Access to Justice Update May 6, 2011

The next meeting of the Access to Justice Commission will take place on Thursday, May 26, at 3:00 pm in the Fifth Floor Conference Room of the Social Law Library in the John Adams Courthouse, One Pemberton Square, Boston. The agenda for the meeting features reports and recommendations by the Commission’s Special Planning Committee and Revenue Enhancement Committee.

IN­HOUSE COUNSEL PRO BONO FORUM

Sponsored by the Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission John Adams Courthouse, One Pemberton Square, Boston

MONDAY, MAY 16, 2011, 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm

On Monday, May 16, the Commission is sponsoring a Forum discussing the important but sometimes overlooked role of corporate and other in­house lawyers in providing pro bono services for the poor. Two expert panels will address the possibilities and rewards of in­house pro bono programs. The panels will be followed by a Pro Bono Fair with representatives of various court initiatives and legal service agencies. ALL ARE WELCOME

For more information, or to RSVP, please contact Susan Finegan at SFinegan@mintz.com.

The Panels:
The Value of Corporate Counsel Participation in Pro Bono

Marc Gary, Executive Vice President and General Counsel, Fidelity Investments Esther Lardent, President and Chief Executive Officer, Pro Bono Institute

How to Start and Sustain an In­House Pro Bono Program

Kathleen McGrath, Senior Corporate Counsel, Liberty Mutual

William O’Brien, Pro Bono Chair, Association of Corporate Counsel – Northeast Chapter

Eve Runyon, Director, Corporate Pro Bono (a joint project of the Association of Corporate Counsel and the Pro Bono Institute)

Dorothy Varon, Assistant Vice President and Counsel, Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company

LSC FUNDING FOR FY 2011 CUT BY $15.8 MILLION

The budget deal worked out between the two houses of Congress and President Obama to fund the federal government for the last five months of federal fiscal year 2011 (through September 30, 2011) included $404,190,000 for the Legal Services Corporation, a reduction of the LSC appropriation that totals $15.8 million. The cut in grants for direct services to clients came to 4% (Corporation management, Inspector General and two small grant programs were cut only 0.2%).

Unlike many of the cuts announced in the compromise, this reduction is real money in this year’s expenditures. Local legal services programs in Massachusetts will be cut about $243,000, which will translate into hundreds of low income families being turned away without legal help during the balance of the year.

This loss of funding comes on top of the drastic reduction in funding caused by low interest rates on IOLTA accounts. MLAC reports that programs if funds MLAC have seen their number of attorneys drop by nearly 25% and that more layoffs of attorneys, paralegals and other staff are in progress. At the same time, the number of people eligible for services from those MLAC­funded programs grew by 91,000 between 2007 and 2009.

Attempts by House Republican leaders to cut more deeply failed. The House voted 259 to 171 not to eliminate LSC funding entirely, and the House vote to cut $70 million did not make it into the final bill.

LSC FUNDING FOR FY 2012 UNCERTAIN

For federal fiscal year 2012 a serious battle seems inevitable. The Corporation has requested $516.5 million for FY 2012 (a 28% increase). President Obama’s budget proposal includes $450 for LSC and the House will probably have another vote to eliminate LSC entirely.

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