SC Supreme Court News: Revisions to the Self-Represented Litigant Simple Divorce Packet

Earlier today the Supreme Court of South Carolina issued an Order with Revisions to the Self-Represented Litigant Simple Divorce Packet based upon suggestions from the legal community to the SC Access to Justice Commission.

Changes include:

  1. Addition of a sample script for the Plaintiff;
  2. Paragraphs 1 and 2 have been added to Page 1 so the parties can provide the county and state of their residency;
  3. Paragraph 3 of Page 1 has been added so the parties can provide the county and state where they last shared a residence;
  4. Paragraph 4 has been revised to allow the Plaintiff to select the length of time the parties have lived in South Carolina; and
  5. The statement “If no name change is requested, please leave blank” is added at the end of Paragraph B on page 3.
The instructions for completing the Simple Divorce Packet have been revised to reflect these changes.

-RFW

April 23rd – That’s the BIG day for Feb 2010 SC Bar Examinees!

ALTERNATE TITLE: Why I no longer receive Martha Stewart Living.

This Friday, April 23rd, is a BIG day for February 2010 SC Bar Examinees. That’s THE day they learn if they passed the bar exam.

According to the SC Courts website:

The results of the February 2010 Bar Examination will be posted on this page at 4:00 p.m. on Friday, April 23, 2010. Additionally, a letter notifying each bar applicant of the results will be mailed on Friday, April 23, 2010. Telephonic requests for information about these results will not be accepted until 9:00 a.m. on Monday, April 26, 2010.

For any of us, this is a HUGE day to remember.

And for those of you who are curious:

Why I no longer receive Martha Stewart Living.

I took the July 1999 SC Bar Exam. The exam lasted 3 days and entailed 2 days of state-specific-topic-sensitive essays and 1 day of multiple choice questions for the multi-state exam. It was a grueling time and I have finally overcome the tic when I speak or think of it.

(Seriously though, sleep is the best study aid! It allows you to concentrate and breathe – at the same time.)

At any rate, I began my job – not yet an attorney, but no longer a student. I always corrected people when they noted that I was an attorney – “not yet, I haven’t received the bar results.” Then August passed.  September passed uneventfully. Then came October. The beginning of the month wasn’t so bad.

(Historically South Carolina announces its July Bar results at the end of October and the February results near the end of April.)

By mid-October though, the nightmares began. Fleeting thoughts of job searches would pop into my head, seemingly out of nowhere. And by the last week of October, law students began calling one another, sending emails and commiserating. Rumors abounded. Then someone at the court said results would be announced at the end of the week. Thursday it was hard to concentrate. I told my senior attorney that the results would be forthcoming on Friday. She was glad I told her.

Friday was almost untenable. At 4:00 p.m. on Friday, I walked into my office, closed the door, wiped the sweat from my brow and picked up the phone. I pulled up the call-in number and tried to dial. I exhaled and hands-shaking, I dialed the number. There was a familiar sound on the line – what WAS that sound? Why wasn’t it ringing? Oh yes, that’s the busy signal. Phew! At least I was able to dial. I tried again. No luck. Now I was shaking. I went back into my senior attorney’s office – “May I take off for the rest of the afternoon?” She was kind and smiled “yes, of course.” So, at 4:10 p.m. I slunk out of the office, trying not to meet anyone’s gaze. I drove home and picked up the phone to dial the number. I dialed and received a recording indicating that the information had been mailed and that I should receive the information the following day.

I don’t remember the rest of the evening. But early the next morning, 6:00 a.m.-ish, I awoke with a lump in my throat. I padded out of bed and upstairs to stare at papers on my home desk. My husband awoke a little later and offered to make coffee and breakfast. What? Oh yeah, please, that would be very nice.

Neither helped a nervous stomach. My husband, who had survived this process several years earlier, took pity on me and offered to take me out until the mail came. “No thanks.”

He started puttering in the garage. That way he’d be close to the mailbox. I had asked him to get the mail – just in case.

Everytime I heard a car or truck move past our home, I fluttered over to the window and peered out.

Then, around 10:00 a.m., my husband informed me that he had to pick up a part for his car, but he’d be right back. “After all” he said “mail usually arrives around 2:00 or 3:00 in the afternoon. It’s still early.”

I wasn’t convinced, but knew he had common sense at the moment. I acquiesced.

I tried to match his cheerful wave as I watched his car drive away, so with a toothy-grimace, I waved him on.

Toothy-grimace re-enactment

Exactly 22 seconds later, I heard a familiar engine. OH NO, it CAN’T be. It simply can’t be! Yup, the mail-truck. Sure, there wasn’t any sleet, rain or snow – but why couldn’t he be on time? Why early? Today of all days!

And I peered outside from the safety of my upstairs office. Mind you, I had left my glasses at my desk, so I had to squint. Squint I did! And then I saw him put a large manila-type package into the box. I burst into tears!

[NOTE: When you pass the SC Bar exam, typically you receive a regular envelope with a congratulatory letter. When you do NOT pass the SC Bar exam, typically you receive a manila envelope with an application enclosed.]

Back to the tears. I was inconsolable. My thoughts crowded:

  • Oh no, I’m going to have to look for a job!
  • How am I going to face my classmates.
  • Everyone will think I’m stupid.
  • OH NO! I studied for that exam like I’ve never studied before. If I can’t pass this one, what makes me think I can pass another?
  • THREE YEARS. Three years of my life. WASTED!

I could go on, but you get the picture.

I sat on the top stair. Nose running. Eyes flowing. Face buried in my hand. Sobbing. Gulping. Sobbing. My whole body convulsing.

I didn’t even hear my husband come in.

I didn’t hear him say “I’ll go pick up the mail.”

I didn’t hear him say “YOU’VE PASSED! YOU’VE PASSED! YOU’VE PASSED! – It’s a SMALL WHITE ENVELOPE! YOU’VE PASSED!”

He brought the letter to me. I pulled my head up. I tried to read the letters on the page, but they were all blurry. Why can’t I read? Oh yea, you have to stop crying. I did. Finally. My husband watched expectantly.

I felt jubilation. I passed.

Wait, what was that manila-envelope thing I’d seen the mailman deposit into our box? OH, Martha Stewart Living magazine with a paper cover. Sorry Martha, but I never renewed.

– RFW

My First Animoto!

SC Access to Justice Commission.

Click the link to see the first SC Access to Justice Commission’s Animoto video.

-RFW

Chief Justice Toal Presents . . .

Recently Chief Justice Toal of the Supreme Court of South Carolina delivered two important speeches; one to the SC Bar at their annual convention at Kiawah, and one to the SC House Ways and Means.

The takeaway? The financial crisis is taking its toll on the efficiency of the courts. While this may seem like a “duh” moment to many and a “d’oh” moment to others, the repercussions to access to justice could be devastating.

Let’s support our courts and keep access to our courts.

-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

Rule 608

SC Appellate Court Rules, Rule 608. Appointment of Lawyers for Indigents

January 2009. The South Carolina Bar (SCBar) files a petition with the Supreme Court of South Carolina to modify Rule 608 so that no attorneys would be appointed to serve as lawyers for indigents without full compensation.

February 2009. The Supreme Court of South Carolina forwards the SCBar’s request to the South Carolina Access to Justice (SCATJ) Commission to study and make recommendations. The SCATJ Commission convenes the Pro Bono Committee to discuss the request.

Spring into Summer 2009. The SCATJ Commission’s Pro Bono Committee and its Rule 608 Work Group meet to study and review the Rule. The Rule 608 Work Group invites interested parties to meet to discuss issues related to Rule 608. The Rule 608 Work Group meets with the SCBar’s Board of Governors, the SCBar’s Rule 608 Task Force, and others.

July 15, 2009. The SCATJ Commission submits its findings and recommendations to the Court.

July 22, 2009. The Supreme Court of South Carolina modifies Rule 608 regarding exemptions.

November 20, 2009. The Supreme Court of South Carolina amends Rule 608 appointments to end the appointment of attorneys as guardians ad litem (GALs) in the Family Court.

December 17, 2009. The Supreme Court of South Carolina amends Rule 608, effective July 1, 2010,  adopting a number of the recommended appointments. The Supreme Court notes that it will continue to analyze and scrutinize appointments to determine whether further changes are necessary. Specifically the Court will continue to gather data regarding the appointments.

Highlights of the Amendments:

  • Modifications to the Regional List from which attorneys may be selected to assist in handling appointments in other counties – 6 Regional Lists (Region 6 split 1/2 year);
  • Reduced number of appointments in an appointment year – from 10 to 7;
  • Increased the pool of eligible attorneys by raising the age exemption to 65 years of age;
  • Technology advances – attorneys may attend certain hearings by telephone or videoconference;
  • Increased reporting requirements to the SC Bar so that the Court may accurately analyze the appointments by county and type of appointment.

And while the Court graciously thanked all who served on the Rule 608 study group, I too would like to thank the Commissioners, the SC Bar, Court Administration, Court IT personnel, and others who spent numerous hours reviewing data and rerunning data for our study. Thank you!

-RFW

For more posts on Rule 608, click here.

October Wrap-Up SC Supreme Court News

October WrapLast month there was a lot of excitement at the South Carolina Supreme Court.

If you have a moment, take a look at these news items. Each offers perspective into the work of the Court and its endeavor to serve access to justice.

-RFW