Support for Civil Legal Aid Is Nonpartisan Because Legal Aid Works.

The Trump Administration sent its Fiscal Year 2018 budget proposal to Congress on May The Big 40!23rd.  The proposal calls for the defunding of the Legal Services Corporation (the current appropriation of which amounts to one ten-thousandth of total federal spending).  Granted, presidential budget proposals are opening gambits in the budget negotiation process, and as such reach toward the extremes.  From there, as the actual business of producing a budget gets done the numbers, in normal times and circumstances, tend to settle more reasonably.

But at this time and in these unique political circumstances I remain alarmed that the president proposes destroying a program that works so well, and so efficiently, in making sure Americans can access their own justice system.

The president’s LSC-defunding proposal is completely at odds with well-informed views from just about every corner of the legal community.  Here’s a sampling – including elected Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals and moderates – of those standing up for LSC.  In their own words, they explain how important LSC’s work is to:

  1. serving our country’s veterans, elders and families by giving them a fair shake in the courts
  2. making sure the court systems are unclogged and running smoothly
  3. partnering with the private sector to ensure that non-government support and attorney volunteerism are part of the solution.

LSC Transcends Partisanship Because It Works.

Is LSC worth the 1/10,000th of federal spending that is devoted to it today?  Is there a return on this investment of our tax dollars?  Good questions, both.  The answer, coming from those best positioned to know, is an emphatic “yes.”


Equal Justice Journal – October 5, 2015

Happy Monday, Access to Justice Enthusiasts!  Yesterday NPR played in the background while I searched online for help diagnosing a problem with my Subaru.  Hooray, I am a stereotype!  I was also fortunate to hear a Marketplace Weekend story, “Behind New York’s Right to Shelter Policy,” which recounted a late 1970s pro bono case brought by a young Big Law lawyer.  The case, Callahan v. Carey, resulted not just in establishing a legal right to shelter, but to improvements in the NYC shelter system.  Worth a listen.

The ATJ and legal aid news in very, very short:

  • Montana Legal Services Assoc. gets its own beer as a 50th b-day gift
  • Cash-strapped CT legal aid programs prop up their state-support arm
  • N. Carolina ATJ Commissioner calls for state legal aid funding boost
  • Alabama State Bar president calls for more legal aid funding, too
  • in GA, poor legal aid funding widens a literal justice gap: rural/urban
  • DC’s high court offers support for the fee-shifting “Laffey Matrix”
  • praise for the Pro Bono Institute in boosting corporate counsel pro bono
  • check-in on WA’s Limited License Legal Technician (LLLT) program
  • Pres. Obama creates Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable (LAIR)
  • TX high court hears case on qualifying for in forma pauperis fee waivers
  • Annual statewide report shows modest pro bono growth in TN
  • LSC announces 15 Pro Bono Innovation Fund grant awardees
  • FL ATJ Commission experiments with tech solutions to boost ATJ

The summaries:

  • 10.4.15 – To celebrate its 50th anniversary, [Montana Legal Services Association] partnered with the Crowley Fleck law firm and Blackfoot River Brewing to brew a beer with a portion of proceeds going to MLSA. This is the fourth beer brewed as part of Blackfoot’s community partnership program, and in September MLSA and Crowley Fleck attorney Dan McLean helped brew the German style alt lager.  (Helena Independent Record)
  • 10.2.15 – the Connecticut Law Tribune on the Nutmeg State’s legal aid funding picture.  The statewide legal-aid support office, the Legal Assistance Resource Center, was due to shut down for lack of funding.  It’s gotten a temporary reprieve, yet 4 of its 7 staffers were just laid off.  The state’s 3 legal aid direct-service providers are still reeling in the Great Recession’s wake.  A law passed “to raise court fees, with the extra revenues targeted for legal aid” has not met expectations.   The higher fees had been projected to raise $6.4 million in the first half of 2015, but they actually raised about $5.5 million.”
  • 10.1.15 – North Carolina’s Equal Access to Justice Commission member Kirk Warner argues that “The recently adopted state budget does not restore the over $2.7 million in legal aid state funding lost since 2008….  Legal aid is not only cost-effective, it also preserves the basic human needs of North Carolina’s most at-risk citizens – children, seniors, disabled veterans and our poor. Resources are at the heart of access to justice, and we need to make funding for legal aid a priority.”  (The News & Observer)

