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Philadelphia Legal Assistance Among Recipients of First LSC Pro Bono Innovation Grants

Wed, 09/10/2014 - 7:23am

Philadelphia Legal AssistanceThe Legal Services Corporation has announced that Philadelphia Legal Assistance is one of the 11 legal aid organizations selected to receive grants from its new Pro Bono Innovation Fund to support projects that develop replicable innovations in pro bono services for low-income clients.

The Philadelphia Legal Assistance project will use the network of existing neighborhood public health centers in Philadelphia to create a pro bono, law- student-driven Medical-Legal Community Partnership that will improve access to comprehensive, coordinated health and legal care. The grant will provide PLA with $240,305 to fund the project over two years.

Many of the projects receiving grants use emerging legal aid technology to reach rural populations. Others create extensive pro bono partnerships with local law schools, community organizations, and corporate attorneys. All the projects seek to engage and recruit pro bono lawyers and other volunteers to leverage LSC’s federal funding and increase the resources available to low-income clients.

"We are grateful to Congress for funding this new competitive grant program to increase pro bono support for civil legal aid," LSC President Jim Sandman said. "As a former antitrust lawyer, I believe that competition promotes innovation. The number and quality of the applications for our new Pro Bono Innovation Fund grants proves the point."

The creation of the fund was recommended by LSC’s Pro Bono Task Force, and Congress allocated $2.5 million for it in its FY-2014 budget.

The other ten recipients of the 2014 Pro Bono Innovation Fund are:

  • Atlanta Legal Aid Society - $212,837, 24 months
    Atlanta Legal Aid Society will integrate pro bono attorneys throughout their offices in five counties to make follow-up contact with clients and provide additional brief services, which has been proven to improve client outcomes significantly.
     
  • Colorado Legal Services - $173,808, 24 months
    Colorado Legal Services will collaborate with the Colorado Bar Association to develop different technologies and clinic structures to identify the most effective ways to replicate metropolitan-area pro bono clinics in rural parts of the state.
     
  • Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles - $309,451, 24 months 
    Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles will partner with Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County and OneJustice to develop the California Pro Bono Training Institute, a statewide online forum of substantive trainings that will provide legal services organizations and pro bono attorneys with high-quality, engaging, and on-demand Continuing Legal Education courses relevant to pro bono work for low-income clients.
     
  • Legal Assistance of Western New York (LawNY) - $314,068, 18 months
    In response to New York Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman's two major pro bono initiatives, LawNY is partnering with five other LSC grantees in New York State to create a new pro bono practice group across organizations and coordinate pro bono opportunities among their 33 offices and nine New York law schools, including the Feerick Center for Social Justice at Fordham University School of Law, which staffs the Attorney Emeritus Program for the Office of Court Administration.
     
  • Maryland Legal Aid - $265,464, 24 months
    Maryland Legal Aid will establish a single, statewide Veterans Hotline, staffed by qualified pro bono attorneys who will be recruited and trained throughout the state to effectively and efficiently meet the legal needs of Maryland’s low-income veterans population.
     
  • Montana Legal Services Association - $141,087, 24 months
    Montana Legal Services Association’s project will develop a statewide technology platform targeting barriers to legal service delivery for solo practitioners, small firms, government attorneys, law students, and paralegals.
     
  • Northwest Justice Project - $211,120, 24 months
    Northwest Justice Project will develop a comprehensive set of resources to support pro bono attorneys in providing significant assistance beyond brief advice or limited action in unfamiliar areas of law, systematically increasing the level of extended services provided to low-income clients.
     
  • Prairie State Legal Services, Inc. - $158,815, 18 months
    Prairie State Legal Services will partner with Illinois Legal Aid Online to recruit and train pro bono attorneys in suburban areas and other ‘collar counties’ surrounding Chicago in an effort to provide legal services for single parents in need of family law assistance.
     
  • Utah Legal Services - $190,000, 24 months
    Utah Legal Services is partnering with the Self-Help Center of the Utah State Courts, local Utah State Bar Pro Bono committees, Timpanogos Legal Center, and volunteer law students and attorneys to provide a continuum of service for clients representing themselves in family law matters in rural areas in Utah. These organizations will expand their collaboration by creating an online meeting and document-sharing platform that connects clients with on-call volunteer attorneys.
     
  • Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association - $158,045, 24 months
    The Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association will test and prototype "pop-up" clinics, a customized virtual law firm platform, and cost-effective videoconferencing to allow expert bankruptcy volunteers in Boston to train and mentor pro bono attorneys in parts of the state where no pro bono bankruptcy attorneys are available.

