NEWS AND STORIES
Every year the State Bar of Georgia gives the Dan Bradley Legal Services Award to a lawyer from Atlanta Legal Aid or GLSP, recognizing the work of an attorney who has excelled in the commitment to the delivery of quality legal services to the poor and to providing equal access to justice. This year, the Bar conferred the award Catherine Vandenberg, managing attorney of the Cobb Office of Atlanta Legal Aid Society.
"This award is well deserved," said ALAS Executive Director, Steve Gottlieb. "Cathy's calm temperament and deep dedication has allowed her to oversee the dramatic growth of the Cobb office and has ensured that it became an institution in the Cobb legal community. Most importantly, she has mentored many younger lawyers in the Cobb office."
The Bar also recognized several private attorneys for their pro bono work.
H. Sol Clark Award
William B. Spann Jr. Award
A Business Commitment Award
Law School Excellence in Access to Justice Individual Award Leslie Ann Salley
Law School Excellence in Access to Justice Group Activity Award Emory Law Volunteer Clinic for Veterans
We were thrilled but unsurprised: Jordan is the epitome of professionalism - positive, poised and balanced.
Staff Attorney Brianna Erwin wrote, "She manages to supervise and support three attorneys, two paralegals, and several volunteers, keep up with all of her professional commitments, and make sure her three children with competing schedules make it to every rehearsal, fencing lesson, dragoncon and soccer practice. She somehow manages to do all of this and make us all happy too. Her unwavering supportive nature makes me feel like I can do anything I want in my career and life.
"If you've ever seen her calendar, you know that she has a million things going on on any given day but you would never know it by the way that she acts. I don't think that I have ever seen her flustered or angry. She takes in problems and produces solutions. She brings calmness and emotional stability to a unit of legal aid that is by nature chaotic and emotional. She allows you to vent and then she offers realistic solutions to your problems.
"I really think the biggest compliment you can give someone professionally is to say you aspire to be like them later in your career. I can honestly say that about Michelle but realistically I know that she's one of a kind."
Harold Anderson is simply extraordinary. We first met him when he lived in a nursing home, a virtual prisoner who was determined to get out. He had worked on his own and found every effort blocked until he met Toni Pastore and Talley Wells of our Disability Integration Project.
"They were even more determined than me to get me out so I knew I would get out. They really inspired me to do the things I do with Legal Aid. They really saved my life."
Not only does Anderson express his gratitude to us very time we talk to him, he is our foremost ambassador and is a driving force behind "I Am Olmstead," dedicated to educating the disabled and their families about Olmstead, the Supreme Court case that made it possible for so many people to live in communities rather than a hospital or nursing home.
Talley Wells says that Harold's entire story is an inspiration that can be expressed in one word -- "giving."
"[Harold] was in deep despair. He was hopeless and felt he couldn't get out [of the nursing home], but he kept pushing. He's also willing to share his story with others about how you can live a full life, despite obstacles. Harold gives money to legal services from his small disability check. Harold gives his time. He's faithful and is at every Executive Committee and Board meeting. He's even inspired the legal community to [increase their donations to the Atlanta Legal Aid Society and] give, too."
We cannot think of a more fitting recipient of the National Legal Aid and Defender Association's Client Contribution Award.
Legal Services Corporation is 40 years old this year; its creation was one of the last acts of the Nixon administration. LSC is the largest single funder of civil legal aid in the country, distributing federal funds through competitive grants to 134 independent nonprofit organizations with nearly 800 offices in every state, the District of Columbia and the territories of the United States. LSC makes access to justice a reality for low-income people, a goal which has bipartisan support. Support for efforts to defund LSC has waned over the years, and speakers as diverse as Justice Antonin Scalia and Vice President Joe Biden spoke during a three-day conference celebrating the anniversary and planning for the future.
"Every day, low-income Americans seek help from LSC-funded organizations with civil legal matters that go to the very heart of their safety and security, " said Phyllis Holmen, Executive Director of Georgia Legal Services Corporation. "Support for our mission is widespread, from leaders in the halls of government, to judges across the state, to lawyers who understand that our work is vital to the stability of our democracy."
“The Legal Services Corporation is using this milestone anniversary to focus attention on the gravity of the challenges facing civil legal aid in America, to better educate ourselves about what is occurring and what is at stake, and to consider the best ways forward,” said LSC Board Chairman John G. Levi.
Atlanta Legal Aid's Executive Director Steve Gottlieb was invited to participate in a discussion of diversifying legal aid funding. Our Board member and former client Harold Anderson was also invited to speak on how his life was changed with assistance from Atlanta Legal Aid, which receives almost 40% of its funding from LSC.
The Atlanta Bar Association held its seventh annual Celebrating Service Luncheon and Pro Bono Fair. Representatives of more than 20 organizations talked about their programs and their need for volunteers. The keynote address was delivered by Jonathan Rapping, president and founder of Gideon's Promise, and MacArthur "Genius" Grant recipient. Each of the three largest pro bono legal service organizations -- the Atlanta Bar Association, Atlanta Legal Aid Society and the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation -- presented awards for outstanding volunteer work.
