Archive for the ‘Pro Bono’ Category

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.”

Full Article and Source:
Lawyers across US urged to give more free services

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Santa Clara judge reconsiders his early ruling on a trustee excessive fee case

July 30, 2012

SAN JOSE — In a case that has already spawned reforms in Santa Clara County’s probate court, the battle over a six-figure bill that a trustee charged a brain-damaged San Jose man landed back before a judge Friday.

Judge Franklin Bondonno agreed to re-evaluate the $146,500 he awarded just two months ago to a Los Gatos attorney for defending the trustee’s high fees.

Danny Reed, 37, took a bold stand in 2010 and opposed his court-appointed trustee’s $108,000 bill for just 4 ½ months’ work. When Reed and his public defender challenged those fees, trustee Thomas Thorpe and his attorneys charged more than twice that amount in legal costs to defend their original bills.

Friday’s showdown in court was the latest twist in a lengthy battle that has taken on far broader meaning than the average estate dispute. Reed’s case was at the heart of “Loss of Trust,” an investigation published this month by this newspaper that revealed how some Santa Clara County estate and care managers are charging excessive fees and how the court was doing little to stop it.

Reversing his own decision would be extremely rare, but there were signs the judge understood the objections.

In a nod to Reed’s pro-bono defense team, Bondonno said Friday the lawyers had “done a terrific job in saying: ‘Judge, there’s something that just isn’t right in how this whole thing played out.’ “

Full Article and Source:
Santa Clara judge reconsiders his early ruling on a trustee excessive fee case

See Also:
The Mercury News’ “Loss of Trust” Series (Anchor article)

CT Lawyer Honored for His Pro Bono Work

April 15, 2012

A city attorney was honored for his pro-bono work representing the elderly, mentally handicapped and families in need in probate court cases.

Stephen Keogh, a partner in the law firm Keogh, Burkhart & Vetter, took home the first “Glenn R. Knierim Pro Bono Award” at the Probate Assembly’s annual meeting in Hartford.

“It’s really quite an honor,” he said. “Every probate court judge can name at least 12 lawyers who can take home this award.”

Probate Assembly President-Judge Daniel Caruso said the assembly created the award to honor the probate lawyers who go above and beyond their duties to accommodate their clients. The award is named after the longest-serving probate court administrator.

Full Article and Source:
Norwalk Lawyer Honored for His Pro Bono Work

Law Student Pro Bono Award Winner

March 8, 2012

Salima Burke, a member of the class of 2012 at the University of Virginia School of Law, is the winner of the 2012 Oliver White Hill Law Student Pro Bono Award.

The award, named for a late Virginia civil rights litigator, recognizes a law student’s commitment to uncompensated or minimally compensated pro bono work and other public service. It is bestowed by the VSB Committee on Access to Legal Services.

While a full-time law student, Ms. Burke still contributed more than 480 hours of pro bono work. She has volunteered with the Musawah Islamic Law Project, Piedmont Court Appointed Special Advocates, Catholic Charities Community Services’ Department of Immigration Services, the Language Access Court Monitoring Project at the Legal Aid Justice Center, Wills for Seniors, and the Elder Advocacy and Housing Clinics at the Legal Aid Justice Center.

Full Article and Source:
Bedford Resident Named Law Student Pro Bono Award Winner

An Opportunity to Recognize Pro Bono Lawyers and Their Clients

November 1, 2011

Lois DeWolf asked for little. The Battle Creek woman in her nineties took great pleasure in simple things like riding city buses around town and spending the day people-watching at the mall.

That all came to an end when her poorly maintained home was condemned and Adult Protective Services (APS) petiioned the court to appoint a professional guardianship company as temporary guardianship/conservatorship.

The guardianship company took control of DeWolf’s finances, and she was placed into a nursing home.

DeWolf’s nightmare really began in the nursing facility. According to friends, unfounded presumptions were made about her health, and for months she was denied visits from her friends, members of her church, and other well-wishers. Even though she did not have dementia, DeWolf was made to wear a “wander guard”-a leg bracelet designed to keep tabs on those who suffer from Alzheimer*s disease. The once-independent, mobile senior was now confined and in misery.

Bradley Vauter, a concerned and compassionate member of the Legal Hotline for Michigan Seniors, alerted attorney Kelly Quardokus of DeWolf’s plight. She agreed to represent DeWolf pro bono.

