Kirby Mitchell, Pro Bono volunteer and SC Legal Services Senior Litigation Attorney, has been appointed to serve on the board for the National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA). NLADA is America’s oldest and largest nonprofit association devoted to excellence in the delivery of legal services to those who cannot afford counsel.
News from the Bankruptcy Court
In recognition of Pro Bono Week October 23-27, the judges of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court highlighted the bankruptcy-related public service programs sponsored by the court and thanked the many members of the South Carolina Bar who selflessly volunteer to help the public in matters related to the work of the court. Find details about these programs below.
The court also thanked SC Legal Services and the SC Bar, whose partnership with the court makes many of these programs possible, and recognized SC Bar programs such as the Pro Bono Program, free legal clinics, Ask-A-Lawyer and SC Law Answers. Learn more about these programs and get involved.
Bankruptcy Court Ask-A-Lawyer
The court, in partnership with the SC Bar, sponsors a bankruptcy-related Ask-A-Lawyer program, which consists of two monthly opportunities for the public to call and speak with a volunteer attorney on bankruptcy and other debt collection issues. The calls are transferred to the voluntary attorney’s office directly from the bankruptcy court during a designated two-hour period. The attorney may remain anonymous in the discussions with the caller. Malpractice insurance is provided at no cost to the volunteer attorney by the South Carolina Bar for the legal guidance provided during the call.
In the past year, the court has held 25 Ask-A-Lawyer sessions with 19 volunteer attorneys assisting to answer the questions of over 40 individuals.
C.A.R.E. Program of South Carolina
The C.A.R.E. Program is a financial literacy education program for students and young adults taught by volunteer attorneys at schools, conferences, churches and other community centers. Volunteer attorneys conduct a one-hour presentation on the use of credit and its related consequences as well as the advantages of budgeting and creating savings. Prior to giving a presentation, volunteer attorneys are provided interactive presentation materials and training.
In the past year, the C.A.R.E. Program has provided 15 presentations at several locations, including the University of South Carolina-Columbia, University of South Carolina-Sumter, A.C. Moore Elementary School, Lexington County Public Library, Converse College, Blythewood High School, Cooperation Ministries, Cedar Grove Baptist Church, Clover High School, Liberty High School, Dreher High School and Southeast Church of Christ. Like last year, a C.A.R.E. team presented at the South Carolina Financial Forum to over 100 educators from across the state.
Bankruptcy Court Bar Clinics (Charleston & Columbia)
The court sponsors monthly free legal clinics where an individual may discuss bankruptcy or debt related issues with a volunteer attorney for up to one hour. The clinics are conducted at a time and date agreed upon by the volunteer attorney and the individual, and are now held by telephone or, if preferred by the volunteer attorney, at the attorney’s office or the court. Many of the attendees of the legal clinics are individuals who are considering filing a bankruptcy case, who are creditors, or who seek other general bankruptcy information. Consultations from the legal clinics have led to representation agreements between the volunteer attorney and the individual.
Judge Waites' Debtor Assistance Program
The Debtor’s Assistance Program applies only in Judge Waites’ cases and seeks to encourage representation by referring and matching pro se filers in the early stages of their case with consumer debtor's attorneys who have experience in chapter 13 cases. The referral process considers the attorney's geographic proximity to the debtor and the debtor's income level, but representation and its terms are subject to agreement between the debtor and attorney. A separate referral program with SC Legal Services is used for debtors with the lowest of means.
In the past year, 72 of the pro se chapter 13 cases assigned to Judge Waites were filed in the Charleston division, while 19 cases were filed in the Columbia division. Of the cases referred to a private attorney, 62% of the debtors retained an attorney. Once placed with an attorney, 41% of the debtors confirmed a plan. If you include other actions taken with the advice of counsel, like voluntary dismissals or voluntary conversions, over 77% of the cases achieved positive results.