Volunteer Lawyers Project of Onondaga County, Inc. Onondaga County Bar Association

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1 Volunteer Lawyers Project of Onondaga County, Inc. Onondaga County Bar Association Overview of Achievements, In the year, the Volunteer Lawyers Project of Onondaga County (OnVLP) closed 2,904 cases, a 58% increase over last year, benefiting over 7,300 people in civil legal issues affecting the essentials of life, including housing, family, elder and divorce law. Our small staff grew from 1.5 FTE attorneys and 1.5 FTE non-attorney pro bono coordinators to 2.5 FTE attorneys and 1.0 FTE non-attorneys. OnVLP s panel of 422 pro bono attorneys provided 2,259 hours of service, which is valued at over $564, OnVLP s panel of 162 law student volunteers provided hours of service, and our panel of 57 other volunteers provided 198 hours of pro bono service. Overall, OnVLP s panel of 641 pro bono volunteers provided hours of service, a 20% increase over last year. OnVLP increased the number of clients represented in eviction proceedings by over 48% to 1,021 clients, benefiting over 2,953 people. OnVLP s eviction defense program saved tenants $336,258 this year, allowing them to use that money to avoid or delay eviction or successfully relocate. OnVLP s pro bono attorneys either prevented or delayed eviction giving clients time to seek alternate housing for 76% of our clients, and for an additional 10% the amount owed was reduced. By our estimates, this program saved taxpayers $3,979, by keeping families from homelessness. OnVLP provides the critical service of assisting unrepresented litigants with preparing petitions for paternity, child support, custody and visitation through our Family Court Clinic. Our Onondaga County Family Court, which operates nine hours per week, assisted 584 clients. We also created a new Jefferson County Family Court Clinic, which operates 6 hours per month, which assists 6 clients per month on average. We also run an uncontested divorce clinic where we assist low-income community members with the complicated divorce process, and, in collaboration with the Central New York Women s Bar Association, we administer a weekly legal advice clinic for victims of domestic violence at the Vera House. Overall in , all family programming assisted 897 clients, benefiting 2,347 family members. Our Elder Law and Special Needs programing continues to be robust program. Our court-based Surrogate s Court Clinic, where our trusts and estates attorneys advise low-income clients on a wide array of issues, operates once a week. Attorneys also provide assistance with wills and powers of attorney and consultations at our annual Elder Law Fair. OnVLP also began administering a medical-legal partnership clinic at Upstate/Crouse hospitals in collaboration with the Legal Services of Central New York. Through these Onondaga This Provider At a Glance Population Served: General Low Income Population Area Served: Onondaga County Total Funding: $329,200 Total IOLA Grant: $45,000 Staffing - Full Time Equivalents Total Staff: 3.70 Lawyers: 2.50 Paralegals: 1.20 Types of Services Provided Direct Civil Legal Representation Brief Services Extended Services Hotlines and Other Phone-Based Services Technology and Other Innovations Community Legal Education Pro Se Assistance Collaborations With Other Service Providers Major Cases or Other Advocacy Projects Onondaga County Bar Association - 1

2 Outcomes 7,304 Individuals Benefited from 2,905 Closed Direct Civil Legal Cases Dollar Benefits Achieved for Clients* - Total $408,158 Unemployment Compensation: $52,100 Affirmative Judgments: $356,058 Extended Representation Outcomes 3,207 People benefited from extended representation Brief Representation Benefits 4,055 People benefited from legal advice and counsel 6 People benefited from non-litigation advocacy services 36 People benefited by referral to other sources of help *Total includes back awards and total monthly benefits, estimated over 6 months (unemployment compensation) or 12 months (affirmative judgments). Examples... Outcomes for Clients arah came to the Family Court Clinic because she tried to file a petition for custody of her grandchildren on her S own. The judge had dismissed the petition solely on the papers and did not schedule a court appearance. Sarah received the Judge s decision in the mail two and a half months after she filed her petition. The Judge held that Sarah had not properly plead that she had extraordinary circumstances in order to file for custody. Her son, the father of the children, was incarcerated and the mother was a heroin addict. The children were living with friends of the mother. She came to the Family Court Clinic and met with an attorney who was able to draft a new petition and help her file an Order to Show Cause so the case would be expedited. ynthia and Herman were brought to Landlord Tenant Court for non-payment of $2,915 in rent. They had lived in C their apartment since 2008 with their three young children and adult son. The family s only source of income was SSI with a monthly stipend of $722. Section 8 paid $582 of the $913 rent. Cynthia and Herman had a payee to make sure