“Kelly was an answer to prayer,” said Joan Klopfenstein, one of DeWolf’s closest friends. “She stepped in and within one day the tether was off. Lois was allowed to have friends visit, the following Sunday she was allowed to go to church, and friends could take her shopping and out to eat.”

Quardokus chalked her success up to experience and knowledge of how to work within the long-term care system to benefit elderly clients. “I was just so grateful to help her,” Quardokus said.

*She was so independent, and I felt that she should go on living that way.*

Quardokus believed DeWolf would benefit from collaboration with other advocacy agencies. Before she approached APS and the nursing home about DeWolf, Quardokus enlisted the support of K. Jonker, the local ombudsman from the Michigan Office of Long-Term Care. With Jonker’s help, Quardokus was able to persuade APS to drop the guardianship/conservatorship in exchange for a patient advocate and durable power of attorney, which gave DeWolf more choices and control of her life.

Now living semi-independently, a grateful DeWolf echoed her lawyer’s sentiment. Her message to lawyers who are not providing pro bono services is: “Please help. You are really needed.” Lawyers concerned about the lack of fi nancial compensation for pro bono services should consider the observations of DeWolf’s friend, Joan Klopfenstein: “Through her efforts, Kelly was able to restore Lois’s dignity. Who can put a price tag on that?”

Source:
Pro Bono Month: An Opportunity to Recognize ProBono Lawyers and Their Clients

Never Give Up

May 11, 2009
Lifelong NY resident, WWII vet, teacher, worker, inventor…

On a visit to daughter in Ct. (2005) Dan Gross became embroiled in the Ct. Probate System where the judge, denied him his constitutional rights, although he begged for them.

The judge went on to give Dan to a conservator who had him locked up in a nursing home, even though it was not the highest level for him, had him forced medications, refused him his own doctors, his own choice of lawyers, prevented him from seeking aid of any advocacy groups, denied his right to visitors, family, stripped him of all assets, put his house up for sale – all his worldly possessions disappeared.

How can this happen?

In 2006, due to the efforts of some incredible high-minded people, they fought for, and won the freedom of this 86 year old man.

Connecticut Conservatorship

In 2007 the legislators changed the law to protect the rights of others. 2007 – Recent Developments in
Connecticut Conservatorship Law

Those we have the utmost gratitude for are Atty. Veronica Halpern (Htfd. Legal Aid), Rick Green of the Hartford Courant, Atty.John Peters, who worked pro-bono to free Dan, Atty. Marilyn Denney (Htfd. Legal Aid), Eric Zager of Fox 61 News, Royal Stark of Quinnipiac Law School and the students who helped, Tom Berrant of CTLegal Project and others, Dan’s friends, and finally the outstanding judge of Superior Court, Judge Gormley, who restored justice and freedom to Dan Gross.

With Law, Justice is Conserved

Reform, Not Now, Not Ever

The Scandal of Connecticut’s Probate Courts

We thank God above all and for putting these wonderful people in our path to overcome this perverse system that preys on the vulnerable. Symbol of Hope

Dan said this was always about the money–he was right.

He also said, “Never give up”–we won’t! Petition by Dee King

May 2009 ~ Guardianship abuse victims recognized during Elder Abuse Prevention Month

Never Give Up

May 11, 2009
Lifelong NY resident, WWII vet, teacher, worker, inventor…

On a visit to daughter in Ct. (2005) Dan Gross became embroiled in the Ct. Probate System where the judge, denied him his constitutional rights, although he begged for them.

The judge went on to give Dan to a conservator who had him locked up in a nursing home, even though it was not the highest level for him, had him forced medications, refused him his own doctors, his own choice of lawyers, prevented him from seeking aid of any advocacy groups, denied his right to visitors, family, stripped him of all assets, put his house up for sale – all his worldly possessions disappeared.

How can this happen?

In 2006, due to the efforts of some incredible high-minded people, they fought for, and won the freedom of this 86 year old man.