    • Related: a 9/29 Winston-Salem Journal article, “Legal Aid struggling with cuts to budget,” covers significant layoffs at Legal Aid of North Carolina due to state/federal funding losses, and notes that state funding for NC’s civil legal aid community has fallen fro $5.8m to $2.8m since 2008.  (Winston-Salem Journal)
  • 10.1.15 – Alabama State Bar president Lee H. Copeland emphasizes not just pro bono work but legal aid funding: “Nearly 900,000 Alabamians live in poverty and the child poverty rate is a staggering 27 percent.  One in four low-income people in Alabama experienced a civil legal problem last year….  A recent study conducted by Community Services Analysis LLC found that for every dollar invested in civil legal aid in Alabama, the state receives more than $8 in short- and long-term economic impact.”  And there are only 60 civil legal aid lawyers in Alabama.  So there sure is investment to do.
  • 9.30.15 – in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Georgia Legal Services Program director Phyllis Holmen highlights “the importance of civil legal aid in the fight against poverty. A quarter of Georgia’s population is eligible for legal assistance, yet lawyers outside Atlanta are scarce, as 70 percent work [there]. This gap makes funding legal aid critical to rural Georgians’ ability to seek justice….  [Yet federal] funding has failed to keep up with inflation even as poverty grows. Since it was first funded by Congress in 1976, funding for legal aid through Legal Services has been cut by more than half.”
  • 9.28.15 – legal-fee awards, granted when a party wins a case in which the winning side is entitled to payment of reasonable fees by the losing side, are important legal-aid revenue streams.  Good news out of DC, where the District’s local high court looked favorably on the prevailing federal fee-shifting standard – the so-called Laffey Matrix – governing how legal fees are awarded to legal aid providers in federal litigation.  This decision of course has direct value as precedent only in DC-based litigation, but it’s still good to have some additional judicial support.  (Blog post from Legal Aid Society of DC)
  • 9.28.15 – a Metropolitan Corporate Counsel opinion piece triumphs the rise in pro bono performed by corporate legal departments, and includes high-level praise for Pro Bono Institute founder Esther Lardent’s role in making pro bono an important part of in-house and law firm practices.
  • 9.27.15 – the Associated Press checks in on Washington State’s Limited License Legal Technician program.  The article notes that the LLLT program could have huge upside for low- and middle-income clients unable to afford lawyers, but also highlights LLLT’s slowness out of the gates.  There are only three LLLTs now, and the requirements for paralegals to achieve LLLT status under present rules are burdensome.  Nonetheless other states have moved to create similar programs.  Here’s more detail.
  • 9.24.15 – President Obama formally established, via memorandum, the White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable (LAIR).  LAIR had functioned as a joint DOJ/White House project for a few years, but the Obama action gives LAIR more institutional grounding and specific policy direction.  Generally, LAIR’s mission involves 1) promoting best practices in how federal agencies work with/through civil legal aid providers to achieve federal anti-poverty goals, and 2) allowing the myriad federal agencies which do anti-poverty work to talk to one another about legal aid’s role.  More details here on what LAIR will look like going forward.
    • ATJ blogger Richard Zorza sees this LAIR action, along with a recent Conference of Chief Justices (or “CCJ”, which comprises the top judges in the states) resolution supporting civil ATJ, as two big pieces “in the national Mosaic of vision, leadership and coordination” on ATJ work.
  • 9.23.15 – “When and how local clerks can make poor plaintiffs pay court fees to get divorced will be argued [ed. note: the case has now been argued] before the Texas Supreme Court with both sides hoping the justices provide clarity on the contentious issue.  Six plaintiffs [had sued a] local district court clerk for charging them court fees even after they filed affidavits of their indigent status — also known as “pauper petitions” — when they filed for divorce. But the clerk says final divorce decrees require that each party pay its share of the court costs.”  (Texas Tribune)
  • 9.22.15 – “[A report] by the Tennessee Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Commission shows that the number of hours of pro bono service volunteered by attorneys in Tennessee went up by nearly 3,000 hours in the last reporting year.  Although fewer attorneys reported performing pro bono work, those that did reported an average of more than 78 hours in one year, an increase of nearly 6 percent.  Forty-one percent of the 17,980 Tennessee attorneys reported participating in pro bono activity….  The report relies on data collected in 2014 for work done in 2013.”  (Associated Press. Here’s the actual pro bono report.)
  • 9.18.15 – “The Legal Services Corporation announced today that 15 legal aid organizations will receive grants to support innovations in pro bono legal services for low-income clients.  Many of the projects will use technology to connect low-income populations to resources and services, while others aim to increase efficiency and effectiveness through partnerships with law schools, community organizations, and in-house corporate attorneys.”  (LSC media release)
    • I confess that one project stirred my Irony Meter.  Legal Services NYC got a grant “to address student debt issues for low-income individuals.”  This is a worthy project and a smart use of funds.  But one wonders how many lawyers offering advice to student-debt-ridden clients won’t also be taking it.
  • 9.15.15 – a look at the Florida Commission on Access to Civil Justice’s work on using technology to improve ATJ.  The Commission is either exploring or launching: “a database of programs across the state and the country that provide better access to the courts”, “a statewide web-based lawyer referral service that would help match attorneys with clients”, a kiosk system through which people may access court forms/info and perhaps video-conference with judges, and an “eBay-inspired automation system, which would help people draft wills and fill out divorce and other forms that don’t necessarily require an attorney.”  (Daily Business Review)

