Twitter and A2J: A Surprisingly Happy Partnership

Just happened to get on Twitter this a.m. for an early morning review of happenings in the Access to Justice (A2J) world, when I noticed a tweet from my colleague in Georgia, Mike Monahan, whose Twitter handle is @ProBono_GA. He retweeted a fellow named Damon Elmore (@bikeGAcounties) who is cycling every county in Georgia to raise money for Georgia Legal Services.

** Fun Fact: There are 159 counties in Georgia. For a full listing, visit http://georgia.gov/municipality-list **

I was blown away by this clever idea. Not only is it a great way to stay in shape with fun exercise, it is a great way to highlight the need for legal services throughout the state.

So, what did I do next? I tweeted, of course:

Just saw is biking every county in Georgia to raise money for – Great idea! Check it out and support him

And, after? I donated to the cause. As of this morning, he has raised $3140. His goal is to raise $15900 or $100 per county with all donations going directly to Georgia Legal Services.

~ rfw

P.S. – As a bonus, he did mention he was born in Beaufort, South Carolina. Maybe when he’s completed his goal in Georgia, we could convince him to visit our 46 counties.

Resource Wednesday: Expungement in South Carolina

Every now and again, I need a reminder to share information.

Earlier today, I received a request from someone desperately trying to find out where to find help for an expungement. And, the resource is below:

  • Your Guide to Expungement in South Carolina (updated in November 2013). This fabulous, free resource was pulled together by the South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families. It can be found online at http://www.scfathersandfamilies.com/public/files/docs/Nov2013UpdatedGuide.pdf. It basically walks folks through expungement (Step 4) while letting them know whether expungement is a possibility (Step 3) and, if so, which one to go for.

If you want additional information on expungement and pardons, below are also some helpful links:

To find legal help or a lawyer:

 

To find more information on the legal system in South Carolina

To get a copy of your criminal record

  • South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) Records Department, Post Office Box 21398, Columbia, SC 29221, 803-896-1443, www.sled.sc.gov

To find more information on expungement, pardons, or other issues relating to fatherhood

  • The South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families, 2711 Middleburg Drive, Suite 111, Columbia, SC 29204, 803-227-8800, www.scfathersandfamilies.com

Sometimes all it takes is a little knowledge. Hope this helps.

~rfw

Let’s talk about Pro Bono

I have written about Pro Bono legal representation on different occasions, especially during or near the ABA’s National Celebrate Pro Bono Week. Here in South Carolina, I’ve seen more discussion about it, and even a little more participation.

But, I still don’t see as much participation as I would expect. So I have a question for attorneys, paralegals, and law students:

If you are not regularly engaged in pro bono representation, why not?

Please add your comments below. No expletives please. And, I’d like your honest answers.

  • Have you been asked?
  • Do you know where to find opportunities?
  • Are you nervous to do so on your own?
  • Do you think you don’t have enough time to add another case?

Thanks!

~rfw

Resources re: Guardianship in South Carolina

I was reminded earlier today that many people don’t know where to turn for resources about guardianship in South Carolina. Cue Frequently Asked Questions in Probate Court.

In September 2013, the South Carolina Supreme Court posted three Frequently Asked Questions to the Self-Help Resources page on its website, http://www.sccourts.org/selfHelp/index.cfm:

(1)    Alternatives to Guardianship – http://www.sccourts.org/selfHelp/FAQsAlternativesToGuardianshipSC.pdf

(2)    From a Potential Caregiver or Potential Guardian – http://www.sccourts.org/selfHelp/FAQsFromACaregiver.pdf

(3)    From a Ward – http://www.sccourts.org/selfHelp/FAQsFromAWard.pdf

(4)    NOTE: There are also videos about both Guardianship and Conservatorship in South Carolina. While they  were produced a few years back, the law is still good.

These should be helpful. Additionally, a few other relevant links are listed below:

~rfw

Happy New Year! Welcome 2014

It’s been a really good year for South Carolina Access to Justice! Below is our newsletter that highlights a few items we’ve been working on.

SCATJ Newsletter End of Year 2013

Happy New Year Everyone!

~rfw

NEW Form for Fee Waiver for Pro Bono or Legal Services’ Clients

Please see the Order below noting that Court Form SCCA 236, available in Word and pdf. It is also available online at the court’s website at http://www.sccourts.org/forms/pdf/SCCA%20236.pdf. It allows the filing fee to be waived when filed in all civil actions by an attorney providing legal services to indigent persons via an approved legal service entity or the SC Pro Bono program. Please share.

 

 

2013-12-17-01

The Supreme Court of South Carolina

Re: Certification of Indigent Representation, Pursuant to
Rule 3(b)(2), SCRCP Form (SCCA 236)


ADMINISTRATIVE ORDER


Pursuant to the provisions of S. C. CONST. Art. V, § 4,

IT IS ORDERED that SCCA Form 236, Certification of Indigent Representation Pursuant to Rule 3(b)(2), SCRCP, is approved for use in the Circuit Courts and Family Courts of this State.

