Nominations now open: Ellen Hines Smith Legal Services Attorney of the Year 2014

The South Carolina Access to Justice Commission is pleased to open nominations for the Ellen Hines Smith South Carolina Legal Services Attorney of the Year Award.

2014 Ellen Hines Smith Nomination Form

Nominations will remain open until November 12, 2014.

The award winner will be decided by a joint awards committee of the South Carolina Bar Foundation and the South Carolina Access to Justice Commission. The award will be jointly presented at the South Carolina Bar Foundation Gala, to be held on Saturday, January 24, 2015.

~rfw

Guest Blogger: Daniel Kim

Recently, I have been given the opportunity to work at the SC Access to Justice Commission (SCATJ) by being appointed as a “BFF,” a bar foundation fellow. The program is known as the South Carolina Bar Foundation Public Interest Fellows Project, which was started to increase student awareness of public interest law. It also offers public legal service organizations the help they need to accomplish the work they do for the public. Now you may wonder what SCATJ is and what the organization does; I know I did. But one of the great things about this program is that it gives students a chance to learn about public interest organizations that they did not know existed.

SCATJ is faced with the difficult challenge of “ensuring access to justice for all South Carolinians.” This organization was created to help people with low income and modest means obtain access to the South Carolina court system. One of their programs is geared towards self-represented litigants, and that is the field I have done the most amount of work. One of my major projects since starting here has been to work on an information guide for different counties within the judicial district of the new Newberry County Self-Help Center. Often times, self-represented litigants forego hiring an attorney due to lack of financial means. However, these litigants often go into court with no resources or knowledge of the SC legal and court system. They do not understand the legalese in forms, the process to properly fill out court documents and forms, and court policies and procedures, such as service of process.

SCATJ tries to provide self-represented litigants with guidelines and resources so that they may enter the court with more knowledge of the system. Chief Justice Toal has spearheaded the movement to streamline polices and procedures and have records be automated through the use of the Internet. This has enabled all courts in different SC counties to have similar paperwork.

The reason I came to law school was to help those in need and make an impact in the community. As cliché as that may sound, my passion and desire to achieve this goal is the reason I applied to be a “BFF” and the reason I want to become an attorney. The goals of SCATJ align with the goals I seek to accomplish after law school, and this is the sole reason I wanted to take part in this opportunity. This has been an invaluable learning experience for me thus far. I have learned a lot about public interest law, SC law, and the challenges everyday South Carolinians face to acquire what we, as law students, sometimes take for granted: obtaining justice. It has been a pleasure to work here at the SCATJ, and I look forward to continuing to work here in order to give back more to the community while continuing to learn and grow from this experience.

-Daniel Kim

Ed McMahon, Your Legacy Lives On

Most everyone is familiar with Ed McMahon and the American Family Publishers Sweepstakes prize.  And some of us waited patiently for him to show up at our door with balloons and an over-sized check. Watching the few lucky prize winners was always a thrill. And today I had the honor of delivering balloons and flowers to the 2009 Ellen Hines Smith South Carolina Legal Services award recipient, Maureen White.

While the official award will be presented at the SC Bar Foundation Gala on March 11, 2010, Shannon Willis Scruggs of the SC Bar Foundation, and I delivered the good news to Ms. White today at the Greenville office of South Carolina Legal Services (SCLS). And wow, what a great feeling! To say that Ms. White was surprised would be an understatement. Below you’ll see some photos as we interrupted the Thursday morning staffing.

A little more about Ms. White:

  • She started work at SCLS in March 1997;
  • During her time at SCLS, she has conquered many legal issues including landlord/tenant, divorce, consumer and disability matters;
  • She is currently the lead bankruptcy attorney within the consumer unit of SCLS; and
  • She moved to South Carolina from Ohio where she had practiced for 12 years.

A few notes from the people who nominated her:

When she started at SCLS: Almost immediately, (no one can remember exactly when), she was fully oriented to the legal aid culture and was building a diverse caseload that has grown beyond all boundaries owing to her famous zeal at case acceptance meetings.

The justice system is better for her example, energy and abundant legal skill. Her humor enlivened every case acceptance meeting.

