Monthly Archives: April 2009

New ABA poll: Americans strongly support legal aid

The ABA announces:  “Many Americans report their financial fortunes are falling, but a new survey commissioned by the American Bar Association and conducted by Harris Interactive records high support levels for provision of the basic legal help for those in crisis . . . .  In the wake of the recession, grantees of [the] Legal Services Corporation in all regions of the country are reporting a wave of new clients seeking help.  Agencies say that common issues include: foreclosure prevention, late payments on medical bills, car and credit cards, and delinquent child support . . . .  U.S. adults overwhelmingly back provision of legal services for those facing serious legal and financial problems who could not hire a lawyer: Over two-thirds (68 percent) say it’s extremely or very important that Americans have access to legal resources and advice when they are in crisis . . . .  Americans also strongly support the existence of, and federal funding for, the work of Legal Services Corporation and its grantees.  Eighty-eight percent agreed that it is essential that a non-profit provider of legal services is available to assist those who could not otherwise afford legal help.  Two thirds support federal funding to help Americans who need that assistance.”

For ABA’s one-page summary of the results, click here.  To read the full study, click here.

Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Press Release, “Legal Aid Poll Should Prompt Congress to Restore Equal Access to Justice, Says Harkin,” April 20, 2009

In response to the ABA poll, Senator Tom Harkin said: “Congress should act immediately to restore equal access to justice.  Harkin, a former legal aid attorney, is the author of a Senate measure that will expand and improve vital civil legal aid in this country.  The Civil Access to Justice Act increases funding for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) [a major funder of Maryland Legal Aid], lifts many of the restrictions on LSC-funded attorneys and improves corporate governance at LSC.  ‘As a former Legal Services attorney, I know firsthand how crucial legal assistance is to protecting the safety, security and health of struggling families who have no place else to turn.  In this economic downturn, the need for legal representation is higher than ever, yet limited resources and severe restrictions on LSC-funded attorneys impede the ability of legal aid attorneys to provide the most meaningful representation,’ said Harkin.  ‘Everyone in this country–regardless of income–deserves access to justice and quality legal representation.  This poll proves that Congress must act immediately on legislation that restores the principle of equal justice under law.'”

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Legal Aid helps client hit by hard economic times

Midwestern Maryland office (Frederick) law graduate Alecia Rohrer helped a man get unemployment benefits after he quit his job because his boss and the boss’s son were harassing him and using foul language. The client, a 50-something small-engine mechanic, was originally found to have quit without good cause or valid circumstances. “The client is illiterate and filed his first appeal on his own, but it was not received by DLLR,” Alecia said. “It was not until after the deadline for the appeal that I learned of the mishap and, with the help of [a senior paralegal], we assisted him in filing a second appeal,” which was successful.

Rohrer said the win was special because the client represents those hit hardest by these economic times. “He is a skilled, hard working individual, but the type of work he does is no longer in demand,” she said. “He quit his job as a small-engine mechanic to take a job doing landscaping, but shortly after, was laid off due to no work. Although he is a trained employee, he has been unsuccessful at finding work since October. He went through the winter heating his house with a wood burning fireplace because he couldn’t afford heat. His phone was periodically shut off during the times when I was preparing for his case and I had to be sure to provide him with stamped envelopes to facilitate our communication, as he simply couldn’t afford them.”

“When I called to tell him about the favorable decision, he was so elated,” Rohrer continued. “He told me that as I was talking to him he was cashing in cans that he had collected from garbage cans. He thanked me for my help and I could hear his smile.”

No cuts for Maryland legal services

Maryland Legal Aid executive director Wilhelm H. Joseph Jr. was interviewed by the National Legal Aid & Defender Assoc.

Maryland Legal Aid executive director Wilhelm H. Joseph Jr. was interviewed by the National Legal Aid & Defender Assoc.

Maryland Legal Aid Executive Director Wilhelm Joseph (left) said that the current economic downturn is increasing the need for civil legal services to the poor and warned that failure to invest in the civil justice system could lead to more criminal disorder. “If any area cries out for for an expansion of justice, it’s public access to justice,” Joseph told The Daily Record in an article published today, “No cuts, conditions for legal service in Maryland.”

The article reports that the while the General Assembly wrapped up its session by cutting nearly $870 million in the FY 2010 budget, funding for the state’s legal services community was spared. The bad news, however, is that due to a drop on interest rates on lawyer trust accounts, projected overall funding for the state’s legal services organizations (including Maryland Legal Aid, the largest) will be down 40 percent.

To read the entire article, click here.

Legal Aid lawyer proposes Maryland establish Cesar Chavez Day

cesarchavezMaryland Legal Aid Farmworker Program supervising attorney Daniela Dwyer promoted her idea to make March 31 “Cesar Chavez Day” in Maryland on two media outlets: WPFW-FM in Washington and in an op-ed in the Baltimore Chronicle. Dwyer was a guest last week on WPFW-FM’s Latino Media Collective. In her op-ed, Dwyer said the the influence of Chavez (left, co-founder of the United Farm Workers of America) extended far beyond the West Coast. Yet more than 15 years after Chavez’ death, “the vast majority of farmworkers in Maryland face harsh living and working conditions, both of which remain largely dictated by their employers,” Dwyer wrote.

Obama nominates former Legal Aid president to 4th Circuit

U.S. District Court Judge Andre M. Davis

U.S. District Court Judge Andre M. Davis

Yesterday, U.S. District Court Judge (and former board president) Andre Davis was nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit by President Barack Obama. Davis was Legal Aid’s president in the mid-1980s and will be the guest speaker at next month’s Equal Justice Council annual recognition breakfast at Camden Yards on May 21.