Arkansas Access to Justice Awarded SJI Grant for Study on Unrepresented Litigants

The Arkansas Access to Justice Commission is one of nine recipients of a State Justice Institute Technical Assistance Grant for the 3rd quarter of 2012, according to Commission Executive Director Amy Johnson.  The grant will cover $46,400 of the project’s total estimated cost of $69,656.  Grant partners include Arkansas Legal Services Partnership, the Arkansas Access to Justice Foundation, and the Arkansas Administrative Office of the Courts.

The project will build a foundation to establish a statewide strategy for addressing the growing number of unrepresented litigants in Arkansas courts. Specific objectives of the project are to (1) conduct an assessment of resources that currently exist which address or may potentially address the needs of unrepresented litigants in Arkansas; (2) determine which additional resources are most needed to address the needs of unrepresented litigants; and (3) prepare a plan for the development and sustainability of those resources.

“This study is a necessary step toward addressing a huge problem for low-income Arkansans and for our courts,” said Johnson.  “When those who can’t afford attorneys are left to try to navigate the legal system on their own, justice is not served.”

A 2011 pilot study conducted by the Commission through the Clinton School of Public Service suggests that as many as 90 to 95% of cases involving family law, consumer protection, and guardianships and small estates may have at least one unrepresented party.

AATJ Foundation Board Member Receives 2012 Equal Justice Distinguished Service Award

Arkansas Access to Justice Foundation Board Member Lori Chumbler is the 2012 recipient of the Arkansas Bar Association’s Equal Justice Distinguished Service Award, the Association announced earlier this month.  The award 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.

Chumbler is Associate General Counsel for Walmart, where she coordinates the Walmart Legal Department pro bono program. In that role, she spearheaded the creation of a medical-legal partnership (MLP) that was the first in the nation to include a corporate legal department as a partner.  The 142-attorney legal department has partnered with Arkansas Children’s Hospital and the state’s two nonprofit legal service providers, the Center for Arkansas Legal Services and Legal Aid of Arkansas, to provide free legal assistance to families with sick children facing issues related to Medicaid coverage.  As a part of this, Ms. Chumbler also currently manages Walmart’s efforts to create a national collaborative network of MLPs at children’s hospitals across the country.

In addition to her leadership on the MLP effort, Chumbler has devoted her talents to the service of Legal Aid of Arkansas, where she is a board member and pro bono volunteer for LAA’s Equal Access to Justice Panel.  This past year, she handled two pro bono cases through the panel.  Chumbler also serves as a board member of the Arkansas Access to Justice Foundation, which works to provide financial support for legal services for the poor and other access-to-justice-related initiatives in Arkansas, and as a member of the Arkansas Access to Justice Commission’s Pro Bono Committee.

A cum laude graduate of the University of Arkansas, Lori Chumbler earned her B.A. in History in 1990.  She went on to attend Drake University Law School, where she graduated with honors in 1993. She was admitted to the Arkansas Bar in August of that year. After law school, Chumbler served as a deputy prosecuting attorney in Arkansas’ Nineteenth Judicial District.  From 1996 to 2006, Chumbler worked as a law clerk for the Honorable Justice Donald L. Corbin of the Arkansas Supreme Court.  She joined the Walmart Legal Department in 2006.

Chumbler is currently Associate General Counsel for Walmart and serves on the Legal Administration and External Relations team.  She serves as coordinator for Walmart’s pro bono medical-legal partnership (MLP) project and counsel to the Walmart Foundation.

Chumbler was recently honored by the American Bar Association as the 2012 recipient of its Outstanding Pro Bono Advocacy in Medical-Legal Partnerships Award.

Shane Bridgforth Named Jefferson County Pro Bono Attorney of the Year

Attorney and Pine Bluff native William McShane “Shane” Bridgforth has been selected the 2011 Jefferson County VOCALS Pro Bono Attorney of the Year, according to VOCALS Pro Bono Coordinator Donna Ramsey.  The Volunteer Organization for the Center for Arkansas Legal Services awards the honor each year to an attorney who demonstrates outstanding commitment to providing pro bono service to low-income residents of the Jefferson County.  “Shane is always ready to step in and assist our clients in settling their legal matters,” said Ramsey.  “He is a great asset to our VOCALS panel.”

Bridgforth, who is a partner at Ramsay, Bridgforth, Robinson & Raley, has handled a total of 41 VOCALS cases over the course of his legal career.  His clients—none of whom had the financial resources to hire a private attorney—have included domestic violence victims and non-parental caregivers of young children.

“I have always believed in equal justice for all people and that people in our community should have access to the assistance of an attorney in important legal matters regardless of their economic status,” said Bridgforth.  “It is a great honor to have been selected the 2011 VOCALS Attorney of the Year for Jefferson County.”