Music!  Some cat named Hozier has been all the music-industry rage of late.  I don’t know his music well, but a song like “Someone New” justifies the raging.

Legal Aid Memory Lane: How New York’s “Right to Shelter” Policy Came to Be

A nice, brief story on the public radio program “Marketplace Weekend” about a Big Law lawyer500px-I_Love_New_York.svg who made big change via a late-1970s pro bono case:

“As New Yorkers face rising rents and stagnant wages, the city has seen a spike in homelessness. Around 60,000 New Yorkers currently live in municipal shelters. They are guaranteed a “Right to Shelter” that stems from an unprecedented 35-year-old lawsuit.

In 1979, Robert Hayes, a 26-year-old newly minted securities and anti-trust litigator with the white-shoe firm of Sullivan & Cromwell brought a class-action lawsuit on behalf of homeless New Yorkers. Hayes was a lawyer who had retained a habit from his days as a young journalist: He chatted with people he met on the street…

In December 1979, with winter looming, a judge found for Hayes and ordered the city to make shelters available. To Hayes, it was a win with an asterisk. He knew that many of the city shelters were crowded, dirty and violent. He went back to court, calling witnesses who could testify to the inhumane conditions of the city shelters. The testimony of a young Catholic worker named David Beseda was so powerful, Hayes and Hopper remembered, that once the judge had heard it, they were certain the case had been won.

“That afternoon, the city freaked out and came to the bargaining table, and we started negotiating a consent decree,” Hayes said.

The win affirmed the Right to Shelter. The decree came too late for the plaintiff, Robert Callahan. His died sleeping on the streets in lower Manhattan before it was signed. His death, said Hayes, was attributed to natural causes.

Hayes went on to co-found the Coalition for the Homeless with Hopper and Ellen Baxter. He knows Callahan v. Carey was a big win, but said he also felt a sense of failure. Youthful optimism had convinced him he’d see the end of homelessness, but he said the 60,000 New Yorkers currently living in shelters prove he came up short.


Equal Justice Journal – August 10, 2015

High Up in the Tetons

Greetings and Happy Monday, ATJ Enthusiasts!  I’d been posting these digests every other Monday, but I’m returning to a weekly schedule to keep their length more manageable. They were turning into tomes, and I feel strongly about keeping your Mondays tome-free.  I care about you.

