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2013 January - February

Let’s Get Real

An Addendum

By Edgar S. Cahn & Sharon Lee Schwartz

Participation by the client community is essential to achieving the true mission of legal services. Only when lawyers and clients together undertake coproduction of justice, through strategies such as time banks will we make progress in accomplishing the original goals of the legal services program. The concerns that some raise about partnering with clients are outweighed by what we all stand to gain.

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Partnering with Clients to Achieve Economic Justice and Full Enfranchisement

By Sharon Lee Schwartz

Partnerships between legal aid lawyers and their clients—whereby clients are offered the opportunity to “pay” for the services they receive by contributing their time to someone else in their community—exemplify the original mission of the legal services program to promote justice. One strategy for implementing such partnerships is through time banking, through which people spend “time dollars” to exchange skills they have for services they need. “Pay-it-Forward,” a pilot project in the Roseburg office of Legal Aid Services of Oregon, invites clients to participate in a time bank, giving them access to an alternative economy that values all participants’ skills equally.

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People with Criminal Records

Resisting Practices that Undermine Self-Sufficiency, Public Safety, and Balanced Budgets

By Todd Belcore

People with criminal records face lifelong exclusion from many employment opportunities, and this increases recidivism rates. Employment barriers harm not just men and women with criminal records but their families, communities, and even their states, where skyrocketing rates of incarceration, disproportionately of people of color, contribute to budget deficits. Recent Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidance explains how the disparate impact of denying employment to people with criminal records may violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The Fair Credit Reporting Act offers additional protections; state and local policies can also help expand access to employment for people with criminal records.

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The Supreme Court’s Affordable Care Act Decision on Medicaid Eligibility and the Aftermath

By Jane Perkins

The U.S. Supreme Court in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius struck down as unconstitutional the amendment to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act extending Medicaid eligibility to certain low-income adults. But the Court also held that the amendment was severable, upholding the Affordable Care Act as constitutional. While the Court’s decision regarding the amendment to Medicaid is a blow, the decision’s effect on the Medicaid program should be limited.

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NYLAG Mobile Legal Help Center’s Challenges and Successes

By Merritt C. Birnbaum & Randal S. Jeffrey

How can organizations provide free legal services to more low-income people in view of budgeting, staffing, and space concerns? The New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG) found an answer on wheels. Partnering with New York State courts and varied funders, NYLAG developed the Mobile Legal Help Center, a truck retrofitted as a fully functioning office. Delivering legal services on wheels is not without its challenges, but the mobile center raises awareness about available and free civil legal services and serves untapped clients.

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Medicating Trauma

Improving Prescription Oversight of Children in Foster Care

By Melissa D. Carter

Children in foster care are prescribed psychotropic medications at rates higher than those for children not in foster care. Such medications do not necessarily help the children; nor is there guidance about their safe use. The children do not even understand why they are receiving such medications. Increasingly needed is oversight of the use of psychotropic medication on foster children, as well as a systemic approach to medication management that encompasses the courts, child welfare agencies, medical professionals, and children’s advocates.

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Using Pregnancy Discrimination Claims to Fight Poverty

By Elizabeth M. Gedmark

Pregnancy discrimination at work can endanger a family's financial stability. Legal services attorneys can use local, state, and federal laws—such as the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act, Title VII, and the Family and Medical Leave Act—to keep working families out of poverty. Other federal and state initiatives are under way to protect pregnant and parenting workers better.

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