Access To Justice Update, September 19, 2014

This Update includes more news than usual.  Here’s what is covered.

Events:

Next Commission Meeting Thursday, October 2, 2014

Access to Justice Fellows Kickoff October 2, RSVP Now

Economic Opportunity and Justice: The Next 50 Years, Tuesday, September 23, 5:30 pm,             RSVP at once!

Reports:

Court Service Centers Open i Boston, Greenfield

Volunteers Needed

Small Claims Videos Online in Eight Languages

Citigroup and Bank of America Settlements With Department of Justice Will Bring           Funds to Mass IOLTA Committee

Research:

Why Do People With Legal Problems Do Nothing About Them?

Innovations:

VLP Wins LSC Pro Bono Innovation Grant

Hackcess to Justice at ABA Meeting in Boston

People:

Edward M. Ginsberg Receives ABA Pro Bono Publico Award

George Weber, New Executive Director, Northeast Legal Aid

Nancy E. LeBlanc

EVENTS

NEXT COMMISSION MEETING THURSDAY OCTOBER 2, 2014

The next meeting of the Access to Justice Commission will be held October 2, 2014, at 3:00 p.m.  The meeting will be held at the Boston Bar Association, 16 Beacon Street, Boston.

Among the topics likely to be discussed: planning for a next Commission (the current Commission sunsets in February), the upcoming report of the BBA Task Force to Expand Civil Legal Aid in Massachusetts, continued exploration of methods for assuring that self-representing litigants are not taken advantage of in settlement agreements, and reports on the campaigns to increase legal aid claims for attorneys’ fees and to expand the Housing Court.

The remaining dates set aside for Commission meetings are Thursday, December 4, Thursday, January 22 and Thursday, February 26.  Each of these meetings will be held in the Social Law Library at 3:00 p.m.

ACCESS TO JUSTICE FELLOWS KICKOFF OCTOBER 2,  RSVP NOW

The third year of the Access to Justice Fellows program kicks off on Thursday, October 2, at 5:30 in the afternoon in the Seven Justice Courtroom in the John Adams  Courthouse. (The Courthouse is a short walk from the Boston Bar Association where the Commission will have been meeting earlier in the afternoon.)  There will be a short welcoming ceremony with remarks from Chief Justice Gants followed by a reception in the Second Floor Conference Suite. RSVP to mfriedman@lawyersclearinghouse.org.

The new group of senior volunteers is the largest ever:

Richard Allen, Retired Partner, Casner & Edwards

Michael Angelini, Chairman, Bowditch & Dewey

Carolyn “Nicki” Famiglietti, Regional Counsel, Child Support Enforcement Division, Massachusetts Department of Revenue

Ruth Ellen Fitch, Retired President and CEO, The Dimock Center and Retired Partner, Palmer & Dodge

Myra Green, Retired Senior Vice President and General Counsel, DentaQuest and Health Dialog Corporation and Retired Partner, Choate, Hall & Stewart

Michael Haroz, Director, Goulston & Storrs

Hon. Leila Kern, Retired Associate Justice, Massachusetts Superior Court

Jordan Krasnow, Retired Director and Current Of Counsel, Goulston & Storrs

Erik Lund, Retired Senior Partner and Current Senior Counsel, Posternak, Blankstein & Lund

Hon. D. Lloyd Macdonald, Retired Associate Justice, Massachusetts Superior Court

Hardin Matthews, Retired Partner, Ropes & Gray

John Montgomery, Retired Partner, Ropes & Gray

Richard Neumeier, Partner, Morrison Mahoney

Vickie Rothbaum, Retired Solo Practitioner

Allan Taylor, Retired Partner, Taylor Duane Barton & Gilman and Current Of Counsel, Peabody & Arnold

Hon. Herbert Wilkins, Retired Chief Justice, Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

Jeffrey Wolf, Former Staff Attorney/Current Consulting Attorney, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute and Former Legal Director/Current Consulting Attorney, Community Legal Services and Counseling Center

 

ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY AND JUSTICE: THE NEXT 50 YEARS

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 23, 5:30 pm.  RSVP at once!

The Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law is presenting a panel discussion on “Economic Opportunity and Justice: The Next 50 Years,” and it is happening right here in Boston next Tuesday at 5:30. The program is being presented at Nutter McClennen & Fish, 155 Seaport Blvd, 5th Floor, Boston. The conversation will be designed to move from discussion to a call for action in advocacy about structural racism.

Speaking on the panel are Ted Shaw (Julius L. Chambers Distinguished Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Civil Rights at U. of North Carolina School of Law), Rahsaan Hall, Deputy Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, and Carol Ashley, Vice President of Advocacy at the Shriver Center.

RSVP to Mike Pope@povertylaw.org.

 

REPORTS:

COURT SERVICE CENTERS OPEN IN BOSTON, GREENFIELD

The Trial Court has opened the first two Court Service Centers in Massachusetts. Located in the Edward W. Brooke Courthouse in Boston and the Franklin County Courthouse in Greenfield, the Centers are intended to offer better support to litigants and attorneys alike and to make the courts more consumer-friendly. Among the services are individual assistance with preparing pleadings, court forms and documents, access to public computers and workstations, and interpreter services. Center staff and volunteers offer contact information for community resources, including legal aid programs and social service agencies. They also will explain court services designed to help litigants without lawyers (the self-represented). The Centers have onsite law librarians who can help with legal research.

The first Access to Justice Commission had recommended the creation of Court Service Centers after examining self-help centers in Connecticut and elsewhere. The current Commission repeated that recommendation after further study, and Commissioners Anthony Doniger and Judge Dina Fein co-chaired the Trial Court’s consideration of the idea. Rosie’s Place, the first women-only shelter in the country, is providing funding to support the Boston Center. Executive Director Sue Marsh, also a Commissioner, is quoted in the Trial Court press release as believing that the Center “furthers our mission to ensure that all people are treated with dignity and respect.” The Trial Court’s Strategic Plan calls for fifteen Centers to be opened within the next several years.

Massachusetts is behind a number of other states in developing such centers. The American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services has just published “The Self-Help Center Census: A National Survey” (August 2014) which found approximately 500 centers already in existence, with the highest numbers in California, Illinois, Maryland, Connecticut and Florida. The survey respondents reported serving almost 3.7 million people annually, with one or two full-time staff supplemented by volunteers.

Volunteers Needed: On September 18 the Boston Bar sponsored a program on the Boston Center and discussed the need for volunteers. If you are interested in exploring such a role, contact Center manager Sheriece Perry at the Brooke Courthouse.

SMALL CLAIMS VIDEOS ONLINE IN EIGHT LANGUAGES

Approximately 100,000 small claims cases are filed in the Boston Municipal, District and Housing Court Departments each year. Most of the litigants are self-representing. To explain the process, the Trial Court developed multilingual self-help videos on how to prepare for a small claims case. The videos are available online in English, Spanish, Chinese, Haitian Creole, Khmer, Portuguese, Russian and Vietnamese. http://www.mass.gov/courts/selfhelp/small-claims/videos/.

CITIGROUP AND BANK OF AMERICA SETTLEMENTS WITH DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE WILL BRING FUNDS TO MASS IOLTA COMMITTEE

This summer the Department of Justice settled investigations related to home mortgages with two more major banks. Each settlement contains funds which come to the IOLTA Committee and support legal services programs in Massachusetts.

In the Citigroup settlement, as part of Community Reinvestment, $15 million has been designated for IOLTA programs to be used for foreclosure prevention legal assistance and community redevelopment legal assistance. There were five states, including Massachusetts, that had their own investigations settled along with the national claims, but it is unclear how or when the funds will be distributed or whether the five states will receive special consideration.

The Bank of America settlement involves $17 billion, of which $7 billion is to be used for consumer relief.  Of the $7 billion, at least $30 million is allocated to IOLTA programs. $10 million will be distributed among the 50 states equally, $200,000 for each state. The remaining $20 million will be distributed on an equal per poor person basis, which will give MA another $296,000.

There could be more. BOA has been given an incentive to distribute  this money within 12 months. IOLTA programs will receive additional funds per poor person from undistributed portions of the $7 billion and from another pot of  $490 million allocated for tax relief. Both these pots of money would be distributed on a poverty population basis and only after December 2018

RESEARCH:

WHY DO PEOPLE WITH LEGAL PROBLEMS DO NOTHING ABOUT THEM?

