South Carolina Homeownership and Employment Lending Program – SC HELP

Are YOU a Homeowner who is Facing Foreclosure Due to:

Unemployment,

Underemployment,

Reduction in Self-Employment Income,

Death of Spouse,

Catastrophic Medical Expenses, or

Divorce?

If so, there may be help for you via SC HELP, see SC HELP Flyer.

Monthly Payment Assistance:

  • makes monthly payments while you are seeking employment and a return to self-sustainability

Direct Loan Assistance:

  • pays up to $20,000 on past due mortgage to bring it current

Property disposition assistance:

  • provides $5,000 to help transition families from homeownership to rental housing if:

1. Application with SC HELP completed FIRST
2. Permission for short-sale or deed-in-lieu of foreclosure granted
3. Money distributed AFTER execution of deeds completed

South Carolina has been awarded, $295,431,000 in funding from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Hardest Hit Funds to prevent mortgage foreclosure.

SC Housing Corp., a non-profit Division of the South Carolina State Housing Finance and Development Authority is administering the Program, known in SC as the South Carolina Homeownership and Employment Lending Program or SC HELP.

South Carolina Legal Services (SCLS) is one of the housing processing agencies for SC HELP.  SCLS assists homeowners who are at risk of foreclosure gather and submit the required documents to be approved for mortgage assistance through SC HELP.

The list of documents can be found here – SC HELP Required Documents List

There are no income requirements for SC HELP and all services are free to the homeowner.

SC HELP will not pay any more than $20,000 on the arrearages.

SC HELP may approve payment of the $20,000 but the actual payment will not be made until SC HELP has verification that the homeowner can pay the balance of the arrearages or that it has been forgiven by the lender or it has been placed at the end of the mortgage.

The requirements for the property disposition assistance program should be carefully reviewed.

NOTE: A homeowner is not eligible for this program if the property has already been sold at foreclosure.

Homeowners may call South Carolina Legal Services toll-free at 1-888-257-1988 Or 1-855-HELP-4 SC

Homeowners may also submit an application at www.SCMORTGAGEHELP.com

For more detailed information about SC HELP, please see Information Flyer

For more information about SC Legal Services, please see SCLS General Brochure

~RFW

February 2012 Newsletter

We are pleased to share our latest newsletter.

SCATJC February2012

If you have questions, please feel free to email me.

~RFW

Celebrate Pro Bono: Ashley Cole

As part of Celebrate Pro Bono 2011, we are highlighting pro bono legal service in South Carolina.

Meet ASHLEY COLE, 3L at the University of South Carolina School of Law.

Ashley Cole

Ashley became involved in pro bono when she saw flyers posted during her first semester of law school about the Guardian ad Litem program. Instead of signing up immediately she waited until her second semester and began talking with Pam Robinson (USC School of Law Pro Bono Director) about that particular program.  Ashley recalls “I was so excited because she remembered me even after the first time I spoke with her.  She signed me up for Pro Bono announcements.  I participated in the Guardian ad Litem training course, and it was “all she wrote” after that.”

She’s been participating in the law school’s pro bono program for 2 years now; serving on the board since her 2nd year of law school.

While Ashley continues to serve as GAL, she also stays involved in a lot of projects. 

Right now, we’re gearing up for our semester food drive for Harvest Hope.  It’s my job to get my classmates involved because we have a competition between the three law classes.  I want the 3Ls to win this year!  We’re kicking-off the food drive with a “It’s Not a Crock Pot” soup lunch to raise awareness for hunger.  I’ll be entering a soup in the contest on behalf of an organization I’m involved with.

Also, we’ve been hosting a “Good Deed Friday” project about once a month where students who are involved in Pro Bono get together with students from other law organizations to perform community service in and around Columbia. 

This semester, we kicked-off a new program called “Carolina Clerks” that allows attorneys with a pro bono case to obtain assistance from a USC Law student.  That program is wonderful because it provides help to the attorney while simultaneously providing experience to a law student who is eager to learn.

When asked about how she first became involved in these multiples projects, she noted “We host the food drive every semester, so that’s an easy Pro Bono opportunity for everyone.  Mostly, I learn about projects through my activities with the Board Members and Pam.  In fact, every time I walk into Pam’s office, she’s always telling me about the new ideas she has, and it’s wonderful that she’s so creative.”

Ashley’s passion for pro bono doesn’t stop there.

