Want to Interpret in the South Carolina Courts?

Join us on Saturday, February 11, 2012!

Cost: $35 – includes breakfast, lunch, snacks and materials! Pay by check or Discover, Visa or MasterCard.

Program begins promptly at 8:45 a.m. and ends at 5:00 p.m.

Space is limited and preference is given to South Carolina residents.

Registration MUST be post-marked no later than Friday, February 3, 2012. No refunds for cancellations received after Friday, January 27, 2012.

For more information, please email ccoker@scbar.org or call Robin Wheeler at (803) 576-3808.

At our recent SC Access to Justice Commission meeting, we had a guest speaker who presented on Language Access and the growing need for language access in the civil court system.

And, while many of us understand the laws that govern language access, especially in the legal system, the fact still remains that in order to provide qualified interpreters, these qualified interpreters must be available and accessible.

Most everyone I’ve spoken with has noted that we need more qualified interpreters. We simply do not have the numbers of qualified interpreters.

During our preliminary conversations, we learned that while there is a general interest to interpret, many in the interpretation community were unfamiliar with legal terminology and courtroom decorum. And, interpreters were hesitant to pay to take the South Carolina Court Interpreter exam without at least an introduction to the legal system in South Carolina.

As a result, Law School for Interpreters was created.

I’m pleased to introduce the Law School for Interpreters which will be held on Saturday, February 11, 2012. We have a great line-up of speakers including attorneys and at least one judge. The sponsors for the event have all been working together with the Commission as we try to increase the number of qualified courtroom and legal interpreters.

If you, or someone you know, is interested in this course, please complete and return the registration form – Registration for Law School for Interpreters Feb 11 2012.

I look forward to seeing you there!

~RFW

Celebrate Pro Bono: David C. Shea

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

Meet David C. Shea, South Carolina attorney.

David C. Shea

When asked about what first drew him to pro bono, he responds:

I started in law school, hoping to gain some practical legal experience while at the same time helping others. Having been the first in my family to be financially able to attend a university, much less go to law school, I felt attending law school as a privilege for which a public debt is owed. As long as I can remember, I’ve always been encouraged and helped by family and teachers who thought I might amount to something, so I simply feel a moral duty help out others. This might not be the best reason, but to me it’s just part of my upbringing.

I grew up in South Florida and had an interest in immigration work, and while at USC Law, Pam Robinson had a program which allowed me to help with deportation cases and actually conduct a hearing during my 2L year with attorney supervision. This experience ultimately resulted in me obtaining a highly competitive Department of Justice summer internship in Chicago. So, in a sense, an unintended consequence of pro bono efforts helped jump start my career. 

David Shea’s name kept popping up when I spoke with various people about who to interview for Celebrate Pro Bono. And it’s easy to see why. According to several sources, he “always tries to keep at least one active pro bono case going at any given time, as well as volunteering with the Law Related Education committee’s programs, including Mock Trial.”

When asked about his current pro bono work, he noted:

I just finished a trial for a client for a divorce and child custody issues; the Decree is not even finished yet.

My practice is mainly concentrated in divorce work, so I limit my pro bono intakes to that area. I believe lawyers can be more effective my volunteering in their areas of practice, and the clients are better served as well.

 I take appointments directly from the South Carolina Bar pro bono program, and make a point of being available for questions for the Bar staff who administer and manage the programs. 

He is also active with the LRE Committee, including being a past chair.

I believe the LRE programs are instrumental to educating South Carolina’s students about the law and building the character of our future lawyers and judges, and leaders in general for those who don’t go on to law school.

I asked David about whether his pro bono legal work has been rewarding. Apparently it’s been very rewarding:

I got a hug in the courtroom from my client after my last pro bono divorce trial. Another client made me a cake. Things like that happen more often from pro bono clients than paying clients. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t get at least a “thank you” from a pro bono client, even when I lost.

In mock trial, it’s rewarding to see a shy student blossom into a confident public speaker. I didn’t have mock trial available when I went to school, and I’m shy by nature so it’s extra rewarding to see a student with a background like mine succeed in mock trial.

While not really a pro bono moment, I started out my legal career as a public defender. Years after I had opened my own practice, the spouse of a former public defender client tracked me down to personally give me her husband’s 1997 Master’s golf ball marker. She said her husband had recently died but always talked with her about how much he appreciated me helping him and that she thought I should have it since it was the year I represented him. You just can’t recreate the overwhelming feeling of appreciation from a moment like that – I had no idea prior to that moment what something relatively minor in my life was so major in his life – but the ball marker sits in my office as a reminder to do what’s right, and in a respectful manner, as we might not appreciate what it might mean to someone else. 

His philosophy about pro bono legal service:

I’m fortunate to be blessed with three children, a marriage, and a busy law practice, and time management is getting harder and harder as they all grow. However, as lawyers we need to remember we are fortunate to be positions of responsibility and power not afforded to many professions, and we need to appreciate and accept that. It’s the lawyers who DON’T who cause the bad press for the rest of us.

