LSC UPDATES | August 2019

LSC MARKS RELEASE OF OPIOID TASK FORCE REPORT WITH EVENTS AROUND THE COUNTRY

(L-R) Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III (MA-4), Rep. Susan W. Brooks (IN-5), Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-1), and Rep. Fred Upton (MI-6).
WASHINGTON, D.C.

LSC’S Opioid Task Force released its report on Monday, June 10, at an event held in the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center. The event was sponsored by the House Access to Civil Legal Services Caucus. Four Members of Congress spoke: Representatives Susan Brooks (IN-5), Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-1),  Joseph P. Kennedy III (MA-4), and Fred Upton (MI-6). 

Since 1999, at least 400,000 people in the United States have died from an overdose involving opioids, and more than two million Americans currently suffer from opioid-related substance use disorders. Legal aid providers are key to addressing the legal issues that prevent treatment and recovery.

Brandon George, Director of the Indiana Addiction Issues Coalition, addressed the difficulties of identifying legal issues when speaking about his experiences as a person in long-term recovery. 

“The license issue, the debt, the child support—all those things that I had to deal with in early recovery—I thought those were relationship and bad driving issues," George explained. "I had no idea that those were civil legal issues. And more importantly, that there was this solution to those problems.”

Rep. Kennedy praised the work of LSC and legal services providers: “You folks keep doing great work so that when we talk to our colleagues—whether it’s on the progressive left or conservative right—we have a case to make and a story to tell.”

The Task Force’s report offers recommendations for fostering collaborative responses to the opioid epidemic. It promotes greater cooperation among legal aid providers and other organizations that serve individuals and families affected by the opioid epidemic. The report also details the need for treatment providers and state and local public health officials to promote the inclusion of civil legal aid organizations in opioid response efforts.

CHICAGO

Following the release of the Opioid Task Force’s report, LSC headed to Chicago in June for an event at Sidley Austin LLP’s office. ABA President Robert Carlson and University of Michigan Head Football Coach Jim Harbaugh offered remarks on the opioid epidemic's effect on families and communities. They were joined by Opioid Task Force Co-Chair David Hoffman and LSC Board Chairman John G. Levi, both partners with the firm. A panel discussion on how the medical and legal communities can best collaborate to tackle the opioid crisis followed their remarks. The panelists included Trey Daly, Public Benefits Practice Group Director, LAF; Stephanie W. Harris, Development Director, Ohio State Legal Services Association; Katherine Higgins, Program Coordinator, Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio; and Jon Laramore, Executive Director, Indiana Legal Services.

NASHVILLE

Later that month, leaders in the legal community joined LSC at the Tennessee Supreme Court in Nashville for another event marking the report's release. Speakers included Chief Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins, Tennessee Supreme Court; Victor B. Maddox, Co-Chair of LSC Opioid Task Force and Partner at Fultz Maddox Dickens PLC; Catherine Clayton, Executive Director of West Tennessee Legal Services; Cody Nelson, Executive Director of Anishinabe Legal Services; and Deborah Taylor Tate, Director of Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts. 

Several experts from the health care community also participated in the Nashville event, including Dr. David E. Marcovitz, Medical Director, Vanderbilt University Hospital Addiction Consult Service and Bridge Clinic; Dean Linda Norman, Vanderbilt University School of Nursing; Commissioner Lisa Piercey of the Tennessee Department of Health; and Commissioner Marie Williams of the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

SAN FRANCISCO

In August, LSC held a forum in conjunction with the ABA's annual meeting in San Francisco. Hoffman and Levi offered remarks about the task force's findings. Judicial leaders spoke on a panel, “A Conversation about Access to Justice and the Judiciary.” Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, North Carolina Supreme Court; Associate Justice Goodwin H. Liu, California Supreme Court; and Chief Justice Paul L. Reiber, Vermont Supreme Court, discussed barriers to justice and the impact large numbers of unrepresented litigants have on the justice system.

A second panel explored legal aid’s important role in combating the opioid crisis. The panelists included Jia Min Cheng, Medical-Legal Partnership Project Coordinator and Senior Staff Attorney, Bay Area Legal Aid; Tarra Simmons, LSC Opioid Task Force Member and a Skadden Fellow with the Public Defender Association in Seattle; Dr. Ori Tzvieli, Medical Director, Public Health Clinical Services, Contra Costa County; and Steven Weiss, Regional Managing Attorney, Bay Area Legal Aid (CA). 

Following the panels, LSC Board Member, Opioid Task Force Co-Chair, and retired Senior Counsel at Hunton & Williams LLP Robert J. Grey and President-Elect Judy Perry Martinez offered remarks on the importance of supporting legal aid. 

Later that evening, the ABA sponsored "It’s Only Fair! Concert for the Legal Services Corporation," featuring professional singers and entertainers in an event to help raise awareness of the importance of funding LSC.

Levi addressed members of the ABA’s House of Delegates about the importance of LSC's mission.

