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

SCATJ Trains Magistrates

Yesterday the South Carolina Access to Justice Commission was pleased to be part of the Orientation for South Carolina Magistrates held at the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy.

Here is the presentation: Courtroom JUSTICE FOR ALL including SRLs July 2009

Here are some photos from the training:

A question about SRLs
A question about SRLs
Stephanie Nye presents
Stephanie Nye presents
Stephanie responding to a question
Stephanie responding to a question
Magistrates in the classroom
Magistrates in the classroom
Robin speaking
Robin speaking
-RFW

Photos from 6.17.09 Commission Meeting

Yesterday the South Carolina Access to Justice Commission held its meeting from 10:30 a.m. until a few minutes after 2:00 p.m. We were fortunate to start the morning with presentations from two Commissioners who work with Philanthropic Organizations – Tom Keith of Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina and Mac Bennett of United Way of the Midlands.
Commissioner Tom Keith Presents
Commissioner Tom Keith Presents
Commissioner Mac Bennett presents
Commissioner Mac Bennett presents

Several guests were in attendance as we discussed issues related to Staffed Programs such as South Carolina Legal Services and initiatives relating to Self-Represented Litigants.

Commissioners and guests at the 6.17.09 meeting
Commissioners and guests at the 6.17.09 meeting
The Hon. Michelle Childs, Chief Admin Judge of the SC 5th Circuit, and Tanya Gee of the SC Court of Appeals discuss SRLs
The Hon. Michelle Childs, Chief Admin Judge of the SC 5th Circuit, and Tanya Gee of the SC Court of Appeals discuss SRLs
The Commission then discussed progress on Rule 608 with members of the work group in attendance.
Louise Cooper of the SC GAL program and Hugh Ryan of SC Commission on Indigent Defense
Louise Cooper of the SC GAL program and Hugh Ryan of SC Commission on Indigent Defense
Commissioners and Guests
Commissioners and Guests
Allie Bullard, our Pro Bono law clerk, working hard at the meeting
Allie Bullard, our Pro Bono law clerk, working hard at the meeting

 Special thanks to Cindy Sullivan, Willson Powell, and Jada Bannen of Nelson Mullins for their assistance!

Photographs by Stephanie A. Nye.

-RFW

Social Justice

Yesterday I had the distinct honor and pleasure to present South Carolina Access to Justice to Professor Susan Kuo’s Social Justice class at USC School of Law. I was pleased to share video from the Commission’s public hearings as well as field questions from the students.

If you’re interested in viewing my presentation, click here.

-RFW

More SRLs: Are Lawyers too Costly or Simply Sign of Hard Times?

That’s the question coming out of Connecticut this week, see Connecticut Law Tribune article here. Whatever the answer, the numbers of Self-Represented Litigants or SRLs is on the rise. The trend isn’t limited to Connecticut either. Recent conversations with family court judges, clerks of court and masters-in-equity have indicated that South Carolina is also part of the trend.

The challenges faced by other court systems also mirror what is happening in South Carolina. SRLs are not familiar with procedures to meet minimal requirements such as notifying the other party or service of process. Even if they meet procedural requirements they may not understand some of the documents themselves. They may not even complete all the necessary forms.

Additionally, attorneys have a reputation for using their own language, also known as legalese. The phrases in legal documents often are in Latin, not English. The South Carolina Access to Justice Commission is working with the courts to ensure that court documents are written in Plain English whenever possible.

Clerks of Court in South Carolina have also noted the rise in SRLs. Members of the public often ask for forms, then ask for help completing them. Or they may ask for advice from the clerk of whether to bring the action. Clerks are wary of responding – not because they don’t want to help, but because they don’t want to overstep into the practice of law – the unauthorized practice of law. In South Carolina, there are established laws indicating that only attorneys licensed in South Carolina may practice law in South Carolina. Legal advice is considered the practice of law. The South Carolina Access to Justice Commission is also working to address this question by developing signage clearly indicating what clerks can and cannot do. And the Commission is working with a clerk of court work group to educate clerks and the general public about the fine line between advice and information.

Judges note that they too have ethical dilemmas. When SRLs appear in their courtrooms and miss relevant pieces of their cases, the judges want to help but they too have boundaries. They may not help one side to the detriment of another.

SRLs have arrived and South Carolina is working to address the issue of increased numbers of SRLs in the courts.

But it may take a little while.

Thanks for your patience.

-RFW

In the News: Commissioner Sue Berkowitz

Forbes.com features a story about Medicaid in South Carolina and Commissioner Sue Berkowitz is quoted in the article.

According to the Forbes article:

A deal reached Thursday will send $173 million immediately to South Carolina’s Medicaid programs to restore money lost to budget cuts for everything from cancer treatments to wheelchair ramps.

-RFW

SC Appleseed NOW!

Over Fifty, Overdrawn

This evening SC Appleseed Legal Justice Center will hit the small screen via NOW on PBS!

Sue Berkowitz, the Executive Director of Appleseed and an SCATJ Commissioner, was interviewed and will be featured on this program discussing the impact of the economic climate on today’s Baby Boomers.

According to the Post and Courier, other South Carolinians featured in the 30 minute show include Teresa Arnold, legislative director of the state’s AARP office and State Rep. Alan Clemmons, R-Myrtle Beach.

NOW airs tonight (1/23/09) at 8:30 p.m. on SCETV. And for those of us unable to view the program tonight, streaming video will be available online after the broadcast.

-RFW

Our Top Blog Stats in 2008

Drum Roll Please . . .

 

 

South Carolina Access to Justice Blog’s Top Posts in 2008:

 

  1. 391 views          About. Most blog readers are interested in learning more about an organization or the author, hence the most views. 
  2. 319 views          SCATJ brings Rick Springfield into TSA holding cell at Boston Logan. Star power sells. Thank goodness for serendipity and Rick Springfield and the Boston Logan TSA.
  3. 254 views          VOTE HERE – on Access to Justice. Elections matter in a presidential election year, especially when the presidential outcome will be historical no matter which candidate is elected – special thanks to Barack Obama & Joe Biden and John McCain & Sarah Palin.
  4. 230 views          Photos from the South Carolina Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission Public Hearing on November 5, 2008. People like photos. What’s that again – a picture is worth a 1,000 what? Oh yeah. Makes sense.
  5. 200 views           Shameless Plug 2.0. A little honesty never hurt anyone, right? And if there’s humor in the title, even better, right? Oh yeah, don’t forget the photos – see #4.
  6. 188 views            Resources. There is always a need for information and a RESOURCES page is chock full of info. Plus there may be a few readers checking to see if they’re on the list. Hey, I’m all about accuracy.
  7. 174 views            Photos. (see #4)
  8. 161 views             Contact Us. This one seems extremely logical. Who do I need to reach to complain? To exclaim? To congratulate? And for all of you who have contacted Stephanie Nye or me via phone or email, thanks.

And thank you for reading the blog. I was somewhat dubious when someone suggested a blog in order to help create interest in the South Carolina Access to Justice Commission and its upcoming website (thanks Jay Wingard of 18th Street Design who has wonderful PATIENCE while waiting for me to complete the web pages).

 

And if you ever have a topic you think will be of interest, please forward to me at rwheeler@scbar.org.

 

I look forward to bringing you more news in 2009 about access to justice in South Carolina and around the nation and world.

 

-RFW

SC ATJ New Year’s Wishes or Resolutions?

COUNTDOWN TO 2009

rfw-hny092

As the New Year’s wishes and resolutions are starting to pour in, I’ve had a few moments to ponder Access to Justice resolutions for 2009. Before I lose count of the many goals for 2009, I thought I’d share a few.

12. South Carolina Access to Justice will develop a working relationship with legal paraprofessionals throughout the state.

11. Technology advances such as instant messaging, podcasts, YouTube videos, and email allow greater communication to and for people in need of low-cost legal services, especially when transportation imposes a barrier.

10. The Commission and partner organizations reach solutions to the need for interpreters for individuals who are Deaf and with Limited English Proficiency (LEP).

9.  South Carolina law students, both USC School of Law and Charleston School of Law students, become engaged in access to justice and collaborate with the Commission for creative solutions.

8. South Carolina attorneys recognize the opportunity that unbundled or limited scope legal services can provide to South Carolinians with low income or of modest means, especially during this financial climate while sustaining the attorney’s practice at the same time.

7. SC Access to Justice establishes a library workgroup to assist self-represented litigants (SRLs) with access to approved, free legal forms (http://www.sccourts.org/forms/indexSelfHelp.cfm) and to establish a long-lasting partnership with libraries.

6. All South Carolinians who are unable to afford an attorney can reach one access point for all South Carolina legal service organizations.

5. Every County Courthouse will house or have access to a nearby self-help center for self-represented litigants.

4. Every county self-help center will be staffed for a minimum of 5 hours per week by pro bono attorneys.

3. Every South Carolina licensed attorney completes at least 50 hours of pro bono service as per ABA Model Rule 6.1 VOLUNTARY PRO BONO SERVICE.

2. The Second Pilot Lawyer Mentor Program incorporates the aspirational Pro Bono expectation and that it becomes a “shall” instead of a “should.”

1. That ALL South Carolinians have equal access to the law and its remedies without regard to their economic status.

Happy New Year!

-RFW

SC Access to Justice Readers’ Choice for the Holidays?

Why the Transcript of the South Carolina Supreme Court November 5th Public Hearing on Access to Justice of course!

the-court-is-in-session

Click here for the  transcript.

Many Thanks to Winkie Clark for uploading the transcript to the www.sccourts.org website and to Mary Ann Ridenour for forwarding it to SC Access to Justice!

-RFW