September 27, 2010

Vermont Access to Justice Campaign Kicks Off Campaign 2010

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  September 24, 2010

CONTACT:  Carol Ode, 802-863-3818, moc.l1544498778iamg@1544498778lorac1544498778.edo1544498778

(Fairlee, Vt.) Attorneys Thomas Carlson and Stacy Chapman today thanked attorneys for past contributions to Access to Justice Campaigns and reported that Campaign 2010 has received $35,000 in advanced pledges, as they kicked off the public phase of fund raising to support low-income Vermonters’ access to legal representation.

“The campaign co-chairs made the announcement to about 300 lawyers and judges at the Vermont Bar Association Annual Meeting at the Lake Morey Inn,” said Vermont Bar Association President Eileen Blackwood.  Two other luncheon speakers also praised attorneys for their efforts to improve access to justice in Vermont. Vermont Bar Foundation President Joe Cahill thanked lawyers for choosing Vermont Bar Foundation IOLTA (Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts) HONOR ROLL financial institutions for the generous interest rates they remit on lawyers’ trust accounts, the proceeds of which go to the Vermont Bar Foundation primarily to fund civil legal services for low income Vermonters. Attorney Mary Ashcroft, Vermont Pro Bono Coordinator, reported that there has been an increase in pro bono and low bono hours provided by Vermont lawyers. She also announced the Celebrate Pro Bono Conference aimed at improving pro bono efforts across Vermont which will be held at the Statehouse in Montpelier on October 27.

“In 2002 the Committee on Equal Access to Services concluded that low income Vermonters are being denied equal access to services and the judicial process,” explained Chapman.  “Lack of representation goes beyond individual unmet needs and threatens to undermine confidence in the judicial system. There is cause for celebration as we work to raise funds for the extremely successful Vermont Poverty Law Fellowship, and we further improve access to justice for all Vermonters.”

Donations to the fund come from judges, lawyers, law firms, corporations and organizations. The proceeds help to fund a full-time Vermont Poverty Law Fellow.  Attorney Grace Pazdan, the first fellow to be engaged through the program, has focused on foreclosure law for the past two years.  As a fellow, Pazdan championed the passage a bill that created the Vermont Judiciary Foreclosure Mediation Program and taught a licensing seminar to train lawyers to defend foreclosure cases.  She also worked effectively in Vermont courts and through mediation to keep 137 clients in their homes, Carlson said.  

The campaign’s 2010 silent phase donors include the firms Dinse, Knapp & McAndrew, P.C., Downs Rachlin Martin PLLC,  Langrock, Sperry & Wool, LLP, Paul Frank + Collins, Inc., Primmer Piper Eggleston & Cramer, PC. and Ryan Smith & Carbine, Ltd.  Vermont Access to Justice campaigns conducted from 2007 through 2009 raised almost $200,000 to support the fellowship. 

Chapman also announced that the campaign has concluded its search for a second Vermont Poverty Law Fellow, saying, “More than 100 highly qualified applicants vied for the honor of serving as Vermont’s second fellow.  Jessica Radbord, a 2010 Kent Scholar graduate of Columbia Law School and a public interest award winner, will be our next fellow. Her focus will be on safe housing.”

“We could not be more pleased that over these past years, law firms, lawyers, judges, individuals, corporations, county bar associations and organizations have donated generously to make the Vermont Poverty Law Fellowship a reality,” said Spencer Knapp, former co-chair with the late Joan Wing of the 2007 and 2008 campaigns and chair of the 2009 effort.

“We sincerely thank our past donors and those who have given generously during Campaign 2010’s silent phase.  We will be contacting those who have not yet joined us and we will ask them to support the cause of justice for all,” concluded Co-Chairs Tom Carlson and Stacy Chapman.

For more information on the Access to Justice program contact Carol Ode at  moc.l1544498778iamg@1544498778lorac1544498778.edo1544498778

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