Archive for the ‘Legal Aid’ Category


October 31, 2012

Documents filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia reveal that Holly Fujie of Los Angeles allegedly engaged in predicate acts of racketeering through and by means of money laundering, mail and bank fraud, as well as conversion of funds.

A former partner of Los Angeles-based Buchalter Nemer — who California Governor Jerry Brown appointed to the Los Angeles County Superior Court bench under questionable circumstances involving his cousin, former California Public Utility Commisioner Geoff Brown — is accused in federal court of committing myriad financial crimes and acts of fraud.

The lawsuit, filed as a civil-racketeering action by Marina Del Rey-based community activist Daniel Dydzak, also names as a defendant Bet Tzedek Legal Services of Los Angeles and Eric George — the son of the controversial former chief justice of California, Ronald George.

Both Holly Fujie and Eric George were directors of Bet Tzedek, an entity which obtained millions of dollars from the various trusts funds maintained and operated by the State Bar of California, as well as funds from the California Bar Foundation, where Holly Fujie presently serves as the vice-president.

Both the State Bar of California and the California Bar Foundation are under the direct control of the California Supreme Court.

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Lawyers across US urged to give more free services

August 21, 2012

HARTFORD, Conn. — Jennifer Garcia stood alone before a judge with a stack of legal papers in her hands, answering questions about her personal life.

She has acted as her own lawyer in state Family Court in a paternity, child support and visitation case on and off for three years, but representing herself in a courtroom full of strangers still makes her nervous.

“Sometimes I get this gut feeling because you never know what the judge is going to say,” said the 23-year-old single mother of two from Hartford.

Garcia is part of a crush of people who are representing themselves in the nation’s civil courts because they can’t afford lawyers, who typically charge $200 to $500 an hour. The boom has overwhelmed courts and sparked new efforts to get attorneys to meet what the American Bar Association says is its professional responsibility to offer free legal services to people in need.

The increase in self-represented parties stems from a recession that has left fewer people able to afford lawyers and created new waves of foreclosure, debt collection and bankruptcy cases, judges and lawyers say. Judges say self-represented people are slowing down court dockets because they typically don’t know what legal points to argue or what motions to file.

“There’s a crisis in this country,” said John Levi, board chairman of Washington, D.C.-based Legal Services Corp., the nation’s largest funder of civil legal aid for the poor. “Courthouses are being filled with people just showing up, trying to figure out what their rights are. If you’re a low-income person and you have a legal need, it is not easy to get it addressed.”

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Lawyers across US urged to give more free services

Elder-abuse prevention program could end in Watsonville, Santa Cruz

July 6, 2012

SANTA CRUZ — When a parent or grandparent cannot manage their assets, setting up a conservatorship can be a daunting task. Navigating the legal system and paying attorney’s fees can leave many families out of luck.

For hundreds of residents of Santa Cruz and San Benito counties in the past five years, free help could be found at the Conservatorship and Elder Abuse Prevention Program at Santa Cruz County Superior Court. Yet its funding could dry up at the end of this year.

The program had been funded in the past five years by a grant from the California State Bar Association, said Terry Hancock, directing attorney at the Senior Citizens Legal Center that runs the program. The grant was $54,000 in 2011 and $40,000 in 2012.
The grant money was expected to taper off in five years as leaders found new funding sources to sustain it. But those sources never materialized.

“The idea is access to justice,” said Darcee Olson, a staff attorney with the nonprofit Senior Citizens Legal Services that runs the program. “It’s a phenomenal program, and there’s a big need for it.”

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Elder-abuse prevention program could end in Watsonville, Santa Cruz

Judge Calls Conservatorship a "Celebration of Family"

May 28, 2012

For 18 years, Dora Sanchez Hernandez has fiercely protected her son.

From the time Erik Esequizel was born prematurely at just 24 weeks, she has been there for him. Through 50 surgeries and two near-death episodes. Through the daily demands of feeding, bathing and dressing. Through abandonment by his father and advice from doctors to pull the plug.

