2015 was a banner year for the Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation as it worked to advance its mission of ensuring equal access to justice and the availability of civil legal help statewide for low-income and vulnerable Ohioans. Here are some highlights:
1) The Ohio Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Task Force issues its report and recommendations:
Foundation Executive Director Angela Lloyd was a member of the task force, which recommended, among other suggestions, that funding for civil legal aid be increased through an increase in the fee out-of-state lawyers must pay to appear in Ohio courts, and that the Court’s attorney registration form include a line allowing a voluntary contribution to support legal aid.
2) Corporate practice attorneys may now represent low-income pro bono clients:
On April 1, the Ohio Supreme Court enacted a rule change which for the first time allowed corporate practice attorneys to represent low-income pro bono clients. Corporate practice attorneys are those who are admitted to practice in another state but may only represent their employer in Ohio. The Foundation worked with the Ohio State Bar Association, the Cincinnati Pro Bono Partnership, and others to advocate for adoption of the rule.
3) The Ohio State Bar Association convenes its first-ever Access to Justice Summit:
The Summit was the featured event at the OSBA’s annual convention, held in May at the Kalahari Resort in Sandusky. More than 150 attendees discussed and developed recommendations on access to justice with or without a lawyer; innovations in pro bono legal services; the crisis in legal aid funding; and effective tools for assisting unrepresented litigants. Foundation board member Dick Pogue was also honored during the convention.
4) The Ohio General Assembly votes to direct general revenue funds to Ohio Legal Aid for help to low-income veterans:
Representative Kirk Schuring (R-Canton) led the effort to, for the first time, appropriate general revenue funds to the Foundation for the purpose of providing civil legal aid to low-income veterans. The state of Ohio has the 6th largest population of veterans.
5) The Federal Reserve Bank raises interest rates:
The quarter-point increase in the Federal Reserve Bank’s benchmark lending rate was good news for Ohio Legal Aid. Legal Aid is funded in part by interest on lawyer trust accounts, and the rate of interest is closely tied to the Federal Reserve Bank rate.