In observance of Law Day, a day designed to celebrate the role of law in our society and to cultivate a deeper understanding of the legal profession, Legal Aid of Arkansas has announced awards for its top volunteers. According to Lee Richardson, Executive Director of Legal Aid of Arkansas: “Attorneys in Arkansas are selfless in their commitment to providing access to justice to those of humble financial means. Pro Bono volunteers allow Legal Aid to serve hundreds of individuals and families annually who would otherwise be standing alone at the Courthouse door.”
The Arkansas Access to Justice Commission joins Legal Aid in thanking these attorneys for living up to their professional duty to serve the impoverished, defenseless, and oppressed. Pro Bono service represents what is best about the legal profession and the Commission encourages all lawyers to follow the example of these honorees by giving back to their community.
2017 Outstanding Pro Bono Service Awards
Equal Access to Justice Panel-Outstanding Attorney
John Blair (Rogers)
Arkansas Volunteer Lawyers for the Elderly-Outstanding Attorney
Steven Davis (Harrison) & Ray Nickle (Jonesboro)
Medical-Legal Partnership-Outstanding Attorney
William Waddell Jr. (Little Rock)
Outstanding Pro Bono Attorneys
Third Judicial District: Ed Boyce (Newport), Jim McLarty (Newport) & Joe Grider (Pocahontas)
Fourth Judicial District: Donald Tippett (Fayetteville) & Greg Cuzick (Springdale)
Fourteenth Judicial District: James Wallace (Flippin), Jodi Strother (Mountain Home), & Johnny Nichols (Harrison)
Sixteenth Judicial District: Scott Stalker (Batesville) & Mat Dellinger (Melbourne)
Twentieth Judicial District: Jerry Patterson (Marshall) & Donna Price (Clinton)
Over 50 Hours of Pro Bono Service
Over 20 Hours of Pro Bono Service
Joshua Meister (Rogers), Joanne McCracken (Lowell), Mary Schneider (Rogers), Johnny Nichols (Harrison), Steven Davis (Harrison), Chris Flanagin (Eureka Springs), Ariel Snyder (Jonesboro), Roger McNeil (Jonesboro), Kevin Cole (Jonesboro), Christopher Jester (Jonesboro), Kevin Orr (Jonesboro), Megan Henry(Jonesboro), Justin Parkey (Jonesboro), Seth Williams (Jonesboro), Quincy Jaeger (Jonesboro), Lorie Whitby (Paragould), Jay Scurlock (Paragould), Blair Arnold(Batesville), Scott Stalker (Batesville), Bill E. Bracey (Blytheville), Michalene Connealy (Blytheville), Ben Hollowell (North Little Rock), Tory Lewis (Little Rock), Ann Faitz (North Little Rock), Jerry Patterson (Marshall), Donna Price (Clinton), Donald Tippett (Fayetteville), Raymond Smith (Fayetteville), Greg Cuzick (Springdale), Everett DePangher (Fayetteville), Kelly Freeze (Fayetteville), Kimberly Petrone (Fayetteville), Maggie Benson (Fayetteville), J. Timothy Smith (Fayetteville), Scott E. Smith (Fayetteville), George Butler (Fayetteville), D. Westbrook Doss (Fayetteville), Gail Segers (Fayetteville), Bob I. Mayes (Fayetteville), Greg Niblock (Stuttgart), Leigh Ann Yeargan (Fayetteville), Sarah Reyes (Rogers), Geoff Edwards (Fayetteville), Jennifer Quezada (Cave Springs), Tara Smith (Rogers), & Jeff McGinnis (Bentonville)
Legal Aid of Arkansas’s St. Vincent Medical Legal Partnership is in need of attorney volunteers for an expungement clinic to be held on March 16th. The event will assist low-income clients with sealing their criminal records in order to improve their ability to secure employment and decent housing. Volunteers are needed for a morning shift (8:30-11:30) and an afternoon shift (1-4:30). A few shifts for law student volunteers are also open.
Experience with criminal law and expungements is beneficial, but not required. A one hour CLE (accreditation pending) webinar will be provided at noon, March 14th, for anyone new to expungement or wanting a refresher.
For more information, or to volunteer, please contact our Program Coordinator, Jordan Rogers or call 501.492.7174.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark., January 27, 2017– Seven Arkansans represented by Legal Aid of Arkansas filed suit today in Pulaski County Circuit Court to stop the Department of Human Services from using a secret computer algorithm to cut Medicaid in-home services for people with disabilities such as cerebral palsy and quadriplegia. The suit alleges that DHS hid the algorithm from public input and oversight in an act of bureaucratic lawmaking that violates the Administrative Procedures Act.