Now — in what L.A. County Superior Court Judge Michael I. Levanas called a “celebration of family” — Hernandez and 14 other families have been granted limited conservatorships over their disabled children. It allows them to make medical, educational, business and other decisions for their children even after they turn 18.

“Erik is my disabled son, and he means the world to me,” Hernandez said. “Now there is no stopping me to advocate for him.”

The courtroom session last week marked a unique collaboration among the L.A. County Superior Court, the Los Angeles Unified School District, private attorneys and Bet Tzedek Legal Services, a nonprofit that assists the poor. To make what can be an intimidating process efficient and comfortable, the parties come together four times a year to act on the conservatorship cases in one courtroom over one afternoon.

The Family Matters project was launched in 2010. Bet Tzedek, the only legal aid agency in Los Angeles County that handles conservatorship cases for free, had been helping low-income families and their disabled children for years. But Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff, presiding judge of the probate department, suggested giving the families special hearing dates in the same courtroom to lesson their anxiety and discomfort. L.A. Unified provides campus space for the project’s education and training sessions on the conservatorship process.

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Judge Calls Conservatorship a “Celebration of Family”

In Major Victory for Adult Protective Services Lawsuit Judge Allows Case to Move Forward

April 11, 2012

In the case alleging ongoing failures in Adult Protective Services brought by representatives of the elderly and disabled community, Judge Kupersmith ruled that can go forward in part, and rejected the state’s attempt to have the case thrown out. The Judge found that the plaintiffs raised serious concerns about whether Adult Protective Services is meeting the plain requirements of the law. Furthermore, Judge Kupersmith found that concerns about Adult Protective Services’ failure to do its duty to respond to allegations of abuse neglect and exploitation warrant review by the Court.

“This is a major victory for the Plaintiffs and for vulnerable Vermonters that are at risk of abuse, neglect or exploitation,” said Barbara Prine, Vermont Legal Aid, lead counsel for the Plaintiffs. “The Court sent a clear message that the allegations in this case deserve judicial scrutiny and that the State should not be allowed to rely on procedural technicalities to deny judicial review of the important issues raised by this lawsuit.”

While the case will move forward, the Judge did dismiss Plaintiffs on a second claim regarding the failure of the Department of Disabilities, Aging, and Independent Living to fix the problem in May of 2011, through the signed Corrective Action Plan. Although the Department had agreed to the terms of plan, the Court ruled that this was not an enforceable contract.

The Judge also did not allow the Plaintiffs to bring the case solely as citizens of Vermont. Instead, the judge ruled that Plaintiffs Disability Rights Vermont and Community of Vermont Elders will have 30 days to amend their original complaint to describe how the failure of Adult Protective Services impedes their ability to fulfill their organizational mission, and forces them to devote significant resources to identify and counteract APS’s deficiencies.

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In Major Victory for Adult Protective Services Lawsuit Judge Allows Case to Move Forward

VT Seeks Dismissal of Abuse Lawsuit Against APS

March 28, 2012

A lawyer for Vermont told a judge Monday that a disability-rights group can’t sue the state over the alleged failings of its Adult Protective Services Division, because the people named as bringing suit haven’t suffered any injuries.

“There’s no allegation of specific harm to the plaintiffs,” Assistant Attorney General Todd Daloz told Judge Michael Kupersmith.

The state has filed a motion to dismiss a suit brought against the state by Vermont Legal Aid for the groups Disability Rights Vermont and the Community of Vermont Elders.

Legal Aid lawyer Barbara Prine said in courtroom arguments and in interviews that the state was trying to use a legal technicality to avoid fixing a system she called “dysfunctional” and a “wholesale failure.”

The groups filed the lawsuit in December, saying Adult Protective Services routinely violates the law that requires it to begin investigating reports of abuse, neglect and financial exploitation of vulnerable adults within 48 hours of receiving them, and that the state in recent years frequently has had a backlog of as many as 300 open investigations.

