Craigslist and Legal Services?

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This is a referral post to both technola and the ABA Journal. Technola for its post about Craigslist and referral to the ABA Journal’s post requesting comments from readers about whether they’ve used Craigslist to advertise.

I’ll be following the findings.

-RFW

Afterthought: Is anyone monitoring attorney advertising rules and ethics on Craigslist?

Legalese? No thanks!

I’m always pleased to see articles by others about using Plain Language in lieu of legalese. And yesterday, techno.la posted one.

So then I thought I’d check and see how often the term “Legalese” appears in news searches on Google.

The answer is 147 times.

Then for goofs, I checked how often the term appears in blog searches on Google.

The answer is 72,710 times.

And what is the reason for this?

Blogs allow people to express their feelings much more easily, especially displeasure. Now I did not read the seventy-two thousand seven hundred ten different blogs (I do work y’know) but I glanced at their topics and noted that they were generally berating the use of legalese.

Why? BECAUSE LEGALESE IS HARD TO UNDERSTAND.

Sure, it may mean a little job security in the short-term, but in the long-term, we’ll have poorly drafted documents that may amount to gibberish.

Some of the blogs also noted that plain, concise language is actually harder to write. Easier to read, but harder to write.

Take this example from here:

When the man in the street says: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, the lawyer writes,”Insofar as
manifestations of functional deficiencies are agreed by any and all concerned parties to be imperceivable,
and are so stipulated, it is incumbent upon said heretofore mentioned parties to exercise the deferment
of otherwise pertinent maintenance procedures.”

Just a Thursday thought!

-RFW

Ever wish you had a map for the court system?

Wonder no more!

Thanks to National Center for State Courts (NCSC) for the innovative online interactive map that plainly delineates the structure of each of the state court systems.

To review the South Carolina Court System, click here.

This is good news for pre-law students and any others with an interest in civics, but especially low-income people who want to learn about the court system. Information such as this provides necessary education about the court system and assists access to justice.

And thanks again to Techno.la for pointing this out!

-RFW

FREE OR LOW COST Online Legal Research Tools

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As many of us try to limit our costs, any low cost or free alternatives are appreciated.

Thanks to our friends at Techno.la for pointing SC Access to Justice toward this resource out of Georgetown.

The Georgetown Law Library has put together an online guide for legal research indicating which services offer state court information, which ones offer federal court information, which have case law, which have statutes, etc.

-RFW

Language + Web Tools = Access

The folks at techno.la have done it again. They have pointed readers to information on the web for LEP people or people with Limited English Proficiency. The specific article is well worth reading if you work with LEP. Check it out here.

If you want to learn more about equal justice ideas and initiatives, read the whole magazine starting here.

-RFW

And Another Thing . . . I-CAN!® E-File 2008 Reports

Thanks to Kate Bladow at Techno.la and ProBono.net for this additional info!

I-CAN!® E-File 2008 has REPORTS that allow us to see how many filings are completed out of each state. As of this writing 36 South Carolinians had completed their returns using I-CAN!® E-File 2008 for refunds totalling $54,492 and Earned Income Credits (EIC) totalling $18,219.

If you are unfamiliar with the term EIC, you can learn more here. In order to qualify for EIC, taxpayers MUST file a tax return, even if they did not earn enough money to be obligated to file a tax return.

-RFW

Check it out: Can My Boss Do That?

In Bright Orange Letters, Interfaith Worker Justice lets people know:

Can My Boss Do That?

This site offers information and a general how-to, not legal advice, for workers with general employment and unemployment questions. Some of the headers on the homepage include:

  • Health Benefits and the Stimulus COBRA Subsidy
  • Unemployment Insurance
  • Can they fire me?

There’s more. Check it out here.

-RFW

Thanks Techno.la for referring us to this site.

South Carolina: 3rd highest unemployment in the USA

South Carolina Ranks 3rd in the Nation in Unemployment

Thanks so much to Technola for their post about this interactive unemployment map entitled “The Geography of a Recession.”

