#StudentsHaveRights Campaign Launch

Minor Offenses of Children Threaten Expulsion
Legal Representation in Disciplinary Hearings May Keep Kids in School

Georgia Legal Services Program, Inc. (GLSP) launched an education campaign this week, #StudentsHaveRights. The civil legal aid organization handled nearly 100 school discipline cases last year, working to keep students charged with minor, non-violent offenses in school. Most were facing expulsion before attorneys stepped in.

“Understanding children’s rights can ensure that your child is not being unfairly disciplined,” Kenji Roberts says, speaking from experience. Her granddaughter, 12 years old at the time, was threatened with expulsion for yielding to the pressure of a bully who demanded she write “Hi” on the bathroom wall— the student’s first and only offense.

Given the high numbers of disciplinary hearings that take place each week in school districts throughout the state, it’s believed that thousands of students go without the legal representation they need in these proceedings.

“Parents often don’t realize how serious these matters can be until they get there,” GLSP Attorney Jessica Stuart told WABE’s Rose Scott and Denis O’Hayer in a July 30th appearance on their radio show, Closer Look. “In our organization, we provide free services. We can represent students at these hearings.”  GLSP offers legal representation to families in Georgia with low incomes who live outside the five-county metro area.

The #StudentsHaveRights campaign is targeted toward students and parents in Georgia, as well as attorneys who are interested in representing students in school discipline matters.

 

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GLSP Attorney Jana Edmondson-Cooper Awarded

Jana J. Edmonson Cooper.  Photo by John Disney/Daily Report.

Jana J. Edmondson-Cooper Photo by John Disney/Daily Report

Jana J. Edmondson-Cooper was selected by the National Bar Association (NBA) to receive its Nation’s Best Advocates: 40 Under 40 Award during the NBA’s 90th Annual Convention held in Los Angeles, CA July 19 -23, 2015. The award recognizes the nation’s top lawyers under 40 who exemplify a broad range of high achievement, including in innovation, vision, leadership and legal and community involvement. In addition to the 40 Under 40 recognition, five of the forty awardees were deemed to have distinguished themselves further by exemplifying Excellence in Activism, Excellence in Innovation, Excellence in Leadership, Excellence in Service and as Best Advocate of the Year, respectively and honored with a second award to that effect. Jana was honored with the Excellence in Service Award for exemplifying service to low-income and underrepresented individuals, particularly those who have limited or no ability to communicate in English.

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FAQ: Supreme Court Marriage Equality Ruling

What did SCOTUS decide?

In a landmark decision, the US Supreme Court struck down states’ same sex marriage bans on June 26, 2015, effectively bringing marriage equality to the entire US. “No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family,” says Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Why are the same sex marriage bans unconstitutional?

States’ bans violated the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution because they purposely excluded gay and lesbian couples from marriage laws. The Court held that “the right to marry is protected by the Constitution” under the Due Process Clause. It gives four reasons for this: (1) marriage is “inherent in personal autonomy”, (2) marriage is a “union unlike any other in its importance to” the parties, (3) the right to marry connects to the right to make decisions about family, procreation, and childrearing, and (4) marriage is a “keystone of our social order”.

The Court also held that the States’ bans violate the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. “Same-sex couples are consigned to an instability many opposite-sex couples would deem intolerable in their own lives. As the State itself makes marriage all the more precious by the significance it attaches to it, exclusion from that status has the effect of teaching that gays and lesbians are unequal in important respects. It demeans gays and lesbians for the State to lock them out of a central institution of the Nation’s society”.

When can people in Georgia get married?

Couples started getting married in Georgia on the day of the decision, June 26, 2015. Check with probate court in your jurisdiction.

Can churches/clergy be legally required to perform same-sex marriages if they don’t approve of them?

No. Today’s decision doesn’t mean churches have to endorse gay marriage or that churches have to perform them.  The decision today determined that same-sex couples have a fundamental right to same-sex marriage: this means that the law cannot be used to prevent same-sex persons from marrying, not that private companies or churches must participate in or support marriage ceremonies, etc.

Today’s decision means that governmental entities and public officers, however, must not perform their jobs in a manner which discriminates against persons who are seeking or are in a same-sex marriage.  This means that if the governmental entity provides certain benefits or treatment to heterosexual couples, they must provide the equal benefit/treatment to same-sex couples.  If a probate court marries heterosexual couples, then the court must marry same-sex couples.

Does the decision affect the military?

There is no indication that this would apply differently to individuals in the military.   Any benefits rights given to heterosexual couples in the military should be given to SS couples.