I could not be more impressed with her professionalism and cheerful work ethic – she is uniquely motivated in her desire to help others.

Maureen’s most significant achievement on a statewide level has been her work as our Lead Bankruptcy Attorney. When SCLS’ Bankruptcy Roadshow was created by the Consumer Unit, Maureen led the way as we went around the state training SCLS attorneys to handle bankruptcy cases. We significantly increased the number of attorneys handling bankruptcy and the number of clients being served by SCLS filing bankruptcy for them.

Meet Ms. Maureen White:

Once again – congratulations Maureen White!

And Ed McMahon – thanks for the inspiration . . . it’s a lot of fun to surprise people with flowers, balloons, and good news!

-RFW

This is how RCCASA does it!

In early 2008, I was fortunate to attend the South Carolina Bar Foundation‘s Grantee Gathering. One of the special features was Richland County CASA‘s Quarterback Training seen in this video.

Why is this video so important?

Because it highlights a specific recruiting effort by Richland County CASA (RCCASA) for male volunteers. About 9 minutes into the video we learn why this is so important – because 60% of the children served by CASA are male whereas a few years back most volunteers were female.

The children served by RCCASA are children who are involved in the Family Court system and are the subjects of abuse or neglect investigations. It is fairly frequent that the only stable person in these childrens’ lives is the CASA representative, the Guardian ad Litem (GAL).

RCCASA recognized that these children needed volunteers who would also be able to serve as a role model. They saw the need and modified their recruitment plan to fulfill the need.

If you are interested in volunteering or learning more about RCCASA, click here.

-RFW

Another Good Thing Happened in 2009

The office is quiet today, the last day of 2009. In fact, most people are off. But I thought it would be a good time to catch up on some of those pending to-dos. And this post is one of those on my to-do list.

A few weeks back, on December 17, 2009, the Supreme Court of South Carolina issued an order amending Rule 412.  Rule 412, SCACR, governs the IOLTA program. The amendments were requested by the SC Bar Foundation earlier this year. The Supreme Court then received written comments from interested entities, including from the SC Access to Justice Commission.

Why is this so exciting?

Well, because IOLTA affects access to justice in a large way. Remember our previous post re: IOLTA?

Specifically this part:

IOLTA is a way to support access to justice to people living in poverty without taxing the public or charging attorneys or their clients. IOLTA is pooled to provide civil legal aid to the poor and support improvements to the justice system.

Well, the big news is that the amendments include interest rate comparability. This becomes effective June 15, 2010.

What is interest rate comparability?

GENERALLY: Interest Rate Comparability for IOLTA accounts indicates that the financial institution that pays those accounts the highest interest rate generally available at that institution to other customers when IOLTA accounts meet the same minimum balance or other account qualifications, if any.

The hope is that these higher interest rates will allow the SC Bar Foundation to distribute more money to their grantees, entities working to bring about equal justice in the civil legal system.

And that makes one more good thing that happened in 2009!

Happy New Year!

-RFW

Last Week to Nominate for Ellen Hines Smith Award

You have until November 15th to nominate a South Carolina Legal Services attorney for the Ellen Hines Smith Award.

This year the award event is especially exciting because it will take place during the South Carolina Bar Foundation’s Annual Gala on March 11, 2010.

I can’t wait to learn who receives the award!

-RFW

earlier post

Ask-A-Lawyer One Week from Today

A Celebrate Pro Bono Week Event!

Ask-A-Lawyer

Date: Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Time: 4:45 to 7:45 p.m.

The Ask-A-Lawyer Program coordinates volunteer lawyers for televised phone banks and Web chats in an effort to assist the public with its legal questions.

If you have a legal question, please call WIS-TV at (803) 758-1020 during the hours indicated. You may also write to an attorney via an online chat room by clicking the icon at www.scbar.org/aal. If you need legal advice, please contact the South Carolina Bar Lawyer Referral Service at 800-868-2284 or call the Legal Aid Telephone Intake Service (LATIS) at 888-346-2284.

The Ask-A-Lawyer program is made possible by the South Carolina Bar Foundation, Inc.

From the SC Bar website!

-RFW