California Bar Journal
OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF THE STATE BAR OF CALIFORNIA - JULY 2001
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California Bar Journal

The State Bar of California


REGULARS

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Front Page - July 2001
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News / News Briefs
Two-year fee bill goes to governor
Janet Reno, low-cost MCLE highlight Annual Meeting
Stanley Mosk dies at 88
State Bar wins ABA's Harrison Tweed Award for pro bono, legal access, IOLTA efforts
Foundation will accept grant applications beginning July 16
Winnebago of justice serves those on the road less traveled
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Trials Digest
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Legal Tech - Matter management is not just for litigators
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Opinion
From the President - Public members bring fresh views
Holding judges accountable
Letters to the Editor
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MCLE Self-Study
Alcohol and the workplace
Self-Assessment Test
MCLE Calendar of Events
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Ethics update...
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You Need to Know
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Public Comment
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Discipline
Ethics Byte - Level field or a judicial practical joke?
Former DA disbarred for drunken-driving coverup
Attorney Discipline

State Bar wins ABA's Harrison Tweed Award for pro bono, legal access, IOLTA efforts

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By MARLON VILLA
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Nearly 2,000 Los Angeles children in foster care will be adopted this year through the efforts of a full-time attorney and hundreds of volunteers. Five hundred victims of domestic violence in San Bernardino County will get assistance from a legal advocacy project.

A Northern California project spanning 23 counties provides expertise on complicated legal transactions involving community initiatives for affordable housing, child care programs and living wage job placements. Victims of Alzheimer's disease and their families in Los Angeles are helped by a bilingual attorney who deals with their special legal problems.

These are just a few examples of Californians who would not otherwise get legal help without special programs supported by the State Bar.

In recognition of its efforts to increase access to legal services for the poor, the bar has been named a recipient of the American Bar Association's 2001 Harrison Tweed Award.

"The determined effort of the State Bar of California to increase access to justice for low-income people deserves to be applauded," said L. Jonathan Ross, chair of the ABA Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants.

The Harrison Tweed award is given annually by the committee and the National Legal Aid and Defender Association (NLADA). It will be presented during the ABA's annual meeting next month in Chicago.

The bar was honored for its commitment to increasing legal aid to the poor, particularly for the 1996 creation of the Access to Justice Com-mission, a significant part of a multifaceted bench-bar program. The 23-member commission includes representatives named by elected officials, and professional and civic organizations.

"The State Bar of California richly deserves this high honor," said commission chair Jack Londen. "Despite a number of obstacles, the State Bar has worked for more than two decades to create and support institutions in California to serve the needs of people who cannot afford to pay for help from lawyers."

In 1999, the State Bar, Judicial Council of California and the Access Commission worked to establish the equal access fund, California's first-ever state appropriation for legal services. The $10 million fund was approved by Gov. Gray Davis for both 1999-2000 and 2000-2001. Although a budget increase is not certain this year, the governor's original budget in January contained a $5 million increase.

The Tweed award also cited the bar's work to increase the yield from interest on lawyer trust accounts (IOLTA) and support for the establishment of a Judicial Council task force on unrepresented litigants. The goal of the task force is to develop and implement a statewide action plan for self-represented litigants, including increasing the number of self-help centers and finding additional resources for those without lawyers.

The ABA also praised the bar for reaffirming its commitment to pro bono legal services as soon as its funding was restored by the California legislature after the 1998 dues crisis.

"The award is a tribute to the fine efforts of the State Bar staff for finding creative ways to continue the bar's public service work and to the ongoing commitment of so many dedicated volunteers," said State Bar President Palmer Brown Madden.

Added Maria Villa, chair of the member relations and communications committee: "This very prestigious award recognizes the fact that the State Bar has made access to justice a very high priority."

Beneficiaries of the State Bar's work include clients served by more than 100 local services programs. Among those clients are victims of domestic violence, grandparents seeking to become guardians, homeless families, elderly victims of loan fraud and individuals trying to overcome barriers to work so they can achieve self-sufficiency.

Other recipients of this year's Harrison Tweed Award are the Oregon State Bar and the Brooklyn Bar Association.

The award was created in 1956 to recognize the extraordinary achievements of bar associations in increasing access to justice for the poor.