Please also see our library archive at: https://www.probono.net/nc/civillaw/library/
September 2011's Mecklenburg County Bar VLP spotlight is on Wendy L. Spanbaur of McGuire Woods.
Spanbauer volunteers her time and expertise to help individuals clear their record of criminal charges that were dismissed in hopes of allowing this person to successfully pursue gainful employment.
Although her expertise is in capital market transactions, she worked with Legal Services of Southern Piedmont to gain the necessary skills to also work in criminal law.
Fortunately two Wake County Volunteer Lawyers Program attorneys, Catherine R. Bailey (Raleigh) and Erin M. Graber ( Graber Law Firm, PLLC, Raleigh), stepped up to defend a father's rights.
Their hundreds of hours of effort (all pro bono) resulted in the Court's findings that the father had provided support to the child and his mother during her pregnancy, that service by publication regarding termination of his rights to an unknown father was improper service to the client, that the agency's action prevented the client from acting as a parent and exercising his constitutional right to parent his child, and that the adoption agency's actions had caused "irreparable harm to the [father] and the minor child".
The client was awarded sole custody of his son (now 13 months old) and followed the terms of a custody transition order.
The baby is now with his father who, along with attorneys Catherine R. Bailey and Erin M. Graber, fought so hard to have him.
[Click here to view story...]
On Wednesday, April 20, 2011, the Legal Aid of North Carolina-Winston-Salem Office held its fourth annual pro bono celebration at the Hawthorne Inn in Winston-Salem to recognize and celebrate the pro bono efforts of its local attorneys in 2010.
Awards were presented to the volunteer attorneys who did outstanding work for LANC clients in 2010.... Celeste M. Harris (Maynard & Harris, PLLC, Winston-Salem) was honored as the Volunteer Attorney of the Year....The law firm of Craige Brawley Liipfert & Walker, LLP (Winston-Salem) was recognized as the Pro Bono Firm of the Year.... Susan D. Brotherton (sole practitioner, Statesville) was recognized as the Family Law Attorney of the Year, Rural Counties....Robin J. Stinson (Bell Davis & Pitt, P.A., Winston-Salem) was recognized as the Family Law Attorney of the Year, Forsyth County....Mark D. Boynton (Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton, LLP, Winston-Salem) was recognized as the Housing/Consumer Attorney of the Year....Steve Virgil (Wake Forest University School of Law) was recognized as the Mortgage Foreclosure Attorney of the Year....[more]
This month's MCB VLP spotlight is on former VLP Committee Co-chair Sean F. Perrin of Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice.
In addition to leading the VLP Committee for more than two years, he has spent many hours assisting Legal Aid of North Carolina clients on landlord/tenant issues and LANC staff in assigning cases through Womble Carlyle's & LANC's collaborative Landlord/Tenant Project.
Jennie C. Boswell, an Alston & Byrd associate, was featured on the Mecklenburg Bar's "MCB VLP (Mecklenburg County Bar Volunteer Lawyer Program) Volunteer Spotlight" webpage in January 2011:
Jennie Cordis Boswell of Alston & Bird donated more than 225 hours on pro bono cases in 2010 ranging from domestic violence hearings to landlord/tenant cases.
Ted Fillette, assistant director of Legal Aid of North Carolina (LANC) said:
"Jennie has been an exemplary volunteer for the clients of Legal Aid of NC. Her record demonstrates how well volunteer attorneys can succeed outside of their regular practice areas. We are very grateful!"
The MCB VLP thanks Jennie, and others, for dedicating so many of their hours in 2010 to pro bono initiatives!
On November 3, 2010, the New Hanover County Bar Association and the Wilmington Office of Legal Aid of North Carolina (LANC) honored Wilmington attorneys for their pro bono (free) civil legal services to LANC clients.
The pro bono awards were presented at a luncheon meeting at the Coastline Convention Center in Wilmington attended by 65 attorneys and judges.
Auley M. Crouch, III received the Addison Hewlett, Jr. Award for exemplary pro bono representation of LANC clients for several years and encouraging other attorneys throughout North Carolina to provide pro bono services to LANC clients.... (more...)
Ajanaclair Lynch, A Mayer Brown associate, was featured on the Mecklenburg Bar's "MCB VLP Volunteer Spotlight" webpage in October 2010. Below is the content of that article:
Mayer Brown LLP reached out to Legal Aid of North Carolina (LANC) to develop a pro bono project tailored to their attorneys' interest and availability. Working with LANC staff, they tailored a project that would assist domestic violence victims in court - primarily with extending restraining orders. Ajanaclair Lynch, a MayerBrown associate, assists many of these victims through this project.
If you are interested in developing a similar pro bono project, please contact Mary Jordan Mullinax (Director of Lawyer Volunteer & Community Services, Mecklenburg County Bar) at 704/375-8624 ext.115 to learn about opportunities available through all of collaborative organizations (including LANC) in Mecklenburg County.