We all can build in some time to give back to our community if we try, and the rewarding feelings are indescribable. I’ve been active in Mock Trial long enough now that students I’ve met in the competitions are now colleagues, and it’s rewarding for one of them to approach you at a function to say “I remember when you did … back when I was in high school.”  

Given the nature of many domestic pro bono cases, oftentimes trial is more likely than settlement, thus it doesn’t serve your family, the courts, or your clients well to get overextended. Do what you can, but keep perspective and balance. We all have our areas of interests and expertise, and between all the pro bono opportunities available to us through the S.C. Bar, our county Bars, the law schools, and the community in general, there’s an opportunity available for most any lawyer whether you want a few hours or a long term project.

Just as being a divorce lawyer is good for a marriage in terms of seeing what doesn’t work for others, doing pro bono work is good for a healthy legal mind and body in terms of doing for others what they can’t do for themselves.

Unfortunately, I see a lot a lawyers who probably would be much happier if they would let themselves experience a pro bono moment once in a while, as it would take them back to the days of idealism and helpfulness they had when they first dreamt of being a lawyer. The lawyers who entered our profession just for the financial rewards will dismiss this and go back to their work, if they are even reading this at all.

It you haven’t volunteered in a long time and my comments have actually given you pause, we still need some more judges for the Middle School Mock Trial competition in November and December. Do yourself a favor and call 803-252-5139 to volunteer right now while you are feeling guilty and longing to feel rewarded! 

Not surprisingly, David C. Shea’s volunteer work extends beyond his legal work, he also belongs to the Richland Sertoma Club, an organization dedicated to helping Midlands citizens and those with speech, hearing and language disorders. He is also a Cub Scout Den Leader to a wild, diverse, and fun group of first graders. 

I cannot imagine a better role model for those first graders! Thanks Dave!

~RFW

Disabilities Awareness Public Forum, Wed., Oct. 26, 2011

Tomorrow as part of Celebrate Pro Bono 2011, several attorneys will be speaking at a Disabilities Awareness Public Forum in Greenville, South Carolina.

The event is FREE and open to the public. We do have ASL Interpreters available for the event, but if you need additional accomodations, please contact Stephanie Gutzman at 864-235-0273 or by email at gutzman@pandasc.org.

Hope to see you there!

~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

2011 Ellen Hines Smith Nominations Now Open!

We are pleased to announce that nominations for the 2011 Ellen Hines Smith Legal Services Attorney of the Year are open!

The Ellen Hines Smith Award was established in 1989. It is given to a South Carolina Bar member who is employed as an LSC grantee program lawyer who has demonstrated long-term commitment to legal services and who has personally done significant work in extending legal services to the poor.

The form is available in pdf at Ellen Hines Smith Nomination Form 2011 or by email request to rwheeler@scbar.org.

Who is eligible?

  • A SC Bar member who is employed as an LSC grantee program lawyer.

Who is not eligible?

Previous award winners are not eligible:

1989 – Martha B. Dicus

1990 –Thomas L. Bruce

1991 – Johnny Simpson

1992 – Harold F. Daniels

1993 – Andrea E. Loney

1994 – Mozella Nicholson

1995 – Thomas A.Trent

1996 – Susan A. Cross

1997 – Angela M. Myers

1998 – Ethel E. Weinberg

1999 – Nancy M. Butler

2000 – Byron A. Reid

2001 – Lynn P. Wagner

2002 – Eddie McConnell

2003 – Frank Cannon

2004 – Willie B. Heyward

2005 – Lynn Snowber-Marini

2006 – Eddie McConnell

2007 – Marcia Powell-Shew

2009 – Maureen White

2010 – Susan J. Firimonte

When is the application due?

  • The application must be made by October 15, 2011.

How do I find out who received the award?

  • The SC Bar Foundation and the SC Access to Justice Commission present the award at the annual SC Bar Foundation Gala. This year the Gala will be held on January 21, 2012 in Columbia during the SC Bar Convention

For more information about Ms. Ellen Hines Smith, visit the USC School of Law Memory Hold the Door page dedicated to her.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            ~ RFW

SC Supreme Court News: Revisions to the Self-Represented Litigant Simple Divorce Packet

Earlier today the Supreme Court of South Carolina issued an Order with Revisions to the Self-Represented Litigant Simple Divorce Packet based upon suggestions from the legal community to the SC Access to Justice Commission.

Changes include:

  1. Addition of a sample script for the Plaintiff;
  2. Paragraphs 1 and 2 have been added to Page 1 so the parties can provide the county and state of their residency;
  3. Paragraph 3 of Page 1 has been added so the parties can provide the county and state where they last shared a residence;
  4. Paragraph 4 has been revised to allow the Plaintiff to select the length of time the parties have lived in South Carolina; and
  5. The statement “If no name change is requested, please leave blank” is added at the end of Paragraph B on page 3.
The instructions for completing the Simple Divorce Packet have been revised to reflect these changes.

-RFW

Thanks 2011 Mock Trial Judges!

Everyday I’m reminded why I like the law. There are so many reasons, but one of the most important is how much I like and respect my colleagues.