This is something of a Gulf States Edition, with a handful of offerings from Florida, Louisiana, and Texas.  Two items for your consideration, then the ATJ news:

  • 8.8.15 – “FOR decades, policy makers have treated poverty as a sign of helplessness and ineptitude. The worse off the neighborhood — the higher the rate of poverty, crime, and juvenile delinquency — the less influence it would have over its future. Social service agencies conducted ‘needs assessments’ rather than asking residents what would strengthen their community….  To improve poor neighborhoods, the people who live there must have a hand in deciding their own fate. That approach works well in Houston…”  Continue reading this New York Times op-ed to learn about Neighborhood Centers.
  • 8.4.15 – “About 50,000 vets are homeless in America. In 2009, then-Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki declared that all of them would have housing by this year. At the time, even inside the VA that goal was considered aspirational at best. But last year, cities across the country said it was looking achievable. New Orleans was the first to declare, in January, that the city had done it. (Jump to the bottom to see how your state stacks up.)”  (NPR Morning Edition)

Okay, the ATJ news in very, very short:

  • Specialty license plates as a legal aid fundraiser(?)
  • Loyola Law (NOLA) incubator to make big expansion
  • Pro Bono Institute highlights reports on legal aid’s economic benefits
  • In DE, new legal aid director prefers “health law” firm branding over “poverty law”
  • ABA rejects proposal to allow pay for law student externships
  • LSC president Jim Sandman interview with Bloomberg
  • U.S. Congressman Kennedy visits MA legal aid, offers thoughts on justice gap
  • ABA’s Dialogue magazine looks at legal-aid leadership transition, funding in AR, etc.
  • Woody Guthrie music!

The summaries:

  • 8.7.15 – as Florida’s legal community debates whether bar dues should be upped in order to fund civil legal aid, here’s a…novel…proposal from Florida Bar member who opposes a dues hike: “My proposal is that the Bar apply for a specialty license plate with annual proceeds of $25 per tag going to a legal-access fund…. There are more than 18 million registered vehicles in the state of Florida….  Lawyers could buy the tag if they wished, and no doubt many would. But so could millions of nonlawyers.” (Orlando Sentinel op-ed)
  • 8.7.15 – in NOLA, Loyola Law’s practice-incubator program got a ~$120,000 cash infusion: “With the generous support of the Womacs’ gift, the Incubator Program will now run as a two-year experience for program attorneys. The Womacs’ gift extends the length of the program, provides the stipends to program attorneys for their pro bono work, and supports the two year Incubator Program for the next three years.” (Loyola media release)
  • 8.6.15 – a Pro Bono Institute blog post highlights several state-level reports – many of recent vintage – which measure legal aid’s positive economic impact. “[M]ost analyses have focused on common measures, such as the value of federal benefits obtained for legal aid clients. The studies also examined secondary and less tangible gains, such as the economic multiplier effect, which measures the increased economic activity resulting from economic inflows into a state. Increased federal benefits and wages give recipients greater spending and purchasing power, thus stimulating general economic activity and promoting growth.  Finally, studies documented the state savings associated with funding legal services for low-income citizens.”
  • 8.3.15 – in Delaware, Community Legal Aid Society’s new exec. director, Daniel Atkins, is hoping that some re-branding will pay funding dividends:  “[H]e plans to look for more funding options, such as civil filing fee add-ons or leftover money in class action suits….  Atkins hopes to find alternative partnerships and funding sources by reframing the work CLASI does. Instead of considering itself a poverty law firm, it will start to consider itself a health law firm.  This is because many of the issues the firm addresses, such as domestic violence and homelessness, impact people’s health.” [Emphasis mine]  (Delaware Online/The News Journal)
  • 8.3.15 – “Law students won’t be allowed to receive both pay and academic credit for externships this year after all.  The [ABA’s] Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar on Friday declined to eliminate its ban on such arrangements, citing vociferous opposition from clinical law professors.” A lot of voices were heard during the debate.  Equal Justice Works, for instance, supported lifting the ban, as did the ABA’s Law Student Division.  The Clinical Legal Education Association, however, strongly opposed making the change.  (National Law Journal)
  • 7.31.15 – LSC President Jim Sandman was interviewed by Bloomberg last month.  Sandman cited inadequate legal aid funding as the main problem in trying to narrow the justice gap.  Also: ” We need more and better [DIY] resources, particularly online. We need to relax regulatory barriers that impede competent paraprofessionals in assisting people who can’t afford counsel. We need to simplify the legal system to make it more user-friendly for people who don’t have counsel. The system is far more complicated than it needs to be, especially in areas of law affecting the necessities of life for people who can’t afford a lawyer.” (Bloomberg BNA)
  • 7.28.15 – forgot to put this one in last week’s edition: U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy III, whose been a strong voice in support of civil ATJ, visited a Massachusetts civil legal aid office.  He identified two causes of the civil justice gap: “drastically cut” LSC funding and laws that seem great on the legislative drafting block not working well for vulnerable people in those laws’ actual implementation.”  (Taunton Gazette)
  • The most recent edition of the ABA’s Dialogue e-magazine, which focuses on civil legal aid, pro bono, and related issues, is out.  Two articles I flagged are:

