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State Legislative Funding Update – Legal aid programs ended the 2013 legislative session with approximately $280 million in state funding - $118 million from court fees & fines and $162 million from appropriations. This is the highest amount ever recorded for this funding source. Thirteen states posted increases in 2013 from the previous year – Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia. It is anticipated that 2014 will produce fewer increases, since for many states it is the second year of a biennium budgeting process and so the legislature will not produce a new budget. However, seven states have reported the possibility of some increase. More information will be available after June, when most state legislative sessions will have adjourned. For additional information, contact Meredith McBurney, Resource Development Consultant, ABA Resource Center for Access to Justice Initiatives, or call 303/329-8091.
IOLTA Comes to Puerto Rico – On December 26, 2013, legislation was passed in Puerto Rico establishing mandatory IOLTA. The program was created as part of the Fund for Access to Justice Act. Pursuant to this statute, the governor is to appoint an Administrative Board, which will have 120 days to adopt regulations regarding the operation of IOLTA accounts and the IOLTA program. In addition, the legislation provides initial funding of $300,000 to begin the operation of the Fund for Access to Justice. Puerto Rico becomes the 47th U.S. jurisdiction to adopt mandatory IOLTA. For more information about this legislation, contact Charles Hey-Maestre, Executive Director, Puerto Rico Legal Services, Inc., or call 787/728-8686, x1561. For information about IOLTA generally, contact Bev Groudine, Staff Counsel, ABA Commission on IOLTA, or call 312/988-5771.
New York Court of Appeals Launches “Pro Bono Scholars” Program — On February 11, 2014, NY Court of Appeals Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman announced this first of its kind program through which law students will have the opportunity to dedicate their last semester of law school to providing pro bono legal services to those living in poverty. Specifically, during their second-semester, third-year law students will be permitted to sit for the February bar exam, and spend the semester’s remaining weeks in a pro bono service placement with an accompanying academic component administered by their law school. An Advisory Committee will be established to develop a more precise timetable for implementation of the program, as well as address a number of other issues. For more information on this innovative program, contact Margaret Nyland Wood, Staff Attorney, New York Court of Appeals, or call 518/455-7760.
Maryland Releases Report on 2012 Pro Bono Reporting — Maryland recently released its report on 2012 pro bono participation, which indicated that over half of Maryland’s full-time lawyers (57.2%) provided a total of 1,162,231 pro bono hours representing the state’s indigent population. Financial contributions to organizations providing legal services to those in need increased for the fourth consecutive year. Solo and small firm practitioners reported the highest rate of providing pro bono legal services (70%), followed by practitioners at medium-sized firms and large firms, respectively. Maryland is one of eight states that have implemented mandatory reporting of pro bono service. For more information about the Maryland report, contact Sharon Goldsmith, Executive Director, Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland, or call 410/837-9379.
Montana Provides Analysis of Voluntarily Reported Pro Bono Service —The State Bar of Montana and the Montana Supreme Court Office of the Court Administrator have jointly released an analysis of 2013 pro bono service that was voluntarily reported by attorneys. Reported pro bono hours in 2013 were 10.4% higher than those reported in 2012. The total dollar value of free services reported for 2013 was over $16 million. The analysis provides extensive detail on the data collection process, the kinds of pro bono services rendered, what kinds of cases pro bono advocates handled, and more. Montana is one of the twelve states that have implemented voluntary reporting of pro bono service. For additional information about the Montana report, contact Janice Doggett, Equal Justice Coordinator, State Bar of Montana, or call 406/447-2201.
2014 Equal Justice Conference is Scheduled for May 1-3 in Portland, Oregon — This annual event, sponsored by the American Bar Association and the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, brings together all components of the legal community to discuss equal justice issues as they relate to the delivery of civil legal services to those living in poverty. The emphasis of this Conference is on strengthening partnerships among the key players in the civil justice system. Through plenary sessions, workshops and networking opportunities, the Conference provides a wide range of learning for all attendees. For more information and to register, go to: www.equaljusticeconference.org
In January, Congress passed and the President signed into law the Consolidated Appropriations Act for FY2014, which provided $365 million in funding for the Legal Services Corporation through September 30, 2014. It increased LSC's funding by $25 million over last year and included $2.5 million for a new Pro Bono Innovation Fund. Regarding FY2015 funding, President Obama's budget allocates $430 million for LSC, which is the same amount that appeared in his FY2014 budget. LSC has requested $486 million, which is the same amount it requested last year.
ABA Day in Washington D.C., which will take place on April 8-10, will provide bar leaders with an excellent opportunity to advocate to Members of Congress for additional funding for LSC so that local programs can continue their vital work. For additional information, contact Ann Carmichael, Legislative Counsel, ABA Governmental Affairs Office, or call 202/662-1767.
For more information about specific items, contact the 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.