Watch SC State of the Judiciary LIVE!

Today at 12:00 noon (EST), South Carolina Chief Justice Jean Hoefer Toal will deliver the annual State of the Judiciary at a joint session of the General Assembly.

Earlier today, the South Carolina Court News announced that the speech will be broadcast live on the South Carolina House of Representative’s Live Broadcast Chamber Video. Please note that you will need to have Adobe Flash Player in order to watch the presentation.

And if you are not able to view it live, the South Carolina Court News will announce its archived address (thank you SCETV) as soon as possible after the address.

-RFW

Focus on Pro Bono: Elliott Tait

Elliott Tait is currently a 2L, taking Wills, Trusts and Estates, Constitutional Law II, Problems in Professional Responsibility, Transnational Law, and Poverty Law at the University of South Carolina School of Law. He is also a member of the Pro Bono Board and the Moot Court Bar.

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.”

-RFW

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.

Job Opportunity: MAINE

Help Wanted

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.

Comm.+Indigent+Legal+Services.+Exec+Dir+Job+Description

Congratulations Maine!

-RFW

Constitution Day – What Freedom do you celebrate?

The Constitution of the United States of America

My Fave? Article III of the Constitution

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.

Article III establishes the Judiciary. The Third Branch of Government. No, I won’t delve into Marbury v. Madison, although any law student could wax poetic on the landmark case.

But I am glad that each year we celebrate Constitution Day because it gives me a good excuse to review the grand document.

You don’t have to declare your favorite article or section, but do take a moment to reflect on the freedoms and the wisdom contained in the document with the preamble:

We the people of the United States,

in order to form a more perfect union,

establish justice,

insure domestic tranquility,

provide for the common defense,

promote the general welfare,

and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity,

do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

-RFW

SC Access to Justice Commission’s Recommendations re: Rule 608

After the E-Newsletter was distributed earlier this week, the Commission received many requests from individuals and organizations wanting to review the recommendations.

Below is a copy of the cover letter as well as the accompanying exhibits:

COLUMBIA-#6098475-v1-071509_rule_608_ltr_to_chief_justice _2_

Exhibit A1 – Recommended amendments to RULE 608 _2_

Exhibit A2 – RULE 608 – redline _2_

Exhibit B – 5 Appts per Region 7 8 09

Exhibit C – Statement of April 2009 re 608 _2_

Exhibit D – Access Subcommittee filing 6 09 v4 _4_ _2_

-RFW

P&A Wants You(r Input)!

Every year the South Carolina protection and advocacy system, Protection and Advocacy for People with Disabilities, Inc. (P&A) asks for public opinion on what they should do also known as priority work areas.

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.

suggestion box

-RFW

A look at June

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.

Let’s take a look at history in June:

  1. June 1st Kentucky became the 15th state in 1792, Tennessee became the 16th state in 1796
  2. June 2 – 1924 President Calvin Coolidge signs the Indian Citizenship Act granting citizenship to Native Americans born in U.S. territories
  3. June 4th – 1919 Congress approves the 19th Amendment (Women’s Rights)
  4. June 6th – D-Day (1944)
  5. June 14th – Flag Day (USA)
  6. June 15th – Arkansas became the 25th state in 1836
  7. June 19th – Juneteenth aka Emancipation Day especially in Texas
  8. June 20th – 1863 West Virginia became the 35th state
  9. June 22-23 – Summer Solstice
  10. 3rd Friday – Midsummer (Finland & Sweden)
  11. 3rd Sunday – Father’s Day (USA)
  12. Gay Pride in honor of Stonewall Riots 1969
  13. Children’s Day in many countries
  14. June 30th – 1921 Former U.S. President (#27) William Howard Taft is Appointed as the 10th Chief Justice of the  United States

Enjoy!

-RFW

Summer Solstice: Famously Hot
Summer Solstice: Famously Hot

SRLs: The Good, The Bad and The Reality

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.

Scenario 1 in the recesses of my mind
Scenario 1 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.

-RFW

Fyi, for another perspective on Self-Represented Litigants, check out Rebecca Woodworth Brodie’s opinion piece entitled The Rationing of Justice: LAR, DIY attorneys and pro se.

Celebrate May 1st a/k/a Law Day

President Obama, himself an attorney, issued a Presidential Proclamation that this May 1st (Law Day) we celebrate the bicentennial of President Abraham Lincoln‘s birthday. President Lincoln was an attorney who had significant impact on the laws of this country.

Happy May Day!

Happy Law Day!

Happy Friday!

– RFW