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.
For the first time, the Arkansas Supreme Court has officially declared a celebration of Pro Bono Week in Arkansas. The Court has designated October 23rd through the 29th as a time “to recognize the valuable contributions made by pro bono attorneys throughout the year and to encourage pro bono participation . . . .” The per curiam also praised the legal community’s commitment to public service as “one of the noblest attributes of the legal profession.” The full opinion can be found here.
Pro Bono Week began in 2009 as an event organized by the American Bar Association to honor the work of pro bono attorneys and to encourage pro bono service by more lawyers. The event has since grown into a nationwide observance with thousands participating in clinics, workshops, open houses and other events. The Arkansas Access to Justice Commission has helped to organize Pro Bono Week activities in Arkansas since 2011 and is excited to have the Arkansas Supreme Court join in the effort. In addition to the Supreme Court, Governor Asa Hutchinson has issued a proclamation recognizing Pro Bono Week and both houses of the Arkansas General Assembly have issued citations to recognize the week.
During National Pro Bono Week 2016, there will be several opportunities for attorneys to give back to their communities, including statewide and local events. For more information on how to get involved, check out the list of events below.
Our House Expungement Clinic
What: Our House, the Center for Arkansas Legal Services, and the Arkansas Access to Justice Commission are partnering to host a clinic which will assist Our House clients in applying to have their criminal records sealed. Volunteer attorneys are still needed to assist in the clinic. No prior experience is necessary, as a free CLE will be provided before the clinic begins.
Where: Our House, 302 East Roosevelt Road Little Rock, AR.
When: October 28th, 2016. The CLE will begin at noon, with the clinic following at 1pm.
How to help: If you are interested in assisting with this clinic, contact Rachel Freeman, Pro Bono Coordinator for the Center for Arkansas Legal Services, at 501.376.3423.
AR Free Legal Answers
What: The Arkansas Access to Justice Commission will be launching a new website called AR Free Legal Answers. This website, which is part of a program supported by the American Bar Association, will allow persons eligible for free legal aid to post their legal questions. Volunteer attorneys will have the opportunity to select questions to answer at their convenience. Attorneys remain anonymous, with the client seeing only that the question was answered by an Arkansas licensed attorney. No specific time commitment is required of attorneys and malpractice insurance will provided.
Where: This website will launch statewide.
When: Monday, October 24th.
What: Law firms, corporate legal departments, community organizations, government legal offices, judicial offices, and law schools can all help make a difference in the lives of Arkansans in need. Participating employees and students will make a minimum contribution of $5 to observe a Casual Friday. Contributions collected will support legal help for domestic violence victims, veterans struggling to readjust to civilian life, and children in need of stable homes or special education.
When: Friday, October 28.
How to help: Offices, schools, nonprofits, and individuals can sign up to participate here. For more information, contact Erin Jacobson at 501.492.7176.
AR Free Legal Answers Volunteers Can Give Virtual Legal Advice Anytime, Anywhere
Arkansas lawyers now have a unique opportunity to give back while fulfilling the ethical obligation to perform at least fifty hours of pro bono service each year: with the launch of AR Free Legal Answers, you can sign up to answer online questions from low-income, elderly, and disabled Arkansans about non-criminal legal issues. As a volunteer attorney, you can select which questions you will answer. You will remain anonymous to clients, who will only see “Volunteer Attorney.” You will be covered by the program’s malpractice insurance and have access to hundreds of advocate resources on the topics covered.
AR Free Legal Answers is part of a national American Bar Association’s Free Legal Answers project that was originally pioneered in Tennessee. The Arkansas program is administered by Arkansas Access to Justice with support from the Arkansas Bar Association, the Center for Arkansas Legal Services, and Legal Aid of Arkansas.
Ready to sign up? Click here.
Arkansans who face criminal prosecution but can’t afford a lawyer have a constitutional right to have an attorney appointed to represent them in court. No such right exists for victims of domestic violence, veterans denied military benefits, children in need of special education, and others who experience civil legal problems. For those individuals, legal aid is often the only source of help.
More than 746,000 Arkansans are eligible for legal aid, yet there are only 50 legal aid attorneys in the state. “You could fill Verizon Arena beyond capacity and ask everyone who has a legal problem to come forward,” said Lee Richardson, Executive Director of Legal Aid of Arkansas. “Then provide one attorney to handle all the issues that come up. That is the scale of what we’re trying to deal with.”
In what is believed to be a first, members of the Joint Judiciary Committee of the Arkansas General Assembly will meet at the Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Building on Tuesday, October 27, 2015 at 10:00 a.m. to hear testimony from the directors of the state’s two legal aid programs—the Center for Arkansas Legal Services and Legal Aid of Arkansas—about the challenges their programs face in trying to meet the overwhelming demand for civil legal help.
Representatives of the Arkansas Access to Justice Commission will also testify about the growing number of Arkansans who are representing themselves in court and the diminishing number of attorneys who live and work in rural areas of the state.
The Joint Judiciary hearing is one of a series of events happening during National Pro Bono Week, October 25-31, to highlight the need for legal aid and recognize the efforts of attorneys across the state who volunteer their time to represent Arkansans who cannot afford legal representation.
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.