Late last Thursday I had the honor and pleasure to moderate a panel about Access to Justice at the Charleston School of Law as part of their Professionalism Series. Of course anytime that access to justice is recognized as important in the legal field, I’m always thrilled, but this offered me a chance to listen to others.
Many people at the Charleston School of Law worked hard to make our presentation a success, especially Abby Saunders, Graham Ervin, The Honorable Robert S. Carr and Sean, our media guru. And many thanks to the students who listened intently and came up afterwards to ask questions.
Fortunately I was familiar with those I was moderating, all of whom are SC Access to Justice Commissioners – Jennie L. Stephens, Executive Director of the Center for Heirs Property Preservation; The Honorable Deadra L. Jefferson, Resident Circuit Judge for the Ninth Judicial Circuit; and Stuart M. Andrews, a partner at Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP.
Ms. Stephens presented information about her work including a video clip from the Center’s informational video. If you are not already familiar with the Center, please check out their website. They have lots of valuable information and define the term “Heirs’ property.”
Heirs’ property is the name given to land that is owned by a group of family members who are the descendants of the original purchaser. The deed to the land is registered in the name of a deceased family member. Usually, the property has passed to each new generation through the State’s intestate laws. With each new generation, it is likely that family members may die without leaving wills stating who should inherit their share of the land.
Judge Jefferson offered perspective from the bench. Her words were inspirational and thought-provoking. I really appreciated the reference to Charles Hamilton Houston‘s quote that “a lawyer’s either a social engineer or he’s a parasite on society.” Additionally, Judge Jefferson reminded us that attorneys are often the first face of justice and that laws are not enacted for the benefit of a few.
Mr. Andrews completed the presentation by reminding the students and the speakers why it is necessary to have an access to justice initiative. He noted that according to an ABA study, over 80% of the civil legal needs of low-income individuals are not met. He also presented a snapshot of Pro Bono by South Carolina Attorneys in 2006 (below).
Every day I am grateful to work with so many dedicated and driven individuals; individuals such as the three commissioners outlined here. And I wanted to take a moment to thank them as well as the unspoken heroes at courts, and legal and social non-profits around the state.
Thank you for working to improve the system.
You are appreciated.
And your work is important.