One semester, I participated in a “Pro Bono and Jelly” hunger awareness bake sale during the food drive.  We encouraged students and faculty to bring their lunches and donate the money they would normally spend eating out to Harvest Hope.  I have also visited retirement centers with other volunteers to sit down and talk with senior citizens about their legal needs.  We fill out surveys to identify how the legal community can best serve this group of people.   Additionally, this summer I worked with South Carolina Legal Aid as a public interest law clerk, so I stayed on this semester as a volunteer.   Our Pro Bono program has close ties with that office because they serve the public.

 I performed a lot of community service in high school and during my undergraduate career, so it seemed silly not to continue doing good things for others when I started law school.  Admittedly, it’s a lot more difficult during your first semester to get involved, but once I settled in I wanted to find out what I could do.  Pro Bono opportunities have provided me with a lot of hands-on legal experience.  I’m so thankful for the program, and I really enjoy working with students and people in our community.  I really believe that one of my responsibilities in this profession requires me to give back some of my time to people who really need it.  A lot of people don’t understand our judicial system, so law students and practicing attorneys should aspire to reach out to them and make the experience as helpful as possible.

When asked about whether she experienced any surprises with her pro bono work, Ashley reflects “I wouldn’t say I have had too many surprises.  I think becoming a GAL was a little overwhelming at first, though.  My first case was difficult for me because it was hard to believe that children, right here in Columbia, are abused and neglected every day.  We see these things on TV, so it was almost surreal to experience it first hand.  However, it was rewarding to stand in front of a judge in Family Court and have my final opinion heard and implemented.”

I asked Ashley about what she had learned from her pro bono service:

From my pro bono experiences, I have learned quite a lot about who I am, who I want to be, and what kind of law I think I might pursue.  For example, I learned that family law is more difficult because of the emotional element that’s always present when you speak to a client or work with family members.  Pro bono work has taught me patience and understanding.  When you realize that you have to explain legalese to someone who may or may not have graduated from high school, your perspective changes and you realize how valuable your services are to the clients you serve.  I have also learned how fortunate I am, and I’m thankful for the experiences I have had.

And pro bono service is not a new concept for Ashley. She recalls that “I have always believed that it is important for each person to serve the communities in which we live.  It’s so valuable to give back what we take.  Pro bono service really changed my view of the law because now I understand what it is like to see it from a regular person’s perspective.  By “regular person,” I mean someone who has not studied the law, someone who may not be aware of what his or her rights are in our country, and someone who can only tell me a story, not a particular legal issue.  That’s why I think pro bono service is so important because it’s one of a lawyer’s professional duties to give back to society.”

I asked Ashley if she had any thoughts about pro bono service that she wanted to share with her fellow law students. Her response was thoughtful and frank:

I think that pro bono speaks for itself.  Truly, a person only needs to get involved in one pro bono program to experience the joy and pleasure of doing good things for other people.  Everyone has a little time to sacrifice, and it only takes one project or one client to keep a law student engaged and active in pro bono work for life.

She remains an active pro bono volunteer at SC Legal Services volunteering three hours a week as a law clerk. She has high esteem for the SC Legal Services attorneys noting that they are “fabulous, and they work hard for their clients.  I have learned a great deal from them and could not be more thankful for the experience I have had there.  They have taught me so many things that classroom lectures don’t quite touch on in law school.”

Is Ashley’s pro bono going to continue into her law practice?

Most definitely.  I think I would be doing a disservice to myself and my community by not engaging in pro bono work.  

That is music to my ears. We are lucky to have have such dedicated young attorneys and law students who cannot imagine their profession without giving back.

Stay tuned as we highlight them throughout this week!

~RFW

Focus on Pro Bono: Celebrate Pro Bono 2011

I’m very proud to don this logo on the SC Access to Justice blog. For the past three years, the American Bar Association has hosted this powerful, national event highlighting the importance of pro bono legal services around the United States.

In South Carolina, we’re proud to highlight some of the work in our own backyard. Throughout the remainder of Celebrate Pro Bono 2011, you’ll be able to learn how South Carolina law students and practicing attorneys interpret pro bono legal services and put it into action.

Many thanks to the American Bar, probono.net and the thousands of attorneys and law students who are celebrating pro bono this week!

~ RFW

LSC President Sandman Discusses Pro Bono

In case you missed it elsewhere, LSC President Sandman discusses pro bono and its importance to legal services programs.

