Resource Center for Access to Justice Initiatives

Access to Justice Headlines Archive

 

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Legal Aid Funding & Service Delivery

10.1.13 - from WBZ in Boston: "A new pilot program that offers free services from retired judges to resolve mostly family-related cases is set to start on Nov. 1 in Canton, open to all 14 divisions of the state.... A majority of cases will include family-law related, relative to child-custody disputes and child-support issues, will disputes, and divorce cases…. Hosted at the Norfolk Probate and Family Court, the judges will see parties for up to an hour on the first Friday of every month."

9.30.13 – as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month begins, the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee highlights its work with/for DV victims in a Tennessean op-ed.

9.30.13 – in "Elgin Attorney Expands Christian Legal Aid in the Suburbs," the Daily Herald (Illinois) looks at the growth of nonprofit law office Administer Justice. In 2000, attorney Bruce Strom "founded Administer Justice….as a part-time information-only legal clinic. But it became so busy that he left [his fee-paying law practice] to turn the nonprofit into a full-time, full-service Christian organization that served the needs of the poor…. So what started as a small office with no volunteers, Administer Justice has since grown into a full-service legal aid group with multiple offices, 12 workers and more than 700 volunteers, including about 250 attorneys…."

9.29.13 - the Daily Record reports on the (busy) new Montgomery County, MD office of the Legal Aid Bureau of Maryland: "‘The general understanding is Montgomery County is one of our most prosperous counties,' said [Legal Aid Bureau Executive Director Wilhelm] Joseph. ‘While the prosperous population is growing, so is the non-prosperous population.' Between 2007 and 2010, the number of county residents living below the federal poverty line grew by two-thirds, or more than 30,000 people…pushing the poverty rate up nearly 3 percentage points." If you're wondering why a Maryland publication's article about a Maryland news story is hosted on the Kansas City Star's website, week that makes two of us.

9.26.13 – in Idaho, the editors of the Twin Falls Times-News are not taking word of legal aid budget and service cuts sitting down: "we groaned when Idaho Legal Aid Services informed us that it will drastically reduce its representation for indigent battered women because of federal budget cuts. Hundreds of women, with nowhere else to turn, rely on the organization's attorneys to win them legal protection…. But no more. Did we mention 18 Idahoans died in 2011 after being beaten by their partner? [ILAS] has for years relied on federal and state grants to fund its open-for-all legal service. The continued federal sequester cost the U.S. Department of Justice $20 million in grant funding that had been offered to organizations such as [ILAS] through the Violence Against Women Act. The organization's federal funding ceases on Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year. Other federal funding…through [LSC]…precipitously dropped more than $250,000 since 2010, said Jim Cook, ILAS' executive director. When lawmakers faced the inconvenience of delayed airline flights earlier this year because of the sequester, they scurried to fix the issue. But victims of domestic violence aren't getting such a reprieve."

9.25.13 – a big cy pres award will benefit legal aid providers in the Evergreen State. Class-action residuals related to lawsuit about overcharging of people who were making phone calls from Washington State jails are being divvied up by the Legal Foundation of Washington ($12 million) and the Endowment for Equal Justice ($1 million). Here's the Order, which has some detail about how the Legal Foundation is directed to use over half of its award for grants to array of public interest law offices.

9.24.13 - With a new state funding stream, Nevada Legal Services is ramping up its hotline-based program to serve rural seniors, according to the Elko Daily Free Press.

9.23.13 – in the glorious Keystone State, the state house has passed a bill that "adds one dollar to the Access to Justice Act filing fee, which would make a total of $4 in filing fees to support legal services. The additional dollar is valued annually at about $2.5 million." The bill also eliminates a sunset provision on a portion of this fee that was already going to support legal aid. Neither the Senate nor the Governor is expected to oppose the measure. Read more from the PA Legal Aid Network.

9.22.13 - in our last ATJ Headlines edition we shared resource on how legal aid providers can help clients sort through Obamacare options: "Ten Ways Your Legal Aid Program Can Connect Clients to New Health Insurance Opportunities." We then noticed that Legal Services of Northern California held a free educational seminar late last month, according to the Woodland Daily Democrat.

9.19.13 – North Carolina's IOLTA fund to share a cy pres award generated by class-action residuals. From a press release: "The three [class actions], settled in 2010, have resulted in payouts to class members of $28,228,649. Approximately $1 million remained from the fund after payout efforts were completed. This 'residual' amount was divided equally between the Indigent Person's Attorney Fund and IOLTA.... In 2012 the North Carolina Equal Access to Justice Commission, an organization chaired by the Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, published a booklet encouraging the use of 'cy pres' and other court awards to support legal aid providers. The Commission's initiative attempts to offset some of the hardship arising from curtailed legal aid funding and reduced interest rates on IOLTA accounts." (Here's the cy pres booklet.)

9.18.13 - the ABA bestows a "Legal Rebel" distinction upon Fred Rooney, who is largely responsible for the growth of law school incubator programs in the past several years: "Rooney used [a position at CUNY Law School] to start filling a gaping hole in the law–access for all to legal services–and created a program to train lawyers serving poor and moderate-income clients to become not just good advocates but smart businesspeople too. 'We started a network where we had full-time staff to provide to graduates developing small and solo firms the kinds of services they'd get if they were at a large firm,' he says. "It was the beginning of a movement in the United States to support graduates'." Congrats, Fred, on your rebellion!

9.17.13 – from the Albany Times-Union: "The state needs to properly fund legal representation for the poor in civil cases regardless of its economic climate, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli told a judicial panel on Tuesday." The hearing was one of a series convened by Chief Judge Lippman, according to the Wall Street Journal: "Lippman plans to hold...hearings this year and report to the Legislature about funding that's available and what's needed. He's held similar hearings before and established a task force to examine it, cited a previous estimate that only 20 percent of the need was being met but added that progress has been made."

9.17.13 – in Sacramento, the former "Affordable Legal Aid", which is not a law firm and does not provide free legal services to low-income clients, has changed its name to "Affordable Legal Assistance." From a press release: "It was brought to Affordable Legal Aid, Inc.'s attention that their name contains 'legal aid', which could be misleading or confusing to the public with 'free legal aid'."

9.10.13 – the New York Times highlights t he federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which recently-graduated public interest lawyers may utilize. Managing student debt requires strategic thinking and individually tailored solutions. For my money (literally and metaphorically), I'd check in with the resources offered by Heather Jarvis and/or Equal Justice Works to learn how various repayment assistance programs may work.

9.10.13 – here's John Mayer of the Center for Access to Justice & Technology at Chicago-Kent College of Law explaining how "A2J Author" functions as an automated-form software tool that can be used by court staff, legal aid programs, and self-represented litigants. Mayer likens A2J Author to Turbo Tax in hat it aims to simplify sometimes complex processes.

9.6.13 – Pennsylvania legal aid providers get some great - albeit one-time - news: $4.1 million in funding from cy pres residuals. From a media release: "Chief Justice of Pennsylvania Ronald D. Castille said today that rules adopted by the Supreme Court...in 2012 are again paying big dividends in helping provide legal services for low income Pennsylvanians. A civil procedure rule that took effect July 1, 2012, directed how money left over from lawsuits after the plaintiffs, attorney fees and expenses have been paid is to be distributed.... The Interest on Lawyers Trust Account (IOLTA) Board, which works to increase access to the civil courts for low income Pennsylvanians, was designated...to receive at least 50 percent of the unclaimed funds from civil class action settlements.... The remaining 50 percent may also be designated to the IOLTA Board or to another organization that has a relationship with or promotes the interests of the class action lawsuit's objectives."

September, 2013 – with large-scale changes coming to our healthcare system, here is a resource on how legal aid providers can help connect clients with the best options and programs for them: "Ten Ways Your Legal Aid Program Can Connect Clients to New Health Insurance Opportunities."

9.3.13 - Supporting equal justice is not a partisan issue. "U.S. Sen. Rob Portman joined more than 800 members of the Greater Cleveland legal community on Tuesday to salute the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland's efforts to pursue justice for the poor, needy and vulnerable.... Portman was introduced at Tuesday's luncheon by former [Democratic] U.S. Congressman and retired Legal Aid board member Louis Stokes, who said Portman strongly supports Legal Aid's work to ensure shelter, safety and economic security for those most in need, not only in Cleveland but nationwide." (Story from the Cleveland Plain Dealer.)

9.3.13 - Coincidentally, I suppose, a troika of bad-funding-news stories out of PA:

the Bucks County Courier Times reports on Legal Aid of Southeastern, PA, which serves the four densely populated counties bordering Philadelphia: "Budget cuts have forced the nonprofit...to lay off about 15 percent of its staff in Philadelphia suburbs. Attorneys are taking on 41 percent fewer pro bono child custody cases and 8 percent fewer clients seeking protection from abuse orders, officials said."

the Scranton Times-Tribune reports that North Penn Legal Services, which covers 20 counties in central and northeastern, PA, is consolidating two of its biggest offices "in a merger intended to conserve the scarce resources of a nonprofit agency stung hard by state and federal budget cuts."

Finally, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Neighborhood Legal Services Association is taking an all-hands-on-deck approach with its board members and fundraising efforts.

9.2.13 - Legal fraud targeting immigrants is on the rise, according to immigration lawyers who blame confusion arising from the political debate over immigration reform. Washington-area civil legal services groups recently sued the Federal Trade Commission for access to a national database of consumer complaints, saying the information would aid in the fight against fraud.... Of special concern to some of the plaintiffs is "notario" fraud. Notarios publicos are authorized in some Latin American countries to provide legal services, but they can't practice law in the United States. Immigration lawyers and advocates say that notarios prey on immigrants seeking less expensive legal help. (Story from the National Law Journal. You can access the complaint through PACER.)

8.29.13 - This is a Tweet from San Francisco-based OneJustice: "This is BRILLIANT! Why can't we come up with something playful and interactive that explains why LEGAL SERVICES..." OneJustice was referring to this interactive online presentation that looks at economic inequality in the U.S. Whether you agree with the message or not, it is a great use of technology to carry a message. And the legal aid community will benefit as more of us refine and expand our messaging to reach new communities and recruit new allies.

8.22.12 - the Milwaukee Justice Center is going mobile. From their Facebook page: "The Milwaukee Justice Center Mobile Legal Clinic, a project of Marquette University Law School and the Milwaukee Bar Association, will provide MJC programs to Milwaukee neighborhoods lacking convenient access to the Courthouse. Utilizing the popular and effective Marquette Volunteer Legal Clinic model, the Mobile Legal Clinic will offer the services of volunteer attorneys, aided by law students, providing brief legal advice on a variety of civil legal matters. The clinic also will offer family law "forms" assistance."

Interestingly, we've seen legal aid and pro bono providers using buses for both urban and rural outreach. This Shriver Center blog post highlights bus outreach in both settings.

8.19.13 - A piece on the National Law Review website highlights an Illinois practice-rule change to permit limited scope representation: "Rule 13 now specifically permits attorneys to make a limited scope appearance on behalf of a civil litigant. The attorney must have entered into a written agreement with the client to provide limited scope representation. The rule also requires attorneys to file a Notice of Limited Scope Appearance that specifically identifies which aspects of the proceeding the attorney is representing the client in."

8.19.13 - business is bustling at self-help website MichiganLegalHelp.org, and that's also the case at brick & mortar self-help centers that are running in five (and growing) counties. East Village Magazine has the details.

8.17.13 - a Star-Tribune Q&A with Legal Services Advocacy Project attorney Ron Elwood, who was a driver in bringing Minnesota's new Foreclosure Relief Law, to fruition. Of the law, Elwood says, "Its fundamental premise is that a homeowner who is eligible for a loan modification or other option to avert foreclosure must be offered one, and if...that doesn't happen...then the homeowner can...force a "time out" to make sure every opportunity to save the home is provided...." Elwood goes on to note that the Minnesota Bankers Association was a partner in creating the legislation. As an aside, if the photo in the story does not scream "Serious Legislative Business" well then, man, I just don't know.

8.15.13 - an example of a federal funding stream with which the legal aid community may not be familiar. The Department of Health and Human Services announced that it provided 105 grants - $67 million all told - to organizations that will serve as "Navigators," who will help people understand their healthcare options as federal reforms take root. Of the 105 recipients, I see at least three legal aid providers:

Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County (FL), Inc. - Anticipated grant amount: $446,783

Virginia Poverty Law Center, Inc. - Anticipated grant amount: $1,278,592. (They got some local press, and the story suggests that some of the grant $ may flow through the Poverty Law Center to other providers.)

Legal Action of Wisconsin, Inc./SeniorLAW. - Anticipated grant amount: $70,000

Here's the full list of navigators, organized by state (105 grant recipients).

And on a related note, in early July a separate pot of Affordable Care Act funding - "Connecting Kids to Coverage Outreach and Enrollment Grants" - resulted in grants for legal aid providers in KY, MO, and PA.

8.14.13 - new ABA president James Silkenat pledged to support ATJ efforts in both the criminal and civil arenas. As to the latter, "Silkenat said he plans to help develop a Legal Access Job Corps, which will seek to address the country's growing unmet legal needs and the underemployment of recent law graduates. 'Instead of looking at the dearth of jobs and the large number of unmet legal needs as two separate silos, we will find ways to match young lawyers who need practical job experience with disadvantaged clients who need legal assistance,' the new president said." (Report from Legal Newsline.)

An 8/19 article on the Law360 site questions whether there exists the funding to support such an infrastructure: "The American Bar Association's plan to create a job corps to match young lawyers with opportunities in underserved areas of the country faces challenges related to local rules, insurance and mentoring, but by far the biggest hurdle, in an era of budget pain, is finding money to fund a flock of legal eagles, experts say."

8.13.13 - Almost a year after "superstorm" Sandy hit, those affected are dealing with thorny legal problems. From the Associated Press: "Thousands of people with damaged homes and businesses have sought help with legal headaches ranging from fights with building contractors to insurance disputes. In the first days after the Oct. 29 storm, mobile legal clinics sprang up in flooded communities to help people apply for emergency aid and navigate the federal bureaucracy. Nearly 10 months later, some are still operating, and the issues have become increasingly complex." The piece notes the work of Touro Law Center's Disaster Relief Clinic, among other providers.

8.12.13 - the Supreme Court may take up a case that, while on the merits having nothing to do with legal aid, could have implications for the use of cy pres funds. From the New York Times: "The Supreme Court will soon decide whether to hear the case, Marek v. Lane, No. 13-136. The justices have been quite active in restricting other aspects of class actions, and they may decide it is time to consider settlements that critics say leave plaintiffs worse off than when they started. Class-action lawyers call the diversion of settlement money from victims to other uses 'cy pres'." (Marek deals with a class action against Facebook, the result of which was a settlement from which the plaintiff class got no cash award - although the lawyers were compensated - and Facebook agreed to contribute $6.5 million toward founding a foundation.)

