Author John Grisham on ‘Talk Justice’ podcast about the importance of legal aid

  • June 2, 2023

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Legal Services Corporation President Ron Flagg introduced Grisham’s speech, which was recorded at a recent LSC forum on access to justice.

Grisham serves on LSC’s Leaders Council, which works to raise public awareness of the current crisis in civil justice. He is also a prominent advocate for criminal justice reform, frequently speaking publicly about wrongful conviction and serving on the board of directors for both the Innocence Project and Centurion Ministries.

“I have a long affinity with legal aid,” Grisham said. “It goes back to when I finished law school at Ole Miss some 42 years ago. I inadvertently became a legal aid lawyer.”

Grisham was struggling to build up clientele in his own law firm after law school when a woman in tears found his office and asked for his help in court that day. She was going to be evicted from her mobile home, and she told Grisham about the years of effort she put in to keep it up, only to have it all taken away. He went with her to court and ended up representing several of her neighbors in the trailer park. He got all of their evictions dismissed and became the community’s go-to pro bono attorney.

“That case proved to me the power of a license to practice law when it’s used to help people,” said Grisham. “It’s astonishing what happens when you’re a lawyer and you take

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Top Free State lawyer leaves Legal Aid SA

  • May 20, 2023

He joined the organization in March 2003. He became the Principal Attorney in Kimberley and Bloemfontein in 2006 and served as the Justice Center Executive in Bloemfontein and the Provincial Legal Manager for the Free State and North West before being appointed as the Head of Office in the Bloemfontein area in 2013.

Motloung admitted in a post on LinkedIn that his career milestone of 20 years of continuous service at Legal Aid SA “was not all rosy, not every day presented sunshine”.

“There were rocky paths, the thorns were brutal and uncompromising, but through it all, one thing remained and is still there: my willpower and passion for justice.

“In an age when job hopping is fashionable, the inner power to resist the temptation that comes with the incessant search for better opportunities and new experiences goes beyond loyalty.

He said the remarks of the Chinese philosopher Confucius resonate with him: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

“I have been able to push through and overcome the hurdles. My contribution to the protection and advancement of human rights is nothing less than a mark of strong passion for justice. Thank you, Legal Aid SA, for the platform. I believe the full circle is now complete.”

His LinkedIn post receives several comments, including this one from attorney Ryan Ishmail: “Those who know Ntate Motloung personally will know that even at social events, after hours, and wherever he is, he is likely to start a conversation on how to improve justice and competent legal services for all people in RSA. He truly believes in the vision of Lasa (Legal Aid South Africa), this is not just a job for him. So many candidate or junior practitioners have served under

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Legal aid widened but grandparents ‘will fall through the justice gap’ | News

  • May 2, 2023

The scope of legal aid has widened to apply to families and friends to look after a vulnerable child – however, the Law Society says the changes have not gone far enough.

Four years after committing to expand legal aid to special guardianship orders in private family law, the Ministry of Justice announced £6m yesterday to support up to 2,000 people applying for the court-imposed order that saw a child placed with extended family, friends or foster parents until they turn 18.

Applicants will have access to legal aid funding for advice and representation. Parents opposing special guardianship orders will be entitled to free legal representation.

Legal aid was previously available only for cases where the local authority was involved in submitting an application to remove a child from their birth parents.

Justice minister Lord Bellamy said: ‘Providing a stable, loving home for a vulnerable child in need is an utterly selfless act and it is right we provide families with the vital support they need – particularly in the most complex and emotive cases.’

The Law Society welcomed the extension but said legal aid for special guardians, who are often grandparents, should not be means-tested.

Society vice president Nick Emmerson said many fall through the ‘justice gap’ – they are excluded from legal aid because of the capital from their home but they may not have enough income from a pension to cover legal costs.’

A legal aid inquiry by the all-party parliamentary group on kinship care found personal contributions made by over a third of kinship carers towards the costs of legal advice, court fees and representation ranged from £1,000 to more than £10,000.

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Barristers in England and Wales stage first five-day strike over legal aid funding | Barristers

  • August 16, 2022

Barristers are heading to parliament as they begin their first whole week of strike action over levels of legal aid funding they say are bringing the criminal justice system to its knees.

Members of the Criminal Bar Association, which represents advocates in England and Wales, began action with a two-day strike at the end of last month and have been escalating it by an extra day every week.

If a deal is not agreed with the government criminal barristers will stage five-day walkouts every other week from now on.

Jo Sidhu QC, CBA chair, said: “We bring our action for justice to the heart of parliament as those MPs who represent us all, need to hear from those of us who persecute and defend on behalf of the voiceless – in particular the victims of crime left to suffer and language by government’s ongoing failure to stem the massive exodus of criminal barristers.

“The great leveling up agenda will be strangled at birth without government properly funding legal aid to ensure that we have enough prosecutors and defenders dealing with the unprecedented backlog of 58,000 cases. Without proper funding there can be no diversity at the criminal bar and our judiciary will end up deprived of the talent of hundreds of women and minorities from ordinary backgrounds who have dedicated their professional lives to the service of the public in our criminal courts.”

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The Ministry of Justice has agreed to a 15% uplift in fees – the minimum recommended by an independent review – to new instructions beginning from the end of September but is refusing to apply it to existing cases. Given barristers are only paid at the conclusion of trials and

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Legal aid increase SI is laid – at last | News

  • August 13, 2022

The government has picked the day before parliament’s summer recess to lay the legislative measure enabling a long fought-for increase in legal aid rates to be paid from this autumn. One practitioner group desribed the increase as ‘an insult to justice.

Attacking the 9% increase as inadequate, the Law Society called on the government to take extra steps to safeguard the future of the criminal defense profession and the criminal justice system.

A statutory instrument laid in parliament today confirms that defense solicitors will start receiving increases in criminal legal aid rates from the end of September.

But the Law Society pointed out that the overall package for solicitors still amounts to a 9% increase, not the 15% that the Independent Review of Criminal Legal Aid recommended as the bare minimum required.

‘It is positive to see some of the criminal legal aid rate increases for solicitors locked in,’ said Society president I. Stephanie Boyce. ‘But the overall package for solicitors still only amounts to a 9% rise. This must be the foundation for further increases not the ceiling.

‘The criminal justice system is in crisis,’ Boyce said. ‘The courts are crumbling, there aren’t enough judges and lawyers, and victims and defendants are facing unacceptable delays in accessing justice. This is a make-or-break moment for the criminal defense profession and the criminal justice system. The time to act is now, before it is too late.’

Boyce added that the Society is disappointed that the government has ruled out any increase in fees for prison law work, despite the review recommending a 15% rise. ‘Parole hearings are a vital part of the criminal justice system and solicitors play a key role in ensuring they run efficiently, and prisoners’ cases are presented properly,’ she said.

Hesham Puri, president of the London Criminal

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