2011 Ellen Hines Smith Nominations Now Open!

We are pleased to announce that nominations for the 2011 Ellen Hines Smith Legal Services Attorney of the Year are open!

The Ellen Hines Smith Award was established in 1989. It is given to a South Carolina Bar member who is employed as an LSC grantee program lawyer who has demonstrated long-term commitment to legal services and who has personally done significant work in extending legal services to the poor.

The form is available in pdf at Ellen Hines Smith Nomination Form 2011 or by email request to rwheeler@scbar.org.

Who is eligible?

  • A SC Bar member who is employed as an LSC grantee program lawyer.

Who is not eligible?

Previous award winners are not eligible:

1989 – Martha B. Dicus

1990 –Thomas L. Bruce

1991 – Johnny Simpson

1992 – Harold F. Daniels

1993 – Andrea E. Loney

1994 – Mozella Nicholson

1995 – Thomas A.Trent

1996 – Susan A. Cross

1997 – Angela M. Myers

1998 – Ethel E. Weinberg

1999 – Nancy M. Butler

2000 – Byron A. Reid

2001 – Lynn P. Wagner

2002 – Eddie McConnell

2003 – Frank Cannon

2004 – Willie B. Heyward

2005 – Lynn Snowber-Marini

2006 – Eddie McConnell

2007 – Marcia Powell-Shew

2009 – Maureen White

2010 – Susan J. Firimonte

When is the application due?

  • The application must be made by October 15, 2011.

How do I find out who received the award?

  • The SC Bar Foundation and the SC Access to Justice Commission present the award at the annual SC Bar Foundation Gala. This year the Gala will be held on January 21, 2012 in Columbia during the SC Bar Convention

For more information about Ms. Ellen Hines Smith, visit the USC School of Law Memory Hold the Door page dedicated to her.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            ~ RFW

Introducing a 4 part series: Pro Bono Volunteers at SCLS

A few weeks ago, I was honored to head to Greenville to announce the recipient of the Ellen Hines Smith South Carolina Legal Services (SCLS) Attorney of the Year – Maureen White. While there I was fortunate to take a few minutes to sit down with 4 of their volunteers – Katrina Hoch, Katie Conyers, Alex Paterra, and Sarah Henry. We chatted about their work and involvement with SCLS and their impressions of their work.

Each of them offered similarities but from different perspectives. Stay tuned to learn more about these amazing individuals and their impact on legal services in South Carolina.

-RFW

Ed McMahon, Your Legacy Lives On

Most everyone is familiar with Ed McMahon and the American Family Publishers Sweepstakes prize.  And some of us waited patiently for him to show up at our door with balloons and an over-sized check. Watching the few lucky prize winners was always a thrill. And today I had the honor of delivering balloons and flowers to the 2009 Ellen Hines Smith South Carolina Legal Services award recipient, Maureen White.

While the official award will be presented at the SC Bar Foundation Gala on March 11, 2010, Shannon Willis Scruggs of the SC Bar Foundation, and I delivered the good news to Ms. White today at the Greenville office of South Carolina Legal Services (SCLS). And wow, what a great feeling! To say that Ms. White was surprised would be an understatement. Below you’ll see some photos as we interrupted the Thursday morning staffing.

A little more about Ms. White:

  • She started work at SCLS in March 1997;
  • During her time at SCLS, she has conquered many legal issues including landlord/tenant, divorce, consumer and disability matters;
  • She is currently the lead bankruptcy attorney within the consumer unit of SCLS; and
  • She moved to South Carolina from Ohio where she had practiced for 12 years.

A few notes from the people who nominated her:

When she started at SCLS: Almost immediately, (no one can remember exactly when), she was fully oriented to the legal aid culture and was building a diverse caseload that has grown beyond all boundaries owing to her famous zeal at case acceptance meetings.

The justice system is better for her example, energy and abundant legal skill. Her humor enlivened every case acceptance meeting.

I could not be more impressed with her professionalism and cheerful work ethic – she is uniquely motivated in her desire to help others.

Maureen’s most significant achievement on a statewide level has been her work as our Lead Bankruptcy Attorney. When SCLS’ Bankruptcy Roadshow was created by the Consumer Unit, Maureen led the way as we went around the state training SCLS attorneys to handle bankruptcy cases. We significantly increased the number of attorneys handling bankruptcy and the number of clients being served by SCLS filing bankruptcy for them.

Meet Ms. Maureen White:

Once again – congratulations Maureen White!

And Ed McMahon – thanks for the inspiration . . . it’s a lot of fun to surprise people with flowers, balloons, and good news!

-RFW

Not even Hurricane Katrina can keep SCLS down . . .

FACTS:

  • You work in the New Orleans school system for 30 years.
  • Like others, you pay into the Louisiana state retirement system in lieu of Social Security.
  • In the course of 3 years, each year you lose a loved one; 1st one adult son and the following year another adult son is killed in a fatal car wreck and the following year your husband passes away.
  • One year later, your home burns down. You move in with your sibling in New Orleans.
  • Then Hurricane Katrina hits. After 3 days, you’re rescued and then evacuated and resettled to Greenville.
  • One year later, you become very ill and are hospitalized for an extended period. You have no insurance and you start to get large medical bills.
  • Soon after, you’re hit with a social security overpayment and tax refund intercepts. The Social Security Administration ruled that client should NOT receive husband’s survivor’s benefits because of special circumstances related to the Louisiana state retirement program.

 If you think you would be filling pretty low right now, you’re perfectly normal.

 Sadly, this scenario really happened.

 Fortunately the widow in the fact pattern called South Carolina Legal Services. In September 2008, Beth Des Jardins filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition for the widow.  The purpose of the bankruptcy filing was to discharge: (1) the client’s huge medical debts, and (2) her social security disability overpayment. 

 BACKGROUND

Can a social security overpayment like this be discharged as an unsecured debt in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy? After much research, consultation, and debate over other legal tactics, the in-house decision was that there was no clear consensus. Ms. Des Jardins pursued the Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition.

RESULT:

Earlier this month, at the creditors’ meeting the Chapter 7 trustee, Randy Skinner, declared this a ‘no assets’ case.

Congratulations to Beth Des Jardins and Maureen White, who filled in for Beth at the creditors’ meeting!

 -RFW