Music!  A few years ago Woody Guthrie’s daughter reopened his archives in Okemah, Oklahoma, allowing in a handful of songwriters to dig up old, unpublished Guthrie material and bring it to life.  Four fellows – Jay Farrar of the band Son Volt, Jim James of My Morning Jacket, Will Johnson of Centro-matic, and Anders Parker of Varnaline – formed a sort of ad hoc band called New Multitudes.  They released an album, the songs of which contain Guthrie lyrics that the New Multitudes folks put to music.  Here’s a Farrar offering, “Careless Reckless Love.”

Equal Justice Journal – August 3, 2015

Sunrise in Wilson, Wyoming
Sunrise in Wilson, Wyoming

Greetings and Happy Monday, ATJ Enthusiasts!  I overheard, yesterday, some locals bemoaning the blazing hot temperatures out here.  It was 83 degrees with no humidity.  I almost looked at them and, as the kids say, LMAO’d.  There are many things I miss about the seven years I spent in Washington, DC, but August humidity is not one of them.  Wherever you are, I hope that you’ll get some time to relax as the summer winds down.

Fo(u)r your consideration, before the ATJ news:

  • In a New York Times op-ed, two staffers from the Urban Justice Center’s Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project wonder about a refugee/asylum process that prevents some asylum seekers from getting the benefits of legal counsel.  “Why Can’t Refugees Get Lawyers?”
  • “[Nonprofit] funders who fail to help their grantees tell their stories through social media, film, websites, traditional media, and/or other communications platforms are missing a major opportunity to advance their goals.” A recent Arabella Group webinar, entitled “Why Investing in Media is Critical to Successful Advocacy”
  • Legal educators are cautiously optimistic that the 2015-16 academic year will mark the low point for law school enrollment, and that the number of applicants next year will start to recover from a five-year slide  (National Law Journal)
  • Congrats to Mississippi ATJ Commission ED Tiffany Graves, “who has been selected as a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation.”  (Clarion-Ledger)   Good stuff, Tiffany.

Okay, the ATJ news, in very, very short:

  • Some Canuck resources on Limited-scope Representation
  • A Voice for Civil Justice talks Civil Justice Gap on WNYC
  • Joint law school practice incubator launching in MD; one in MA soon
  • Wisconsin legislature, at last, approves some civil legal aid funding
  • A small NJ legal aid society faces closure
  • NY’s ATJ Commission has gone to permanent status
  • Legal aid as a critical support to DV victims, and a money-saver for society at large
  • (Some) FL lawyers: “Hey, Supreme Court, let us pay extra bar dues for legal aid!”
  • LSC invests big in Midwest disaster recovery
  • Obama plan to expand Wifi access could have legal aid implications
  • Would a national bar exam narrow the justice gap?
  • In addition to Midwest disaster relief, LSC launching Rural Legal Justice Corps
  • Medical-legal partnerships (MLPs) are growing and growing
  • Music!