LSC Press Release


 

Request for Proposals Sought for 2015 Equal Justice Conference

Wed, 09/03/2014 - 12:57pm

The American Bar Association Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service (ABA) and the National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA) are seeking session proposals for the 2015 Equal Justice Conference which will be held May 7-9, 2014 in Austin, Texas. This conference is designed to bring together all components of the legal community committed to ensuring civil equal justice for the poorest, most disadvantaged people and communities in our society.

Conference programming will focus on the innovative and creative ways that the equal justice community has maximized and leveraged strategic and collaborative approaches, using a broad range of resources (including the private bar, staffed field programs, law schools, public service lawyers, members of the judiciary and others), to address inequities in our justice system.

Proposals should explore the most current and relevant legal needs of those struggling to achieve access to justice including consumer debt collection and bankruptcy, managing an organization with limited resources, immigration, health care, housing, and new strategies for providing service.

Proposals are sought in the following categories:

  • Pro Bono Programming: focuses on models utilizing volunteers to deliver legal services and all aspects of involving volunteers in access to justice, from recruitment to recognition
     
  • Partnership Programming: focuses on ways in which elements of the legal community such as court, bar leaders, etc. can support and promote pro bono participation in conjunction with legal services and pro bono providers
     
  • Substantive Law Programming: presents information on an area of substantive law, e.g. domestic violence
     
  • Management and Diversity Programming: addresses issues of nonprofit management and increasing diversity among staff and volunteers
     
  • Delivery Innovations Programming: presents advances in and inventive models of legal services delivery
     
  • Resource Development Programming: examines issues of funding and fundraising
     
  • Info Management and Technology Programming: discusses ways in which technology can be utilized to leverage the delivery of legal services by staff and volunteers

Proposal submissions are due no later than October 10, 2014.

For more information visit www.equaljusticeconference.org and follow the links below. If you have questions about completing the online form, please contact Erin Wellin at erin.wellin@americanbar.org.

Proposal Guidelines
Session Proposal Submission Form

Wills for Heroes Seeks Additional County Coordinators, Training for Lawyers to be Held Sept. 26 and 27 in Hershey

Tue, 09/02/2014 - 9:06am

Wills for Heroes PennsylvaniaA special training session is scheduled for Sept. 26 and 27 in Hershey for lawyers who are interested in serving as county coordinators of Wills for Heroes events. A coordinator works with first responder organizations and other program volunteers to set up Wills for Heroes events in his or her county benefitting first responders and military veterans. See the online map showing the Pennsylvania counties that are in need of coordinators.

Wills for Heroes is a free service that provides wills, living wills and financial powers of attorneys to veterans, first responders and their spouses/partners. At the conclusion of one-hour appointments with legal volunteers, veterans, first responders and their spouses/partners receive notarized legal documents. The PBA Young Lawyers Division adopted Wills for Heroes as one of its statewide public service projects in spring 2009. Since that time, more than 5,000 first responders and their spouses/partners have received free wills and estate planning documents.

The county coordinator training will be held at The Hershey Company during the afternoon of Sept. 26 and attendees will participate in a Wills for Heroes Event in Hershey on Sept. 27.

For more information about the training and Wills for Heroes session, contact the PBA's Maria Engles by phone, 800-932-0311, ext. 2223, and by email.

Board of Immigration Appeals Recognizes Domestic Violence as a Basis for Asylum

Tue, 09/02/2014 - 8:51am

The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), the highest administrative immigration court in the United States, published a landmark decision on August 26, 2014 in Matter of A-R-C-G-. The BIA found that women fleeing domestic violence can be members of a particular social group, one of the grounds for asylum, and remanded a case involving a Guatemalan woman asylum seeker to the immigration court for a new decision. The Board’s decision signals a move away from restrictive interpretations of the law that have made it difficult for domestic violence survivors to receive protection in the United States. This ruling has the potential to affect immigrant women survivors of domestic violence across the country.

The case involves a mother of three, Ms. C-G-, who suffered what the decision deems “repugnant abuse” at the hands of her husband, including beatings, rapes, an assault that broke her nose, and an attack with paint thinner that left her with burn scars. Her efforts to get police protection were in vain, as they refused to interfere, and her husband threatened to kill her if she contacted them further. Her husband thwarted her repeated efforts to leave and stay with relatives when he found her and threatened her if she did not return.

