The Colorado Lawyer
Vol. 29, No. 4 [Page 19]
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Lend-A-Lawyer, Inc. Annual Report: 1998-1999
Lend-A-Lawyer, Inc. was established in June 1990 as a Colorado Bar Association ("CBA") presidential project during Christopher Brauchli’s term as president of the CBA. The program is governed by a fifteen-member Board of Directors ("Board") appointed by the CBA President for three-year terms. The Board meets quarterly. The purpose of the program is to provide legal assistance to the indigent on a pro bono basis.
Originally, the program reached out to law firms, requesting that they "lend" a firm lawyer’s time to the program for a four- to six-month period. That is how the program got its name. Once the program was established in a few of the rural communities, it became increasingly apparent that the cost of office space, equipment, and clerical assistance was more than the self-supporting program could afford. In 1994, Colorado Rural Legal Services ("CRLS") director Mario Rivera agreed to share office space with Lend-A-Lawyer participants, provided the Lend-A-Lawyers accepted CRLS cases up to 50 percent of their caseload.
During the 1998-1999 fiscal year, the three legal services providers in the state, Legal Aid Society of Metropolitan Denver, CRLS, and Pikes Peak Arkansas River Legal Aid merged into one organization: Colorado Legal Services ("CLS"). The Lend-A-Lawyer Board is working toward building a partnership with CLS similar to the one it had with CRLS.
Over the past year, the program has grown to include the Rocky Mountain Children’s Law Center and has developed a new segment to the program called "Flying Squads" that will be described in more detail later in this report.
Communities now being served by the program are Boulder, Denver (Metro Volunteer Lawyers, Project Safeguard, and Rocky Mountain Children’s Law Center), Grand Junction, Greeley, and Montrose.
Lend-A-Lawyer assists in providing legal services to hundreds of clients annually. Lend-A-Lawyer volunteer attorneys continue to be placed in private and local bar association pro bono programs. Lend-A-Lawyer attorneys take court-appointed cases where available, and the fees collected for those cases come to Lend-A-Lawyer to assist in funding the program.
Lend-A-Lawyer volunteer attorneys are offered an $850 per month stipend. Lend-A-Lawyer volunteers are not permitted to practice law outside of the program during their placement in the program. All Lend-A-Lawyer volunteers must be licensed to practice law in the state of Colorado. Volunteers are required to commit to a six-month term. Supervision of Lend-A-Lawyer volunteers is provided by the managing attorney of the pro bono program to which they are assigned. A Lend-A-Lawyer Board member is assigned to each volunteer and provides supervision on pro bono and court-appointed cases. Lend-A-Lawyer, Inc. provides malpractice insurance for all cases handled by the lawyers in the Lend-A-Lawyer program.
The Lend-A-Lawyer program is self-supporting. It is funded by legal fees collected on court-appointed cases, stipend reimbursements, and other contributions. The Lend-A-Lawyer program is the only such program of its kind in the United States. Although it has undergone some changes, it has been operating continuously since its establishment.
The Flying Squads concept originated and evolved from the idea and efforts of several members of the Lend-A-Lawyer Board. The idea started with an observation that rural litigants and benches might benefit from some concepts used by metropolitan districts and Metro Volunteer Lawyers. These concepts include allowing attorneys to enter an appearance and withdraw in one day on behalf of pro se litigants, allowing volunteers to impart legal information to pro se parties, and allowing volunteers to help parties understand and prepare required court forms and documents. After presenting the idea to several rural and Front Range judges, the Lend-A-Lawyer Board determined that there is not much utility in importing litigators in pro se cases. A greater need is for case management, educating pro se litigants, and assisting pro se litigants who need more understanding of the legal procedures and forms to be used (e.g., required disclosures, financial affidavits, child support worksheets, separation agreements, motions, and decrees). The courts also benefit from having professionals available to mediate disputes. These ideas continued to evolve while the Legal Services Corporation was encountering ongoing funding challenges in Congress.
Two basic needs arise from this situation: (1) to provide some form of legal assistance and/or dispute resolution to domestic pro se litigants in rural areas, and (2) to assist rural benches in helping pro se litigants through the dissolution process. Flying Squads, as refined, appear to meet those needs.
Test events were held on January 14, February 11, and August 12, 1999, in Morgan County. Volunteers consisted of attorneys (practicing and non-practicing) and non-attorneys with experience, knowledge, and background in domestic law issues, children’s issues, and mediation.