He also discusses the limitations of legal services organizations and the great value of law firm and corporate pro bono participation. Well worth watching!

Tip of the hat to Cheryl Zalenski at the ABA Center for Pro Bono who tweeted this. Thanks for the heads-up.

-RFW

Reporting Your Pro Bono Hours

Seeking Comments from South Carolina Attorneys!

The South Carolina Bar Pro Bono Committee and the South Carolina Supreme Court Access to Justice (SCATJ) Commission are seeking input on proposed changes to Rule 6.1 of the Rules of Professional Conduct (SCACR 407).

This rule concerns the provision of pro bono service to individuals of limited means or public service/charitable organizations. The proposed changes include the creation of a reporting mechanism for pro bono hours and a requirement that those hours be reported to the Bar.

Pro bono participation remains voluntary.

Click here to view the proposed changes to the rule. Should Rule 6.1 be amended in the future, the Bar would provide additional information to facilitate the reporting.

Please send comments on the proposed changes to Cindy Coker, Public Services Director or Stuart Andrews, Vice- Chair of the SCATJ Commission.

Comments should be received no later than Friday, November 5.

Fall 2010: Law School for Non-Lawyers

Law School for Non-Lawyers

It’s BACK TO SCHOOL time and not just for kids!
You can go back to school too, via the SC Bar’s Law School for Non-Lawyers course.
The program is a 7-week Law School for Non-Lawyers course covering a variety of general legal subjects. The registration fee is $45 which includes course materials.

Covered topics include:

  • Overview of State Courts
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution
  • Family Law
  • Juvenile Justice
  • Child Protection Hearings
  • Wills, Estates and Probate Law
  • Health Care and Elder Law
  • Bankruptcy Law
  • Consumer Law and Debt Collection
  • Real Estate and Landlord/Tenant Law
  • Employment Law
  • South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Law
  • Criminal Law
  • Torts

The following courses are currently scheduled:

Trident Technical College

Offered every Tuesdays from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

September 14, 2010 through October 26, 2010

7000 Rivers Avenue, N. Charleston

Building 910, Room 123

To register, call 843-574-6152 or visit www.tridenttech.edu

HURRY, Registration ends September 7th

Horry/Georgetown Technical College

Every Monday from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Beginning September 20, 2010 through November 1, 2010

743 Hemlock Dr., Myrtle Beach

Building 200, Room 136

To register, call 843-477-2020 or 843-349-5363 or visit www.hgtc.edu

HURRY, Registration ends September 14th

For any other questions or concerns you have, please contact Debbie Morris at dmorris@scbar.org or 800-395-3425, ext. 158.

The Law School for Non-Lawyers is made possible through an IOLTA grant from the SC Bar Foundation.

Ed McMahon, Your Legacy Lives On

Most everyone is familiar with Ed McMahon and the American Family Publishers Sweepstakes prize.  And some of us waited patiently for him to show up at our door with balloons and an over-sized check. Watching the few lucky prize winners was always a thrill. And today I had the honor of delivering balloons and flowers to the 2009 Ellen Hines Smith South Carolina Legal Services award recipient, Maureen White.

While the official award will be presented at the SC Bar Foundation Gala on March 11, 2010, Shannon Willis Scruggs of the SC Bar Foundation, and I delivered the good news to Ms. White today at the Greenville office of South Carolina Legal Services (SCLS). And wow, what a great feeling! To say that Ms. White was surprised would be an understatement. Below you’ll see some photos as we interrupted the Thursday morning staffing.

A little more about Ms. White:

  • She started work at SCLS in March 1997;
  • During her time at SCLS, she has conquered many legal issues including landlord/tenant, divorce, consumer and disability matters;
  • She is currently the lead bankruptcy attorney within the consumer unit of SCLS; and
  • She moved to South Carolina from Ohio where she had practiced for 12 years.

A few notes from the people who nominated her:

When she started at SCLS: Almost immediately, (no one can remember exactly when), she was fully oriented to the legal aid culture and was building a diverse caseload that has grown beyond all boundaries owing to her famous zeal at case acceptance meetings.

The justice system is better for her example, energy and abundant legal skill. Her humor enlivened every case acceptance meeting.

I could not be more impressed with her professionalism and cheerful work ethic – she is uniquely motivated in her desire to help others.