Pursuant to Rule 3(b)(2), SCRCP, a party represented in a civil action by an attorney working on behalf of or under the auspices of a legal aid society or legal services or other nonprofit organization funded in whole or substantial part by funds appropriated by the United States Government or the South Carolina General Assembly, which has as its primary purpose the furnishing of legal services to indigent persons, or the SC Pro Bono program, shall have fees related to the filing of the action waived without necessity of a motion and court approval.

This form shall be completed by attorneys in civil actions as described above to certify that he or she represents an indigent person and that he or she is providing such representation on behalf of a legal aid society, legal services or other nonprofit organization

This form shall be available on the South Carolina Judicial Department website at www.sccourts.org under the ‘Forms’ link.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

s/Jean Hoefer Toal
Jean Hoefer Toal, Chief Justice

Columbia, South Carolina
December 17, 2013

Ellen Hines Smith Award 2013 Nominations Open

Very proud to announce that nominations are now open for the Ellen Hines Smith Legal Services Attorney of the Year.

PREVIOUS AWARD RECIPIENTS

  • 1989 – Martha B. Dicus
  • 1990 – Thomas L. Bruce
  • 1991 – Johnny Simpson
  • 1992 – Harold F. Daniels
  • 1993 – Andrea E. Loney
  • 1994 – Mozella Nicholson
  • 1995 – Thomas A. Trent
  • 1996 – Susan A. Cross
  • 1997 – Angela M. Myers
  • 1998 – Ethel E. Weinberg
  • 1999 – Nancy M. Butler
  • 2000 – Byron A. Reid
  • 2001 – Lynn P. Wagner
  • 2002 – Eddie McConnell
  • 2003 – Frank Cannon
  • 2004 – Willie B. Heyward
  • 2005 – Lynn Snowber-Marini
  • 2006 – Eddie McConnell
  • 2007 – Marcia Powell-Shew
  • 2009 – Maureen White
  • 2010 – Susan J. Firimonte
  • 2011 – Jack E. Cohoon
  • 2012 – Kirby Mitchell

We’re looking forward to seeing the good works that South Carolina Legal Services is doing.

Please complete the following form, Ellen Hines Smith Nomination Form 2013, and return it to rwheeler@scbar.org.

Thanks!

Guest Post from SC Center for Fathers and Families

This is a reprint of an article appearing in the SC Center for Fathers and Families enewsletter.

Civil contempt findings will no longer appear on SLED records 

The South Carolina Attorney General recently issued an opinion that civil contempt findings should not appear on South Carolina Law Enforcement criminal background checks. This opinion will have a favorable impact on non-custodial parents who have been found in civil contempt for failure to pay child support and have had the finding entered into their criminal record. Although civil contempt is not a crime, procedures at SLED did not allow these actions to be excluded from the records. The procedures for expungement only applied to criminal cases.

The Center for Fathers and Families has long advocated for changes in policies and practices that though well-intended created roadblocks for non-custodial parents, mostly fathers, being able to provide for their children. This practice of recording civil findings in a criminal background record was one such unnecessary barrier.

The Center had several concerns.

First, a criminal background is often a barrier to employment and because civil contempt findings appeared on the criminal background checks, employers viewed it as a criminal offense. Gaining and maintaining employment is critical to having the financial means to meet a child support obligation.

Second, only individuals who were found in contempt of non-payment of child support and were fingerprinted had the civil contempt entered into their criminal record.

Finally, the practice of fingerprinting individuals found in contempt and forwarding those records to SLED was inconsistently applied across the state. Because SC Legal Services shared these concerns, The Center and SC Legal Services partnered to address this growing problem.

A non-custodial parent, and in this case a mother, requested SC Legal Services’ assistance to have her more recent civil contempt for failure to pay child support removed from her SLED criminal record. Her criminal record included some criminal offenses, but these were very old and ironically were not hindering her employment chances as much as the recent incarceration for failure to pay child support. This case highlighted the problem of civil contempt on criminal records and its impact on individuals’ employment opportunities.

SC Legal Services submitted a written request to SLED for the removal of the civil contempt and the request was denied. SLED procedures were to record any offense that was a “fingerprintable” action and the expungement process could not be used because it was a civil, not  a criminal, action. However, because this case demonstrated the problem of civil contempt in individuals’ criminal records and the lack of internal procedures at SLED to address removal of civil contempt findings, SC Legal Services Lead Employment Attorney Jack Cohoon filed an Administrative Appeal to SLED’s Criminal History Administrative Appeal Board. SLED then requested an opinion from the Attorney General’s office concerning entering findings of civil contempt  into SLED criminal records.

The Attorney General’s opinion was issued on October 8, 2012. This opinion concluded that criminal records are maintained for criminal justice purposes. Since reporting civil contempt findings does not advance or relate to the enforcement of the criminal laws of South Carolina, these civil contempt findings are not criminal history and should not be entered into the State’s Criminal Information and Communication System nor in the federal NCIC ( National Crime Information Center) systems.

Because of this opinion, SLED will no longer enter civil contempt orders into the NCIC and state systems.

The Center is grateful to the partnership and support of SC Legal Services and for the favorable and fair opinion by the Attorney General.

The full opinion may be found  here.