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American Bar Association

Commission on Domestic Violence Pro Bono Activities

Commission on Domestic Violence

Chairs: Laura Stein

Staff:

Robin Runge

202 662-8637

runger@staff.abanet.org

Description:

The ABA Commission on Domestic Violence is proud to be involved in several noteworthy pro bono activities. Although the Commission does not provide direct representation, the Commission's 17 members collaboratively oversee projects that actively promote pro bono representation of domestic violence victims across the United States. The following information outlines the Commission's pro bono activities.

Training Conferences

The Commission fosters pro bono representation in the domestic violence arena by providing training conferences for lawyers who provide civil legal services to victims of domestic violence. These conferences offer education and promote collaboration directed at enhancing services to domestic violence victims confronting civil legal matters. Over 500 participants attended the Commission's three training conferences in Boston, Tucson and the District of Columbia, including attorneys from private law firms and U.S. Department of Justice grantees. These conferences include special curricula to encourage pro bono representation of domestic violence victims in state and tribal courts and to provide opportunities for attendees to forge partnerships, enhance their knowledge about domestic violence, improve their trial practice skills, and apply that knowledge and skill to innovative service delivery, typically on a pro bono basis. The Commission was recently awarded additional grant funding to continue this initiative through 2003. Several commission members have generously given hours of their time to help train this national audience about practical litigation techniques and developing community capacity for enhanced services, including pro bono development.

Trainers

In addition to providing training conferences, the Commission regularly collaborates with other organizations that provide training for attorneys representing victims of domestic violence on a pro bono basis. As one example, for the previous two years, the Commission's director, Bette Garlow, trained service providers at the National Legal Aid & Defender Association national conference, specifically focusing on the pro bono representation of domestic violence victims in protection order cases.

Written Materials

The Commission's publications and written materials also serve to promote pro bono representation of victims of domestic violence. In addition to extensive training materials provided during the Commission's training conferences, other Commission materials include the Commission's Domestic Violence Civil Litigation Manual, Judicial Checklist, and book entitled The Impact of Domestic Violence on Your Legal Practice. Most recently, the Commission provided these materials at cost to several domestic violence service providers, including programs in Alaska, North Carolina, Alabama, and Texas.

Other Projects and Collaborations

Safety For Kids: The Commission on Domestic Violence also contributes to pro bono representation of domestic violence victims through projects such as the Safety for Kids Initiative. As part of this Initiative, the Commission created a Bunny Bag consisting of a coloring book, a "Huggy Bunny" toy, and crayons for preschool aged children who often accompany their abused mothers when they are obtaining the services they need. This project seeks to educate, entertain, and comfort children and to encourage awareness and educate the community about the impact of domestic violence on children. The Commission also developed educational materials to facilitate public education presentations.

The Commission has distributed 10,000 Bunny Bag packets in four U.S. cities: San Diego, Chicago, Boston and Birmingham. The San Diego Domestic Violence Council coordinated the distribution of the 4,000 packets throughout San Diego with the Commission during the Midyear Meeting in February 2001. At the ABA Annual Meeting in Chicago in August 2001, the Young Lawyer Division, the Business Law Section, the Commission, and the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago collaborated on a domestic violence pro bono Bunny Bag project that was designed to stress the importance of pro bono to young lawyers and business lawyers. In addition to helping to distribute 1,500 packets to shelters and service providers in Chicago as part of a hands-on, community service event, Commission members and staff gave presentations on the impact of domestic violence on children to train YLD members in advance of the 2001 Annual Meeting.

The Commission, the Birmingham Bar Association, the Birmingham YWCA, and Girl Scout Troop 734 also collaborated to distribute 2,000 Bunny Bag packets to service providers throughout Birmingham, Alabama. Through their involvement with this Bunny Bag project, the girl scouts in Birmingham opted to forego their planned trip to Disneyworld and to utilize the money they had raised for that trip to further support this project. Thus, Birmingham received another 1,000 packets to distribute throughout the community. Finally, Commission members and a Boston law firm worked with local domestic violence advocates and members of the community to put together a comprehensive domestic violence conference in Boston, Massachusetts aimed at enhancing pro bono representation. Attendees included ABA attorneys from the Boston area, with several national domestic violence experts serving as faculty. During this conference, another 2,000 Bunny Bag packets were distributed to service providers in the Boston area.

This Initiative has proven to be extremely successful in increasing pro bono efforts to support survivors of domestic violence and their children. Various service providers, law firms, and state and local officials have used this project as a springboard to increase awareness of domestic violence and the Commission continues to receive numerous expressions of interest by ABA members and others who wish to provide this project for their communities. Appellate Project: The Commission is in early discussions with the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession and other ABA entities to collaborate to develop an appellate technical assistance center. This project would likely include a pro bono component for providing technical assistance in domestic violence court appeals in both civil and criminal arenas, including post conviction relief. Education on Economic Impact of Domestic Violence and Pro Bono Tax Support: Through collaboration with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service and the ABA Section of Taxation, the Commission has developed consumer information and training materials to educate attorneys and consumers about the tax implications involved in domestic violence cases. We are currently developing the capacity to train those interested in assisting domestic violence victims with income tax issues, including pro bono representation, and to participate in broad scale distribution of this tax information across the United States. Law School Initiative: The Commission's Law School Initiative also promotes greater pro bono support of domestic violence victims. Through this initiative, the Commission works with law schools to integrate domestic violence issues into their curriculum and clinical training programs. This initiative has been implemented through a series of regional conferences that will continue through 2002 and culminate in the publication of a report and model curricula development. It is essential that law schools begin to promote understanding about domestic violence to students who are training to become lawyers. Our intent is that the next generation of lawyers will have adequate training about domestic violence so that victims of domestic violence can be more competently and safely represented, with much of that representation being on a pro bono basis.

The ABA Commission on Domestic Violence has not been involved in pro bono recognition award programs, nor have we tracked the number of volunteers or hours involved in our many pro bono projects. All of the Commission's members generously give pro bono hours to contribute to our training activities and to foster pro bono activities at a local level. If the ABA has suggestions on tracking metrics and best practices for increasing recognition for pro bono service, we would be eager to learn more.

The Commission's mission is to mobilize the legal profession to help increase access to justice and safety for domestic violence survivors. We strongly encourage and facilitate pro bono representation of domestic violence survivors in much of our work. Like all lawyers who become involved in pro bono matters, our Commission members receive great satisfaction from these opportunities to increase pro bono support for domestic violence survivors.

Volunteers and Cases:

Commission has 17 members.

Publications:

The Commission's publications and written materials also serve to promote pro bono representation of victims of domestic violence. In addition to extensive training materials provided during the Commission's training conferences, other Commission materials include the Commission's Domestic Violence Civil Litigation Manual, Judicial Checklist, and book entitled The Impact of Domestic Violence on Your Legal Practice. Most recently, the Commission provided these materials at cost to several domestic violence service providers, including programs in Alaska, North Carolina, Alabama, and Texas

Updated: 12/14/2006

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