Pro Bono


AZ Supreme Court logoAccess to justice saw another positive step in Arizona this month, as Chef Justice Bales named the membership of the newly formed commission charged with examining the issue.

The creation of the Commission and the Chief Justice’s views on it were covered by me here. You also should read the Court’s new strategic agenda here. (And the August 20 Administrative Order is here.)

Here is the Court’s announcement of the new members. As mentioned before, the group will be led by its chair appellate court Judge Larry Winthrop.

“Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Scott Bales announces the formation of the 18-member Commission on Access to Justice. The Commission will be chaired by Lawrence F. Winthrop, Judge on Division One of the Arizona Court of Appeals and former president of the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services and Education.”

“‘Promoting Access to Justice’ is the first of five goals outlined in Advancing Justice Together: Courts and Communities, the new five-year strategic agenda for Arizona’s judiciary. In the Pledge of Allegiance, Chief Justice Bales noted, we commit ourselves to the goal of justice for all. The new Commission will be charged with identifying specific strategies to help us better realize this goal as our State’s population and technology change.”

“‘This is not a study commission; it’s a commission that will actively develop innovative ideas that remove barriers to justice,’ Chief Justice Scott Bales said.”

An Administrative Order issued on August 20 outlines initial priorities for the Commission:

  • Assisting self-represented litigants and revising court rules and practices to facilitate access and the fair processing of family court and eviction cases.
  • Encouraging lawyers and law firms to provide pro bono services or financial support for civil legal aid for those who cannot afford counsel.
  • Informing lawyers and other citizens about the availability of a state income tax credit for contributions to agencies that serve the working poor, including legal services agencies in Arizona.

In many family and justice court cases, one or more of the parties does not have a lawyer.  Self-representation presents a tremendous challenge not only to those litigants, but also to judges and other court personnel.

“Our courts and judges are doing the best they can under the circumstances, but the question is whether we can do a better job of helping people who choose to represent themselves in court, or for those who cannot afford the services of a lawyer,” Judge Winthrop said. “Our state has made great strides in this area over the last several years, but there remain some critical needs, such as helping people understand the process and navigate the court system. We also should do what we can to boost financial resources for legal service organizations who assist those most in need.”

Access to justice can be golden: Arizona Attorney Magazine opening image for a story on the topic by former State Bar of Arizona President Amelia Craig Cramer, Oct. 2012.Judge Winthrop also hopes that the Commission can further engage the business community concerning these issues.

“We want business and government leaders to understand that meaningful access to justice is a workplace and productivity issue. Most of the self-represented litigants in family court and housing cases are, in fact, part of some company’s work force. The whole enterprise suffers if your employee or co-worker is out of the office because they’re in family court or are dealing with housing issues,” Judge Winthrop explained. “If we can help people effectively resolve their court matters and in less time, that’s a ‘win-win’ for both the employee and the employer.”

Judge Winthrop said that people with legal issues are sometimes overwhelmed, and often don’t know where to go for legal help. Raising awareness of civil legal service options and encouraging greater community involvement will be a goal of the Commission. Taking advantage of advances in technology, retooling existing court-based legal self-help centers and the idea of expanding such services into a public library or community college setting will be possible approaches considered by the Commission.

Members of the Commission on Access to Justice include:

Chair

Lawrence F. Winthrop, Arizona Court of Appeals, Division I

Michael Jeanes, Superior Court Clerk

Mike Baumstark, Administrative Director of the Courts or designee

Kip Anderson, Court Administrator

Kevin Ruegg, Executive Director, Arizona Foundation for Legal Services & Education          

Maria Elena Cruz, Superior Court Judge

John Phelps, Executive Director, State Bar of Arizona or designee

Janet Barton, Superior Court Judge

Ellen Katz, Legal Aid Services, Maricopa

James Marner, Superior Court Judge

Anthony Young, Legal Aid Services, Southern Arizona

Thomas Berning, Limited Jurisdiction Court Judge

Steve Seleznow, Public Member

Rachel Torres Carrillo, Limited Jurisdiction Court Judge

Lisa Urias, Public Member

Barb Dawson, Attorney

Millie Cisneros, Attorney

Janet Regner, Arizona Judicial Council Liaison

Volunteers Roger Ferland and Kay Nehring at the 2013 Arizona StandDown. (photo: Alberto Rodriguez)

Volunteers Roger Ferland and Kay Nehring at the 2013 Arizona StandDown. (photo: Alberto Rodriguez)

Some great front-page news: How often can you say that?

