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2009 July - August

Increasing Court Access Through Fee-Waiver Reform

California's Model

By Phong S. Wong & Richard Rothschild

The due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment grants indigent people the right to access the courts. However, the rising cost of court fees and constant fee-waiver denials make it impossible for them to assert this right. Because the courts handle fee waivers in wildly different ways, a uniform fee-waiver system may help clear up confusion and ensure that , no matter where indigent people live, they have access to fee waivers and thus access to the courts.

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Defending Mortgage Foreclosures

Seeking a Role for Equity

By David A. Super

The creative application of equitable principles in mortgage foreclosure actions will benefit homeowners, lenders, and the economy at large, mitigating the effects of the foreclosure crisis. Mortgage securitization has so fractured ownership that lenders often cannot agree among themselves, let alone agree to a workout with the homeowner, instead proceeding to foreclosure event when it is not in their best interests to do so. Equity allows courts to examine the actions of all parties to the foreclosure, consider public policy, and weigh the benefits and hardships that will flow from the courts’ decisions—allowing the courts to prevent foreclosure where statutes or common law would not.

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Fostering Connections to Success

Extending a Social Safety Net for Youths Facing Homelessness and Poverty

By Jennifer Pokempner, Jennifer Rodriguez & Alice Bussiere

Congress passed the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act last year to improve the lives and prospects of foster children. The Act extends to 21 the age at which youths may receive government benefits, requires that children leaving state care develop a transition plan, and provides more court oversight for this transition. Attorneys can help apply the Act’s provisions in such ways as enforcing a youth’s rights, monitoring transition efforts, and preparing the youth for court proceedings.

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Integrating Asset-Building Strategies into Domestic Violence Advocacy

By Andrea Kovach

Creating long-term asset-building policies that cognitively and financially empower survivors can be a powerful tool in domestic violence advocacy. Financial dependency and lack of financial knowledge are disincentives to leaving abusive relationships. Case studies here demonstrate that asset-building strategies can and should be integrated into advocacy on behalf of domestic violence survivors.

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Why Women Are Poor in Retirement

Sources of Support and Income in Retirement

By M. Cindy Hounsell

Despite the overall decline in poverty rates among older Americans during the past few decades, the likelihood of a woman being poor in retirement increases with age. Older single women and minority women are especially at risk. Retirement income used to depend on social security, pensions, and savings. However, many older women are finding that they need to add work or public benefits or both to move toward retirement security.

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The ADA Amendments Act of 2008 and Employment

Practical Strategies

By Claudia Center & Brian East

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Amendments Act of 2008’s positive changes in the ADA affect how advocates practicing employment law handle disability cases. The ADA now more broadly defines “disability” and changes the pleading rules for establishing disability, excludes the effects of mitigating measures and accounts for conditions that are episodic or in remission, changes the definition of “major life activity,” and modifies the “regarded as” and reasonable-accommodation analysis.

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Building Networks Online

By Matthew Burnett & Katherine Bladow

The emergence of social network websites as some of the most highly visited on the Worldwide Web presents an opportunity for poverty law advocates to leverage these networks to maximize the impact of advocacy work. To accomplish this, advocates must first understand what these networks are (including Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn), how they function, and what they offer to support communication and collaboration around advocacy. Guidance and concrete examples of how individuals and organizations can most productively engage with social networks assist advocates in making the most of these tools.

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Defending Postforeclosure Evictions

By Maeve Elise Brown & Lisa Sitkin

As foreclosures mount, more residents of foreclosed properties—both homeowners and tenants—are subjected to postforeclosure eviction proceedings. In response, advocates may raise both standard eviction defenses and defenses particular to foreclosed properties. Among the latter is the “produce the note” defense that challenges the standing of the party seeking eviction. Though not the panacea that some have dubbed it, this defense can be successful in some circumstances.

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Growing the Toolbox

Diverse Strategies for Public Interest Lawyers in Campaigns to Expand Access to Health Care for Low-Income People

By John Bouman

Successful advocacy campaigns for access to health care require lawyers to surpass traditional drafting, technical knowledge, and litigation tools. Influencing policymakers at the executive and legislative branches of government, not just the judiciary, calls for multiple and multiforum strategies as well as a variety of skills and capacities. The Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law demonstrated this multipronged approach by collaborating with community organizations during the FamilyCare campaign, with the media and key political figures during Memisovski v. Maram, and with national organizations in the Bell v. Leavitt case.

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