We endure lawyer jokes. We are cursed along with “used-car salesmen” (and are they really so bad? My cars were exactly what I wanted).

And sure, there are some who bring out the worst.

BUT there are even more who are really cool people. They engage in their communities and take an active leadership role. Below is such a list. All these attorneys took time out to coach, judge or coordinate local High School student mock trial competitions. And that IS really cool. THANKS!

Take a look, you may know one or more. (click to enlarge)

-RFW

Happy Valentine’s Day: USC School of Law Pro Bono Style

I was very excited to hear from Pam Robinson about a project the USC School of Law Pro Bono Program was doing for Valentine’s Day. She asked several attorneys from around the state to complete the following:

I love being a lawyer because . . .

The following is the response:

Fantastic idea and great result!

Why do you love being a lawyer?

-RFW

Access to Justice: Interpreters for the Deaf

The SC Access to Justice Commission is pleased to collaborate with the SC School for the Deaf and Blind (SCSDB), SC Court Administration, the SC Association of the Deaf (SCAD), the SC Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (SCRID), SC Legal Services (SCLS), the SC Bar Public Services Division, and Protection and Advocacy for People with Disabilities, Inc. (P&A) to ensure that all Deaf South Carolinians have equal access to the civil court system.

Part of that collaboration was to increase the number of qualified American Sign Language Interpreters in the courts. Well, as you may recall, last summer, the SCSDB partnered with Richland County to help 25 sign language interpreters work toward nationally recognized legal certification. And earlier this month, that’s exactly what occurred.

From January 6, 2011 through January 9, 2011, 25 sign language interpreters gathered in Richland County for “Foundations of Court Interpreting” by Carla Mathers, who is licensed to practice law in Maryland and D.C. and holds a Comprehensive Skills Certificate (CSC) and a Specialist Certificate:  Legal (SC:L) and has written a book about legal interpreting.

And the collaborators remain committed to providing quality sign language interpretation in the courts.

And many thanks to The State for its coverage of this topic!

-RFW

Guest Blog: Lara Caudy

Lara Caudy served as the SC Access to Justice Commission’s SC Bar Foundation Public Interest Fellow in the autumn of 2010. Here is Lara’s perspective about the experience:

I have been awarded the opportunity to work with the South Carolina Access to Justice Commission through the South Carolina Bar Foundation Public Interest Fellows Project. The Project, a joint effort between the USC School of Law and the SC Bar Foundation, began on September 13, 2010 with the goal of enhancing our state legal services organizations. During orientation for the program, Toyya Brawley Grey, President of the SC Bar Foundation Board, welcomed the inaugural group of law students, myself included. In her remarks, Ms. Grey told those in attendance, including the fellows and the supervising attorneys, “You have all heard the phrase of something being compared to a ‘win-win’ situation. Well, the Foundation considers this opportunity a ‘win-win-win’ scenario. Fellows—you will benefit from the knowledge of the lawyers that you will encounter. Host entities—you will benefit from these students’ hard work and dedication. And, most importantly, the low income community will be better off as there are more helping hands—more minds around the table—as you work together to advance justice in our state.” Having worked at the South Carolina ATJ Commission for nine weeks now, I can attest to the accuracy of Ms. Grey’s words and I do not think I am mistaken in saying that all three groups—the fellows, the host organizations, and the local low income community—truly have benefited from this project.

One of the largest challenges the South Carolina ATJ Commission faces is improving and expanding legal resources for people of low income and spreading awareness of the legal resources that are currently available. Self-represented litigants in the State face challenges in the legal system everyday due to lack of financial means, lack of resources, and lack of knowledge about various aspects of the legal system, including proper forms and correct court procedures. My work at the Commission aimed at lessening these challenges.

I spent a significant amount of my time at the Commission working on developing and organizing a Self-Help Guide for pro se litigants to help spread awareness of the resources available to low income people in the State who do not have the financial means to seek help from an attorney. This was a gratifying experience as I knew my work had the potential to help hundreds of members of my local community solve the legal problems they face. In addition to the Self-Help Guide, I assisted in the early stages of a study to determine how legal representation affects the outcome of civil cases in the State. The ultimate goal of the study was to inform the South Carolina Legislature of the legal needs of low income people in the State and obtain more financial resources for statewide legal aid. While, unfortunately, this project was put on hold, my work on it enhanced my awareness of the necessity of pro bono work and the importance of providing resources to those who cannot afford an attorney. My most recent project involved generating a list of potential activities, programs, and events that the Commission can focus on undertaking in the near future. This task helped me gain a better idea of some of the methods legal services organizations, such as the Commission, can work on to improve legal resources and spread awareness of such resources.

Overall, this has been a great educational experience. It has provided me with the opportunity to give back to our community while learning about the legal profession and the legal challenges faced by low income people in South Carolina. My fellowship experience has broadened my awareness of the profound unmet legal needs of the members of our community, state, and country and has instilled in me an even stronger desire to contribute to the State’s legal community in everyway that I can. I urge all my fellow law students in the State to engage in pro bono work to help lessen the vast legal needs of our community. This truly as been, in the words of Ms. Grey, “a win-win-win situation.”