8.12.13 - "A change in policy from its largest contributor is pushing Indianapolis Legal Aid Society to introduce itself to a wider audience. The nonprofit was notified this summer that the United Way of Central Indiana would be reducing its contribution by nearly $126,000, according to John Floreancig, general counsel of ILAS and Ron Walker, president of the ILAS board of directors. The cut is the result of a recent shift in United Way policy. Specifically, the organization does not want its contributions to exceed 35 percent of any receiving agency's annual budget. In the UWCI's 2012-2013 fiscal year, ILAS has an annual budget of approximately $760,000, of which United Way support comprises about 51 percent or $384,541. The reduction will be phased in over the next three years until the amount cut comes close to $126,000. (Story from The Indiana Lawyer via the Indianapolis Business Journal.)

8.7.13 - From Massachusetts: "The Supreme Judicial Court's Rules Committee invites comments on proposed amendments to Mass. R. Civ. P. 23(e). The proposed amendments would require that at least fifty percent (50%) of residual funds in a class action be disbursed to the Massachusetts IOLTA Committee to support activities and programs that promote access to the civil justice system for low income residents of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts." Here's the announcement about the comment period, which closes on 9/6/13.

7.23.13 – one more illustration of the toll that funding cuts take on legal aid providers (and clients). From Tennessee: "...Memphis Area Legal Services lost more than $300,000 in state, federal and local funding. Sequestration and lower interest rates on trust accounts have led to fewer dollars. Once busy offices are now empty and the staff has gone from 50 to 38." (Story from TV station WREG.)

7.23.13 – but some much better news for a Northern California legal aid provider: "A pair of 18-month grants for focused legal services won't save the day, but they could temporarily double the amount of legal assistance available to low-income residents on the North Coast. One grant funded largely by the National Mortgage Settlement Funds will add approximately six full-time attorneys to Legal Services of Northern California... The other, funded primarily by the Department of Managed Health Care, could add as many as 12 full-time attorneys." (Story from the Times-Standard of Eureka, CA.)

7.22.13 – "Congressional committees have approved budget proposals for Legal Services Corp. but did little to clear up whether the nation's civil legal service providers will take yet another hit next year. On one hand, the House Appropriations Committee approved a bill last week that includes $300 million for LSC for the fiscal year beginning on Oct. 1. That's down $28 million from what the panel approved last year amid continued budget constraints on Capitol Hill. But on the other hand, a Senate appropriations panel approved $430 million for LSC, a $28 million increase from what it approved last year and right in line with the White House budget. The Senate and House have traditionally resolved their differences in a budget conference by splitting the two figures down the middle. That outcome would leave LSC, the largest source of financial support nationwide for civil legal aid, with about the same $340 million budget as this year." (Blog post from the Blog of the Legal Times.)

7.22.13 – the Brooklyn Family Court Child Support Study is a courtroom observation initiative which records information on how well the court system is treating self-represented litigants, and what their experiences are like trying to navigate the justice system. "The project is notable for its breadth — it counts participants from nearly every corner of the legal profession: a public interest law group; a major corporate legal department; 15 law firms; law students from across the country; the courts. The study was conceived by the National Center for Access to Justice [at Cardozo Law]. The study is one piece of a larger effort to establish an Access to Justice Index — an online tool that identifies which state court systems are best meeting the needs of society and which are falling short." (Article from the National Law Journal.)

7.21.13 - in Maryland, the new Veterans Administration Medical Center legal clinic is housed right in the VA building. "The clinic was created by the VA, the Homeless Persons Representation Project and Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps, which is paying [its first staff attorney's] salary. Additional legal assistance, which is free to veterans, is to come from area law students and other [volunteer] attorneys." (Article from the Baltimore Sun.)

7.19.13 - Saints Peter & Paul, a Catholic parish in Hoboken, NJ, has launched a new legal aid program. The Waterfront Project Inc., which is a stand-alone nonprofit organization, "...began in March. Its mission is to ensure equal access to justice by providing legal advice, referral, consultation and representation in civil legal matters to low-income, homeless and otherwise disadvantaged individuals and families of Hudson County." Doesn't hurt that the parish's pastor, Monsignor Robert Meyer, is also a lawyer. (Story from the National Catholic Reporter.)

7.17.13 – a lawyer with the Northwest Justice Project in Washington State pens an op-ed that highlights an important state supreme court decision on court fee waivers for low-income litigants. "The Court stated [in Jafar v. Webb] 'The plain meaning of GR 34 establishes that a trial court must waive all fees once a litigant is determined to be indigent under the rule,' meaning 'a complete waiver in order to allow access to the courts'." (Op-ed from the Wenatchee World in beautiful Eastern Washington.)

7.14.13 – Legal Aid of Nebraska is partnering with another nonprofit on the "Fathers for a Lifetime" program, which provides legal and other support services to fathers who are involved in custody disputes or otherwise in need of help in establishing stable relationships with their children. (Story from KETV.)

July, 2013 – progress in serving veterans in Louisiana. First, Judge Jay Zainey of the Eastern District of Louisiana reports that two veterans courts are in the works in the New Orleans area. Second, a partnership with the local Veterans Administration (VA) office has produced a streamlined questionnaire form for assessing a vet's eligibility for benefits. The form has been distributed to local homeless shelters and to volunteer attorneys, law students, and others who work with the homeless.

July, 2013 – from Alaska, progress in providing online resources for self-represented litigants. Stacey Marz of the Alaska Court System reports on "a new court system homepage that highlights 'Representing Yourself' and then links to the different self-help websites within the system.... We [also] launched a new self-help website on Probate – Estates It is very comprehensive and answers many questions about the different processes as well as provides practical information that people should think about before death and after a loved one dies."

7.15.13 – on a related note, an op-ed looks at the issue of unrepresented parties in Alaska's civil courts: "In only one third of divorce and custody cases are both parties represented by an attorney. In another third only one party is represented, and in the last third neither side is represented. Many of these cases involve critical safety issues to Alaskan children and families, such as domestic violence and substance abuse. The statistics are even more dire when it comes to housing. Over half of eviction cases in Alaska involve situations where only one party, almost invariably the landlord, is represented by an attorney." (Full piece in the Anchorage Daily News.)

An Equal Justice Works twofer:

6.26.13 – Equal Justice Works deploys the Veterans Legal Corps: "Equal Justice Works…today announced the creation of the Veterans Legal Corps - 36 lawyers and 200 law students, serving the needs of low-income and homeless veterans. Equal Justice Works received AmeriCorps funding from the Corporation for National and Community Service/AmeriCorps. Equal Justice Works will place the lawyers and law students in legal aid organizations and courts across the country to improve the lives of veterans and their families by helping them secure access to income, housing, employment, and health care.” (Here's the announcement.) 6.25.13 - David Stern of Equal Justice Works explain how corporation/law firm partnerships have emerged as an effective funding vehicle for funding public interest fellowships. (Story in the Metropolitan Corporate Counsel.)

6.24.13 – Limited scope representation in Connecticut. From the Conn. Law Tribune: "Under a pilot program which will be started in coming weeks, the state will for the first time begin allowing what has been referred to as limited scope representation, or unbundling. The new program, which will be started in to judicial districts which have not yet been announced, will allow state Judicial Branch leaders a chance to see how limited scope representation works. The change to the rules of the Connecticut Practice Book to allow for the pilot program were passed unanimously by the judges of the Superior Court.”

6.21.13 – "The Utah State Bar has introduced a new program to expand access to legal services for Utahans with 'modest means.' The Modest Means Lawyer Referral program will make legal assistance available for reduced rates to those whose incomes are up to three times above the federal poverty guidelines. For example, a family of four with an income up to $70,000 may qualify for discounted attorney fees of $50 to $75 an hour. The program comes after the Pro Bono Commission was created last year to offer legal services to those who are unable to pay.” (Story from the Deseret News.)

6.20.13 – "After seeing a 30 percent drop in grants to civil legal services groups in 2012, the D.C. Bar Foundation announced today that this year's round of grants will total $700,000, representing a modest increase. The foundation awarded 20 grants for programs at 19 different organizations ranging from $8,000 to $76,000. The grants are administered by the D.C. Bar Foundation and are funded through the Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts Program and contributions from local law firms. This year's grants were up by $15,000 from the previous year. The foundation said the growth was due to "modest increases” in IOLTA revenue, which had dropped during the recession because of low interest rates, and strong contributions from across the bar.” (Story from the Blog of the Legal Times.)

June 19, 2013 – Harvard Law School's Public Service Venture Fund departs from the normal postgraduate fellowship-funding model and instead provides seed funding for startup, socially-minded enterprises. From the National Law Journal: "While many law schools offer stipends or grants for students and graduates to do public interest work, Harvard is the first to offer support for entrepreneurial-minded graduates who want to create their own public service-oriented projects. The law school announced the fund in 2010, offering $1 million each year to graduate-backed start-ups and to send Harvard graduates to work in existing nonprofit organizations or government agencies. Seed-grant recipients will receive $80,000 per year, with the expectation that the funding would be renewed for a second year. Harvard also plans to offer support services including assistance in securing nonprofit status, help with intellectual property and contractual issues, and social media mentoring.” (Here' a little more from a Harvard Law School announcement.)

6.17.13 - From a Texas Supreme Court announcement: "In an order posted Tuesday the Texas Supreme Court issued revised do-it-yourself divorce forms deigned for poor couples without real-property holdings and children and without contested issues in their divorce. The revised forms establish a section for a divorcing couple to identify retirement accounts each may hold and possibly to divide retirement in the final divorce decree. Any division of a retirement account, the forms note, must be enforced by a qualified domestic-relations order that should be prepared by an attorney. The Court approved the initial divorce forms in November. They were immediately effective, subject to public comment. The revised forms become effective immediately.” June, 2013 – an NYC Bar Association report, Narrowing the "Justice Gap”: Roles for Nonlawyer Practitioners, peers over the edge of the justice gap and concludes that non-lawyers can and should play expanded roles in delivering legal services. This is an important development in the larger ATJ picture and worth a read. David Udell of Cardozo Law School's National Center for Access to Justice played a role in authoring the report, and the Center has a summary here.

June, 2013 – in Maine, Pine Tree Legal Assistance has released the results of a needs assessment performed among the state's veterans. Well worth a read by any services provider who is sorting out how to engage and serve vets in need.

6.1.13 – a piece in the ABA Journal explores the ethical contours of providing unbundled legal services, noting also the recently passed "ABA House of Delegates…resolution (PDF) encouraging lawyers 'to consider limiting the scope of their representation, including the unbundling of legal services as a means of increasing access to legal services'."

6.10.13 – "[T]he next budget for the State Bar of Texas includes funding for fellowships for three new legal-aid family lawyers and for launching a pro bono awareness campaign." (Password-protected story in the Texas Lawyer.)

6.10.13 - proposed legislation would channel funding toward Legal Services of New Jersey: "[The bill] would allow the Supreme Court to adopt rules to revise or supplement filing fees payable to the court. All existing filing fees and other statutory fees could be increased by no more than $50 in the aggregate for each fee. Revenue from the fees would be used to fund [a] statewide, computerized court information system…and the provision of legal assistance in civil matters by Legal Services of New Jersey and its affiliates." (Story from NJToday.net.)

6.3.13 – "The Boston Bar Association has wrapped up the formation of a statewide task force to help determine how much need exists for civil legal aid and to examine the most cost effective way to meet that need. The task force has 27 members and it will release its recommendations in a year." (Story from the Boston Business Journal.)

6.3.13 – a piece in the Albuquerque Journal notes that while foreclosures are slowing a bit in New Mexico, the need for legal assistance is still prevalent. There are several initiatives underway to provide legal aid and information to struggling homeowners, including a program funded by the state attorney general's office (with funding from the National Mortgage Settlement), and community clinics.

June, 2013 – our friend Richard Zorza has published a law review article entitled, "Some First Thoughts on Court Simplification: The Key to Civil Access and Justice Transformation." From the abstract: "Given the discrepancy between access to justice needs and the resources that are realistically made available, current incremental approaches are almost bound to fail. The only realistic path to providing 100% of litigants with meaningful access to justice is through a simplification approach that both increases the accessibility of the legal system and reduces its costs. Indeed, we may now be in a rare moment of opportunity in which the interests of courts, bar, and legal aid align in favor of such an approach. This Article discusses the causes of excess complexity, the beginnings of simplification in current innovations, and recommends a number of short- and long-term approaches to fundamental simplification."

June, 2013 – also in the ABA Journal, a recap of ABA Day, the annual lobbying initiative during which members of the legal profession descend upon Washington, DC to meet with lawmakers. One of the key focus issues this year was LSC funding: "Current LSC funding is $358 million, and the ABA is urging Congress to appropriate $430 million in fiscal 2014—the same amount requested by President Barack Obama in his proposed budget."

5.28.13 – here's news on an interesting program launched by the Legal Aid Society in NYC to engage a new generation of leaders from the legal, financial, and other professional communities: "[the] New Leadership Program ("NLP"), comprised of emerging leaders from the legal, financial, business and arts communities in New York City, provides critical assistance to the Society by participating in various community service and pro bono projects. The NLP is the next generation of support for the Society, providing a variety of programming to raise awareness for the Society's Civil Practice and to develop volunteer opportunities that help build a sense of community and teamwork among these emerging leaders." (Article hosted on ProBono.net.)

5.30.13 – a pair of developments out of New York:

From the New York Law Journal: "Civil legal services groups that each received part of $25 million in aid from New York's judiciary last year will get grants in the same amount from the 2013-14 budget. The court system is also fielding grant candidates for an additional $15 million it will distribute this fiscal year, which began on April 1. Last year, 60 groups were approved for grants ranging from less than $25,000 to more than $3 million (NYLJ, June 7, 2012)…. Last fiscal year's grants will be automatically renewed without the grantees having to reapply for aid."

5.28.13 – in the "ATJ Innovation" department: "The state's chief judge on Tuesday announced the creation of an advisory group to examine how to increase the role that so-called 'non-lawyer advocates' play in providing legal services to low-income New Yorkers. Among the committee's tasks will be to design a pilot program that would allow impoverished residents in need of legal guidance in simple civil matters to receive assistance from non-lawyer advocates." (Story from Thomson-Reuters.)

5.29.13 – from the Austin Business Journal: Gov. Rick Perry has signed into law a bill that will increase funds dedicated to legal aid for indigent Texans from civil penalties and civil restitution recovered by the Texas attorney general. House Bill 1445…will raise the cap on the amount of money raised through civil penalties and civil restitution that can be dedicated to legal aid for indigent Texans. In addition, $17.6 million in state general revenue has been appropriated for civil legal aid, which restores $4.6 million in general revenue back to the budget that was cut during the last legislative session."

And we got this piece of context from Randy Chapman of the Texas Legal Services Center: "the legal aid funding bill was named the 'Chief Justice Jack Pope Act.' Chief Justice Pope, who turned 100 years old in April, signed the Supreme Court order creating Interest on Lawyers' Trust Accounts (IOLTA) nearly 30 years ago."

5.28.13 – writing on the National Center for Responsive Philanthropy's blog, Public Welfare Foundation President Mary McClymont makes the case for why philanthropies should invest in legal aid. And if you haven't seen the PWF publication "Natural Allies: Philanthropy and Legal Aid", take a look. It's a great vehicle for educating charitable funders about the fact that supporting legal aid is an efficient way to support poverty reduction and other systemic goals.

