The Legal Services Corporation (LSC) was established by Congress in 1974 to promote equal access to justice by funding civil legal assistance for low-income Americans. LSC awards grants through a competitive process, and currently funds 134 independent legal aid organizations, including Legal Services Law Line of Vermont. Based in Washington, D.C., the LSC Board of Directors holds its quarterly Board meetings at different locations around the country, and is meeting for the first time in Vermont this week.
In conjunction with its Board meeting, the LSC organized a full day of presentations that featured many government and Judicial leaders in the access to justice field. The day was capped off by a Pro Bono Awards Reception to recognize the excellent pro bono work of three Vermont attorneys and a Vermont law firm. The day’s presentations included remarks by U.S. Representative Peter Welch, Governor Peter Shumlin, and LSC Board Chairman John Levi. Each spoke of the importance of the rule of law in American society, and the critical need to provide equal access to our system of justice. A distinguished panel of jurists including U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Peter Hall, Chief Justice Paul Reiber, Justice Beth Robinson, U.S. District Judge Joseph LaPlante (NH), Justice Gary Hicks (NH), and Justice Andrew Mead (ME) participated in a panel discussion entitled “The Importance of Access to Justice to the Judiciary.” Each panelist spoke to different access to justice initiatives in their respective courts and jurisdictions.
Lisa Foster, the Director of the U.S. Department of Justice, Office for Access to Justice, moderated a panel discussion on Access to Justice in Canada, and, as the lunch speaker, spoke about different initiatives that the Department of Justice is undertaking to provide civil legal assistance to those who face an economic barrier to legal counsel. Her great work helped to form the White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable which recognizes that legal aid provides real support to anti-poverty initiatives across all governmental agencies in their efforts to increase housing, healthcare, employment, education, family stability and public safety.
VBA Executive Director and Vermont Bar Foundation President Teri Corsones gave opening remarks at the evening’s LSC Pro Bono Service Award Reception sponsored by the VBA and the Chittenden County Bar Association. Attorneys Sandra Baird, P. Scott McGee and Rebecca Rice, along with the law firm Downs Rachlin Martin, PLLC, were each recognized for their extraordinary commitment to equal justice. Sandra Baird was recognized for her many years of work for the Saturday Free Walk-In Legal Clinic in Burlington and for Legal Services Law Line. Scott McGee from the firm Hershenson, Carter, Scott & McGee in Norwich, was recognized for the numerous pro bono cases involving complex legal matters related to family law, contracts, and home ownership that he has handled over the years. Rebecca Rice, from the firm Cohen & Rice in Rutland, was recognized for the high volume and often emergency bankruptcy cases that she has handled for low-income litigants, and Downs Rachlin Martin PLLC was recognized for its generous financial support for access to justice and pro bono programs. Attorneys Elizabeth Wohl, Paul Ode and Samantha Lednicky accepted the award on behalf of the firm.
Attorney Tom Garrett, Director of Legal Services Law Line of Vermont for the past 18 years, was also commended for his strong dedication to access to justice in Vermont. Tom will be retiring in August, 2016. Congratulations, Tom!
Check out some pictures from the event, below…
Great crowd, including Justice Robinson, Tom Garrett, Sam Abel-Palmer and David Koeninger in this photo.