“The volunteer work that Mr. Bridgforth has consistently contributed provides critical legal assistance to low-income residents of Jefferson County,” said Jean Carter, Executive Director of the Center for Arkansas Legal Services.  “Pro bono service is now more important than ever in Arkansas due to both the current economic crisis and recent federal and state budget cuts.”

Bridgforth is a 1990 graduate of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock School of Law, where he was a member of Phi Delta Phi and served on the moot court team.  He is a member of the Jefferson County, Arkansas Bar, and American Bar Associations, and currently serves on the Arkansas Supreme Court on Model Jury Instructions—Civil.  He is Vice President of the Board of Directors of the Arkansas Access to Justice Foundation.

Mr. Bridgforth has previously served on the Arkansas Bar Association’s House of Delegates and Executive Council, as well as the board of directors for the Center for Arkansas Legal Services.  He has served on other community organization boards and committees, including the Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas, the Pine Bluff Child Center, the Economic Development Alliance of Jefferson County, and the Greater Pine Bluff Chamber of Commerce.

Arkansas Celebrates National Pro Bono Week 2011

Arkansas attorneys and law students will celebrate National Pro Bono Week beginning October 24, 2011, with a series of events that will include the provision of free legal services to first responders.

The celebration is a coordinated national effort to meet the ever-growing needs of this country’s most vulnerable citizens. Events throughout the week will encourage and support local efforts to expand the delivery of pro bono legal services and serve to showcase the great difference that pro bono attorneys make to the nation, its system of justice, its communities, and most of all, to the clients they serve.

Event highlights in Arkansas include:

Monday, October 24 – Proclamations Recognizing Importance of Pro Bono Service 
Governor Mike Beebe, Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola, and Fayetteville Mayor Lioneld Jordan will issue proclamations recognizing the important role that Arkansas pro bono attorneys play in ensuring that low-income Arkansans have access to civil justice.

Tuesday, October 25 – Pro Bono Luncheon in Northwest Arkansas
Presidents of the Benton and Washington County Bar associations, along with 2011 Legal Aid Outstanding Service Award winner Eva Madison, will speak at a luncheon hosted in the E.J. Ball Courtroom at the University of Arkansas School of Law.

Wednesday, October 26 – Free Lawyers for First Responders in Northwest Arkansas
Volunteer attorneys will be available to prepare simple wills, advance directives, and powers of attorney for health care and financial matters to first responders in northwest Arkansas, including firefighters, police officers, and emergency health care workers. This is a free service provided by Arkansas lawyers from multiple organizations, law firms, bar associations and the University of Arkansas School of Law.

Thursday, October 27 – Free Lawyers for First Responders in Central Arkansas
Following issuance of a proclamation from Attorney General Dustin McDaniel recognizing the importance of pro bono service, volunteer attorneys will be available to prepare simple wills, advance directives, and powers of attorney for health care and financial matters to first responders in central Arkansas. This is a free service provided by Arkansas lawyers from multiple organizations, law firms, bar associations and UALR Bowen School of Law.

Friday, October 28 – Just Jeans
Law firms, corporate legal departments, government legal offices, judicial offices, and law schools are encouraged to participate in the Just Jeans event by observing a casual Friday on October 28, 2011, with participants making a minimum suggested contribution of $5.  Contributions collected will go to the Arkansas Access to Justice Foundation to support efforts to increase the financial and pro bono volunteer resources available to our state’s two legal aid providers. This will, in turn, help low-income Arkansans, including domestic violence victims, children, and senior citizens, access the legal services they need.

Saturday, October 29 – iProBono
Arkansas pro bono attorneys will be able to download, free of charge, the first Pro Bono mobile service application through iTunes. Through this app, registered Arkansas pro bono attorneys will be able to accept cases representing low-income Arkansans based on legal topic, county, or by other categories with their iPhones. Two Arkansas web and software development companies, LogiCurrent and Path Designs, are providing free development services for this innovative project.

William Waddell Jr. Honored with Lawyer Community Legacy Award

On Thursday September 15th, the Arkansas Bar Association announced that Arkansas Access to Justice Commission member and Arkansas Access to Justice Foundation President Mr. Bill Waddell has been honored with their Lawyer Community Legacy Award.  Mr. Waddell has been nothing short of instrumental in the growth of the Commission and a key player in the establishment of the Foundation. Throughout his time at Friday, Eldredge & Clark, Mr. Waddell has devoted countless hours to pro bono legal service in a myriad of legal fields, including over two hundred adoption cases. This award is to honor him for his devotion to Arkansans in need.