The services at issue are provided through the Medicaid ARChoices program. The program exists so that low-income individuals with disabilities can receive care in their communities instead of in a nursing home that would cost the state up to six times more. Serving around 8,000 people, the program provides an in-home caregiver to help with tasks of daily living that individuals with disabilities may not be able to do independently, such as using the toilet, bathing, eating, getting dressed, preparing food, keeping the house clean, and laundry. The number of caregiving hours a recipient gets is supposed to depend on the severity of their condition. The seven plaintiffs received between 40 and 56 hours per week, the maximum.
However, once DHS replaced the discretion of a trained nurse who visited the individuals in their homes with a computer algorithm known as RUGs, clients whose medical conditions had not improved started facing big cuts. The seven plaintiffs lost an average of 43% of their services, a drop of up to 4 care hours per day. With such large cuts, the plaintiffs have had to sit in their own waste, go without meals, risk falls, and stay shut in. If the cuts are upheld, nursing homes will be in their futures.
Despite losing a federal court case for failing to give ARChoices clients proper notice about cuts, DHS continues to defend the secret RUGs system. Legal Aid of Arkansas attorneys offered three times in writing to meet with DHS officials before filing this lawsuit, but their requests were refused.
“The RUGs computer algorithm was decided on in secret by unelected DHS leaders who don’t understand the system well enough to explain how it works. It’s not responsible to trust a computer you don’t understand when someone’s life is at stake, and it’s against the law to do it without going through the right public process,” says Kevin De Liban, lead attorney on the lawsuit for Legal Aid of Arkansas.
If the suit is successful, the RUGs system will be invalid, and DHS will have to submit it for public vetting and possible rejection. As plaintiff Louella Jones says, “I did not know DHS was ever considering a new method for determining the number of hours I would get. Now that the computer algorithm has been used to reduce my hours, I want the chance to explain what the impact of the algorithm has been on me.”
All media inquiries should be directed to Kevin De Liban at (901) 834-0436.
Pictured here, Amy Johnson, Executive Director of the Arkansas Access to Justice Commission, accepts a donation from Bill Rahn and Caren Thompson. The donation of over $500 comes from the proceeds of a yoga class taught by Thompson at Rahn’s SNAP Fitness Club, located in downtown Little Rock. “I love to teach yoga. I knew from the first time I approached Bill about doing a yoga class at SNAP that I wanted to donate the proceeds. Because Bill had worked for legal services for years and I currently work at legal services, it seemed the perfect fit.” Thompson said.
The Access to Justice Commission thanks Ms. Thompson and Mr. Rahn for their generous support. 100% of their gift will be used to support legal aid in Arkansas. Each year legal aid assists thousands of low-income Arkansans facing a legal crisis, such as eviction, domestic abuse, or discrimination.
The Arkansas Access to Justice Commission will be joining with businesses and non-profits for two “Super Saturday” events, one in Helena and one in Eudora. Partner organizations include Sourthern Bancorp, Friday, Eldredge, and Clark, Legal Aid of Arkansas, and the Center for Arkansas Legal Services. These events will provide free tax and will preparation services to low-income residents of Helena and Eudora.
Event details are as follows:
February 11th, 10am-2pm
Southern Bancorp, 502 Cherry Street
February 25th, 10am-2pm
J Austin White Community Center, 160 South Main Street
Tax payers interested in learning more or who need to locate another “Super Saturday” event in their area can visit banksouthern.com/vita to find more information. Attorneys or law students interested in volunteering to prepare estate planning documents at these events should contact the Commission’s Program Coordinator, Jordan Rogers.
Center for Arkansas Legal Services Managing Attorney Dustin Duke is the 2015 recipient of the Arkansas Bar Foundation‘s Equal Justice Distinguished Service Award, according to the Foundation’s Executive Director Ann Pyle. The award, which was presented at a June 10, 2015 awards banquet, is given each year in recognition of commitment to and participation in equal justice program for the poor, including pro bono efforts through legal services programs.
During his 14 years of practice, Duke has served clients through both the Center for Arkansas Legal Services and Legal Aid of Arkansas. In his 11 years with the Center, he has handled more than 3,800 cases, 165 of which were in 2014. Much of his case work has focused on family law and domestic abuse. In 2014, Duke was among a team of legal aid attorneys who succeeded in getting Arkansas’s criminal eviction statute overturned in the state’s most populous county.