5.29.13 – a corporate general counsel makes the business case for supporting legal aid in Massachusetts: "The companies that drive the Massachusetts economy would not be able to do business without seasoned attorneys to represent their interests. Similarly, low-income people face severe disadvantages when they must turn to the courts alone. Civil legal aid will need an increased investment from the Commonwealth in next year's budget to prevent further cuts and even greater strain on our court system. That investment will also pay financial dividends to the Commonwealth: In the last fiscal year alone, new revenue and cost savings produced by civil legal aid programs were estimated at $48 million, of which $27 million was in the form of new federal revenues." (Op-ed from the Boston Globe.)

5.23.13 – big news out of Washington State. A recent high court decision holds that indigent litigants are entitled to a full waiver of court fees and court costs in order to access the legal system. Here's coverage from KUOW and here's a copy of the unanimous Jafar v. Webb decision.

5.23.13 – here's a new thing: the Bay Area Rural Justice Collaborative. The Collaborative's mission is "to expand access to legal services in rural and/or isolated communities throughout the Bay Area." There is a large number of partners, including OneJustice, several legal aid providers, and several law firms operating under the rubric of the Association of Pro Bono Counsel (APBCo). Here's a press release from DLA Piper which focuses on the APBCo role.

5.22.13 – "For the third year in a row, Gov. Rick Scott has vetoed funding for legal aid to low-income Floridians. The money had been slated for lawyers to help in cases of elder and child abuse, domestic violence, disabilities, consumer fraud and immigration, legal-aid officials said Wednesday. The program, funded through the Florida Access to Civil Legal Assistance Act, also helps clients gain access to federal benefits." (Story from the Fort Myers News-Press.)

5.22.13 – a piece in Governing magazine argues that a customer-service focus should drive innovations in how courts serve the public: "Excellence in organizations, particularly in the public sector, is achieved through creating the conditions for innovation: desired outcomes are clearly specified, performance is measured regularly so that there is an objective standard against which to gauge success, and a strong organizational culture encourages learning and experimentation. These are not the conditions that prevail in most of our courts: instead, roles, not outcomes, are defined; performance is measured merely by adherence to procedure; and the culture is focused on assigning credit or blame.

5.22.13 – "Every attorney is familiar with the term pro bono for donated legal work, but several recent Quinnipiac University School of Law grads are hoping the term "low bono" is the next buzz-phrase to catch on. The idea is to build a legal practice aimed mainly at folks who make a little too much money to qualify for representation from legal aid groups…." (Story from the Connecticut Law Tribune.)

5.21.13 - We salute Ronald S. Flagg – sorry, I couldn't resist – longtime pro bono champion at Sidley Austin and throughout the Washington, DC legal community, as he moves from Sidley into a position with LSC. From an LSC release: "The Legal Services Corporation announced today the appointment of Ronald S. Flagg, senior counsel in the Washington, DC office of Sidley Austin LLP, to the position of vice president for legal affairs, general counsel, and corporate secretary. He will begin his new role on June 3…. Flagg has been a leader in pro bono community service and professional activities, including service as president of the…District of Columbia Bar, chair of the [DC] Bar Pro Bono Committee…."

5.21.13 – Richard Zorza alerts us to a new report out of Canada, The National Self-Represented Litigants Project: Identifying and Meeting the Needs of Self-Represented Litigants, with data on how well self-represented litigants do (or do not) navigate the legal system. Zorza's takeaway: "Everyone should take a look at this, not only because of the suggestive findings, but because of the methodological approach, which included a highly practical review of online resources. We need to be doing the same kind of study. The recommendations would be very familiar to us in the US, and are highly practical."

5.17.13 – a piece in the El Paso Times looks at the legal resources which the State Bar of Texas, the courts, and others in the state's legal communities have created to serve veterans.

5.15.13 – a piece in the Huffington Post, "Time to Put Lawyers Back to Work as Public Servants," argues that a rise in legal aid funding and a drop in the cost of legal education are two keys to narrowing the justice gap.

5.14.13 – my friends at Equal Justice Works have announced their Class of 2013 Fellows: "Fifty-seven recent law school graduates have received the coveted fellowships and will spend the next two years working to provide legal services to low-income and underserved populations on issues including veterans' rights, immigration, homelessness, education, domestic violence, human trafficking, civil rights, and juvenile justice. This year's fellowship competition attracted 425 applicants from law schools across the country, an 18 percent increase over last year. The resulting 57 fellowships are up from 50 last year."

5.16.13 – as I arrived yesterday morning at the Conference on Access to Justice, I encountered a UAW picket line composed of Legal Services NYC attorneys and staffers, who are on strike as of Wednesday. Here's coverage from the New York Law Journal: "More than 200 attorneys and staff at Legal Services NYC walked off their jobs yesterday after voting overwhelmingly to reject management offers for a new contract. The organization has pledged to continue operations with just under 40 managers handling cases. However, Raun Rasmussen, Legal Services' executive director, said before the vote that the intake of new cases would be cut "very significantly" in the event a strike was called. Members of the Legal Services Staff Association have been working without a contract since July 2012. The union, a unit of UAW Local 2320, represents attorneys, paralegals, secretaries, social workers and other staff." And here's a video report from News12.

5.16.13 – the Iowa Supreme Court has made IOLTA grants. "Altogether, the court approved more than $325,000 in grants to non-profit programs that provide legal assistance to low-income Iowans with civil legal problems." (Story from The Globe Gazette.)

5.16.13 – a new legal aid provider in Florida: "Members of the Osceola County Bar Association are establishing the county's first legal aid society. The Legal Aid Society of Osceola County, or LASO, will help the poor and working poor obtain legal services they couldn't otherwise afford, said Benjamin Carpenter, who will serve as executive director." (Story from The Orlando Sentinel.)

5.13.13 – "With the $1.285 million grant Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma was awarded from the Oklahoma Mortgage Settlement, the nonprofit has opened 294 cases in 47 counties across the state to help borrowers stay in their homes with modified or reduced payments or negotiate a short sale of an underwater property…. The money from the Oklahoma Mortgage Settlement has allowed Legal Aid to expand its services and hire five new attorneys, with plans to add additional staff." The state bar has also been using grant funds to police phony "legal services" providers and to fund a small veterans assistance program." (Story from The Oklahoman.)

5.13.13 – from our Canuck neighbors, a Law Times editorial focuses in on the possibilities – and potential pitfalls – associated with the increased use of technology in assisting low-income and self-represented parties.

5.1.13 - "The Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County received an infusion of $365,634 in March from the National Mortgage Settlement….  Statewide, 20 legal aid groups were allocated $4.37 million by Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi….  The money is being provided in three phases with an end date for services scheduled for July 31. Legal aid will get another influx of money after this week’s decision by Florida lawmakers on how to spend $200 million from the National Mortgage Settlement. Both the House and Senate agreed to give legal aid a one-time stipend of $10 million to help homeowners facing foreclosure. The legislation, SB 1852, must still get Gov. Rick Scott’s approval. If successful, the money will be available July 1." (Story from the Palm Beach Post.)

4.30.13 – From the Progressive Pulse, which did an interview with Legal Aid of North Carolina executive director  George Hausen:  "Hausen…says the sequester means $550,000 less in federal support this year through the Legal Services Corporation. That means some low-income, disadvantaged clients in North Carolina may get turned away, even if they do have a strong case.  Hausen joined us over the weekend on News & Views to discuss the impact of federal and state cuts on Legal Aid."

4.27.13 - more bad funding news out of North Carolina: "A $330,000 reduction in Pisgah Legal Services' state and federal funding could leave more than 2,200 local domestic-violence victims without legal assistance. The Asheville-based nonprofit is scrambling to close the gap but may reduce services.  Pisgah Legal is losing $210,000 from…a state agency that distributes federal funds. And the U.S. [DOJ] is cutting another $120,000 from what it typically awards the organization. The total is 59 percent of the organization's budget for helping domestic-violence victims."  (Story from the Mountain Express.)

4.27.13 – "Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has resolved the State’s enforcement action against Austin-based legal services provider Just for People, Inc. In July 2012, the State charged Just for People, its directors and its affiliates with providing unauthorized legal advice, document preparation and other immigration-related services in violation of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA)."  (Story from the Memorial Examiner.)

4.24.13 – in Washington State, a judge writes of the importance of not diminishing state funding for the Northwest Justice Project: "The Port Angeles NJP office opened in 2007 with three attorneys….   Since then, budget cuts have reduced staffing levels to a single attorney….   And it gets worse: a $3 million cut in funding for civil legal aid services under consideration in Olympia could force the outright closure of the North Olympic Peninsula's only NJP office as well as other offices serving rural communities across the state.   Any further reduction in state-funded civil legal aid would seriously impact the ability of indigent people to obtain access to justice….  The state budget should not be balanced on the backs of our community's most vulnerable citizens.   Civil legal aid in our state should be fully funded."  (Op-ed in the Peninsula Daily News.)

Maryland Access to Justice Commission study documents benefits of civil legal aid to state's economy.
Full report. (1/8/13)

Report on "Funding Justice: Strategies and Messages for Restoring Court Funding" from National Center for State Courts includes lessons applicable to civil legal aid. (12/15/12)

Public Welfare Foundation advocates for increased support for civil legal aid by private philanthropic foundations. (11/12/12)

Video interview on civil legal aid with PWF President Mary McClymont. (9/12/12)

Economic Benefit of Civil Legal Aid: Fact Sheet by Laura Abel, Cardozo Law School. (9/5/12)

Connecticut increases court fees to boost aid to poor. (6/16/12)

Illinois Supreme Court increases attorney registration fees to help fund legal services for poor. (6/5/12)

Supreme Court of Pennsylvania adopts new rule to require that 50 percent of residual class action funds be used for civil legal aid. (5/15/12)

Colorado Supreme Court authorizes transfer of $750,000 annually for two years from attorney registration funds to Colorado Legal Services. (5/11/12)

“The Relentless Push to Bleed Legal Services Dry”: report provides overview of LSC funding status. (6/12/12)

Conferences of Chief Justices/State Court Administrators adopt resolution supporting adequate funding for LSC.  (4/1/12)
CCJ/COSCA white paper supporting increased LSC funding

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court promulgates new pro hac vice registration fee for out-of-state attorneys benefitting legal aid. (4/12/12)

Pennsylvania Judiciary’s 2013 budget submission and State of the Courts report highlight current legal aid funding crisis along with court needs. (5/1/12)

Connecticut Judicial Branch proposes court fees bill to fund legal aid. (3/1/12)

Speech by Massachusetts Supreme Court Justice Ralph Gants to over 700 lawyers at annual “Walk to the Hill” supporting increased legal aid funding. (1/26/12)

Attorney General Eric Holder joins D.C. Access to Justice Commission in honoring 23 D.C. law firms qualifying for 2011 “Raising the Bar” Leadership Circle; campaign brought in over $3 million for civil legal aid. (3/22/12)

Maine Justice Action Group hosts 4th annual Access to Justice Day at the Legislature; remarks by Maine Supreme Court Justice Jon D. Levy to Joint Standing Committee on the Judiciary. (3/13/12)

 “Cuts in Legal Aid would Harm Those Already Financially Strapped,” op-ed by Washington State Chief Justice Barbara Madsen and King County Superior Court Presiding Judge Richard McDermott. (2/29/12)

Report quantifies economic benefit of legal aid in Massachusetts in 2011. (1/30/12)

White House recommends $402 million in FY 2013 for Legal Services Corporation (LSC), an increase of $54 million (to roughly FY 2011 level). (2/13/12)

LSC reports on impact of budget cuts on staff and services at local programs. (2/8/12)

Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators adopt resolution reaffirming the importance of LSC and calling upon Congress to restore necessary funding. (2/1/12)

New Mexico Supreme Court revises class action rules to provide that residual class action funds may go to legal aid providers. (5/11/11)

California hearings on justice crisis highlight impact of chronic underfunding and budget cuts on courts and legal aid. (12/15/11)

Chief Judge’s Task Force to Expand Access to Civil Legal Services in New York issues 2011 report documenting unmet civil legal needs, economic benefit of legal aid. (12/1/11)

Former Massachusetts Chief Justice Margaret Marshall calls on state lawyers and other residents to contribute to local legal aid programs in Boston Globe op-ed. (10/29/11)

Texas Supreme Court unanimously upholds “adult entertainment fee” as source of funding for legal and other services to victims of sexual assault. (8/26/11)

Maine Bar Foundation receives $2 million gift from anonymous donor to provide legal aid; donor’s attorney also worked as pro bono volunteer. (9/15/11)

New York Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman addresses Equal Justice Conference, ATJ Chairs (5/19/11)

Video of keynote speech at Equal Justice Conference.

Remarks at National Meeting of ATJ Chairs.

Texas Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson and Justice Nathan Hecht sway state Legislature to appropriate $17 million in legal aid funding; Legislature commends Supreme Court for its leadership. (7/1/11)

Pennsylvania Chief Justice Ronald Castille calls for eliminating sunset provision on filing fee to benefit legal aid, permanently increasing funding. (7/1/11)

New York Chief Justice Jonathan Lippman continues advocacy for increased civil legal aid funding. (6/18/11)

Georgia Chief Justice Carol Hunstein op-ed, “Legal aid to poor can’t take more cuts.” (5/26/11)

New Hawaii cy pres rule benefits civil legal aid. (7/1/11)

Fifty state bar presidents sign letter supporting full funding for Legal Service Corporation.(4/8/11)

Maryland Access to Justice Commission develops white paper, Fee-Shifting to Promote the Public Interest in Maryland. (11/1/10)

Florida Bar Foundation releases report demonstrating economic benefit of civil legal aid. (2/15/11)

Louisiana State Bar Association releases report demonstrating economic benefit of civil legal aid. (2/15/11)

Pro Bono

10.1.13 – this Selma Times-Journal article focuses on Pro Bono Week events in Alabama, and tells me something I didn't know, which is that Alabama has jumped on the "Justice Bus" bandwagon: "The Justice Bus is the Alabama State Bar's traveling pro bono legal services vehicle that makes stops in communities across the state throughout Pro Bono Week enabling lawyers and law students to assist disadvantaged citizens in need of free legal advice." Roll Tide?

9.26.13 – the Pro Bono Institute's "…Law Firm Pro Bono Project just released its annual Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® Report, which examines the pro bono activities of firms that are Signatories to the Challenge. The Report includes a wealth of information, including good news! One hundred thirty-three firms reported performing more than 4.3 million hours of pro bono service in 2012." (Here's the full announcement with some of the findings summarized.)

9.22.13 – a look at the two-year-old (and growing) Military Assistance Project, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit founded by a corporate bankruptcy attorney to help servicemembers and veterans who face debt-related issues. (Story from the Philadelphia Inquirer.)

9.20.13 – the countdown is on: one month until the ABA's National Pro Bono Celebration, which runs from October 20-26. Have you thought about how to participate? See the Pro Bono Celebration's website to learn about projects and programs taking place throughout the country. And if you've not told us about an event you've planned, go here to share your ideas.