At the June 25, 2010 meeting of the Legal Aid of North Carolina (LANC) Board of Directors, John L. Sarratt of Harris, Winfield, Sarratt & Hodges, LLP, was recognized for his dedicated work as Co-Chair of the 2009-10 Triangle Region Access to Justice Campaign. Sarratt helped establish the model for the new regional campaign. The Triangle Region's Access to Justice Campaign is an annual fundraising drive (November-May) to reach out to the private bar, corporations and the community and seek critical funds for support of our efforts to provide powerful, life-altering solutions to the legal issues that confront poor people in North Carolina....
The pro bono work of Raleigh attorney W. Brodie Burwell, Jr. (of Pinna Johnston & Burwell, PA) stopped the IRS efforts to collect $90K in back taxes from a 68-year-old, legally blind lady. Since the IRS was taking half her monthly pension check to collect this debt, there has been a substantial improvement in her quality of life. This case was "jump-started" by volunteer retired accountant Bill Higgins, who organized and analyzed the client's massive amount of paperwork.
In 2002, while a 25-year-old married mother was visiting a terminally ill aunt in another state, her husband disappeared with their two daughters (ages 4 and 2 at the time). In May 2008, a Cary Police detective found a possible last known address for the husband and checked it out. The detective reported that the husband was angry and uncooperative in response to the police visit. He was surprised to have been located. At the time, the husband and the girls were living with the husband's parents who, along with the husband, were convicted in 2000 of felony possession of a controlled substance. The husband had also been convicted in North Carolina with aiding and abetting prostitution, simple assault and reckless driving. In September 2008, Scott Montgomery - son and volunteer attorney heir of former LANC lawyer Charles H. Montgomery - decided to help. Scott and Samantha Zellinger, his highly capable legal assistant, worked tirelessly to help their client regain contact with her children. Scott represented her, beginning with a temporary custody hearing, through the custody trial, including a Motion to Show Cause along the way. Scott finally obtained an Order allowing the client reunification therapy and visitation with her children. Five months later, thanks to the opposing party's multiple violations of the Order, the client still had not enjoyed time with her daughters. After Scott filed a second Motion to Show Cause in October 2009, the parties signed a Consent Order resolving all matters, including the issues set for the show cause hearing. After six years of not even knowing where they were, the client is now seeing her daughters regularly. They are happily bonding with one another and the girls' new baby brother. Together Scott Montgomery and Samantha Zellinger spent 371 hours to bring about this mother and child reunion. Many thanks to them and to Charles Montgomery for allowing them the time to work their magic.
Three Gaston County lawyers and one Gaston County law firm were recognized for the legal services they provided to the indigent through their local Volunteer Lawyers Program (VLP) at the Gaston County Bar meeting on Wednesday, March 17, 2010. [Pictured at right, l-r: front row: John Russell, Shantel Boone, Jerry Liska; back row: Sonya McGraw and Dolph Sumner. ]
Shantel Boone and the law firm of Mullen Holland Cooper (MHC) were presented with the Volunteer Lawyers Program's Distinguished Service Awards. Boone, an associate at MHC, led the group with over 50 hours of service to indigent clients. The firm as a whole provided over 150 hours of service to VLP clients, mainly in the areas of unemployment benefits, wills and advanced directives, and family law cases.
Sonya C. McGraw, previously with the law firm of Ferguson and McGraw, and Mark Warshawsky, a solo practitioner, were presented with VLP Service Awards. Both attorneys provided legal services in difficult, prolonged custody cases. McGraw, now attorney for the Gaston County School Board, received VLP service awards in the past, while this was Warshawsky's first recognition for outstanding service in the pro bono area.
The awards were presented by long-time coordinator for the VLP, Becki Lowder.
Long known for its commitment to serving a large poverty population, the Gaston County Bar again provided a high number of hours in the areas of family law, as well as helping with a significantly growing number of unemployment benefits cases. The increase in unemployment benefits cases is easily explained by noting Gaston County's extremely high incidence of job losses in the past two years. The unemployment percentage number topped 13-14% during the past year and was one of the highest in North Carolina.
Other areas served by the VLP include wills and related documents, tax matters, and consumer cases. Financial eligibility and case merit are considerations for client entry into the program.
The VLP is a part of the local Legal Aid of North Carolina-Gastonia Office.
[Click here to view photos.]
At their annual Pro Bono Breakfast on April 15, 2010, the Troutman Sanders LLP - Raleigh office honored 11 attorneys and one paralegal from their staff for outstanding pro bono work in 2009. Recognized for contributing from 20-49 pro bono hours to various clients were: Charles S. Carter, Benjamin P. Fisher, Amanda Stokes Mann, Pankaj K. Shere, Hannah G. Styron, James A. Thomas and Whitney S. Waldenberg were recognized for contributing from 20-49 pro bono hours to various clients.
