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Three States Report Increases in State Funding for Legal Aid – As states begin to recover from the economic downturn, legal aid advocates in some states are finding the time is right to seek increases. Three states – Maryland, Colorado and New Mexico – have reported increases so far as a result of their 2013 legislative sessions. The increases in Colorado, from $626,000 to $1,100,000, and in New Mexico, from $1,600,000 to $1,900,000, are appropriations. In Maryland, the legislature increased the amount of state abandoned property funds paid annually to legal aid from $500,000 to $1,500,000. Members of the Access to Justice Commissions in all three states were actively involved in these successful efforts. Increases are expected in other states and will be reported in future issues of Legal Services Now. For more information about state funding initiatives, contact Meredith McBurney, Resource Development Consultant, ABA Resource Center for Access to Justice Initiatives or call 303/329-8091.
Legislation Expands Legal Aid's Access to Civil Penalties Collected by the Texas Attorney General's Office – Legal aid programs in Texas have benefited from legislation that permitted civil penalties paid to the Texas Attorney General's Office to fund legal aid. Previously, there was a cap of $10 million per biennium. This year's legislation increased the cap to $50 million. (The amount actually received will depend on penalties collected.) The funds are paid to the Texas Supreme Court for grants then made by the Texas Access to Justice Foundation to civil legal aid programs. The legislation, officially named the Chief Justice Jack Pope Act, honors the former Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice who recently turned 100 years old, and who utilized the Court's inherent authority under the Texas Constitution to order the creation of the Texas IOLTA program. For more information, contact Randy Chapman, Executive Director, Texas Legal Services Center or call 512/637-5416.
Illinois Enhances Pro Bono Rules - Effective April 8, 2013, amendments to Illinois Supreme Court Rules increase the ranks of attorneys who can provide pro bono legal services in Illinois. Building on 2008 amendments that for the first time allowed retired, inactive and corporate counsel to perform pro bono service in Illinois, the 2013 amendments make it possible for all attorneys, even those licensed in other states, to provide pro bono legal services in Illinois. This state joins Colorado and Virginia in permitting pro bono participation by registered in-house counsel without additional registration or affiliation requirements. Attorneys licensed in other states and attorneys registered as retired or inactive in Illinois may register to provide pro bono legal services in partnership with a sponsoring entity. For additional information, contact Danielle Hirsch, Executive Director, Illinois Access to Justice Commission or call 312/793-2014.
Kansas Supreme Court Adopts Emeritus Rule – Kansas Supreme Court Rule 208 has been amended to permit retired or inactive attorneys to practice on a pro bono basis. To do so, the attorney is required to obtain a statement from the disciplinary administrator that he or she is in good standing and has no pending disciplinary proceedings. In addition, pro bono services must be provided through either a not–for–profit provider of civil legal services or an accredited law school clinic, which must be approved by the Kansas Supreme Court for emeritus pro bono participation. The amendments became effective April 1, 2013. For more information, contact Marilyn Harp, Executive Director, Kansas Legal Services, Inc. or call 785/233-2068.
New York Court of Appeals Enacts Pro Bono Reporting Requirement - Effective May 1, 2013, attorneys admitted to practice law in New York are required to report the following on their biennial attorney registration statement: (1) the number of hours voluntarily spent providing unpaid legal services to poor and underserved clients during the previous biennial registration period; and (2) the amount of voluntary financial contributions made to organizations primarily or substantially engaged in providing legal services to the poor and underserved during the previous biennial registration period. New York joins seven other states – Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Mississippi, Nevada, and New Mexico – to require reporting of pro bono participation. For additional information, send an email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Natural Allies: Philanthropy and Legal Aid – The Public Welfare Foundation and the Kresge Foundation have joined forces in this publication that makes the case for other charitable foundations to fund civil legal aid. It explains how civil legal aid programs can increase the impact of a funder’s dollars and provide an efficient way to support poverty reduction and other systemic goals. To download a copy, go to http://www.publicwelfare.org/Home.aspx.
On April 10, 2013, President Obama recommended $430 million in funding for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) for FY2014, an increase of $90 million over current funding and $28 million more than the White House recommended for FY2013. 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.
On April 16-18, 2013, 360 national, state and local bar leaders from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico took part in ABA Day in Washington, D.C. and educated their Members of Congress on the need to increase funding for LSC. For more information on the ABA's efforts in this area, contact Ann Carmichael, Legislative Counsel, ABA Governmental Affairs Office, or call 202/662-1767.
For more information about specific items, contact the contact person listed for that item. To contribute items to future issues of LEGAL SERVICES NOW, or for general information about this bulletin, contact Bev Groudine, call 312-988-5771, or fax 312-988-5483.