Maureen’s most significant achievement on a statewide level has been her work as our Lead Bankruptcy Attorney. When SCLS’ Bankruptcy Roadshow was created by the Consumer Unit, Maureen led the way as we went around the state training SCLS attorneys to handle bankruptcy cases. We significantly increased the number of attorneys handling bankruptcy and the number of clients being served by SCLS filing bankruptcy for them.

Meet Ms. Maureen White:

Once again – congratulations Maureen White!

And Ed McMahon – thanks for the inspiration . . . it’s a lot of fun to surprise people with flowers, balloons, and good news!

-RFW

Why did I become a lawyer?

Most of us begin to fashion a response  to the question when we’re asked “Why do YOU want to go to law school?” And if you’re surrounded by friends who are not in the legal profession, you may hear the follow-up “You’re such a nice person. Why do you want to change?”

I replied “I want to help people.” And you know what? Many attorneys in the public interest sector answered similarly.

You may not generally think of attorneys as helpful, but take a few moments to ponder “when do I or would I use an attorney?”

  • When a family member dies. Hopefully they’ve drafted a will, but either way, we often turn to an attorney to help us through the probate process.
  • When we go through a divorce. Sure there are divorce forms and packets available online (and in South Carolina, there are court-approved forms online), but when we think about it, isn’t it prudent to let someone who is not emotionally involved in our marriage take a look and advise us about the long-term effects of the dissolution?
  • When we buy or sell a house. This may not seem like an emotional time, but for many it is. This is one of the largest purchases (ok, probably the largest) we will ever make. We commit to this home for the next 30 years or so. Sounds like a good time to have an attorney research the title and make sure we’re paying for what is rightfully ours.
  • When we are accused of a crime. I know I want someone well-versed in criminal law to fight for my freedom.

In other words, we use the knowledge and services of attorneys when we have big events in our lives – either when something bad has happened or may happen. To help us.

And I became an attorney to do just that – help people.

-RFW

12/10/09: Judge Spence

Yesterday I was honored to attend and be a speaker at the Lexington County Bar‘s Annual Conference. Presenters were The Honorable James O. Spence, Master-in-Equity; Desa Ballard, Private Attorney; The Honorable Richard C. Collins, Magistrate;  The Honorable Daniel R. Eckstrom, Probate Court; and me.

The Topic?   Ethical Issues with Pro Se Litigants

Judge Spence opened the session. He noted that how judges and attorneys interact with self-represented litigants (SRLs) depends on them first making a philosophical decision. He showed film clips from The Green Mile and 300.

From The Green Mile:

Paul Edgecomb: What do you want me to do John? You want me to let you run out of here, see how far you can get?
John Coffey: Why would you do such a foolish thing?
Paul Edgecomb: On the day of my judgment, when I stand before God, and He asks me why did I kill one of his true miracles, what am I gonna say? That is was my job? My job?

From 300 we learn:

300 tells the story of the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C. Persians under the rule of King Xerxes have already taken over some of the Hellenic city-states, and now threaten Sparta and Athens. King Leonidas of Sparta is left with two options: he will either have to sacrifice himself for the well-being of Sparta or watch it burn to the ground. Choosing the former, Leonidas forms an army of 300 Spartan warriors to block the narrow passage of Thermopylae where Xerxes intends to reach Hellas. On the road they meet some allies, who are shocked that the Spartans are sending such a small force. Leonidas asks the professions of the allied army, who are craftsmen and artisans. He points out that he has brought more soldiers than they.

Judge Spence also offered 3 other points for us:

  1. Mom’s Advice: Be Nice and Play Fair!
  2. Viewing Norman Rockwell’s 1961: Do Unto Others
  3. A snippet from The Byrds “Turn, Turn, Turn” aka Ecclesiastes 3:1

Takeaways?

  • We learn that as attorneys and human beings, we are each responsible for how we treat others.
  • As judges and attorneys, we are officers of the court. We are responsible for public trust in us. We gain this trust through respect, dignity and patience. We should be judicious with Summary Judgment motions.
  • We should schedule status conferences and explain standards clearly.
  • We should use Court Reporters to ensure that our words are recorded. This also reminds us that we are “on the record.”
  • SRLs are not one size fits all. They cannot be characterized with broad strokes. Instead they come in all shapes and sizes, like the Armour Hot Dog song.
  • If you are having a hard time, go back to the basics – why did you go into law? It probably wasn’t to take advantage of others. Revisit your motives.

Next installment: Desa Ballard.

-RFW