Day 2: EJC – so far . . .

Ok, there’s a quick break in between sessions and yes, my last session ended a few minutes early. And before I forget, yes I’m addicted to blogging. SO, here’s the latest update.

Today I have been able to see friends from home – Tom Trent, Andrea Loney, Shannon Scruggs and Pamela Robinson – as well as friends from other places – Louis Rulli, Richard Zorza, my fellow ATJers and others. Some I’ve only met via cyberspace – Claudia Johnson, it was nice to finally meet you in person!

And, here are the photos from the morning.

CIMG4564Plenary

CIMG4565good crowd at the Plenary

CIMG4566exhibits before the crowd hits . . .

CIMG4567Lawyers and Social Workers Workings Together: Resolving Ethical Dilemmas

CIMG4570ATJ Lunch Roundtable (sans table)

CIMG4572more round (no table)

CIMG4573Fostering Information Sharing and Collaboration to Maximize Successful Team and Partnership Efforts

CIMG4576stay tuned . . .

-RFW

SRL Videos

Today I was fortunate to take part in instructional videos for judges when working with SRLs in the courtroom. The scripts were based on several different scenarios including Family Court and Circuit Court cases based on information the SC Access to Justice Commission has learned in previous conferences held by the SRL Network. Many thanks to Richard Zorza who served as not only the inspiration for these videos but also our technical advisor. The South Carolina Bar provided the videographers who ensured that the lighting and takes were correct. And many thanks to USC School of Law 3L Amelia Waring and Stephanie Nye, Counsel to the Chief Justice, who not only wrote the scripts but also directed the shoot. Many thanks also to the old Lexington County courthouse for allowing us to film there today.

I’m looking forward to the final products and am grateful to have supportive Judges, attorneys and individuals willing to make this a quality product.

-RFW

SCATJ’s 8 Reasons to Give Thanks in ’08

8. Public Hearings are Complete.

And the response was really good. South Carolina Judges, Attorneys and members of the public spoke about barriers to civil justice that they had witnessed or encountered.

7. SCETV’s The Big Picture and staff.

On December 11, 2008 at 7:30 p.m. The Big Picture will feature speakers from the South Carolina Access to Justice Commission’s public hearings. The topic will be self-represented litigants. The next morning, Friday, December 12, 2008, the radio program will continue discussion of this topic.

6. Support of National Access to Justice community.

Shout-outs to Bob Echols, Richard Zorza, Deborah L. Rhode, Jim Sokolove, Judy Meadows, Kate Bladow and all the many others who have contributed this past year to show me that access to justice is larger than South Carolina. There are many pieces within access to justice, all of which are important. The list is too numerous to mention here and I hope you all know who you are.

5. Support of the South Carolina Bar.

The South Carolina Access to Justice Commission works out of the South Carolina Bar building and without the assistance of the many Bar employees, the Commission would not have been able to accomplish as much as it has. Additionally, the support of all the Bar members has been overwhelming. Attorneys who are already working hard within the legal services community are familiar with access to justice and working toward this goal every day. Additionally without the care and support of the private bar, access to justice would remain an unrealized concept.

4. Support from the South Carolina Bar Foundation.

The South Carolina Access to Justice Commission is currently fully funded by IOLTA funds from the South Carolina Bar Foundation. Thanks for making everything possible.

3. Active Participation of the South Carolina Supreme Court.

The final hearing was the ultimate in Supreme Court participation. All of the five justices actively joined in the somewhat lively discussion. They prepared meticulous questions and settled only for thorough answers. And their questions often indicated their interest in identifying solutions to the broad problems facing disenfranchised South Carolinians.

2. Wonderful South Carolina Access to Justice Commission Members.

There are 27 members of the South Carolina Access to Justice Commission. Each one of these members has contributed to the success of the past year.

1. Supportive Chief Justice Jean Hoefer Toal and Steering Committee.

Special thanks to the support of the South Carolina Access to Justice Commission Chair, Chief Justice Jean Hoefer Toal, and Vice Chair, Stuart Andrews. Additionally, many thanks to Stephanie A. Nye, counsel to the Chief Justice, and George Cauthen, ex-officio. Without each of them individually and collectively, the Commission would not exist. Many thanks!

Happy Thanksgiving to All!

-RFW

In Maryland 75% of Family Law Disputes Involve Self-Represented Litigants

According to a recent article in The Daily Record, 3 out of 4 family law disputes involve at least one self-represented party. In South Carolina, we are continuing to gather statistics but it’s likely that our numbers are similar. And in the current economic climate, it’s likely that these numbers will continue to increase.

The South Carolina Access to Justice (SCATJ) Commission has been addressing this issue from the Court’s standpoint, by training judges and working with clerks of court. In addition, the SCATJ Commission has been working with Court Administration to develop forms and instructions for self-represented litigants (SRLs). We’ve sent delegations to two conferences and started work groups as a result.

SCATJ has spoken with recognized SRL experts such as Richard Zorza and John Greacen as well as others. Commissioners have been inspired by New Hampshire Chief Justice John T. Broderick.

SCATJ has been reviewing information from other states about ways that their public law libraries assist with SRLs. SCATJ has been working with legal partners including South Carolina Legal Services and the South Carolina Bar to develop videos and other instructional packets for SRLs as well as find ways to increase legal representation to South Carolinians who cannot afford it.

The primary goal is to provide attorney representation for all. Attorneys provide not only good legal advice, but sensible counsel as well. Attorneys are trained to review the issue from many angles and provide information that allows individuals to make well-reasoned decisions.

Until attorneys for all becomes a reality, the SCATJ Commission is resolved to decrease barriers for people to represent themselves. The SCATJ Commission has a dedicated SRL Committee whose sole purpose is to address this issue. We welcome your ideas. Please feel free to post.

– RFW

SC Access to Justice Returns Home Wiser

Richard Zorza, self-represented litigant guru, and Stephanie Nye
Richard Zorza, self-represented litigant guru, and Stephanie Nye

The delegation from the South Carolina Access to Justice Commission returned to South Carolina yesterday from the Court Solutions Conference in Baltimore. The conference was informative and educational. The track pertaining to self-represented litigants offered 15 modules to choose from. The plenary sessions for self-represented litigants offered general information about each of the modules while allowing for an intensive focus on the specific. Many states offered information about initiatives and were willing to share ways to move forward to ensuring access to justice for all.

Desiree Allen, Stephanie Nye, Judge Deadra Jefferson, Judge Michael Baxley, Ellen Osborne
South Carolina Delegation: Desiree Allen, Stephanie Nye, Judge Deadra Jefferson, Judge Michael Baxley, Ellen Osborne

Each state was asked to briefly describe what they are proud of and what they want to learn from other states. The South Carolina state report was:

Judge Jefferson compares notes with Judge Lora Livingston out of Texas
Judge Jefferson compares notes with Judge Lora Livingston out of Texas
  • South Carolina is proud of: (1) completing public hearings where we identified problems faced by self-represented litigants; (2) completing initial judicial and clerk of court trainings where we featured the public hearing video from self-represented litigants describing their experiences; (3) providing ethical training to summary court and clerks of courts when working with self-represented litigants; and (3) completing and distributing the Bench Guide to summary court judges.
  • South Carolina wants to learn from others: (1) ways to build strong library partnerships; (2) ways to enhance partnerships and collaboration with other entities such as Legal Services, Community organizations, etc.; and (3) information about successful self-help centers.
Robin Wheeler interviews Judge Bell of Maryland