“If a woman in this situation cannot count on the U.S. government for protection, when her own government has failed her, who can?” asked Karen Musalo, Director of the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (CGRS). “We are pleased that the Board of Immigration Appeals finally broke its fifteen-year silence on this issue and recognized through a fair application of the law that this woman, and women like her, can establish eligibility for asylum.” CGRS provided consultation to the attorney in the case and filed an amicus brief.

The case of Ms. C-G- is part of a long history. In 1999, the BIA denied asylum to Rody Alvarado, a Guatemalan woman who, much like Ms. C-G-, fled intimate partner violence and a failed government response. An international outcry led the government to retract the BIA’s decision and issue regulations in 2000 that would have recognized domestic violence as a basis for refugee protection.

Although the regulations were never finalized, and the BIA had not issued, until this case, a published decision in a domestic violence case,  the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agreed to a grant of asylum in 2009 for Ms. Alvarado as well as in the similar and highly publicized domestic violence case of Ms. L-R- in 2010. CGRS represented both women. However, those cases were not precedential and could not, therefore, provide adequate protection to asylum seekers fleeing domestic violence.

lthough in the cases of Ms. Alvarado and Ms. L-R-, DHS clearly took the position that women fleeing domestic violence can qualify for protection, immigration judges have continued to issue arbitrary and inconsistent decisions due to the years-long void of binding guidance. The result: many women have been ordered returned to their abusers.

In the case of Ms. C-G-, the BIA found that she  suffered harms rising to level of persecution, and DHS agreed with this view. An immigration judge had denied Ms. C-G- asylum on different grounds, finding that the abuse she suffered was the result of arbitrary criminality and not on account of her gender-defined social group. On appeal, the BIA recognized that Ms. C-G-’s social group met the (often illusive) requirements of immutability, social distinction, and particularity based on the evidence she presented.

For that reason, the BIA sent the case back to the immigration judge to consider the remaining requirements for asylum, such as whether her government is able or willing to protect her. While Ms. C-G- must still present her claims to the immigration judge in a new hearing, this ruling marks a critical turn in the administration’s interpretation of gender-based asylum claims.

Many of the women who are part of the recent surge of immigrant women and children arriving at the U.S.–Mexico border, including those held in crowded detention centers such as the one in Artesia, New Mexico, are fleeing violence at the hands of intimate partners. In some cases, the partners are gang members who target young women and force them into relationships.

“Although hurdles remain, especially for women without an attorney to present evidence on their behalf, this binding ruling provides much needed guidance for immigration judges about how to handle these cases,” said Lisa Frydman, CGRS co-Associate Director and Managing Attorney, “and, ultimately, a better shot at asylum protection for women and their children in similar situations.”

The A-R-C-G- ruling represents an important step in the right direction, recognizing the arguments advocates have put forward for more than a decade. “We hope this decision reflects a renewed commitment on the part of the Obama administration to protect women’s human rights,” remarked Blaine Bookey, CGRS co-Associate Director and Staff Attorney.

Original News Release from Center for Gender & Refugee Studies

NLADA Extends Deadline for Annual Conference Award Nominations to Sept.5

Mon, 08/18/2014 - 12:02pm

The National Legal Aid and Defender Association has announced an extension to the deadline for Annual Conference Awards nominations. You now have until Friday, September 5 to submit your nomination form and tell NLADA who deserves to be recognized this year. 

The NLADA Annual Conference Awards recognize and celebrate outstanding work within the legal community serving persons who cannot afford to pay for legal representation in either civil or criminal matters. NLADA members are invited to nominate their exceptional colleagues. Nominations are now being accepted for the following awards:

  • The New Leaders in Advocacy Award honors the accomplishments of rising attorneys who exhibit extraordinary leadership early in their careers as civil legal aid or indigent defense advocates.
     
  • The Reginald Heber Smith Award recognizes the dedicated services and outstanding achievements of a civil legal aid attorney or an indigent defense attorney while employed by an organization supporting such services.
     
  • The Denison Ray Award, awarded biennially, honors an individual who has provided exceptional service to the legal aid community as a staff member, client board member or volunteer of a provider program.
     
  • The Arthur von Briesen Award, given biennially, honors a private attorney who has made substantial volunteer contributions in support of the delivery of civil legal aid or indigent defense representation.
     
  • The Mary Ellen Hamilton Award honors a legal services client or low-income community leader who, on a compensated or volunteer basis, has provided extraordinary service or support to the delivery of legal assistance to low-income people.
     
