Circuit Riding Around Albany Increasing Residents’ Access to Justice

This article was originally published by the Albany Herald under the headline “Georgia Legal Services adds Westtown Library to ‘circuit’”. Read the article here.

Georgia Legal Services “circuit rider” Whitney Knox, one of seven lawyers in the Albany GLS offices on Oglethorpe Boulevard, is available to discuss very specific legal issues with Westtown patrons from 10 a.m. to noon on the second Tuesday of each month. The program is part of Georgia Legal Services’ efforts to make its staff available where there are specific needs in the community.

“We circuit ride in all 33 of the counties in our service area,” GLS Supervising Attorney Rhonda Bass said. “Our services are offered to usually low-income individuals who meet federal poverty guidelines, and we offer elder law services to people 60 and over with no income guidelines.

Read this Albany Herald article in full here.

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New Guidelines for Law Enforcement Broaden Access to Justice for Non-Native English Speakers and Persons with Hearing Disabilities

GLSP’s newly developed model language access plan offers practical suggestions and resources to assist Georgia law enforcement agencies with meeting its legal obligations to ensure that limited English proficient and deaf or hard-of-hearing individuals have meaningful access to the agency’s services. This model plan is adaptable to local needs and can assist in identifying those who need language assistance; notifying the public of language assistance services; developing procedures for interpretation services in interviews, interrogations, filing complaints, and document translation; outlining training for agency staff and required qualifications for interpreters; and more. As a recipient of federal funds, the failure to provide meaningful language access can result in the filing of a federal lawsuit and the possible loss of federal funding under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Safe Streets Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and their implementing regulations.

Download the model language access plan here. (Appendices available here.)

Read the Vera Institute of Justice report Overcoming Language Barriers: Solutions for Law Enforcement here.

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GLSP’s Ira Foster On Rights at Youth and The Law Summit

The 2nd Annual Georgia Youth and The Law Summit was attended by over 100 youth and parents in Macon on Jan. 16. GLSP Managing Attorney Ira Foster helped organize the event and was joined by panelists such as judges, lawyers, police and correctional officers, and others in the legal community. Damon Elmore, former president of both the Young Lawyers Division and the Georgia Legal Services Board, moderated the event. One session was centered around “Think Before You Act” engaged students and sparked questions throughout the crowd (see photo below).

Youth and Law Summit (2)

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215 Georgians Served on Ask A Lawyer Day

More than 215 individuals with low-incomes received free legal help last Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015. Attorneys from Georgia Legal Services Program and the Georgia State Bar’s General Practice and Trial section teamed up to provide free legal services in 21 counties around the state, from Richmond to Tattnall, Dougherty to Whitfield.

Volunteer private attorneys and Georgia Legal Services Program attorneys worked together to provide legal help in areas related to family, probate, criminal, consumer, real estate, and housing law issues, among others. Below is a photo essay of the successful event.

Macon. Volunteer Attorney David Bury prepares for his next client.

Macon. Volunteer Attorney David Bury prepares for his next client.


Columbus. Attorney Ray Tillery and GLSP Attorney Chandra Wilson.

Columbus. Attorney Ray Tillery and GLSP Attorney Chandra Wilson.

Macon. Attorney Kevin Hicks and GLSP Pro Bono Coordinator Rachael Schell.

Macon. Attorney Kevin Hicks and GLSP Pro Bono Coordinator Rachael Schell.

Columbus. Attorney Ray Tillery and Rhudine Nelson, GLSP Pro Bono coordinator

Columbus. Attorney Ray Tillery and Rhudine Nelson, GLSP Pro Bono coordinator

Columbus. Attorney Paul Kauffmann and client.

Columbus. Attorney Paul Kauffmann and client.

Brunswick. Melissa Cruthirds, Casey Harris, and J. Wrix Mcilvaine.

Brunswick. Melissa Cruthirds, Casey Harris, and J. Wrix Mcilvaine.

Macon. Pro Bono Coordinator Rachael Schell is interviewed by a local television news station about Ask A Lawyer Day.

Macon. Pro Bono Coordinator Rachael Schell is interviewed by a local television news station about Ask A Lawyer Day.

Macon. Attorney David Bury (left) and client.

Macon. Attorney David Bury (left) and client.








Albany. Volunteer attorney Marshall Portivent and his client.

Albany. Volunteer attorney Marshall Portivent and his client.

