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Missouri Supreme Court Adds Fee to Help Legal Aid – The Missouri Supreme Court recently added $30 to the fees that attorneys must pay to practice law in Missouri to help provide legal aid to low–income residents in civil cases. This fee is in addition to the existing mandatory bar fee of $20 approved in 2002, bringing the total attorney fee for legal aid to $50. The funds will go to Missouri's four LSC–funded legal aid programs to help offset recent cuts in funding from the Legal Services Corporation. In six states – Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin – a fee specifically for legal aid is part of the attorney registration or bar fees paid by attorneys to practice law. For more information about attorney registration fees and/or bar dues for legal aid, contact Meredith McBurney, Resource Development Consultant, ABA Resource Center for Access to Justice Initiatives or call 303/329-8091.
Legal Aid Programs in Washington State Benefit from Major Cy Pres Award – The Legal Foundation of Washington (LFW), the state’s IOLTA program, received $12 million, and its partner, the Endowment for Equal Justice, received $1 million, in class action residual funds from a case, Judd v AT&T. The action was brought on behalf of incarcerated people and their families who were overcharged for collect calls made from Washington jails. The class was particularly difficult to locate, leading to a large unclaimed amount. LFW received a portion of its award pursuant to the Washington State Supreme Court rule, adopted in 2006, which requires that at least 25% of any residual funds in state class actions be disbursed to LFW. Thirteen states have supreme court rules or legislative statutes expressly stating that cy pres awards may go to legal aid; of those, a total of five have provisions like the one in Washington, which requires that a portion goes to legal aid. For more information on cy pres awards and rules, contact Meredith McBurney, Resource Development Consultant, ABA Resource Center for Access to Justice Initiatives or call 303/329-8091.
New York Adopts Rule Permitting Corporate Attorneys to Provide Pro Bono Legal Services — New York Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman announced a rule change effective December 4, 2013 that will allow attorneys who work in corporate law departments in New York, but who are not admitted to practice law in the state, to do pro bono work. Under the new rule, an attorney admitted to practice and in good standing in another state or territory of the United States or the District of Columbia and properly registered with the courts may appear pro bono in New York courts. Attorneys practicing under the rule are subject to the New York disciplinary authority and must comply with the laws and rules governing attorneys admitted to practice in the state. New York is the 20th state to adopt a rule specifically providing for pro bono participation by in-house counsel not licensed in the jurisdiction. For additional information, contact David Bookstaver, Communications Director, New York State Unified Court System, at 212/428-2500.
ABA Pro Bono Committee Issues White Paper on New York’s 50-hour Mandatory Pro Bono Admissions Rule – The ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service published in October an analysis of this new rule and its potential application in other states. The White Paper explores the origins of this first-of-its-kind requirement, which obligates almost all New York bar applicants to complete 50-hours of qualifying pro bono service as a condition for bar admission. The paper further explores potential upsides and downsides to the 50-hour Rule, and surveys its ripple effects in California, Connecticut, Montana, and New Jersey, all of which have explored following suit in some form. The Standing Committee continues monitoring developments in New York and elsewhere. For more information, contact Steve Grumm, Assistant Counsel, ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service, or call 312/988-5748.
Harrison Tweed Award —The ABA Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants and the National Legal Aid and Defender Association will be seeking nominations in January for the 2014 Harrison Tweed Award. It was created in 1956 to recognize the extraordinary achievements of state and local bar associations in the United States that develop or significantly expand projects or programs to increase access to civil legal services to poor persons or criminal defense services to indigents. Nominations forms and all supporting materials must be received electronically by the close of business on Tuesday, April 1, 2014. For more information, contact Tamaara Piquion, Program Manager, ABA Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants, or call 312/988-5767.
Pro Bono Publico Award – This award was established by the American Bar Association in 1984 to recognize lawyers and law firms for extraordinary noteworthy contributions to extending legal services to the poor and disadvantaged. The recipients exemplify the volunteer tradition of the legal profession. The Association's Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service administers the program. Each year the Pro Bono Committee presents five awards to individual lawyers and institutions in the legal profession that have demonstrated outstanding commitment to volunteer legal services. Nomination forms and all supporting materials will be accepted beginning in January and must be submitted electronically by the close of business on Friday, February 28, 2014. For more information, contact Erin Wellin or call 312/988-5756.
Before adjourning for the year, Congress passed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013. This budget restores most of the reductions that were, under the 2011 Budget Control Act, to be imposed over the next two years on discretionary spending ("sequestration"). The 2013 Act will allow for total domestic discretionary spending above FY2013 levels, although still below FY2012 levels. This agreement removes the threat of even more and deeper sequestration, which would have resulted in additional cuts to LSC of 6-8%. However, this Act does not specify FY2014 funding for any individual programs, including LSC. Instead, the appropriations committees will determine how much to allocate to each of the subcommittees (LSC is under the Commerce Justice Science subcommittee) and then the subcommittees will decide how to fund the individual programs. Congress is expected to take action on the FY2014 budget shortly after it returns from recess on January 7, 2014.
For more information, 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.