Equal Justice Journal – June 15, 2015

Phillip's Pass Trail - Teton Range
Phillip’s Pass Trail – Teton Range

Greetings and happy Monday, Access to Justice Enthusiasts, from the beautiful, bountiful Teton Valley!  As my six regular readers know, I take an occasional liberty with the first few paragraphs of this news-curating experiment.

Here is today’s liberty, although it’s not a departure from ATJ: Cathy Carr’s retirement from Community Legal Services in Philly is to be both lamented and celebrated.  Lamented, obviously, because Cathy has given to us and to innumerable clients the force of her intellect, empathy, and elbow-grease.  For decades.  And celebrated, precisely because of those decades. Cathy has earned every bit of praise that she will characteristically redirect to CLS and to people who are not Cathy Carr.

In seven Washington, DC years I saw my share of false modesty.  Cathy has none of it.  She absorbed attention when she knew that, as a public face, she could help those whom she served.  She deflected attention when she knew that, as a cultivator of her colleagues’ and clients’ potential, she could help those whom she served.

Cathy’s work sure has impacted me.  She has, year after year, reanimated my will to serve, to remember whom I serve, and to keep learning.  I don’t have her intellect, but I have empathy and elbow grease.  And in observing Cathy, I’ve seen that a lot of good can be achieved with the latter two.  I’ll work with what I have, and I’ll celebrate the fact that Cathy Carr’s legacy will be a constant touchstone.

Two general-interest items for your consideration, then we turn to the ATJ news.

  • “Hey Steve, what are your thoughts on telemedicine?”, you are surely wondering.  I’ll tell you.  The remote delivery of medical services (a/k/a “telemedicine”) is gonna keep growing with outfits like Blue Cross, UnitedHealth, and Wal-mart investing in it.  If medical services, which require much more physical contact than legal services – to wit: my old orthopedist, Dr. Does It Hurt If I Bang on Your Broken Limb Like This – can go remote, legal services will, too.  Indeed they already are.  So what can we legal folks learn from telemedicine’s evolution?  I don’t know yet.  But let’s all keep thinking about it.  I see a ton of parallels and chances for learning.
  • “A proposed change to law school accreditation standards eliminating the current ban on students receiving academic credit for paid externships has been approved for notice and comment by…the ABA Section of Legal Education….”  (ABA Journal)  The Clinical Legal Education Association (CLEA) opposes a change, while law student groups have pushed for more flexibility, according to the National Law Journal.

Okay, the ATJ and legal aid news in very, very short:

  • LSC funding developments in Congress
  • WA’s first crop of Limited License Legal Technicians
  • ATJ Research Network launches in Canada
  • Technology solutions to reduce the cost of legal services
  • More Canada: $ flows from government to expand legal aid in Ontario
  • The value of legal aid partnerships with other social services providers
  • Call for non-lawyer courtroom help staff to aid self-represented litigants in CT
  • IL high court commission looking at self-represented litigant support efforts
  • TX legislature comes through on legal aid funding
  • Hawaiian efforts to serve self-represented litigants and expand ATJ
  • Voices for Civil Justice: market for legal services failing low- & middle-income litigants
  • NLADA report: federal student loan forgiveness critically important to legal aid lawyers
  • MUSIC!