Honored for donating more than 50 pro bono hours last year were: Jamie Cox, who helped several non-profit organizations with their applications for tax-exempt status, and helped the Triangle Greenways Council with their acquisitions of land to be used for conservation and recreation. Ann Stuart drafted estate documents for a Duplin County resident who had advanced MS and also assisted the victim of a massive mortgage loan swindle in regaining clear title to his property. Martin Warf and paralegal Tracy Bowling together favorably settled the case of a client who was injured when struck by a door being forcibly opened by her landlord. These four names will be added to the Troutman Sanders Pro Bono Wall of Fame.
The firm also made a financial contribution in their names to Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), a national non-profit organization that provides legal assistance to unaccompanied children in U.S. immigration proceedings.
Thomas P. Holderness Named UNC School of Law’s 2010 Alumnus of the Year for pro bono work at Legal Aid of NC
Thomas P. Holderness, an attorney with Robinson, Bradshaw & Hinson in Charlotte, has been named the University of North Carolina School of Law's 2010 Alumnus of the Year in recognition of his work with Legal Aid of North Carolina. Holderness has provided numerous hours of pro bono legal services in the past year to four families through his work at Legal Aid. Most recently, Holderness assisted a family of four that had been displaced by fire by helping them avoid eviction. He also helped a homeless couple get SSA benefits and move into a duplex. Holderness, who is a 1990 graduate of UNC Law, also was credited for co-designing a project for the 100 homeless families who were temporarily housed in the Hall House last year. He led a team of 15 transactional and litigation attorneys at Robinson Bradshaw to provide direct representation, legal counsel and referrals to those families with tax issues, credit problems, government benefits, estate planning, and other issues. Holderness was previously named Pro Bono Attorney of the Year in Mecklenburg County in 2009 by Legal Aid of North Carolina and in 2007 by Legal Services of Southern Piedmont.
The UNC Law School Pro Bono Program has been selected to receive a 2010 Office of the Provost Engaged Scholarship Award for the Wills Project, which was implemented in partnership with Legal Aid of North Carolina.
The award recognizes UNC-Chapel Hill units and organizations that have performed extraordinary public service and engaged scholarship and/or enabled such service by others.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 2010 Public Service Awards Ceremony and Reception (sponsored by the Carolina Center for Public Service) will be held on Friday, April 16, 2010 from 1:30-3:00pm in the Carolina Club of the George Watts Hill Alumni Center on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill.
In March 2010, the Wills project involved 23 UNC law students who spent a week in the New Bern/Greenville area of Eastern North Carolina drawing up wills and other legal documents as part of a pro bono project coordinated by the UNC School of Law, the Center for Civil Rights and Legal Aid of North Carolina. Day-long advance directive clinics were held in six towns (Alliance, Belhaven, Columbia, Plymouth, Trenton and Williamston) for low-income and minority clients on wills as well as on health care power of attorney documents that allow a person to designate someone else to make health care decisions if he or she becomes incapacitated. The students work was supervised by attorneys from the local Legal Aid of North Carolina offices.
Additionally in March 2010, another team of UNC law students (supervised by LANC attorneys) provided advance directive clinics in the western part of North Carolina in Boone, West Jefferson and North Wilkesboro.
A description of work of the Wills Project in the New Bern area in March was discussed in the March 15, 2010 New Bern Sun Journal article, "UNC law students connect, reconnect."
Also, the March 2009 Wills Project by UNC law students is featured in the Fall/Winter edition of Carolina Law (the magazine for the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Law) in the article "Reaching out to Eastern North Carolina."
Congratulations to the UNC Law School Pro Bono Program!
When an inspector for the City of Charlotte told a tenant that she and her family should not continue to reside in the home they were renting because it had serious defects she contacted Legal Aid of North Carolina's Charlotte office. Legal Aid of NC (LANC) Attorney Chad Crockford contacted the landlord; the client's demands were minimal, the return of her security deposit and some rent returned to assist with the move. The landlord refused to refund any of the client's rent. At that point volunteer attorney Danielle Walther (Nexsen Pruet, PLLC) joined the case and sued the landlord for "breach of the implied warranty of habitability." When the landlord failed to respond, Danielle had a default entered against the landlord and his company. Facing the possibility of a default judgment, the landlord brought in his counsel and cross motions to set aside the entry of default. Then, facing serious risk of substantial judgment, the landlord settled with the client for a $12,000 lump sum payment to the client. The client was thrilled. "I really liked this case especially the fantastic result for the client," said Walther. "I am already looking forward to taking another pro bono case from LANC. I strongly recommend it, not just because pro bono work is the right thing to do, but also because it is an opportunity to challenge yourself, and it can be such a rewarding experience."
A Wake County widower lost his job, then his house in foreclosure. He and his two sons, one of them a minor, were living in their camper in a public campground. Children's Protective Services took custody of teenaged son and charged the widower with neglect. The Clerk of Court notified the gentleman that there were excess proceeds from the foreclosure sale, and that he needed a lawyer to complete a title opinion and set up a hearing for him in order to have access to this money. Volunteer lawyer REBECCA L. STEVENS (of Stevens and Hand, PLLC in Cary) accepted the case and did all the Court required, evidently VERY well. On 6/22/09 the client picked up a check for $75,552.76. Obviously he can and can now move back indoors and start the necessary action to have his son returned to him.
