Articles were written by attorneys for attorneys and published in the “Pro Bono” issue of the printed publication, Communiqué (February 2017):
- “Interview with Supreme Court of Nevada Justice Douglas on Access to Justice” by Paul C. Ray, Esq.
- “Pro Bono Opportunities: Nevada Legal Services” by Krissta Kirschenheiter, Esq.
- “Pro Bono Opportunities: Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada” by Noah Malgeri, Esq.
- “Pro Bono Opportunities: Southern Nevada Senior Law Program” by Sugar Vogel, Esq. and Elana T. Graham, Esq.
© 2017 The following articles were originally published in COMMUNIQUÉ, the official publication of the Clark County Bar Association. (February 2017). All rights reserved. For permission to reprint this article, contact the publisher Clark County Bar Association, 717 S. 8th Street, Las Vegas, NV 89101. Phone: (702) 387-6011.
Interview with Supreme Court of Nevada Justice Douglas on Access to Justice
By Paul C. Ray, Esq.
Communiqué volunteer, Paul C. Ray, Esq.: What is the Access to Justice Commission’s purpose?
Supreme Court of Nevada Justice Michael L. Douglas, Co-Chair of the Access to Justice Commission: Our mission is to coordinate services of the legal services providers, assist in providing funds so they can do their work, and get members of the bar to voluntarily provide legal services work on a pro bono basis. The programs provide education and training so that attorneys can do legal services, so to speak, outside of their prime area of expertise. If you’re a transaction lawyer or an estate planner, you may get involved with Children’s Attorneys Project (CAP) for kids or domestic or landlord/ tenant, or bankruptcy, and things of that nature. But, we never want to put anybody at risk in a pro bono situation. We want them to get trained and we want them to have a mentor so that if they have questions, they can call somebody.
Paul: How did the Access to Justice Commission get started?
Justice Douglas: Access to Justice has been around in some form or fashion since probably about 1985 under the auspices of the State Bar of Nevada. The title changed a little bit off and on, but the general scenario was Access to Justice, and it was made up of judges, practicing attorneys, and some lay people. It usually met once or twice a year. They would have an event for attorneys who were doing volunteer legal services, as we now call it pro bono, and they looked at how they might assist civil legal needs in the legal services program in the state. Then, some time passed and formally in 2004, the Supreme Court of Nevada, in line with the American Bar Association and other supreme courts, by rule adopted Access to Justice, led by the justices.
Paul: How are we doing as attorneys in pro bono work in Nevada?
Justice Douglas: We in Nevada tend to be independent people and even after all the persuading, it is tough every year on your dues statement to get people to admit that they do pro bono service. A lot of people wind up doing things for their church or their school or their little league or non-profit that they’re affiliated with, and they do some legal work or even in their practice, yet they don’t tell us. But what we have gotten from the annual surveys is that we had 12,000 plus lawyers who provided over 100,000 hours of no fee direct legal service to low income folks.
Paul: Why do we need pro bono legal services here?
Justice Douglas: Our population in Nevada is 2.8 million, plus or minus a million people. The information that we have from the various public surveys and interviews is that we have over 400,000 poor people, people who are below the poverty guidelines in the state. So, the ratio of the total number of legal services attorneys we have in the state to our poor population is about one attorney to about 350 people in poverty.
Paul: What organizations work with the Access to Justice Commission?
Justice Douglas: So, we have in Clark County, Legal Aid of Southern Nevada–Barbara Buckley brought this program, the biggest in the state– and the Senior Law Project. We additionally have Nevada Legal Services, which is a statewide program where I started working in Nevada, and it’s the only federally funded legal services program in the state. We also have the Attorney General’s veterans program. Up north, again, Nevada Legal Services because they are statewide, so they are in Reno in the rural communities. We also have Washoe Legal Services, which is in Reno, and they are also doing some work in what we call the I-80 Corridor: Winnemucca, Fallon, Fernley, and Elko. And then we have VARN, Volunteer Attorneys for Rural Nevada, and they primarily do domestic type services in the counties. And so, we have been working for the last two years to coordinate the legal services providers so that we don’t have overlapping duplication of services in areas and we can get as much hands-on legal services as possible.
Paul: What are some of the self-help programs?
Justice Douglas: We now have Lawyer in the Library and Ask a Lawyer, with a self-help center here in the Clark county courthouse, which Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada runs. They also have a self-help center in the family law courts. Reno has a self-help center at their county law library. Most of our rural communities don’t have that kind of help. We are working on formalized self-help forms for our rural communities, which we hope to have next year.
Paul: What kind of change would that be in the rural communities?