“Dustin is often the first person to arrive at the office in the morning, and the last to leave in the evening,” said Center for Arkansas Legal Services Executive Director Jean Carter. “He works tirelessly to provide his clients with the best possible representation, and his colleagues respect his leadership and his commitment to obtaining justice.”
Arkansas’s rural communities face a looming crisis when it comes to access to essential legal services: a dwindling and aging attorney population in the state’s 25 most rural counties. A policy brief entitled Access to Justice in Rural Arkansas, released today by the Arkansas Access to Justice Commission, indicates that these counties average fewer than 0.44 practicing attorneys per 1,000 residents. Seven of these counties have no attorneys licensed this millennium, and one has no attorneys at all.
Despite these sobering statistics, there is hope. Many Arkansas law students would consider locating in a rural part of the state if certain incentives were made available. Rural legal aid fellowships, loan repayment assistance, and paid internships are among the programs that a majority of law students showed interest in, according to the survey of law students and attorneys that is the subject of the policy brief. Rural attorneys indicated a greater willingness to mentor and hire young lawyers than did attorneys from non-rural communities.
The survey probed the likely effectiveness of five complementary programs that the state’s two law schools and the Arkansas Access to Justice Commission are jointly considering. Among the factors most likely to encourage students to practice in a rural setting were (1) the ability to have one’s own practice, (2) the opportunity to become a community leader, and (3) the ability to have and maintain their own clientele. Factors most likely to discourage students from locating to rural communities included (1) the perception that they would earn a lower income, (2) a perceived lack of career and economic opportunities, and (3) a relative lack of entertainment, restaurants, and similar amenities.
For questions about the policy brief, which details the results of a series of recent surveys conducted by Prof. Lisa R. Pruitt of UC Davis School of Law, please contact us. A forthcoming article in the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Law Review will provide a more in-depth analysis of the rural access problem and its implications.
The Arkansas Access to Justice Commission honored two legal aid staff members at the 2014 Statewide Legal Aid Staff Conference held October 15-17 at Lake DeGray State Park. Center for Arkansas Legal Services Managing Attorney Dustin Duke and Legal Aid of Arkansas paralegal Kathy Grady received the Commission’s Champion of Justice Award in recognition of their exemplary commitment to ensuring that disadvantaged Arkansans have access to civil justice through high-quality legal representation.
Duke, who works in the Little Rock office, has handled more than 3,800 cases during his ten years with legal aid. Much of his case work has focused on family cases involving domestic abuse. Grady is a veteran paralegal in the LAA Newport office, where she has worked for 34 years.
“Dustin and Kathy are both accomplished, passionate advocates who put their hearts and souls into serving Arkansas’s most vulnerable citizens,” said Commission Executive Director Amy Johnson. “They do it with no expectation of recognition or even thanks. They represent the very best of what the legal profession should be about.”
The Champion of Justice Award is given to an attorney or staff advocate who has worked for legal aid for three or more years; whose primary job responsibilities include direct service to clients; and who handles client matters with compassion, tenacity, and professionalism.
The Arkansas Access to Justice Commission has just published its final report analyzing the economic impact of civil legal aid in Arkansas. The study, which was completed in April 2014 by a team of students from the Clinton School of Public Service, was the subject of presentations given on May 5 in Little Rock and October 2 in Rogers. Significant findings included the following:
- In 2013, Arkansas’s two legal aid providers—CALS and LAA—served nearly 12,000 clients in 2013 at a cost that was $2.4 million less than the equivalent cost of such services in the private legal market.
- Legal aid saved clients an estimated $3.4 million in costs for nonlawyer legal document services.
- Legal aid put nearly $2.3 million into the pockets of their clients and helped them avoid liabilities of over $9.4 million.
- Representation in housing foreclosure cases prevented $2.2 million in diminished housing values.
- Legal assistance for domestic violence victims likely prevented more than $3.9 million in costs for emergency shelter, medical expenses, and social services.
- Revenues that legal aid brings into the state generate an additional $8.8 million in economic activity in the state by virtue of their multiplier effect in local communities.
In all, legal aid in Arkansas yielded a total of over $32 million in economic activity in Arkansas in 2013.
“These numbers are even higher than the original projections developed this past spring,” said Commission Executive Director and Project Supervisor Amy Johnson. “It confirms what we have long known to be the case, which is that civil legal aid has positive effects that ripple through our economy and society. It is a highly effective tool for fighting poverty.”