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2012 November - December

A New Generation in Legal Literacy

By Jo Watson Hackl

A Breath of Hope, by Jo S. Kittinger, is a children’s book that enhances legal literacy by introducing the notion that the legal system can help improve a child’s health by convincing a landlord to remediate mold in a family’s apartment. Published by the American Bar Association and available in Spanish, the book tells of a young girl who, while in the care of her brother, suffers an asthma attack. The brother gets the girl to a hospital emergency room, where he serves as translator for his parents the the family is introduced to an attorney from an medical-legal partnership.

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This Is the Handbook on Fighting Poverty

By John Bouman

So Rich, So Poor: Why It’s So Hard to End Poverty in America, by Peter Edelman, digs deeply into the question of why wealth and resources are distributed so unevenly in the United States, the impact of the phenomenon, and how we can reverse it. Edelman uniquely grasps both the academic and real-world aspects of his subject and the barriers that U.S. attitudes toward poverty construct. He elucidates the many government antipoverty policies that have proven highly effective while casting a realistic look at the reasons that poverty remains high. Ever the optimist, he contends that if we act simultaneously on multiple fronts we can achieve poverty reduction goals.

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Federal-Benefits Paper Checks--Soon to Be a Relic

By Amanda Wyzykowski & Julie Nepveu

Beginning on March 1, 2013, federal-benefit recipients must receive their benefits electronically rather than by a paper check. The default payment form is a Direct Express debit card, but recipients may instead designate a traditional bank account, an electronic transfer account, or another general-purpose reloadable prepaid card to receive the funds. the exceptions to the required shift to electronic benefits are very limited. [Editor's Note: For more on electronic benefits, see resources available from our Assets Opportunity Unit.]


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Strategic Communications and Relationships with Your Congressional Delegation

By Melanie A. Shakarian

Legal services organizations should communicate strategically to build relationships with their congressional delegation, both locally and in Washington, D.C. They should reach out to the Congress members’ local district offices, educate the staff about legal services, and visit with their Congress members’ D.C. offices. In this manner legal services organizations will be recognized and understood as a resource for the Congress members’ districts.

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Seen But Often Unheard

Limited-English-Proficiency Advocacy in Georgia

By Jana J. Edmondson & Lisa J. Krisher

Georgia Legal Services Program’s efforts to obtain, for the state’s large limited-English-proficient population, access to justice through direct and educational advocacy have been difficult because of Georgia’s antiimmigrant legislation, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Alexander v. Sandoval, and local aversion to following federal law. However, Georgia has two statutes creating rights to free interpreters, and the limited-English-proficient population has found allies at the Georgia Supreme Court and the U.S. Department of Justice. The program’s efforts are instructive for advocates grappling with Title VI enforcement in other states.

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Improvements in Language Access in the Courts, 2009 to 2012

By Matthew Longobardi & Laura K. Abel

The federal government and many states have improved courtroom access for limited-English-proficient litigants over the last few years. The U.S. Department of Justice has been very helpful in prompting the states to improve their programs. Advocates have also been instrumental in improving access; public interest lawyers, pursuant to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, have filed complaints that have given states extra motivation to fix problems quickly. Most state regimes still need improvement, but many are coming closer to the goal: a competent, free interpreter for every litigant who needs one in a civil or criminal case.

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Beyond the Affordable Care Act Decision

Federal Access Issues in the Supreme Court’s 2011 Term

By Mona Tawatao, Jane Perkins, Gill Deford & Gary F. Smith

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2011 Term was lively, even apart from the landmark health care act decision. In two other high-profile cases, the Court found that federal law preempted most of Arizona’s newly enacted immigration law and rejected a mootness claim in a challenge to the use of union dues. The Court analyzed statutory construction and maintained its allegiance to arbitration agreements; the Court found federal courts retained jurisdiction under a consumer law statute. The Court favored private property owners in two cases under the Administrative Procedure Act and turned a challenge to state Medicaid amendments into an Administrative Procedure Act case. The Court rejected the attempt to create a Bivens claim but allowed postconviction habeas corpus petitions to move forward in the face of potential case-killing procedural issues. [Editor's Note: See complete collection of articles in the federal court access series.]

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Helping Hope and History Rhyme

Why and How Every Advocate Can Help Realize Health Care Reform

By Gordon Bonnyman

Legal services programs should focus their resources on implementing health care reform. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act created a new category of Medicaid eligiblity for people with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. The U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision on the Act allows states to decide whether to extend their Medicaid programs to this new group. Legal services advocates--even those who do not focus on health care--must act now to ensure that health care reform is implemented to maximize the benefit to their client populations. [Editor's Note: See the related webinar on this topic.]

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