Connecticut Conservatorship

In 2007 the legislators changed the law to protect the rights of others. 2007 – Recent Developments in
Connecticut Conservatorship Law

Those we have the utmost gratitude for are Atty. Veronica Halpern (Htfd. Legal Aid), Rick Green of the Hartford Courant, Atty.John Peters, who worked pro-bono to free Dan, Atty. Marilyn Denney (Htfd. Legal Aid), Eric Zager of Fox 61 News, Royal Stark of Quinnipiac Law School and the students who helped, Tom Berrant of CTLegal Project and others, Dan’s friends, and finally the outstanding judge of Superior Court, Judge Gormley, who restored justice and freedom to Dan Gross.

With Law, Justice is Conserved

Reform, Not Now, Not Ever

The Scandal of Connecticut’s Probate Courts

We thank God above all and for putting these wonderful people in our path to overcome this perverse system that preys on the vulnerable. Symbol of Hope

Dan said this was always about the money–he was right.

He also said, “Never give up”–we won’t! Petition by Dee King

May 2009 ~ Guardianship abuse victims recognized during Elder Abuse Prevention Month

>Never Give Up

May 11, 2009

>

Lifelong NY resident, WWII vet, teacher, worker, inventor…

On a visit to daughter in Ct. (2005) Dan Gross became embroiled in the Ct. Probate System where the judge, denied him his constitutional rights, although he begged for them.

The judge went on to give Dan to a conservator who had him locked up in a nursing home, even though it was not the highest level for him, had him forced medications, refused him his own doctors, his own choice of lawyers, prevented him from seeking aid of any advocacy groups, denied his right to visitors, family, stripped him of all assets, put his house up for sale – all his worldly possessions disappeared.

How can this happen?

In 2006, due to the efforts of some incredible high-minded people, they fought for, and won the freedom of this 86 year old man.

Connecticut Conservatorship

In 2007 the legislators changed the law to protect the rights of others. 2007 – Recent Developments in
Connecticut Conservatorship Law

Those we have the utmost gratitude for are Atty. Veronica Halpern (Htfd. Legal Aid), Rick Green of the Hartford Courant, Atty.John Peters, who worked pro-bono to free Dan, Atty. Marilyn Denney (Htfd. Legal Aid), Eric Zager of Fox 61 News, Royal Stark of Quinnipiac Law School and the students who helped, Tom Berrant of CTLegal Project and others, Dan’s friends, and finally the outstanding judge of Superior Court, Judge Gormley, who restored justice and freedom to Dan Gross.

With Law, Justice is Conserved

Reform, Not Now, Not Ever

The Scandal of Connecticut’s Probate Courts

We thank God above all and for putting these wonderful people in our path to overcome this perverse system that preys on the vulnerable. Symbol of Hope

Dan said this was always about the money–he was right.

He also said, “Never give up”–we won’t! Petition by Dee King

May 2009 ~ Guardianship abuse victims recognized during Elder Abuse Prevention Month

Mental Guardianship Program

May 1, 2009
To continue shoring up the gap between the legal needs of Brooklyn residents and the legal services that are offered pro bono, the Brooklyn Bar Association’s Volunteer Lawyers Project recently started the mental guardianship program, which addresses an “unmet need.”

New York City’s only mental guardianship program was kicked off this month, and will offer free pro bono legal advice and assistance to clients filing for guardianship of mentally disabled adults, usually a family member or loved one.

Jeannie Costello, executive director of the Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP), who is enthusiastic about resolving this “unmet need”: “This is a very exciting new project, because this service is not offered by any other agency in New York. It’s really a great benefit to the residents of Brooklyn. It can make such a critical difference in a family’s well-being to get guardianship of someone who is legally an adult, but still needs someone to protect them.”

Full Article and Source:
Guardians in the Surrogate’s Court

>Mental Guardianship Program

May 1, 2009

>

To continue shoring up the gap between the legal needs of Brooklyn residents and the legal services that are offered pro bono, the Brooklyn Bar Association’s Volunteer Lawyers Project recently started the mental guardianship program, which addresses an “unmet need.”

New York City’s only mental guardianship program was kicked off this month, and will offer free pro bono legal advice and assistance to clients filing for guardianship of mentally disabled adults, usually a family member or loved one.

Jeannie Costello, executive director of the Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP), who is enthusiastic about resolving this “unmet need”: “This is a very exciting new project, because this service is not offered by any other agency in New York. It’s really a great benefit to the residents of Brooklyn. It can make such a critical difference in a family’s well-being to get guardianship of someone who is legally an adult, but still needs someone to protect them.”

Full Article and Source:
Guardians in the Surrogate’s Court