Many studies have documented that individuals encounter serious situations involving civil legal aspects but don’t hire a lawyer to help them sort the problems out. Why not? The American Bar Foundation has just released a report on the Community Needs and Services Study that offers insight into this common circumstance. Conducted by Rebecca L. Sandefur, the Study’s needs findings are consistent with earlier studies: two-thirds of the surveyed group encountered serious legal situations in an 18 month period, for an average of 2.2 problems per group member or 3.3 problems for those who had such situations. Poor people had problems more frequently. Despite the fact that people experienced significant negative consequences from their legal situation, people handled four-fifths of their problems on their own.

Why? Was it because of cost? In only 17% of the cases was cost given as a reason not to seek outside help. Instead, Study participants did not see their situation as “legal”. 56% of the situations were described as “bad luck/part of life” or as “part of God’s plan.” 21% were described as “private” or properly dealt with within the family or community  — things it would be inappropriate to involve a lawyer in.

Rebecca L. Sandefur, “Accessing Justice in the Contemporary USA: Findings from the Community Needs and Services Study” (American Bar Foundation 2014).

 

INNOVATIONS:

VLP WINS LSC PRO BONO INNOVATION GRANT

The Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association has been awarded a $158,045 LSC Pro Bono Innovation grant to create a bankruptcy program through which Boston bankruptcy lawyers will train and mentor pro bono attorneys in parts of the state in which no pro bono bankruptcy lawyers are available. The program will use videoconferencing and will develop a prototype “pop-up” clinic.

The grant process was very competitive. A proposal by Community Legal Assistance that included a civil right to counsel pilot test of a design for pro bono representation in contested custody cases was unsuccessful despite strong support from the Access to Justice Commission.

HACKCESS TO JUSTICE AT ABA MEETING IN BOSTON

At the ABA Annual Meeting, the link between competition and creativity was given a structured test. Teams of innovative, technologically capable individuals competed against each other for a two day “Hackathon.”

The challenge in 32 hours, create a technological-enabled solution to improve access to justice.

The prize: improving access to justice.

The winner? Paper/Health, an app that provides a “quick way to create healthcare proxy and living will”

Runners-Up:

disastr, a mobile disaster legal assistance app;

Due Processor, an interactive tool for sentencing calculations and determining indigence in Massachusetts;

ReEntry App, a tool to help drug offenders reenter society and reduce recidivism;

Legal Apptitude, a triage tool to evaluate a user’s ability to use self-help tools to represent him/herself in court in a legal dispute; and

Divorce Decoded, a guide for Massachusetts divorce.

Look for these apps at an app store near you.

 

PEOPLE:

EDWARD M. GINSBERG RECEIVES ABA PRO BONO PUBLICO AWARD

At the recent ABA Annual Meeting held in Boston, Hon. Edward M. Ginsberg (retired) received the ABA Pro Bono Publico Award for creating and leading Senior Partners for Justice. He began the program twelve years ago and, with administrative support from the Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association, it has brought more than 1,000 volunteer lawyers to the aid of indigent litigants.

GEORGE WEBER, NEW EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR — NORTHEAST LEGAL AID

Northeast Legal Aid, the program created by the merger of Neighborhood Legal Services in Lynn and Merrimack Valley Legal Services in Lowell, has hired George Weber to be its first executive director. Weber has been General Counsel to Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America for the past two years. Before that he was with the Attorney General as Director of the Division of Professional Licensure and Chief of the Office of Prosecutions.   He starts on September 22.

NANCY E. LEBLANC (1933-2014)

Nancy E. LeBlanc died September 15, 2014 at the age of 81. Nancy wasn’t a Massachusetts lawyer, but her life in legal services for the poor set the standard for legal aid lawyers everywhere. Nancy was an original attorney at MFY Legal Services when it was creating the law reform and community advocacy model that the OEO Office of Legal Services adopted in the late 1960s. The consummate housing lawyer, she wrote the early manuals and rode forth for justice every day (literally, since she kept a horse in a Central Park stable). One column about her style quoted a Civil Court judge as telling his clerk “If you see her coming, duck.” Her commitment to her clients was legendary.