[Also see: "Attorney Rebecca L. Stevens Featured for Volunteer Legal Services in North Carolina", dBusiness News, 09/15/09]
For the 2nd year in a row Dale E. Hollar (attorney-at-law) of Raleigh offered to have his head shaved if he raised $1000 or more in contributions for the Susan G. Koman Race for the Cure in Raleigh, NC on Saturday, June 13, 2009. He has raised $1225 in donations so far this year and expects to get some more.
"Here is the proof that I really did have my head shaved and participated in the Race for the Cure on Saturday (June 13, 2009)," said Hollar. "A throng of 23,000+ people descended on west Raleigh for the Race. Many people along the way provided music, water, signs and encouragement. Included was one elderly woman who sat on her front porch, with her yard decorated with pink flamingoes and a sign that proclaimed 'Survivor Since 1980.' So far the local Race has raised $1.8 million this year and hopes to reach the goal of $2 million by the end of June.
Kudos to Dale Hollar for his enthusiastic participation and "sacrifice."
Among his other community involvement activities, Hollar is an active volunteer attorney through the Wake County Volunteer Lawyer Program, helping clients of Legal Aid of North Carolina.
Seven attorneys participating in the local Volunteer Lawyers Program (VLP) affiliated with the Legal Aid of North Carolina -Gastonia Office received outstanding service awards at their local bar meetings in Shelby on March 31 and in Gastonia on April 1. The awards were presented by VLP Coordinator, Becki Lowder. Jeannette R. Reeves (of Teddy and Meekins in Shelby) and Sonya C. McGraw (of Ferguson and McGraw in Gastonia) received the VLP Distinguished Service Awards; both attorneys provided more than 50 hours of service to their VLP clients during 2008, with Ms. Reeves providing the greatest number of attorney hours to clients in the three county service area of Gaston, Cleveland, and Lincoln counties. Both Reeves and McGraw have received VLP service awards in the past and continue to provide outstanding legal assistance to the pro bono clients routed to them through the VLP. James R. Martin (of Mullen Holland Cooper), R. Dennis Lorance (of Katzenstein and Lorance), Shantel Boone of (Mullen Holland Cooper), and Laura Crawford and Geoffrey A. Planer, both solo practitioners, received VLP Service Awards. All the recipients received awards in past years for their participation in the local program and their outstanding contributions to individual clients. The total contribution made by the group of award recipients exceeded 290 attorney hours, equaling a monetary contribution of approximately $58,000. Attorneys participating in the VLP agree to represent clients who have been screened for financial eligibility and type of case by the local Legal Aid office for no fee. The main types of cases coming through the program currently are unemployment benefits appeals cases, custody cases, and help with wills, powers of attorney, and advance medical directives. [Pictured above (l-r): Shantel Boone; Laura Crawford; James R. Martin; Sonya C. McGraw; and Jeannette R. Reeves. (Not pictured: Dennis Lorance; Geoffrey A. Planer.)]
Ashley Huffstetler Campbell, attorney at Ragsdale Liggett PLLC , has been appointed by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) Law Alumni Association board of directors to serve on its Student Services Committee as a member of the Pro Bono/Public Service subcommittee. As a member of the subcommittee, Campbell will work with fellow UNC-CH School of Law alumni to increase alumni awareness and involvement in the School of Law's public interest programs and pro bono efforts. The subcommittee is dedicated to connecting students and alumni in this initiative. "It is an honor to be appointed to the Pro Bono/Public Service subcommittee by the Law Alumni Association board of directors," said Campbell. "I am excited about the opportunity to work with fellow alumni as we increase alumni involvement in the UNC-CH School of Law's public interest programs and pro bono efforts."
[Also see 04/01/09 Carolina Newswire article.]
When the mother of three disabled sons in Johnson County convinced the Social Security Administration (SSA) that the oldest two sons were entitled to SSDI benefits, they received substantial back payments thaat were placed in "dedicated accounts," from which she would be required to request permission to use the funds. The SSA later accused the mother of misusing the funds in each of the dedicated accounts. From one account, she had used $2,500 as a down payment on a used minivan that was needed for their transportation; they lived out in the country and had no way to get to their numerous doctor appointments that included travel to Duke University Medical Center and this was their only vehicle. From the second account, she had paid off an account with Dell Computer when she did not have the money to pay the balance of the account ($1,296); the computer had been purchased for her learning-disabled son. Fortunately for the mother, attorney Lawrence Wittenburg (with Roberti, Wittenberg, Lauffer & Wicker of Durham) was available and willing to take up the cause. At first the ALJ scheduled both caes for hearing back to back. After post hearing submissions in which Larence pointed out that the POMS allowed the mother as representative payee to do exactly what she did, the ALJ sceduled another set of hearings at which both cases were presented again. Shorterly thereafter the ALJ agreed and issued two favorable decisions. [Lawrence Wittenburg began his legal career at the Legal Aid of NC offices in Ahoskie and Durham. In 1988 he joined the Roberti, Wittenburg, Lauffer & Wicker and begn focusing his practice on Social Security claims. He now oversees the efforts of three other attorneys devoted to this work, whose practice covers the entire state. He is serving his fifth term on the Board of Directors for the National Organization of Social Security Claimants Representatives (NOSSCR) and is currently Vice President of that organization.]
