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Giving Back

Opportunity Grants

For the first time, in 2017, the ABE introduced Opportunity Grants. The purpose of these new grants is to support new, boots on the ground, innovative projects that address issues of critical importance to the public and the legal profession. The majority of funded programs focus on improving access to legal services among underserved populations. In addition to the brief project descriptions below, links to the websites of each of these projects or organizations is provided for those interested in finding out more or providing additional support for these groups.

This year, the ABE awarded 15 Opportunity Grants totaling $343,815. Of these, 12 are state or locally based in 10 states and three are national in scope.


Announcing the 2017 Opportunity Grants award winners

    Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services

    (TALS) (TN)
    Award: $20,000
    To develop a web-based Legal Wellness Checkup platform that empowers families and individuals to identify and manage their legal risks. The platform will replicate the current paper-based process and questionnaire that's administered by an attorney. Bringing TALS' Legal Wellness Checkup online using an interactive web-based and mobile friendly platform, will improve access for all users in Tennessee, especially low-income income families. It's intended to serve as a model for automated legal health checks that can be easily replicated in other states.

    Pace Women's Justice Center

    (PWJC) (NY)
    Award: $20,000
    To help fund first-year operations of "Gail's House," a walk-in legal clinic and resource center for victims of domestic violence and elder abuse, in White Plains, NY. PWJC's team of trained pro bono attorneys will run Gail's House. The grant will pay a portion of the salary of a bilingual paralegal to help facilitate intake, provide English/Spanish translation, and conduct outreach in the community. The only program of its kind in Westchester County, Gail's House will provide in-depth information, guidance, legal counsel from attorneys, and referrals for other services as necessary.

    Charleston Legal Access

    (SC)
    Award: $10,000
    To support a one-year program to address the immediate and critical need for appropriate interpreter and translator services in South Carolina courts. DOJ requires courts to provide "meaningful access" to language services in court, and requires states to pay for and provide effective interpreters for LEP parties at all stages of proceedings. However, the majority of interpreters working in South Carolina are not certified, and the courts often do not pay for or arrange interpreters. This program aims to rectify these issues using research, education and advocacy.

    ABA Commission on Hispanic Rights and Responsibilities

    (PWJC) (NY)
    Award: $20,000
    To create, disseminate and implement an accurate and accessible Spanish translation of the Miranda warning. After 50 years, there is no culturally and substantively accurate Spanish version of the Miranda warning, even though estimates show it's needed nearly 900,000 times a year. Inaccurate translations violate individual rights and undermine law enforcement efforts, as courts subsequently exclude the resulting statements. An accurate Miranda warning translation for use in local, state and federal law enforcement will be a daily reminder of the importance of access to justice.

    ABA Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Public Defendants

    (SCLAID)
    Award: $15,000
    To conduct a qualitative study of and report on three exemplary public defense programs, so other systems might replicate them. Despite the difficulties of providing public defense, several systems have developed exceptional and innovative programs, including rigorous defender training curricula, caseload management and time-tracking systems, caseload limitation strategies, and holistic defense. The study will have three phases: 1) selection of programs, 2) fieldwork and data gathering, and 3) recognition and publishing. The final report will provide a roadmap for replicating the highlighted programs.

    Legal Aid of the Bluegrass

    (LABG) (KY)
    Award: $50,000
    To set up a traveling "justice bus," staffed with lawyers, paralegals and outreach personnel, in order to provide legal services to residents of 10 underserved rural counties in Kentucky. LABG will recruit private attorneys to travel on the bus and offer their services pro bono. The grant will cover purchasing the vehicle and outfitting it with the technology to function as a "pop-up" office. That includes satellite phone and internet connectivity for areas where there's no cell coverage, mobile computer equipment, plus videoconferencing equipment in LABG's four offices as well as the bus.

    Alaska State Association for Guardianship and Advocacy

    (ASAGA) (AK)
    Award: $35,000
    To implement new programs to reach guardians of vulnerable adults in rural Alaska, and assist those where English is a second language or technology is not widely used. ASAGA is the only organization in Alaska that offers support, guidance, navigation or education to families and non-professional guardians for vulnerable adults. This program will enable ASAGA to bring these services to remote areas, provide consultations and training in other languages, and translate education materials to better meet the wide range of cultural and lifestyle needs of Alaskans.

