Editor’s Introduction

Editor’s Introduction cmluwisc Mon, 07/31/2023 - 10:54

Patrick D. Murphree is a 2017 summa cum laude graduate of Loyola University New Orleans College of Law. Before entering law school, Patrick received his Ph.D. in Theatre History, Theory, and Literature from Indiana University, Bloomington and taught acting, theatre appreciation, and test preparation in Indiana and Louisiana. Following law school, Patrick clerked for the Honorable Elizabeth Erny Foote of the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana. After completing his clerkship in 2019, he joined Burns Charest, LLP, where he practices mass tort, antitrust, and class action litigation. In recognition of his commitment to using law in support of social justice, Patrick has been awarded the College of Law’s Spirit of Ignatius Award and the Gillis Long Center’s Public Service Award and has been recognized by Clinical Legal Education Association and Southeast Louisiana Legal Services.

Acknowledgments:  I wish to acknowledge the Gillis Long Center, Southeast Louisiana Legal Services, and Acadiana Legal Services, without whom this revision would not have been possible. I particularly thank Professor Davida Finger, Christina Luwisch, Riley Trahant, Rebecca Holmes, Laura Tuggle, Greg Landry, Sachida Raman, Hannah Adams, and David Williams. My thanks to Ekow Lampty and Laurel Taylor for proofreading assistance. I thank all of the members of the Louisiana legal community who work tirelessly in the fight for access to justice. The community’s excitement for a new edition of the manual has been an inspiration to move the process along towards final publication. Finally, as the saying goes, we stand on the shoulders of giants. This edition of the manual would not have been possible without the tireless work of the late Mark Moreau, whose leadership brought prior editions of the manual into being.

1 Introduction

1 Introduction cmluwisc Mon, 07/31/2023 - 10:58

The unmet need for civil legal representation cannot be denied. Some of this need is met through Legal Services Corporation (LSC) services, which in Louisiana are Southeast Louisiana Legal Services (SLLS), whose service area includes 22 parish in southeastern Louisiana, and Acadiana Legal Services (ALSC), whose service area encompasses the remainder of the state. Some is met through pro bono representation by attorneys in private practice, assisted by organizations throughout Louisiana that seek to mobilize this state’s abundant legal talent to address these legal needs. This manual’s title reflects these two groups: “Louisiana Legal Services and Pro Bono Desk Manual.” 

It is my hope that this manual serves each reader, particularly those working to solve the justice gap and to address our fellow citizens’ legal needs. 

2 Intended Audience

2 Intended Audience cmluwisc Mon, 07/31/2023 - 10:59

This manual is designed as a practical guide for lawyers representing low-income clients. When crafting their revisions or their new chapters, the authors of this edition were asked to imagine a hypothetical reader: a lawyer who wants to engage in pro bono work but feels reluctant due to the specialized substantive and procedural requirements of the areas of the greatest unmet need such as family law and landlord-tenant law. It is my hope that these lawyers find in these virtual pages a succinct yet comprehensive guide that they can put to use in representing low-income Louisianans with unmet civil legal needs. 

In addition to lawyers taking on direct representation of low-income clients, this manual is also intended as a resource for working in an advisory capacity. As we know, clients often have more than one legal problem at a time. Attorneys working with low-income clients in a variety of settings have reported that they often use the manual to help answer their clients’ questions about areas of law outside of the immediate representation. Similarly, lawyers working at help desks and at “Ask A Lawyer” events can expect questions across the range of issues affecting low-income Louisianans. My hope is that this edition of the manual, particularly in its more accessible digital form, will be a resource in both situations.

Finally, while I hope that all who access the manual can find value in it, laypersons (particularly those engaged in self-representation) should be aware that the manual’s chapters assume familiarity with many basic legal concepts. There are a number of resources available to those litigants who are representing themselves in civil court in Louisiana.1  

3 Format of the Manual

3 Format of the Manual cmluwisc Mon, 07/31/2023 - 11:02

Each prior edition of this manual has been printed; the 2013 edition spanned nearly 1000 pages. To facilitate greater access, the Gillis Long Center placed pdf versions of the manual and each of its chapters on its website. Nevertheless, given the length of many of the chapters, pdfs were somewhat cumbersome.