 

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GLSP President of Board of Directors Nears Finish Line for Fundraiser

Damon-Elmore

As published in The Daily Report by Kathleen Baydala Joyner.

By next week, lawyer Damon Elmore will have biked across all 159 of Georgia counties.

Elmore, president of the Georgia Legal Services Program’s board of directors, began his trek last year to raise money for civil legal services. On Thursday, he told lawyers gathered at the State Bar of Georgia’s annual meeting at Stone Mountain that he will bike the last two counties—Union and Towns in north Georgia—on Monday.

As a warm-up, he’s leading a seven-mile ride through Stone Mountain Park on Friday morning.

He’s also hoping to bridge the roughly $2,000 gap toward reaching his goal of $15,900.

The Daily Report caught up with Elmore at the bar meeting to ask what he’s learned on his journey.

How did this idea come about? Why are you biking 159 counties?

It’s just a marriage of two different things that I love: legal services for the poor and cycling. And the cycling gives me the real opportunity to see and sort of feel what the communities that we help and the people that we help look like and sort of be a part of it more directly.

I saw real tangible images of poverty: a lot of businesses out of business, dilapidated houses, long lines outside medical clinics.

What is the financial need right now for legal services?

“Critical” seems cliché but appropriate. And that’s because traditional sources are tighter, and the needs are larger and greater. For legal services, we give help with the private attorneys who work with the clients on cases, but there are so many other things that the money can go toward.

We have lawyers in our satellite offices who are helping six, eight, 10 different counties, having to drive to all of those counties.

What have you learned about the need for legal services as you’ve seen different parts of the state?

Legal services are part of the essential, basic, critical needs of men and women. Legal services help with benefits. They help keep families together. They help ensure students receive fair treatment in schools so they don’t turn into statistics, getting in the pipeline to prison.

Legal services are so connected to a better state overall. I really didn’t put that together at first.

What did you learn about yourself on your tour?

I did a ride two weeks ago in Dade County that sort of summarized what I’ve learned about me. The ride started in Trenton, which is in the Lookout Mountain valley, and the route I planned took me up Cloudland Canyon and up Lookout Mountain. So in the first eight miles, I went up 2,300 feet. And three times, I thought about turning around, because it would have been a descent. But I didn’t.

So, I think the two things that were made manifest for me on that day were: the [Nelson] Mandela quote that it only seems impossible until it is done, and it was the first time in this initiative that I’ve really been proud of what I’ve done.

We haven’t raised $1 million or eradicated poverty, but we’ve had a lot of buzz. And we’ve brought legal services back into the conversation without it being threatening or sounding like the same story line.

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Former GLSP Attorney Named Georgia’s Magistrate of the Year

Patricia Barron was named Georgia’s 2015 Magistrate of the Year at the Georgia Council’s annual meeting in May. Judge Barron, currently Athens-Clarke County Chief Magistrate Court Judge, worked at Georgia Legal Services Program throughout the state for twenty years.

“She was devoted to her clients and set a high standard for her staff during her service as Managing Attorney of the Gainesville office,” GLSP Executive Director Phyllis Holmen remembers of Judge Barron’s work. “We’ve watched her career as Magistrate in Athens, and are proud of the innovations she has brought to that court to underscore her commitment to access to justice.”

Patricia Barron, a native of Atlanta and an alumna of Georgetown University Law Center, also worked at the University of Georgia School of Law’s Family Violence Clinic, where as a managing attorney she trained law students on representing victims of domestic violence. The judge has served at the Athens-Clarke Magistrate Court for nearly fifteen years, and was appointed chief judge in only her second year at the Court.

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Champions of Justice honored Oct. 7, 2014

2013 and 2014 Champions

Anne ErvinAnne Ervin is nominated for her long and faithful service on the GLSP board of directors, as a client member representing the Columbus region, appointed by the Muscogee County Foster Parents Association.    Ms. Ervin served two full terms, from 1992 — 2000 and 2003 — 2011. She also served as a member of the Executive Committee from 1998 – 2000, and 2003 — 2005, and as Vice President from 2005 — 2011. During her service she was a dedicated supporter of the mission of GLSP and an active and faithful participant at board meetings. Ms. Ervin also faithfully contributed financially to GLSP.

