing a website with special resources for seniors and domestic violence victims, creating a hotline for family and housing law advice through text messaging, and implementing videoconferencing systems for remote client interviews
Examples of projects funded include:Disaster Relief Website
Lone Star Legal Aid maintains DisasterLegalAid.org, a website for legal services related to all types of disasters. Features include:
- Accessibility for mobile users, making it easy to navigate and access resources.
- Hundreds of useful documents and resources on legal issues. During the grant period, the number of website page views doubled in one year.
- A Pro Bono Opportunities Guide.
LSC grantees in Pennsylvania, Idaho, and Illinois have developed websites with online legal aid applications to make it easier for clients to know which legal services they need and to apply for legal assistance more easily and efficiently. Online tools allow clients to apply for services outside normal business hours. In addition, the websites save clients time by clearly explaining and guiding them through their legal options.
- Neighborhood Legal Services Association in Pittsburgh developed an intake system that clients can use in both English and Spanish. It is accessed most frequently outside regular business hours, when telephone or in-person service is not possible. The website has also decreased the time it takes to apply for assistance to an average of 12 minutes.
- Idaho Legal Aid Services created a statewide infrastructure on the Drupal content management system to develop innovative programs that can be shared and replicated by other legal aid organizations using Drupal.
- All three LSC grantees in Illinois collaborated to create one statewide website. This site is able to direct clients to legal services located in their area and walks them through the application process.
Online application systems also simplify how legal aid organizations keep track of cases, which saves time and reduces mistakes. The TIG program has encouraged replication and improvement of online intake systems across the country.
Expanded Access for Populations with Special Needs
Atlanta Legal Aid developed the website OlmsteadRights.org in partnership with the National Disability Rights Network and Pro Bono Net. Based on the U.S. Supreme Court case that affirmed the right of people with disabilities to receive treatment in their own homes, the website provides resources and information for self-advocates, family and friends of people with disabilities, and legal aid attorneys who help enforce this important legal right. These resources include information that is organized state-by-state, a self-help assessment tool, and tools for legal aid and pro bono attorneys. The site had more than 21,000 visitors from March-November 2015, and the organization expects the number of site visitors to grow as Atlanta Legal Aid expands outreach.
|2016 TIG Grants (Total Funding $4,203,977)
Alaska Legal Services
Implement online learning tools, similar to the classroom module on
CTLawHelp.org, to provide users with information to successfully navigate
their legal issue through 8-10 online learning classes aimed specifically at
their client community.
Center for Arkansas Legal Services
Support the development of "Smart Panels," an automated
content management system to enable the program's website to become
self-sustaining, with limited interaction from program staff.
Legal Aid Society of Orange County
Develop an online dispute resolution and mediation portal for small claims
cases to simplify access for self-represented litigants.
Statewide Legal Services of Connecticut
Support a multi-state interactive online game developed by the
Justice Education Society called the Families Change Guides and Changeville
to help families cope with divorces.
Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida
Implement a videoconferencing system to connect the program's eight
offices, and conduct remote client interviews. The system will work on
multiple devices, such as smartphones, tablets, laptops, and PCs. The grant
will also support informational videos about Chapter 7 bankruptcy
Florida Rural Legal Services
Implement an advanced digital call center system to route calls to
the program's centralized intake and advice hotline for family and housing
law matters. The system will enable text messaging for callers to connect to
the program's website.
Georgia Legal Services
Implement a new online intake system that includes an A2J interface
and triage tool.
Legal Aid Society of Hawaii
Create a statewide centralized legal services portal for
self-represented litigants from nine access to justice organizations in the
state; partner with ProBono.Net to expand LawHelp Interactive interview
application for use on mobile and tablet devices.
Idaho Legal Aid Services
Enhance the statewide legal aid website on the Drupal platform to
facilitate the creation of innovative and highly replicable programs that can
be used by all legal aid organizations in the state.
Legal Assistance Foundation
Integrate SMS texting into the statewide legal services website. The
project will expand access to legal information through the use of text
Kansas Legal Aid
Provide a comprehensive online search tool on program's website,
modify all current and new web content through the use of evaluation tools
from Write0ear1y.org, and develop a specifically designated website to engage
Community Legal Aid
Enhance the program's intake system by creating a user-friendly online
application in both English and Spanish that will be integrated with the case
Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association
Enhance mobile access to pro bono resources in the state. The project
will design, test and model new approaches to delivering substantive
resources for volunteers, as well as develop new mobile technologies and
content models that can be replicated nationally.