Augusta. Volunteer Attorney Chade Franklin.

Augusta. GLSP Attorney Chastity Franklin.

Macon. Attorney Sharon Reeves (right) and client.

Macon. Attorney Sharon Reeves (right) and client.


Macon. Attorney David Bury, Attorney James Freeman, Judge Phillip Brown, Attorney Larry Brox, and Attorney Veronica Brinson.

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Former GLSP Managing Attorney Named Dean of the FAMU College of Law

This article was originally published on Capital Soup on Oct. 29, 2015. 

Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) has named Angela Felecia Epps the new dean of the FAMU College of Law. Professor Epps will join the College of Law, located in Orlando, Fla., on January 4, 2016.

Angela Epps

Angela Felecia Epps, courtesy of Capital Records.

Epps currently serves as a professor of law at the William H. Bowen School of Law at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR). She also served as associate dean for Academic Affairs and professor of law from 2008-2014. Epps joined the UALR in 1999. Her teaching and scholarly focus is on criminal law, criminal procedure, and legal counseling, a reflection of her distinguished career as a legal officer and judge advocate for the United States Marine Corps. She previously served as a managing attorney for the Georgia Legal Services Program in Albany.

Commenting on her appointment, Professor Epps said, “I am honored to be selected as the next dean of the FAMU College of Law. I am excited about becoming part of the legacy of ‘Excellence with Caring’ that is FAMU and I look forward to working with the College of Law community. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve in this important position.”

Epps was selected after a national search conducted in partnership with Greenwood/Asher & Associates, Inc.

Dean Michael Hunter Schwartz of the UALR William H. Bowen School praised Epps for her contributions to the legal community.

“Florida A&M University is getting a gem of an educator, colleague, administrator and, most of all, human being in selecting Felecia Epps as the dean of the Law School,” he said. “Her departure from UALR-Bowen is bittersweet for her colleagues here in Little Rock, but we all have known for a long time that she possesses a deep reservoir of skills and abilities that could be tapped.”

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Marcella David noted Epps’ extensive and significant practical experience as important to what she will bring to the FAMU deanship.

“Professor Epps’ ability to nurture connections with the legal community and local community will support FAMU’s continued growth and impact in the region and across the state. At the same time, she is an active and engaged scholar who will focus on the student experience and supporting faculty members’ scholarly, research, and service activities,” David said.

Professor Epps earned her bachelor’s degree in sociology and political science from Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa in 1980, and her Juris Doctor (magna cum laude) from Creighton University School of Law in Omaha, Nebraska in 1983.

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Ask A Lawyer Day, Oct. 29: Lawyers Volunteering Throughout the State

Lawyers Volunteering Throughout the State, Offer Free Legal Services
“Ask A Lawyer Day” to be held in every Georgia county on October 29, 2015

The General Practice and Trial Section, in partnership with Georgia Legal Services, is hosting Ask-A-Lawyer Day on Thursday, October 29, 2015. The purpose of this event, where a volunteer lawyer is expected to be available for free legal services in every Georgia county, is to extend access to justice in rural and small cities throughout the state. Lawyers will be available to advise on issues pertaining to consumer law, family law, criminal law, wills and powers of attorney, and more.

To find out the time and location of the Ask-A-Lawyer event in your area, please call 1-800-498-9469.

The State Bar of Georgia exists to foster among the members of the Bar of this state the principles of duty and service to the public; to improve the administration of justice; and to advance the science of law. All persons authorized to practice law in this state are required to be members.

Georgia Legal Services Program’s mission is to provide access to justice and opportunities out of poverty for Georgians with low-incomes.

For more information, please call Mike Monahan, Pro Bono Director at The State Bar of Georgia, at 404-527-8762.

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Lawyers Honor Pro Bono Work at State Bar of Georgia Awards Reception

This press release was originally published by the State Bar of Georgia.

The State Bar of Georgia honored five advocates at its annual pro bono awards reception held Oct. 15 at the State Bar headquarters in Atlanta.

The ceremony was hosted by the Bar’s Access to Justice Committee and the Pro Bono Project. State Bar president Robert Kauffman welcomed guests and thanked the awards recipients for their professionalism and their service to low-income Georgians.

“All Georgia lawyers can draw inspiration from the exceptional records of pro bono service rendered by these honorees,” Kauffman said. “We appreciate their many contributions, which serve to promote the cause of justice and uphold the integrity of the legal profession in our state.”

