Provided by Prince William County Bar Association, Inc.
The PWC Bar Association recently hosted an Access to Justice Summit and it was a huge success. The PWC Bar was the first local bar association in the state of Virginia invited to sponsor such an event. The purpose of the Access to Justice Initiative is to make the courts more accessible for all citizens by encouraging legal professionals to provide legal services to low income individuals, and develop auxiliary resources for underserved populations. The Supreme Court of Virginia established the Virginia Access to Justice Commission, VAJC, to promote equal access to justice in Virginia, with particular emphasis on the civil legal needs of Virginia residents. The Commission is comprised of judges, lawyers, and others familiar with legal issues. Virginia State Bar President Edward L. Weiner, Esq., echoed the mission of the VAJC at a recent Prince William County Bar Association event by saying, “Access to Justice is the first line in the U.S. Constitution and the last line in the Pledge of Allegiance, yet too many fall outside that umbrella.”
The PWC Bar Association is already very involved with a number of Access to Justice, also known as pro bono, programs for low income individuals. Judge Daniel Ortiz from the Fairfax County Circuit Court serves on the VAJC and helped the PWC Bar organize the recent Summit. Bar Association Members attended in record numbers to hear remarks from Judges Johnston and Hudson from PWC Circuit Court, Judge Jarvis from PWC General District Court and Judge Bailey from PWC Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court, who highlighted the Bar’s current pro bono programs, which are described below, and encouraged greater support. The local judges also identified unmet needs in the community and offered to help develop programs to address those needs. Every one of the current Pro bono programs received new volunteers as a result of this effort.
Wills for Veterans/Wills for Heroes: Wills, Power of Attorney documents, and Advanced Medical Directives provided free of charge to first responders and veterans. Programs held bi-annually.
Circuit Court and Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court Conciliator Programs: Alternative Dispute Resolution provided free of charge to willing participants in discovery disputes in Circuit Court and in custody, visitation and support disputes in J&DR District Court. Programs held weekly.
The Modest Means Program: Reduced fee legal representation provided on a variety of civil matters to clients who are pre-qualified through Legal Services of Northern Virginia or on a variety of criminal matters to clients who are pre-qualified through the PWC General District Courts. Program offered year round.
The Uncontested Divorce Project: Free representation to clients seeking uncontested divorces who are pre-qualified through Legal Services of Northern Virginia. Program offered year round.
The Landlord Tenant Docket: Free representation or counsel to clients needing assistance with landlord/tenant issues who are pre-qualified through Legal Services of Northern Virginia. Program offered weekly during Landlord Tenant Docket in PWC General District Court.
Domestic Violence Project: Free representation to clients seeking protective orders who are pre-qualified through ACTS/Turning Points Domestic Violence organization. Program offered year round.
Another goal of the VAJC is to encourage 100% participation in pro bono programs by members of local bar associations. The PWC Bar currently stands at approximately 33% participation in pro bono programs, which puts them well on the way to achieving that goal. This number is most likely higher, as there are members whose provision of pro bono legal services is currently unknown. PWL The Executive Board of the PWC Bar adopted a goal of 100% participation by our members in Pro bono programs for 2016 and is working to develop ways to encourage and identify support of that new initiative.
SPOTLIGHT: Wills for Veterans Project
The newest pro bono project sponsored by the Prince William County Bar Association is the Wills for Veterans Project. Working with representatives from the PWC Area Agency on Aging, American Legion Post 10 and VFW Post 7589, PWC Bar Association volunteers worked with veterans to educate them on the importance of end of life planning, and to draft basic Wills, Power of Attorney documents and Advanced Medical Directives at no charge for 66 veterans and their spouses.
For more information about Prince William County Bar Association programming, visit them online at www.pwcba.org