9.17.13 – the Department of Labor has responded to an ABA request for guidance on whether law students must be paid while interning in a law firm if they are working on pro bono matters. From the ABA Journal: "Law students may work as unpaid interns on pro bono matters at law firms, provided certain conditions are met, according to a letter sent to the ABA by the Labor Department. The letter (PDF) by the Labor Department's solicitor, M. Patricia Smith, is a response to then-ABA President Laurel Bellows, who sought assurances in May that the agency would interpret the Fair Labor Standards Act to allow such internships. Current ABA President James Silkenat says the ABA appreciates the Labor Department's stance. 'This clarification will assist law students seeking to gain legal experience and increase their volunteerism,' Silkenat said in a statement released on Monday."

9.16.13 – "The Tennessee Bar Association (TBA) has joined a nationwide effort to increase the number of lawyers committed to providing legal support to service members, veterans and their families. Organized by Army OneSource, the Military Legal Assistance Campaign is focused on identifying and training volunteers who can assist families while a service member is deployed and help service members when they return from overseas duty. Through its Access to Justice Committee, the TBA is recruiting lawyers now through September to provide assistance to Tennessee service members and veterans." (Story from the Knoxville Daily Sun.)

9.13.13 – New York has delayed implementing a pro bono reporting requirement for its attorneys. The AP reports: "Court administrators have decided to let New York lawyers shield from public view their new mandatory reports on how much free legal work they do.... The Administrative Board of the Courts has now amended the professional conduct rules to keep those records confidential for two years through April 2015 unless lawyers voluntarily choose to disclose them. The State Bar had opposed mandatory reporting and responded to the delay thusly: "Mandatory reporting of hours and mandatory reporting of contributions are matters of serious concern. We continue to believe that mandatory reporting is not an appropriate approach for encouraging lawyers to assist in the delivery of pro bono legal services for the poor."

9.2.13 - The Jacksonville Daily Record reports: "'Lawyers in Libraries' is a new statewide pro bono project designed to provide guidance to public library customers and staff on the types and locations of online legal resources available to the public and free of charge. [A]ttorneys will meet with citizens in one-hour presentations to describe online resources for legal information, filing and monitoring cases, where to get pro se forms and how to find an attorney. Some pro bono attorneys will also speak to the librarians about the available legal resources and to present information on how to avoid the unauthorized practice of law when providing research assistance." The program's being rolled out in conjunction with the ABA's Celebrate Pro Bono Week.

Careful ATJ observers will recall that a Lawyers in Libraries program launched in Maine earlier this year, under the auspices of the Justice Action Group. Pretty smart of Lawyers in Libraries to winter in Florida.

9.1.13 - the Washington Post looks at the successes of Skadden Arps' Impact Project, a "novel pro bono partnership with local legal aid groups as well as Northrop Grumman, LivingSocial and Cisco.... The project created three virtual practice groups, each staffed with attorneys from Skadden, the three companies and the three legal aid groups — Children's Law Center, Legal Aid Society of D.C. and Bread for the City — to work on housing, guardianship and domestic violence issues. They designed the Impact Project to address the most common problems that come up when lawyers take on pro bono cases on their own: not enough training in a specific area of law, not enough manpower and not enough consistency in how much time their day job allows them to devote."

This is an innovative expansion upon on the "pro bono practice group" model that many firms have created in order to build institutional expertise in poverty law cases. As a former lawyer in a pro bono clearinghouse, I'm thrilled to see these resources so creatively invested in handling hard cases for local families in need. Nothing wrong with a pro bono human rights case, but this project connects lawyers to their local communities. And that's great.

August, 2013 - the Connecticut Judicial Branch's Pro Bono Committee has released its annual report. It covers progress in engaging more in-house counsel, law student pro bono, developments in voluntary pro bono reporting, and more.

8.20.13 - in NY, a committee appointed by Chief Judge Lippman to engage more in-house counsel in pro bono is progressing. From Law360 (password-protected, though): "New York is closing in on a plan to allow nonadmitted, in-house counsel to do pro bono work, Court of Appeals Judge Victoria Graffeo said Tuesday, but she also issued a plea for lawyers who fall into that category to fill out the papers required to make them eligible to help close the 'justice gap'." Here's more on the commission from the New York Law Journal, which covered the commission's July launch.

8.16.13 - some phrases belong to specific time periods. "Grunge music" is so early 90s. And "deferred associates" is so late 2000s. Lo and behold, the Legal Aid Society of DC checked in with two (formerly) deferred associates who spent their deferral periods as legal aid attorneys. I'm delighted to learn that they remain committed to the cause. These days one attorney handles pro bono DV and family matters, while the other handles pro bono Social Security disability cases. Kudos, Scott Armstrong and Henry Smith.

In 2008-9, I was lucky enough to join a broad coalition of folks on the issue of how to find temporary public interest placements for deferred associates. (Some background on that.) At the time, one of our hopes was that today's deferred associates would be tomorrow's ATJ supporters. This news from the Legal Aid Society bodes well. So thanks and congrats to ProBono.net, the Association of Pro Bono Counsel, NALP, the Chicago Bar Foundation, Equal Justice Works, and the many others who helped make the lemonade.

8.12.13 - the ABA's House of Delegates adopted proposed updates to the "Standards for Programs Providing Civil Pro Bono Legal Services to Persons of Limited Means." (Congrats to my colleagues in the ABA Center for Pro Bono, who worked on the revisions.)

8.11.13 - in New Mexico, the Chief Justice is making the pro bono pitch directly. "A Farmington-based legal aid organization is teaming up with the New Mexico Supreme Court to expand free and reduced cost legal coverage in San Juan County. Daniel Abeyta, managing attorney at the Farmington office of DNA People's Legal Services, and Petra Maes, Chief Justice of the New Mexico Supreme Court, will hold a pro bono representation seminar on Aug. 20 and offer continuing legal education credits to attorneys who attend and commit to take one case through DNA's volunteer lawyer program." (Story from the Farmington Daily Times.)

8.10.13 - A new initiative to provide pro bono legal assistance to military veterans was announced Saturday by the ABA, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Legal Services Corp. The initiative, which will launch as a pilot program in Chicago and St. Petersburg, Fla., will recruit lawyers to help veterans prepare their claims with the VA for disability pay." (Story from the ABA Journal.)

August, 2013 - LSC President Jim Sandman is also chair of the DC Bar's Pro Bono Committee. In this month's Washington Lawyer magazine, Sandman highlights the strength of DC's legal community, but also the persistent justice gap in the District. He calls on DC lawyers to 1) do pro bono that benefits local, low-income clients and 2) donate to local legal-aid providers.

June, 2013 - the ABA Section on Law and Aging recently updated a chart laying out state practice rules pertaining to "emeritus" pro bono programs for retired or senior lawyers.

7.24.13 – "Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman and New York State Bar Association leaders said following a meeting Tuesday that they plan to hold further discussions about the bar group's objections to a new rule requiring lawyers to disclose pro bono contributions.... The meeting was prompted by a June 26 letter to Lippman in which [State Bar President David] Schraver pointed out that the House of Delegates has been on record since 2004 as being opposed to requiring lawyers to disclose the time and money they donate for pro bono services.... The disclosure requirements were put into effect on May 1 by the administrative board of the courts." (Short article from the New York Law Journal.)

7.25.13 – a little more from Law360. Some pro bono advocates are pushing back against the State Bar's pushback: "A break between New York's largest lawyer group and the state's top judge over a new rule requiring attorneys to disclose pro bono efforts has surprised many advocates of free legal work, who say the bar group's privacy concerns overstate the amount of public scrutiny that Empire State lawyers will face."

7.22.13 – "At the direction of Indiana Chief Justice Brent Dickson, the Indiana Pro Bono Commission has made a series of recommendations to the Supreme Court designed to increase pro bono activity in the legal community. The key proposal is to implement annual mandatory reporting of pro bono hours by every attorney licensed in Indiana.... Along with mandatory reporting of pro bono hours worked, the group proposed the Indiana State Bar Association establish a pro bono committee in every section. Lastly, the committee suggested that judges be more engaged in pro bono activity, although how that would be done remains a question." (Article from the Indianapolis Business Journal. The article also notes that Indiana's IOLTA funding "dropped 90 percent during the past four years from the high of $3 million to the current $300,000.")

7.18.13 - "In an effort to beef up the pro bono contributions of in-house counsel, increase the availability of legal services to those in need and address some nagging questions that may impede the ability of corporate attorneys to pitch in, Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman has directed a statewide committee to promptly explore the issues. Lippman announced...the formation of a committee chaired by Court of Appeals Judge Victoria Graffeo and indicated he is looking for recommendations before the year is out. It is expected that the Advisory Committee on Pro Bono Service by In-House Counsel will present proposals to the Administrative Board of the Courts this fall." (Story from the New York Law Journal.)

7.14.13 – "Over $2.1 Million worth of pro bono services were performed as the result of the '$1 Million Pro Bono Service Campaign,' spearheaded by the Connecticut Bar Association Young Lawyers Section (CBA-YLS), in collaboration with the Pro Bono Network. The goal of the campaign was to increase pro bono service and awareness throughout the state by facilitating the performance of $1,000,000 worth of pro bono services, the equivalent of 4,000 hours at a rate of $250 per hour. From November 2012 through February 2013, the CBA-YLS solicited and collected campaign pledges from individuals and law firms whereby the participants committed to performing a number of pro bono hours from March to May. Based on the certifications submitted to the YLS, 8768.7 pro bono hours were performed in connection with the campaign equating to $2,192,175 worth of pro bono services." (Story from the Hartford Courant.)

Lots of news/controversy around NY State's newly-imposed attorney pro bono reporting requirement:

6.28.13 – unfortunately this New York Law Journal article is password-protected, but the title offers the gist: "State Bar Rejects Rules on Pro Bono Reporting.” Here's a little more from a separate NYLJ article couple of days ago: "Citing stronger-than-anticipated sentiment against the mandatory reporting of pro bono contributions, the leadership of the New York State Bar Association will write to Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman opposing the disclosure. A 'spirited discussion' of the new disclosure rules by the bar group's executive committee during its spring meeting over the weekend led to a decision to remind the chief judge that the House of Delegates came out against self-reporting of pro-bono in 2004….” And here is that letter from NYSBA president David Schraver to Chief Judge Lippman. 6.19.13 – responding to criticism from pro bono advocates, the court system is expanding the scope of work that will qualify for pro bono for purposes of the reporting requirement. The main objection to the initial proposal was that it did not appear to count work on behalf of nonprofit organizations as pro bono. (Read more in the New York Law Journal.)

6.25.13 – an interesting piece on the how the recent, voting-rights pro bono work performed by some law firms may be undone by the Supreme Court's Shelby County v. Holder decision: "The decision leaves hanging some of the most notable pro bono victories large law firms won last year, especially those that relied heavily on the "preclearance” mechanism of section 5. Lawyers from firms including Arnold & Porter; Dechert; Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson; and Sullivan & Cromwell donated thousands of hours of time seeking to block newly passed laws in Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Texas requiring voters to pre­sent photo ID at the polls.” (Story from Am Law Daily.)

6.19.13 – a piece in Metropolitan Corporate Counsel offers a nice overview of MFY Legal Services' pro bono offerings, including an externship program with local law firms and several specialized projects.

6.19.13 – a Huffington Post piece looks at the power of pro bono in channeling for-profit sector resources and ingenuity toward social good: "Nonprofit organizations today are being called to solve pressing social and economic issues…while their organizational models, budgets and staffing structures struggle to keep up. Through effective pro bono volunteering, businesses can help nonprofits harness innovation and technology to rapidly adapt to quickly changing market forces and position themselves for long-term success…. For example, Capital One pro bono volunteers recently partnered with the Virginia legal community to help Legal Aid of Central Virginia develop a better long-term solution to serving clients in need more efficiently...”

6.12.13 - Immigration reform and APBCo. Association of Pro Bono Counsel (APBCo) members weigh in on how immigration reform can generate important pro bono opportunities for the private bar. Here's the piece on the Human Rights First website.

6.7.13 – in DC, the bench is celebrating the bar's pro bono efforts: "More than 4,000 lawyers in the D.C. legal community reported serving at least 50 pro bono hours in 2012, according to an announcement from the D.C. court system. The courts' second annual Capital Pro Bono Honor Roll recognized D.C. bar members and other lawyers approved to do pro bono work in the city who met the goal of completing at least 50 hours of pro bono work. According to court officials, more than 2,400 of those lawyers reported completing more than 100 pro bono hours." (Story from the Blog of the Legal Times.)

5.30.13 – in a blog post the Pro Bono Institute highlights some pro bono innovations that came to light in the "Marketplace of Ideas" program at PBI's annual conference, including Massachusetts programs to engage senior and retired attorneys in pro bono, and a community economic development pro bono project in D.C.

5.28.13 – "Children who need special educational services may have slipped through the cracks in the past. But a new program — called the Connecticut Child Justice Foundation — aims to help keep children who are under the supervision of the Department of Children and Families in the best possible learning environments. The goal of the new foundation, which relies on pro-bono efforts of several experienced lawyers throughout the state, is to make sure that each child under DCF supervision is provided with legal representation during expulsions, suspensions, and administrative actions, including requests for special education tutors and programs…. Joette Katz, the Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Children and Families, came up with the idea shortly after she became commissioner." (Story from the Connecticut Law Tribune.)

5.24.13 – the Association of Corporate Counsel is backing a practice rule change in Arizona that would permit in-house lawyers who have out-of-state law licenses to do pro bono work in Arizona. Here's coverage from Corporate Counsel, and here's the comment letter that ACC submitted to Arizona's Supreme Court.

5.24.13 – the OK tornados and ABA pro bono: "Extending sympathy to the victims of this week's Oklahoma tornadoes, American Bar Association President Laurel G. Bellows announced today that the ABA is organizing volunteer legal assistance for survivors and offering disaster-related resources for lawyers…. At the request of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the ABA Young Lawyers Division's Disaster Legal Services Program is coordinating volunteer lawyers for a toll-free hotline…. The ABA is working with the Oklahoma Bar Association and Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma to recruit lawyers to help with the hotline."

Kudos to Legal Aid of Western Missouri, which reached out to its Oklahoman counterparts to share what its resources and experiences that came from the Joplin, Missouri twister of 2011.

5.14.13 – some pushback on New York's new pro bono reporting requirement, from the perspective of a small-firm practitioner who sees a lot of gray area between definitional "pro bono" and the reduced-fee or unpaid work that many solos do. (Op-ed from the New York Law Journal.)

5.13.13 – the Association of Corporate Counsel's president comes down squarely in favor of states loosening practice rules so as to allow more in-house lawyers to do pro bono work. As noted in the piece, Colorado and Virginia are models of pro-bono friendly rules in this context, and there has recently been reform in Minnesota and Illinois. (Password-protected op-ed from the National Law Journal.)

5.4.13 – "Hurricane Sandy is long over, with reconstruction under way in most places, but for many impacted by the storm, problems are still piling up – legal problems, that is. That is why a cadre of pro-bono attorneys has fanned out throughout areas of New Jersey to provide legal advice to affected residents." (Story from NJ.com.)

