February 2012 Newsletter

We are pleased to share our latest newsletter.

SCATJC February2012

If you have questions, please feel free to email me.

~RFW

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Focus on Pro Bono: Kate Loveland

Kate Loveland

Kate is currently a 2L, taking business corporations, products liability, constitutional law II, evidence, and professional responsibility. Currently her favorite class is products liability.  At USC School of Law, Kate is active with the Pro Bono program, the Moot Court Bar, and Phi Delta Phi.

Current Pro Bono Service:

Juvenile arbitrator for the 11th Circuit.

What does that entail?

“Every few weeks I receive a case from the solicitor’s office and spend time preparing for it before I meet with the juvenile, their parents, and the victim (if there is one). Then I work with all of the involved parties to come up with age-appropriate sanctions for the juvenile to complete. If the juvenile completes all of the sanctions within 90 days, the juvenile finishes the program and their case is closed. The program is designed to keep first time offenders out of the family court system, and give them another chance to restore the harm they’ve done through committing their crime to the community. The great thing about the program is that many of the sanctions given to the juvenile are designed to facilitate their involvement in the community and get them involved in projects that they might actually be interested in.”

How did you become involved in this specific project?

“I became a certified arbitrator during my senior year at the College of Charleston, when one of my professors suggested it as an internship program. It was a program I felt passionate about, and I wanted to continue in the arbitration program when I came to law school. I was transferred from the 9th circuit up to the 11th circuit, when I came to Columbia for law school.”

What have you learned from participating in this pro bono program?

“I think what surprises me most about the program that I am involved in is how much I actually get out of it every time I arbitrate a case. Not only do I learn more about an area of law, but I also always come away with the feeling that I’ve helped someone by just donating an hour of my time to the arbitration hearing.”

Do you see yourself staying involved in this or other pro bono programs?

“I’ve really enjoyed my experience as a juvenile arbitrator, which is why I want to continue to take arbitration cases and stay involved in the program, even when I am in private practice. It is probably a program I will always stay involved in, just because I really believe in what it does in giving first time offenders another chance to change their behavior.”

Advice to other law students:

“I would suggest that everyone in law school at some point participate in at least one pro bono activity. I think it’s important for students to understand that their role as a lawyer can be so much more, in that they can really give back to the community with the knowledge that they have learned about their profession.”

-RFW

Focus on Pro Bono: James Gaul

James Gaul is currently a 1L in his first semester at the University of South Carolina  School of Law. As all 1Ls do, he is taking Torts, Contracts, Criminal Law, and Property along with legal writing and research. So far, his favorite class is Torts.  While he notes that “it was tough at first now that we are getting past policy and into some cases, it’s the most interesting class in my opinion.”  Running a close second is “Property which seems to be the most straight-forward to me.” James is a member of the Student Bar Association as well as the ABA’s Law Student Division with plans to get more involved with the International Law Society and the Public Interest Law Society.

His current Pro Bono work?

Working as an arbitrator with the Lexington County Juvenile Arbitration Program.

What does that entail?

“Basically, when a juvenile is a nonviolent first time offender, the Lexington County Solicitor prefers to send them through arbitration rather than through the court system.  The juvenile is given the option of going through arbitration instead of going before a judge, leaving them without a court record.  The goal of arbitration is to satisfy the victim of the crime and/or the community while creating sanctions for the juvenile that will help them learn from their actions and develop useful skills to keep them out of the juvenile justice system.  The program has an amazing success rate, something like 95%.  Going through arbitration not only keeps the juvenile out of the justice system for that particular incident, but it also works to help keep them out for good.”

Any noteworthy surprises?

“I was surprised at the amount of training that goes into the Arbitration Program.  We had four weeks of three hours classes that culminated in an exam!   The training was definitely worth it though; I mean we have the lives of young people in our hands, so we had better know what we are doing.”

Takeaway from this experience?

“I have learned so much its hard to choose just what to tell you about.  I guess the most important thing that I have learned is how easy and gratifying it is to help change someone’s life.  After the initial training, an arbitration case will take up three to five hours of your life.  In these three to five hours you are literally changing someone’s life for the better.  Who knew it could be so easy? I was excited going in, and my experience so far has done nothing but increase my excitement.”

Why this program?

“I learned about this project while researching possible law schools.  The reputation of the pro bono program at USC was one of the major draws for me.  The website is http://law.sc.edu/pro_bono/.  When Pam Robinson (the Pro Bono Director) sent out a general email to incoming 1Ls about possible pro bono projects I jumped on it.”

Why the emphasis on Pro Bono?

“I worked my way through undergrad, and was never really able to volunteer.  Now that I am in law school, and forbidden to work I finally have a chance to give back.  Honestly, I also like the practical experience that volunteering will give me, but mostly it’s about a chance to give back to my community.”

Future Pro Bono plans?