The national unemployment rate average in December 2008 was 7.1%, with a 2.3 increase in one year. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, South Carolina’s rate was 9.5%, the third highest in the nation with Rhode Island with the highest jobless rates, 10.6% followed by Michigan at 10.0%. California was 4th with 9.3%; followed by Nevada, 9.1%; and Oregon at 9.0%.

Indiana and South Carolina recorded the largest over-the-month unemployment rate increases in December (+1.1 percentage points each).

As I looked at South Carolina’s unemployment highs, I noted that they are primarily in the “rural” areas AND they are “manufacturing centers” according to the map.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Manufacturing Sector refers to:

Plants, factories, or mills  engaged in the mechanical, physical, or chemical transformation of materials, substances, or components into new products. These industries include Food Manufacturing; Beverage and Tobacco Product Manufacturing; Textile Mills; Textile Product Mills; Apparel Manufacturing; Leather and Allied Product Manufacturing; Wood Product Manufacturing; Paper Manufacturing; Printing and Related Support Activities; Petroleum and Coal Products Manufacturing; Chemical Manufacturing; Plastics and Rubber Products Manufacturing; and more.

How is this related to Access to Justice?

As unemployment increases, income decreases. People are no longer covered by medical insurance. They can no longer afford their car payments or home mortgages. This may lead to stress in the marriage which leads to divorce. Sometimes (not always) the desperation to provide food and shelter may lead to an increase in crime.

These may seem like social justice issues, but there are legal implications. If people are unaware of their rights, they are more likely to be taken advantage of by unscrupulous business practices.

For instance, two days ago, the New York Times published an article entitled You’re Dead? That Won’t Stop the Debt Collector.  In the article, relatives of dead debtors are contacted and asked “if they want to settle the balance on a credit card or bank loan, or perhaps make that final utility bill or cellphone payment. The people on the other end of the line often have no legal obligation to assume the debt of a spouse, sibling or parent. But they take responsibility for it anyway.”

In the article, one unemployed man offers to pay $15 per month to settle his late mother-in-law’s credit card debt which he has no legal responsibility to do.

If they’re lucky, they’ll know to turn to attorneys for assistance, whether it’s South Carolina Legal Services or the SC Bar Pro Bono Program. Some may be able to proceed on their own, as self-represented litigants. But they will come in contact with the civil legal system.

That’s how the problem is related to Access to Justice. That’s why unemployment is an issue for all of us. That’s why we all need to help educate consumers and the general public about their civil legal rights.

-RFW

The New Poverty Regs are Here!

A Big Shout Out to our friends at techno.la for pointing this out to us!

The information below can be found here.

-RFW

The 2009 Poverty Guidelines for the 48 Contiguous States
and the District of Columbia
Persons in family Poverty guideline
1 $10,830
2 14,570
3 18,310
4 22,050
5 25,790
6 29,530
7 33,270
8 37,010
For families with more than 8 persons, add $3,740 for each additional person.
2009 Poverty Guidelines for Alaska
Persons in family Poverty guideline
1 $13,530
2 18,210
3 22,890
4 27,570
5 32,250
6 36,930
7 41,610
8 46,290
For families with more than 8 persons, add $4,680 for each additional person.
2009 Poverty Guidelines for Hawaii
Persons in family Poverty guideline
1 $12,460
2 16,760
3 21,060
4 25,360
5 29,660
6 33,960
7 38,260
8 42,560
For families with more than 8 persons, add $4,300 for each additional person.

Help! Where do I find Access to Justice Updates?

Where can I find MORE about ATJ?

Have you ever found yourself stuck on where to find Access to Justice updates? Fear not, you can always check here.

But just in case you wonder whether you’ve found the latest news, you can click here to view the ABA Resource Center for Access to Justice Initiatives.

Or if you’re hip and tuned in to Twitter, check out techno.la’s access to justice tweets at http://twitter.com/accesstojustice or follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/scatj.

-RFW