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2009 May - June

A Road Map for Challenging Voter Restriction Laws After Crawford

By Steven D. Schwinn

In Crawford v. Marion County Election Board a highly fractured U.S. Supreme Court last Term ruled that Indiana’s voter-identification law, commonly known as the “Voter ID Law,” did not violate the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. While this decision disappointed many, particularly with its use of the less stringent “flexible” balancing test, the silver lining is in so framing a voting rights case as to challenge successfully a law that impinges on the right to vote.

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Driving Out of Poverty

A Lawyer's Role in Driver-License Restoration

By David Pifer & James A. Gramling

Driver-license suspensions can have a huge impact on low-income clients. Licensing laws affect the poor in a much more significant and often negative way than other people. Advocates in Wisconsin have made great strides in improving state-licensing laws as they relate to the poor, in part by striving to make suspensions more about safety than poverty. By studying the action in Wisconsin, advocates can gain a better understanding of licensing problems and aim to replicate the solutions in their own states.

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Foreclosure Defense

Understanding TILA Basics Is Essential

By Mark Ireland

The Truth in Lending Act, or TILA, is a powerful  tool every attorney can use to help clients facing foreclosure. TILA favors consumers and, with its remedy of rescission, it can put borrowers back into the position they were in when the loan was originated. Rescission can be claimed against any assignee of the loan. All attorneys working with clients facing foreclosure need to understand TILA, how it can be used, and its terms.

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Strength in Numbers

Legal Advocates and Community Organizers Partner to Fight Foreclosures

By Antonio Hicks

Through an innovative collaboration between Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County and a community organization, One LA-IAF (a member of the Industrial Areas Foundation), low-income homeowners who face foreclosure and who have a loan servicer in common were organized into groups, each group negotiating collectively with the servicer to modify the homeowners’ loans. Taking notice and informed by data gathered through the negotiations, policymakers and the Los Angeles City Council voted to fund a foreclosure prevention pilot project that grants “silent second” mortgages to some homeowners.

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Youth Entrepreneurship Legal Services

A Model for Helping Youths Create Their Own Jobs

By Dorcas R. Gilmore

The employment rate among American youths in the summer of 2008 was about 32 percent, a sixty-year low. The employment prospects for youths in 2009 look even worse. One way for young people to find jobs is to create them through entrepreneurship. However, creating a successful business can be daunting, especially for a low-income youth without access to helpful resources. Community economic development lawyers can make a youth’s business idea a reality. Youth entrepreneurship legal services not only can put low-income youths to work but also can increase the economic health of the communities where the young people life.

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Fresno's Juvenile Behavioral Health Court

A Better Way to Serve Youth

By Jack Daniel, Amy Tillery & Denise Whitehead

Fresno County’s Juvenile Behavioral Health Court is devising a new way to serve youths whose delinquent behavior can be traced to a mental health condition. A group of attorneys and service providers from various segments of the juvenile justice system, united only by their belief that the system had to be improved, developed the specialized court to decrease out-of-home placements and improve outcomes for youths. Preliminary evaluation suggests that the court is having a positive impact.

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Vigorous Representation of Undocumented Victims of Domestic Violence in State Family Court

By Adela Carlin & Nora Phillips

When undocumented immigrant victims of domestic violence appear in family court, abusers sometimes seek to use the victims’ undocumented status against them; the abusers argue, for example, that the court should consider lack of legal status in awarding child custody. Advocates must be prepared to respond to such strategies and be familiar with the primary immigration remedies available to victims of domestic violence: Violence Against Women self-petitions, the U visa, and conditional resident waivers.

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Older Women of Color and the Challenge of Regulating Cultural Competence

By Georgia Burke & Katharine Hsiao

In communities of color, older women are a particularly precious resource, relied upon to transmit cultural values to the younger generation and, in many cases, to contribute to the rearing of their grandchildren and great grandchildren. Access to benefit programs that serve the needs of older women of color in appropriate languages and in a culturally competent manner is a key need for this population. Released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in October 2008, regulations concerning the self-directed option for delivery of Medicaid personal care services have provisions that, if fully implemented, would resolve issues of language, cultural competence, and community-based services and allow use of family members as paid caregivers.

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The Legal Barriers to Employment Project--A New Model

By Stephen Bingham & Luna Yasui

When low-income clients seek employment, they often face myriad barriers, many of which are legal in nature—suspended driver’s licenses, bench warrants, or child-support arrears, for example. Ten years ago Bay Area Legal Aid’s public benefits unit turned its attention to the removal of these barriers through its Legal Barriers to Employment Project, leveraging its strengths to channel federal funding streams to assist clients in achieving stability and leaving welfare. Advocates elsewhere may be able to tap new resources, through the recently passed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, to support similar work.

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