Celebrate the ADA’s 20th

Today is the last day to register for an exciting event in Charleston on Thursday, September 23rd.

For attorneys, this is a great opportunity to attend a Continuing Legal Education Event to learn about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and its impact over the past 20 years.

The Agenda:

The ADA: Olmstead and Beyond – Elizabeth Priaulx, National Disability Rights Network

The ADA and State Budget Cuts: North Carolina’s Experience – John Rittelmeyer, Disability Rights North Carolina

The ADA and Medicaid Issues: Georgia’s Experience – Joshua Norris, Georgia Advocacy Office, Inc.

The ADA and State Delivery of Services – Panel Discussion

The ADA and the Fair Housing Act: Aging in the Community – Susan Ann Silverstein, AARP Foundation Litigation

The ADA as Civil Rights Litigation: Class Actions and Attorneys’ Fees Issues – Armand Derfner, Derfner Altman & Wilborn

How Do We Maintain the Momentum? – Panel Discussion

Details:

  • $50 non-profit attorneys
  • $100 government and private bar
  • Lunch is included in registration fee

For the public, this event offers a special evening of celebration and a chance to meet some passionate disability advocates with a presentation by Samuel Bagenstos. And the reception is free. Registration is required however.

Both these events offer a wonderful opportunity to celebrate 20 years of the ADA! Please join us in the celebration!

For more information, please visit http://www.pandasc.org/.

Hope to see you there!

-RFW

Advertisements

Harriet McBryde Johnson: A Tribute

In June 1999, while I was studying for the South Carolina Bar Exam, an event occurred many miles away that would significantly impact my life. The United States Supreme Court decided Olmstead v. LC on June 22, 1999. (If you’re not familiar with this landmark decision, please read it or about it)

I know, you’re wondering “What does this have to do with Harriet?”

Read on.

My first job out of law school was at Protection and Advocacy for People with Disabilities, Inc. (P&A) as the PAIMI attorney. Most of my time was spent in mental health institutions working on civil rights for people with serious mental illness. And then in January 2000, I was asked to work to implement the Olmstead decision in South Carolina.

That’s when Harriet entered my life.

I’d heard about Harriet. Much. She was tenacious. She was a force to be reckoned with. But I’d not yet met her. Harriet was a board member at P&A and at one time had worked there. Now she was a successful attorney in Charleston. I couldn’t wait to meet this woman who struck fear in some and awe in others.

And then she came to a meeting. A small woman with a long braid in a big wheelchair. We exchanged greetings and the meeting started. We discussed the usual stuff. And then she spoke. Wow. She didn’t yell. She didn’t rant. She spoke. With feeling. With knowledge. With personal conviction. Harriet won me over.

Over the next several years, I would work with Harriet on some projects, even give joint presentations. I read her books. Her short stories. I brought her to tears once with a personal story. (I didn’t mean to do that) We lunched together. Then we no longer lunched together because of special diet restrictions.

I told her I admired her. She questioned me “why? Because I’m in a chair and I do things?” I stammered and stumbled all over my words. I wish I’d been able to answer her appropriately that I admired her simply because she inspired me to be a better person. A better attorney.

Harriet didn’t relinquish much. And she didn’t turn away from a fight. She was a great woman and a great attorney.

July 8, 2009 would have been Harriet’s 52nd birthday.

And July 8, 2009 there will be a concert in Charleston to benefit the Harriet McBryde Johnson scholarship. Details below from SCWLA:

Music will focus on Latin music and protest songs.  Leah Suarez and Lindsay Holler will be the featured performers.  The event is July 8th at 7 pm at Circular Church, 150 Meeting Street, Charleston, South Carolina.  The suggested donation is $10.00. 

If you cannot attend, but would like to send a contribution:
Checks should be written to:  USC Educational Foundation, Memo line “Harriet M. Johnson Scholarship”  

Mailed to:   Office of Development USC, School of Law 701 S. Main Street Columbia, SC 29208   For more information, contact Susan Dunn at 830-1571, skingdunn@aol.com.

-RFW

SRL Assistance Down Under

 

j0434010

A recent article in the Queensland Courier Mail cited Chief Justice Paul de Jersey as saying that while the number of self-represented litigants (SRLs) in the Australian state of Queensland is down from previous years, they still continue to be a burden on both the civil and criminal court systems. 