“As I mentioned, this is my first semester in law school. I do plan on doing Guardian Ad Litem training in January.  I’m looking forward to it.”

What do you want to tell other law students about your pro bono experience?

“I would like to point out that no matter how busy you are, you can always make time to volunteer.  Not every pro bono opportunity requires lots of intensive training and a big time commitment.  I know at USC you can be a tutor at a local elementary school with a commitment of just one hour a week.  I know how it feels to be overwhelmed with class and everything else that is involved in being a law student, but trust me, volunteering is worth it.  It’s a stress reducer, and it makes you feel like you have accomplished something.”

Parting words?

“Neither the Juvenile Arbitration Program nor the Guardian Ad Litem program requires you to be a lawyer or a law student. Any member of the public can volunteer for either of these programs.”

-RFW

12/10/09: The Honorable Daniel R. Eckstrom

Last Thursday, I attended and spoke at the Lexington County Bar’s Annual Conference. Among the presenters were The Honorable James O. Spence, Master-in-Equity; Desa Ballard, Private Attorney; The Honorable Richard C. Collins, Magistrate;  The Honorable Daniel R. Eckstrom, Probate Court; and me.

This post covers the Honorable Daniel R. Eckstrom, Lexington County Probate Judge.

Judge Eckstrom began his presentation with an acknowledgment that the number of self-represented litigants is rising – in all levels of court. He noted that it is especially important for judges to be impartial in perception AND fact. He noted that as judges we should explain more about the process. As attorneys, when the other side is self-represented, we need to make sure that we are very clear about who we represent – especially when there are multiple parties involved.

Good info!

If you want more information about this CLE, watch the SC Bar’s website. The presentation was filmed and will be available for distance learning at a later date!

-RFW

12/10/09: The Honorable Richard C. Collins

Earlier today, I mentioned that last Thursday, I attended and spoke at the Lexington County Bar’s Annual Conference. Among the presenters were The Honorable James O. Spence, Master-in-Equity; Desa Ballard, Private Attorney; The Honorable Richard C. Collins, Magistrate;  The Honorable Daniel R. Eckstrom, Probate Court; and me.

This post will cover Judge Collins’ portion of the presentation.

Judge Collins is a Magistrate in Lexington County (Oak Grove); he is also an attorney. Even more exciting – he had only 24 hours to prepare for the presentation. Unfortunately the scheduled speaker had an unexpected conflict. But he had done his homework.

His advice?

First, RESPECT. Attorneys need to remember that they are officers of the court. They need to listen to self-represented litigants (SRLs). Really listen. Without interruption. They need to RESPECT SRLs. Sure, make objections for the record, but not over and over. SRLs want to be heard. They want their day in court. Let them say what they need to say without interruption!

Second, this is likely the most important day for the SRL. While judges and attorneys hear similar stories, the difference each day is the person involved. And to that person, this is a hugely important day. Have PATIENCE. Judges – explain the procedure, what’s happening. Attorneys – show them respect and let them speak. And let the Judge explain what’s happening without interrupting.

Good advice Judge Collins!

-RFW

Legal Services = Basic Needs

Extra! Extra! Read All About it!
Extra! Extra! Read All About it!

Earlier today the United Way of the Midlands released their Community-Needs Assessment Report online at http://uway.org/facing_facts/.

While the report is specific to Richland and Lexington Counties, the issues highlighted in the report may be universal for people living in poverty. According to the report:

Many households in our community daily struggle to pay for housing, utilities, food, clothing and legal help.

While many of us recognize shelter and food as basic necessities, we may not associate legal help as one. And, that’s the legal community’s fault for not publicizing this fact.

For people living in poverty, legal services is often their lifeline. As I note often, as a general rule (there are always exceptions), people do not seek legal assistance when all is going well.

  • In the criminal justice arena someone is either the victim of a crime or is accused of perpetrating the crime.
  • In civil legal services, it’s very similar. Someone has been wronged or someone receives a complaint for wrongdoing. This can be contractual – landlord/tenant, debt repayment/collections, utilities, etc. It can be in other forms – divorce, child support, child custody, government benefits, etc.

For those of us working in civil legal services, this is second-nature.

And we’re glad that others now recognize it.

Thanks to United Way of the Midlands for collecting this data and publishing the report!

-RFW

Hot off the Press: SC Jobs Down 76,100 from 1 year ago (Jan. ’09)

workforce-trends-newsline-jan-09

South Carolina’s Unemployment Up in Double Digits at 10.4%

The South Carolina Employment Security Commission press release today noted that unemployment reached the highest levels since April 1983 when levels were 10.7%.

Allendale County has the dubious honor of having the highest statewide rates at 23.4% (up 2 from December 2008) while 11 counties kept their rates under 10%. Lexington County had the lowest unemployment rate in the state with 7.5%.

Nationally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that national unemployment rate rose from 7.2 percent in December to 7.6 percent in January and was 2.7 percentage points higher than a year earlier.

-RFW