The summaries:

  • 7.31.15 – Peach State Pro Bono Guru – not his official title -Mike Monahan flagged this suite of resources for Canadian lawyers providing limited-scope services.  The webpage is framed as providing info to help lawyers limit potential liability, but all the same there is valuable info there to help lawyers best serve clients.  (PracticePro)
  • 7.28.15 – on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show: “In more than 70% of civil cases today, people who can’t afford legal representation end up going to court alone. Martha Bergmark, Executive Director of Voices for Civil Justice, explains why access to counsel is a make-or-break issue for many families, and advocates for increased funding for legal aid programs.” (Link to the 19-minute conversation on this page)
  • 7.27.15 – “The University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law and the University of Baltimore School of Law are launching an incubator to help recent graduates launch solo practices while serving low-income clients.  The schools developed the project with the help of the Maryland State Bar Association, which is providing $50,000….  Earlier this month, Boston College Law School, Boston University School of Law and Northeastern University School of Law announced plans for a joint incubator in early 2016, partially funded by an [ABA] grant. More than 30 law schools host incubators or similar legal residency programs, according to the ABA.” (National Law Journal)
  • 7.27.15 – Finally!  Wisconsin leaves the very small “Our State Won’t Legislatively Fund Civil Legal Aid” club. “Governor Scott Walker signed Wisconsin’s 2015-17 state budget into law, including a provision that appropriates $500,000 in each year of the biennium for civil legal aid services to abuse victims.” Congrats to the WI ATJ Commission – who announced this news – and their allies.  Now it’s just the FL and ID legislatures that don’t fund legal aid in any way/shape/form.
  • 7.27.15 – “in New Jersey, the Legal Aid Society of Monmouth County could close its doors come mid-September without a badly needed infusion of cash….  The IOLTA Fund of the Bar of New Jersey was hit worse than similar funds nationally after seeing revenues drop 83 percent, from a high of $52 million in 2007 to $8.6 million last year.”  (Asbury Park Press/USA Today)  The Legal Aid Society of Monmouth County actually didn’t get any IOLTA funding during the last grant cycle, due to the diminished funds.
  • 7.23.15 – “Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman has made permanent the task force he created in 2010 to highlight the unmet legal needs of low-income New Yorkers and to push for higher spending on civil legal services.  Lippman announced Wednesday that he has added a new Part 51 to the Rules of the Chief Judge to create the Permanent Commission on Access to Justice.  The order says the commission will continue with the charge given to the task force five years ago: to “assess the nature, extent and consequences of unmet civil legal need,” to collect data and issue annual reports, and to encourage more public spending and pro bono contributions by lawyers to respond to the problem.” (New York Law Journal)
  • 7.21.15 –  “A report released Tuesday is proposing a simple way to reduce domestic violence: Give victims free lawyers….  With one in four women in the U.S. estimated to become victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime, this dynamic has major economic repercussions. As the report notes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that domestic violence costs the U.S. at least $9.05 billion each year.  Providing free or subsidized legal representation to victims, the report concludes, may reduce domestic violence and would be cost-effective as it would likely result in lower associated health care and legal costs.”  (Huffington Post)  Here’s the Institute for Policy Integrity’s report.
  • 7.20.15 –  “Hundreds of Florida attorneys are urging the state’s top court to reconsider a decision that gutted efforts to raise money for needy Floridians seeking legal help….  Miami lawyer and former Supreme Court Justice Raoul Cantero filed a motion for rehearing.  He prompted justices to consider two additional points. First, they have the authority to mandate the fee increase. Second, they can defer ruling on the issue until a later point instead of rejecting the petition entirely.” (Orlando Sentinel)
  • 7.16.15 –  “Legal Services Corporation awarded Iowa Legal Aid $367,000 to develop mobile technology designed to help people better reach legal aid programs after a disaster.Iowa Legal Aid, which has a branch office in downtown Council Bluffs, will partner with Pro Bono Net to adapt its mobile template for an application that provides disaster-related resources to clients and attorneys. In addition, Iowa Legal Aid will create a multi-component toolkit for use by other legal aid organizations across the country.” (The Daily Nonpareil.)
    • If you’re wondering what a “nonpareil” is, the word has Latin roots and means “having no equal.”  I like your moxie, Council Bluffs, Iowa.  I like your moxie.
  • 7.15.15 – Very important for rural legal-aid work, which could increasingly be performed remotely with Internet-based tools (an example from here in WY).  “President Barack Obama has unveiled a new initiative as part of his pledge to expand high-speed broadband access to all Americans. [T]he president on Wednesday introduced ConnectHome, a pilot project to help ‘close the digital divide’ by bringing broadband to poorer communities.” (NBC News)
  • 7.13.15 – a thought-provoking piece asking whether more state participation in the Uniform Bar Exam could help narrow the justice gap by making it easier for lawyers to practice in underserved locales.  “The Uniform Bar Exam is a nationalized test with a portable score to all of the states that have adopted the test. While the UBE is not a nationally portable law license, it is an opportunity to apply for admission without having to sit for an additional full bar exam.  Sixteen states, most recently including New York, have now adopted the test.” (Lawyerist)
  • 7.10.15 – 7.10.15 – “[In addition to disaster-relief funding], Legal Services [Corporation] Board Chair John Levi will…also announce that LSC is funding a new Initiative, the…Rural Summer Legal Corps, which will launch in the summer of 2016. Equal Justice Works, a nonprofit that recruits and trains public service lawyers, will administer this program, providing outreach to law schools around the country to select 30 exceptional law students who want to serve LSC civil legal aid providers in rural locations.”  (Media release)
  • 7.8.15 – “A lawyer as part of the health care team? It’s not as strange as it sounds….  There are now 273 hospitals and health centers in 36 states partnering with civil legal aid agencies and law schools to…remedy the social barriers that affect the health of vulnerable people. And in April, more than 400 doctors, nurses, social workers, lawyers and public health professionals gathered for the 10th annual MLP Summit to discuss the next frontier for these cross-sector partnerships. The vision: moving from one-on-one interventions to detecting and addressing systemic inefficiencies in clinics and public policies that impact population health.” (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation)

