Ga. Supreme Court Justices urge the use of qualified intepreters in court at GLSP-sponsored CLE

Jana E-C and Justice Melton

GLSP Bilingual Staff Attorney Jana Edmondson-Cooper turns mic over to Justice Harold Melton

Atlanta, February 26, 2014 – Two Georgia Supreme Court Justices and several superior court judges lent support to the idea that “equal justice for all” includes providing language access to the courts through well-qualified interpreters to people with limited English, as well as those who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Justices Harold Melton and Keith Blackwell both spoke at a Continuing Legal Education Session on Feb. 20 at John Marshall Law School in Atlanta, sponsored by Georgia Legal Services Program, the Southern Center for Human Rights, the State Bar of Georgia Access to Justice

picCommittee and the Supreme Court of Georgia Commission on Interpreters, among others. Justice Melton is stepping down as chair of the Commission on Interpreters and Justice Blackwell is taking over the chairmanship. The Justices spoke of the need not only for certified interpreters proficient in a number of languages, but also for well-qualified interpreters who understand legal terminology and their obligation to protect the confidentiality of their clients. Judges from rural areas of Georgia spoke about the difficulty of making sure qualified interpreters are available, especially in cases where parties are low-income and the court is obliged to pay for language services.

Georgia Legal Services Program, which serves low-income Georgians in civil matters in 154 counties outside Metro Atlanta, has made language access a major priority in its service to Limited English Proficiency clients, as well as to clients who are deaf or hard of hearing. GLSP staff members were among the leaders in planning for and presenting the CLE. GLSP Litigation Director Lisa Krisher and

GLSlP Director of Litigation spoke about the Legal Underpinnings for Language Access

GLSlP Director of Litigation spoke about the Legal Underpinnings for Language Access

Bilingual Staff Attorney Jana Edmondson-Cooper spoke at the CLE about the importance of providing interpretation services and on how interpreters must be highly trained to be effective.

The CLE also included discussions of “Legal Underpinnings for Language Accesss,” “Cultural Competency,” “Best Practices for Working with Interpreters: From Client Intake to the Bench,” and “Ethical Considerations When Representing Limited English Proficient and Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing Clients.”

To look at the detailed materials from the CLE, please click here…

Legal Underpinnings for Language Access

GLSP Director of Litigation Lisa Krisher, Administrative Office of the Courts Director Marla Moore, Fulton County Superior Court Chief Judge Gail Tusan, District Court Administrator of Fulton County Supeiror Court Yolanda Lewis, Bibb County Superior Court Chief Judge Tilman E. Self, III, DeKalb County State Court Judge Dax Lopez on panel on Legal Underpinnings for Language Access: A Stakeholders Panel Discussion

The Supreme Court of Georgia put information about the CLE up on the court’s website at: http://www.gasupreme.us/press_releases/melton.php

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Justice Melton answers questions from GLSP on language access in the courts

Can a defendant in a civil case who cannot speak English effectively participate in her court case without a trained interpreter? Are courts required to provide trained interpreters? Can a judge summon a bilingual clerk to assist?
Georgia Legal Services Program bilingual attorney Jana J. Edmondson-Cooper recently interviewed Georgia Supreme Court Justice Harold D. Melton to work through some of those questions and discuss his passion for improving access to justice among those who speak limited or no English or have other communication challenges, such as hearing impairment.
Click below to see the entire interview in The Daily Report
PDF Justice Melton in DR

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GLSP’s Krisher wins major award for service to low-income Georgians

Lisa Krisher Low Income Advocacy Image

Lisa J. Krisher, litigation director of Georgia Legal Services Program, has been awarded the Kutak-Dodds Prize by the National Legal Aid & Defender Association. The prestigious Kutak-Dodds Prize annually honors a public interest attorney who has “significantly contributed to the human dignity and quality of life of individuals unable to afford legal representation.” It comes with a $10,000 check.

The Kutak-Dodds Prize will be presented to Krisher on Sept. 19, 2013, in Washington, D.C. at a dinner at which NLADA will also present awards to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and to Senior Vice President and General Counsel for UPS Teri Plummer McClure.

A 1978 graduate of Antioch School of Law in Washington D.C., Krisher came directly to GLSP to begin her career. She became litigation director in 1990. A resident of Augusta, Krisher supervises high-impact litigation and other advocacy initiatives by attorneys at GLSP, a non-profit law firm representing low-income Georgians in civil matters in 154 counties outside the metro-Atlanta area. With ten regional offices around the state, GLSP’s mission is to provide access to justice and opportunities out of poverty for residents of rural and small-town Georgia. Some of GLSP’s funding comes through the Legal Services Corporation.