  • The Emery A. Brownell Award gives national recognition to newspapers, magazines, online/digital publications, filmmakers, and television and radio stations that have informed the public about the crucial role played by civil legal aid or defender organizations in ensuring equal justice.

All completed awards nominations and submission materials must be received by  Friday, September 5, 2014 via email (PDF format is preferable) to  b.peterkin-vertanesian@nlada.org or  regular mail to:

Brian Peterkin-Vertansian
National Legal Aid & Defender Association
1901 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Suite 500
Washington, DC  20006

Download the Awards Criteria and Nominations Packet

ABA to Honor 2014 Pro Bono Publico Award Recipients

Fri, 08/01/2014 - 10:33am

The American Bar Association Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service will be honoring  the recipients of the 2014 Pro Bono Publico Awards during the ABA Annual Meeting on Saturday, August 9, 2014.

Each year the Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service presents five awards to individual lawyers and institutions in the legal profession that have demonstrated outstanding commitment to volunteer legal services for the poor and disadvantaged.

The  recipients of the 2014 Pro Bono Publico Awards are:

  • Dechert LLP
    International
  • Judge Edward M. Ginsburg (Retired) 
    Senior Partners for Justice Newton, MA
  • Alan Howard
    Crowell & Moring, New York, NY
  • Kermit F. Lowery
    LexisNexis, Miamisburg, OH
  • Norton Rose Fulbright
    Houston, TX

More information on the award recipients is available on the ABA website.

Pro Bono Publico Awards Presentation will take place on Saturday, August 9, 2014, beginning at  noon, at The Hynes Convention Center in Boston, MA, the site of the ABA Annual Conference.

The Honorable Robert A. Katzmann, Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, will address attendees as the keynote speaker.

LASP Seeks Applicants for Employment Opportunity Legal Corps (EOLC) Fellow

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 10:48am

LASP - Legal Aid of Southeastern PA. Serving Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery CountiesLegal Aid of Southeastern Pennsylvania (LASP) has been approved to receive an Equal Justice Works and AmeriCorps Employment Opportunity Legal Corps (EOLC) Fellowship and is currently accepting applications for the position.  The attorney hired to fill this position at LASP will provide legal assistance to low-income individuals in Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery Counties experiencing legal barriers to employment. 

LASP provides free, high quality legal services to help low income, vulnerable people facing civil legal problems that impact their health, welfare, income, family stability or personal safety.  LASP serves very vulnerable people living at or below 125% of the poverty level, those fleeing domestic abuse, and older adults with low/moderate incomes (usually below 200% of poverty guidelines).

One fellowship is available and the term of the fellowship will be one year, beginning on or about September 8 with renewal for an additional year upon approval.  The fellow will work primarily out of the LASP Norristown office but the job will involve some travel to other offices and locations primarily within the four counties.

The services of the AmeriCorps EOLC Fellow will consist of:

  • Providing direct representation to low-income individuals seeking to remove a legal barrier to employment, which may include expungement issues, drivers' license reinstatement, and occupational license issues.
     
  • Engaging in outreach to and collaborating with organizations serving unemployed and underemployed individuals, including employment training centers and other employment service organizations.
     
  • Assisting in developing and implementing systems to follow-up with clients to ascertain the impact of services on their ability to obtain employment.
     
  • Other duties pertaining to AmeriCorps and Equal Justice Works program compliance.

Applicants must be admitted to practice law in Pennsylvania and have graduated from an Equal Justice Works member law school. Completions of NSOPR, state(s), and FBI Fingerprint, criminal background checks, as well as compliance with all CNCS Federal Regulations throughout the fellowship program, are required. Applicants should be able to communicate well orally and in writing, be adept at organization and negotiation, and be able to work together with others in a team.  Knowledge of low-income issues, employment law, and experience with low-income individuals and families is preferred.

Compensation is in the range of the mid $40,000s, which includes: an AmeriCorps living allowance of $24,200 and other living expenses for housing, student loans, relocation, professional dues, life & disability insurance, and retirement plan expenses calculated on actual expenses incurred and documented by the fellow. Other fringe benefits are also provided including health insurance (medical, dental, vision, Rx), disability insurance, and life insurance.

Click here for a full description of the position.