The case files were assessed, either by the court, court staff, or the volunteer, to determine the status of the case. The volunteers met with the parties in hallways and conference rooms, assessed the status of the case, and attempted to mediate and/ or facilitate resolution and/or furtherance of the procedural posture of the case. In many cases, the parties’ paperwork was not sufficient to allow them to proceed. In those cases, the volunteers assisted the parties in completing their paperwork on the spot. The volunteers made use of the judicially approved forms for pro se parties. In addition, a laptop computer loaded with the child support guidelines and a printer were used. In cases needing mediation, facilitation, or education, the volunteers engaged the parties in those discussions.
In most cases, the volunteers were able to resolve case matters. In other cases, the volunteers were able to move the case forward significantly. Following the meetings, the volunteers gave introductions on the record to the court regarding the case status. The judge then made whatever inquiries the judge deemed appropriate, and either issued orders or reset the case for hearing. At both the January 14 and the August 12 tests, the volunteers served approximately six couples. At the February 11 test, the volunteers worked with ten couples.
Lend-A-Lawyer is willing to assist in starting a "Flying Squad" program in any judicial district. While Lend-A-Lawyer’s resources are limited, its Board is committed to this and other creative partnership ideas.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
The Board of Directors for Lend-A-Lawyer, Inc. serves both in an advisory and policy-making capacity. The Board meets on a quarterly basis. As advisor to the CBA staff administrator and all Lend-A-Lawyer volunteers, the Board sees that the purposes of the program are carried out. As a policy-maker, the Board sets policies that guide the operation of the overall program. Additionally, the Board has a number of specific responsibilities including the following:
1. Working closely with the CBA staff administrator in a variety of areas, including recruitment, training, and ensuring the financial well being of the program.
2. Acting as mentors and providing supervision to volunteers on cases that are not supervised by the program that houses the Lend-A-Lawyer.
3. Providing a core team to meet with local judges, court staff, attorneys, and mediators to train them in establishing their own Flying Squad program. A core team is willing to coordinate a series of test events. The Board is willing to connect districts with any group or entity willing to "adopt-a-district."
4. Conducting all interviews for new recruits to the program.
5. Maintaining contact with law firms for the purpose of fundraising.
6. Maintaining contact with the law schools in the state to recruit third-year law students as possible future volunteers.
7. Reviewing, developing, and designing training materials for use by the Lend-A-Lawyers in the field.
8. Reviewing the policies and procedures of the program, as well as the structure of the program, on an annual basis to determine if the program is meeting the needs of the communities that it serves. A one-day retreat is held once a year for the purpose of improving the effectiveness of the program.
Recruitment efforts are made by an ongoing ad in The Colorado Lawyer. Newly admitted attorneys are provided with information about the program at their swearing-in ceremony. The program also advertises on the Internet through the CBA’s home page. Board members present information about the program to University of Denver College of Law and University of Colorado School of Law third-year law students once a year to promote their future participation in the program, and to emphasize the importance of doing pro bono work as part of an attorney’s obligation to the court and the profession. The program currently receives an average of from two to three applications per month.
Additional recruitment efforts are needed because of the increased number of entry-level positions that have been available to new attorneys around the state, making these new attorneys less interested in applying. Twenty-six applications were received during the fiscal year that began on September 1, 1998, and ended August 31, 1999. Five of the applications received were from out-of-state attorneys interested in relocating to Colorado, and twenty-one applications were from in-state attorneys. Seven of these applicants participated in the program during the last fiscal year, including Tom Nelson, the ongoing Lend-A-Lawyer in Montrose.
LOCAL BAR AND JUDICIARY PARTICIPATION
Local bar associations have remained involved in the Lend-A-Lawyer program. They have participated by providing supervision and mentoring to the Lend-A-Lawyer in their areas, and, in some instances, have provided financial backing to the program.
Judges from around the state have been instrumental in supporting the program by assigning court-appointed cases to Lend-A-Lawyer attorneys in their area, when available. Judges also have played a big role in encouraging the support and participation of local bar members. All legal fees generated by any Lend-A-Lawyer attorney from court-appointed case fees are paid directly to Lend-A-Lawyer, Inc. by the State Court Administrators Office.
The communities served by the Lend-A-Lawyer program over the 1998-1999 fiscal year and an overview of the locations are outlined below.
