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2010 July - August

Poverty's Place Revisited

Mapping for Justice and Democratizing Data to Combat Poverty

By Maya Roy & Jason Reece

Mapping and GIS (geographic information systems) have proven to be important analytical and communications tools to understand how poverty and geography intersect and to identify barriers impeding community health and stability. This can only lead to better-informed advocacy for solutions to problems of poverty and location. Case studies show mapping technology's application in fighting poverty. The latest movement in the field is to bring mapping to the masses by closing the cost and technology gap, thereby empowering community advocates.

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A Call to Public Service

By John M. Rosenberg

Nothing can be more satisfying and rewarding than to spend one's life in public service to others who need it. The Holocaust and life in the segregated United States remain bitter reminders of evils that were once tolerated but that should never be repeated; they inspire the call to public service. Being a trial lawyer for the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice from 1962 to 1970 when courts were abolishing state-imposed segregation in society was excellent preparation for work as a legal services lawyer at the Appalachian Research and Defense Fund in Kentucky.

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The Dearth of Charity Care

Do Nonprofit Hospitals Deserve Their Tax Exemptions?

By Valerie McWilliams & Alan A. Alop

Low-income patients' medical debt has devastating consequences, yet the amount of charity care that hospitals offer is minimal. The Illinois Supreme Court, in Provena Covenant Medical Center v. Department of Revenue, upheld the denial of a tax exemption to a nonprofit hospital because of the minimal charity care that the hospital offered; rather than categorizing unpaid bills as charity care, the hospital engaged in aggressive collection practices. Challenges to nonprofit hospitals' tax exemptions may offer promising advocacy opportunities.

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Help for Undocumented Victims of Crime

By Susana Martinez & Sheila Neville

A client who walks through your door may be the victim of domestic violence and in the United States without documentation. She may be wary of following through in reporting and prosecuting the crime because of her status. You may be able to help her get justice and obtain lawful status in the United States. Victims of certain crimes who cooperate with law enforcement are eligible for "U" nonimmigrant status and after three years may apply for permanent residence in the United States. This is an extraordinary remedy and one which Legal Services Corporation grantees may pursue.

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Administrative Hearing Procedures and Practice

By Zenobia T. Lai

At some point in their careers most legal advocates working in poverty law will be involved in an administrative proceeding on behalf of a client. Administrative hearing procedures differ in many ways from other types of trial practice, and successful advocacy in these forums depends upon thorough preparation. Both newer and experienced advocates can benefit from understanding an administrative hearing through all its phases.

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Making the Fair Hearing More Fair

By Robert P. Capistrano

Critical to an effective poverty law practice is a thorough understanding of procedural due process rights to which clients involved in public benefits proceedings are entitled. These rights are rooted in the Goldberg v. Kelly decision and have evolved through numerous, subsequent court decisions. Both newer and more experienced advocates can benefit from understanding all of the due process rights afforded public benefits litigants throughout the fair hearing stages.

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Social Security Rulings--Guiding Hand in SSI Childhood Disability Evaluations

By Catherine M. Callery, Linda Landry, Louise M. Tarantino & Thomas Yates

Through Social Security Rulings in 2009 the Social Security Administration brought greater order to scattered and piecemeal policies for determining childhood disability in the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. The rulings focus on the functional equivalence analysis, which is the final step in childhood disability determination and the point at which the evaluation differs from that for adults. Advocates are finding the rulings helpful at the hearing stage, as administrative law judges and federal district courts are relying on the rulings in finding that children meet the criteria for SSI.

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"Public Notice Forums"

Choosing Among Alternatives to Confront the Intent Requirement

By Edgar S. Cahn, Cynthia Robbins & Keri A. Nash

The requirement to prove that discrimination was intentional has long been a difficult barrier to overcome by plaintiffs challenging government policies that have disparate racial impact. A new legal strategy seeks to surmount that barrier by relying on the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in City of Canton v. Harris that intent can be inferred when government officials choose a harmful course of action from among alternatives. Advocates are relying on "public notice forums" to put officials on notice of the impact of existing policies and of proven alternatives that would reduce racial disparities.

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Legal Services Attorney Fees Are Obtainable in Pending Cases

By Rochelle Bobroff

Programs receiving federal funding should take immediate advantage of the December 2009 law lifting the restriction on the claiming and collection of attorney fees. The Legal Services Corporation's February 2010 interim final rule states that the revocation applies to pending cases and work performed prior to the effective date of the law. Carefully crafted arguments can support a motion to amend complaints to seek attorney fees for work performed before December 2009.

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