Hardy GregoryHon. Hardy Gregory (ret., Georgia Supreme Court), is nominated for his longstanding support for civil legal services and in particular his generous financial support of GLSP.   Gregory has presented several generous gifts to GLSP which have supported services in rural areas of south Georgia.   He is a 24-year donor to GLSP who has given 31 gifts.   One major gift was dedicated to GLSP’s work with farmworkers, largely in south Georgia, where his roots are.   On more than one occasion Gregory discretely pressed a check into the hands of the Executive Director when she was least expecting it.    In addition, he has reviewed drafts of briefs and participated in moot court sessions for GLSP staff preparing to present oral argument to the Georgia Supreme Court.   Gregory served on the Georgia Supreme Court from 1981-1989, resigning to return to private practice in Cordele, Georgia.   In 2010, he was presented with the Chief Justice Thomas O. Marshall Professionalism Award by the State Bar of Georgia as a judge who had demonstrated the highest professional conduct and paramount reputation for professionalism for his contributions to the profession.   Gregory still practices in Cordele, Georgia, now with his spouse, Toni Gregory, and former Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice George Carley (ret.).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAvarita L. Hanson, Executive Director, Chief Justice’s Commission on  Professionalism for the State Bar of Georgia, is nominated as a Champion for her longstanding support of GLSP.   Hanson served as Director of the State Bar’s Pro Bono Project from November 1985 to December 1989, a position jointly supported by GLSP and the State Bar of Georgia.   She is a 31-year donor to GLSP and has used many of her professional positions as platforms from which to advocate for access to justice, especially for the needy.   Most recently, as director of the CJCP, she dedicated all of the proceeds of the 25th anniversary gala dinner to GLSP, a total of $ $42,000.  The dinner showcased both the work of the Commission and the intersection of professionalism with access to justice.    The event drew both long-term GLSP supporters as well as new supporters.   Hanson received her J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School and her A.B. magna cum laude with highest honors in 1975 from Harvard University (Radcliffe College).   A member of the State Bars of Texas (1979) and Georgia (1984), she is a past president of the Georgia Association of Black Women Attorneys (1985) and the Gate City Bar Association (1991).   Her law practice has been very varied.  She is also the former associate dean of academic affairs and an associate professor at Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School.

Carol Hunstein Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of GeorgiaHon. Carol Hunstein, Supreme Court of Georgia, is nominated as a Champion for her active and longstanding support of GLSP and other providers of civil legal services, and for using her role as Chief Justice from 2012 to 2013 as a pulpit from which to promote the core values of access to justice and the Rule of Law.   In 2013 Hunstein specifically urged the State Bar of Georgia to do more to support civil legal services for the poor, resulting in several rule changes and other initiatives to bring more resources to the cause.   Hunstein has taken time from her important duties on the Supreme Court to participate in events hosted by the Legal Services Corporation, the American Bar Association, and other organizations to promote funding for civil legal services, new ways to assist unrepresented litigants, and engagement of more lawyers in pro bono work.   In so doing she has become a national voice for access to justice.   She is the former chair of the Georgia Commission on Access and Fairness, which was charged with implementing the recommendations of the Commission on Gender Bias and the Commission on Racial and Ethnic Bias.    That Commission also established the Access to Justice Committee, which worked for several years on projects to promote access to justice.  She also chaired the Georgia Commission on Interpreters and the Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee.     She has received many awards during her career.   Hunstein received her JD from Stetson Law School in 1976.

Linda-Klein1Linda Klein, managing shareholder at Baker Donnelson’s Georgia offices, is nominated for her extraordinary work on behalf of the cause of justice for all over several decades.  As President of the State Bar of Georgia, she conceived and implemented plan to secure $2 million from the Georgia General Assembly in 1995 for legal services to needy survivors of domestic violence.  Since that date, over $ 35 million has been appropriated for this purpose, enabling thousands of survivors of domestic violence across the state to secure protective orders, child support awards, assistance with needed benefits and resolution of related problems involving housing, schooling, and more.   Linda has remained a member of the Judicial Council Committee to Distribute Funding for Domestic Violence Victims to assure this funding is dedicated to the cause she fought for. She chaired the board of the Lawyers Foundation of Georgia and served on the board of the Georgia Bar Foundation, assuring that resources from those organizations are also directed to legal services for the poor.  She received the State Bar’s H. Sol Clark award in 1999, and a Resolution from the GLSP board in 2008, for these and other efforts.   As a leader of the American Bar Association, she continues to actively support civil legal services for the poor by annually lobbying Georgia congressional delegation to support the Legal  Services Corporation, and by speaking and writing about the cause of justice for all.

