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2010 March - April

Defense of Assigned Consumer Debts

By Clinton Rooney

Debt collection occupies an increasing portion of civil trial calendars, and “debt buyers” who claim to be assignees of the original creditors file many of these cases. These plaintiffs commonly lack standing, and consumers frequently have meritorious defenses to the claims, but the consumer defense bar is small. Clients will benefit greatly from vigorous representation against debt buyers.

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Pleading Standards After Iqbal and Twombly

By Jane Perkins

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions in Bell Atlantic Corporation v. Twombly and Ashcroft v. Iqbal nearly eviscerate the notice pleading standards that had long been assumed to govern complaints filed in federal court. To survive defendants’ motions to dismiss, complaints must now be much more specific, requiring the pleading of facts that many plaintiffs will find difficult to uncover in advance of discovery. Advocates should familiarize themselves with these decisions and certain practice tips.

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Representing Claimants in Unemployment Compensation Proceedings

Lessons Learned from Hearing and Deciding These Cases

By Susan Nofi-Bendici

For those who lose their jobs, securing unemployment insurance benefits is critical. Studies show that for those who must appeal a denial of these benefits, representation by a legal advocate greatly increases the chances of a successful appeal. To encourage this type of much-needed advocacy on behalf of those whose unemployment benefits may be in jeopardy, here are certain basics of unemployment compensation appeals and practice tips.Copies of this article are

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Making Real the Desegregating Promise of the Fair Housing Act

"Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing" Comes of Age

By Craig Gurian & Michael Allen

Westchester County, New York, has remained segregated even while receiving millions of dollars from federal housing and community development programs. How to change the status quo? The Anti-Discrimination Center knew that, as a Community Development Block grantee, the county was required to certify that it would work to “affirmatively further fair housing”—an obligation ignored by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and grantees alike. In United States ex rel. Anti-Discrimination Center of Metro New York Incorporated v. Westchester County the center alleged that the county’s certifications violated the False Claims Act. The judge agreed that a grantee’s certification was a substantive requirement and enforceable.

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Recognizing and Responding to the Needs of Low-Income Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Clients

By Lisa J. Cisneros & Catherine Sakimura

The lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, contrary to popular belief, has poverty rates comparable to and in some subgroups higher than those of the non-LGBT community. LGBT people have legal challenges and need legal aid attorneys to meet those challenges. Information, skills, and strategies enable attorneys to expand and improve their advocacy for LGBT clients.Copies of this article are

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Asserting Choice

By Natalie Chin, Alfred J. Chiplin Jr., Kimberley Dayton & Melanie Rowen

Health care, housing, retirement and estate planning are all areas in which low-income lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) older adults may need advocates to help them tailor the law to their particular needs: Medicare-participating long-term nursing facilities must comply with “quality-of-life” requirements, and Section 8 housing regulations can be used to secure long-term housing for LGBT partners. Advocates can help LGBT older adults arrange their affairs and name beneficiaries to reflect these older adults’ wishes and protect their partners.

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"Expanding Horizons"

Thoughts on Agenda Setting and a Full Advocacy Toolbox for Legal Services

By John Bouman

Lawyers at effective legal services programs seek to understand their clients’ problems and represent them to the best of their abilities. They examine the facts of their daily caseloads for systemic and policy problems and use an array of tools to solve clients’ problems. A legal services practice focused on problem solving sets its agenda based on clients’ facts. It should expand its strategies and tactics beyond litigation and cultivate relationships with people who can help its clients when the program is not able to do so. Illinois advocates who applied the problem-solving practice model to secure tenants’ rights, social security disability benefits for widows, and the end of illegal delays in Medicaid succeeded without necessarily engaging in activities restricted by the Legal Services Corporation. Programs should ensure that their advocacy toolboxes are up-to-date and complete. 

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Stepping Across the Threshold

Assembly Bill 590 Boosts Legislative Strategies for Expanding Access to Civil Counsel

By Kevin G. Baker & Julia R. Wilson

A right to counsel for low-income people in civil cases is the focus of increased attention. Most advocacy for such a right has been in the arena of litigation, but California advocates, with the support of judicial leaders including the state’s chief justice, successfully pursued a legislative strategy. Funded by certain court fees, a pilot project will provide counsel to low-income people in certain kinds of cases in limited areas of the state.Copies of this article are

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