Music!  Annually in my neck of the Idaho woods, the Grand Targhee Bluegrass Festival takes place up at the local ski resort.  One of this year’s featured bands is Lake Street Dive, and here’s “Bad Self Portraits.”  Enjoy and have a great week.

Equal Justice Journal – July 13, 2015

Cubbies baseball!
Cubbies baseball!

Greetings, Access to Justice Enthusiasts, from my Idaho home!  I’ll never tire of writing that.  So unlikely, the places to which life escorts us.

I regret that Idaho has no baseball park as beautiful as the one featured above.  This picture of the newly-renovated Wrigley Field comes from ATJ kingpin Robert “Chicago Bob” Glaves.  Bob scored himself one outstanding seat for the weekend’s Cubs/White Sox battle.  I’m still getting used to that Jumbotron resting upon Wrigley’s decades-old foundations.  But as big-screen TVs go it sure ain’t bad.

Fo(u)r your consideration, before the ATJ news:

  • From Governing magazine: “An Urban Institute report…presents a detailed picture of how [income] inequality affects entire neighborhoods, showing stark disparities across communities within regions.”  I didn’t know what that last phrase meant, either.  The methodology focuses on larger metro regions, not just urban neighborhoods.
  • Legal advice from your electronic device: “Larry is a service from…Lawtrades…designed to give [subscribers] near-instantaneous legal help whenever [needed].  All you have to do is send Larry a text message…and you’ll get a personalized response, specific to your situation and where you are.  Larry is part automated and part human….” (Lifehacker)
    • Ed. note: with due respect to our flesh-and-blood Lawrences, they’re calling this thing “Larry”?!
  • “The upper level of the legal profession in the [U.S.] remains predominantly white and male. Underrepresented Americans can’t afford their so-called ‘equal justice under law.’ Law school costs are not going down.  Deborah Rhode explores these and other problems in her new book, ‘The Trouble With Lawyers,’ published this month.”  (National Law Journal)  Rhode is known by many in ATJ circles because of her research on pro bono.
  • “End of the corner office: D.C. law firm designs its new space for millennials,” from the Washington Post.  The profiled law firm is Nixon Peabody.

The ATJ news in very, very short:

  • FL high court: no bar dues hike to support legal aid
  • American Lawyer & Pro Bono Institute release their annual pro bono reports
  • More FL: welcome, Florida Justice Technology Center
  • More on the American Lawyer’s recent “Justice Gap” report
  • CT’s legal aid providers can no longer fund their poverty-law lobbying arm
  • Ropes & Gray secures pro bono class-action settlement, uses the funds to support more public interest work
  • ABA Center for Pro Bono’s recent blog series on business law pro bono
  • New reports from up north on serving self-represented litigants
  • Arkansas high court and ATJ Commission seeking comments on unbunding and use of unclaimed client funds
  • Five civil legal aid myths debunked
  • Don’t forget SCOTUS’s huge Fair Housing Act decision
  • Music!

