Nominations now open: Ellen Hines Smith Legal Services Attorney of the Year 2014

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.


Ed McMahon, Your Legacy Lives On

Most everyone is familiar with Ed McMahon and the American Family Publishers Sweepstakes prize.  And some of us waited patiently for him to show up at our door with balloons and an over-sized check. Watching the few lucky prize winners was always a thrill. And today I had the honor of delivering balloons and flowers to the 2009 Ellen Hines Smith South Carolina Legal Services award recipient, Maureen White.

While the official award will be presented at the SC Bar Foundation Gala on March 11, 2010, Shannon Willis Scruggs of the SC Bar Foundation, and I delivered the good news to Ms. White today at the Greenville office of South Carolina Legal Services (SCLS). And wow, what a great feeling! To say that Ms. White was surprised would be an understatement. Below you’ll see some photos as we interrupted the Thursday morning staffing.

A little more about Ms. White:

  • She started work at SCLS in March 1997;
  • During her time at SCLS, she has conquered many legal issues including landlord/tenant, divorce, consumer and disability matters;
  • She is currently the lead bankruptcy attorney within the consumer unit of SCLS; and
  • She moved to South Carolina from Ohio where she had practiced for 12 years.

A few notes from the people who nominated her:

When she started at SCLS: Almost immediately, (no one can remember exactly when), she was fully oriented to the legal aid culture and was building a diverse caseload that has grown beyond all boundaries owing to her famous zeal at case acceptance meetings.

The justice system is better for her example, energy and abundant legal skill. Her humor enlivened every case acceptance meeting.

I could not be more impressed with her professionalism and cheerful work ethic – she is uniquely motivated in her desire to help others.

Maureen’s most significant achievement on a statewide level has been her work as our Lead Bankruptcy Attorney. When SCLS’ Bankruptcy Roadshow was created by the Consumer Unit, Maureen led the way as we went around the state training SCLS attorneys to handle bankruptcy cases. We significantly increased the number of attorneys handling bankruptcy and the number of clients being served by SCLS filing bankruptcy for them.

Meet Ms. Maureen White:

Once again – congratulations Maureen White!

And Ed McMahon – thanks for the inspiration . . . it’s a lot of fun to surprise people with flowers, balloons, and good news!


Cast your vote re: ghostwriting

I’ve received the following email 3 times. It’s time for me to share!

Following an article published yesterday, titled Kansas Ethics Opinion Requires Disclosure on Ghostwritten Pleadings, the ABA Journal has created a poll on ghostwriting.  Visit the site at to cast your vote in the poll “Is Ghostwriting Legal Documents Ethical?”.

Scroll down the screen to see the poll, which is located on the right side of the home page.  We’re not sure how long the poll will be open, so be sure to vote today.

This issue is particularly relevant for those of us interested in limited scope representation.

Limited scope representation varies state by state, but generally, it allows attorneys to provide a discrete service and is considered by many to increase access to justice – due to reduced costs for legal services.

A litigant or client may pay for someone to write a letter on their behalf or write their court documents, but complete their legal representation at that point.

Ghostwriting is when the attorney writes the documents for the client. In some states, the attorney does not have to sign their name; in others, it is mandatory.

What do you think? Case your vote at


Last Week to Nominate for Ellen Hines Smith Award

You have until November 15th to nominate a South Carolina Legal Services attorney for the Ellen Hines Smith Award.

This year the award event is especially exciting because it will take place during the South Carolina Bar Foundation’s Annual Gala on March 11, 2010.

I can’t wait to learn who receives the award!


earlier post

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!


Self-Represented Litigants Hit the Mainstream Media


MSNBC Headline:

THE HOME YOU SAVE COULD BE YOUR OWN: In foreclosure crisis, more Americans representing themselves in court

For quite a while now, this blog has been addressing the ever-increasing numbers of Self-Represented Litigants aka SRLs in the courts, even BEFORE the current economic climate. Now with record numbers of people losing jobs and homes and unable to afford legal representation, the numbers of SRLs have increased to the point where mainstream media is reporting it.

The South Carolina Access to Justice Commission continues to work on this issue within South Carolina and encourages YOU to contact us if you have an area of law that needs specific attention including producing user-friendly forms or training opportunities.

If at all possible, find an attorney to represent you.

Do not represent yourself unless it’s absolutely necessary.

 This is not to say that the Commission encourages people to go into Court unattended. If, at all possible, you can find an attorney to represent you, by all means do so.

We will continue to keep you up-to-date with innovations for SRLs in South Carolina, as well as national trends and developments as we learn of them.


PS – This just in: article on law books for self-represented litigants –

Happy Thanksgiving Story out of SCLS!


Happy Thanksgiving Story out of SCLS!


Michael S. Gambrell, a South Carolina Legal Services attorney, received a jury verdict today (Monday, November 24, 2008) in a contested Magistrate Court trial that started Friday morning and ended today. The jury deliberated for one hour and ruled that a Mother and her 3 minor Children will remain in their home this Thanksgiving.


Some interesting notes about this case:


Mr. Gambrell, the attorney was personally served by the constable with this eviction action against the Mother. Mr. Gambrell decided under these circumstances to try the case even though this form of service is not in accordance with the laws of South Carolina.  and


The property is HUD-subsidized and HUD-regulated housing, even though it is private property.  Under Mr. Gambrell’s cross-examination, the landlord’s apartment manager openly admitted that the landlord had not followed HUD regulations in pursuing this eviction (i.e., no right to cure notice).  The attorney moved for directed verdict, which the judge denied.  The jury decided not to evict because the landlord had not followed HUD rules.  The jury would not have heard a word about HUD regulations if not for Mr. Gambrell. 


Kudos to Mr. Gambrell and SCLS!


And a very Happy Thanksgiving to the family who gets to stay in their home!



Ask-A-Lawyer: Wednesday, November 19, 2008 in Charleston

Tomorrow evening, November 19, 2008, from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. the public will have an opportunity to call in or log-on to speak or chat with attorneys. WCSC-TV in Charleston is hosting the South Carolina Bar’s Ask-A-Lawyer television telephone bank and web chat tomorrow.  

Telephone: dial 843-402-5566

Online: log onto the bar’s website at www.scbar/public_services/ask-a-Lawyer/


Pro Bono Attorneys for Good

Attorneys have battled image problems for years, but if you get to know some, you’ll find that they’re not as bad as you thought. For example, the Central Penn Business Journal highlightsPennsylvania attorneys who are providing pro bono legal representation.  The term “pro bono” actually derives from the term “pro bono publico” or for the public good. For attorneys, this often means representing individuals or a group for free.

In South Carolina, the South Carolina Bar Pro Bono Program works closely with the Legal Aid Telephone Intake Service (LATIS) that qualifies people for service. If you have a legal problem in South Carolina and believe that you meet income guidelines, please contact LATIS at 1-888-346-5592.

If you are an attorney and wish to volunteer for the SC Bar’s Pro Bono Program, you can sign up online at For more information about the program, please see