The Lend-A-Lawyer assigned to Boulder is housed in the Boulder County Legal Services office, which serves Boulder County and the 20th Judicial District. The Boulder County Legal Services office is affiliated with the Legal Aid Society of Metropolitan Denver. This is a new location for the program and has been very successful in serving legal needs in Boulder. Stephanie Carter was the Lend-A-Lawyer attorney in this office during 1998-99.
Two Lend-A-Lawyers are assigned to Denver. One is housed in the Denver Bar Association Metro Volunteer Lawyers Program office. This program serves the 1st, 2nd, 17th, and 18th Judicial Districts, which include Adams, Arapahoe, Denver, Douglas, Gilpin, and Jefferson Counties. The Denver Bar Foundation approved an $11,200 budget to be used to reimburse the stipend paid for a Lend-A-Lawyer in this location. Funding has been approved for the fiscal year 1999-2000. Erin Rickershauser and Dyan Davidson were the volunteers in this office over the 1998-99 fiscal year.
The second Lend-A-Lawyer assigned to Denver is housed in the Project Safeguard office. Project Safeguard provides legal services to people in crisis, mainly domestic violence victims. They have offices in Denver, Adams County, and Arapahoe County. This is a new placement and has been very successful in assisting the needs of the communities the program serves. Heather Horiszny was the Lend-A-Lawyer in this location.
The Lend-A-Lawyer assigned to Fort Morgan was housed in the Fort Morgan CRLS office. This office serves the 13th Judicial District, which includes Logan, Morgan, Phillips, Sedgwick, Washington, and Yuma Counties. The Lend-A-Lawyer who served in Fort Morgan during the 1998-99 fiscal year was Simon Mole. With the merger of the three legal services offices in the state, this location now operates as a CLS office. With the anticipated future partnership between Lend-A-Lawyer and CLS, a Lend-A-Lawyer will likely be placed in this office again.
The Lend-A-Lawyer assigned to Grand Junction was housed in the Grand Junction CRLS office. The Grand Junction CRLS Office serves the 21st Judicial District, which includes Garfield and Mesa Counties. The Lend-A-Lawyer who served in Grand Junction during the 1998-99 fiscal year was Caroline Ray. This location was funded partially by CRLS stipend reimbursements and legal fees generated by court-appointed cases. The program in Grand Junction did not receive the court-appointed case fees necessary to reimburse the stipend paid. Fortunately, CRLS was able to reimburse the stipend expense for this location. This is now a CLS office, and remains a possible future Lend-A-Lawyer location.
The Lend-A-Lawyer assigned to Greeley was housed in the Greeley CRLS office. The Greeley CRLS Office serves the 19th Judicial District, which covers all of Weld County. The Lend-A-Lawyer who served in Greeley during the 1998-99 fiscal year was Joanne Crebassa. This location is funded by CRLS. Court-appointed cases are not available in the Greeley location. This is now a CLS office and another possible future Lend-A-Lawyer location.
The Lend-A-Lawyer assigned to Montrose is housed in office space donated by the city of Montrose. The Montrose office serves Delta, Hinsdale, Montrose, Ouray, and San Miguel Counties. The Lend-A-Lawyer serving in Montrose during the fiscal year was Thomas Nelson. Tom has been with the program in Montrose since May 1996. He is a retired attorney who lives in Montrose. With the generous contribution from Holland & Hart, LLP, this office has continued to operate as it had before the dissolution of CRLS. The program provides a monthly pro se divorce clinic in Montrose and a monthly general advice clinic in Delta. The local court in Delta provides a room in the courthouse for use by a Lend-A-Lawyer attorney. This location supports itself through court-appointed cases. Court-appointed case fees will continue to be the future financial backing of this program.
Several other rural communities, pro bono programs, and community service groups are considering placing a Lend-A-Lawyer. The Lend-A-Lawyer Board reviews all requests and proposals submitted and determines if a Lend-A-Lawyer will be sent out to the requesting community. The ability of the community to support the Lend-A-Lawyer’s office needs, the possibility of court-appointments or stipend reimbursements, and the time available to the CBA staff administrator continue to play a role in staffing considerations.
LEGAL SERVICES AND PRO BONO FUNDING
Colorado is currently one of only sixteen states that fails to provide any state funding for legal services programs through (1) court fees or fines, (2) state appropriations, or (3) an earmarked increase in attorney registration fees. Such funding is provided in twenty states through court fees and fines, in nineteen states through state appropriations, and in two states through attorney registration fees.
