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Oklahoma Lawyers Making Equal Justice for all a Reality

Legal Aid to be honored at the first Annual Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher Diversity Awards

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

  • By: Margaret Hamlett
  • Organization: Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, Inc.

Legal Aid is honored to be one of six recipients of the first Annual Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher Diversity Awards at the Oklahoma Bar Association Diversity Committee Awards on October 18th in Oklahoma City.

The Diversity Committee, with the support of OBA President Cathy Christensen, identified that there was a need for the Oklahoma Bar Association to recognize leaders and statewide diversity efforts and to increase the need for tolerance and diversity awareness.

With the sponsorship of the OBA‘s CLE Department, the committee has launched its inaugural Diversity Awards Luncheon and CLE. The CLE will feature award-winning legal journalist Mark Curriden, who is a best-selling author and senior writer for the ABA Journal. Mr. Curriden will be the keynote presenter at the CLE where he will discuss the best-selling book he co-authored, Contempt of Court: A Turn-of-the Century Lynching that Launched a Hundred Years of Federalism.

The inaugural event will be held at the historic Skirvin Hilton in downtown Oklahoma City on Oct. 18, 2012. 
The CLE will feature a panel of esteemed lawyers, professors and judges to discuss the ethical obligation to represent the unpopular client and the need for an independent judiciary.

The event will conclude with the first Diversity Committee Diversity Awards Luncheon and Ceremony that begins at noon at which six recipients will be honored with the Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher Diversity Award.
More details and registration for the event is found online at www.okbar.org

ADA LOIS SIPUEL FISHER DIVERSITY AWARD RECIPIENTS

Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher was a champion of the cause of diversity as the first African-American woman to attend an all-white law school, the University of Oklahoma College of Law, after a lengthy legal battle. She graduated in 1952 and earned a master’s degree in history from OU in 1968. After briefly practicing law in Chickasha, she joined the faculty at Langston University. In 1992 she was appointed to the University of Oklahoma Board of Regents.

Member of the Judiciary:
Chief Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange

Attorneys:
Cheryl Wattley and Hannibal B. Johnson

Business/Law Firm/Organization/Groups:
Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma and Williams Co. 

Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma is a 501(c)(3) organization with the mission of “being a partner in the community making equal justice for all” a reality by providing free civil legal assistance to eligible low income individuals and their families, and to the elderly. Their law offices are in Ardmore, Bartlesville, Hugo, Lawton, Muskogee, Norman, Oklahoma City, Stillwater, Tulsa and Weatherford. In addition there are satellite offices in Ada, Altus, Chickasha, Duncan, Enid, Jay, McAlester, Poteau, Shawnee, Stilwell and Woodward. There are two administrative offices, the headquarters in Oklahoma City and one in Tulsa.

The work of Legal Aid is civil in nature. Legal Aid cannot assist with any criminal problems or provide any representation to those who are incarcerated. Legal Aid attorneys in Oklahoma are prohibited from entering into any class action law suits. Legal Aid attorneys are prohibited from taking any fee generating cases and typically pass them to the private bar when those clients seek our help. Even if individuals qualify for service, because the demand far exceeds the capacity of staff, Legal Aid accepts only those cases that meet a condition of immediate severity.

In 2012, Legal Aid’s total staff of 128 includes 66 full-time attorneys, 16 paralegals and 46 clerical and administrative support staff. To help handle the demand, hundreds of private Oklahoma attorneys volunteer their time and expertise to Legal Aid. Sometimes they teach in the organization’s legal clinics, but most often they advise clients and help them fill out legal forms, or they take on simple cases for full representation. In 2011, hundreds of private attorneys closed a total of 943 cases.

Last year the Legal Aid legal staff and pro bono attorneys closed 8,671 cases statewide -- cases that touched the lives of 7,362 children and a total of 18,061 family members. The biggest demand for the services of Legal Aid is family law, including cases involving victims of domestic violence. Children are the biggest benefactors as Legal Aid strives to stabilize their families through the issues of custody, child support and divorce.

Legal Aid also represents the elderly seeking social security or other public benefits or in helping the elderly resolve the issues of guardianship. They help individuals faced with losing their housing through evictions or mortgage foreclosures. They also assist people with cases involving Medicare, Medicaid and other health care problems, helping them gain the entitlements for which they qualify.

The make-up of the organization’s 27-member governing board is determined by the Legal Services Corp., its primary grantor, and must be comprised of two-thirds attorney representatives from bar associations and other legal associations and one-third representing Legal Aid clients.

Read more about the other honorees here:
http://www.okbar.org/news/front/2012/10/03-diversity-awards.htm

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