Pine Tree Legal
Support expansion of the national veteran's legal assistance website,
Stateside Legal, and Assistance market its resources to stakeholders serving
low-income veterans and military families.
Michigan Advocacy Program
Create an automated script management tool to enable easier
translation and modification of HotDocs document assembly interviews; develop
a statewide online triage system that uses highly detailed expert logic trees
to guide people to the most effective resource easily.
Legal Services of Northeastern MN
Enhance the program's statewide website supporting legal services and
pro bono attorneys by incorporating compatibility with mobile devices,
updating content and navigation, and promoting the enhanced site.
Montana Legal Services Association
Develop a system-wide mobile-friendly interface for clients by adding
SMS texting capacity to the case management system, enhancing the mobile
on-line intake process and functionality of the program website, and
providing data to clients using mobile devices.
New Mexico Legal Aid
Create a "pitch portal" website (JusticeHub)
to provide virtual workspaces for stakeholders to develop, showcase, and
crowdsource cross-platform technical solutions to improve the
delivery of legal service; and improve the predictive power
of its multi-agency New Mexico data sharing project.
Legal Assistance of Western New York
Make improvements to the newly created WriteCiear1y and ReadCiear1y
systems that use plain language to help people navigate online resources;
create a single online entry point for low-income western New Yorkers with
consumer related matters. The system will prescreen CJ1 clients, making
direct referrals to legal services providers or to other service providers.
Community Legal Aid Services
Create a multi-program online triage center to guide unrepresented
individuals to the proper service provider or web-based resource.
Ohio State Legal Services
Support and enhance LawHelp Interactive (LHI), the national
online document assembly
service, to provide
support to legal services, court, pro bono, and law school programs in more
than 40 states; and create mobile app for both Android and iOS devices to
provide useful calculators to assess a person's case, offline access to court
rules, access case management data, complete forms and send push
notifications to clients.
Legal Aid Society of Cleveland
Create an outcomes texting project to automatically send text to
clients that received limited service or attended a community legal education
Neighborhood Legal Services Association
Create an online intake and triage system to easily direct people to
legal information and assistance. Based on a person's response to initial questions,
that person will be referred to intake staff, provided an action plan or
referred to appropriate service providers.
Lone Star Legal Aid
Develop the Texas Interactive Forms Project that will include
plain-language, step-by-step guided interviews to create electronic court
forms and e-filing forms.
Utah Legal Services
Enhance the case management system by creating modules to automate
and streamline various administrative functions such as timekeeping, reporting,
Blue Ridge Legal Services
In partnership with the National Center for State Courts, Office of
the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court of Virginia, and the Virginia
Access to Justice Commission, conduct a study to measure the impact of self-represented
litigants in state courts and analyze the unmet civil legal needs in the
Legal Services of Northern Virginia
Create a legal case navigator, which is a mobile-friendly web-based
app that will allow users to access and navigate the court system anytime and
Northwest Justice Project
Create mobile-compatible, web-based legal education videos that will
be accessible for others to replicate; and improve the Legal Services
National Technology Assistance Project by supporting a core
collections of services and resources, providing one-on-one guidance
on a variety of legal technologies, and help other legal services programs
replicate other TIG technologies.
Replicate the Utah Legal Services Online Intake Process and adapt it
to the program's new phone system. The new system would integrate guided
interviews, offer chat assistance, and triage clients.
Legal Aid of West Virginia
Create six online interactive training classrooms and toolkits to
assist private volunteer attorneys to help clients. The project will include
videos, document assembly forms, client interview guides, and tip sheets.
Nearly 300 technology consultants, software developers, academics, lawyers, and legal aid staff gathered in San Antonio on Jan. 14-16 for LSC’s 15th Annual Technology Initiative Grants Conference.
The TIG Conference is the nation’s largest meeting of experts and persons interested in the use of technology to address the civil legal needs of low-income Americans.