Applicants should submit a resume, cover letter, and references by email to Liz Fritsch at efritsch@lasp.org by August 8, 2014

Applicants Sought for Employment Opportunity Legal Corps Fellowship

Wed, 07/30/2014 - 10:19am

The Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity (“PLSE”) is currently accepting applications for a new Employment Opportunity Legal Corps (EOLC) Fellowship, sponsored by the Equal Justice Works and AmeriCorps. PLSE has been selected as a host site for the new Fellowship program which will work to remove legal barriers to employment for economically disadvantaged individuals across the nation. The EOLC Fellow will provide legal assistance to individuals with a legal barrier to employment such as an expungement-eligible criminal record, revocation/denial of an occupational license, or the loss of a driver’s license.

PLSE is sponsoring one Fellow to work on expungement and employment-barrier issues in its Philadelphia office. PLSE is a 501(c)(3) non-profit legal aid organization that provides direct representation to low-income individuals seeking expungement of their criminal records in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.

PLSE’s mission is to work toward just outcomes for low income individuals who interact with the Pennsylvania criminal justice system and to create a more equitable social environment, including access to employment and social services for those with criminal records. PLSE works with law students at several area law schools, and identifies clients by conducting monthly community-based intake sessions in the communities most affected by criminal history record information. PLSE also brings strategic cases on behalf of job applicants whose rights under Pennsylvania’s Criminal History Record Information Act (“CHRIA”) may have been violated by potential employers.

PLSE’s impact derives from its innovative, interdisciplinary, and collaborative approach to addressing the needs of our clients while pressing for systemic change.

Based on Equal Justice Works/AmeriCorps guidelines, the term of service for the new Fellow will begin on or about September 2014. The Fellowship term is two years from the fellow’s start date, pending renewal after the first year.

The Fellow's time will be split between direct representation of clients and other duties, with 80% of the Fellow’s time being devoted to direct legal representation and 20% of the Fellow’s time being reserved for following up with clients, gathering employment data, and building partnerships with job-skill, and job-seeking organizations. The Fellow will receive substantive training and will become an expert in the nexus of criminal and civil law.

The Fellow must be admitted to practice law in Pennsylvania and have graduated from an Equal Justice Works member law school. The Fellow will need excellent oral and written communication skills, as well as interpersonal, organizational, and negotiation skills and the ability to work collaboratively and independently. Familiarity with social media platforms, data collection, and statistics a plus.

Knowledge of the collateral consequences of criminal records, criminal law, employment law, experience with low-income or economically disadvantaged individuals or families and knowledge of a second language is preferred. Position requires completion of NSOPR, state(s), and FBI Fingerprint, criminal background checks, as well as compliance with all CNCS Federal Regulations throughout the fellowship program. PLSE only considers past convictions to the extent that they would impede the essential function of the position and is not an automatic disqualifier.

More information on the position is available in the full positions announcement and more information on PLSE is available at the links below.

Applications should be submitted no later than August 15, 2014. To apply please e-mail resume, cover letter, writing sample (no longer than ten pages), and a list of references to:

Michael Bernard Lee, Executive Director
Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity
1501 Cherry Street
Philadelphia, PA 19102
lee@paexpungementproject.org

Full Position Announcement

More on PLSE at:

IAN and NCLR Launch New Immigration Mobile App

Thu, 07/24/2014 - 1:41pm

The Immigration Advocates Network (IAN) and the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), in partnership with Pro Bono Net and Verizon, are pleased to announce the lunch of Immigo, a new mobile app designed to provide the most up-to-date information about changing immigration laws and policies. Launched at the 2014 NCLR Annual Conference and National Latino Family Expo in Los Angeles, this cutting-edge, comprehensive resource for anyone who works with immigrant communities is currently available for free for Apple devices and for Android smart phones and tablets.

"Day in and day out, our Affiliates and allies are working with individuals and families who have questions about immigration policy and reform. This is an easily accessible resource that provides access to the latest information, updates and resources for those assisting immigrants in this country," said Janet Murguia, President and CEO, NCLR. "Immigo will be a valuable tool not only for our NCLR Affiliates, but for all organizations working within the immigrant integration arena."

Immigo provides users with information about state and federal regulations and resources associated with immigration, as well as changes and updates to immigration law and policy. Additional features include a daily immigration news feed, national trainings calendar, and geolocation technology that allows users to find nearby, trusted providers of free or low-cost immigration legal services.

"Immigo is the first-ever mobile app designed to connect individuals working with immigrants to comprehensive trainings, resources and legal referrals," said Matthew Burnett, Director of the Immigration Advocates Network (IAN). "As the largest network of nonprofit and pro bono immigration advocates in the country, IAN is proud to partner with NCLR, Verizon and Pro Bono Net to ensure that advocates anywhere in the country have ready access to timely, relevant information about this complex and ever-changing area of law."

