It’s official – Poster and FAQs online – en español

Good News!  ¡Buenas noticias!

The South Carolina Courts’ Self-Help Page now offers FAQs (General Questions, Circuit Court and Family Court) and an explanation about what court staff can and cannot in Spanish!

And many thanks to student volunteers with the USC School of Law’s Pro Bono Program and the kind folks at HABLA!

-RFW

Report of the Task Force on State Courts and the Elderly Released

Today the Supreme Court of South Carolina released the Report of the Task Force on State Courts and the Elderly.

It is well worth reading, if only to note how South Carolina demographics have changed over the years and to see predictions for our future.

Well done!

-RFW

In Focus: Commissioner Thomas C. Keith

How much is a child in South Carolina worth?

That’s the question that Commissioner Thomas C. Keith asked in his Op-Ed in Friday’s The State newspaper.

And, it’s likely you’re not going to like the answer – LESS THAN CONNECTICUT.  A LOT LESS.

In Connecticut, each child in poverty is allocated $1,052 a year via TANF, whereas in South Carolina that same program allocates only $179 a year per child.

And in his Op-Ed, Mr. Keith is urging Congress to do the right thing, fund each child living in poverty according to poverty level, not according to “state” advantages.

Good job Commissioner Keith!

-RFW

Guess

What do Harvest Hope and SC foreclosures have in common?

If you guessed that South Carolina has seen a marked increase in foreclosures and requests for food have markedly increased, you win!

According to the Columbia Regional Business Report (CRBR):

South Carolina’s foreclosure rate from July to August 2009 was up 1.94%, reported national real estate tracking company RealtyTrac.com. That number is more than 78% higher than it was one year ago.

According to Harvest Hope:

In the first quarter of 2009, Harvest Hope experienced a 142%  increase in the number of families needing assistance.

Earlier today I attended a fundraiser luncheon for Harvest Hope. It made me focus on how the problems faced by so many living in poverty are faces of our neighbors, our friends, our loved ones.

The “featured” speaker at the luncheon was someone who had been working – two jobs. Two good, solid jobs. Then she got ill. Which started the medical bills and absence from work. Which caused her to lose her jobs. Both jobs. The bills kept coming. When it came to paying bills, she used her money for medical bills and medication. Then she lost her home. She stopped eating so much. That made her sicker. Then she found Harvest Hope.

She was able to eat.

The doctors are still trying to figure out what is “wrong” with her. In the meantime, she can eat. Without Harvest Hope and the necessary nutrition it provides, she would be even more sick.

While these societal problems may not be legal, I guarantee that the Legal Aid Telephone Intake Service (LATIS) has been referring people to Harvest Hope.

And once people have nutrition and can think about something other than an empty belly, then they may call LATIS for assistance with a problem with their Landlord. Or maybe for help with their Medicaid benefits. Or help with a way to escape their abusive spouse.

-RFW

Friday Resource: SC Center for Fathers and Families

Recently I’ve been receiving a lot of inquiries from fathers who want assistance with child support or child custody issues. And I have the perfect resource for them, the South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families.

Friday Resource-SC Fathers and Families

The South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families, a statewide nonprofit organization, was founded in 2002 by the Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina. If you are not already familiar with the center, please explore their website.

And, for additional information about the impact, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration of Children and Families Office of Family Assistance featured the SC Center for Fathers and Families in a report released in May 2009.

-RFW

POVERTY: SC

Is this our future?

Poverty + SC = 4Ever
Poverty + SC = 4Ever

Is this what we want for our future?

Recently I’ve been referred to a few poverty resources that I want to share.

  1. A powerful video (by United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) sent to me by Shannon Scruggs of the SC Bar Foundation.
  2. Poverty in America has published its LIVING WAGE CALCULATOR, an interactive online tool.

When I pulled up South Carolina, 10 of the 22 occupational areas had typical hourly wages within the poverty range.

Almost half. Almost half of the people going to work every day in South Carolina are working for wages that keep them in poverty.

That’s scary! Especially when most of us consider that employment helps to break the poverty cycle. It’s daunting when you think that the South Carolina Access to Justice Commission was set up expressly to ensure that people living in poverty receive equal access within the civil court system. Essentially one of the unspoken beliefs is that full access to the same legal rights helps lift people out of poverty.

It’s certainly time for us to wage a war on poverty.

  • People living in poverty face barriers within the public education system.
  • People living in poverty face barriers within the public health care system.
  • People living in poverty face barriers within the civil and criminal justice systems.

If people going to work everyday remain in poverty, then how can we expect to break the cycle of injustice? Educational injustice. Health care injustice. Civil and criminal injustice.

And yes, I’m familiar with the saying that the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time, but if Madame Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton will forgive my paraphrase/alteration/juxtaposition of  it takes a village to raise a childit is much easier to eat the elephant if the whole village takes one bite.

In order for us to break the poverty cycle, it will take effort from each of us.

Please join.

-RFW

Should 3Ls Provide Legal Representation: POLL

Read about a decision by the Ohio Supreme Court that allows 3rd year law students to represent Felony Defendants UNDER THE SUPERVISION OF A LICENSED ATTORNEY!

The Rule.

Please feel free to add your own comments either within the poll or below.

Does this enhance access to justice? Or does it further disenfranchise people living in poverty?

-RFW

PS – Thanks to Commissioner Rangeley Chewning for pointing out the Ohio article!