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

SRLs Rise as Economy Declines

No Surprise!

SRLs Rise as Economy Declines

This probably isn’t a surprise to many. But it is interesting that there are more articles about the phenomena.

For example, the New York Times recently featured a story about the rising number of Self-Represented Litigants (SRLs) entitled In a Downtown, More Act as Their Own Lawyers.”  The article noted the phenomena in multiple jurisdictions including  California, Illinois, New Hampshire, New York, and Texas. The NYTimes also notes that the phenomena is not limited to a specific court.

On Saturday, April 18, 2009, the Star-Telegram out of Texas, featured a story about the rise in SRLs specifically in Family Court in its article “For better or worse, fewer using divorce lawyers.”  ABC Channel 2 out of Wisconsin featured its own story, “Economy Affecting Divorces in Court.”

But the phenomena isn’t limited to state courts. Law.com featured its own article entitled “Federal Courts React to Tide of Pro Se Litigants.

Missing from the list of articles is SRLs in Bankruptcy Court. While there are no numbers, percentages, or stories, not to worry, the U.S. Courts website has a site dedicated to “Filing without an Attorney.” In South Carolina, click here. Both sites offer a video explanation as well.

It may not be a surprise but while there may be many people who want to proceed on their own, they are still advised to speak with an attorney, if possible. 

-RFW

NY Times Editorial Just as Relevant in South Carolina

New York City?

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Sitting in my office, overlooking Finlay Park in Columbia, South Carolina may seem far removed from New York City but people living in poverty NYC and SC share similar legal problems. Consider the recent New York Times Editorial that advocates for stable funding for Legal Services.

People need decent representation when doing battle with bad landlords and employers, callous health maintenance organizations and government agencies, disgruntled business partners and grasping relatives. And in an era of predatory home loans, the legal needs of distressed homeowners are urgent and steadily rising.

Advocates for the poor argue, persuasively, that outlays for civil legal services are budgetary pennies that save many dollars. A foreclosure prevented is an eviction avoided, a family kept from homelessness — and a considerable burden lifted from the government’s social-service safety net. With legal help, poor people can avoid litigation, easing the load on judges and courtrooms. They can get food stamps, leveraging federal dollars in an underused program. If they avoid the poorhouse they will have, by definition, more money to spend, increasing sales tax revenues and benefiting local businesses.

The same arguments can be made here, in South Carolina.

Isn’t it time we acted accordingly?

To make a donation to fund legal services, visit the South Carolina Bar Foundation or click here.

-RFW

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