5.1.13 – from the New York Law Journal: "New York lawyers must disclose on their biennial registration forms how many pro bono hours they provided and the amount of financial contributions they made to pro bono programs during the previous two years.  The new reporting requirements of Part 118 and Rule 6.1 of the Rules of Professional Conduct were approved by Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman and the presiding justices of the Appellate Division's four departments on April 23 and went into effect yesterday (See Announcement).  Lippman's Task Force to Expand Access to Civil Legal Services recommended increasing the voluntary pro bono goal for lawyers in the state to 50 hours a year from 20 (NYLJ, Dec. 7, 2012). That proposal was also implemented yesterday."

4.30.13 – "In support of a new U.S. Patent and Trademark Office regional office in Dallas, the Center for Innovation in Arlington said today it will serve as the area’s pro bono patent assistance center….  The center will match inventors with volunteer patent and intellectually property attorneys. Pro bono service will be provided to entrepreneurs whose household income does not exceed 300 percent of federal poverty guidelines. The poverty guideline for a family of four, for instance, is $23,550. The center will also have a sliding fee scale for anyone who exceeds the poverty income guidelines."  (Blog post from the Dallas Morning News.)

March/April 2013 – in the ABA’s Law Practice magazine, Baker Donelson’s Linda Klein makes the case for including law-firm staff in pro bono projects: "It’s important to have a policy that expressly includes staff. It’s equally important that the firm culture support the policy. Our lawyers in management do a great job of emphasizing that the firm supports and encourages pro bono. One way our culture supports the policy is to provide credit for staff members, lawyers and paralegals whose performance is judged on productivity. Our pro bono policy grants some credit hours annually for paralegals because they have billable hour requirements, too. We also have paid community service hours for staff, so they can take "time off" to devote to pro bono activities. This applies to all staff, not just those who get billable hour credit….   [S]taff can be involved in pro bono in the same way they support paying clients.  We find that morale for our attorneys and staff is best when we use the services of support staff for pro bono matters as well as paying ones.

4.15.13 – from Law Week Colorado: "The U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado announces a pilot program that creates a panel of attorneys who have agreed to accept pro bono appointments to represent indigent pro se litigants in civil cases. As a means to reimburse attorneys who accept cases as volunteers, the pilot program includes provisions for the faculty of federal advocates to manage the reimbursement of expenses, funded in part by grants to the faculty from the court. Funding for the grants will derive from an increase in attorney admission fees and a one–time renewal fee for current members of the bar. Current members will be expected to pay the renewal fee by July 1." (Here's an announcement from the district court itself.)

4.15.13 – "Pennsylvania's top jurist is calling on the commonwealth's 70,000–plus licensed lawyers to engage in pro bono service in support of the state's legal aid programs. Supreme Court Justice Ronald D. Castille recently drafted a letter alongside Tom Wilkinson, the president of the Pennsylvania Bar Association, that was sent to attorneys as a reminder to make a personal commitment to provide pro bono service through direct representation of the poor and financial support of legal aid programs." (Full article in the Pennsylvania Record.)

4.11.13 – New York's 4th Judicial Department is launching an appellate pro bono project. From a press release: "The Pro Bono Appeals Program, created by the New York State Bar Association, is offering free representation to individuals of modest means in civil…cases involving the essentials of life, such as family stability, unemployment insurance, education, housing and health. Experienced appellate attorneys will handle the appeals for individuals who lost civil cases in trial court, as well as individuals who won in lower court but must respond to appeals…. The State Bar's Committee on Courts of Appellate Jurisdiction will select cases based on several factors, including the merits of the issues raised and the potential impact of the case…. The new program in the Fourth Department builds upon the experience of the State Bar Pro Bono Appeals Program in the Third Judicial Department, which the State Bar Association launched with The Legal Project and the Rural Law Center of New York in 2009."

4.9.13 – as reported by the Pro Bono Institute: "On April 8, the Illinois Supreme Court made effective a new rule that empowers more than 400 limited license in–house attorneys in the state to provide pro bono legal services free from unnecessary restrictions…. Illinois joins two other jurisdictions, Colorado and Virginia, that permit broad participation in pro bono by registered in–house counsel and allow registered in–house counsel to provide pro bono services subject to the same rules of professional conduct and disciplinary measures as all other attorneys licensed in state."

4.9.13 – the head of DLA Piper's international pro bono and corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs offers his take on the relationship between the two: "For many businesses, C[S]R still means 'volunteering in the community'. This is where there has been tension in some law firms historically. The tension typically arises when a law firm provides non–legal volunteering opportunities, but fails to provide sufficient pro bono opportunities. In those circumstances, the lawyers in the firm rightly question whether the approach is correct. From my perspective, law firms ought to look for ways to make a positive impact in their communities. It is also highly desirable that firms consider where they can have the most impact. In many communities around the world there are high levels of unmet legal need, creating barriers to access to justice. Law firms obviously possess the skills to address this important human rights issue, and I think it is incumbent upon us as lawyers to play a role in improving access to justice where we can."

4.1.13 – Kansas has established an "emeritus program" which encourages retired attorneys to render pro bono services. A rule relating to attorney registration was amended to include the following language: "Only attorneys registered as active may practice law in Kansas, except that a retired or inactive attorney, who obtains a statement from the disciplinary administrator that he or she is in good standing and has no pending disciplinary proceedings, may practice on a pro bono basis through: (1) a not–for–profit provider of civil legal services approved by the Supreme Court for this purpose, or (2) an accredited law school clinic approved by the Supreme Court for this purpose."

4.1.13 — Kansas has established an "emeritus program" which encourages retired attorneys to render pro bono services. A rule relating to attorney registration was amended to include the following language: "Only attorneys registered as active may practice law in Kansas, except that a retired or inactive attorney, who obtains a statement from the disciplinary administrator that he or she is in good standing and has no pending disciplinary proceedings, may practice on a pro bono basis through: (1) a not-for-profit provider of civil legal services approved by the Supreme Court for this purpose, or (2) an accredited law school clinic approved by the Supreme Court for this purpose."

3.21.13 — The ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono & Public Service has released Supporting Justice III: A Report on the Pro Bono Work of America's Lawyers.  The report is the committee's third empirical investigation of American volunteer legal service since 2004. The report quantifies the amount of pro bono work done by U.S. lawyers in 2011, describes characteristics of recent pro bono service that can be used to guide new pro bono initiatives and identifies factors that encourage or discourage pro bono service.

3.20.13 — Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Justice Ralph Gants, who co-chairs the Bay State's ATJ Commission, co-authors a letter supporting a boost in pro bono work by corporate counsel.  The letter explores the recent growth in corporate pro bono and highlights initiatives in Massachusetts. (Full letter in the Metropolitan Corporate Counsel.)

3.12.13 — a Minneapolis Star Tribune columnist trumpets pro bono efforts among North Star State attorneys, and laments the passing of Bricker Lavik, a Twin Cities-based champion of pro bono who died on March 1.

3.4.13 — a Connecticut Law Tribune editorial calls upon law firm and corporate counsel leaders to "lead from the top" in promoting pro bono service among their attorneys. "Every law firm and every corporate legal department should state explicitly that every attorney is expected to handle at least one pro bono matter every year or donate an amount equivalent to one hour's billable rate to a recognized program that provides representation to indigent clients. Representation need not be limited to litigation. There is a significant need for free legal help for non-profit organizations on matters such as real estate transactions, corporate governance, tax and employment matters."

3.1.13 — in Michigan, the State Bar Association and Bar Foundation commissioned a report on the state's pro bono delivery system, "with an eye toward recommendations regarding systemic changes to enhance [pro bono's] use." The report was produced in February.

on a related note the Michigan State Bar's strategic planning process includes consideration of 1) the increase in pro se litigants, and 2) how unbundling could affect the delivery of legal services. (Full story from the Grand Rapids Business Journal.)

Is the New York 50 hour requirement changing the future of law student pro bono? (1/12/13)

Minnesota Supreme Court adopts rule permitting house counsel to provide pro bono services. (1/17/13)

"Lawyers incorporating pro bono into their lives talk about its rewards, challenges," article in ABA Journal. (2/1/13)

State Bar of Georgia hosts free legal advice clinics around the state. (2/15/13)

Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission launches first of-its-kind Pro Bono Fellows project for transitioning senior attorneys. (9/26/12)

Nashville Ledger article cites Tennessee Supreme Court leadership on pro bono, support for self-representation. (7/13/12)

"More Tennessee Lawyers Doing Pro Bono Work," Memphis Daily news. (7/12/12)

Celebrate Pro Bono 2012 launches "Just Stories" video quilt. (7/12/12)

"Serving Those Who have Served," article on State Bar of Texas's "Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans" project, UT Law Magazine. (6/28/12)

"Judicial Support for Pro Bono Legal Service," article by Colorado Supreme Court Justice Gregory J. Hobbs, Jr., for Denver Law Review. (6/15/12)

New York Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman opens symposium on "Access to Justice: The role of New York's Law Schools"; announces advisory panel to guide new pro bono requirement for prospective lawyer licensing. (5/22/12)

West Virginia Justice Brent Benjamin calls for increased pro bono, support for LSC funding (5/8/15)

New York Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman announces pro bono requirement for state bar admission. (5/1/12)

District of Columbia courts launch Capital Pro Bono Honor Roll. (5/1/12)

Web site and video highlight Florida pro bono campaign: “one client, one attorney, one promise.” (5/1/12)

Indiana legislature approves filing fee surcharge benefitting pro bono. (3/25/12)

Louisiana Chief Justice Katherine D. Kimball urges judges to encourage pro bono service. (4/2/12)

Connecticut Judicial Branch Volunteer Attorney Day Program marks two years, over 1000 cases. (3/1/12)

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court establishes Pro Bono Recognition Program. (1/1/12)

Arkansas Pro Bono iPhone app allows licensed attorneys to view potential pro bono cases and request with a push of a button. (2/1/12)

Nebraska adopts rule permitting in-house counsel admitted in another jurisdiction to provide pro bono services. (1/1/12)

Pennsylvania Chief Justice of Ronald D. Castille thanks Pennsylvania’s lawyers for pro bono work and calls on them to continue their service. (2/15/12)

Hawaii Supreme Court amends Rule of Professional Conduct 6.1 to permit attorneys to fulfill voluntary pro bono commitment by donating at least $500 to legal aid. (1/1/12)

New Mexico State Bar Foundation and Access to Justice Commission offer CLE on "poverty, pro bono and professionalism"; fulfills mandatory CLE requirements, with fees going to legal aid. (12/1/11)

New York Courts offer free “bridge-the-gap” CLE training in return for pro bono service. (10/24/11)

PB week events

Mobile apps facilitate pro bono. (10/20/11)

Illinois Pro Bono app from Illinois Legal Aid Online
Maryland State Bar Association free app, provides links to ethics rules and supports attorneys working in unfamiliar areas.

Colorado “Make History” pro bono campaign and video highlight historic pro bono cases. (10/24/11)

Connecticut Pro Bono Summit highlights opportunities for service. (10/5/11)

National Pro Bono Celebration set for October 23-29, 2011. National Online Pro Bono Conversation now under way. (9/7/11)

LSC President Jim Sandman discusses how large law firms can expand pro bono support, including assistance on technology and marketing. (8/15/11)

Indiana Pro Bono Commission creates model Resource Guide for judicial appointees to local pro bono committees. (9/10/11)

Maine Supreme Court launches Katahdin Counsel Pro Bono Recognition Program. (9/15/11)

New Mexico local pro bono committees describe initiatives in annual report to Supreme Court. (6/31/11)

Tennessee Bar Association and the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services create new on-line virtual pro bono advice clinic. (5/5/11)

Missouri Supreme Court launches on-line Judge’s Tool Kit on Pro Bono Legal Assistance. (3/16/11)

Missouri Supreme Court has published an on-line the Judge’s Tool Kit on Pro Bono Legal Assistance. (3/1/11)

The North Carolina Bar Association launches Call 4ALL, permitting pro bono attorneys to provide discrete services by telephone to pre-screened legal aid clients. (3/15/11)

Arkansas Supreme Court authorizes attorneys licensed outside of Arkansas to provide pro bono services in state. (4/1/11)

Civil Right to Counsel

September, 2013 – in the September edition of Los Angeles Lawyer, Judge Mark Juhas takes stock of the Civil Gideon movement: "However one may view the legacy of Gideon for criminal defendants, they at least have an established constitutional right to paid counsel. Another group of citizens who are unable to afford legal counsel may have even more to worry about: those who are on the brink of being deprived of such vital needs as food, shelter, and parental visitation rights. With them in mind, what is often called the "civil Gideon" movement has been born. In 2007, the American Bar Association's House of Delegates unanimously called for free legal counsel, paid for by the government, to "low income persons in those categories of adversarial proceedings where basic human needs are at stake, such as those involving shelter, sustenance, safety, health or child custody..."

A "Marketplace" story from California on the Shriver Housing Project, "...a pilot program offering lawyers to people facing life-altering cases in civil court. [Mike Feuer, a former state legislator who wrote the bill creating the Project,] says it provides more justice, and it's more cost-effective, because having an attorney can actually help avoid a trial. Out of 2,500 cases the Shriver Housing Project has seen so far in LA, all but forty have been settled out of court.

John Pollock of the National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel (NCCRC) has authored a law review article on the trend in state courts toward establishing a categorical right to counsel in certain types of civil matters. From the abstract: "While the U.S. Supreme Court has been reluctant to recognize a right to counsel in civil proceedings, the state courts have led the way, utilizing a variety of jurisprudential approaches. The courts discussed in this Article had the option of requiring trial courts to determine on a case-by-case basis whether litigants should be appointed counsel, but they did not do so. Instead, these courts established a categorical right to counsel for either all litigants or an easily identifiable group of litigants. This Article explores the opinions that established a constitutional right to counsel in such areas as domestic violence, termination of parental rights, paternity, civil contempt, civil commitment, civil forfeiture, and judicial bypass of parental consent to obtain an abortion."

May/June - The current edition of the Clearinghouse Review contains a retrospective on the work on the NCCRC.

5.29.13 - The National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel's May newsletter offers an in-depth update on litigation around the country, as well as other right-to-counsel news.

5.21.13 – a Harvard Law School Civil Gideon program drew some heavy hitters from the ATJ world: "Fifty years after the Supreme Court determined in Gideon v. Wainwright that criminal defendants must be provided with counsel, scholars and practitioners from around the country grappled with continued limits on access to justice during an Harvard Law School conference in April titled 'Toward a Civil Gideon: The Future of Legal Services'." (Here's a summary with video links to some of the conference proceedings.)

On June 18th the Ohio State Bar will be one of a handful or organizations putting on a program called "The Right to Counsel in Civil Cases: Civil Gideon and Legal Services for the Poor" which will "examine the concept of the right to counsel in civil cases and the state of legal services programs for the poor."

5.15.13 – right-to-counsel and federal immigration reform. From a Slate.com piece written by a Brooklyn Law School professor: "Tucked onto page 567 of the Senate's 844-page immigration reform bill is perhaps its most groundbreaking provision. For the first time, the U.S. government would voluntarily provide a free lawyer to an immigrant in deportation proceedings. The bill only gives lawyers to the most sympathetic: the mentally disabled, children, and the vaguely described "particularly vulnerable." But the seeds are there for the broader right to counsel for detained immigrants that criminal defendants have received for 50 years. Congress should provide that."

