Ellen Hines Smith Award Nominations OPEN!

The Ellen Hines Smith Award Nominations are now open! Click Ellen Hines Smith Nomination Form for the nomination form with instructions.

Nominations will remain open until November 15th.

The Award winner will be decided by a joint awards committee of the SC Bar Foundation and SC ATJ Commission. The Award will be jointly presented at SC Bar Foundation Gala on March 11, 2010, so be sure to SAVE THE DATE.

COMING SOON to a town near you: Celebrate Pro Bono

LOUD & CLEAR: PRO BONO ROCKS
LOUD & CLEAR: PRO BONO ROCKS

At the end of October, across the nation, attorneys will join together to provide Pro Bono services as part of the American Bar Association‘s CELEBRATE PRO BONO WEEK (October 25-31, 2009).

Celebrate Pro Bono 2009 image badge small

Mark your calendars. The South Carolina Access to Justice Commission will be highlighting some of the featured events, programs or pro bono attorneys on the blog.

If  you have a story to share and would like to be a guest blogger, please email me.

-RFW

SC Access to Justice Commission’s Recommendations re: Rule 608

After the E-Newsletter was distributed earlier this week, the Commission received many requests from individuals and organizations wanting to review the recommendations.

Below is a copy of the cover letter as well as the accompanying exhibits:

COLUMBIA-#6098475-v1-071509_rule_608_ltr_to_chief_justice _2_

Exhibit A1 – Recommended amendments to RULE 608 _2_

Exhibit A2 – RULE 608 – redline _2_

Exhibit B – 5 Appts per Region 7 8 09

Exhibit C – Statement of April 2009 re 608 _2_

Exhibit D – Access Subcommittee filing 6 09 v4 _4_ _2_

-RFW

August 2009 E-Newsletter

The August 2009 E-Newsletter is now available online.

SCATJC August 2009 E-Newsletter

-RFW

Listening Matters

This has been an interesting day.

This morning I attended a part of the SC Judicial Conference. The SC Access to Justice Commission’s website was featured along with some special projects with divisions of the SC Courts, especially two projects for Self-Represented Litigants.

Afterward I returned to the office to begin other work, especially that involving increasing pro bono service by the private bar. And if you’re not familiar with Rule 608 which some private bar members attribute as the primary barrier to increased pro bono service in South Carolina, click here.

At any rate, I entered a discussion of pro bono. In the midst of an enthusiastic discussion, one of the three participants advocated a position.  Immediately I (re)entered the discussion and proceeded to reject this concept. At the end of my pontification, I sat back in my chair, feeling satisfied that my response had enlightened both participants. Instead, the person who had originally advocated the position, re-stated the position. I turned to both participants and said “oh, you said [legal term].” Both nodded in agreement. At that, I apologized and agreed with the original position.

Please note:

  • Listening is courteous.

  • Listening is efficient.

  • Listening Matters.

-RFW

Answering FAQs: It’s Harder than You Think!

FAQ
FAQ

The SC Access to Justice Commission has been working with the Clerk of Court Work Group to develop answers to Frequently Asked Questions or FAQs. These FAQs have taken considerably more time to complete than I had originally thought.

Why?

Because the Clerks, Court Administration and the Commission want to make certain that the information we provide to the public is

  1. accurate,
  2. complete, and
  3. helpful.

In order to assure accuracy, we have reviewed the South Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure (SCRCP), the South Carolina Code as well as information provided by other states. Additionally, to ensure that the information is complete, we have researched case law and publications, such as “Service of Process in South Carolina” by John S. Nichols and published by the SC Bar.

One other factor that is extremely important to the Clerks, Court Administration and the Commission is that the information is provided in an easy-to-read format and that it is easily understandable. In other words, we want them to be written in PLAIN LANGUAGE.

This week the Commission is submitting the Questions and Answers to the Circuit Court and Family Court Advisory Committees where they will provide another level of scrutiny to ensure that the answers are accurate, complete and helpful.

When the FAQs with their model answers are complete, they will be available online. Be stay tuned for updates.

We’re looking forward to sharing the FAQs and answers with you!

-RFW

M-States & SRLs: Montana & Massachusetts

DIY by any other name
DIY by any other name

In Massachusetts they call it Limited Assisted Representation or LAR.

In Montana they call it DIY Legal Assistance.

I call it good job.

From early on at the SC Access to Justice Commission, I’ve been exposed to pros and cons of having people represent themselves in court. For the most part both sides have presented thoughtful, articulate and well-reasoned arguments for their side.  And both sides have their share of passion; both positive and negative.

Some Commissioners and I have been accused of trying to take away business from hard-working attorneys because the Commission is working on self-represented initiatives.

On the other hand, the Commission received information during the public hearings that many people were already representing themselves – without success.

Regardless of which side you favor, the reality is that more people are showing up in court without legal representation.

For many, it’s because they simply cannot afford to hire an attorney or they cannot find an attorney willing to represent them.

For others, it’s simply their choice – for reasons unknown. 

  • Maybe they can afford an attorney but prefer to spend the money on a vacation or a new pair of shoes.
  • Maybe they believe they are as smart as any attorney, so why should they pay.
  • Maybe they had a prior bad experience when they hired an attorney and want to avoid that at all costs.
  • Maybe the issue is straightforward and they can represent themselves.
  • Maybe their neighbor told them that they had a positive SRL experience.

We may never know why.

But we can prepare our court system.

  • We can train judges and court personnel.
  • We can set reasonable expectations.
  • We can develop forms and videos to familiarize the public with the court system.
  • We can ensure that new form development reflects PLAIN LANGUAGE principles.
  • We can work with attorneys to develop innovative and affordable services as well as discuss effective ways to work with a self-represented litigant.

In the meantime, we can look at innovations and practice by other states. Other states such as Massachusetts and Montana.

-RFW

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.

~~~~~~~~~~

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

-RFW

Welcome Allie Bullard!

The South Carolina Access to Justice Commission is pleased to present our latest pro bono addition, Allie Bullard! Allie is assisting the Commission this summer as a pro bono law clerk. She is a rising 2L at the USC School of Law and we are thrilled to have her on board.

And, she’s agreed to be a blogger from time to time.

Welcome Allie!

Allie Bullard - 1st day

-RFW

Notice for Comments

The South Carolina Access to Justice Commission is interested in hearing from members of the Bench, Bar and general public about the Self-Represented Litigant Simple Divorce Packet.

Written Comments only may be sent by:

  • U.S. Mail to SC Access to Justice Commission, Divorce Packet, PO Box 608, Columbia, SC 29202-0608

Comments must be received by Monday, June 1, 2009.

-RFW