We are pleased to highlight Equal Justice Works’ campaign to recruit applicants for the AmeriCorps JD program. A guest post with application instructions (apply by May 2nd!) and a brief description of the program is below, along with a testimonial from L.G Corder, a US Army Veteran and Equal Justice Works Legal Fellow.

Law students: are you interested in public interest opportunity this summer where you can make a real impact in the lives of our nation’s Veterans?

Equal Justice Works’ program, AmeriCorps JD, is looking for law students to provide legal service to Veterans. Eligible law students must dedicate 300 hours of service to a qualifying legal project with legal aid organizations, Veterans’ law clinics, Veterans Treatment Courts, and state or local government agencies. The deadline for applications is May 2nd, and the 300 hours of service must be completed by Aug. 31, 2014.

You may be asking, how can I give back to Veterans as an AmeriCorps JD member? Well here’s a special video message from L.G. Corder, a US Army veteran who is currently in his second year of his Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Legal Fellowship and provides legal services to low-income veterans:

If you’re inspired by LG’s story, and want to become a AmeriCorps JD member, don’t delay in applying today!

To be eligible, you must be currently enrolled in law school at the time your service begins, agree to criminal background checks, not receive more than $4,300 in outside funding for their project, and not have served more than three previous terms as an AmeriCorps member.

Complete an application in the Student Application Manager (SAM) by May 2nd! A step-by- step guide can be found on the AmeriCorps JD application page.

Have questions? Feel free to contact Anna Cupito or Lynn Feldmann, the program coordinators of AmeriCorps JD!

We are pleased to highlight Equal Justice Works’ campaign to recruit applicants for the AmeriCorps JD program. A guest post with application instructions (apply before April 15th!) and brief description of the program are below, along with a testimonial from Jennifer Aronson, an Equal Justice Works Legal Fellow.

Law students can give back to our nation’s veterans! AmeriCorps JD, an Equal Justice Works program, provides funding for law students who dedicate 300 hours of service to a qualifying legal project with legal aid organizations, Veterans’ law clinics, Veterans Treatment Courts, and state or local government agencies. What impact can you make as an AmeriCorps JD member?

While we can list the benefits of being a member of AmeriCorps JD, Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Legal Fellow, Jennifer Aronson, is the best person to demonstrate how pro bono work can make a difference in veterans’ lives. Here’s a special video message from Jennifer, who helped a homeless, Vietnam veteran with cancer write his will:

Like Jennifer, you can provide legal aid to support veterans! Consider applying to the AmeriCorps JD program by April 15, 2014.To be eligible, you must be enrolled in law school at the time your service begins, agree to criminal background checks, not receive more than $4,300 in outside funding for their project, and not have served more than three previous terms as an AmeriCorps member.

Visit our site for more information and learn how you can make a difference in the lives of America’s returning military members! Complete an application in the Student Application Manager (SAM) by April 15. A step-by-step guide can be found on the AmeriCorps JD application page.

Feel free to contact AmeriCorps JD program coordinators, Anna Cupito or Lynn Feldmann, with any questions.

In honor of the upcoming Veteran’s Day Holiday, we are pleased to share with you this post by Associate Justice Eileen C. Moore. Many of our returning vets have legal issues, such as un-responded to VA claims, denied medical care coverage, employment discrimination and more. Our vets and military families are in great need of pro bono legal assistance and this will likely be a growing problem.  We thank Justice Moore for helping us highlight the issue this Veteran’s Day, we thank our vets, and we encourage you to look to the ABA Military Pro Bono Project for ways to help our returning vets.

 

Every so often in life, something quite memorable happens.  I experienced one of those moments while acting as a mentor in Orange County, California’s Combat Veterans Court.  I was there mentoring a few young women when the judge called a case involving a Vietnam Veteran. This was sort of unusual as most of the vets in Veterans Court served in Iraq or Afghanistan.  I was interested, since I served as an Army combat nurse in Vietnam.

Justice Moore in her current role today.

The Vietnam vet, who had been under the influence of who-knows-what for most of his adult life, was not only sober, but sublimely happy, as he showed the judge an A-plus written across his college paper. He was ecstatic at his success and thanked the judge from the bottom of his heart.

Just then, some rattling could be heard from the side of the courtroom, where in-custody defendants on other matters are held awaiting their cases to be called.  The caged man called out to the judge, and she told him she would call his matter later.  The man looked as if he lived in a gutter for the previous 40 years. What skin was visible was like broken concrete, and he was absolutely filthy.  The anticipation on his face was right out of that scene from “When Harry Met Sally,” when the woman says to the waitress, “I’ll have what she’s having.”