4.24.13 – "A federal judge in California has ordered immigration courts in three states to provide legal representation for immigrants with mental disabilities who are in detention and facing deportation, if they cannot represent themselves. The decision is the first time a court has required the government to provide legal assistance for any group of people before the nation’s immigration courts."  (Story from the New York Times.)

A Washington Post op-ed wonders about extending the right-to-counsel scope in immigration proceedings: "Now that such an important precedent has been set, it is imperative that the government move quickly to ensure that minors get similar protections. As it stands now, children under 18 without a parent or guardian are forced to navigate the immigration detention process alone. Even children who are little more than toddlers are expected to appear before immigration judges to defend themselves in legal proceedings if they can’t secure a lawyer."

April, 2013 – Legal Aid of North Carolina executive director George Hausen – who I think now qualifies as the star of this "ATJ Headlines" edition - makes the practical case for Civil Gideon in the April edition of the state-based magazine Trial Briefs.

3.22.13 — Senator Tom Harkin used the occasion of the Gideon decision's 50th birthday to lament the civil justice gap: "[it is...outrageous that there remains no guaranteed right to counsel in the civil context." Sen. Harkín's thoughts on civil legal aid begin about halfway down the third column on p. S2323.

The National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel has been gathering the many articles and opinion pieces published in connection with the Gideon v. Wainwright decision's 50-year anniversary. View the "Gideon and Civil Right to Counsel" section NCCRC's Gideon Anniversary site.

Notably, this New York Times piece on the civil justice gap was widely circulated online: "Civil matters — including legal issues like home foreclosure, job loss, spousal abuse and parental custody — were not covered by the decision. Today, many states and counties do not offer lawyers to the poor in major civil disputes, and in some criminal ones as well. Those states that do are finding that more people than ever are qualifying for such help, making it impossible to keep up with the need. The result is that even at a time when many law school graduates are without work, many Americans are without lawyers."

3.11.13 — Congresswoman Gwen Moore of Wisconsin "re-introduced a bill that will take important steps towards ensuring that parents and legal guardians are afforded legal representation in all stages of a child welfare case." (See full press release.)

"Civil Right to Counsel: Where We've Been, Where We're Going: A Look at the Status of Civil Right to Counsel and Current Efforts", article from MIE Journal by John Pollock. (6/1/12)

Law students, volunteer attorneys, and legal aid staff reach out to rural areas on 2012 "Road to Justice." (3/20/12)

Washington State Bar Association launches statewide reduced-fee lawyer referral service for people of moderate means. (4/1/12)

Boston Bar Foundation issues report on “The Importance of Representation in Eviction Cases and Homelessness Prevention," based on “Civil Gideon” pilot projects. (3/2/11)

Wisconsin Access to Justice Commission creates special working group to develop study to evaluate the costs and benefits of civil right to counsel.(1/9/12)

Montana Supreme Court cites inherent authority of trial courts to appoint pro bono counsel in appropriate cases.(12/8/11)

Article explores Turner v. Rogers and implications for “Triaging Appointed-Counsel Funding and Pro Se Access to Justice.” (11/1/11)

Prof. Jim Greiner discusses Massachusetts Civil Right to Counsel pilot projects. (11/7/11)

Wisconsin Supreme Court takes no action on civil right to counsel petition. (10/17/11)

Testimony
News coverage
ABA comments

San Francisco considers legislation to become “Civil Right to Counsel City.” 11/4/11

Maryland Access to Justice Commission develops white paper, Fee-Shifting to Promote the Public Interest in Maryland. (11/1/10)

ABA Past President Michael Greco gives keynote speech on Civil Right to Counsel at Annual Convention of Kentucky Bar Association. (6/16/11)

Wisconsin Access to Justice Commission endorses petition to state Supreme Court to provide free counsel to indigents when basic human needs are at stake. (6/14/11)

Seattle Journal for Social Justice publishes papers on Civil Right to Counsel, Impact of Counsel and Economic Benefit. (2/20/11)

Law School Pro Bono & Public Service/Legal Education

9.23.13 – "Wake Forest University School of Law's Pro Bono Project has partnered with Winston-Salem-based health system Novant Health and law firm Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice to help cancer patients with their legal needs…. The students will help cancer patients understand how important it is to complete advance directive forms, which formalize end-of-life care decisions ahead of time. Students have participated in specialized training before beginning their work with patients." (Here's the Triad Business Journal article.)

9.23.13 – in PA, Duquesne University Law School has launched "…one of the only clinics in the country focused on veterans' criminal cases, according to Laurie Serafino, director of clinical legal education and an associate law professor at Duquesne. The Veterans' Clinic provides assistance to veterans charged with misdemeanors and felonies who have been accepted into Allegheny County Veterans Court, one of the county's specialty courts. Veterans' Court helps veterans charged with crimes -- and who also have addiction problems or mental illnesses -- to set up specialized treatment and probation programs." (Story from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)

7.18.13 – a look at the measures that SUNY Buffalo's law school is taking to assist students/grads in completing New York's new 50-hour preadmission pro bono requirement. Among other things, the school is forging closer ties with local legal aid providers, setting up a tracking system, and adding practicum courses. (Article from the UB Reporter.)

6.28.13 – a group of law students from the Dominican Republic "ha[s] spent the past month observing how low-income New Yorkers use do-it-yourself resources to navigate the shoals of the state court system. Their hope, they said, is to come away with ideas they can implement back home. For the past three weeks, [eleven] students have interned with judges of Dominican descent in courts…as part of an initiative designed to give them an inside view of New York State Courts' Access to Justice program…. [The] program is coordinated by Supreme Court Justice Fern Fisher, the deputy chief administrative judge for city courts, and Fred Rooney, the former longtime director of City University of New York School of Law's Community Legal Resource Network. (Full story from the New York Law Journal.) Do you know any law students who are 1) in DC this summer and 2) interested in postgraduate fellowships? Here's a must-attend program: "Pathways to Postgraduate Public Interest & Public Service Fellowships,” sponsored by Equal Justice Works, NALP, and the Partnership for Public Service. (That's a lot of "p's” in that previous sentence.) Free registration. Taking place on July 11. Info here.

6.13.13 – from the National Law Journal: "A task force of the State Bar of California has recommended that new attorneys be required to complete at least 15 hours of practical skills training and 50 hours of pro bono service before they are admitted to practice. If adopted, California would be the first state to mandate real-world training in law schools and the second to require pro bono work of new attorneys. New York was the first state to require pro bono work and a judicial committee in New Jersey has recommended the move. The California proposal awaits action by the state bar board of trustees."

6.12.13 – Senator Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.) is pushing her colleagues to support a bill that would expand law school clinics to serve veterans: "Shaheen on Wednesday also touted [a] bill she co-sponsored that would allow the VA to coordinate with law schools that offer legal services to veterans. She said 18 states have law school clinics for veterans but the goal is to have one in every state." (Story in the Navy Times.)

6.6.13 – big news for law school clinics on the issue of recovering legal fees. From the National Law Journal: "Law students who participate in clinics may not yet be lawyers, but their time and effort still has monetary value. That's the gist of a report by a federal judge in New York who were asked to evaluate an application for nearly $64,000 in legal fees filed by Fordham University School of Law's Family Advocacy Clinic against the New York City Department of Education."

6.5.13 – a financial gift will allow the University of Minnesota Law School to create the Center for New Americans, which will expand the school's clinical offerings in service to immigrants. (Story from Minnesota Daily.)

5.28.13 – ABA President Laurel Bellows has written to the Department of Labor urging it to interpret the Fair Labor Standards Act such that law students and grads can perform unpaid internships at for-profit law offices when the students/grads are working on pro bono matters. The Department has been increasingly scrutinizing the number and type of internships that place individuals in for-profit settings, but with no pay. Bellows writes: "The ABA agrees that exploitation of…interns is unacceptable; however, the FLSA uncertainty inhibits law firms from offering students the opportunity to work on pro bono matters in a real-life practice setting. It also reduces the potential supply of legally trained women and men willing to spend their time working on behalf of persons without the resources to pay for legal counsel." (Here's President Bellows's letter.)

5.24.13 – "Building on their continued efforts to support American veterans, U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) today introduced legislation to increase cooperation between the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and veterans legal clinics. [T]he Veterans Legal Support Act of 2013, will maximize the effectiveness of these law school programs and encourage their continued development…. By assisting veterans with complicated benefits claims, legal clinics are turning VA's most time consuming cases into organized applications that are significantly easier to process. Moreover, research suggests that expanding access to basic legal assistance is key to preventing veterans homelessness. Since 2008, law schools in 18 states have developed clinical programs that specifically assist veterans." (Here's a press release.)

A William & Mary Law School veterans benefits clinic's successes did much to build momentum for this proposal. The clinic has gotten the attention of Sen. Mark Warner and the White House, both of whom are interested in replicating the clinic elsewhere. Here's a great AP story with details, including the tale of the injured veteran, and W&M law student, who was one of the clinic's first clients.

5.17.13 – from JD Journal: "In a report released on Thursday, the New Jersey Courts' Working Group on the Proposed Preadmission Pro Bono Requirement, created by New Jersey Chief Justice Stuart Rabner, recommended a rule requiring those seeking admission to the New Jersey bar to complete 50 hours of pro bono work. Similar to the requirement in New York, the rule encompasses a broad definition of pro bono work including existing law school clinics, internships and clerkships. However, while the New York rule extends the scope of qualifying work to pro bono work done anywhere in the world, the New Jersey rule accepts only work done in U.S. as qualifying work for the purpose of the rule…. The [NJ State Bar Association] has opposed adoption of the rule and has passed a resolution, following Thursday's report, criticizing the proposal as an unnecessary burden on law students…." Here's the Working Group's report (dated 4/30 but released this week) and here's a recap from David Udell at the National Center for ATJ.

5.10.13 – Berkeley Law's Legal Services Program is assisting the university's students who've run into legal snags over immigration status, particularly those affected by the new Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Here's a look, from the Berkeley News Center.

4.30.13 - the successes of the Lewis B. Puller Jr. Veterans Benefit Clinic at William & Mary Law School has caught Virginia Senator Mark Warner's eye as a replicable model, and he's urged the Veterans Administration to give the clinic a look. http://www.dailypress.com/news/military/dp-nws-veterans-law-clinic-20130430,0,7746002.story

4.27.13 – a look at how Superstorm Sandy and the New York 50-hour pro bono rule conspired to create a legal clinic, and how the rule may help shape future law school pro bono and curricular offerings: "[The] Disaster Relief Law Field Clinic, which ended this week, grew out of discussions between Kevin Cremin, MFY Legal Serivice’s [sic] director of litigation for disability and aging rights, and Rebecca Rosenfeld, Cardozo’s director of externships, about the new 50-hour pro bono work requirement for New York State bar admission."  (Story from DNAinfo.com.)

4.26.13 – from New York: "The Legal Aid Society has created a diverse menu of pro bono opportunities to assist law students in completing 50 hours of pro bono work prior to bar admission. The Chief Judge’s initiative, the first in the country, became effective as of January 1, 2013 and will be applicable to candidates for admission to the New York State bar on or after January 1, 2015. The timetable enables current second and first year law students to plan their pro bono service in a meaningful and timely fashion.  The Society's Civil, Criminal, and Juvenile Rights Practices, will partner with law students and law graduates on a number of specific 50-hour projects."  (Announcement posted on ProBono.net.) 

4.22.13 – ripples from the New York 50-hour Rule?  "It's been nearly a year since the New York State court system announced its first-of-its-kind 50-hour pro bono requirement for new attorneys. No state has followed suit yet, but that may soon change. Leaders of the State Bar of California are poised this fall to adopt a similar rule, while a task force…in New Jersey is weighing the merits….  A report by the Connecticut Judicial Branch's Access to Justice Commission also recommends that the state create a task force to consider a pro bono mandate, but judicial leaders were inclined against the idea….  Some pro bono advocates had hoped that the [ABA] would take the lead on incorporating a 50-hour requirement into its law school accreditation standards.  However, the idea gained little traction among the ABA committee members, who said that mandating pro bono hours falls outside the scope of its accreditor role."  (Story from the National Law Journal.)

4.1.13 — Drexel joins the small cadre of law schools which offer a two-year JD degree path, according to Philly.com.

3.29.13 — from the ABA Journal: "Barely half of all 2012 law school graduates had full time, long-term legal jobs as of Feb. 15, according to employment outcome data released Friday by the ABA's Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar. Law schools reported that 56.2 percent of 2012 graduates were in jobs requiring bar passage, the figures show. But that's still a slight improvement over last year, when only 54.9 percent of all 2011 graduates had full-time, long-term legal jobs nine months after graduation. Another 9.5 percent of 2012 graduates were employed in jobs in which a law degree is preferred, which is a slight improvement over the class of 2011's numbers, when 8.1 percent of graduates held so-called JD advantage positions."

3.15.13 — "A new student-founded clinic at Emory University School of Law will focus on justice for Atlanta-area veterans by providing free legal representation for disability benefit claims and appeal hearings. Students also will work alongside experienced attorneys on legislation and other initiatives to create an alternative court for Georgia veterans involved in criminal proceedings. The Emory Law Volunteer Clinic for Veterans began accepting cases in February." (Story from the Emory News Center.)

3.8.13 — The New York Times reports on several law schools driving a mini-trend toward opening nonprofit law offices and/or incubator programs to give experience to un- and underemployed grads. "Over the next few years, 30 [Arizona State law] graduates will work under seasoned lawyers and be paid for a wide range of services provided at relatively low cost to the people of Phoenix. The plan is one of a dozen efforts across the country to address two acute — and seemingly contradictory — problems: heavily indebted law graduates with no clients and a vast number of Americans unable to afford a lawyer. This paradox, fed by the growth of Internet-based legal research and services, is at the heart of a crisis looming over the legal profession after decades of relentless growth and accumulated wealth. It is evident in the sharp drop in law school applications and the increasing numbers of Americans showing up in court without a lawyer."

Delivery of Legal Services

4.17.13 – an editorial in the Scranton Times–Tribune (a/k/a the New York Times of Northeast Pennsylvania), supports a boost in legal aid funding: "Assistance of counsel is crucial on matters such as divorce, foreclosure, eviction, debt and tax collection, civil litigation aspects of domestic violence, workplace rights and innumerable others…. The Great Recession and the slow recovery…have exacerbated the need for legal assistance for the poor…. In 2011, programs funded by [LSC] provided legal services to about 2.3 million people, but about 50 percent of those who were eligible for help and sought it were turned away. President Barack Obama's proposed budget includes a $90 million increase in the LSC budget…. Equal justice under the law is a cherished American principle, but it will be just a phrase unless Congress provides adequate funding for legal assistance to the poor.

4.16.13 – "The Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia today opened a newly expanded legal services center in Southwest Washington, with financial help from Kirkland & Ellis. The firm has pledged $125,000 a year for at least five years toward a legal services center that expands an existing clinic [in Southwest DC]." The Kirkland Foundation had helped to start the original clinic a few years ago, and Kirkland & Ellis attorneys/staff have been active supporters ever since. Now a new partnership is evolving as the Legal Aid Society will begin management to expand the clinic, with K&E's support. (Report from the Blog of the Legal Times.)

