When asked about his favorite class, Eliott replied “I really enjoy Poverty Law, taught by Professor Patterson. It’s a class that analyzes the major policies relating to the poor, and it has certainly opened my eyes to the good things that government has been able to facilitate as well as the many things they could improve upon.”
While at the law school, he has checked in from time to time with Pamela DeFanti Robinson, the school’s Pro Bono Program Director. Through this program, he has been able to volunteer in a number of ways, with a memorable volunteer experience teaching a few CHOICES classes at the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). The curriculum is meant to give the kids in DJJ practical and accessible knowledge of the law. In particular, Elliott references the day he taught a lesson on law enforcement. At the beginning of the class the kids were very cynical and even hostile toward anything surrounding the idea of police officers. By the end of the class, however, a few of the kids were able to really put themselves in the shoes of police officers and begin to understand the reasons behind their conduct. The simple acknowledgment that “maybe cops aren’t as bad as I think” was a huge victory.
Currently, he is providing Pro Bono assistance by working with the South Carolina Access to Justice Commission’s Self-Represented Litigant Committee under the supervision of Stephanie Nye, Counsel to the Chief Justice. This Committee is working to implement the state’s first self-help centers, which will provide resources to self-represented litigants. Specifically Elliott is helping to draft and edit self-help centers’ guidelines. Additionally he is also drafting a resource list which contains relevant contact information and links to resources that for self-represented litigants.
When asked whether this particular Pro Bono experience has given him any surprises, he noted “I have been surprised at the level of opposition to self-help centers in some counties. I understand some feelings of caution about the idea, but outright opposition is surprising.”
He continued “I have learned about the real value in providing services to self-represented litigants. It’s a shame that South Carolina is many years behind other states in providing such services.”
Elliott also noted that his pro bono experience working with the SC Access to Justice Commission “has simply reaffirmed that the practice of law is a great way to serve others, as there is great need.”
As to his future?
“At this stage I see myself going into some form of public service.”
And what would he tell other law students about his experience?
“Pro Bono work has always been interesting, unique, challenging, and rewarding. It has really enriched my law school experience, and I plan to make it a significant part of my professional career.”
WANTED: Executive Director for the MAINE Indigent Legal Services Commission
Recently Maine established the Maine Commission on Indigent Legal Services.
This independent commission was created for the purpose of providing efficient, high-quality, constitutionally and legally required representation to indigent criminal defendants, juvenile defendants, individuals facing involuntary commitment and children and parents in child protective cases. The Commission seeks its first Executive Director, who will work with the Commission to establish, oversee and administer an indigent legal services delivery system, which is at the present time administered by Maine’s Judicial Branch. As of July 1, 2010, the Commission will assume responsibility for an approximately $11,000,000 budget appropriated for the delivery of constitutionally-required indigent legal services.
Maybe that’s an obvious choice for an attorney. Now, please don’t misunderstand, all of the freedoms noted in our venerable Constitution have a special spot in my heart. Tears still swell every time I hear the Star-Spangled Banner. I imagine looking out and seeing our flag still standing proud, even in the midst of a war for our continued independence from Great Britain.
Their Board of Directors reviews the information from the public and compares it to data they have received throughout the year. Once the Board has completed this process, it sets the priority work areas for the year. The reason they’re asking for it now is that their fiscal year runs October 1 to September 30.
To get your input into setting their priority work areas, P&A asks that you complete their online survey that will close on September 10, 2009.
For some reason, I wanted to celebrate June on the blog. Maybe it’s because June introduces summer. And summer holds precious memories for many – school is dismissed, it’s a popular wedding month, the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere.
Writing about Self-Represented Litigants is not as easy as it appears.
Sure, I wholeheartedly believe that every U.S. citizen has a right to be heard in court. And sometimes there simply isn’t an attorney available or willing to represent everyone. So, the alternative is appearing by oneself, as a Self-Represented Litigant or pro se.
But my training and experience lead me to conclude even though each of us has a right to appear on our own, it isn’t always in our best interest.
Ideally every person would be entitled to representation by an attorney who is familiar with the specific area of law.
Attorneys are trained to review the facts, both subjectively, objectively and as they relate in law. Areas of law differ greatly but all attorneys are skilled in research and reviewing information. By hiring attorneys clients hire an objective fact reviewer as well as a reviewer of existing law and potentially policy-makers.
About this time, you’re thinking, why did she say this topic isn’t easy? Because as an attorney, I’m torn.
As with most legal issues, there are always shades of gray. Most of us view the world in black and white, right and wrong. As attorneys, our training (3 years of law school plus our practice and life experience) reveal the shades of gray. The pieces that may be right for the wrong reasons and wrong for the right reasons.
I recognize that with each legal form that is created, some people will forgo consulting with an attorney. These individuals will not receive the wisdom, many times in the form of questions, from the attorney. This will potentially leave them vulnerable.
Scenario 1: Someone married to someone with a pension MAY have rights to that pension. But they’re so unhappy in the marriage. They sign papers without consulting an attorney. Maybe they’re currently in good health with a good job. But, what happens if they are seriously injured in a car wreck and no longer able to work?
Scenario 2: Same as before except: What happens if they move forward with their lives, without tragedy? Simply pleased to have a failed marriage behind them.
Each U.S. citizen has a right to both scenarios. And it’s the second scenario that allows me to continue to advocate for resources to assist people who want to represent themselves.
But it isn’t always easy because the first scenario is always in the recesses of my mind.
And I can do my best to ensure that at least the forms and resources provided to them is accurate and complete and not out there to take advantage of them.