Friday Wrap 5.29.09

All the week’s “atj” newsworthy items wrapped up

Friday Wrap Friday Wrap

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



Welcome Allie Bullard!

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.

Welcome Allie!

Allie Bullard - 1st day


Give it up for the Big TENNESSEE!

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!


More SRLs: Are Lawyers too Costly or Simply Sign of Hard Times?

That’s the question coming out of Connecticut this week, see Connecticut Law Tribune article here. Whatever the answer, the numbers of Self-Represented Litigants or SRLs is on the rise. The trend isn’t limited to Connecticut either. Recent conversations with family court judges, clerks of court and masters-in-equity have indicated that South Carolina is also part of the trend.

The challenges faced by other court systems also mirror what is happening in South Carolina. SRLs are not familiar with procedures to meet minimal requirements such as notifying the other party or service of process. Even if they meet procedural requirements they may not understand some of the documents themselves. They may not even complete all the necessary forms.

Additionally, attorneys have a reputation for using their own language, also known as legalese. The phrases in legal documents often are in Latin, not English. The South Carolina Access to Justice Commission is working with the courts to ensure that court documents are written in Plain English whenever possible.

Clerks of Court in South Carolina have also noted the rise in SRLs. Members of the public often ask for forms, then ask for help completing them. Or they may ask for advice from the clerk of whether to bring the action. Clerks are wary of responding – not because they don’t want to help, but because they don’t want to overstep into the practice of law – the unauthorized practice of law. In South Carolina, there are established laws indicating that only attorneys licensed in South Carolina may practice law in South Carolina. Legal advice is considered the practice of law. The South Carolina Access to Justice Commission is also working to address this question by developing signage clearly indicating what clerks can and cannot do. And the Commission is working with a clerk of court work group to educate clerks and the general public about the fine line between advice and information.

Judges note that they too have ethical dilemmas. When SRLs appear in their courtrooms and miss relevant pieces of their cases, the judges want to help but they too have boundaries. They may not help one side to the detriment of another.

SRLs have arrived and South Carolina is working to address the issue of increased numbers of SRLs in the courts.

But it may take a little while.

Thanks for your patience.


Musings of Justice with a little help from George Washington

Impressed with a conviction that the due administration of justice is the firmest pillar of good Government,

I have considered the first arrangement of the Judicial department as essential to the happiness of our

Country, and to the stability of its political system; hence the selection of the fittest characters to expound

the law, and dispense justice, has been an invariable object of my anxious concern.

~ George Washington,in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Edmund Randolph (1789)

On the first day of March 2009, it seemed only fitting to reach back to our first President, George Washington. When I saw this quote, it reached out to me.

How fitting it is to see that early government was concerned with administration of JUSTICE within the judicial department; and how comforting that the Access to Justice Commission was established by the South Carolina Supreme Court.


We are not alone

South Carolina is not the first state to form an Access to Justice Commission, and it is certainly not the last.  Moreover, the United States is not the only country to recognize that many of its citizens are not getting the legal assistance they seek.


Here’s a link to see what Australia’s been up to: 

It seems as though Australia is facing issues quite similar to those that we face here in the U.S.

But ATJ initiatives are not limited to first world countries.  For instance, Pakistan has been funding its Access to Justice Programme (AJP) since 2001.  Thus far, Pakistan’s AJP has distributed pamphlets on a variety of topics such as consumer protection and how to acquire a national ID card and has revised Ombudsman laws in an effort to inform citizens of the services the Ombudsman’s office can provide, among other things.  Unfortunately, all of the articles I found about the  Pakistan’s AJP are not available to the public.