Funding for pro bono offices comes from a variety of sources, including COLTAF, local bars, local governments, legal services programs, community grants (such as United Way), Victim-Witness Assistance Law Enforcement grants, and private donations. No state monies are used to fund these efforts. The only offices that receive federal funding are those linked to a federally funded provider.
Since 1975, funding for Colorado’s legal services programs has been provided in substantial part by the federal Legal Services Corporation ("LSC"). However, because the issue of funding for legal services has become highly politicized, obtaining continued federal funding has been difficult. In 1982, federal funding decreased by 25 percent from an annual appropriation of $321,300,000 to an annual national appropriation of $241,000,000 and, then, after increasing gradually for fourteen years, was cut by one-third in 1996 to an annual appropriation of $278,000,000.
Although state funding for Colorado’s civil legal services programs was provided briefly in the mid-1970s, no state funding has been provided in recent years. Because of the recent cutbacks in federal funding, however, a coalition of interested parties in 1996, 1997, and 1998 urged the Colorado General Assembly to enact legislation to provide state funding again for civil legal services programs. Such efforts were unsuccessful until the spring of 1999. At that time, the legislature approved funding, effective July 1, 1999, for legal represenation in civil matters for victims of domestic violence. The funding level was $250,000 for fiscal year 1999, with the possibility of increasing to $400,000 for fiscal year 2000.
ADDITIONAL PROGRAM FUNDING
When seeking funding for the Lend-A-Lawyer program, there are many things to consider. When program funding comes from grants or LSC funding, there are restrictions placed on the types of cases and clients that can be accepted. The Lend-A-Lawyer program has been a self-supporting program since its inception in 1990. This has allowed the program to operate without restriction and has been very useful in cases where conflicts would have prevented indigent clients from receiving equal representation.This has been helpful mainly in those instances where two people in the same case need representation, such as representation in a divorce proceeding. Once a party has contacted or obtained assistance from the local legal services office, the second party cannot be represented by that office due to a conflict of interest. In those situations, the Lend-A-Lawyer attorney has been able to represent the second party without a conflict of interest.
Each location being served by Lend-A-Lawyer has a great need for the services the program provides. A subcommittee of the Lend-A-Lawyer Board was formed to reach out to the larger law firms in the state and ask for their assistance. The subcommittee recruits larger Denver law firms to "Adopt-A-Community" in the state for one six-month period or for one full year, which is two Lend-A-Lawyer terms. This $5,000 or $10,000 contribution covers the stipend reimbursement and a small annual administrative fee for the rural community of the firm’s choice. The law firm of Holland & Hart, LLP, has again come forward and provided assistance by adopting the community of Montrose for another six-month term. The Montrose CRLS office was closed as of September 15, 1998. Had it not been for the generous donation by Holland & Hart, LLP, it would have become necessary to discontinue placing a Lend-A-Lawyer in the Montrose community.
The CBA provides a part-time staffperson to coordinate and administer the program. New locations to the program are asked to reimburse the monthly stipend of $850 per month ($5,100 per six-month term) paid to the Lend-A-Lawyers and a $1,000 per year administrative cost. This provides full-time attorney representation for $11,200 per year, per location.
After accounting for stipend reimbursements, contributions, and court-appointed case fees, the Lend-A-Lawyer program spent just under $700 to operate the program over the last fiscal year. If more law firms contribute to the program, it would be possible to place volunteers in locations where programs are not able to reimburse the stipend paid. Additional funding also would enable the program to expand into other rural communities that are in desperate need of legal services for their indigent population.
A breakdown of the program expenses and revenues (reimbursements) for the 1998-1999 fiscal year appears below.
|Insurance & Fees
STATISTICAL INFORMATION/CASES HANDLED
Types of cases handled by Lend-A-Lawyers over the last fiscal year included:
2. Criminal (Court Appointed)
9. Individual Rights
The CBA would like to thank the Lend-A-Lawyer, Inc. 1998-1999 Board of Directors for its commitment to the continued success of this program. Over the last fiscal year, the Board’s hard work and dedication have promoted the ongoing growth of the program, which has provided much-needed legal services to indigent people around the state. Our thanks go to Maggie Atkinson, Cynthia Benson, Christopher Brauchli, Sue Corning, Magistrate Cynthia Hartman, Diane S. King, Judge M. Jon Kolomitz, Randall Lococo, Zach Miller, Drew Moore, Judge Frank Plaut, Sharon Plettner, Mario Rivera, Judy Slason (COLTAF), Gina Weitzenkorn, and CBA Staff Administrator Barb Martin.
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