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!

-RFW

Health Care and Bankruptcy: Not a Match Made in Heaven

Health or Money: The Choice is Yours
Health or Money: The Choice is Yours

In this week’s issue, the Free Times quotes Commissioner Sue Berkowitz speaking about health care, insurance and the effect of facing medical bills without insurance:

Forty-six million Americans, including 750,000 South Carolinians, are going uninsured,” Sue Berkowitz, director of the South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center, said in kicking off the forum.study, Berkowitz said that 50 percent of personal bankruptcies in the nation stem from medical bills.

Many more are underinsured, and the numbers of people in both categories have been increasing for years.

At the same time, health care costs have been spiraling out of control for just as long and exacting a crushing toll on household and business finances. Citing a

That’s a staggering figure – 50% of personal bankruptcies in the United States stem from medical bills!

Click here to read the full article.

-RFW

SC Bar Offers Free Clinics

The South Carolina Bar Pro Bono Program will sponsor free legal clinics during the month of February and the schedule by region is below.

UPSTATE

February 6

6 to 7:30 p.m.

Health Care POA, Living Wills, DNR Orders and POA

Oconee Senior Center

101 Perry Ave., Seneca

 

February 9

6 to 7:30 p.m.

Health Care POA, Living Wills, DNR Orders and POA

Market Place Senior Center

3420 Clemson Blvd., Anderson

 

February 19

10 to 11 a.m.

Wills, Estates and Probate

Senior Action, Inc.

50 Directors Dr., Greenville 

 

February 25

10 to 11 a.m.

Health Care POA, Living Wills, DNR Orders and POA

Shepherd’s Center of Spartanburg

393 E. Main St., Spartanburg 

 

LOW COUNTRY

February 7

11 a.m.

Health Care POA, Living Wills, DNR Orders and POA

West Ashley Branch Library

45 Windemere Blvd., Charleston  

 

February 12

6:30 to 8 p.m.

Family Law Issues

George H. Seago Jr. Library

76 Old Trolley Rd., Summerville

 

February 17

6:30 to 8 p.m.

Landlord/Tenant Issues

John L. Dart Library

1067 King St., Charleston

 

February 19

6 to 7:30 p.m.

Family Law Issues

Otranto Rd. Regional Branch Library

2261 Otranto Rd., N. Charleston

 

February 24

6 to 7:30 p.m.

Workers’ Compensation

Cooper River Memorial Branch Library

3503 Rivers Ave., N. Charleston

 

MIDLANDS

February 12

6 to 8 p.m.

Family Law Issues

Richland Cnty. Public Library/SE Branch

7421 Garners Ferry Rd., Columbia

 

February 19

6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Bankruptcy Law Issues

York Cnty. Public Library

138 E. Black St., Rock Hill 

 

February 24

10:30 to 11:30 a.m.

Health Care POA, Living Wills, DNR Orders and POA

Orangeburg Cnty. Council on Aging

42570 St. Matthews Rd., Orangeburg

 

PEEDEE

February 19

6:30 to 8 p.m.

Health Care POA, Living Wills, DNR Orders and POA

Lamar Branch Library

103 E. Main St., Lamar 

 

February 24

6 to 7 p.m.

Family Law Issues

Georgetown Cnty. Public Library

405 Cleland St., Georgetown

The seminars are free for anyone who would like to attend. For more information, contact the South Carolina Bar Pro Bono Program at (803) 799-4015, ext. 158 or (800) 395-3425, ext. 158.

-RFW

Three Dog Night or Kool and the Gang?

Celebrate, celebrate, dance to the music. OR. Celebrate good times, come on.

The nation is experiencing a financial meltdown. People are losing their jobs in record numbers. Legal Service organizations and normally stable law firms are experiencing reductions or freezes in their workforce, many for the first time ever. And soon we’ll whisk in a new year.

This is definitely not the time to celebrate, right? Wrong.

Wait, what?

It’s exactly the time for us to celebrate what so many of us ARE accomplishing. This is the time for us to rally behind each other and support one another.

Why?

Because the numbers don’t lie. Recently I asked South Carolina Legal Services whether the current crisis had any effect on the requests for service they had received. Here is what I received:

Comparison figures for applicants seeking SCLS services:

 

Jan. 1, 2007 – Dec. 15, 2007                Jan.1, 2008 – Dec. 15, 2008

Cases Accepted          7,281                       Cases Accepted          8,375 ( +1,094)

Cases Denied             3,395                         Cases Denied              3,249 ( -149)

TOTAL CASES             10,676                      TOTAL CASES             11,624 ( + 948)

 

  That’s almost a thousand more applicants coming through SCLS intake this year-to-date as compared to the same period last year.

 

There is also an increase in the consumer and employment cases SCLS closed this year:

 

2007 closed cases              2008 closed cases (12/15/08)        Difference

 Bankruptcy-275                         Bankruptcy-315                                       +40 cases

Collect’ n (incl Repo.)-265      Collect’n-277                                             +12 cases

Total Consumer-737                 Total Consumer-792                              +55 cases

 

Employment cases-117           Employment cases-273                        +156 cases

 

Housing-952                                 Housing -780                                            -172 cases

  

There’s even more difference in cases ACCEPTED:

 

2007 (Jan – Dec 15)                    2008 (Jan – Dec 15)              Difference

 Bankruptcy                    316              448                                                    +132

Total Consumer           812                1,075                                                +263

 

Total Employment      214                410                                                    +196

 

Total Housing                1,049            976                                                    -73(no HUD counseling grant in 2008)        

  

Additionally, there were 2,654 more calls answered at the SCLS Call Center through November 2008 over the same period last year.

 

About this time, you’re probably thinking, why celebrate? Doesn’t this simply confirm what everyone has been saying – we’re in a recession; more people need legal assistance; and legal assistance resources are being cut in record numbers. And you’re right, these numbers ARE horrific. And we could wallow. BUT let’s take a moment to recognize the good that HAS been done this year.

 

SCLS assisted 8,375 new clients this year. That’s 8,375 people who were given hope. That’s 8,375 people who probably were wondering what they would do if they lost their home, their job, their medical benefits. That’s 8.375 people whose request was taken seriously. That’s 8,375 people who received access to justice.

 

Sure, it’s likely that not all of the 8,375 individuals won their cases. But it is likely that having someone to listen to them and fight for their civil rights meant something incredible for every one of those 8,375 individuals.

 

You’ve had an opportunity to read about some of those individuals in this blog and I hope to continue to share their stories.

 

And I hope that your holiday is filled with peace and that you take a moment to celebrate the successes of South Carolina Legal Services, the South Carolina Bar Pro Bono volunteer attorneys, and everyone else who has been involved in the worthy cause to make access to justice a reality for all South Carolinians, regardless of their financial status.

 

I will be traveling next week and although I’ll attempt to check in, I may be “off the grid.”  If so, I wish you all a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hannukah, a Meaningful Kwanzaa and peace until then.

 

-RFW