To download the app for Apple devices, visit http://bit.ly/1njYzsn or search for "Immigo" in the iTunes App Store. To download the app for Android devices, visit http://bit.ly/1twNVQl or search for "Immigo" in the Google Play Store. If you have questions or comments, please diret them by email to support@immigrationadvocates.org.

NLADA Seeks Nominations for Annual Conference Awards

Thu, 07/24/2014 - 7:40am

The National Legal Aid and Defender Association is currently accepting nominations for its Annual Conference Awards which will be presented at the 2014 annual conference which is being held on November 12 -15, in Arlington, VA.

The NLADA Annual Conference Awards recognize and celebrate outstanding work within the legal community serving persons who cannot afford to pay for legal representation in either civil or criminal matters. NLADA members are invited to nominate their exceptional colleagues. Nominations are now being accepted for the following awards:

  • The New Leaders in Advocacy Award honors the accomplishments of rising attorneys who exhibit extraordinary leadership early in their careers as civil legal aid or indigent defense advocates.
     
  • The Reginald Heber Smith Award recognizes the dedicated services and outstanding achievements of a civil legal aid attorney or an indigent defense attorney while employed by an organization supporting such services.
     
  • The Denison Ray Award, awarded biennially, honors an individual who has provided exceptional service to the legal aid community as a staff member, client board member or volunteer of a provider program.
     
  • The Arthur von Briesen Award, given biennially, honors a private attorney who has made substantial volunteer contributions in support of the delivery of civil legal aid or indigent defense representation.
     
  • The Mary Ellen Hamilton Award honors a legal services client or low-income community leader who, on a compensated or volunteer basis, has provided extraordinary service or support to the delivery of legal assistance to low-income people.
     
  • The Emery A. Brownell Award gives national recognition to newspapers, magazines, online/digital publications, filmmakers, and television and radio stations that have informed the public about the crucial role played by civil legal aid or defender organizations in ensuring equal justice.

Download the Awards Criteria and Nominations Packet

All completed awards nominations and submission materials must be received by Friday, August 15, 2014 via email (PDF format is preferable) to m.soto@nlada.org or regular mail to: Maria Soto, NLADA, 1901 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Suite 500, Washington, DC  20006.
 

Pennsylvania Bar Association Video Offers Insights on Courtroom Interviews of Children in Custody Cases

Mon, 07/21/2014 - 8:33am

A first-of-its-kind educational tool is now available to help Pennsylvania Family Court judges, lawyers and families reduce the anxiety caused by the courtroom interviews of children at the center of custody disputes.

The Pennsylvania Bar Association Family Law Section has produced a 73-minute video program, “Judicial Interview of the Child,” that will be distributed statewide to family court judges and posted on YouTube. The video is being premiered to PBA Family Law Section members on Friday morning, July 11, during the section’s summer conference in Cambridge, Maryland.

A video trailer that highlights the purpose of the program and includes partial interviews with some of the participating judges can be viewed here and found at this web address: http://youtu.be/Z7JaO_MTj9o. For a DVD of the full video program, contact PBA Communications Director Marcy Mallory at 1-800-932-0311, Ext. 2247, or PBA Communications Manager Jeff Gingerich at 1-800-932-0311, Ext. 2216.

"Given the enormous impact that courtroom interviews have on children, it is surprising that, to this point, there were no educational tools to guide all of the custody participants, including parents, lawyers and judges,” said Dan Clifford, chair of the PBA Family Law Section, who spearheaded the project.

"Imagine the anxiety of a child who has to enter a courtroom, walk past his or her parents and face a judge that the child has never met before,” said Clifford. “A major goal of the video program is to offer guidance to Family Court judges, often new to the bench, on how to put children at ease during courtroom interviews when important custody decisions are being made. It also demonstrates to parents what’s in store for their children during these interviews."

The video includes two mock interviews between judges and child actors. There also are interviews with the following judges, who have more than 100 years of combined judicial experience, who represent the leadership of Pennsylvania’s Family Courts and who are known for their skills in talking with children:

  • Senior Judge John L. Braxton, Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas
  • President Judge Thomas J. Doerr, Butler County Court of Common Pleas
  • Judge Barry C. Dozor, Delaware County Court of Common Pleas
  • Judge Kim D. Eaton, Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas
  • Judge Holly J. Ford, Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas
  • President Judge Thomas King Kistler, Centre County Court of Common Pleas
  • Judge Katherine B.L. Platt, Chester County Court of Common Pleas
  • Judge Kelly C. Wall, Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas

Carolyn Moran Zack, Chester County Court of Common Pleas’ Family Masters Unit appears in the video to provide some of the legal criteria involved in the interviews of children.

