Part 2: Volunteer Katie Conyers

Katie Conyers

Katie Conyers is a senior majoring in Spanish at Furman University, so how did she end up at the Greenville office of South Carolina Legal Services?

Katie is currently enrolled in a Political Science course, 506 Fieldwork in State and Local Public Affairs, which is an internship in local or state governmental agencies or nongovernmental agencies, taught by Teresa Cosby, a former SCLS employee. Ms. Cosby needed a Spanish speaker for an internship position this semester and approached Katie about filling it. Katie was interested in the position and met with Jada Charley, the SCLS Language Access Coordinator. Turns out that Katie and Jada have quite a bit in common and Katie was up for the challenge.

So in January 2010, Katie began her internship at the Greenville SCLS office.

A typical day in the office for Katie includes:

  • Writing letters in Spanish;
  • Translating brochures from English into Spanish;
  • Writing articles for Spanish language news; and
  • Assisting with intakes as needed.

She notes “a lot of writing!”

When she came to work, she didn’t bring a lot of preconceived notions. She knew only that she wanted to learn. She has learned that the cases coming into SCLS cover different legal needs than high profile legal cases that make it into the news. Additionally, working with clients of Limited English Proficiency (LEP) has shown her how difficult it is for them to understand the problems facing them and even more difficult for them to understand the “fixes.”

She offered that she feels honored to be part of such a warm and welcoming team; and has never felt out of place at SCLS.

I had one more question for Katie:

Have you ever considered going to law school?

Originally I had considered going into academia, but this experience has stirred up thoughts about my future. I don’t know about pursuing law school, but working here (at Greenville SCLS) has been a positive experience.

-RFW

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Massachusetts Releases Interim Report on Access to Justice

Just last month, the Massachusetts Court System released its  Interim Report on Access to Justice Initiatives (Massachusetts), specifically initiatives in the Trial Court. This initiative is not to replace the work of their Access to Justice Commission, but to enhance it, as noted in the report itself.

Much of their work mirrors what we in South Carolina are doing.

They are reviewing progress in other states:

  • looking at developing forms and interactive websites for self-represented litigants;
  • reviewing implications and feasibility of limited scope representation aka unbundled legal services;
  • exploring ways to develop court service centers;
  • increasing access to the courts for those with Limited English Proficiency (LEP).

They are reviewing challenges within their current system:

Their consensus? Action toward providing:

  • services for court users with limited or no English language skills, including staff who can speak and read other languages,
  • instructional materials in other languages, and court forms in other languages;
  • technology, including wireless (internet) access in courthouses, MassCourts public access, and court forms that can be completed on-line;
  • self-help centers and materials; and
  • child care centers.

What’s fascinating? This came about through a survey to court personnel. Often we hear that the government is full of bureaucratic red tape.

What’s encouraging? That this very government is working to make the process easier for us to navigate – during a time of economic crisis.

Kudos Massachusetts! We’ll be watching your progress and wish you well throughout the process.

-RFW

LEP Case in Maryland

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, October 5, 2009

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Aeda Chung, Marketing Coordinator
202.393.3572 x 32; aeda.chung@apalrc.org
Nadia Firozvi, Staff Attorney
202.393.3572 x 23; nadia.firozvi@apalrc.org

Maryland Court of Appeals to Hear Oral Arguments Concerning Legal Rights of Limited English Proficient Litigants

(Annapolis, Maryland)  The highest state court of Maryland will hear oral arguments on Tuesday, October 6, 2009, concerning the legal rights of limited English proficient litigants.  The Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center (Center), joined by CASA de Maryland and the Maryland Legal Aid Bureau, filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of Ms. Nonceeya, a Thai speaking and limited English proficient immigrant, in the matter of Nonceeya v. Lone Star Steakhouse.  The Public Justice Center is acting as co-counsel in this appeal.The Center’s brief provided the necessary contextual information about the limited English proficient community and the Maryland judiciary’s responsibilities under the law as language barriers continue to prevent limited English proficient (LEP) litigants from accessing courts.

Ms. Nonceeya had worked at Lone Star Steakhouse for just over two years and filed a national-origin employment discrimination complaint against Lone Star’s managers and staff.  She filed this complaint in the Montgomery County Circuit Court against her former employer without the assistance of an attorney, and requested the assistance of an interpreter at all court proceedings, which was granted by the Circuit Court. Lone Star Steakhouse, however, failed to provide an interpreter during a deposition that lasted for three days in English. The deposition later served as a basis for the Circuit Court’s decision as the court granted Lone Star’s motion for summary judgment.

The Center urges the Court of Appeals to ensure access to justice for all Maryland residents, regardless of language ability.  The Center’s experience with advancing the legal and civil rights of hundreds of limited English proficient Asian immigrants underscores the need to provide interpretation in court proceedings.

The Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center is the Capital Region’s nonprofit advocate advancing the legal and civil rights of Asian Pacific Americans through direct services, education, and advocacy.

The Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center
D.C. Office      1600 K Street, NW, Mezzanine Level, Washington, D.C. 20006
♦ Helpline:  202.393.3572                     Fax: 202.393.0995

Main: Ext. 22
Chinese: Ext. 18
Hindi/Urdu: Ext. 19
Vietnamese: Ext. 20
Korean: Ext. 21

Maryland Office 11141 Georgia Avenue, Suite 215, Silver Spring, MD 20902

♦ Phone: 301.942.2223

APALRC: Ensuring Access to Justice for Asian Pacific Americans Since 1998
http://www.apalrc.org

Many Thanks to Claudia Johnson for pointing us to this!
-RFW

Working on FAQs for Self-Represented Litigants

Clerk of Court Work Group Called to Order
Clerk of Court Work Group Called to Order

I have the best job in the world. Seriously.

They say that variety is the spice of life and every day I have a new project. Today was no exception. Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating just a little. We started the FAQ work a while back. But today, the Clerk of Court Work Group made some real progress.

We’re developing a resource for Frequently Asked Questions for Clerks of Court. Our intent is to make this FAQ available online and possibly in paper as well. We discussed podcasts, video and availability in other languages. And I’m going to work on making these possible.

Today we divided into two groups: one for Circuit Court Clerks and one for Family Court Clerks. We do have some general questions as well.

Stay tuned for the progress and I’ll definitely make an announcement when the FAQs are vetted.

Oh, and enjoy the photos from the Work Group! 

Discussion Begins
Discussion Begins

 

The Work Begins
The Work Begins
Reviewing Progress
Reviewing Progress
Family Court FAQs
Family Court FAQs
FAQs in Plain English
FAQs in Plain English
Translating Legalese into Plain English
Translating Legalese into Plain English
FAQs Continue
FAQs Continue

-RFW

Understand?

What?
What?

One word can make a huge difference. It’s what comes before and what follows that’s equally important, especially in court.

There’s a good article in the New York Times about the study, Language Access in the Courts, by the Brennan Center for Justice about the necessity of understanding the proceedings not only in criminal cases but in civil cases too.

Interpreters in the courts is an issue that was identified by the South Carolina Access to Justice Commission via the 2008 public hearings – both for South Carolinians who are deaf and those with limited English proficiency (LEP). Since that time, we have been working on ways to improve interpretation in the courts.

If you’re curious about law/summaries for interpretation in South Carolina courts or other states, the study is worth a read. Or if you want a quick peek, check out the NY Times article.

-RFW

Language + Web Tools = Access

The folks at techno.la have done it again. They have pointed readers to information on the web for LEP people or people with Limited English Proficiency. The specific article is well worth reading if you work with LEP. Check it out here.

If you want to learn more about equal justice ideas and initiatives, read the whole magazine starting here.

-RFW

SC ATJ New Year’s Wishes or Resolutions?

COUNTDOWN TO 2009

rfw-hny092

As the New Year’s wishes and resolutions are starting to pour in, I’ve had a few moments to ponder Access to Justice resolutions for 2009. Before I lose count of the many goals for 2009, I thought I’d share a few.

12. South Carolina Access to Justice will develop a working relationship with legal paraprofessionals throughout the state.

11. Technology advances such as instant messaging, podcasts, YouTube videos, and email allow greater communication to and for people in need of low-cost legal services, especially when transportation imposes a barrier.

10. The Commission and partner organizations reach solutions to the need for interpreters for individuals who are Deaf and with Limited English Proficiency (LEP).

9.  South Carolina law students, both USC School of Law and Charleston School of Law students, become engaged in access to justice and collaborate with the Commission for creative solutions.

8. South Carolina attorneys recognize the opportunity that unbundled or limited scope legal services can provide to South Carolinians with low income or of modest means, especially during this financial climate while sustaining the attorney’s practice at the same time.

7. SC Access to Justice establishes a library workgroup to assist self-represented litigants (SRLs) with access to approved, free legal forms (http://www.sccourts.org/forms/indexSelfHelp.cfm) and to establish a long-lasting partnership with libraries.

6. All South Carolinians who are unable to afford an attorney can reach one access point for all South Carolina legal service organizations.

5. Every County Courthouse will house or have access to a nearby self-help center for self-represented litigants.

4. Every county self-help center will be staffed for a minimum of 5 hours per week by pro bono attorneys.

3. Every South Carolina licensed attorney completes at least 50 hours of pro bono service as per ABA Model Rule 6.1 VOLUNTARY PRO BONO SERVICE.

2. The Second Pilot Lawyer Mentor Program incorporates the aspirational Pro Bono expectation and that it becomes a “shall” instead of a “should.”

1. That ALL South Carolinians have equal access to the law and its remedies without regard to their economic status.

Happy New Year!

-RFW