4.15.13 – CBS legal commentator and Brennan Center fellow Andrew Cohen rings the alarm bell concerning the state of civil legal aid funding, and the sequester's already–felt impact on the legal aid community. Cohen touches on the economic case for legal aid, citing the Brennan Center's Mark Ladov: "Ladov says that apart from whatever moral value there is in helping the less fortunate among us, 'investing in foreclosure prevention pays for itself by stabilizing communities, saving lost property taxes, and preventing costly increases in crime and dislocation.' He says that 'legal services for domestic violence victims pays for itself by reducing public healthcare costs, the need for police assistance, and lost jobs and wages.' And, he adds, society ends up paying anyway — 'legal services for low–income citizens prevent evictions, saving $116 million in shelter costs in 2009–2010 in New York state [sic] alone'."

4.13.13 – "[Texas RioGrande Legal Aid] announced…that it would lay off almost 25 percent of its workforce, including closing its offices in Del Rio. The staffing reductions — affecting about 65 attorneys, paralegals and other staff — will result in a reduction of services to about 5,000 families across its 68–county service area in Southwest Texas…. The layoffs are the unavoidable toll of federal budget cuts that 'finally caught up with us,' said David Hall, its longtime executive director. Last year, the nation's legal aid organizations suffered a 15 percent cut in federal funding, resulting in the loss of 1,000 attorneys at similar offices across the country. Those cuts were briefly mitigated in Texas by the infusion of one–time grant moneys from a settlement. But when TRLA was then hit by the automatic federal budget cuts in the sequester, it forced the organization to quickly cut its budget by a total of about $3 million." (Full story from The Monitor. And here's similar coverage from the Austin American Statesman.)

4.12.13 – Happy 100th, Mid– Minnesota Legal Aid! "On April 15, 1913, Legal Aid opened for business in Minneapolis…. Working with University of Minnesota law clerks, [Legal Aid's sole attorney] handled over 3,000 cases that year. Today, Mid–Minnesota Legal Aid represents and advises people in the 20 counties of central Minnesota from the Wisconsin to the South Dakota borders…. In 2012, Legal Aid represented and advised over 3,000 clients with housing matters alone. In addition to cases handled by staff, Legal Aid partners with students, private and corporate attorneys, and government agencies to extend our service to more people seeking our help." (Full piece, from executive director Cathy Haukedahl, in The Minnesota Lawyer.)

4.10.13 – the Obama Administration's FY2014 budget proposal would provide $430 million in funding for the Legal Services Corporation, "…an increase of $90 million over current funding and $28 million more than the White House recommended for FY 2013. The recommendation includes $400.3 million (93 percent) for basic field grants, which fund the delivery of civil legal assistance to low–income Americans, and $19.5 million (4.5 percent) for management and grants oversight. It also includes $3.5 million for LSC's Technology Initiative Grants (TIG), $1.5 million for a new Pro Bono Innovation Fund, $1 million for the Herbert L. Garten Loan Repayment Assistance Program, and $4.2 million for the Office of Inspector General."

Recall that LSC itself is asking Congress for $486 million in FY 2014.

4.11.13 – the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit heard arguments in the dispute between California Rural Legal Assistance and the Legal Services Corporation over the scope of an LSC subpoena concerning CRLA records. This is part of a long–running LSC Office of Inspector General investigation of CRLA activity. (Here's coverage of the run–up to the appellate hearing, from the California Report and McClatchy News Service.)

4.8.13 – "Despite steep federal funding cuts, legal services for the poor are protected in Maryland – for now. In the final hours of the 2013 session, the Maryland General Assembly is acting to soften the blow of federal budget reductions to the Maryland Legal Aid Bureau, which have topped $1 million over the past two years. The Maryland House and Senate are extending state–level funding sources for the bureau, including a civil court filing–fee surcharge that was set to expire this year." (Story from the Public News Service.)

4.8.13 – new OSI grants going to nonprof coalitions to fund joint projects

4.17.13 – an editorial in the Scranton Times–Tribune (a/k/a the New York Times of Northeast Pennsylvania), supports a boost in legal aid funding: "Assistance of counsel is crucial on matters such as divorce, foreclosure, eviction, debt and tax collection, civil litigation aspects of domestic violence, workplace rights and innumerable others…. The Great Recession and the slow recovery…have exacerbated the need for legal assistance for the poor…. In 2011, programs funded by [LSC] provided legal services to about 2.3 million people, but about 50 percent of those who were eligible for help and sought it were turned away. President Barack Obama's proposed budget includes a $90 million increase in the LSC budget…. Equal justice under the law is a cherished American principle, but it will be just a phrase unless Congress provides adequate funding for legal assistance to the poor.

4.16.13 – "The Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia today opened a newly expanded legal services center in Southwest Washington, with financial help from Kirkland & Ellis. The firm has pledged $125,000 a year for at least five years toward a legal services center that expands an existing clinic [in Southwest DC]." The Kirkland Foundation had helped to start the original clinic a few years ago, and Kirkland & Ellis attorneys/staff have been active supporters ever since. Now a new partnership is evolving as the Legal Aid Society will begin management to expand the clinic, with K&E's support. (Report from the Blog of the Legal Times.)

4.15.13 – CBS legal commentator and Brennan Center fellow Andrew Cohen rings the alarm bell concerning the state of civil legal aid funding, and the sequester's already–felt impact on the legal aid community. Cohen touches on the economic case for legal aid, citing the Brennan Center's Mark Ladov: "Ladov says that apart from whatever moral value there is in helping the less fortunate among us, 'investing in foreclosure prevention pays for itself by stabilizing communities, saving lost property taxes, and preventing costly increases in crime and dislocation.' He says that 'legal services for domestic violence victims pays for itself by reducing public healthcare costs, the need for police assistance, and lost jobs and wages.' And, he adds, society ends up paying anyway — 'legal services for low–income citizens prevent evictions, saving $116 million in shelter costs in 2009–2010 in New York state [sic] alone'."

4.13.13 – "[Texas RioGrande Legal Aid] announced…that it would lay off almost 25 percent of its workforce, including closing its offices in Del Rio. The staffing reductions — affecting about 65 attorneys, paralegals and other staff — will result in a reduction of services to about 5,000 families across its 68–county service area in Southwest Texas…. The layoffs are the unavoidable toll of federal budget cuts that 'finally caught up with us,' said David Hall, its longtime executive director. Last year, the nation's legal aid organizations suffered a 15 percent cut in federal funding, resulting in the loss of 1,000 attorneys at similar offices across the country. Those cuts were briefly mitigated in Texas by the infusion of one–time grant moneys from a settlement. But when TRLA was then hit by the automatic federal budget cuts in the sequester, it forced the organization to quickly cut its budget by a total of about $3 million." (Full story from The Monitor. And here's similar coverage from the Austin American Statesman.)

4.12.13 – Happy 100th, Mid– Minnesota Legal Aid! "On April 15, 1913, Legal Aid opened for business in Minneapolis…. Working with University of Minnesota law clerks, [Legal Aid's sole attorney] handled over 3,000 cases that year. Today, Mid–Minnesota Legal Aid represents and advises people in the 20 counties of central Minnesota from the Wisconsin to the South Dakota borders…. In 2012, Legal Aid represented and advised over 3,000 clients with housing matters alone. In addition to cases handled by staff, Legal Aid partners with students, private and corporate attorneys, and government agencies to extend our service to more people seeking our help." (Full piece, from executive director Cathy Haukedahl, in The Minnesota Lawyer.)

4.10.13 – the Obama Administration's FY2014 budget proposal would provide $430 million in funding for the Legal Services Corporation, "…an increase of $90 million over current funding and $28 million more than the White House recommended for FY 2013. The recommendation includes $400.3 million (93 percent) for basic field grants, which fund the delivery of civil legal assistance to low–income Americans, and $19.5 million (4.5 percent) for management and grants oversight. It also includes $3.5 million for LSC's Technology Initiative Grants (TIG), $1.5 million for a new Pro Bono Innovation Fund, $1 million for the Herbert L. Garten Loan Repayment Assistance Program, and $4.2 million for the Office of Inspector General."

Recall that LSC itself is asking Congress for $486 million in FY 2014.

4.11.13 – the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit heard arguments in the dispute between California Rural Legal Assistance and the Legal Services Corporation over the scope of an LSC subpoena concerning CRLA records. This is part of a long–running LSC Office of Inspector General investigation of CRLA activity. (Here's coverage of the run–up to the appellate hearing, from the California Report and McClatchy News Service.)

4.8.13 – "Despite steep federal funding cuts, legal services for the poor are protected in Maryland – for now. In the final hours of the 2013 session, the Maryland General Assembly is acting to soften the blow of federal budget reductions to the Maryland Legal Aid Bureau, which have topped $1 million over the past two years. The Maryland House and Senate are extending state–level funding sources for the bureau, including a civil court filing–fee surcharge that was set to expire this year." (Story from the Public News Service.)

4.8.13 – new OSI grants going to nonprof coalitions to fund joint projects

4.3.13 — from the Wisconsin State Bar: "As lawmakers prepare the state budget, the State Bar of Wisconsin encourages restored state funding for free or reduced-fee legal services that will help the state's poor when facing civil matters with life-altering consequences... Currently, these agencies are funded by Wisconsin lawyers, federal and private grants. In 2011, the Wisconsin Legislature completely eliminated general purpose state funding for civil legal services, making Wisconsin one of just four states to do so. Previously, the state made a $1 million appropriation for civil legal services in 2008, a $1.9 million appropriation in 2009, and a $2.5 million appropriation in 2010. Although there's a projected $420 million surplus for fiscal years 2013-15, Gov. Scott Walker's proposed budget does not restore civil legal service funding."

3.28.13 — Public Welfare Foundation president Mary McClymont, writing in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, makes the case for how and why charitable funders should support civil legal aid: "...[G]rant makers have an opportunity not just to help advance equal access to justice but also to make progress on other issues, such as affordable housing, access to health care, education reform, economic development, income security, domestic violence, and help for children and families. We should recognize that civil legal aid can serve as a significant grant-making tool, similar to community organizing, advocacy, or research. It adds value to the work grant makers already undertake."

3.28.13 — the DC Bar Foundation announced that it has awarded $3.17 million in publicly-funded Access to Justice grants to a variety of legal services providers: "Among other strong programs funded this year, FY13 ATJ Grant awards include a ground-breaking project, run by Ayuda, to end fraudulent practices by notarios who prey on vulnerable immigrant communities in DC; and funding to anchor legal services to low-wage workers in Southeast DC, through the DC Employment Justice Center."

Public funding notwithstanding, the legal-aid funding picture is far from bright. This Washington Post piece highlights continued IOLTA woes.

3.27.13 — LSC tweeted — yes, it's a verb — a weblink for a page that "highlights [technology] projects and resources designed to increase efficiency and enhance service delivery for LSC grantees." It's a good way for legal aid providers and other ATJ stakeholders to see how their peers are using technology to serve clients.

3.27.12 — the JusticeCorps project, which originated in California, has taken root in Illinois. The JusticeCorps concept is to train college students to provide resources/support to pro se litigants. This piece highlights a project, run out of Illinois State University, which is leveraging AmeriCorps funding to staff a courthouse self-help desk. The Chicago Bar Foundation and Prairie State Legal Services are engaged in these JusticeCorps efforts.

3.27.13 — the Texas ATJ community has had successes in promoting legal aid funding's importance among the general public. Here the San Antonio Express-News editorial board calls for more state funding: "Texas is woefully remiss in meeting the needs of poor citizens who qualify for free legal aid, and the state cannot afford to reduce public funding for the service. Only one legal aid lawyer is available for every 11,512 Texans who qualify for the services, according to the Texas Access to Justice Foundation."

3.23.13 — a grant from Wyoming's first-ever state-funded legal aid entity is empowering a new telephone hotline project. The project is run by the state's LSC grantee, Legal Aid of Wyoming. The new state-funded entity is — and beware the similar name — the Wyoming Center for Legal Aid. The Center, a "new judicial entity of the Wyoming Supreme Court, was created on April 19, 2011, a year after the Legislature passed the Wyoming Civil Legal Services Act. The center receives money from a $10 filing fee for civil legal actions." (Here's the full Casper Star-Tribune article.)

3.20.13 — Legal Services of New Jersey goes to the state senate with a plea for additional funding to stave off layoffs and service cuts: "The main state organization providing legal representation to poor New Jerseyans asked the Senate Budget Committee for additional state aid Wednesday to prevent layoffs and help end an ongoing budget crisis. Steep drop-offs in several funding sources has forced [LSNJ] to reduce its staff from 720 in 2008 to less than 400 today, and only one in six low-income residents seeking legal representation in cases ranging from domestic violence to tenant issues can get it. And president Melville D. Miller told the committee he was preparing to lay off another 30 employees Wednesday." (Story from The Record.)

3.16.13 (Maine) — The new "Lawyers In Libraries" program is an "outreach effort coordinated by the Volunteer Lawyers Project, or VLP. A grant allows VLP to arrange clinics by video conference; a lawyer speaks in real time at one location while people at libraries across the state watch and listen. After the lawyer's presentation, viewers can ask general questions about the law, although the lawyer cannot serve as a questioner's legal representative." (Story from the Bangor Daily News.)

3.14.13 (California) — "A coalition of legal aid groups is suing the Los Angeles County Superior Court and the state for allegedly denying minority and disabled residents access to justice to by shutting down courthouses. The lawsuit was filed in federal court Wednesday afternoon. It's aimed at a plan set to take effect Monday that would cut court tenant dispute services in 26 courthouses throughout the county." (Story from KPCC.)

3.11.13 (New York)Probono.net showcases a joint project with MFY Legal Services that uses technology to help distressed consumers. "With a grant from the New York Community Trust, we are leveraging technology and legal expertise to help New Yorkers sued for consumer debt or harassed by credit agencies. The new NYC Consumer Debt Defense Project puts information in the hands of low-income New Yorkers sued for consumer issues and increases the capabilities of the attorneys serving them. Last month, we launched the new, automated legal forms for pro se litigants, giving low-income New Yorkers the tools to advocate for themselves. The information is available on LawHelpNY."

3.5.13 (Massachusetts) — "A collaboration of legal services programs in the state today launched a new pilot project to provide legal help to people facing evictions in MetroWest and Worcester County. Funded by a $400,000 grant from Attorney General Martha Coakley's office, the HomeCorps Homelessness Prevention Project will provide free representation to low-income tenants and landlords in Worcester Housing Court and Framingham District Court. As manager of the project, the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute will be working with regional legal services providers, including MetroWest Legal Services in Framingham, as well as a special advisory panel." (Full story from the MetroWest Daily News.)

2.20.13 (Texas) — the Texas legal aid community, with some high-court backing, is seeking much-needed funding from the state legislature. From the Austin American- Statesman: "For the third consecutive legislative session, advocates for legal aid programs are scrambling to cobble together enough state money to help tens of thousands of low-income Texans navigate…life-altering problems. House and Senate budget negotiators recently agreed to renew a $17.6 million allocation for 2014-15, providing legal aid to about 100,000 people a year, but the money will meet only 20 percent of the estimated demand, Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht said Wednesday. 'This is a very dire situation,' Hecht said during a news conference at the Capitol. 'People don't have access to a lawyer and, therefore, access to the justice to which they are entitled'." Here is more coverage from the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram and the Houston Chronicle.

Communications and Public Awareness

Supreme Court justices from Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas speak on importance of civil legal aid at LSC forum at Louisiana Supreme Court. (1/22/13)

Maine Supreme Court Justice Jon Levy highlights lack of legal civil representation in PBS interview. (12/12/12)

Illinois Supreme Court convenes first Access to Justice Conference. (10/19/12)

Wisconsin Access to Justice Commission launches regional public hearings. (7/16/01)

Arkansas "Representing Hope" conference brings together multi-sector group to develop solutions to poverty; features keynotes speeches by U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens (ret.), Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Jess Dickinson. (5/30/12)

Hawaii 2012 Access to Justice Conference focuses on "Justice in Jeopardy: Expanding Access to Justice in Challenging Economic Times." (6/12/12)

"Legal Aid in Illinois: Selected Social and Economic Benefits," report from Social Impact Research Center. (5/30/12)

President Obama, bipartisan group of national leaders support LSC at White House forum on civil legal aid. (4/17/12)

California Access to Justice Commission, State Bar, and the Chamber of Commerce provide legislature with summary of findings from public hearings on civil justice crisis in courts and legal aid.

Maine Justice Action Group creates Task Force on Outreach to the Private Sector. (2/9/12)

Hawaii Access to Justice Commission, Justice Foundation, School of Law co-sponsor series of community briefings in cooperation with Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald, state legislators. (3/1/12)

Chief Justices address “Accessing Justice, Rationing Law” at Yale Colloquium. (3/1/12)

California hearings on justice crisis highlight impact of chronic underfunding and budget cuts on courts and legal aid. (12/15/11)

Chief Judge’s Task Force to Expand Access to Civil Legal Services in New York issues 2011 report documenting unmet civil legal needs, economic benefit of legal aid. (12/1/11)

West Virginia Access to Justice Commission public forums identify barriers to the civil justice system and unmet legal needs. (11/15/11)

Montana Supreme Court receives Native American legal needs survey. (12/1/11)

Maine 2012 Access to Justice Symposium examines "Changing Maine: Serving the Legal Needs of Maine’s Growing Aging and Immigrant Population." (1/25/12)

Materials

White House honors “Champions of Change: Leaders in Closing the Justice Gap” to inspire law students. (10/13/11)

Honorees blog about their activities.
Law schools blog about public services commitment.

New York Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman completes 2011 hearings on unmet civil legal needs. (11/6/11)

Lippman leads symposium on Access to Justice at NYU Law. (10/24/11)

Colorado Law’s Byron R. White Center sponsors conference on “Toward the Constitutional Right of Access to Justice: Implications and Implementation.” (11/4/11)

Lash Keynote speech by Karen Lash, U. S. Department of Justice Access to Justice Initiative.

New York Times editorial calls on government, legal profession, law schools to address “justice gap.”  (8/24/11)

New York Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman to preside at hearings in each of state’s four appellate divisions on the need for civil legal assistance. (9/15/11)

Study by University of Montana’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research charts legal needs of low-income residents. (8/1/11)

Maryland Access to Justice Commission publishes media kit, with legal aid overview and statistics. (7/5/11)

Hawaii Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald reviews progress toward meeting civil legal needs in remarks at state’s third annual Access to Justice Conference.

Conference agenda. (6/24/11)

New Maryland Access to Justice Commission Awards honor governor, legislators, judge, law librarian, programs. (5/13/11)

Florida Bar Foundation releases report demonstrating economic benefit of civil legal aid. (2/15/11)

Louisiana State Bar Association releases report demonstrating economic benefit of civil legal aid. (2/15/11)

Seattle Journal for Social Justice publishes papers on Civil Right to Counsel, Impact of Counsel and Economic Benefit. (2/20/11)

New Jersey Report demonstrates ongoing "justice gap." (4/3/11)

Court Access/Self-Represented Litigants

"The Access to Justice 'Sorting Hat':Towards a System of Triage and Intake that Maximizes
Access and Outcomes," article by Richard Zorza.
(2/1/13)

New Access Brief on Forms and Document Assembly from National Center for State Courts. (1/4/13)

New Access Brief on Self-Help Services  from National Center for State Courts. (11/24/12)

Texas Supreme Court approves pro se divorce forms after controversy. (11/14/12)

"Turner v. Rogers: The Implications link Access to Justice Strategies," article from Judicature magazine by Richard Zorza. (7/30/12)

Conference of Chief Justices and Conference of State Court Administrators recommend that states consider language in Codes of Judicial Conduct explicitly supporting efforts by judges to facilitate the ability self-represented litigants to be fairly heard. (7/25/12)

Colorado court adopt strategic plan for implementing enhanced language access. (3/15/12)

Texas Supreme Court Advisory Committee reviews draft standardized forms developed by Court’s Uniform Forms Task Force for use in uncomplicated, uncontested divorces. (4/20/12)

Report assesses evolving role of law libraries in serving self-represented litigants. (4/1/12)

Massachusetts Trial Court's Access to Justice Initiative report reviews 2011 efforts. (2/1/12)

U.S. District Court for Southern District of New York develops manual for self-represented litigants. (4/2/12)

Alaska courts program uses unbundled pro bono assistance to speed the resolution of family law cases. (4/4/12)

South Carolina Access to Justice Commission convenes “Law School for Interpreters.” (2/11/12)

"A New Day for Judges and the Self-Represented: Toward Best Practices in Complex Self-Represented Cases," article in ABA Judges Journal by Richard Zorza. (1/30/12)

Connecticut Judicial Branch Strategic Plan Implementation Report describes initiatives, links to data, forms, videos, reports, publications and other tools. (12/1/11)

Connecticut Judicial Branch, Commission on Civil Court Alternative Dispute Resolution, Report and Recommendations. (12/21/11)

New York State Courts Access to Justice Program, 2011 Report, describes DIY forms/document assembly initiatives, volunteer lawyer of the day programs, mobile self-help center. (1/30/12)

DC Superior Court rule requires landlords to bring the "rent ledger" to court in non-payment cases. (12/1/11)

District of Columbia Courts adopt revisions to Code of Judicial Conduct concerning judges' interactions with unrepresented litigants; broader than ABA Model Code. (1/1/12)

ABA House of Delegates to consider proposed national standards on language access in state courts, supported by Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators. (12/15/11)

“A New Day for Judges and the Self-Represented: The Implications of Turner v. Rogers,” article in Judges Journal by Richard Zorza. (11/30/11)

Access to Justice Commissions pursue multi-state application for grant for JusticeCorps to fund volunteers to assist self-represented litigants. (11/8/11)

Association for Family & Conciliation Courts publishes “Innovations for Self-Represented Litigants,” edited by Bonnie Rose Hough and Pamela Cardullo Ortiz. (10/1/11)

New self-help centers open.(11/1/11)

Maryland “Self-help center expands free legal services statewide”
Hawaii

Maine courts create new Access to Justice Coordinator position (10/15/11)

Maine Justice Action Group Collaboration on Innovation, Technology, and Equal Access to launch new project linking pro bono attorneys and unrepresented litigants at libraries through videoconferencing. (9/15/11)

Vanderburgh County (Indiana) Pro Se Litigant Clinic creates handbook on creating a pro se litigant clinic staffed with volunteer attorneys, paralegals, and/or law students. (8/15/11)

Sonoma County courts strategic plan calls for Uniform Litigant Assistance Triage Process to ensure clients receive appropriate level of service.
(7/15/11)

Tennessee Supreme Court approves rule recommended by state Access to Justice Commission providing for adoption of forms to be accepted as legally sufficient in all Tennessee courts. (7/27/11)

Plain Language Divorce Forms approved by Court.

ABA issues report on “Crisis in the Courts” caused by underfunding. (8/15/11)

Washington State Chief Justice Barbara Madsen addresses “Professionalism and the Pro Se Problem” in August Washington State Bar News. (8/15/11)

“Resources to Assist Self-Represented Litigants: A Fifty-State Review of the "State of the Art,"
report by John M. Greacen.

Video available on YouTube provides introduction to Texas court processes for self-represented litigants; developed by Texas Access to Justice Commission, Lubbock County Bar, and Texas Legal Services Center. (9/1/11)

California Court of Appeal Justice Laurie Zelon speaks on “Courts for the 21st Century” at Remarks at National Meeting of ATJ Chairs (5/19/11)

U.S. Supreme Court addresses due process requirements for an unrepresented litigant in Turner v. Rogers; Symposium on case highlights positive potential for access to civil justice. (6/27/11)

Illinois Coalition for Equal Justice opens 59th internet-based legal self-help center. (7/5/10)

District of Columbia Access to Justice Commission Chair Peter Edelman offers case study of Commission’s landlord-tenant court initiatives: one of four papers from Center for American Progress on “Doing What Works” to address crisis in courts, legal aid funding. (6/22/11)

D.C. Access to Justice Commission, D.C. Superior Court and legal aid programs launch Child Support Court-Based Legal Services Project. (5/1/11)

Delaware Supreme Court adopts Judicial Guidelines for Civil Hearings Involving Self-Represented Litigants. (5/11/11)

Self-Represented Litigants Committee of Texas Access to Justice Commission launches initiatives on Uniform Rules and Guidelines, Education, Self-Help Centers, Assisted Pro Se, Limited Scope Representation and Information Dissemination. (6/1/11)

Delaware Supreme Court adopts new Judicial Guidelines for Civil Hearings Involving Self-Represented Litigants. (5/11/11)

ABA poll finds little public awareness of limited scope representation (‘unbundling”) but positive response to the concept. (2/15/11)

Montana limited scope representation rules said to set "the gold standard." (3/21/11)

New York Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman announces program to provide legal assistance at foreclosure settlement appearances. (2/15/11)

Supreme Court of Texas creates task force on uniform forms. (3/15/11)

Work group addresses deficiencies in new Model Administrative Procedure Act. (5/1/11)

South Carolina Supreme Court established first pilot self-help center. (2/2/11)

Civil Legal Aid Planning, Delivery and Support

California Bar explores limited practice licensing. (2/1/13)

Harvard's Journal of Legal Technology publishes papers from LSC technology summit. (1/30/13)

George Washington University launches National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership. (1/16/13)

NLADA web site collects summaries and links to research on civil legal aid. (1/3/13)

Washington State Supreme Court approves rule to create "Limited License Legal Technician Board" to authorize specific areas of non-lawyer legal technician work. (6/1/12)

"Using Technology to Connect Pro Bono Attorneys to Remote Clients," article from ABA Dialogue Magazine." (5/1/12)

New Apps for smartphones: “Legal Aid News,” “Legal Aid Finder” created by Pine Tree Legal Assistance. Provide individual state and national news feeds, legal aid contact information. Available in the Apple App store and the Android Marketplace. (1/15/12)

New Mexico Supreme Court amends attorney registration and bar dues rules to provide for legal services limited license. (1/1/12)

CUNY Law School’s Incubator for Justice program helps new law grads transition to community-based practice. (9/22/11)

“Access Across America: First Report of the Civil Justice Infrastructure Mapping Project,” by Rebecca L. Sandefur and Aaron C. Smyth for the American Bar Foundation. (10/7/11)

Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission Special Planning Committee issues second report on improving state’s legal aid delivery system. (9/15/11)

New York statute promotes medical-legal partnerships and sets implementation standards. (9/26/11)

New Mexico Supreme Court order directs state Access to Justice Commission to continue oversight of delivery of legal services and implementation of Pro Bono Plan. (7/20/11)

Minnesota Supreme Court Legal Services Advisory Committee, State Bar Association, and Legal Service Coalition release innovative study on Client Access, Barriers and Solutions. (9/14/11)

National Law Journal highlights law school incubator programs that help recent graduates establish solo practices and encourage free or low-cost legal services to underserved communities. (9/7/11)

Wal-Mart joins Arkansas Access to Justice Commission, state legal aid programs, and hospital to launch medical–legal partnership. (6/17/11)

Texas Access to Justice Commission and American College of Trial Lawyers host Pretrial Academy for 30 legal aid attorneys. (6/1/11)

Texas Access to Justice Commission and State Bar of Texas and Corporate Counsel Section increase funding for Access to Justice Summer Internship Program, placing 14 law students from eight law schools in rural legal aid offices. (6/1/11)

State Bar of Texas to provide $1.75 million over five years to fully fund Access to Justice Commission Student Loan Assistance Program, benefiting 140 legal aid lawyers in 2011-2012. (6/1/11)

Access to Justice Commission Development and Leadership

New Access Brief on Access to Justice Commissions from National Center for State Courts. (1/24/13)

District of Columbia Access to Justice Commission issues Annual Report, highlighting private firm giving and collaborations with courts. (1/7/13)

New York Court Task Force to Expand Access to Civil Legal Services issues report and recommendations on funding, law school initiatives, pro bono, and pilot program on non-lawyer advocacy. (12/1/12)

ABA Access to Justice Expansion Projects announces 2012 Grants to Promote Innovation in Expanding Access to Justice. (11/30/12)

Connecticut Access to Justice Commission issues first Annual Report, with subcommittee reports and recommendations. (10/15/12)

Illinois Supreme Court creates new 11-member Access to Justice Commission. (6/13/12)

Montana Supreme Court creates new Access to Justice Commission. (5/22/12)

Tennessee Access to Justice Commission launches Faith-Based Initiatives Advisory Committee, sponsors Access to Justice luncheon for religious leaders.(4/14/12)

Wyoming Access to Justice Commission charts accomplishments and sets priorities in three-year evaluation and report to the Wyoming Supreme Court. (12/1/11)

Montana Supreme Court petitioned to create new Access to Justice Commission. (12/1/11)

Connecticut Access to Justice Commission expands activities through new subcommittees. (10/31/11)

Colorado Court of Appeals Judge Dan Taubman speaks on “Opening Doors to Access to Justice for Persons with Moderate Income” at ABA’s first National Summit on the Future of Legal Services Plans. (10/19/11)

Hawaii Supreme Court charts progress and accomplishments in three-year evaluation of state’s Access to Justice Commission. (7/21/11)

Mark B. Childress sworn in as Senior Counselor for Access to Justice at U.S. Department of Justice. (6/2/11)

Remarks from Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman and California Court of Appeals Judge Laurie Zelon at National Meeting of State Access to Justice Chairs. (5/21/11)

Hawaii Access to Justice Commission Annual Report reviews accomplishments in 2010. (5/15/11)

West Virginia Access to Justice Commission to hold public forums on legal needs. (7/1/11)

Vermont Supreme Court Justice Denise Johnson, “What the Access to Justice Coalition is Doing,” article from Vermont Bar Journal, Spring 2011 (5/1/2011)

Connecticut Supreme Court announces creation of new Access to Justice Commission. (4/13/11)

Michigan Justice Initiatives Summit focuses on "Engaging the Next Generations of Justice Initiatives Leaders." (4/11/11)

Updated: 11/05/2013

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