Ann M. Funge of Philadelphia served as director and Clifford served as producer of the project.

Mailed along with the videos will be written support materials, including findings of a survey completed more than 150 judges across the state. Family Law Section member Christina M. DeMatteo of Blue Bell compiled and analyzed the survey results.

The Pennsylvania Bar Association Family Law Section focuses on the development and practical working of laws related to marriage, divorce, non-support and domestic relations, as well as laws related to adoption and to juvenile delinquency.

 

PLI Launches Free Pro Bono Open Interactive Course: Effective Communication with the Legal Services Client - Aug 4-8

Fri, 07/18/2014 - 8:17am

The Practising Law Institute is launching its first Pro Bono Open Interactive Course, Effective Communication with the Legal Services Client, on August 4-8, 2014. The course will run for five days (varying between 10-45 minutes each day), from August 4-8, 2014. It is open to all, without cost, and blends traditional course materials with videos, discussion forums (to which you will be asked to contribute your observations) and other activities that can be viewed at any time of day or night.

The course will be held exclusively online from Monday through Friday. Participants are expected to participate each day but may attend each daily segment any time, day or night. This course will teach new attorneys and seasoned professionals how to work effectively and cooperatively with their pro bono client.

PLI's Open Interactive Courses are designed to encourage collaboration and meaningful discussions between participants and the instructor.

The program shows how to create an environment in which you can educate and empower your clients — and achieve the best possible outcomes in pro bono cases.

You will learn:

  • Techniques for getting to know your pro bono client
  • Strategies for establishing a trusting and productive relationship
  • Tips for effective communication with your client
  • Strategies for helping your client make informed legal choices

Effective Communication with the Legal Services Client will be of particular interest to attorneys assisting pro bono clients through representation or in clinical settings, firm pro bono coordinators and partners, corporate law department pro bono managers, law clinic students and faculty, and public interest and non-profit organization attorneys and staff. 

More Information and Registration

Newly Launched PA IOLTA Website Supports Pennsylvania’s Attorneys and Civil Legal Aid

Mon, 07/14/2014 - 7:37am

A website redesigned to better serve attorneys, financial institutions and others who support civil legal aid for the state’s poorest individuals and families has been launched by the Pennsylvania Interest on Lawyers Trust Account, or IOLTA, Board.

Among other things, the new website (www.paiolta.org) highlights the “I Bank on Justice” Campaign — an initiative to recognize attorneys and firms that use a “Platinum Leader Bank,” or one that pays a 1 percent premium yield on IOLTA accounts.

Revenue on IOLTA accounts has dropped by 75 percent since 2007 when interest rates fell with the economic downturn. Platinum Leader Banks — and the law firms that bank with them — make a significant difference in the amount of funds available for IOLTA’s charitable purposes.

An attorney compliance section of the newly revamped website provides lawyers with instructions for opening an IOLTA account and applying for an exemption, and offers quick links to the rules and regulations governing those accounts. Attorneys may also browse the list of IOLTA grantees to find volunteer opportunities or donate to IOLTA’s Pro Bono Initiative Fund, which supports local efforts to coordinate pro bono activities. Financial Institutions serving attorneys’ IOLTA needs may quickly access interest rate certification forms and other bank resources.

The IOLTA board monitors more than 14,000 IOLTA accounts at more than 200 financial institutions approved by the Supreme Court to offer such accounts; processes more than 1,500 pro hac vice admission applications annually for out-of-state attorneys making appearances in Pennsylvania courts, and supports more than 35 legal aid providers, eight law school clinical programs and six local pro bono projects. The board also administers a loan repayment assistance program, which benefits attorneys employed by IOLTA-funded organizations.

The IOLTA board is a not-for-profit organization operating under the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania that awards grants to legal services agencies, pro bono programs and law schools to support civil legal assistance for those without the financial means to retain counsel. Its sources of revenue include the collection of interest earned on IOLTA accounts and a portion of fees on court filings and attorney registrations.