In Wake County a single working mother supported her 4 young children on her annual income of $13,536 and food stamps. The 3-bedroom mobile home she rented for their home became infested with insects in the summer of 2008, with insects in the beds biting the children. In August and September, the unit was without hot water, and only one of the burners on the stove worked. The local electric company removed the meter from the mobile home in late September, and the family spent 2 weeks without electricity. The client was forced to seek shelter in motels several times when the landlord did not attend to these problems. During one such foray, the landlord put all the family's belongings outside, saying (in writing) that since a window had been left open, he had no option but to put her out. The client could not afford to remove her belongings from the yard or put them in storage because of the money she had to spend on motel rooms. The client and her children were left homeless and lost all their household property. Fortunately, Matt Little and Sharon Scudder of Teague, Campbell, Dennis & Gorham LLP agreed to take the case, analyzed the facts and agreed to represent the client-a generous contribution, to be sure. But they didn't stop there. After contacting the State Bar for assurance that no violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct was involved with providing practical assistance to the client, they and their colleagues spread the word of this devastated family among their friends and relatives. Before Christmas, the family was provided with furniture, clothing, mattresses, plates, pots, pans, a TV and DVD player, bicycles and other gifts. The firm also got the family's electricity reconnected and gave them some retail gift certificates. Then the firm thanked Legal Aid for the opportunity to do all this. That's the spirit that makes North Carolina attorneys great.
In June 2008 veteran volunteer attorney Mark E. Sullivan of Raleigh addressed the annual meeting of the Iowa State Bar Association on the topic of re-employment rights for Reservists and forming a military committee for the ISBA. In July Mark was twice in Washington, DC conferring with US Senate and House staffers for the Armed Services Committee and the Veterans Affairs Committee about legislation involving custody of children for service members who are deployed overseas. Mark has practiced family law in Raleigh since 1976. He has published more than 70 articles and a book on family and military law ["The Military Divorce Handbook: A Practical Guide to Representing Military Personnel and Their Families," which is published by the ABA and is now in its 2nd printing.]. Mark served 4 years in the U.S. Army and retired as a colonel in 2002 after 30 years in the Army Reserves, at which time he was awarded the Legion of Merit as "the Army's foremost expert in family law." Mark is now Chair of the Military Committee of the ABA Family Law Section. The Wake County Volunteer Lawyers Program (VLP) is very fortunate that Mark has been a member of our team since the VLP was first organized. As you can see, he is a national treasure.
Jeremy T. Browner is a volunteer attorney who is currently working with the LANC-Durham Office . Pursuant to 27 N.C.A.C. 1D, Rule .0905(a)(3) of the NC State Bar, Jeremy T. Browner is the first lawyer to receive an "Order Granting Pro Bono Practice by Out of State Lawyer." Jeremy has been with LANC-Durham Office for the past few weeks and has already began working on cases in the consumer area. Browner was featured in a 08/10/08Herald-Sun article, "Durham newcomer practicing law for free."
Benn A. Brewington, III spent 10 years holding various global account and project management positions with two Fortune 10 companies before he joined the staff at Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein, LLP. He now represents businesses, local governments and non-profits in all types of civil litigation before federal and state courts and various commissions and boards. Then one day in April 2008, Parker Poe Partner Jay Butler asked Benn to try something just a bit different: representing a mother and her adult daughter get restitution from their landlord for property damage and personal discomfort resulting from [believe it or not] bedbug infestation. (Yes, there really are bedbugs, and they really do bite--hard!) Benn's skill as a corporate lawyer was a real asset on this case. He convinced the company that owns the apartment complex to pay the ladies $3,300 for their trouble and to agree to give them positive references with future landlords if asked. The clients, of course, were delighted. The "bono" in "pro bono" works both ways. Concerning this experience, Benn told the Wake County Volunteer Lawyers Program, "It was a pleasure. I work daily with matters that have multi-millions of dollars at stake, but getting [these ladies] that $3,300 was the most rewarding work I've done. I will definitely be speaking to you again, hopefully before the year is out, as I plan to take on additional work with your team."