each month their $313 share of the rent was paid. But the apartment had gone into foreclosure that the bank had taken possession of the property. Section 8 stopped payment based on not knowing who the actual owner of the house was. Section 8 was willing to pay once this was cleared up, but the new owner would not provide necessary documentation. The family has been impacted as well: when the pipes froze and they did not know who to call. OnVLP s pro bono attorney successfully advocated that section 8 tenants are only responsible for their portion of the rent, making the arrears only $587. The negotiations between parties led to a settlement whereby the landlord would waive all back rent and give the tenants another month and a half to vacate. The tenants were comforted by this outcome. They would not lose their section 8 and they would have the time required to find another home for their family. Breakdown of Cases by Legal Problem Area People Cases Total 7,304 2,905 Housing 3,205 1,127 Family 2,663 1,034 Miscellaneous Individual Rights Other Onondaga County Bar Association - 2 Family 36% Housing 39% Miscellaneous 10% Individual Rights 6% Other 9%

3 Other Services Hotlines and Other Telephone Based Legal Services OnVLP has an intake telephone line that is staffed by OnVLP staff and student interns. In addition, OnVLP expanded a telephone-based legal advice to weekly, targeting those who are unable to access legal services because of lack of transportation, childcare, etc. A total of 148 callers benefited from the hotline that are not captured as clients in other programming. During this cycle we expanded our Tel Law advice clinics to weekly. A total of 163 clients were served by our Tel-Law program, benefiting over 334 people (which is captured under our direct legal services numbers). Our regular intake telephone number and all of our programming are listed on LawHelpNY.org. Technology and Other Innovations OnVLP implemented a new online SharePoint data management system. This system makes it possible for our staff to access data with their computers or mobile devices from any location. This cloud-based access is critical because our staff is out in the field on a daily basis assisting with clinics, conducting outreach, training attorneys, etc. In the first half of the reporting cycle, OnVLP engaged in a pilot program whereby trained attorneys sitting at courts in New York City video conferenced remotely with clients in Onondaga County Family Court. OnVLP s support staff ensured that any documentation that the client had was scanned and sent to the attorney in New York so that a full and robust conversation could take place. Overall, the pilot program was successful and we assisted 51 clients. Nevertheless, we discontinued the pilot program in August 2014 because a local law firm volunteered to staff the clinic during the available time. Legal Services Other Than Direct Legal Representation OnVLP provides community legal education and outreach in many settings. Our goal is to help the community understand their legal rights and how to access legal programs, including ours, that help them navigate the legal system. Our target population is people with low income in Central New York, with the majority of clients served in Onondaga County. We place a particular emphasis on reaching out to families who have children in the Syracuse City School District as part of a larger holistic program in increase school success and graduation rates. In addition, we provide legal education at different community-based organizations (such as Vera House, which addresses domestic violence, and the Relatives as Parents programs, which brings together kinship caregivers) and faith-based organizations (such as churches in low-income neighborhoods). These trainings cover the range of legal services that OnVLP provides, including housing, family law, income maintenance, and consumer law. The topics are tailored to the interests of the population served by the organization. In this grant period, 448 people were provided community legal education as part of OnVLP s programming. Our largest single educational event is our collaborative Elder Law Fair, which is a full day of free seminars on legal issues of interest to older adults and their families is provided to the community. OnVLP spearheads the project and takes care of all aspects of planning, including organizing the schedule of events for the day and recruiting and organizing the lawyer volunteers. Twenty four different legal educational sessions were provided in one day. Our focus on families with children in the Syracuse City School District took several forms this year. We provided community legal education sessions to school social workers and teachers to help them identify legal issues that families might be facing so that they are able to help direct parents to our services. Our lawyers also participated in Parent University, an extracurricular educational program for parents in Syracuse. OnVLP also distributed information about our legal programming and to all of the families of students in the Syracuse City School District multiple times throughout the year. These legal education