Participants shared information, exchanged ideas with colleagues from across the country, and explored innovative ways of using technology to promote access to justice for all Americans.
“For 15 years, LSC’s TIG conferences have brought together experts on the use of technology in civil legal aid to discuss new innovations and to network with a national community of colleagues,” said LSC Board Chair John Levi, who delivered the keynote address. “These annual events have played a vital role in improving the delivery of legal services and fostering growth in the technology community.”
Management and Oversight
Improving Management, Oversight, and Accountability
LSC is committed to funding the most efficient and effective delivery of legal services through rigorous management, oversight, and accountability.
LSC’s Office of Program Performance and Office of Compliance and Enforcement work to ensure compliance with good fiscal management practices and with regulatory and statutory requirements, and to improve grantees’ service delivery to clients.
LSC’s Office of Program Performance (OPP) continues to invest in program assessment visits, technical assistance, and other initiatives to support grantees. The office has the 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 2015, OPP conducted 28 onsite assessment visits in California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, South Dakota, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. OPP monitored 14 grantees that had special grant conditions to improve performance. OPP expects to complete 35 onsite assessment visits in 2016.
LSC’s Office of Compliance and Enforcement (OCE) has the 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 2015, OCE conducted 25 onsite visits in Alabama, Alaska, California, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
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 three grantees in 2015, and funds were recouped and issues resolved via informal negotiations with five grantees.
Message from the Inspector General
Helping to Protect and Improve
The Office of Inspector General (OIG) was established under the federal Inspector General Act as an independent office within LSC. It has the dual mission of preventing and detecting fraud and abuse and of promoting economy, efficiency, and effectiveness in LSC’s programs and operations. I believe this is a role that is especially vital in the legal services arena, where the resource needs are so urgent and the consequences so important for the clients of LSC-funded programs.
I am pleased to report that throughout FY 2015 we continued to make substantial contributions to protecting and improving the programs of LSC and its grant recipients. Some highlights included:
- Issuing 11 OIG grantee audit reports which reviewed internal controls over $44.9 million in LSC grant funds, and provided 115 recommendations for grantee program improvements.
- Having over $288,000 in questioned costs, identified by OIG audits, sustained by LSC management, producing added funds that can be used to provide legal services to the client community.
- Overseeing the annual audit process for all LSC’s 134 grantees.
- Conducting a comprehensive quality control program under which all firms conducting grantee audits are subject to a special review at least once every four years.
- Issuing a special Compendium Report, providing a summary of findings and recommendations from our internal control audits issued over a two-year period, providing a comprehensive overview to help grantee managers better recognize and respond to recurring problems.
- Closing 35 investigations, including criminal investigations involving fraud and other financial crimes, and regulatory matters such as the unauthorized outside practice of law, time and attendance abuse, and the improper use of LSC funds.
- Producing two criminal referrals to prosecutorial authorities.
- Obtaining recoveries and identifying questioned costs through OIG investigations, including $139,000 in questioned costs from investigative referrals sustained by LSC management; recovery and restitution of $54,000; and new investigative questioned cost referrals of $72,000.
- Launching a new user-friendly OIG website to better serve stakeholders.
- Producing an OIG Strategic Plan for the years 2015–2019.
- Receiving the 2015 CIGIE Award for Excellence for the OIG’s Fraud Prevention Program, producing Fraud A Prevention Guide, and educating grantee employees at LSC grantee programs.
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 regulatory matters including: subgrants, timekeeping, recipient fund balances, and the application of federal law. Additionally, we worked with LSC management on many policy initiatives, providing comments and recommendations with respect to: LSC purchasing and contracting; grant assurances; access to records; data breaches; and records management.
- We continued to place special emphasis on fraud prevention through a vigorous program of outreach and education activities. We conducted briefings for grantees to improve staff awareness of vulnerabilities to fraud and better equip them to protect their own programs from abuse. Since initiating this program, we have conducted 140 briefings for grantees in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and five U.S. territories, as well as briefings for other interested stakeholders. We also continue to perform various onsite vulnerability assessments to help programs identify and correct specific weaknesses in their controls and operations.
I am gratified at 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 of equal access to justice for low-income Americans.
LSC Inspector General
July 17, 2016
Click here to view PDF of the financial section and the independent auditors report.