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LSC Board Meets in Oklahoma City

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

  • Legal Services Corportation

LSC News
LSC Board Meets in Oklahoma City
On April 25-26, LSC's Board of Directors convened in Oklahoma City, Okla., for its second of four meetings in 2008. The visit included presentations by the state's two LSC-funded programs, a reception hosted by the law firm of Hartzog Conger Cason & Neville, a pro bono awards ceremony, meetings of all five Board committees, and a meeting of the full Board.

Colline Meek, Executive Director of Oklahoma Indian Legal Services (OILS), discussed the unique challenges inherent in providing legal services to Native Americans in the state's 39 tribes, many of which speak their own language and operate under different systems of tribal law. OILS is one of only a few stand-alone organizations nationally that serve the civil legal needs of low-income Native Americans exclusively. Gary Taylor, Executive Director of Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma (LASO), gave an overview of his program's efforts to provide legal services in the high-poverty state, where only one legal aid lawyer is available for every 11,000 residents. LASO delivers services throughout the state from its headquarters in Oklahoma City, and its 18 field offices. He discussed the program's statewide HIV-AIDS, farmworker, and community education and pro se units, in addition to local projects focused on domestic violence and homelessness, and LASO's medical-legal partnership with the University of Oklahoma's College of Medicine.

At a luncheon during the meeting's first day, Oklahoma Bar Association President Bill Conger spoke about his commitment, and the commitment of the entire bar, to working with legal aid programs to ensure equal access to justice. He told those assembled that it is the responsibility of bar members to donate their time to clients of legal aid programs, and to help raise funds for the organizations.

At a reception later that night, LSC presented five pro bono awards to attorneys who have made extraordinary commitments to providing free legal representation to clients of LSC's grantees.

Charles E. Chapin began providing pro bono work to the clients of Oklahoma Indian Legal Services as an unpaid student intern while attending Oklahoma City University's School of Law. He has maintained his involvement with the program throughout his career, participating in several pro bono efforts, including the Care Advocacy Project, which represents Native American children in tribal court proceedings.

Drew and Linda Edmondson have provided leadership and a hands-on approach to fundraising for Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma. They have lent their considerable influence and professional and personal respect to the Campaign for Justice, the program's annual fundraising drive. Drew currently serves as Oklahoma's Attorney General. His wife Linda is a medical social worker.

Catheryn Koss volunteered in the Senior Division of Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma while in law school. She has continued to dedicate countless pro bono hours to providing assistance for senior citizens, even making home visits to execute end of life documents.

Craig Rainey, Assistant General Counsel of the Williams Companies, was instrumental in securing support from the law firm of Hall Estill to form the Williams Companies-Hall Estill Volunteer Project, a partnership that provides legal assistance to the clients of the Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma.

C. Michael Zacharias, former Tulsa County Judge, began serving as a part-time volunteer with Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma immediately after retiring from the bench last year. He has represented numerous clients and makes his considerable expertise available to other attorneys, who consult with him regularly on their cases.

Left to right: C. Michael Zacharias, LSC President Helaine M. Barnett, Charles E. Chapin, Craig Rainey (back row), Catheryn Koss, Drew Edmondson, LSC Board Member David Hall (back row), Linda Edmondson.

The Provision for the Delivery of Legal Services Committee heard presentations from LSC staff on implementing LSC's private attorney involvement action plan, Help Close the Justice Gap, Unleash the Power of Pro Bono, and the development of a set of technology criteria for LSC-funded programs. Representatives from Native American Indian Legal Services briefed the committee on issues relating to funding and service delivery for Native American programs.

The Operations and Regulations Committee continued its discussion on whether to initiate a rulemaking to give LSC additional tools for sanctioning non-compliant grantees. Following comments from LSC staff, LSC's Office of Inspector General, and members of the public, the Board decided to initiate a rulemaking that will include a regulatory workshop designed to solicit additional feedback.

The Finance Committee heard presentations from LSC staff on the Corporation's consolidated operating budget for FY 2008, its financial reports for the first six months of FY 2008, and the appropriations process for FY 2009.

The Performance Reviews Committee discussed procedures and protocols for conducting the annual performance review of LSC's Inspector General.

The newly-formed Audit Committee discussed the process used by LSC's Inspector General to select and retain the Corporation's external auditor, examined how the work of the Office of Inspector General will complement the work of the Audit Committee, and heard comments from LSC's Independent Public Accountant regarding its perspective on the Audit Committee's mission.


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