“This has gone on for years,” Prine said in court Monday. “We spent a year negotiating with them trying to get it to improve and it did not improve. … The system is dysfunctional.”

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State Seeks Dismissal of Abuse Lawsuit

Vermont Legal Aid and Disability Rights Vermont File Suit Against APS

December 19, 2011

The state is not doing enough to protect vulnerable adults from abuse– that’s the allegation in a lawsuit filed Wednesday by Vermont Legal Aid and Disability Rights Vermont.

The advocates first raised this issue a year ago. They say Adult Protective Services has failed to respond in a timely manner to abuse allegations and is carrying a backlog of more than 300 cases.

Among the specific shortcomings– a lack of emergency coverage on nights and weekends, and a case load for investigators that is twice the national standard. “Vulnerable adults are people incapable of protecting themselves from the nephew who steals the Social Security check or the caregiver who leaves the woman with physical and cognitive limitations sitting in her feces,” said Barbara Prine of the Disability Law Project.

State officials did not respond to our requests for an interview. Back in June, they said they had put in place new procedures to help improve response time and eliminate the backlog. But they say a lack of funding limits what the agency can do.

The advocates for the elderly and disabled say Vermont should have a system in place for Adult Protective Services that functions at the same speed as Child Protective Services.

Advocates Sue Over Backlog of VT Elder Abuse Probes

>Vermont Elder Abuse Inquiries Backlogged

June 6, 2011

>The state agency responsible for overseeing investigations of abuse, neglect, and exploitation of elderly residents has agreed to eliminate by Oct. 1 a backlog of 300 cases awaiting investigation by hiring staff, responding to calls with 48 hours, and establishing new procedures to avoid future problems.

Vermont Legal Aid and two advocacy groups had threatened to sue the Department of Disabilities, Aging, and Independent Living if officials had not agreed to the corrective action plan signed Tuesday by advocates and Commissioner Susan Wehry.

Advocates became aware of the size of the backlog at a December meeting with state officials.

“It’s been a problem for years,” said attorney Barbara Prine of Legal Aid’s Disability Law Project. “People for the most part had lost faith in the adult protective system.”

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VT Agres to Improve Elder Abuse Case Inquiries

>Idaho Bill Provides Some Free Legal Help

April 13, 2011

>Lawmakers advanced a bill to help provide free legal counsel to low-income residents in cases involving domestic violence, child abuse, and exploitation of the elderly.

The Idaho House voted 38-32 to approve the legislation. It generates money through a $10 court filing fee to help Idaho Legal Aid Services provide representation in certain cases, which can also involve veterans’ issues and foreclosures.

The bill narrowly survived the state House, where lawmakers set a clear precedent early in the 2011 session that tax and fee increases were unwelcome when dumping a small fee hike to help the state police academy.

Republican Rep. Cliff Bayer, of Boise, says Idaho is the only state that doesn’t provide financial assistance to its statewide legal aid provider.

Bayer’s bill now goes to the Senate.

Idaho bill Provides Free Legal Help in Some Cases

AZ: Calling All Lawyers

September 25, 2009

Economists are saying the recession is either ending or has already ended, but that is not yet evident in the waiting rooms of agencies that provide free legal services to people with low incomes.

Legal assistance agencies are working hard to help people in multiple ways, but they cannot adequately keep up with the demand. Their waiting rooms are now always full and often overflowing.

This is because the same economy that has wrought unprecedented foreclosures and double-digit unemployment has also rendered many attorneys, who in the recent past consistently donated many hours of free service, less able to do so.

Brian Wargo, a reporter for In Business Las Vegas, a sister publication of the Las Vegas Sun, wrote last week about the scope of this problem. Among those he interviewed was Lynn Etkins, a director of the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada.

“It is overwhelming,” Etkins told Wargo, “Our lobby is filled with clients ranging from victims of domestic violence to people losing their homes and jobs.” Of the center’s staff, Etkins said, “We are swamped and everybody has a maximum caseload. We do not see any letup with the economic crisis so far as clients are concerned.”

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Calling All Lawyers