But that’s exactly what we had in yesterday’s Arizona Republic, where we learned that attorney Roger Ferland had been honored as the Outstanding Disabled Vet of the Year by the National Disabled Veterans of America.

The story, aptly titled “Phoenix veteran keeps giving back,” is here.

ArmyOneSource logoYou may recall hearing Roger’s name before, often in regard to his massive efforts to assist vets who may need legal assistance.

I wrote about him here, as he played a key role in the Arizona StandDown.

He also was a force for good in the Bar’s participation in the initiative called Army One Source, a national program to recruit volunteer lawyers. Through the leadership of Roger, Arizona yielded the highest number of volunteer lawyers of any participating state. You can read more about that program here.

Congratulations to Roger Ferland, and thank you for your service.

And a hat-tip to John Phelps for alerting me to this great news.

landlord and tenant rental-agreement

Here is a follow-up to a State Bar event, by my colleague Alberto Rodriguez:

The State Bar of Arizona, azcentral.com and 12 News hosted the Lawyers on Call public service program on Tuesday, June 3.

The following is a recap of the program, which focused on landlord and tenant issues.

The volunteer attorneys were:Clare Abel, Kristin Coyne, Paul Henderson, Richard Klauer, Ellen Lawson, Thomas Leavell, Patricia Premeau and Christopher Walker.

Volunteer attorneys answered 118 calls on landlord and tenant issues. An additional 18 consumers were assisted via social media, which gave us a total of 136 people who were helped.

Here is a sample of consumer questions:

  • I have been living in the rental unit and paying rent but have not signed a lease. What should I do?
  • I am being harassed by other tenants. What can I do?
  • A tree on the property fell on my car. Is the landlord responsible?
  • If my landlord isn’t making improvements, should I withhold rent until they’re made?
  • I have a roach/bed bug problem. Can I break my lease because of the issue?
  • I am renting a two-bedroom unit that is occupied by eight people. Can I evict them?
  • My landlord has not fixed my A/C. What should I do?
  • Is it legal for my landlord to withhold deposits if no issues were found at move out?
  • I have a continued mold problem that my landlord won’t address. What should I do?

State Bar of Arizona SBA_Logo_ColorSocial media continues to be a successful element of Lawyers on Call. Eighteen consumers asked their questions via the 12 News Facebook page, and attorney Patricia Premeau responded with her recommendations/advice.

One of the eight attorneys was a first-time volunteer.

Next month, volunteer lawyers will answer consumers’ estate planning/wills & trusts questions on Tuesday, July 1.

AZ Center for Law in Public Interest squibUnbelievably, May is about to pass. Before it does, I urge you to read a great article in this month’s issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine.

Every spring, I weigh the wisdom of putting non-arts content into our May issue. After all, over the past decade-plus, readers have grown accustomed to enjoying the amazing work of the lawyer-winners of our Creative Arts Competition in that issue. Non-arts content, I fear, may get lost in the sauce.

But when I heard from Tim Hogan about an anniversary of the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest, I was hooked. There may be no public interest law firm that has touched on so many vital aspects of a state’s legal health as ACLPI has.

And when I read the draft by Timothy Hogan & Joy Herr-Cardillo, I was doubly impressed. Here’s how the article opens:

Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest logo“The Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. The Center started from humble beginnings in 1974 to become one of the most successful public interest law firms in the country. No one could have predicted that the Center would still be an important force for justice in Arizona four decades years after the organization began with nothing more than a desk, a phone and a typewriter—with only one young lawyer to type on it. This is a story about that law firm’s journey.”