Three cheers for Troutman Sanders attorneys Pankaj Shere, Ben Fisher, and paralegal Tracy Bowling, who just saved one small household in Raleigh a wad of money they didn't have. A creditor sued the husband for approximately $20,000 based on an alleged breach of an automobile financing agreement. On its face, the creditor's complaint appeared to be a case of clear-cut liability. However, Shere and Fisher dug through the North Carolina General Statutes and raised several affirmative defenses and presented a case that was potentially ripe for a dispositive motion. When the case was set for trial, the settlement negotiations quickly began. The Troutman Sanders "dream team" convinced the opposing party to accept $2500 as a full and final settlement of the claim. Shere and Fisher, both senior associates with Troutman Sanders, said they were "happy to help a hard-working and dedicated father get out of a sticky situation." Now this family of 5 can afford gas and groceries for the rest of the year.
When you hear that a Legal Aid client has a real estate problem, your first thought is that it probably involves foreclosure or an heir property issue. However the skills of real estate expert CHRISTOPHER M. WYNE (of Monroe, Wyne & Wallanc, P.A.) were required to restore the Supplementary Security Income and Medicaid benefits of a 28 year old disabled man in rural Wake County. Approximately 5 years ago, this gentleman and his mother sold 3 tracts of land to pay off some medical bills. The property tax records showed that the client was still joint owner of part of the land, and his benefits were stopped because it appeared he had an unreported asset. Chris determined that though the client and his mother intended to fully transfer all property in his name at the time, due to errors in the description of certain deeds he was still the legal owner of part of it--a tract of land now occupied by a gentleman who only spoke Spanish. The Hispanic gentleman was the legal owner of a different tract that was occupied by a neighbor lady, who thought she was the legal owner. With the assistance of mortgage broker, Anthony Brannon, of Meridian Residential (who speaks Spanish), all was explained to the parties, who then agreed to agree to execute cross-deeds with the consent of his lender) one Corrective Deed of Trust so that all the parties in this small rural neighborhood are now own the residences where they in fact reside. The client was divested of the property interest he previously owned. All past due taxes were paid by the parties. Title insurance policy endorsements required to reflect the proper titling of the property interests were obtained at no expense from Chicago Title Insurance Company. Attorney Jennifer Simmons of the Legal Aid of NC Raleigh office then represented the client's case with the Social Security Administration. In early June the client was advised that he will collect back payments of nearly $16,000 and $425 a month in benefits beginning July 2008.
Early in 2007, a very frustrated divorced mother of 3 children living in an apartment complex in a small NC town asked Legal Aid of NC (LANC) for help. She and her children had lived in 3 different apartments in the same apartment complex, and each apartment had been flooded when plumbing pipes burst. Due to her very small income from her job, the client had no funds to replace her family's ruined personal property and no money to move them into better circumstances. Further, the client's renter's insurance had been cancelled because of the size and frequency of her perfectly legitimate claims, and the apartment owner refused to reimburse her for her personal property or to make other than cosmetic repairs to the leaking pipes. This client had also reported that at least 10 other tenants were having the same experience she had with the flooding. Sure enough, another low-income tenant came to Legal Aid with an identical complaint. Fortunately for both these clients, Robert C. Van Arnam of the Hunton & Williams Raleigh office agreed to provide assistance to these clients. Within 90 days, Rob had persuaded the owners of the apartment to reimburse these clients for the full amount they requested so that they could replace their damaged property. That result alone would have been a very happy ending to the story, but there was more to come. In March 2008, Rob learned that the greater result of his efforts is that the apartment owners have replaced all the plumbing in the complex, thereby improving the quality of available housing to low-income individuals in one rural township.
Professor Deborah Weissman has been named to an endowed professorship, the Reef C. Ivey, II Distiguished Professor of Law, which is awarded to a "faculty member of senior rank...[with] experience in the practice of law [who] shall have developed an outstanding accomplishment as a teacher, scholar, and practitioner or jurist, with preference given to a person in corporate or international law." Professor Weissman teaches domestic violence law, civil lawyering process, and a new imigration/human rights policy clinic. Shewas the 2005-06 recipient of the UNC Pro Bono Faculty of the Year Award. Weissman served as exeutive director of Legal Services of North Carolina, 1996-98. She joined the faculty of the UNC School of Law in 1998. [Click here to read the full article from "Carolina Law Alumni News",Fall edition.]
James Wild ('04 UNC-School of Law) retired from UNC-s economics department after teaching for more than 35 years and then enrolled as a full-time law student at UNC. The 69-year-old lawyer specials in elder law and volunteers his services at local senior centers. "He saw a need to help people with elder-care issues...," said Maccene Brown, Managing Attorney with Legal Aid of NC's Pittsboro Office. "He contacted us to sayhe had time to help. This kind of volunteer effort helps us expand and makes equal access to justice meaningful." Legal Aid ofNC schedules time for Dr. Wilde's clients.[Click here to read the full article from "Carolina Alumni Review", July-August 2007 edition.]
Attorney Julia W. Hampton of Poyner & Spruill's Raleigh office recently obtained a $30,600 judgment for a 63-year-old disabled widow who resided in Raleigh. The client had paid paid over $10K to a self-styled real estate broker in Smithfield for a doublewide mobile home and the land where it was situated. Shortly after moving in, the client was notified by the Sheriff's office that the house was soon scheduled for a foreclosure sale. The foreclosure sale became final on 1/30/06. The house was sold back to Wells Fargo. The "broker" reneged on his offer to refund the money he collected from the client. Julia has been an active member of the Wake County Volunteer Lawyers Program since 2004. Poyner & Spruill attorneys have been pillars of the VLP since it was founded in 1982.