    ABA Division for Public Education

    Award: $20,000
    To conduct a pilot research project that will deliver a series of one-day law-related professional development programs to Chicago-area high school teachers of U. S. history, government, law, and civics. The project will focus on the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It will support a comprehensive data collection and evaluation plan for the programs that will seek to assess the efficacy of exploring constitutional questions in high school classrooms on teacher and student achievement. The findings from this project will be published in a report and on a public website where project resources will be hosted.

    Girls Embracing Mothers

    (GEM) (TX)
    Award: $20,000
    To enhance and expand GEM's Pearl Program, which aims to reduce the trauma suffered by girls in grades K-12 as a result of their mothers being incarcerated. During monthly group visits, GEM facilitates open and honest discussions between mothers and daughters, to address critical life issues while also building the mother-daughter bond. The grant will enable GEM to reach more girls, partner with more prisons, and deliver services that help stem the tide of recidivism and stop girls from entering prison by producing law-abiding, successful women of society.

    Illinois Legal Aid Online

    (IL)
    Award: $10,000
    To promote awareness for legal self-help centers (LSHCs) in Illinois, and eliminate confusion about the services offered at each location. Some users expect to get legal advice; others to print, copy, and file their legal forms. Although some LSHCs offer these services, most currently do not. Listing the specific services available at each center on the IllinoisLegalAid.org website will set accurate user expectations. A marketing campaign to promote awareness, and additional training of LSHC staff, will also help provide free legal services to more Illinoisans.

    Lone Star Legal Aid

    (LSLA) (TX)
    Award: $49,612
    For seed money to create the Early Housing Intervention Project, and add a tenant's rights paralegal in the Housing Unit of LSLA's Houston headquarters. The paralegal's sole focus will be to help low-income clients facing the loss of their homes through eviction, as well as with legal issues relating to public/subsidized housing, such as termination notices, utility cut-offs, lock-outs. The goal is to help prevent homelessness, and help clients achieve or maintain housing stability, which is the foundation of family well-being.

    Mitchell Hamline School of Law

    (MN)
    Award: $14,203
    To fund a year-long program to identify the legal needs of low-income patients at a Federally Qualified Health Center in St. Paul, through Mitchell Hamline's medical legal partnership with United Family Medicine. A community legal needs assessment will be conducted utilizing a patient survey and three listening sessions with patient and neighborhood residents. When issues have been identified, educational forums will be conducted to provide a basic understanding of the relevant law and tools to help attendees address those legal challenges.

    Advocating Opportunity

    (OH)
    Award: $20,000
    To provide additional resources to an effort to increase direct legal services to victims of human trafficking and to support the development and implementation of a state-wide training series on the legal framework on human trafficking. This series will inform legal practitioners and service providers on the various laws and victim-related issues surrounding human trafficking.

    Atlanta Legal Aid Society

    (GA)
    Award: $20,000
    To expand and enhance the services provided by the Georgia Senior Legal Hotline, in order to better address the specific and growing needs of senior U.S. military veterans. As well as providing advice and brief legal assistance to veteran callers, this project will also include outreach to veterans and veteran service agencies. It will expand the free legal services available to veterans in Georgia, and is intended to serve as a model for providing holistic legal services to veteran clients through all Atlanta Legal Aid programs.

    Georgia Bar Foundation

    (GA)
    Award: $20,000
    To analyze the development and launch of a Senior Attorney Pro Bono Pilot Program to address the unmet legal needs of vulnerable older adults in Georgia. The program would increase pro bono activity and access to justice in civil cases, while also providing opportunities for experienced and late career lawyers who wish to continue actively practicing law to provide greater community service. The first step is to conduct focus groups to identify the types of innovative pro bono activities with most appeal to senior attorneys, and to determine the most efficient ways to recruit, train and gain feedback from them.

 

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