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

Training Opportunity by SCCADVASA

South Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (SCCADVASA) Training Announcement:  Recognizing and Responding to Human Trafficking within the United States

 July 19, 2012

SC Department of Juvenile Justice

Bill Rogers Community Connections Center

4900 Broad River Road

Columbia, SC 29212

Registration and Additional Information at: http://sccadvasa.org/training

Registration deadline is July 13, 2012

Space is Limited, so please register soon.

For Hotel Reservations Call:

Call Hampton Inn-Harbison 803.749.6999

101 Woodcross Drive

Columbia, SC 29212

Refer to group code: SCC

The deadline to confirm the group rate of $89.00 per night plus applicable taxes and fees is July 4, 2012.

For more information, please call Donna Thompson at 803.256.2900 ext. 106 or email dthompson@sccadvasa.org.

PLEASE SEE BROCHURE FOR MORE DETAILED INFORMATION

FREE for SCCADVASA Member Program Advocates

$15.00 for SCCADVASA Affiliate Members & Students (Students must provide ID)

$25.00 for General Registration

There will be 6.0 Continuing Education Hours offered for:

  • LPC,
  • MFTH,
  • Law Enforcement,
  • Social Work and
  • Victim Service Provider.

It’s official – Poster and FAQs online – en español

Good News!  ¡Buenas noticias!

The South Carolina Courts’ Self-Help Page now offers FAQs (General Questions, Circuit Court and Family Court) and an explanation about what court staff can and cannot in Spanish!

And many thanks to student volunteers with the USC School of Law’s Pro Bono Program and the kind folks at HABLA!

-RFW

Report of the Task Force on State Courts and the Elderly Released

Today the Supreme Court of South Carolina released the Report of the Task Force on State Courts and the Elderly.

It is well worth reading, if only to note how South Carolina demographics have changed over the years and to see predictions for our future.

Well done!

-RFW

April 23rd – That’s the BIG day for Feb 2010 SC Bar Examinees!

ALTERNATE TITLE: Why I no longer receive Martha Stewart Living.

This Friday, April 23rd, is a BIG day for February 2010 SC Bar Examinees. That’s THE day they learn if they passed the bar exam.

According to the SC Courts website:

The results of the February 2010 Bar Examination will be posted on this page at 4:00 p.m. on Friday, April 23, 2010. Additionally, a letter notifying each bar applicant of the results will be mailed on Friday, April 23, 2010. Telephonic requests for information about these results will not be accepted until 9:00 a.m. on Monday, April 26, 2010.

For any of us, this is a HUGE day to remember.

And for those of you who are curious:

Why I no longer receive Martha Stewart Living.

I took the July 1999 SC Bar Exam. The exam lasted 3 days and entailed 2 days of state-specific-topic-sensitive essays and 1 day of multiple choice questions for the multi-state exam. It was a grueling time and I have finally overcome the tic when I speak or think of it.

(Seriously though, sleep is the best study aid! It allows you to concentrate and breathe – at the same time.)

At any rate, I began my job – not yet an attorney, but no longer a student. I always corrected people when they noted that I was an attorney - “not yet, I haven’t received the bar results.” Then August passed.  September passed uneventfully. Then came October. The beginning of the month wasn’t so bad.

(Historically South Carolina announces its July Bar results at the end of October and the February results near the end of April.)

By mid-October though, the nightmares began. Fleeting thoughts of job searches would pop into my head, seemingly out of nowhere. And by the last week of October, law students began calling one another, sending emails and commiserating. Rumors abounded. Then someone at the court said results would be announced at the end of the week. Thursday it was hard to concentrate. I told my senior attorney that the results would be forthcoming on Friday. She was glad I told her.

Friday was almost untenable. At 4:00 p.m. on Friday, I walked into my office, closed the door, wiped the sweat from my brow and picked up the phone. I pulled up the call-in number and tried to dial. I exhaled and hands-shaking, I dialed the number. There was a familiar sound on the line – what WAS that sound? Why wasn’t it ringing? Oh yes, that’s the busy signal. Phew! At least I was able to dial. I tried again. No luck. Now I was shaking. I went back into my senior attorney’s office – “May I take off for the rest of the afternoon?” She was kind and smiled “yes, of course.” So, at 4:10 p.m. I slunk out of the office, trying not to meet anyone’s gaze. I drove home and picked up the phone to dial the number. I dialed and received a recording indicating that the information had been mailed and that I should receive the information the following day.

I don’t remember the rest of the evening. But early the next morning, 6:00 a.m.-ish, I awoke with a lump in my throat. I padded out of bed and upstairs to stare at papers on my home desk. My husband awoke a little later and offered to make coffee and breakfast. What? Oh yeah, please, that would be very nice.