Charles Holton, of the firm Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, PLLC, recently negotiated and favorably settled a housing matter, which included property damage and personal injury claims, on behalf of a low-income tenant who was referred through the volunteer lawyers program at Legal Aid of NC in Durham. Due to landlord negligence, the client's ceiling had collapsed under the weight of many gallons of water ruining all her furnishings and personal property. After visiting the client's home, compiling and assessing medical records, and sending a demand letter for damages to the landlord, Holton quickly brought financial relief to the injured party. Holton also counseled the client regarding investment of the settlement proceeds. As a partner with Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, PLLC, Holton has continued his long-term commitment to serving the low-income community through his work on his firm's pro bono committee. He has spent countless hours helping the Legal Aid staff recruit new pro bono attorneys, train them, and help match them with different legal projects being handled by Legal Aid of NC. He again enthusiastically helped develop a partnership of pro bono lawyers between his firm and corporate attorneys from the Research Triangle Park to help low-income families in Durham with their legal problems. Thank you, Mr. Holton!
The LANC-Sylva office is grateful for the skill and generosity of attorney Rod Kight (of Kight Law Office, Sylva and Asheville). Since 2005, Rob has handled 10 bankruptcy cases pro bono and has pledged to do even more. Most recently he took the case of a Sylva client who worked hard her entire life, only to be abandoned and divorced by her husband when she became disabled. Constant harassment by people seeking to collect on debts that she could not pay were making her already great emotional and physical distress worse. Rod says that "It is our responsibility as attorneys to give back to the community if we can." And give back is exactly what he does. He serves on the 28th Judicial Bar's Pro Bono section, where he is one of the Chairs of the Consumer Protection Section. Rod also serves on the Board of Directors for the Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Western North Carolina.
In May 2004 volunteer attorney David Coats (of Bailey & Dixon, LLP in Raleigh) accepted as a pro bono referral the case of a 54-year-old lady who had been totally disabled for two years following an automobile accident. Her previous disability insurance provider had been denying payment of her long term disability benefits for the entire time. Her only household income was support for her 2 teenaged nephews who lived with her. In April 2007, David sent the client $47,482.39 from the insurance company, representing benefits payable from September 2002 through April 2007, plus past-due interest on those benefits. "As a senior litigation attorney for his law firm, Mr. Coats is a busy man," says Celia Mansaray, LANC's PAI Coordinator, "but he still took time out to help our client. Thank you, Mr. Coats!"
Jeannette Reeves received the prestigious 2006 Cleveland County Volunteer Lawyers Program Service (VLP) Award during the Cleveland County Bar's regular meeting on Tuesday, March 27, 2007. Reeves, an attorney with the law firm Teddy and Meekins in Shelby, NC, provided individual client pro bono services, co-counseled strenuously with a Legal Aid attorney in a family law case, and served on the Local Advisory Council of Legal Aid of NC-Gastonia Office for the three county area (Cleveland, Gaston, and Lincoln counties). "Jeannette sets the best example of attorneys who strive to provide access to the legal system for those who otherwise could not afford a lawyer", said Becki Lowder, coordinator for the Cleveland County VLP. "Not only is she a good lawyer, Jeannette is kind, a good listener, and patient. These personal characteristics show in every area of her life; all of us are fortunate to know Jeannette." Reeves is a graduate of the West Virginia School of Law and has worked with Teddy & Meekins since 2004. Reeves specializes in the areas of social security law, family law, and personal injury law.
Kimberly Parker, Esq.
Corporate Intellectual Property Department
Glaxo Smith Kline
Seven years ago, a recently divorced young mother of two suffering with lupus made a difficult decision to move back to her mother's home.Though the father of the children lived in the area and visited the children on occasion, it was the maternal grandmother who cared for the children as the young mother's health continued to decline. Within weeks of the mother's death in May 2006, the maternal grandmother was served with a temporary restraining order filed by the father of the children and they were removed from her home and placed with their father. The grandmother came to Legal Aid of NC and volunteer attorney Kimberly Parker,(Glaxo Smith Kline, RTP) who had never appeared in court in North Carolina, agreed to accept the case. Parker was immediately immersed in the case defending the protective order. She filed an answer and counterclaim in the custody action and continued to prepare for the next hearing. Parker represented the grandmother at a hard-fought hearing and ultimately the court granted temporary joint legal custody to the father and the grandmother. Both children now spend most of their time with their grandmother. Sharon Council, PAI Coordinator stated, "I was most impressed with the energy that Ms. Parker invested in this case. She rose to the challenge of a difficult, emotional case and helped her clients navigate the legal system to reach a successful result. This case was another example of the impact that volunteer attorneys can make in the lives of our clients."
