Guest Blogger: Daniel Kim

Recently, I have been given the opportunity to work at the SC Access to Justice Commission (SCATJ) by being appointed as a “BFF,” a bar foundation fellow. The program is known as the South Carolina Bar Foundation Public Interest Fellows Project, which was started to increase student awareness of public interest law. It also offers public legal service organizations the help they need to accomplish the work they do for the public. Now you may wonder what SCATJ is and what the organization does; I know I did. But one of the great things about this program is that it gives students a chance to learn about public interest organizations that they did not know existed.

SCATJ is faced with the difficult challenge of “ensuring access to justice for all South Carolinians.” This organization was created to help people with low income and modest means obtain access to the South Carolina court system. One of their programs is geared towards self-represented litigants, and that is the field I have done the most amount of work. One of my major projects since starting here has been to work on an information guide for different counties within the judicial district of the new Newberry County Self-Help Center. Often times, self-represented litigants forego hiring an attorney due to lack of financial means. However, these litigants often go into court with no resources or knowledge of the SC legal and court system. They do not understand the legalese in forms, the process to properly fill out court documents and forms, and court policies and procedures, such as service of process.

SCATJ tries to provide self-represented litigants with guidelines and resources so that they may enter the court with more knowledge of the system. Chief Justice Toal has spearheaded the movement to streamline polices and procedures and have records be automated through the use of the Internet. This has enabled all courts in different SC counties to have similar paperwork.

The reason I came to law school was to help those in need and make an impact in the community. As cliché as that may sound, my passion and desire to achieve this goal is the reason I applied to be a “BFF” and the reason I want to become an attorney. The goals of SCATJ align with the goals I seek to accomplish after law school, and this is the sole reason I wanted to take part in this opportunity. This has been an invaluable learning experience for me thus far. I have learned a lot about public interest law, SC law, and the challenges everyday South Carolinians face to acquire what we, as law students, sometimes take for granted: obtaining justice. It has been a pleasure to work here at the SCATJ, and I look forward to continuing to work here in order to give back more to the community while continuing to learn and grow from this experience.

-Daniel Kim

SC Access to Justice Returns Home Wiser

Richard Zorza, self-represented litigant guru, and Stephanie Nye
Richard Zorza, self-represented litigant guru, and Stephanie Nye

The delegation from the South Carolina Access to Justice Commission returned to South Carolina yesterday from the Court Solutions Conference in Baltimore. The conference was informative and educational. The track pertaining to self-represented litigants offered 15 modules to choose from. The plenary sessions for self-represented litigants offered general information about each of the modules while allowing for an intensive focus on the specific. Many states offered information about initiatives and were willing to share ways to move forward to ensuring access to justice for all.

Desiree Allen, Stephanie Nye, Judge Deadra Jefferson, Judge Michael Baxley, Ellen Osborne
South Carolina Delegation: Desiree Allen, Stephanie Nye, Judge Deadra Jefferson, Judge Michael Baxley, Ellen Osborne

Each state was asked to briefly describe what they are proud of and what they want to learn from other states. The South Carolina state report was:

Judge Jefferson compares notes with Judge Lora Livingston out of Texas
Judge Jefferson compares notes with Judge Lora Livingston out of Texas
  • South Carolina is proud of: (1) completing public hearings where we identified problems faced by self-represented litigants; (2) completing initial judicial and clerk of court trainings where we featured the public hearing video from self-represented litigants describing their experiences; (3) providing ethical training to summary court and clerks of courts when working with self-represented litigants; and (3) completing and distributing the Bench Guide to summary court judges.
  • South Carolina wants to learn from others: (1) ways to build strong library partnerships; (2) ways to enhance partnerships and collaboration with other entities such as Legal Services, Community organizations, etc.; and (3) information about successful self-help centers.
Robin Wheeler interviews Judge Bell of Maryland