Neither helped a nervous stomach. My husband, who had survived this process several years earlier, took pity on me and offered to take me out until the mail came. “No thanks.”

He started puttering in the garage. That way he’d be close to the mailbox. I had asked him to get the mail – just in case.

Everytime I heard a car or truck move past our home, I fluttered over to the window and peered out.

Then, around 10:00 a.m., my husband informed me that he had to pick up a part for his car, but he’d be right back. “After all” he said “mail usually arrives around 2:00 or 3:00 in the afternoon. It’s still early.”

I wasn’t convinced, but knew he had common sense at the moment. I acquiesced.

I tried to match his cheerful wave as I watched his car drive away, so with a toothy-grimace, I waved him on.

Toothy-grimace re-enactment

Exactly 22 seconds later, I heard a familiar engine. OH NO, it CAN’T be. It simply can’t be! Yup, the mail-truck. Sure, there wasn’t any sleet, rain or snow – but why couldn’t he be on time? Why early? Today of all days!

And I peered outside from the safety of my upstairs office. Mind you, I had left my glasses at my desk, so I had to squint. Squint I did! And then I saw him put a large manila-type package into the box. I burst into tears!

[NOTE: When you pass the SC Bar exam, typically you receive a regular envelope with a congratulatory letter. When you do NOT pass the SC Bar exam, typically you receive a manila envelope with an application enclosed.]

Back to the tears. I was inconsolable. My thoughts crowded:

  • Oh no, I’m going to have to look for a job!
  • How am I going to face my classmates.
  • Everyone will think I’m stupid.
  • OH NO! I studied for that exam like I’ve never studied before. If I can’t pass this one, what makes me think I can pass another?
  • THREE YEARS. Three years of my life. WASTED!

I could go on, but you get the picture.

I sat on the top stair. Nose running. Eyes flowing. Face buried in my hand. Sobbing. Gulping. Sobbing. My whole body convulsing.

I didn’t even hear my husband come in.

I didn’t hear him say “I’ll go pick up the mail.”

I didn’t hear him say “YOU’VE PASSED! YOU’VE PASSED! YOU’VE PASSED! – It’s a SMALL WHITE ENVELOPE! YOU’VE PASSED!”

He brought the letter to me. I pulled my head up. I tried to read the letters on the page, but they were all blurry. Why can’t I read? Oh yea, you have to stop crying. I did. Finally. My husband watched expectantly.

I felt jubilation. I passed.

Wait, what was that manila-envelope thing I’d seen the mailman deposit into our box? OH, Martha Stewart Living magazine with a paper cover. Sorry Martha, but I never renewed.

- RFW

Introducing a 4 part series: Pro Bono Volunteers at SCLS

A few weeks ago, I was honored to head to Greenville to announce the recipient of the Ellen Hines Smith South Carolina Legal Services (SCLS) Attorney of the Year – Maureen White. While there I was fortunate to take a few minutes to sit down with 4 of their volunteers – Katrina Hoch, Katie Conyers, Alex Paterra, and Sarah Henry. We chatted about their work and involvement with SCLS and their impressions of their work.

Each of them offered similarities but from different perspectives. Stay tuned to learn more about these amazing individuals and their impact on legal services in South Carolina.

-RFW

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

Massachusetts Releases Interim Report on Access to Justice

Just last month, the Massachusetts Court System released its  Interim Report on Access to Justice Initiatives (Massachusetts), specifically initiatives in the Trial Court. This initiative is not to replace the work of their Access to Justice Commission, but to enhance it, as noted in the report itself.

Much of their work mirrors what we in South Carolina are doing.

They are reviewing progress in other states:

  • looking at developing forms and interactive websites for self-represented litigants;
  • reviewing implications and feasibility of limited scope representation aka unbundled legal services;
  • exploring ways to develop court service centers;
  • increasing access to the courts for those with Limited English Proficiency (LEP).

They are reviewing challenges within their current system:

Their consensus? Action toward providing:

  • services for court users with limited or no English language skills, including staff who can speak and read other languages,
  • instructional materials in other languages, and court forms in other languages;
  • technology, including wireless (internet) access in courthouses, MassCourts public access, and court forms that can be completed on-line;
  • self-help centers and materials; and
  • child care centers.

What’s fascinating? This came about through a survey to court personnel. Often we hear that the government is full of bureaucratic red tape.

What’s encouraging? That this very government is working to make the process easier for us to navigate – during a time of economic crisis.

Kudos Massachusetts! We’ll be watching your progress and wish you well throughout the process.

-RFW