brochures help community members understand where and how they can obtain the legal help they need. These brochures were distributed to over 9,000 families several times throughout the year. OnVLP also updated its pro se assistance handouts for Landlord Tenant Court. One provide information to tenants regarding how to protect their rights as a tenant and how to prepare for landlord tenant court. The other explains the outcomes of Landlord Tenant Court and informs clients what to do next. This brochure is given out every day at Syracuse City Court. It also is available to the public in many of the justice courts throughout Onondaga County. OnVLP does not closely track the number of copies that are distributed, but a conservative estimate is that over 1,000 were distributed. OnVLP continues to maintain a legal Reference Table Number of People Benefited by Legal Services Other Than Direct Legal Representation Total: 12,339 People Community Legal Education and Pro Se Assistance: People Web Usage: 105 People Legal Hotline Services: 148 People Onondaga County Bar Association - 3

4 Other Services, continued that is used throughout Onondaga County by legal service providers and pro bono volunteers to make accurate legal referrals. OnVLP goes to great lengths to obtain updated information from over 50 different organizations, agencies and courts that serve low-income clients in Onondaga County, and seeks out relevant legal information to facilitate the provision of legal information and pro se assistance by attorneys (such as the form Living Will). While this Reference Table is not distributed to the general public, it is distributed for free to agencies and pro bono attorneys that use it to make referrals at 49 drop-in clinics a month in Onondaga County, benefiting thousands of people. Finally, we provided education to 638 pro bono attorneys and law students so that they are better able to provide pro bono service in our community. Collaborations With Other Service Providers Private Bar Organizations The most significant and profound collaboration that the Volunteer Lawyers Project of Onondaga County, Inc. has is with the Onondaga County Bar Association (OCBA). OCBA helps us to promote our pro bono programming and recruit volunteers from OCBA s membership. OCBA sends out e-blasts with OnVLP updates to the entire membership. OCBA co-sponsors CLEs that are provided for free to train our volunteer attorneys in exchange for pro bono time commitment. OnVLP refers clients who are not financially eligible for our services to OCBA s Lawyer Referral Service to seek representation, and OCBA s Lawyer Referral Service sends clients who cannot afford an attorney to our services. OnVLP continues to administer pro bono programs for the Central New York Women s Bar Association (CNYWBA), including CNYWBA s weekly Vera House clinic, where pro bono attorneys provide free legal assistance and information to domestic violence survivors. In this funding cycle, OnVLP began a collaboration with the Jefferson County Bar Association in support of our new Jefferson County Family Court Clinic. This collaboration included presenting a CLE on pro bono opportunities at a monthly meeting and assistance with publicizing the opportunity. OnVLP also continues its collaboration with the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Upstate New York Chapter. In addition to providing some funding to support our Immigration Clinic, the local AILA chapter promotes our Clinic and encourages attorneys to participate in providing pro bono legal service, which has led several new immigration attorneys to join our program. OnVLP continues to be very active on the state-wide level with the New York State Bar Association s Pro Bono efforts. OnVLP participates in all statewide meetings and conferences regarding pro bono work. We are proud to be able to say that Deb O Shea, OnVLP s Pro Bono Coordinator, is a co-chair of the statewide Pro Bono Coordinator s Network, and in that role helps to coordinate annual meetings and regular communications to the network. Sally Curran, Executive Director, now serves on the President s Committee on Access to Justice and the Committee on Legal Aid. OnVLP is also a member of the newly formed Association of New York Legal Services Organizations. Community-Based Organizations OnVLP s collaborates with Say Yes to Education to offer two school-based walk-in clinics a week and two telephone-based clinics a month. This collaboration also led to a training of all Syracuse City School District social workers and including OnVLP s outreach materials in mailings with report cards to 9,000 SYSD families. OnVLP collaborates with several other community organizations and agencies that house our clinics, all of which not only provide space but also work to promote the program to their clients and members. These organizations include Westcott Community Center, Brown Memorial Methodist Church, East Syracuse Library, the Syracuse Sources of Funding Total $329,200 IOLA Grant $45,000 State Funding $214,443 City and County Funding $25,000 Private Bar $18,020 Other $26,737 State Funding 65% City and County Funding 8% Private Bar 5% Other 8% IOLA Grant 14% Onondaga County Bar Association - 4