Justice Douglas: Even though it’s the same Nevada law, their forms would be slightly different. And so, if you can create some unified forms and you can provide places they can call, or attorneys who will come out to do clinics on how to fill out the forms, you can get these people to come into court and semi-represent themselves to a degree.
Paul: What is the law school’s involvement?
Justice Douglas: When the law school came into town, Barbara Buckley helped them to get into pro bono for every law student, which is going out and doing seminars on landlord/tenant, bankruptcy, basic things that they can do not practicing law, but explaining to people how to do small claims filings. The whole plethora of lawyers who come out of Boyd think in terms of doing public service, and they understand that we’re not asking you to make a decision to go into public service for a career, but just showing how you can give back.
Paul: Yes, I do notice that. I guess that it’s part of their training.
Justice Douglas: It becomes part of their DNA.
Paul: What is the ONE Promise Campaign?
Justice Douglas: The ONE Promise Campaign was started in Florida, and basically is a way to go out and recruit lawyers to do pro bono. It was a simple ask: we want one lawyer to take one case and one client. That’s all, and then they could get back to their life. And, simply, we as attorneys are blessed– yes, we went to law school, and yes, it cost us money, and yes, it cost us time. But for those of us who graduated and passed the bar, we are now in a better situation than a lot of people to make a living. Pro bono helps make Nevada is a great place to live.
Paul: What are some of the new areas of development in pro bono work?
Justice Douglas: The big thing these days are guardianships, and finding out that more people need representation for guardianship to prevent abuse. We have an issue of our children, who are in the foster care system and need what we call Children’s Attorney Project (CAP) attorneys, people who will represent the child. And it’s a simple thing, sometimes explaining to the court the voice of the child‒what they need in their foster relationship or what they’re not getting or if they’re one of three children and they’d like to be placed with their siblings‒those are needs, those are real needs. It’s a daunting challenge, but we’re trying to meet it.
Paul: You literally started working on the ground level of Nevada Legal Services and now here we are on the 17th floor of Regional Justice Center at the Nevada Supreme Court.
Justice Douglas: I was a legal services attorney, and after that I went to work for Clark County as a civil district attorney. For the first couple of years, I asked that I not represent county social services department because that would put me on the other side of legal services.
Paul: Was Nevada Legal Services your first job out of law school?
Justice Douglas: No, I did some private practice back east. I did a little criminal, a little bankruptcy, a little civil, counseling and representing clients.
Paul: While you were working for Nevada Legal Services, did you also do additional pro bono work?
Justice Douglas: I was also on the board of what is now Safe Nest, but was then called Temporary Assistance for Domestic Crisis. They would get calls from women who were having custody disputes over their brand-new child. So, sometimes they’d call me and I’d do an emergency as to child custody, on top of what I was doing in the legal service.
Paul: What is success in dealing with pro bono?
Justice Douglas: Success is quite simple: can you help one person? As we have talked, success doesn’t only mean winning the case. It means you did your job to help them to the best of your ability, and at a minimum, that person thought and felt they were worth something because somebody took the time to try and help them. We get so caught up in the money and the property and everything else, but when things are going bad, sometimes just the fact somebody tried to help you makes you feel better at the end of the day.
Supreme Court of Nevada Justice Michael L. Douglas was appointed to the court in March 2004, and thereafter elected three times. Justice Douglas currently co-chairs the Nevada Supreme Court Bench-Bar Committee, the Nevada Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission, and the Nevada Supreme Court Specialty Court Funding Committee. Justice Douglas, the first African American justice in Nevada’s history, served as Chief Justice of the Nevada Supreme Court in 2011. His term ends in 2019.
Paul C. Ray practices civil litigation and appeals, primarily in business and real estate. A mentor for the Supreme Court of Nevada’s Transitioning Into Practice, Ray also serves as Co-Chair, Continuing Legal Education Committee, Appellate Section, Nevada State Bar. He can be reached at pcr@PaulCRay.com.
Pro Bono Opportunities: Nevada Legal Services
By Krissta Kirschenheiter, Esq.
Nevada Legal Services (NLS) is Nevada’s only statewide provider of free civil legal aid services, regularly assisting low-income clients in all 17 counties and all 23 tribal reservations. This July, with seven offices located throughout the state, we are opening our eighth office in Pahrump and hiring ten new attorneys, including two attorneys in Las Vegas, and two in Pahrump.
NLS is very excited about our expansion, as we hope to better reach more clients in need. The varied legal services covered by NLS include housing (tenant rights, eviction defense, home loan modification, foreclosure), public benefits (Social Security, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, welfare, Medicaid/Medicare, unemployment benefits, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), consumer (debt collection defense, small claims, bankruptcy), small estates (wills, advanced directives, probate), family law, elder law, veteran issues, tribal matters, tax, and criminal record sealing.