GLSP Executive Director Phyllis Holmen said Krisher deserves the nationally recognized honor “for her personal vision and commitment; her work to meet client needs under the most challenging circumstances; her innovative solutions to barriers to the delivery of legal services to the poor in the rural south; and the statewide and national impact of her work as an advocate, leader, supervisor, teacher, and role model, all done in the context of a rural southern state with entrenched generational poverty and ongoing civil rights issues.”

Holmen continued, “It has been my personal privilege and delight to work with Lisa for these many years, and I am grateful for all she has done for justice in Georgia and fighting for equality, opportunity, and the elimination of poverty.”

Krisher played a key role in developing GLSP’s Farmworker Rights Division, nationally recognized as one of the best legal-aid programs for itinerant agricultural workers, of whom Georgia has about 100,000, many still working in unsafe and abusive conditions. The Division has secured hundreds of thousands of dollars of back wages for workers, improved working conditions and secured better labor practices on the part of growers.

She also spearheaded GLSP’s effort to serve non-English speaking clients by developing a crew of Spanish-speaking attorneys across the state, as well as a Spanish intake line for GLSP, so clients with limited English may tell their stories in their native language and be understood. She has also guided efforts by GLSP to make sure interpreters are available in all legal proceedings, including those that don’t happen in a courtroom. (GLSP is prohibited from representing undocumented persons.)

And, filing federal civil rights complaints and pressing state-level administrators, Krisher forced change by the state of Georgia in how food stamp fraud cases are prosecuted, ultimately changing the way the state pursues those cases. The state had been scheduling more than 100 hearings a day in which food stamp recipients were threatened with criminal prosecution if they did not sign waivers of their rights and agreements to pay back the amount they had received in food stamps. Most of the recipients had done nothing more than buy food at the only store within walking distance of their homes. In one major case involving hundreds of recipients, the grocer was ultimately prosecuted rather than the recipients, thanks to GLSP’s efforts.

In 1997, Krisher was awarded the Dan Bradley Award from the State Bar of Georgia, recognizing her dedication, accomplishments and contributions to the cause of justice for all.

 

 

 

 

 

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GLSP helps make sure interpreters are available for legal proceedings

Georgia Legal Services Program is stepping out as a leader in helping people who don’t speak English get access to interpreters in court or in any other legal proceeding in Georgia.

GLSP has assembled a collection of interpreter resources for lawyers representing clients who are limited-English proficient (LEP). The resources include articles for lawyers about using interpreters, links to state and federal interpreter registries and, importantly, a motion for a certified interpreter and a brief in support of the motion for a certified interpreter.

Lawyers can access these resources in two ways: Text “interpreter” to 99699 on a smartphone, or visit and join GeorgiaAdvocates.org, Georgia’s statewide volunteer lawyer support website.

Ira FosterIn addition, GLSP Senior Staff Attorney Ira Foster, and bilingual Staff Attorney Jana Edmondson-Cooper, both in Macon, co-authored an article entitled “Back in Session: The ABCs of Student enrollment in Georgia Public Schools for Non-Parents and Parents with Limited English Proficiency,” to be published in the Fall 2013 issue of the newsletter of the Child Protection and Advocacy Section of the State Bar.

And Edmondson-Cooper has been named to fill a vacancy on the Georgia Commission on Interpreters. The Commission, jana-edmondsonwhich sets the rules, policies and procedures for regulating the quality of court interpreters in the state of Georgia, is comprised of legislators, judges, lawyers, court interpreters. Each year members rotate off the Commission and recommendations are received for new appointments which must be approved by the Supreme Court.  Edmondson-Cooper is a trained court interpreter and worked in that capacity before going to law school.

 

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2013 Champions For Justice chosen by GLSP board

AWARDS FOR GLSP CHAMPIONS OF JUSTICE

2013

Atlanta—Georgia Legal Services Program has selected five outstanding Georgians as Champions of Justice for 2013. These three lawyers, one community activist, and one former staff member are honored for their service to GLSP and its mission of providing access to justice and avenues out of poverty for low-income people all over the state outside Metro Atlanta.

“We deeply enjoy celebrating these folks because they are our heroes,” said GLSP Executive Director Phyllis Holmen. “They have walked the walk for years, sometimes decades, to help Georgians from the lowest economic circumstances  gain access to the courts and to justice to help resolve issues that keep them trapped in poverty.”

