Standing Ovation to NYT’s coverage

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Thank you New York Times for Your Editorial Piece entitled:

Sins of Omission: The Forgotten Poor

Your Editorial piece describes the problems concisely, clearly and thoroughly. See excerpts below:

The proven national program of civil legal aid for impoverished Americans, created in the 1960s, is suffering from multiple blows in funding.

But federal funding is the ultimate hope in a dire situation. In 2008, Congress chipped in $350 million for the nonprofit Legal Services Corporation, which then distributed the money throughout the country. Given the tough times — underfunded programs and ever more desperate clients — more money is needed.

For the full article, click here.

Special Thanks to: Mark Quinn for pointing me to the article and hand models Angela McKeirnan, Joan Brown, Kimberly Hamilton, Jane Rush, and Lauren Clark.

-RFW

Tennessee latest to add Access to Justice

On Friday, December 5th, the Tennessee Supreme Court announced an Access to Justice Initiative. Chief Justice Janice Holder offered a few remarks as to outline measures of the initiative as well as some general information as to the necessity of the initiative.

Only one in five income-eligible people will receive the legal help they need.

In our current troubled economy, the need for civil legal services among Tennessee’s indigent and working poor families can only be expected to increase as they face more legal problems caused by unemployment, predatory loans, uninsured medical bills, domestic violence, evictions, and foreclosures.

We send our best wishes to Tennessee with this initiative and offer our support. Congratulations and welcome aboard!

-RFW

Must Read: THE STATE Editorial

Again, we are pleased to recognize a Commission partner, Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina. Tom Keith, Executive Director of the Foundation, is a current member of the South Carolina Access to Justice Commission.

This has been a great week for the Sisters of Charity’s Fatherhood Initiative. On Monday, they hosted a 10 YEAR Anniversary Luncheon. Yesterday, they participated in the SC Bar Foundation’s Bankers’ Recognition (more on that later). And this morning The State newspaper printed an Editorial piece on the Fatherhood Initiative and the impact that fathers have on their children.

Statistics suggest children who grow up without their biological fathers are more likely to live in poverty, have behavioral or emotional problems, engage in crime, drop out of school or have children out of wedlock.

Please take a moment to read through the article and the positive impact of the Sisters of Charity Foundation in South Carolina via the South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families.

The Commission is pleased with the recognition of our partner and looks forward to continued collaboration and success. Congratulations Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina!

-RFW

Access to Justice is WORLDWIDE, even in South Africa

I don’t know what drew me so strongly to this article about South Africa promoting use of indigenous languages in its court system. After all, I have other articles on my Google Alerts. Maybe it was the fact that I can vividly recall the anti-apartheid movement. Maybe it’s because that around my “coming of age” (yes I’m “that” old), apartheid was starting to become an international concern. Then in 1987, I saw a movie with a youngish Denzel Washington, “Cry Freedom,” and it opened my eyes to the POWER that law holds.

It would still be some years before I realized that law held a calling for me personally.

Maybe I was drawn to the stark realization that what I’ve been working on here in the United States, in South Carolina, is also happening in a country plagued by discrimination. True, there are contrasts and differences between the work, but this article, http://www.buanews.gov.za/news/08/08103110151003, indicates that South Africa is working on Limited Language Proficiency or what we know as Limited English Proficiency or LEP to increase ACCESS TO JUSTICE.

This will enable people who can not speak or understand English well to gain equal access to justice, by making it more accessible and understandable to ordinary citizens with particular focus on the poor and vulnerable.

Why this resonates so strongly I can’t really say. All I know is that it does resonate. It resonates strongly.

Maybe it is because of the hope it offers. South Africa is working to make the civil legal system more accessible to ordinary citizens, especially the poor and vulnerable.

If access to justice can succeed in South Africa, it can succeed here. In South Carolina.

Wow.

-RFW

Couldn’t Say It Better Myself

If the poor no longer have equal access to justice, the fabric of our much-admired judicial system will be torn apart. American democracy will suffer a serious blow.

 

Each morning I check through my Access to Justice Google Alerts for topics that may be relevant to the work of the South Carolina Access to Justice Commission. Sometimes the topics are pertinent, sometimes not. This morning however, an article caught my eye and when I read it, I was blown away.

This article comes out of Hennepin County, which includes the city of Minneapolis. Hennepin County has led the country with some of its innovations for self-represented litigants via their court self-help centers. The writers are eloquent as well as practical.

Please take a moment to read through this great opinion piece entitled “Two Americas: Judicial budget cuts could create two systems of justice.”

-RFW

William H. Neukom’s interview in October 2008 Issue of The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel Highlights Need for Community Collaboration for Access to Justice

Excerpts from The World Justice Project: A Sustained Commitment To The Rule Of Law, an article in The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel. The Editor interviews William H. Neukom:

 Every city in our country is disadvantaged by poverty. While everyone understands that there are root causes of poverty, no community is paying sufficient attention to the problem of poverty because other needs clamor for attention and too often prevent the poverty issue from being adequately aired. To the extent that the legal problems of poor people are heard in the courts, however, society as a whole has an opportunity to see this issue at first hand and, hopefully, consider ways in which it might be addressed. Access to justice for the poor, in criminal matters, to be sure, but also legal services in certain types of civil cases for those otherwise incapable of retaining a lawyer, are ways in which society can address poverty and, over time, reduce that poverty.

 When people say to me that legal services for the poor is a huge legal issue, I respond by saying it is a huge community issue. Our communities are suffering from poverty, and even if as an individual I am not, I am a member of the community. Access to education, access to heathcare, job opportunities – in addition to access to a fair and impartial system of justice – all of these things contribute to the elimination of poverty and the creation of a society in which we all wish to live.

 

-RFW