Last year, a very successful partnership with the Nevada Attorney General’s Office of Military Legal Assistance included hosting legal clinics throughout Nevada to assist active duty and Nevada’s veterans. We will be continuing these clinics into 2017, with events planned in various Clark County locations on January 27-28, February 24-25, and May 19. We are always looking for new attorney volunteers!
Please feel free to contact our Las Vegas Office Pro Bono Coordinator, Caroline Schwartz, by calling (702) 386-0404, Extension 170, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org to see how you can help!
Krissta Kirschenheiter is the Directing Attorney of Pro Bono for Nevada Legal Services, a non-profit organization. You can reach Krissta by calling (702) 386-0404, Extension 125, or by e-mail at email@example.com.
Pro Bono Opportunities: Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada
By Noah Malgeri, Esq.
Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada is a non-profit, public interest law firm dedicated to providing civil legal services to those who are unable to pay. In addition to our extensive network of pro bono counsel, we serve clients from three locations: our main office located at 725 E. Charleston Boulevard, the Civil Law Self Help Center at the Regional Justice Center, and the Family Law Self Help Center at the Family Court. Active since 1958, Legal Aid Center has grown to serve well over 100,000 Southern Nevadans annually pro bono representation plays an integral role in our successful community impact.
Legal Aid Center’s services address a variety of legal issues, including child advocacy, special education rights, consumer rights, foreclosures, social security and bankruptcy matters, as well as family law issues, such as guardianship, domestic violence, divorce, custody, and immigration matters. In direct representation through our staff of highly talented attorneys and pro bono counsel, we provide free legal education to both attorneys and members of the public. Community classes address common issues such as divorce, custody, guardianship, immigration, criminal record sealing, bankruptcies, and small claims court issues. In 2016, 494 classes were offered, serving over 4,400 individuals.
Our two self-help centers function as “legal emergency rooms,” assisting nearly 100,000 people each year. These facilities serve unrepresented customers needing help with general legal information, such as completing legal forms, pro se practice, or providing information about an imminent eviction. For general or limited legal advice, Legal Aid Center offers free “Ask-A-Lawyer” programs, where volunteer lawyers provide consultations in a range of areas, including family, landlord/tenant, small claims, veterans’ issues, homeless assistance, and small business law.
The Legal Aid Center Pro Bono Project supplements all of our other programs through recruiting, training, and deploying local attorneys who contribute through direct representation and the Ask-a-Lawyer Program. Lawyers wishing to volunteer may visit www.lacsnprobono.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For further information, visit www.lacsn.org or call (702) 386-1070.
Noah Malgeri, Esq. is the Pro Bono Project Director with Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada.
Pro Bono Opportunities: Southern Nevada Senior Law Program
By Sugar Vogel, Esq. and Elana T. Graham, Esq.
Ever feel like you are getting older? The Southern Nevada Senior Law Program (SNSLP) has been aging gracefully with our clients since its inception in 1978. Still dedicated to providing free legal services to persons 60 years and older, SNSLP, a non-profit organization, is the only legal service provider in Clark County that exclusively serves seniors.
Though seniors have a great number of legal needs, their time is short. Many of our clients face catastrophic illnesses and need end-of-life planning. Other clients may be victims of elder abuse, need legal assistance with a Social Security matter, consumer dispute, foreclosure, pension matter, or long-term placement in a nursing home. Our mission is to assist seniors in maintaining independence and dignity while helping resolve their legal issues.
SNSLP provides legal advocacy and representation in a variety of civil areas including:
- Prevention of elder abuse
- Simple wills, estate planning, and probate matters
- Advance directives (living wills and durable powers of attorneys for health care)
- Long-term health care planning, including improper discharge from facilities
- Consumer issues, including unfair debt collection, merchant disputes, and contract issues
- Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, and veterans’ benefits
- Real property, including beneficiary deeds, homesteads, and termination of joint tenancies
- Landlord-tenant disputes, homeowners associations issues, and foreclosure assistance
We also maintain a robust outreach program throughout rural and urban Clark County and make visits to homebound seniors, as well as those living in group care assisted living and adult day care centers.
We deeply appreciate the efforts of volunteer attorneys, Boyd School of Law externs, donors and our community partners in our quest to deliver access to justice for all seniors in need.
If you would like to take a case, teach a seminar, make a donation, or assist us in our efforts, please contact Sugar Vogel or Elana T. Graham at (702) 229-6655 or visit us as www.snslp.org.
Sugar Vogel, Esq. has been the Executive Director of SNSLP since 1986.
Deputy Director Elana T. Graham, former President of the State Bar of Nevada, has been with SNSLP since retiring from the Clark County District Attorney’s office in 2008.
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