Access to Justice Committee Vice Chairperson Angela Hinton and State Bar Pro Bono Director Mike Monahan presented the awards.

“When you hear the stories about the work of our award winners tonight, we hope you take them to heart and that you share them with others in your community,” Hinton noted in her remarks. “To our award winners tonight, we say ‘thank you,’ and we are honored to have you with us.” Savannah lawyer Elsie “Dolly” Robinson Chisholm was presented the H. Sol Clark Award for her lengthy pro bono service record and for her role in the Georgia Legal Services Program Foundation. Her law firm, Bouhan Falligant LLP, received praise for its support of Chisholm’s work and for its pro bono service in the Savannah community. The award is named for former Georgia Court of Appeals Judge H. Sol Clark of Savannah, who is known as the “father of legal aid in Georgia.” The prestigious award honors an individual lawyer who has excelled in one or more of a variety of activities that extend civil legal services to the poor.

Alpharetta lawyer Jay Fox received the William B. Spann Jr. Award for his pro bono involvement in Atlanta Legal Aid’s Durable Powers of Attorney Project of the Georgia Senior Legal Hotline. The Spann Award is given to a local bar association, law firm, or community organization in Georgia that has developed a civil pro bono program that has satisfied previously unmet legal needs or extended services to underserved segments of the population. The award is named for a former president of the American Bar Association and former executive director of the State Bar of Georgia.

The Bar presented Ira Foster, managing attorney of the Macon Regional Office of Georgia Legal Services Program Inc., with the Dan Bradley Legal Services Award for his legal work helping children with access to education and improper and excessive school discipline as well as for his lengthy career in public interest law. The award honors the memory of Georgia native and Mercer Law graduate Dan J. Bradley, who was president of the federal Legal Services Corporation from 1979 to 1982. He is credited by many
with having been instrumental in saving the Legal Services Corporation, which funds programs like Georgia Legal Services Program and the Atlanta Legal Aid Society, from elimination in the early 1980s.

The Bar also presented the A Business Commitment Award to the Atlanta office of Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP, which has accepted hundreds of pro bono cases for nonprofits serving low-income and marginalized communities in Georgia. The firm has also been a long-term sponsor of the Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta, an agency that helps provide pro bono services to the nonprofit community.

The Law School Excellence in Access to Justice Individual Award was presented to Meagan M. Rafferty for the access to justice activities she undertook as a student at the Savannah Law School. Associate professor Andrew Wright praised Rafferty for her academic performance and the variety of ways she contributed to increasing access to justice through public interest law.

“Law students like Meagan demonstrate that the future of the practice of law — especially when it comes to pro bono — is in good hands. We were very impressed by her involvement in public interest initiatives and more so when we saw that she was also an academic standout,” said Monahan.

The Law School Excellence in Access to Justice Award specifically recognizes a law student who has excelled in participation in support of a civil pro bono or legal aid program or who has developed or has been instrumental in the development of a civil pro bono program satisfying previously unmet civil legal needs or extended services to underserved segments of the population.

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AJC: Legal aid fights Ga. poverty

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution featured this commentary piece authored by GLSP Executive Director Phyllis Holmen on Sept. 30, 2015. 

I went to law school with a vision of making a difference in the world. Those were the heady days of demonstrations and organizations, of picketing and protesting — the days when we watched the rule of law sustain our democracy. A peaceful departure of a disgraced president, a world leader’s relinquishment of power, showed Americans the strength of our democracy.

But my dream as a young law student hasn’t turned out quite like I’d hoped.

Poverty plagues us. In fact, we anticipate Georgia’s poverty rate will be higher than ever this year — and with it, access to justice is diminished. Two million Georgians live in poverty, including one in four of our children, up significantly from just seven years ago when it was one in five. Nearly a third of Georgians struggle to keep food on the table. Increasingly, more seniors go without heat or needed medicine. I’ve come to see that eliminating poverty is a truly complex undertaking, especially in Georgia, where the chances of escaping it are among the worst in the U.S.

Do I throw in the towel? No.

I also see the importance of civil legal aid in the fight against poverty. A quarter of Georgia’s population is eligible for legal assistance, yet lawyers outside Atlanta are scarce, as 70 percent work in the capital city. This gap makes funding legal aid critical to rural Georgians’ ability to seek justice, whether to fight an unlawful eviction, escape a violent situation and seek spousal support, obtain health care through Medicaid and Medicare, or protect access to affordable housing.

