SC Appleseed in the NEWS!

Another SC Access to Justice Commissioner has news or should I say is IN the news today. Sue Berkowitz, the SC Appleseed Legal Justice Center Executive Director, was quoted in the prestigious Wall Street Journal.

Sue B - doing what she does best

The story? Numbers on Welfare See Sharp Increase. Excerpt from the story:

Twenty-three of the 30 largest states, which account for more than 88% of the nation’s total population, see welfare caseloads above year-ago levels, according to a survey conducted by The Wall Street Journal and the National Conference of State Legislatures. As more people run out of unemployment compensation, many are turning to welfare as a stopgap.

South Carolina is one of the “leading” states – in which welfare cases have increased from +10% to +30% over last year’s rates. Other states with sharp increases include California, Colorado, Florida, Maryland, OhioOregon, and Washington.

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On another note, we noted that the SC Appleseed Legal Justice website has a new look too. And we like it!

-RFW

South Carolina: 3rd highest unemployment in the USA

South Carolina Ranks 3rd in the Nation in Unemployment

Thanks so much to Technola for their post about this interactive unemployment map entitled “The Geography of a Recession.”

The national unemployment rate average in December 2008 was 7.1%, with a 2.3 increase in one year. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, South Carolina’s rate was 9.5%, the third highest in the nation with Rhode Island with the highest jobless rates, 10.6% followed by Michigan at 10.0%. California was 4th with 9.3%; followed by Nevada, 9.1%; and Oregon at 9.0%.

Indiana and South Carolina recorded the largest over-the-month unemployment rate increases in December (+1.1 percentage points each).

As I looked at South Carolina’s unemployment highs, I noted that they are primarily in the “rural” areas AND they are “manufacturing centers” according to the map.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Manufacturing Sector refers to:

Plants, factories, or mills  engaged in the mechanical, physical, or chemical transformation of materials, substances, or components into new products. These industries include Food Manufacturing; Beverage and Tobacco Product Manufacturing; Textile Mills; Textile Product Mills; Apparel Manufacturing; Leather and Allied Product Manufacturing; Wood Product Manufacturing; Paper Manufacturing; Printing and Related Support Activities; Petroleum and Coal Products Manufacturing; Chemical Manufacturing; Plastics and Rubber Products Manufacturing; and more.

How is this related to Access to Justice?

As unemployment increases, income decreases. People are no longer covered by medical insurance. They can no longer afford their car payments or home mortgages. This may lead to stress in the marriage which leads to divorce. Sometimes (not always) the desperation to provide food and shelter may lead to an increase in crime.

These may seem like social justice issues, but there are legal implications. If people are unaware of their rights, they are more likely to be taken advantage of by unscrupulous business practices.

For instance, two days ago, the New York Times published an article entitled You’re Dead? That Won’t Stop the Debt Collector.  In the article, relatives of dead debtors are contacted and asked “if they want to settle the balance on a credit card or bank loan, or perhaps make that final utility bill or cellphone payment. The people on the other end of the line often have no legal obligation to assume the debt of a spouse, sibling or parent. But they take responsibility for it anyway.”

In the article, one unemployed man offers to pay $15 per month to settle his late mother-in-law’s credit card debt which he has no legal responsibility to do.

If they’re lucky, they’ll know to turn to attorneys for assistance, whether it’s South Carolina Legal Services or the SC Bar Pro Bono Program. Some may be able to proceed on their own, as self-represented litigants. But they will come in contact with the civil legal system.

That’s how the problem is related to Access to Justice. That’s why unemployment is an issue for all of us. That’s why we all need to help educate consumers and the general public about their civil legal rights.

-RFW

Now for the NEWS

Earlier I listed some of the recent blog posts I enjoyed. Below are some recent newsworthy items from around the state, nation and world:

  1. Out of Knoxville TN: Public meeting to discuss increasing need of legal help for poor
  2. Out of Texas: Opinion Piece –  New OAG Service Helps Parents Address Visitation Concerns.
  3. Out of Vancouver, Canada: High fees that block access to the courts block access to justice.
  4. Out of Colorado: Justice for all – Salt Lake City attorney serves the homeless.
  5. Out of Oregon: Hard Times for Access to Justice – Economic Downturn is Beginning to Take its Toll in Oregon.
  6. Out of the UK: Judge rules CPS wrong to deny victim with mental illness right to fight for justice.
  7. Out of Minneapolis/St. Paul: Court of Appeals testing new mediation process.
  8. From NPR: Immigration Crackdown Overwhelms Judges.
  9. Out of Washington: AGs push for mortgage modifications.
  10. Out of West Virginia – State must submit plan to prevent juvenile racial injustice.
  11. Out of Tulsa, OK: A lawful dosage. A medical-legal partnership fills in some gaps in child health-care issues.
  12. Out of North Carolina: Legal Aid in demand and in a bind.
  13. Out of New Jersey: Agency that gives legal help to poor is in financial crisis.
  14. Out of Florida: Judge John Blue Receives 2009 Chief Justice’s Distinguished Judicial Service Award.
  15. Out of Massachusetts: President of One Laptop Per Child to speak Feb. 10.  (yes this is past, but it’s still worth reading)
  16. From Berkeley: Bringing it all back home – In her new job, Wilda White pursues a lifelong passion for social justice.
  17. Out of Massachussets: Legal services needed for immigrants in Milford.
  18. Also from Massachussetts: Letter From The President Of The Boston Bar Association.
  19. Out of Mississippi: Miss. legal aid grows scarce as economy gets worse – Unlike in the criminal justice system, indigent in civil cases aren’t guaranteed an attorney.
  20. Out of England: Let’s not be too misty eyed about legal aid, but it is at a crossroads.
  21. From Chattanooga: 6 Chattanooga Law Firms Commit To Greater Legal Service For The Poor.
  22. Out of Florida: Judge calls on Lawyers – Supreme Court judge would like to see equal justice.

Oh, there’s more, but I have to stop somewhere.

Besides, this list is just in case you have a few moments . . .

-RFW