This is the third year the GLSP Board of Directors has named Champions of Justice.

“Our Champions of Justice have each demonstrated a passion and commitment to ensuring access to our justice system for all Georgians.   They have each worked tirelessly to preserve this principle that is so fundamental to our democracy, and I find myself inspired and humbled by the example they have set,” said Board President Ben Garren of The Coca Cola Co.’s Legal Department.

Georgia Legal Services is a non-profit law firm serving 154 Georgia counties outside metro Atlanta. Its attorneys serve low-income clients in civil matters such as domestic violence protection, access to health care, preserving housing, access to public education, and more.

Anne ErvinANNE ERVIN

Anne 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.

Linda-Klein1LINDA KLEIN

Linda 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.

CUBBEDGE SNOW, JR.

Cubbedge 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

Frank 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.

Jack WebbJACK WEBB

Jack 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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Savannah managing attorney wins State Bar award

Bill Broker, Savannah Managing Attorney

Bill Broker, Savannah Managing Attorney

Savannah lawyer honored with State Bar of Georgia Dan Bradley Award

Atlanta The State Bar of Georgia’s Access to Justice Committee has awarded the Dan Bradley Legal Services Award to William K. Broker, managing attorney of the Savannah Regional Office of Georgia Legal Services Program.

The Bradley award honors the memory of Georgia native and Mercer University Law School graduate Daniel J. Bradley, who was president of the federal Legal Services Corp. from 1979 to 1982. Bradley began his career as a staff attorney with Florida Migrant Legal Services in 1967. He is credited by many with having been instrumental in saving the national Legal Services Corp., which is the major funder of civil legal aid programs in the U.S., from elimination during the early 1980s.

The Dan Bradley Legal Services Award recognizes the work of an Atlanta Legal Aid or Georgia Legal Services Program attorney who has excelled in the commitment to the delivery of quality legal services to the poor and to providing equal access to justice.

Broker was selected for the State Bar’s Dan Bradley Award for his long-term commitment of nearly 33 years to civil legal services for the poor.  He joined the Gainesville Office of Georgia Legal Services Program in 1978.  In 1984, after three years in private practice on St. Simons Island, Broker returned to Georgia Legal Services where he became a managing attorney for the Savannah Office.

In its selection of Broker for the Bradley Award, the State Bar of Georgia Access to Justice Committee noted his compassion for clients, his commitment to strong legal supervision and mentorship, his innovations in pro bono services delivery, his knack for finding the right volunteer for the right pro bono opportunity, and especially for his commitment to engaging senior and retired lawyers to do pro bono work.  Under his watch, the Savannah office of Georgia Legal Services launched several important and innovative legal assistance projects, many of which were ahead of their time, including an AIDS/HIV legal project, a community economic development project, a transactional pro bono program, a seniors legal assistance project, and a homeless legal project.

During his tenure at Georgia Legal Services Program, he has strengthened ties between the legal aid program and the Savannah Bar Association – of which he served as president in 2010 – and with the low-income community in the Savannah region.

“Bill is dedicated to his clients and approaches each case with compassion for the client, a commitment to work hard and go the extra mile, and a thirst for justice,” says Phyllis Holmen, the executive director of Georgia Legal Services Program. “He displays exceptional creativity concerning legal theories and innovative remedies, and in addition brings that element of common sense that creates the best solutions.”

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The State Bar of Georgia, with offices in Atlanta, Savannah and Tifton, was established in 1964 by Georgia’s Supreme Court as the successor to the voluntary Georgia Bar Association, founded in 1884. All lawyers licensed to practice in Georgia belong to the State Bar. Its more than 43,000 members work together to strengthen the constitutional promise of justice for all, promote principles of duty and public service among Georgia’s lawyers, and administer a strict code of legal ethics.

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Rural Georgia struggles to get lawyers

By DAN CHAPMAN
Atlanta Journal-Constitution

FORT GAINES, Ga. — Ryan Wheeler, graduating from law school in Atlanta this month, needs a job.
Clay County, a rural southwest Georgia community without a full-time, private-practice attorney, needs all the legal help it can get.
A match made in heaven?
Hardly.
Despite the job-search difficulty facing the newly minted graduates of Georgia State, Emory, the University of Georgia, Mercer and other law schools, few will end up practicing in rural Georgia, where legal representation is sorely lacking.
Read more…

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