In consultation with SLLS and ALSC, the Gillis Long Center decided to format this edition of the manual as an online-only resource. This decision was made for several reasons. First, for both lawyers and laypersons, the first place one tends to look for information about an unfamiliar topic is the internet. Relatedly, much of the information to which the authors cite is located online; a digital version of the manual allows a reader to access the author’s sources by simply clicking on the links provided. Hyperlink functionality also improves the manual’s ability to cover a wide variety of topics without repeating similar information. Finally, given the breadth of topics addressed in the manual, some material will become outdated long before a new edition of the entire manual can be prepared and published. An online-only version will allow individual sections of the manual to be updated without needing to republish an entire volume. For those readers who would still like to print an entire chapter as a single document, this can be done by selecting “Printer-friendly version” on the homepage for each chapter; individual sections and subsections can be printed in the same way.

Those readers familiar with prior versions of the manual may note that most of the chapters have been reorganized (sometimes heavily). Some changes were made due to a change in the law, while others were made to facilitate online reading. Where possible, sections were subdivided or shortened, section headings standardized, and the hierarchy of subsections made more consistent across the chapters of the manual.

4 Scope of the Manual

4 Scope of the Manual cmluwisc Mon, 07/31/2023 - 11:02

No treatise can ever be truly comprehensive, and that truism is only more so for a work such as this manual, whose various topics are united only by the fact low-income clients commonly have legal needs in these areas. Thus, this manual cannot address every conceivable legal question that might arise in the representation of a legal-services or pro-bono client. And, even in the areas that the manual does address, the coverage cannot be entirely comprehensive.

In light of these issues, this manual departs from previous versions in two major ways. First, the manual has removed chapters on several substantive areas of law. TANF and Social Security Disability were not included in this update because pro bono representation is unlikely in these areas and SLLS and ALSC no longer use the manual as a primary support for their representation. The Consumer Law chapter in the previous revision has not been included in this edition of the manual because that law is primarily federal and, as such, there are many resources available elsewhere. For the same reason, Bankruptcy and Immigration were removed. 

Bankruptcy and immigration are also areas in which “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” These are specialized areas of law with specialist bars and specialty courts. Because of their unique procedures and rules, it is possible for an attorney unfamiliar with these practices to inadvertently do serious damage to a client’s case. As such, these areas are unsuited to pro bono representation by an attorney regularly practicing in other areas of law without the guidance of an attorney or organization experienced in bankruptcy or immigration. Thus, discussion of bankruptcy and immigration are confined to their intersection with substantive areas of law contained within this revision. In these cases, practitioners without experience in bankruptcy or immigration are encouraged to reach out to specialists as required.

While certain chapters from the previous edition were eliminated, other chapters have been added. Two of these chapters continue a theme begun by the chapter on language access in the 2013 edition. Just as that chapter provides guidance to attorneys representing clients with limited English proficiency, these new chapters are designed to assist attorneys representing clients with disabilities and clients who need to proceed in forma pauperis.

The other new chapters address areas where the unmet civil legal need is particularly great. The first details the procedures for correcting names or gender markers in official records. The procedural mechanism for making these corrections in Louisiana requires filing a petition in civil district court and, in the case of name changes, serving it on the district attorney. Although the suits themselves are typically be decided without any actual litigation, the procedural steps can be complex for laypersons to navigate. This is thus an area where a lawyer providing pro bono representation can do a great deal of good.

The second new chapter explains the process of expunging records of arrest or conviction. The collateral consequences of criminal justice involvement can impose serious obstacles to future success. Unfortunately, the statutory provisions allowing for expungement of prior offenses and arrests can be daunting to parse for a layperson. While the process of filing the necessary papers to obtain an expungement is something that many self-represented litigants can do successfully, determining eligibility for expungement in the first instance can be more complicated. This is again an area where limited-scope pro bono representation can provide a valuable service to the community.

Finally, this manual has added a chapter on legal advocacy for children in public schools, particularly those with disabilities or facing exclusionary discipline. Much of this work occurs at the school, school district, or administrative agency level, forums where procedures may be more informal. Nevertheless, parents seeking to advocate for their children may benefit from the support of an advocate practiced in the arts of oral advocacy and negotiation.

The decision to remove certain topics from this edition is not meant to imply that they are unimportant as many low-income Louisianans have needs in these areas. If a reader would like to get involved in authoring a chapter on an area not covered or updating an existing chapter in the manual, they are encouraged to reach out to the Gillis Long Center, which welcomes participation from practitioners in maintaining the manual as a resource for all who work for justice in our state.

5 "Current Through" Dates

5 "Current Through" Dates pdmurphree Sat, 09/02/2023 - 14:22

The chapters of this manual have been updated at various times. To see the dates through which individual chapters or sections are current, visit the heading page of that chapter.