The Atlanta Bar Association's Public Interest Law Section selected Atlanta Legal Aid staff attorney Lisa K. Liang as the second recipient of the Rita A. Sheffey Public Interest Award. Before attending law school, Liang worked as a social worker in children's oncology and was a first-grade Teach for America teacher in Chicago. She is being recognized for her generosity of time and talent to the Atlanta Bar, as well as her mentorship of law students and new attorneys.
Atlanta Legal Aid awarded the Randall L. Hughes Lifetime Commitment to Legal Services Award to Stites & Harbison partner J.D. Humphries III , who has worked with Atlanta Legal Aid for almost 30 years, beginning as a board member in the 1980s and as president of the board of directors in 1992. Humphries was Legal Aid's annual campaign chairman from 2003 to 2006 and in 2006 he led the campaign to raise more than $1.5 million for the program's ongoing operating needs. Even after his formal involvement ended, he has been available for "special duty," according to Steve Gottlieb, ALA executive director. Since 2008, Humphries has been chairman of Legal Aid's Building Committee, culminating in the purchase and renovation of 54 Ellis St. as the new headquarters for Legal Aid.
Our Volunteer of the Year Award went to Dorothy "Dodie" Rosenberger Sachs, a litigation associate at Duluth's O'Kelley & Sorohan, who has been an active volunteer with the Gwinnett Pro Bono Project since 2010. The Project is a joint venture between the Atlanta Legal Aid Society and the Gwinnett County Bar Association, taking several cases each year. "She does not shy away from difficult cases and handles cases in all areas of family law, including divorces, child custody and support and adoptions," said Rachel Lazurus, GPBP executive director. Lazurus called Rosenburger a "zealous advocate … known for the respect and care with which she treats clients and their families." Rosenberger also supports the project's mission as membership chairwoman of the Gwinnett County Bar Association, encouraging new and experienced attorneys to volunteer with the project. She regularly participates in the project's TPO and relative caregiver trainings and CLEs.
Atlanta Bar Association's Public Service Award:
Atlanta Bar Association's Community Service Award:
The Atlanta Bar Association's own Elder Law Section was recognized for its contributions to the Georgia Senior Legal Hotline in providing assistance to more than 145 seniors.
Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation (AVLF) 2014
AVLF Firm of the Year
AVLF Domestic Violence Project Volunteer of the Year
AVLF Hero Award
AVLF Safe Families Champion of the Year
Some of our cases make the evening news; sometimes you read about us in the "Atlanta Journal Constitution." Most days, you don't know what a legal aid attorney has done for someone in your community. These are a few of their stories:
Contested Custody - Winning Twice
Ms. MC came to Legal Aid when her ex-husband sued for custody of their two children. He'd provided no support to the children in many years, had been violent to Ms. MC and the kids in the past, and had used drugs in front of the kids during visits. Cobb County Staff Attorney Sarah Austin represented Ms. MC in defending the custody action, and Judge Leonard of Cobb Superior Court granted our client sole custody of the children with only supervised visitation for the father.
During the custody proceeding, the father filed a concurrent contempt action, claiming that our client was withholding visitation. In reality, she was allowing more visitation than was ordered; she just didn't allow him to come over unannounced and had turned him away for unscheduled visits. At the contempt hearing, Judge Leonard granted a directed verdict on Austin's motion, after the father failed to make out his case, and also ordered $1000 in attorney's fees.
Months passed, and the fees were not paid. In June 2014, the father filed a second frivolous contempt case under the same facts, and Austin reopened the case to handle the contempt. At an August hearing, the second contempt was dismissed; the father was also found to be in contempt of the earlier award of attorney's fees and ordered to pay both the outstanding fees and an additional $1000 for the new contempt action. At a compliance hearing a few weeks later, having still not paid, he was ordered to pay by the end of the month under threat of arrest and incarceration.
Finally, we received $2000 in fees and closed the case after over a year! We hope having to pay two rounds of fees will discourage Ms. MC's ex from any future frivolous filings.
Staff Attorney Bri Erwin supervised Joanna Smith, an Emory extern, this Fall in obtaining Twelve Month Temporary Protective Orders (TPO) for two of our clients.
One client's husband abused her and threatened her life, abused their six-year old child and killed two family pets. Ms. Smith, practicing under the Third Year Practice Act, obtained a TPO that provided a variety of relief for our client: child support and alimony, and possession of the marital home and car. The judge also ordered drug/alcohol and psychological evaluation and treatment for the husband.
In another very disturbing case, Ms. Smith represented a mother of two young children in a contested hearing, with a seasoned attorney representing the father. Ms. Smith impressively obtained a TPO protecting our client and her two sons from their father, who has serious, untreated mental illness and who viciously abused them. The father had beaten, choked and raped our client while the children were in the home. Our client was in fear for her life because of the unrelenting abuse, and she also knew that he had access to guns. Not only did Ms. Smith obtain the TPO, but she proved that the father violated the Ex Parte TPO and requested his immediate incarceration. He was immediately taken into custody at the end of the hearing.
Family Violence: Where to Get Help
Atlanta Legal Aid works in partnership with agencies that provide other supports for victims of domestic violence. Services include emergency shelter, support groups, 24-hour crisis lines, community education, counseling, transitional services, prevention education, children's support groups and legal advocacy.
For Immigrant and Refugee Women in Metro Atlanta: