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.

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

-RFW

Now for the NEWS

Earlier I listed some of the recent blog posts I enjoyed. Below are some recent newsworthy items from around the state, nation and world:

  1. Out of Knoxville TN: Public meeting to discuss increasing need of legal help for poor
  2. Out of Texas: Opinion Piece –  New OAG Service Helps Parents Address Visitation Concerns.
  3. Out of Vancouver, Canada: High fees that block access to the courts block access to justice.
  4. Out of Colorado: Justice for all – Salt Lake City attorney serves the homeless.
  5. Out of Oregon: Hard Times for Access to Justice – Economic Downturn is Beginning to Take its Toll in Oregon.
  6. Out of the UK: Judge rules CPS wrong to deny victim with mental illness right to fight for justice.
  7. Out of Minneapolis/St. Paul: Court of Appeals testing new mediation process.
  8. From NPR: Immigration Crackdown Overwhelms Judges.
  9. Out of Washington: AGs push for mortgage modifications.
  10. Out of West Virginia – State must submit plan to prevent juvenile racial injustice.
  11. Out of Tulsa, OK: A lawful dosage. A medical-legal partnership fills in some gaps in child health-care issues.
  12. Out of North Carolina: Legal Aid in demand and in a bind.
  13. Out of New Jersey: Agency that gives legal help to poor is in financial crisis.
  14. Out of Florida: Judge John Blue Receives 2009 Chief Justice’s Distinguished Judicial Service Award.
  15. Out of Massachusetts: President of One Laptop Per Child to speak Feb. 10.  (yes this is past, but it’s still worth reading)
  16. From Berkeley: Bringing it all back home – In her new job, Wilda White pursues a lifelong passion for social justice.
  17. Out of Massachussets: Legal services needed for immigrants in Milford.
  18. Also from Massachussetts: Letter From The President Of The Boston Bar Association.
  19. Out of Mississippi: Miss. legal aid grows scarce as economy gets worse – Unlike in the criminal justice system, indigent in civil cases aren’t guaranteed an attorney.
  20. Out of England: Let’s not be too misty eyed about legal aid, but it is at a crossroads.
  21. From Chattanooga: 6 Chattanooga Law Firms Commit To Greater Legal Service For The Poor.
  22. Out of Florida: Judge calls on Lawyers – Supreme Court judge would like to see equal justice.

Oh, there’s more, but I have to stop somewhere.

Besides, this list is just in case you have a few moments . . .

-RFW

D.C. and Pro Bono: A Good Combo

When most people think of Washington, D.C., they think of politics. Well, D.C. attorneys are taking on another role, that of pro bono supporters.

The D.C. Bar has announced a new campaign to raise money and continued support for its Pro Bono Program.

Last year alone, the Pro Bono Program touched the lives of some 15,000 District residents

We wish them success with their campaign!

-RFW

Denial of Services Becomes Deadly Barrier to Justice

University Legal Services, the protection and advocacy system for the District of Columbia, recently published a report about Mr. Johnson (alias) who died in February of this year. 

The tragedy of this story is that Mr. Johnson’s caregiver had initiated paperwork for services sometime between 2000 and 2001 – YEARS AGO! The initial request was denied. After the denial, additional requests were submitted resulting in additional barriers.

Finally in early 2007, Family and Child Services, Inc. (FCS) of Washington, D.C. was called in. FCS and Mr. Johnson’s court-appointed guardian sought services for Mr. Johnson – including emergency residential care.

On his own, Mr. Johnson was: 

  • unable to appropriately monitor his medications;
  • unable to properly clean and maintain his home; and
  • unable to observe proper bodily hygiene.

Mr. Johnson’s living conditions as relayed in the report A Deplorable Death  are astonishingly horrific.

The fact that CFS and his guardian were unable to secure appropriate residential care for him is abominable. The application for the emergency residential care was originally submitted in June 2007. After much delay, he was found eligible for services in November 2007 but the assessment for necessary services was not requested until January 2008. The assessment, dated February 12, 2008, revealed that Mr. Johnson was eligible for ICF-MR services.

NOTE: ICF-MR residential services are considered some of the most intensive services within the continuum of residential services for people with developmental disabilities. An ICF-MR offers 24 hour care and supervision.

On February 19, 2008, one week after being found eligible for ICF-MR services, Mr. Johnson was found unconscious in his apartment and was taken to a hospital.

Mr. Johnson never regained consciousness and died on February 23, 2008.

On February 29, 2008, Mr. Johnson’s guardian informed his DDA caseworker of Mr. Johnson’s death.

DDA then offered to pay for Mr. Johnson’s burial, through their burial assistance program.

Please take a moment to read about Mr. Johnson and consider the ramifications when someone is denied access to legal representation. The result may not be as severe, but let’s not take that chance. Support your local legal services entity, your local protection and advocacy system, your local Bar Foundation!

You may save a life.

– RFW

P.S.

SC Legal Services – http://www.sclegal.org

Protection and Advocacy for People with Disabilities, Inc. – http://www.protectionandadvocacy-sc.org

SC Bar Foundation – http://www.scbarfoundation.org/

Access to Justice in the NEWS

There are two articles today about access to justice.

The first is out of a fellow southern state, Tennessee. The Tennessee High Court has changed to a Female Majority – a first in the South. The article also recognizes the “current mantra of the state’s Supreme Court centers on access to justice.”

The second article comes out of the nation’s capitol – Washington, D.C.

The D.C. Access to Justice Commission released a report yesterday. It highlights a “125-page study found that poorer D.C. residents are not adequately represented in a variety of proceedings.

-RFW