"There should be nothing discretionary about equal justice," Levi said. "It is not charity. Rather, as Justice Lewis Powell, who during his Presidency of the ABA argued forcefully for the founding of LSC, powerfully observed, it is 'one of the guiding principles of our democracy.'”

Read the task force report
Watch videos from the events

LSC HOLDS ACCESS TO JUSTICE FORUM IN MAINE

(L-R) Katy Childs, Managing Attorney, Lewiston Office, Pine Tree Legal Assistance; Maine Attorney General Aaron M. Frey; Justice Daniel E. Wathen, Of Counsel with Pierce Atwood LLP; and Krista Selnau, Portfolio Manager, Equal Justice Works.
Distinguished jurists and leaders from government and legal aid gathered on July 29 in Portland, Maine, for LSC’s Forum on Increasing Access to Justice. LSC hosted two panel presentations in conjunction with its Board of Directors’ quarterly meeting. 

LSC Chair John G. Levi and Hancock Lumber CEO Kevin Hancock delivered opening remarks. Hancock is a notable advocate for justice issues, the recipient of the 2016 Muskie Access to Justice Award, and a longtime supporter of Pine Tree Legal Assistance. He explained why he believes equal justice is the most important idea shaping human history

The first panel, “Maine’s Approach to Meeting the Needs of Survivors of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault,” highlighted legal aid’s important role in assisting survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. The speakers included Lucia Chomeau Hunt, Directing Attorney, Family Law and Victim Rights, Pine Tree Legal Assistance; Representative Lois Galgay Reckitt, 31st District, Maine House of Representatives; Commissioner Michael Sauschuck, Maine Department of Public Safety; and Elizabeth Ward Saxl, Executive Director, Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

The second panel, “Ensuring Access to Justice in Rural Maine,” explored the special challenges of meeting the legal services needs of Mainers living in remote areas. The panelists included Katy Childs, Managing Attorney, Lewiston Office, Pine Tree Legal Assistance; Maine Attorney General Aaron M. Frey; Krista Selnau, Portfolio Manager, Equal Justice Works; and Justice Daniel E. Wathen, formerly Chief Justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court and now Of Counsel with Pierce Atwood LLP.
Watch videos from the forum

LSC AWARDS $985,000 IN DISASTER PREPAREDNESS GRANTS

LSC awarded grants totaling $985,000 to five legal aid organizations to help low-income communities in the Midwest prepare for, respond to, and recover from natural disasters. The grants comprise the 2019 Midwest Legal Disaster Coordination Project. Building on the successes of Iowa Legal Aid and Legal Aid of Nebraska—LSC’s partners for disaster preparedness pilot programs launched in 2015—the project will continue to enhance preparedness in Iowa and Nebraska while expanding to Arkansas, Montana, and Oklahoma.

“Natural disasters cause hardships and complications for people from all walks of life,” explained Arkansas Senator John Boozman. “Ensuring that those who would ordinarily have difficulty obtaining legal representation and assistance have access to these services in the wake of a disaster is good news. I’m pleased Arkansans impacted by recent flooding and other natural disasters will have more resources to help them recover.”

“The significant grant awarded to Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma and Oklahoma Indian Legal Services today is welcome news,” said Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe. “Too often, communities can be overlooked during the recovery efforts after natural disasters. This grant will bring together key agencies and private partners to reach more people in need of legal assistance to repair their homes or businesses following the recent flood.”

This is the third time LSC has awarded grants to legal services providers in the Midwest. The Midwest Legal Disaster Coordination Project is made possible by funding from Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies.

LSC RECEIVES $15 MILLION FROM CONGRESS IN SUPPLEMENTAL DISASTER FUNDING BILL

LSC received $15 million to fund disaster legal aid in the Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2019, signed into law by President Trump on June 6. The bill provided $19.1 billion in supplemental disaster funds for response efforts to damage caused by hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, and other natural disasters that occurred in the past three years. Unlike previous supplemental packages, the legal services funding was not limited to providing mobile resources and technology or increasing pro bono outreach efforts.

"We are very grateful to Congress for recognizing the important role civil legal aid plays in getting disaster survivors back on their feet,” said LSC President Jim Sandman. “The $15 million Congress appropriated to LSC for disaster legal assistance will allow people to access insurance benefits, fight wrongful evictions, and fend off consumer scams."

Survivors of natural disasters need the help of legal aid advisors who have the legal expertise to assist them in activities such as filing insurance claims, replacing important legal documents, negotiating with landlords to make necessary repairs, avoiding consumer scams, and appealing wrongful denials of benefits.

THE BEST OF BEST PRACTICES

The Best of Best Practices section highlights LSC’s Best Practices Corner page and blog. These are helpful resources for anyone interested in the latest innovations in legal aid. LSC also produces a Best Practices Corner newsletter.

Check out LSC's recent interview with Florida Bar Foundation Pro Bono Program Director Claud Nelson on two of the organization's new initiatives for insights on encouraging pro bono participation and engagement with both law students and lawyers. 
Sign up for Best Practices Corner newsletter

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