Clients and others frequently transfer moneys to attorneys to hold. When the amount is large or if the funds will be held for extended periods of time, attorneys invest the funds for the benefit of the client. When the funds are small or expected to be held for a short time, however, they cannot practically be invested. Pennsylvania Rule of Professional Conduct 1.15 requires attorneys to deposit these smaller and short-term funds into interest-bearing IOLTA accounts. The attorneys’ banks transfer the interest earned on these accounts to the IOLTA board.

Every state, along with the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands, operates an IOLTA program.

 

22nd Annual ACBA Golf Tournament Online Auction - Bidding Now Open!

Thu, 07/10/2014 - 10:28am

In conjunction with the 22nd Allegheny County Bar Association Golf Tournament that is being held on July 18 at the Longue Vue Club, the Allegheny County Bar Foundation is auctioning off a number of fun and unique items to raise funds for the ACBF and Neighborhood Legal Services Association.

Help raise funds for pro bono legal services by participating in this online auction. Funds raised by the auction will benefit the pro bono programs of the Allegheny County Bar Foundation and Neighborhood Legal Services Association.

These programs provide crucial legal services to low-income individuals and families facing legal issues ranging from housing to domestic abuse. Your support will make a difference in the lives of so many in our community!

Some of the Top Items up for bid include:

  •     Omni William Penn Hotel & The Carlton - Pure Luxury
  •     Omni Bedford Springs Resort & Spa
  •     Fairmont Pittsburgh - Stay in Luxury
  •     Bose® - SoundLink® Mini Bluetooth Speaker
  •     Basket of Good Spirits! 3 Bourbons, 1 Whiskey
  •     Two Extraordinary Wines plus Wine Accessories
  •     BEER! Hop Farms Brewing Co. & Penn Brewery Gift Certificates
  •     GoPro - Hero3+ Silver Edition Camera + SkanDisk 32GB Card
  •     Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel - Overnight Plus Two for Breakfast
  •     Shadyside Inn - One Free Night

Visit the Auction website to bid on one of these items or to view all 42 items that are available.

The auction ends on July 16, 2014 at  3:00 pm Eastern, so DON'T DELAY!

22nd Annual ACBA Golf Tournament Online Auction website

Nominations Sought for 2014 ACBA Pro Bono Achievement Awards

Tue, 07/08/2014 - 11:44am

The Allegheny County Bar Foundation and the Public Service Committee are currently accepting nominations for the 2014 Pro Bono Achievement Awards. The ACBA Pro Bono Achievement Awards recognize individuals and organizations that have made outstanding contributions to pro bono service in our communities.

The awards will be presented at the 17th Annual Fellows Reception on Tuesday, September 16, 2014 at 5:30 p.m. at the LeMont in Pittsburgh. The award winners and the nominators will receive complimentary tickets to the event, which will feature guest speaker Detective Deirdri Fishel, a court-recognized expert on domestic violence. The award winners will also be honored at the Public Service Committee’s annual volunteer recognition event which will be held during Pro Bono Week, October 20-24, 2014.

Nominations may be made in the following categories:

Jane F. Hepting Individual Attorney Award: This award is given to an attorney who has shown exemplary commitment to or made substantial achievements in pro bono legal services. The ACBF Board of Trustees adopted a resolution in 2002 to name this award in recognition of Jane Hepting’s dedication to the delivery of pro bono legal services through her 26 years as an NLSA attorney, the many and varied pro bono programs that she helped create and implement, her recruitment initiatives and exceptional training programs to attract and prepare volunteer attorneys, her exceptional expenditures of time and energy on behalf of pro bono legal services, and her outstanding commitment and dedication to public service, the legal profession, and the community.

Lorraine M. Bittner Public Interest Attorney Award: This award is given to an outstanding and dedicated attorney who is employed by an entity or program whose primary function is the delivery of civil legal services to low-income individuals or organizations that serve the poor or disadvantaged. The award is named in honor of the first attorney to receive it when it was established in 2005, in honor of her exceptional and career-long commitment to the needs of the poor and disadvantage through her work at Neighborhood Legal Services Association and the Women's Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh.

Organization Award (law firm, corporate legal department, government legal department, or other entity or group): This award recognizes groups of individuals who collectively or as an institution have shown exemplary commitment to or made substantial achievements in the delivery of pro bono legal services.

Special Service Awards: Individuals or organizations who do not fall into another category and who have made substantial contributions to the delivery of free legal services may be nominated and recognized in this category. Such nominees might include attorneys, judges, paralegals, law students, and others.

CLICK HERE to see a list of past award winners.

The deadline for nominations is Friday, July 25, 2014, 5:00 p.m.

Online Nomination Form