5 Other Services, continued Vet Center, the Rescue Mission, Catholic Charities Refugee Resettlement Services, the Vera House and Upstate Hospital. OnVLP was able to serve 631 clients at clinics located at these organizations in the past year. Backup or Support Services OnVLP coordinates the weekly legal clinic for domestic violence survivors that located at the Vera House. The goal of the Vera House clinic is to provide a safe and secure environment for survivors of domestic violence to discuss potential legal remedies available to them. The Clinic takes place once a week at the offices of the domestic violence service provider. The Vera House staff screens the clients and schedules the appointments, ensuring that all who are attending the clinic are survivors of domestic violence. In this cycle, our pro bono attorneys assisted 46 domestic violence survivors at this clinic. Additionally, Catholic Charities Refugee Resettlement has many BIA accredited representatives who assist clients with simple immigration applications. But when they are unable to answer a client s more complicated questions, they send the client to our monthly immigration clinic. In this cycle, our pro bono attorneys assisted 30 immigrants at this clinic. Major Cases or Other Advocacy Projects OnVLP continues to try to address the issue of the overwhelming rate of evictions in Syracuse and the poor housing stock in Syracuse. This grant cycle, this meant drastically increasing the number of pro bono attorneys available to accept cases at our attorney of the day program. Clients who receive representation from OnVLP in eviction matters overwhelmingly have positive outcomes from our representation, with over 75% avoiding or delaying eviction and another 10% having reduced judgments allowing tenants to have time to move. In 2014, OnVLP represented tenants in 15% of all landlord tenant matters brought in Syracuse City Court; given that less than 50% of respondent tenants actually come to court, OnVLP is representing over one third of tenants who come to court on any given day. OnVLP is also expanding these efforts to address preventing and ending homelessness on other fronts. In addition to being active members of the Housing Vulnerable Taskforce, OnVLP is now active in the Housing and Homeless Coalition of Syracuse and Onondaga County and is also on several committees to address homelessness in downtown Syracuse. OnVLP has now initiated a new weekly drop-in clinic at a homeless day-center and is in the planning phase to expand to other shelters. Our hope is that by the end of the next reporting cycle OnVLP will be successful in creating a coordinated Homeless Legal Project to address preventing and ending homelessness that will involve all legal services providers in our county as well as social service members of the Housing and Homeless Coalition. Pro Bono Volunteer Involvement By the conclusion of this reporting cycle, OnVLP had a roster of 641 volunteers. This is a 38% increase over last reporting cycle, and an over 60% increase over two years Pro Bono Statistics During , the following volunteers provided services in our program: Attorneys: 302 Volunteers 2,259 Hours Law Students: 68 Volunteers 2,080 Hours Other Volunteers: 30 Volunteers 198 Hours Total Cases Completed by Attorneys: 2,564 Cases Dollar Value of Attorney Services*: $0.56 million *estimated at $250 per hour ago. OnVLP s pro bono attorneys provided 2,259 hours of service, valued at over $564, OnVLP s panel of 162 law student volunteers provided 2,080 hours of service, and our other volunteers provided 198 hours of pro bono service. OnVLP has a roster of 422 attorneys who volunteer to provide pro bono legal service and staff all of OnVLP s programs. These attorneys represent the diversity of the legal community in our county, with attorneys from firms with over a hundred attorneys down to just one attorney, from the public sector and also from legal services and public interest organizations. Their diverse knowledge and interests are what makes OnVLP programming so strong. OnVLP employees recruits, trains, and coordinates the participation of our volunteer attorneys, who staff all of our programs. Our pro bono attorneys represent clients in court, take cases for ongoing pro bono representation, assist with preparation of pro se court filings, provide brief service in the form of consultations, and provide legal education in the community. OnVLP is committed to fostering pro bono commitment in the next generation of lawyers, and incorporates law student volunteers into all aspects of our programming. Law student volunteers assist with intake and shadow attorneys during their meetings with the clients in eviction defense, immigration, and community-based clinics, and will play a critical role in the expansion of our court-based clinics. They assist with preparation of divorce petitions and case management and with input of client data into our database. Law student interns with a student practice order represent clients in landlord tenant court under the supervision of OnVLP staff. Onondaga County Bar Association - 5

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