Having seen another Vietnam vet succeed, he wanted to do the same.  He begged the judge to let him into Veterans Court.  She explained he had been rejected because there are only so many open spots, due to economical concerns, and his years of being in and out of jail did not bode well for his chances of success.  But he kept begging.

The judge, the Honorable Wendy Lindley, whose heart is quite large, finally relented, to the obvious consternation of members of the collaborative team, made up of lawyers, probation officers, V.A. personnel and mental health professionals.  The team apparently wanted someone with more promise to fill the spot.

When there was a recess, I went up to the holding cell and introduced myself.  I told him that, while I am now a judge, I was a nurse in Vietnam.  He could not have cared less that I am a judge.  He grabbed my hand and clutched it.  He looked straight into my eyes and said, “I would never let a nurse down. You were angels to us over there.”

 

Justice Moore serving as an Army combat nurse in Vietnam.

The next time I saw him, he looked like a college professor.  About 18 months later, clean and sober and scrubbed, he graduated from Veterans Court.  He was asked to say a few words, and he said, “See, I told you I would never let a nurse down.”

 

Eileen C. Moore

Associate Justice

California Court of Appeal

 

 

 

Our thanks to our partners at the Practising Law Institute for connecting CJC (Connecting Justice Communities) with Justice Moore for this interview.  Justice Moore chaired a program for Practising Law Institute this  past June on “Approaching Veterans Issues.”  If you’d like to learn more, “Approaching Veterans Issues”  is available (at no charge)  at: www.pli.edu


A new webinar series developed by Pro Bono Net and its partners, “Librarians and Access to Justice,” has attracted hundreds of attendees eager to learn how librarians can use online resources to better educate and assist their patrons with legal needs. The most recent webinar, which took place Oct. 11, is summarized below. The last webinar in the series, “Developing Legal Aid-Library Collaborations: Models and Replication Resources,” takes place Nov. 1. Click to register or to see archived versions of the first three webinars.  

“Libraries serve the entire community…  [through libraries] underserved groups have equal access.” – Liz Keith, LawHelp Program Manager

On October 11, Pro Bono Net’s popular “Libraries and Access to Justice” webinar series continued with its third webinar, “Helping Patrons Find Legal Assistance in their Community: Online Referral Tools.”  This webinar served to highlight several resources available to librarians and patrons, including an overview of legal hotlines, ImmigrationLawHelp.org, and StatesideLegal.org, a website designed to provide information and referrals to service members and their families.  Presenting at the webinar were: Libby Vazquez, Director of the Legal Hotline at the City Bar Justice Center; Ken Ramsey, Program Coordinator at the Immigration Advocates Network; Peter MacArthur, AmeriCorps VISTA at Pine Tree Legal Assistance; and Kathleen Caldwell, Statewide Website Coordinator at Pine Tree Legal Assistance.  Liz Keith, LawHelp Program Manager at Pro Bono Net, moderated the panel, and gave background information on the subject.

Libby Vazquez provided insight on legal hotlines, which allow callers to speak to an attorney or advocate and receive specific legal information on their problem.  Hotlines do not typically provide full representation to callers. As Ms. Vazquez explained, there are several different types of legal hotlines.  Some provide just legal information and referral services to callers, without providing any type of representation, some provide legal information and do intake for ongoing representation within their agency, and others are hybrids of the two.  Legal hotlines may also address certain populations (such as the elderly) or certain topics (such as family law or health law).  To ensure the quality of hotline services, the ABA adopted standards for hotline programs.

Ms. Vazquez also provided numerous other resources the City Bar Justice Center uses in their hotline system, such as LawHelp.org/NY, which provides legal information and referrals (a list of all state legal information websites can be found at LawHelp.org), the state’s uniform court website, DIY forms, and e-court case look ups.  These resources not only provide legal information, but also provide listings of legal aid providers in a geographic region, and in a given subject area.   You can find a listing of legal hotlines in your area at LegalHotlines.org.   Ms. Vazquez also discussed the ABA’s Lawyer Referral Directory, which has contact information for lawyer referral services in all 50 states.

The webinar next highlighted a nationwide resource, ImmigrationLawHelp.org.  As Ken Ramsey explained, ImmigrationLawHelp.org provides information on 960 legal service providers who specialize in immigration law.  This database was created with low-income users in mind, and can assist both librarians and patrons to find advocates and attorneys in this specific field. Each listing provides the agency’s contact information, service area, types of immigration assistance provided, populations served and languages spoken.  The site also supplies information regarding other legal and non-legal services the agency may provide.

Users can search by state, county or detention facility, and can filter the results, download, print or email the results, and map the directions to the agency’s office.  The site is available in multiple languages. The directory information is updated consistently, and the site itself allows users to report any out-of-date information.    To view a demo, check out the webcast of the webinar.   ImmigrationLawHelp.org is a project of the Immigration Advocates Network.