Continue reading

Equal Justice Journal – June 29, 2015


Waking up on June 29
Waking up on June 29

Greeting and happy Monday, lords and ladies, from the unseasonably warm Teton Valley.  I will spare you my prefatory ramblings and pontifications, but here are five items I’ve flagged for your consideration before the straight ATJ news:

The ATJ news in very short:

  • The American Lawyer’s just-published “Special Report: The Justice Gap”
  • legal aid funding news from Boston, DC, NH, and WY
  • inaugural class of NY’s Pro Bono Scholars gets admitted
  • Rhode Island does some unbundling
  • pro bono patent law program launched to serve VT entrepreneurs, and some FL news
  • NYT op-ed: narrowing the justice gap by better using the supply of lawyers
  • a call to provide lawyers for all unaccompanied minors
  • the Aloha State’s annual ATJ conference
  • new research: the cost of seeking civil justice in Canada
  • music (x 3)!!!

The summaries:

  • State & city legal aid funding announcement potpourri:
  • 6.25.15 – “The first class of Pro Bono Scholars, a program that allows 3L students to spend their final semesters of law school working in the field, was sworn in this week.”  (New York Law Journal).  Here’s more on the Pro Bono Scholars program.
  • 6.22.15 -unbundled legal services OK’d in Rhode Island.  “The high court earlier this month cleared the way for lawyers to provide a limited scope of representation…for people representing themselves, as long as those services are reasonable and the litigant gives informed consent.  Lawyers must sign any pleadings that they help a client prepare and disclose extent of their role in the case.”  (Providence Journal)
  • 6.22.15 – pro bono patent law program in Vermont.  “A new program…will help inventors and small businesses to get donated legal services from patent attorneys. Burlington Generator is a space where…entrepreneurs can work…without having to invest in office space. Just the kind of folks who could benefit from a new program made possible by the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act. It requires the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to work with law associations to create programs to connect small businesses and inventors with patent attorneys willing to help them free of charge.” (WCAX coverage)
  • 6.17.15 – a New York Times op-ed by Citizen Advocacy Center founder Theresa Amato looks at the justice gap, notes that the problem is not an undersupply of lawyers, and proposes ways to connect more lawyers and service-innovators with underserved client populations.
  • 6.16.15 – “The U.S. government should guarantee legal representation to unaccompanied minors seeking asylum, end expedited processing of those children and families, and begin recognizing gang violence as a basis for asylum claims.  Those are among recommendations Tuesday by Jesuit Refugee Service/USA and 13 Jesuit law schools following a study of efforts to represent asylum seekers from Central America.” (National Law Journal)
  • 6.15.15 – Hawaii’s “Narrowing the Justice Gap” conference: “Leaders in Hawai‘i’s legal, judicial, business, academic and social services communities will examine ways to increase services to the state’s most vulnerable citizens as part of the day-long 2015 Access to Justice Conference, scheduled for Friday, June 19….” (U. Hawaii media release)
  • 6.10.15 – new research – “The Cost of Seeking Civil Justice in Canada”: “How much does it cost individual Canadians to seek civil justice? This article compiles empirical data about the monetary, temporal, and psychological costs confronting individual justice-seekers in this country…. [A]nalysis of private costs can improve access to justice in two ways. First, it can help public sector policy-makers to reduce these costs. Second, it can help lawyers and entrepreneurs to identify new…ways to reduce the costs that are most onerous to individuals with different types of civil legal need.”

Musics!!! Today there are three of them:

First, it’s Pearl Jam, and I’ve always loved their more bare-bones, punk stuff.  “The Fixer” is all energy:

Channeling the 80’s, here’s Slowdance with some advice for the fellas in “Boyfriend”:

Enough channeling.  Here’s the real thing from a recently-passed legend who always did have a knack for marrying New Orleans and Chicago sounds: