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Ohio Supreme Court Amends Rules to Increase Funding for Legal Aid - The Ohio Supreme Court adopted two amendments to the Rules for the Government of the Bar of Ohio to help fund civil legal aid services for low income or disadvantaged Ohioans. The first change increased the pro hac vice registration fee (which is paid by out-of-state attorneys to make an appearance in an Ohio court proceeding) from $150 to $300 and became effective on July 1, 2016. The second change implemented a $50 voluntary “add on” fee to the biennial attorney registration fee. These changes were recommended by the Court’s Task Force on Access to Justice in 2015. Ohio joins 14 other states in using some or all of its pro hac vice fee to fund legal aid, and numerous other states in providing a voluntary check off for legal aid on its attorney registration or bar dues statements. For more information about the Ohio rule changes, contact Ed Miller, Public Information Officer, Supreme Court of Ohio or call 614/387-9250.
Wisconsin Supreme Court Approves a Cy Pres Rule for Legal Aid - The Supreme Court of Wisconsin has amended Wisconsin Statute 803.08 to provide that, in class actions in which residual funds remain, not less than fifty percent of residuals shall be disbursed to the Wisconsin Trust Account Foundation to support direct delivery of legal services to persons of limited means in non-criminal matters. This revision was adopted by the court on June 24, 2016, and becomes effective January 1, 2017. Including Wisconsin, there are now 21 states with such court rules or legislatively enacted statutes, which provide critical funding for legal aid while at the same time providing a balanced resolution to what otherwise can often become a thorny issue in class action litigation. For more information about the Wisconsin rule change, contact Jeff Brown, Staff Coordinator, State Bar of Wisconsin or call 608/250-6177. For more information about cy pres rule and statute changes generally, contact Meredith McBurney, Resource Development Consultant, ABA Resource Center for ATJ Initiatives or call 303/329-8091.
ABA House of Delegates Adopts Policy Supporting the Use of Class Action Residuals to Fund Legal Aid - On August 8, 2016, the ABA House of Delegates adopted a resolution that urges jurisdictions to adopt court rules or statutes authorizing the award of class action residual funds to non-profit organizations that improve access to civil justice for persons living in poverty. The resolution further provides that before class action residual funds are awarded to charitable, non-profit or other organizations, all reasonable efforts should be made to fully compensate members of the class, or a determination should be made that such payments are not feasible. For more information regarding this policy statement, contact Terry Brooks, Chief Counsel, ABA Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants or call 312/988-5747.
U.S. District Court in Indiana Will Implement Mandatory Pro Bono Service - The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana has adopted Local Rule 87, which is designed to bolster the number of lawyers available to represent pro se litigants at no charge. Specifically, this rule creates an obligatory panel of lawyers who are required to provide representation. Attorneys who appeared before the court at least 10 times in civil cases during 2015 will be placed on this panel and assigned to cases as needed. An attorney tapped from the obligatory panel has seven days to file a motion to withdraw if representing the pro se litigant would conflict with an existing client. The new rule becomes effective on September. 1, 2016, but the first obligatory panel will not become active until October 1, 2016. For more information, contact the Clerk of Court or call 317/229-3700.
New Pro Bono Platform Seeks to Make Obtaining Citizenship Easier - In an effort to make applying for citizenship easier and more affordable, the first free online platform was recently launched to help guide applicants through the process. The site provides step-by-step help with the process and for more complicated cases, connects users to online or in-person legal help through a national network of nonprofit legal service providers. The app, called CitizenshipWorks, was a $1 million joint effort by the Immigration Advocates Network and Pro Bono Net, funded by the Knight Foundation and the New Americans Campaign. For more information, contact Matthew Burnett, Director, Immigration Advocates Network or call 212/760.2554, x481.
District of Columbia Bar Receives the 2016 Harrison Tweed Award - The ABA Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants (SCLAID) and the National Legal Aid and Defender Association presented the 2016 Harrison Tweed Award to the District of Columbia Bar during the 2016 ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco for the work of its Pro Bono Center. This award, named for an outstanding leader in the promotion of free legal services to persons living in poverty, recognizes the extraordinary achievements of state and local bar associations that develop or significantly expand projects or programs to increase access to civil legal services to persons living in poverty or criminal defense services to indigents. For more information about this award, contact Bev Groudine, Associate Counsel, SCLAID or call 312/988-5771.
ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service Presents 2016 Pro Bono Publico Award - This annual award is presented to individual lawyers and institutions in the legal profession that have demonstrated outstanding commitment to volunteer legal services for the poor and disadvantaged. The awards were presented this year at the ABA Annual Meeting to the law firms of Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton and Katten Muchin Roseman, as well as to the following lawyers: John Goss, Renee Schoenberg and Hillary Gaston Walsh. For more information about the award, contact Julie McCullough, Meetings and Committee Specialist, ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service or call 312/988-6068.
Congress recessed for the summer without the full House or Senate acting on their respective FY2017 appropriation bills that include funding for the Legal Services Corporation. Previously, the Senate Appropriations Committee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS) approved $395 million for LSC, a $10 million increase over LSC’s current funding. The U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee approved funding legislation that provides $350 million for LSC in FY2017. While this amount is $50 million more than the House approved for LSC in FY2016, it is $45 million less than the Senate Appropriations Committee has approved for FY2017. It is unknown at this time what action Congress may take regarding the LSC appropriation when it returns from recess in September. For more information on the ABA’s efforts in this area, contact Aloysius Hogan, Legislative Counsel, ABA Governmental Affairs Office or call 202/662-1767.
For more information about specific items, call 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 312-932-6425.