Another nationwide resource explored during the presentation was Stateside Legal.  As Peter MacArthur explained, “Stateside Legal was created three years as a clearing house of easy-to-read information for service members and their families when they have non-criminal legal issues.”  The site was developed by Pine Tree Legal Assistance and the Arkansas Legal Services Partnership.  Stateside Legal provides self-help materials for service members and their families, as well as a referral tool.  Users can browse topics and find a library of legal content geared to the unique needs of service members.  There is also an option to view form letters that individuals can use when facing deployment or coming home, helping them deal with car or cell phone contracts, lease agreements and other contractual issues.

Stateside Legal provides referral resources under their “Find Legal Help” section.  This information includes military legal assistance, to locate legal services that can assist with deployment-related issues; general civil legal aid help, assisting low-income service members with general legal issues; civil or criminal legal services for justice-involved veterans who may be facing criminal charges; and legal service providers who can help with service-related benefits (such as VA related claims and disability benefits).  One new feature of the site was highlighted by Kathleen Caldwell, who explained that users will be able to search different legal help organizations in the database and see all the organizations in a map with their contact information.

If you’re interested in listening to this or any of the past webinars, or registering for one of the future presentations, visit the Libraries and Access to Justice Webinar Series Homepage for information, recordings, and registration information.  All recordings are free and open to the public.  The webinars are being produce with funding from a Legal Services Corporation Technology Initiative (TIG) grant, in collaboration with the Legal Aid Society of Louisville, Central Minnesota Legal Services and Legal Services State Support (MN).

In honor of Memorial Day, we asked our partners at the ABA Military Pro Bono Project to contribute a guest post about their work.  You can learn more, and get involved, at www.militaryprobono.org

This Memorial Day, the American Bar Association Military Pro Bono Project encourages the legal community to consider the importance of pro bono work on behalf of veterans, servicemembers, and their families. It is important to remember that our nation’s military families, many of whom constitute low- to moderate-income households, encounter unique difficulties in achieving access to justice for their civil legal problems. Frequent relocations, overseas deployments, and recurring mobilizations place strains on military families, which can result in civil legal needs in family law, foreclosure prevention, creditor issues, and even trust and estate matters. Often unable to afford full-cost legal counsel to handle these civil matters, military members must turn to pro bono legal assistance, such as that provided by the ABA Military Pro Bono Project.

The story of Sergeant Jacob Wilson is an illustrative example. Sergeant Wilson served multiple deployments in combat zones. However, after returning from his last deployment, he faced a new battle at home: protecting his daughter. When he returned to the United States, Wilson found that his daughter was in an unfit home with his ex-girlfriend, as she was living in an overcrowded small apartment where illicit drug use and physical abuse were open and frequent.

The soldier went to his JAG to discuss his concern for his child’s safety and his desire to seek a custody order. But, as is common, the JAG was not authorized to represent Wilson in state family court, andWilsoncould not imagine how he could hire a civilian attorney with his limited income. What Wilson’s JAG could do, however, was to refer his case to the ABA Military Pro Bono Project, which located a volunteer attorney who successfully helped with Wilson’s legal battle by obtaining a custody order that alleviated his concerns of his daughter’s safety.

Although the names in this story have been changed, it is based on a real case and illustrates how pro bono legal help is necessary to ensure that our men and women in uniform are not distracted from their missions by an inability to resolve legal problems.

Join the ABA Military Pro Bono Project in Helping Our Servicemembers

 The ABA Military Pro Bono Project accepts case referrals from military attorneys across the country and around the world, and it matches these cases with pro bono volunteer lawyers. Joining the Project is easy. Register on the Project website at www.militaryprobono.org, and you will be contacted to consider volunteer opportunities for servicemember cases matching your geographic and practice profile. When registering, you may also join the Operation Stand-By list, through which you volunteer to provide occasional lawyer-to-lawyer consultations to military attorneys seeking substantive guidance, thereby helping these lawyers better assist their military clients. Whether providing full pro bono representation or simply giving advice through Operation Stand-By, the time you give through the Project is entirely at your discretion.

The Project also welcomes the opportunity to coordinate and collaborate with the many existing legal aid, pro bono, and state and local bar programs serving military members to best leverage the strengths of all of our efforts on behalf of those in uniform.

If you are an attorney interested in giving back to the men and women of the armed forces this Memorial Day, please visit www.militaryprobono.org to further explore how you can help by joining the Project roster or by making a tax-deductible financial contribution. Lend a hand to our military personnel and their families, recognizing the sacrifices they make on behalf of us all.