Queensland courts are experiencing problems similar to those here in the states when SRLs enter the courtroom:  time-consuming case presentation and unnecessary costs.

Chief Justice de Jersey stated that the percentage of SRLs in civil matters was down from 42.1% in the previous year to 32%. This sharp decrease is partially attributable to the Queensland Public Interest Law Clearing House, Inc.’s Self-Representation Civil Law Service (SRCLS) which was established in 2007 to assist SRLs through the judicial process.

The SRCLS solicitors perform a myriad of services including: giving legal advice to SRLs,  drafting documents (e.g., pleadings and affidavits), conducting legal research, and referring appropriate cases for further advice, support, or representation.

SRCLS solicitors also assist SRLs with ancillary litigation-related issues including: understanding the process and procedures, observing courtroom rules and decorum and presenting their cases in the best possible light.

SRCLS will help any SRL, regardless of their means; however, the degree of assistance depends upon an SRL’s income and the extent to which the SRL can afford representation.

Queensland Public Interest Law Clearing House, Inc. also provides a similar service to SRLs in the Court of Appeals.

While efforts exist to introduce qualified immunity for court staff when assisting SRLs and an indemnity policy, these have yet to come to fruition.

Despite the need for qualified immunity and an indemnity policy, the SRCLS is a great first step.  The numbers seem to indicate that the program does  help in furnishing an effective way of handling SRLs’ cases.

While I have yet to come across any programs quite as extensive as this one in the United States, many states have implemented self-help kiosks in their courthouses that provide information and some limited assistance to SRLs.  While these are surely helpful, compared to the SRCLS, they do leave something to be desired.

The SRCLS appears to be a more comprehensive compromise  between providing actual legal representation and not providing any assistance at all.  While SRLs clearly have more work and resonsibilities to take on when representing themselves, they are at least provided with the tools and directions they need to present their cases in a more advantageous manner.

-Alex

Foreclosures: Family Services Wins Grant to Help in the Fight

Family Services, Inc. receives $1.7 million from federal program

Wednesday, the Post and Courier reported that Family Services, Inc. received a $1.7 million grant to assist with the exponential increases in foreclosures within the state of South Carolina.

According to the Post and Courier article, the grant will “link attorneys with homeowners who contend they were victims of a variety of transaction wrongs, ranging from predatory lending to receiving a loan they didn’t sign up for. Also eligible are homeowners who find themselves in a bad way for other reasons, such as suffering from their own poor money management choices or facing adjustable rate increases. Thousands of people in South Carolina are eligible.”

This is good news for many homeowners, also assisting are South Carolina Legal Services, Charleston Pro Bono Legal Services and South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center.

-RFW

Phew – thanks Epiq Systems!

PHEW! Thanks Epiq Systems!

Earlier today, Epiq Systems, Inc. announced that it has renewed its sponsorship of Pro Bono Net, which provides online programs to increase access to justice. If you are not familiar with Pro Bono Net, please browse their website. It provides a great resource for access to justice.

For the full article, click here.

-RFW

The Name’s Bono, Pro Bono

bono

It seems only appropriate to use a movie theme as we start to close out the year. After all, in Hollywood, this is the time for new releases as well as a time to reflect on movies from the past year. The same is true in the Access to Justice (ATJ) Community.

There are 4 main components to ATJ:

  1. EDUCATION. Education of the Bench, Bar, and General Public about ATJ as well as what’s currently available for people living within the federal poverty guidelines or those living just above the guidelines, but still unable to afford legal representation.
  2. STAFFED PROGRAMS. This category encompasses LEGAL SERVICES, in South Carolina SCLS, as well as other IOLTA grantees such as Crisis Ministries (homeless), Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation (heirs’ property), CODA (domestic abuse), SisterCare (domestic abuse), SC Appleseed Legal Justice Center (poverty groups and policy), and Low Country Legal Aid to name a few. The Commission would like to expand this collaboration to include entities such as Protection and Advocacy for People with Disabilities, Inc. (P&A)Catholic Charities,  Charleston Pro Bono Legal Services and others who are providing much needed legal services to people who would otherwise remain disenfranchised. The goal is to collaborate and coordinate in order to serve more while maintaining high quality legal services.
  3. PRO BONO. This category expands to the entire Bar membership, the South Carolina Bar’s Pro Bono Program and law firm pro bono programs, as well as paraprofessional organizations such as the South Carolina Court Reporters Association (SCCRA) and paralegal associations. And Law Students – YOU play a large role as well. Law librarians also play a large role. We are looking to expand existing services and develop new services.
  4. SELF-REPRESENTED LITIGANTS (SRLs). This category encompasses all of the previous components in order to provide quality resources to SRLs as well as develop new resources including forms, clear guidelines, instructional packets, clinics, etc.

