This has been a whirlwind autumn and it’s hard to believe it’s already 2015! I hope everyone had a safe and happy new year.
The SC Access to Justice Commission has undergone a recent overhaul. On October 20, 2014, the Chief Justice issued a new Administrative Order for the Commission. The changes ensure that Commissioners represent a broader scope of judges and attorneys, while imposing term limits so that we don’t overstay our welcome with our Commissioners, who already volunteer their time and talent.
In keeping with a new order, we have new Commissioners. Click here for a list.
Stay tuned for updates on our initiatives.
Many thanks to all of you who support access to justice!
The South Carolina Access to Justice Commission is pleased to open nominations for the Ellen Hines Smith South Carolina Legal Services Attorney of the Year Award.
2014 Ellen Hines Smith Nomination Form
Nominations will remain open until November 12, 2014.
The award winner will be decided by a joint awards committee of the South Carolina Bar Foundation and the South Carolina Access to Justice Commission. The award will be jointly presented at the South Carolina Bar Foundation Gala, to be held on Saturday, January 24, 2015.
Bright and early Saturday morning, 77 people were driving into downtown Columbia to attend the SC Access to Justice Commission’s LEP Work Group “Law School for Interpreters.”
Meanwhile, the sponsors were all busy opening the facility and readying the room and registration tables for each of these interpreters.
At 8:45 a.m., seats filled and the LEP Work Group provided an overview of the day and the program began.
- Registration and Breakfast 8:00 a.m.
- Welcome & Overview 8:45 a.m.
- Pretest 9:00 a.m.
- “Oh the Places You Can Go and the People You Can Meet” (Overview of the SC Judicial System) 9:15 a.m.
- South Carolina State Court Interpreter Certification Program 9:45 a.m.
- Circuit Court 10:30 a.m.
- Family Court 11:15 a.m.
- Magistrates Court 12:00 noon
- Catered Lunch
- Court Process 1:45 p.m.
- Panel Discussion & Q&A: Reality Check 3:15 p.m.
- Post-test, Wrap-Up, & Evaluation 4:45 p.m.
The excitement in the room was palpable. Interpreters greeted one another with hugs, and sometimes questions of “which language do you speak?” And the excitement was not limited to interpreters and translators. Many of the event sponsors were thrilled with the turn-out, especially on a Saturday. Languages represented included Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian, Chinese, French, and Urdu as well as a few others.
And we’re all excited about the prospect of an additional pool of qualified and certified interpreters and translators in the South Carolina Court System.
Thanks again to our sponsors, speakers, and participants!
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.
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.
Historically, legal service organizations have not been a large beneficiary of grants from community foundations. At the last South Carolina Access to Justice Commission meeting, Tom Keith from Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina (Sisters of Charity) and Mac Bennett from United Way of the Midlands (UWay) provided insight into this practice as well as information to change it.
One obstacle for many legal service providers is geography. Sisters of Charity is the only statewide community foundation in South Carolina. Most community foundations in South Carolina limit the grant award to specific geographic regions. This presents a problem for entities that provide statewide legal services.
Another reason for the lack of funding from community foundations is the failure to ask. According to Tom Keith, in the last 10 years, Sisters of Charity has received only 10 requests from legal service organizations.
Despite the prohibitions for statewide legal service providers, the need for legal services is currently on the rise.
Mac Bennett reported that United Way of the Midlands recently interviewed approximately 1500 people in a local Bi-Lo parking lot to learn how the economy was affecting them and what they were struggling with the most. The 3rd highest indicator of need with people earning less than $25,000 a year was the need for legal services. This survey reflects a need for legal service organizations to more effectively communicate to community foundations when seeking grants.
Here are the FIVE TIPS from Tom and Mac:
- Educate the foundation throughout the year. Do not wait until it is time to ask for funding to notify the foundation about who you are. Send the foundation newsletters, brochures, links to websites—anything that will introduce your organization to the foundation before the funding request is due. Foster a relationship with the foundation PRIOR to your request.
- State measurable outcomes in your request. Community foundations want to know that their money will make a tangible difference in the life of your organization and those you serve. The more numbers you can track and report, the better.
- Clearly state the need. Be specific about the need(s) the grant will address. Clearly state who you are going to serve and the impact their dollars will make.
- Make requests geared towards a specific program or project. Community foundations are often hesitant to fund salaries and/or operational costs because they do not want an organization to become dependent on their funding from year to year just to keep their doors open. They prefer to fund projects and programs that will have a specific impact on the community.
- Make sure your mission matches the mission of the foundation. Community foundations are mission driven. Be clear about how the mission of your organization is in line with the mission of the foundation. Pay attention to the funding priorities of the organization so you don’t waste your time or theirs.
All the week’s “atj” newsworthy items wrapped up
Texas – Texas Access to Justice Commission and Foundation Recognize Major Contributors to Texas Legal Aid
Chicago, Illinois – ABA Invites Obama to it Annual Meeting
Washington, D.C. – 2nd ABA National Conference on Employment of Lawyers with Disabilities (Hurry for the EARLY BIRD special because after June 1st the registration increases)
United States Supreme Court – President Obama nominates Judge Sonia Sotomayor for the U.S. Supreme Court (For more news links, click here. For blog coverage, click here.)
Brooklyn, New York – A Call for Pro Bono at Boro Hall
Lexington, Kentucky – Interview with a True Change Agent
Nashville, Tennessee – New Legal Advice Clinic to Help with Debt Issues
Richmond, Virginia – LINC Recognizes Outstanding Volunteers
Public Justice Center – Donor Inspires Us with $10,000 Gift
Ventura County, California – New County Program Helping Low-Income Families Adopt
Winston-Salem, North Carolina – Practical Paralegalism: Paying it Forward
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma – Credit Card Reforms Could Help Statements
Fairfield, Connecticut – Hard Times Force People Into Family Court “Solo”
Honolulu, Hawaii – Starn O’Toole Marcus & Fisher Supports Access to Justice Commission
Australia – Pro Bono Work Good for Law Students
New York, New York – Pro Bono Recruitment Drive
San Diego, California – Law Made Public: Legal Research Class for the Self-Represented Litigant
The South Carolina Access to Justice Commission is pleased to present our latest pro bono addition, Allie Bullard! Allie is assisting the Commission this summer as a pro bono law clerk. She is a rising 2L at the USC School of Law and we are thrilled to have her on board.
And, she’s agreed to be a blogger from time to time.
I am very pleased that Tennessee has joined the ranks of states with Access to Justice Commissions. On Friday, the Tennessee Supreme Court announced the creation of a new statewide Access to Justice Commission to help address the growing civil legal needs crisis in Tennessee.
To view the Order, click here.
For a biography of the Commission members, click here.
To view the 14 minute video, click here. To view the transcript of Chief Justice Janice M. Holder‘s announcement, click here.
The Commission Chair Margaret L. Behm’s remarks are here.
Congratulations and welcome to my old home state!