Here is the complete story. Please let me know what you think. And let me know which of the Center’s many significant cases have made the biggest impression on you, as an attorney and an Arizonan.

State Bar of Arizona Lawyers on Call BK 05-13-14

Volunteer attorneys participate in the Lawyers on Call phone program, May 13, 2014, on the topic of bankruptcy and foreclosure.

Here is a follow-up to a State Bar event, by my colleague Alberto Rodriguez:

The State Bar of Arizona, azcentral.com and 12 News hosted the Lawyers on Call public service program on Tuesday, May 13.

The following is a recap of the program, which focused on bankruptcy and foreclosure issues.

The volunteer attorneys were: Anthony Clark, Diane L. Drain, Richard A. Drake, Tracy Essig, Margaret A. Gillespie, Peter Gustafson, Jeff Katz, Steven Keist, Vincent R. Mayr and Jim L. Webster.

Volunteer attorneys answered 76 calls on bankruptcy and foreclosure issues. An additional 25 consumers were assisted via social media, which gave us a total of 101 people who were helped. Although calls were plentiful, phone lines weren’t as busy as in the past. Volunteers thought it was a good indicator that bankruptcies and foreclosures are on the decline.

Here is a sample of consumer questions:

  • How do I know if I should file bankruptcy?
  • How do I file bankruptcy? Should I hire an attorney or do it myself?
  • Are there alternatives to filing bankruptcy?
  • Can I get rid of student debt if I file for bankruptcy?
  • What are the repercussions to filing bankruptcy or foreclosure?
  • How can I get rid of creditor phone calls?
  • Will I lose my car or home if I file for bankruptcy?

Social media continues to be a successful element of Lawyers on Call.  25 consumers asked their questions via the 12 News Facebook page, and attorney Diane L. Drain responded with her recommendations/advice.

Eight of the 11 attorneys were first-time volunteers.

Next month, volunteer lawyers will answer consumers’ landlord and tenant questions on Tuesday, June 3.

Pima County Bar Association logo

Law Day events continue across Arizona and the nation. Today, I share news of what is happening this weekend in Tucson.

There, the Pima County Bar Association is offering free consultations with lawyers. Surely, you or someone you know could benefit from a conversation about legal issues.

The “Meet a Lawyer” legal clinic will be held on Saturday, May 3, at the Tucson Mall, from 10:00 am to 2:30 pm. There, you and others can have your legal questions answered for free.

As the PCBA says:

“Attorneys will be available to assist individuals one-on-one, for brief, 15-minute intervals. Legal help is on a first-come, first-serve basis. Attorneys will cover a variety of legal topics, yet we cannot guarantee that all legal areas or questions can be addressed throughout the event. Helpful legal resources & handouts will also be available.”

You can download a flier here.

And here is a snapshot of the legal areas and when they will be represented at the clinic:

Pima County Bar Association Law Day will provide free legal advice on many topics.

Pima County Bar Association Law Day will provide free legal advice on many topics.

More information is available at the PCBA website or by calling 520-623-8258.

And be sure to tweet something about #LawDay – let’s get the term trending on Twitter, at least in Arizona!

indigent defense need-blind justice by Yarek Waszul

Illustration by Yarek Waszul

AZ Supreme Court logo

This Thursday morning, a thoughtful and experienced panel will discuss how legal services are dispensed in Arizona. Here is part of the Law Day event announcement from the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services and Education:

“At the Forum, Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch will discuss access to justice in Arizona; Karen Lash, Senior Counsel of Access to Justice for the U.S. Department of Justice, will offer a national perspective; Hon. Lawrence Winthrop will recap the results of input from regional forums; a panel of experts will share some best practices from around the state; and Vice-Chief Justice Scott Bales will wrap up with the closing remarks.”

I will attend and report to you what was said. I am curious if any new initiatives are part of the conversation (such as an Indigent Defense Commission, which I discussed previously). And it would be helpful to hear about some successful best practices from elsewhere in the country.

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