Happy New Year! Welcome 2014

It’s been a really good year for South Carolina Access to Justice! Below is our newsletter that highlights a few items we’ve been working on.

SCATJ Newsletter End of Year 2013

Happy New Year Everyone!

~rfw

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Extra Extra: Supreme Court of SC approves Self-Help Center Pilot

SPECIAL EDITION:

Earlier today, South Carolina Chief Justice Jean Hoefer Toal announced a pilot program for a Self-Help Center for Self-Represented Litigants in Newberry County.

At the end of the 2-year pilot program, the SC Access to Justice Commission will provide a report detailing the program’s effectiveness and making recommendations for further action.

Stay tuned!

-RFW

Focus on Pro Bono: Elliott Tait

Elliott Tait is currently a 2L, taking Wills, Trusts and Estates, Constitutional Law II, Problems in Professional Responsibility, Transnational Law, and Poverty Law at the University of South Carolina School of Law. He is also a member of the Pro Bono Board and the Moot Court Bar.

When asked about his favorite class, Eliott replied “I really enjoy Poverty Law, taught by Professor Patterson.  It’s a class that analyzes the major policies relating to the poor, and it has certainly opened my eyes to the good things that government has been able to facilitate as well as the many things they could improve upon.”

While at the law school, he has checked in from time to time with Pamela DeFanti Robinson, the school’s Pro Bono Program Director. Through this program, he has been able to volunteer in a number of ways, with a memorable volunteer experience teaching a few CHOICES classes at the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ).  The curriculum is meant to give the kids in DJJ practical and accessible knowledge of the law.  In particular, Elliott references the day he taught a lesson on law enforcement.  At the beginning of the class the kids were very cynical and even hostile toward anything surrounding the idea of police officers.  By the end of the class, however, a few of the kids were able to really put themselves in the shoes of police officers and begin to understand the reasons behind their conduct.  The simple acknowledgment that “maybe cops aren’t as bad as I think” was a huge victory.

Currently, he is providing Pro Bono assistance by working with the South Carolina Access to Justice Commission’s Self-Represented Litigant Committee under the supervision of Stephanie Nye, Counsel to the Chief Justice. This Committee is working to implement the state’s first self-help centers, which will provide resources to self-represented litigants.  Specifically Elliott is helping to draft and edit self-help centers’ guidelines. Additionally he is also drafting a resource list which contains relevant contact information and links to resources that for self-represented litigants.

When asked whether this particular Pro Bono experience has given him any surprises, he noted “I have been surprised at the level of opposition to self-help centers in some counties.  I understand some feelings of caution about the idea, but outright opposition is surprising.”

He continued “I have learned about the real value in providing services to self-represented litigants.  It’s a shame that South Carolina is many years behind other states in providing such services.”

Elliott also noted that his pro bono experience working with the SC Access to Justice Commission “has simply reaffirmed that the practice of law is a great way to serve others, as there is great need.”

As to his future?

“At this stage I see myself going into some form of public service.”

And what would he tell other law students about his experience?

“Pro Bono work has always been interesting, unique, challenging, and rewarding.  It has really enriched my law school experience, and I plan to make it a significant part of my professional career.”

-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