Such legal victories truly can make a difference. Legal advice can play a very real role helping an individual climb the economic ladder, often securing basic needs and protecting the stability needed to maintain these and advance further. Minnesota Judge Kevin Burke said it another way: “(A) good lawyer can mean the difference between sickness or health, oppression or liberty, fear or peace of mind.”

Most lawyers know this, or they wouldn’t do what they do. But those who offer civil legal aid to needy clients, many of whom work for non-profit law firms funded by the Legal Services Corporation, are being forced to turn away more and more low-income Americans seeking help. Congress is failing to provide the resources to offer needy clients the hand up that would help lift them out of poverty.

Federal funding that supports these lawyers has failed to keep up with inflation even as poverty grows. Since it was first funded by Congress in 1976, funding for legal aid through Legal Services has been cut by more than half, taking inflation into account. Meanwhile, Georgia’s poverty population continues to grow. While many Georgians are finding their way out of the Great Recession, there are too many for whom recovery remains a dream.

With civil legal aid, they might find that opportunity out of poverty. Without it, the dream dies.

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Eliminating Barriers to Justice: Language Access

This Georgia Bar Journal article featured and interview with GLSP attorney Jana Edmondson-Cooper on language barriers and access to justice. Read the full article here, on pg. 76.

Eliminating Barriers to Justice: How and Why to Ensure Language Access for Limited English Proficient and Deaf/Hard of Hearing Litigants

The Lawyer’s Creed states that we should: “strive to improve the law and our legal system, to make the law and our legal system available to all, and to seek the common good through the representation of my clients.” This access to justice extends to those with limited English proficiency, and deaf and hard of hearing litigants. In his 2014 State of the Judiciary address, Chief Justice Hugh P. Thompson addressed the subject of language access: “As Georgia continues to grow in population and diversity, access to justice is a challenge requiring the commitment and hard work of us all. . . . In addition to poor people, those who do not speak English are entitled to justice as well. . . . To prepare for the future, Georgia’s courts need an army of trained, certified interpreters. . . .

Currently, Georgia has only 149 licensed court interpreters, and they speak only 12 languages. That is not enough. . . .” Through the leadership of Chief Justice Thompson and other justices, and the work of attorneys like Jana J. Edmondson-Cooper, Immediate Past President Patrise M. Perkins-Hooker and countless other Georgia judges and attorneys, we are making strides toward ensuring access to justice for those with language barriers such as limited English proficiency (LEP) and deaf/hard of hearing litigants (DHH).

Spotlight on Jana J. Edmondson-Cooper
I asked Jana J. Edmondson-Cooper, Bilingual Staff Attorney in the Macon Regional Office of the Georgia Legal Services Program (GLSP) and member of the Supreme Court of Georgia Commission on Interpreters (COI), to share her involvement with this important issue—ensuring those persons involved in our judicial system who have limited English proficiency or are deaf or hard of hearing get the justice they are owed, and we had an enlightening dialogue. AH: How did you get involved in the movement to recognize language as an access to justice issue?

JEC: After fellow GLSP attorney Lisa Krisher and I co-wrote an article in 2012, “Seen But Often Unheard: Limited English Proficiency in Georgia,” Bernadette Olmos, of A.B. Olmos and Associates P.C., contacted us and told us she was pleased to learn that other attorneys were also interested in addressing language access challenges faced by LEP and DHH litigants. As a result, the three of us formed an ad hoc committee of attorneys representing various public interest organizations and the private bar that began meeting monthly in January 2013. We discussed ongoing issues seen in courtrooms statewide regarding language access and in several practice areas including family law, education law, criminal law and civil rights, and later invited other attorneys, interpreters and judges to discuss these issues in greater depth. The committee decided that one way to tackle the common problems of language access in the courts was to develop a comprehensive training where language access stakeholders, especially attorneys and judges, would learn best practices when using interpreters in legal proceedings, strengthen cultural competency skills and learn the legal ethics of language access.

AH: Can you share some contexts where language access and the need for an interpreter are at issue?

JEC: Here are a few anecdotes provided by Georgia attorneys: SCENARIO #1: An attorney represented a client in a family violence matter on a day when no interpreters were available. The judge asked the bailiff to go to the local Mexican restaurant and grab somebody to come and interpret for the proceedings

Read the full article here, on pg. 76.

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