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Gene Nichol offers a thoughtful opinion on the state of legal aid funding nationally -- and how we compare to other wealthy nations worldwide. We are dead last in "actual access to justice."
Read Gene's opinion piece here.
Here's a compelling piece from The Nonprofit Quarterly on the past, present and future of Legal Aid funding. The Legal Services Corporation, which provides funding to local agencies that offer direct civil legal services to low-income families and individuals, faces a significant cut at the federal level.
Additionally, IOLTA (Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts) funds have been shrinking rapidly over the last several years, in response to the economic downturn -- a downturn that has increased the number of people eligible for legal aid services. With supply decreasing and demand increasing, Legal Aid programs -- and the clients they serve -- are facing a tough road...
Click here to access the full article.
Three Legal Aid Justice Center attorneys to participate in 12th Annual Conference on Public Service & the Law
The University of Virginia School of Law will kick off the 12th incarnation of its Conference on Public Service & the Law on Friday, February 11th, wrapping up the event on Saturday, February 12th. Three Legal Aid Justice Center attorneys, Brenda Castañeda, Angela Ciolfi and Karen Minatelli will participate in several of the panels organized for the popular event.
Brenda Castañeda, housing and consumer attorney with the Civil Advocacy Program in the Charlottesville office, will serve on the panel "Property Rights as Human Rights," which is to be held from 1-2pm on Saturday, February 12th in UVA Law lecture room Withers-Brown 103 (WB103).
JustChildren Legal Director Angela Ciolfi, who also teaches the Law School's Child Advocacy clinic, will be moderating the panel "LGBT Bullying in Schools." Among the panelists is UVA School of Education Professor and Youth Violence Project Director Dewey Cornell, who served on our school discipline panel during our "Dropped Out" event in October 2010. "LGBT Bullying in Schools" will also be held from 1-2pm on Saturday, February 12th, in UVA Law lecture room Withers-Brown 101 (WB101).
Finally, Karen Minatelli, managing attorney of our Falls Church office, will serve on the panel "Women in Public Interest," also on Saturday, February 12th from 1-2pm, in UVA Law lecture room Withers-Brown 105 (WB105).
The full conference schedule can be found here.
Here at Legal Aid, we couldn't accomplish everything that we do without seeking out relevant news and learning from the good work others are doing, as well. In this ongoing feature, we'll highlight Legal Aid Justice Center staff members and some of the sources they are currently turning to in order to inform their work.
"The case of the Ohio mom who was jailed for fraudulently seeking improved educational outcomes for her children in a neighboring school district has everyone talking about the unfair relationship between educational quality and artificial school district boundaries or attendance zones.
Whether they are foster youth placed across district lines, immigrant youth and other children living in informal kinship custody arrangements, or low-income children stuck in low performing schools, at JustChildren we see the devastating consequences of rationing educational opportunity according to zip code every day.
In Five Miles Away, A World Apart, Jim Ryan uses a vivid portrayal of schools in the metropolitan Richmond area to illustrate the fatal political flaw in the last sixty years’ worth of education reform. In short, Ryan explains why the system is set up the way it is, and what we can do to move beyond it."
The Legal Aid Justice Center's JustChildren program works to improve Virginia’s public education, juvenile justice, and foster care systems. JustChildren advocates use direct representation, education and organizing outreach, and state-level advocacy to achieve positive outcomes for low-income families in the Commonwealth.
Angela is a long-time member of the JustChildren team, becoming its legal director in 2010, the same year in which she won the Child Advocacy Award from the American Bar Association's Young Lawyers Division.
Adjustments for cost of living, as well as necessary expenses like medical and transportation costs, show that many more Americans are currently living in poverty than previously known, says an AP report in The Boston Globe.
The adjusted data within preliminary 2009 census reports shows that about 1 in 6 Americans, many of them 65 years of age or older, are struggling financially and have fallen below the poverty line. The revised formula puts the overall poverty rate at about 15.7%, or 47.8 million people. Compare that to the non-adjusted 2009 rate of 14.3%, or about 43.6 million people.