The summaries…

  • Legal Services Corporation funding developments on Capitol Hill:
  • “Nine people took Washington [S]tate’s first exam for limited license legal technicians, and seven of them passed, according to LawSites by Robert Ambrogi….  Washington is the first state with a program to allow limited license legal technicians to help litigants prepare legal documents and provide advice on legal procedures without a lawyer’s supervision.”  (ABA Journal)
  • 6.12.15 – news from our Northern Neighbo(u)rs: “[T]o coordinate and centralize access to justice related research, news, data and discourse…the Canadian Forum on Civil Justice (CFCJ) launched the Access to Justice Research Network (AJRN). Comprised of a website and listserv, the AJRN coordinates the circulation of exciting new access to justice work happening across the country.”  Blog post from Slaw (Canada’s online legal magazine).
  • 6.9.15 – in “Mind the Gap: Bending the Cost Curve of Legal Services to Close the Justice Gap”, law professor Ray Bresica looks at how technology innovation is making legal services cheaper and more accessible for lower- and middle-income people.  (Huffington Post.)
  • 6.8.15 – well, it’s in Canada, but let’s all celebrate the rare newspaper headline that reads, “Legal Aid Announces Significant Expansion”:  “Legal Aid Ontario is embarking on the most significant and rapid expansion of [civil] services for low-income residents in a quarter century.  The multi-year plan being announced Monday aims to address the growing needs of a range of vulnerable groups that are over-represented in the courts….  Monday’s announcement is the latest in a series of legal aid expansions that have followed a commitment by the province last year to inject more than $150 million over four years to raise the income eligibility threshold and increase the range of legal services that qualify for assistance.”  (Toronto Star)
  • 6.7.15 – Legal Aid of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands executive director Gary Housepian on the value delivered to client communities when legal aid providers maintain effective working partnerships with non-legal services providers.  (Op-ed in The Tennessean.)  I’ve got some further thoughts on partnerships being especially important today, in a time of increasing specialization in service-delivery.
  • 6.4.15 – looking at successful pilot programs to assist self-represented New York litigants by making non-lawyer “navigators” available for guidance on basic questions, a Connecticut Law Tribune editorial calls for Nutmeg State courts to get navigators of their own.
  • 6.3.15 – “Less than two years after appointing a commission to expand civil legal services for the indigent, the Indiana Supreme Court has assembled another group to examine the nagging problems caused by pro se litigants.  The new 10-member Assessment Team has been charged with taking a look at the three entities that currently address the unrepresented litigant issue – the Indiana Pro Bono Commission, the Indiana Committee on Unrepresented Litigants, and the Indiana Commission to Increase Access to Civil Legal Services….”  (The Indiana Lawyer)  Looming commission consolidation?
  • 6.3.15 – “As the…Texas Legislature closed [its most recent session], $17.56 million in state general revenue has been appropriated for civil legal aid for disadvantaged Texans. In addition, the state budget will include a new $10 million line item for the Texas Supreme Court to provide grants for civil legal services for victims of sexual assault. The funding will be administered by the Texas Access to Justice Foundation. An additional $3 million has been added for expanded civil legal services to veterans.” (More good news and details in this ATJ Foundation release.)
  • 6.2.15 – “Project partners from the Hawai’i State Judiciary, the Hawai’i State Public Library System, and the Legal Aid Society of Hawai’i announce[d] the latest developments in the ongoing effort to improve access to the courts for people of all income levels, [especially] self-represented litigants….  A grant from the State Justice Institute and previous funding given to the Legal Aid from the LSC Technology Initiative Grant helped to fund the Judiciary’s Self-Help Interactive Form Expansion project.”
    (Big Island Now website)
  • 6.2.15 – Voices for Civil Justice director Martha Bergmark’s Washington Post op-ed noting the huge numbers of self-represented litigants in civil courts, argues, “…what we are seeing is a disgraceful failure of our legal system to meet the serious legal needs of most Americans, who are increasingly priced out of the market for legal services.”
  • June, 2015 – “NLADA has just released a 2,000-person survey showing that dramatically reducing student loan forgiveness for lawyers working in the public interest would profoundly diminish access to justice for low-income people. The Obama Administration has proposed capping payments for those participating in the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, and some in Congress have recommended completely eliminating the program.”  Here’s the release statement, and here’s the report – “The Critical Role of [PSLF] in Access to Counsel and Equal Justice.

Music! Here’s Houndmouth, a band out of Indiana, with a song called  “Sedona”.  This chorus is delightfully infectious:


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