Raleigh volunteer attorney Louis B. Meyer III (Poyner & Spruill LLP) recently closed an estate case involving a will caveat that had gone on for close to four years. Mr. Meyer represented two of the decedent's five siblings as caveators. The caveators claimed that the decedent's sister-in-law forged the decedent's signature on his supposed will before his death, naming herself and her husband primary beneficiaries of the decedent's rather sizeable estate. The caveators secured the entry of an order to "freeze" the decedent's estate and accounts before the sister-in-law, who was executor of the decedent's estate, could distribute the estate assets to herself and her husband under the challenged will. The will caveat was recently resolved pursuant to a family settlement agreement, and the sister-in-law, in her capacity as executor, had to write checks to the caveators and other surviving siblings. She also had to write a check for the expense incurred for the services of a forensic handwriting expert, whose opinion supported the caveators' claim that the decedent's signature on the challenged will was forged.
A single mother attempting to support herself and her 12-year-old son on her income of $210 a week (that's $10,920 a year) needed a car to get to work. She was sold a "clunker" for several thousand dollars by a used car company, who then sold her account to a finance company. The dealership claimed the client didn't turn in a promised car for a trade-in and sued her in Small Claims Court. Volunteer attorney Jerry Hartzell (Hartzell & Whiteman, LLP) counter-sued and brought a third party claim against the finance company. During this process, the car the client bought was repossessed, leaving her with nothing but a new debt of several thousand dollars. The Small Claims Court decision went against the client; Jerry appealed. On appeal the entire deal was rescinded, and the client no longer owes anything to anyone. This client's circumstances present a picture all too common among poor people in North Carolina. People need transportation to get to minimum wage jobs. Minimum wage jobs don't pay for very good cars, so people end up getting "bamboozled" in situations like this. Then, if not for attorneys like Jerry (and you), they end up in worse shape than before they made their bid for financial independence.
After communicating with more than a dozen attorneys, the Ansleys contacted the local Volunteer Lawyers Program (VLP). Wake County attorney and volunteer lawyer Doug McClanahan (The McClanahan Law Firm agreed to represent Ansley and his wife in the matter....At the time he accepted the case, McClanahan had thought he might spend 50-100 hours on it. However, the case made the front page of the paper, and the State dismissed the case with prejudice in short order. The CEO of the UNC Health System was quoted in the local paper as saying that from now on, patients who qualify for financial aid or who make a good-faith effort to pay their bills will not be referred to the Attorney General's office for collection...."The VLP and Jerry have given me the opportunity that keeps me coming to work each day. For that, I am thankful."
[Click here to read full article.]
Brian Darer (ofParker Poe Adams & Bernstein, LLP-Raleigh Offfice) represented a 77-year-old, functionally illiterate widow who supplemented her $570 monthly government pension by cleaning houses and businesses. Some of her customers--who advertised themselves as professional psychics--used her name and other personal information to set up various accounts for themselves with phone and credit card companies, and then defaulted on payments to all. By the time the widow understood what had happened, several judgments were entered against her and parties were beginning to take action on them. In scarcely four months, Brian had all adverse credit notations removed from her credit report, judgments against her set aside and cases pending against her dismissed. Brian then proceeded to file a civil complaint against "the psychics," who opted to settle the matter by paying approximately $10,000 over a period of 18 months.
Wake County volunteer attorneys Addie K.S. Ries and MatthewD.Rhoad (Smith, Anderson, Blount, Dorsett, Mitchell & Jernigan) have brought another pro bono case to a successful conclusion. (They do that a lot.) This time they represented the mother of two young children, whose landlord had unlawfully disposed of the client's belongings after an eviction proceeding. The case was settled for $40K, secured by a confession of judgment from the landlord. The client received the first $10K in October and reported that she has begun buying back the essentials for her family--including beds for her children, who have been sleeping on inflatable mattresses since the summer.
"Rookie Attorney Wins!"
Erin Maxon (of Moore & Van Allen PLLC) joined the Mecklenburg County Bar in April 2005 and took on her first pro bono case for Legal Aid of North Carolina (LANC) in September 2005. She won a substantial ($55,125) judgment against a landlord for a tenant who has severe health problems and who is unemployed. "Not bad for her first court appearance," joked Tony Lathrop, Maxon's mentor from Moore and Van Allen PLLC. [Click here to read article, "Rookie Attorney Wins!",from The Mecklenburg Bar News, March 2006.]
Pro bono attorney Sylvia King Kochler of the law firm of Hunton & Williams has recently achieved a victory for our wheelchair bound client in negotiating with Allstate Insurance Company to have them pay for a new 2006 Dodge Grand Caravan handicap modified van valued at $42,410. After being denied relief since his 1980 motor vehicle accident, Kochler was successful in arguing that the new handicap modified van was a "medical necessity".The client is understandably thrilled and thankful to Sylvia King Kochler. Congratulations and THANKS to Sylvia King Kochler for her hard work and tenaciousness!!!