None of these components can exist in a vacuum. They must co-exist and coordinate in order for access to justice to become a reality.

Today’s focus is PRO BONO; Pro Bono in South Carolina and Pro Bono elsewhere.

SOUTH CAROLINA. There have been previous posts about the SC Bar’s Pro Bono Program, namely that nominations for Pro Bono Volunteer of the Year are due – NEXT WEEK.

It saddens me that as of this post today there have been NO NOMINATIONS RECEIVED!

Now, I know there are South Carolina attorneys who have volunteered their services in the past year for pro bono. So why aren’t they are clambering for recognitition? Isn’t there at least ONE person who will see this post and nominate someone?

If  you are an attorney who has NOT yet participated in the SC Bar’s Pro Bono Program, let’s address why not, shall we?

  • LACK of TIME. Did you know that the SC Bar’s Pro Bono Program receives requests of all kinds and staff will take into consideration the amount of time you’re willing to spend?
  • LACK of INSURANCE. Did you know that the SC Bar’s Pro Bono Program provides malpractice insurance to ALL of its participants? Even if you are currently unemployed, you will be covered.
  • LACK of EXPERIENCE. NOT TO WORRY! The SC Bar’s Pro Bono Program has MENTORS! Just request one when you sign up. This also allows you the opportunity to NETWORK and grow in another practice area. AND when you sign up, you are eligible for FREE TRAINING! That’s right – FREE!
  • LACK of KNOWLEDGE about the PROGRAM. What do you want to know? If it’s not covered on the website, then feel free to call Angela McKeirnan at 803-799-6653 x. 169 or 877-797-2227 x. 169 for more information. She’ll answer your questions.
  • My job/firm doesn’t allow me to represent individuals. Ok, there are other tasks you can do such as develop manuals, conduct training/clinics in the evening or weekends, ASK-A-LAWYER, be a MENTOR, etc. Just ask.
  • LACK of MOTIVATION. Did you know that Pro Bono attorneys actually feel BETTER after assisting others? Additionally with all the community good will you’re developing, it may benefit your rainmaking efforts without having to go into overdrive. Try it, you just might like it.

And now for Pro Bono news elsewhere:

NY: Found on The Home Equity Theft Reporter – HEADLINE: NYC Pro Bono Effort Training Lawyers In Fight Against Foreclosures. Full story at http://www.brooklyneagle.com/categories/category.php?category_id=4&id=25032.

NY: Attorney Adrienne Flipse Hausch of Garden City has been recognized for her outstanding pro bono legal commitment. Full story at http://www.gcnews.com/news/2008/1205/Community/034.html

FL: Found on http://www.suncoast.com (WWSB ABC Channel 7) – “Study: Fla. lawyers lax on free legal service.” Report found at http://www.floridasupremecourt.org/pub_info/documents/2008_Pro_Bono_Report.pdf.

CA: Santa Clara Bar offers Pro Bono Boot Camp tomorrow – found at http://www.probono.net/calendar/event.221637-Pro_Bono_Boot_Camp.

Western Australia: Pro bono work standard practice found at http://www.wabusinessnews.com.au/login.php?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wabusinessnews.com.au%2Fstory%2F1%2F69039%2FPro-bono-work-standard-practice.

-RFW

SOUTH CAROLINA VOTERS: 2008 Election Site Survey

Most Americans agree that voting is a fundamental civil right. And with this year’s voting fever, it’s as much so as it ever has been.

So, dear South Carolinians, as you head to your voting site, please complete a simple survey (1 1/2 pages long) and email or mail it back to Protection and Advocacy for People with Disabilities, Inc. (P&A). It can make the difference between voting and voting discrimination.

The survey is found at http://www.protectionandadvocacy-sc.org/Polling%20Place%20Accessibility%20Survey.pdf. If you have questions, please CALL 1.866.275.7273 and ask for Kimberly Boozer.

Thanks.

-RFW