Census Bureau researchers noted that without supplemental government assistance programs and the earned-income tax credit, the poverty numbers would jump even higher. Those researchers also say that out-of-pocket medical expenses contributed significantly to the high rates: without those expenses, the adjusted rate would have dropped to about 12.4%.
Read more about the Census Bureau's new report here.
Rural areas of Virginia have been hit hardest by home foreclosures, according to a new report from Richmond, Va.-based housing advocacy group Housing Opportunities of Virginia Made Equal, Inc. (HOME). The group's report found that foreclosure rates nearly doubled in rural areas between 2008 and 2009. Rural foreclosures increased at four times the rate of elsewhere in the state between 2009 and 2010.
Click here to read more on this report and foreclosures in Virginia from the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Brenda Castañeda is one of several Legal Aid Justice Center attorneys who handle foreclosure cases. "People do have options when they are being foreclosed upon," Brenda notes. "They can come to us and we can evaluate their case to determine whether they have a possibility of preserving their equity or even modifying the loan to stay in the house."
Brenda works in our Charlottesville office, which handles cases and offers advice within the city, but also in the surrounding counties of Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa and Nelson.
The foreclosure issues that we see at the Legal Aid Justice Center often highlight the large information gap that exists between homeowners and the options that may be available to them during the foreclosure process. "We have been able to help several homeowners file suit against lenders to rescind or reform those loans, and have helped others negotiate a postponement of the foreclosure process to allow modifications time to process. Even though we are not able to take every case, we can let people know what to expect from the foreclosure process and what their options are," Brenda said.
The Legal Aid Justice Center provides free legal services and advice on a variety of non-criminal matters, including foreclosures, to income-eligible persons in our service areas. Please click here to find the office nearest you for more information.
Coalition for Economic Opportunity (CEO) spokesperson and UVA School of Law professor Dan Nagin and Legal Aid Justice Center Executive Director Alex Gulotta delivered a comprehensive presentation to Charlottesville City Council during a Jan. 6th work session dedicated to discussing ways to bring fair accessible banking solutions to Charlottesville.
Click here to read coverage of the event from The Daily Progress.
Credit: Sabrina Schaeffer/The Daily Progress
CEO hopes to help introduce the Bank On Greater Charlottesville program within the next year, partnering with local government, financial institutions, advocacy groups and community partners. The program, which has been implemented successfully in a number of cities -- both great and small -- across the country, seeks to help individuals and families who are "unbanked" or "underbanked" find a fair, accessible path into the mainstream banking arena, with a goal of increasing financial stability and economic opportunity.
City Council members present at the work session expressed interest in the program and its goals, and committed to exploring how local government might partner in the effort. Charlottesville City Manager Maurice Jones will be gathering more information from other cities who have successfully implemented Bank On, and Council members agreed to discuss the matter further at an upcoming regular Council meeting.
To receive updates on the Bank On Greater Charlottesville initiative and more information on the Coalition for Economic Opportunity, please join CEO's mailing list by sending an email to CEO@justice4all.org.
Coalition For Economic Opportunity to Present City Council with Plan for Bank On Greater Charlottesville at Jan. 6th Session
CEO will unveil its plan for Bank On Greater Charlottesville during the Work Session, which begins at 5pm. The City Council will conduct the Work Session at CitySpace, 100 5th St., NE (on the mezzanine level of the Market Street Parking Garage).
About the Coalition for Economic Opportunity: Hosted by the Legal Aid Justice Center, CEO includes leaders from local anti-poverty organizations, faith-based organizations, the advocacy community, grassroots organizations, the business community, and other concerned citizens. CEO’s mission is to foster the development of fair, reasonable, and just financial service products, and, in particular, alternatives to the high-interest, short-term, payday and car title loans that are aggressively marketed to low- and moderate-income community members.