Cubbege SnowCubbedge Snow, Jr., retired partner at Martin Snow in Macon, Ga., is nominated for his many years of service to the cause of justice for all, beginning with his support of the early efforts of the young lawyers working to establish the Georgia Indigents Legal Services and GLSP in the early 1970s. Cubbedge Served on the board of GLSP from 1988 – 1993, and as president of the State Bar of Georgia from 1974 — 1975, continuing to advocate for justice for all.    He has served as a member of the American Bar Association House of Delegates and its Board of Governors, as well as a member of many ABA committees, most notably the Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services.    Access to justice has been one of the abiding values of Cubbedge’s legal career, and his personal support for staff of GLSP has been invaluable. Cubbedge received the H. Sol Clark Award from the State Bar of Georgia in 1988.

Copy of Frank StricklandFrank Strickland, of Strickland Brockington Lewis in Atlanta, is nominated for his longstanding dedication to the cause of equal justice.  Frank served on the GLSP Board from 1997 — 2003 as a State Bar appointee.  He was a member of the Board’s Executive Committee from 1998-2001, and served as Vice-President from 2001 — 2003, chairing the Fundraising Committee in that capacity.  Frank resigned from the GLSP board to take the office of Chair of the Board of the Legal Services Corporation in 2003, where he served until 2010.  Frank expended tremendous personal and political influence to advance the cause of justice, building a renewed bipartisan base of support for legal services in the U.S. Congress.   He devoted countless uncompensated hours in meetings of the LSC board held across the United States and in other countries.  He continues to support the national cause as a member of the board of the Friends of the Legal Services Corporation.   He continues to work to develop new resources for legal services in Georgia as well.  Thousands of lives have been positively affected by his service.  Frank received a resolution of appreciation for his efforts from the GLSP Board in 2010.

Randolph ThrowerRandolph Thrower, is nominated posthumously for his longstanding support for civil legal services in Georgia.    He was a 25-year donor to GLSP, and was also a strong supporter of the Atlanta Legal Aid Society.    Thrower is recognized for his lifelong dedication to professionalism and the importance of access to justice for all, notwithstanding resistance from colleagues.   He received his law degree from Emory University.    As a young lawyer back in the early 40s, he was haunted by the execution of his client who had been convicted of rape, although Thrower believed him to be innocent.   He was Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service under President Richard Nixon from 1969 to 1971, when he was fired by John D. Ehrlichman “for resisting White House efforts to punish its enemies through tax audits.”   He was a founder of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and was honored with its Segal-Tweed Founders Award.   Among many other awards, he was presented with the American Bar Award in 1993, for his work as a “tireless champion for the poor for women, for minorities, and for our system of government that serves us all.”   Thrower died at the age of 100 in March 2014.

Eva Washington, is recognized for her activities as a tireless advocate on behalf of clients, the Georgia Clients Council, and the Georgia Legal Services Program.   As a member of the GLSP Board, Ms. Washington brought client-centered insight to the needs of clients and the ways in which GLSP attorneys could be helpful to the their communities.   She rarely missed a statewide Georgia Client Council conference and used the conferences to both network with fellow members and learn as much as she could about legal issues affecting clients.   Ms. Washington was also engaged with her local GLSP office in Savannah.   She would frequently call to comment on some work that had been done by one of our legal workers on behalf of a client that she had seen on the news, read about in the newspaper or simply learned about from her many connections in the community. Just as she was quick to comment on what we had done, she was just as quick to tell us what we had not done and what we needed to do!  She always did so as an advisor and advocate, never as a critic.  She knew how much her insight, her interest, and her concerns were valued in the office.

Jack WebbJack Webb is nominated as a Champion of Justice for his dedication to the cause of justice for all as demonstrated by his long tenure as the Director of Finance for Georgia Legal Services Program.  Jack served in that position from January 2, 1979, until his retirement on March 31, 2011. He developed and implemented financial processes, budget planning, and accounting oversight as GLSP grew into a multi-million dollar non-profit law firm with multiple and ever-increasing funding sources, each with different reporting requirements, restrictions and deliverables, and grant terms.   He supported administrative staff in multiple offices throughout Georgia, which for a period of time exceeded twenty different locations.  He provided high-level, confidential, and creative input to the GLSP Executive Team, working through widely varying funding challenges and opportunities that changed every year.   He offered wise counsel and constant emphasis on making decisions with the best interests of service to clients as a touchstone.  As a supreme test, GLSP came through an audit by the LSC Inspector General in February 2013 with no issues, thanks in large part to the systems and staffing that Jack developed and supported.

 

 

 

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