Letters to the Editor

Letters: Note from the trenches

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Regarding “Tech Support,” June: I think this gentleman needs to spend some time working for various legal aid law firms before he determines how best to help us.

A legal aid applicant must first qualify for services based on income, assets and citizenship. There are exceptions to every rule. Replacing the personal contact with technology means that people may be erroneously denied because of their input errors. For example, a female applicant reports income for a household of two that makes her over income. However, she has not reported that her husband, who is not a citizen, lives with her because she thinks we’re the government and will report him to INS. In truth, her income is supporting three people, making her eligible to receive legal services.

Most legal aid law firms I’ve encountered are actual litigation boutiques that specialize in representing clients. We do more than simply refer them to social services. Oftentimes, we don’t employ a social worker, and so our knowledge of available social services is limited to what we find on the internet or who we meet at outreach events.

My biggest critique of the plan is that it assumes that most legal aid applicants are literate and, more specifically, computer literate. This has not been my experience. In my seven years working for a legal aid law firm in Texas, I have encountered a relatively small number of applicants who even had an email address and a number who were illiterate or who, because of disabilities, could not understand written language.

Elizabeth Lockett

Fantastic idea. I hope Keith Porcaro checks out Illinois Legal Aid Online, which does a lot of this work in Illinois; however, as he said, a lot of people don’t realize that they have a legal problem, so they don’t think to go to the site.

Donna Peel
Oak Park, Illinois


Regarding “Did Litigation Kill the Beatles?” May: In the mid-‘80s, while teaching the first-year property course at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, I was looking for a new first-day-of-class case. (The casebook’s was about fox hunting or some such, not of riveting interest to the students.) I settled on ABKCO Industries Inc. v. Apple Films Ltd. (New York Court of Appeals, 1976), in which the plaintiff attempted to establish jurisdiction quasi in rem by seizing the defendant’s anticipated royalties from a movie not yet produced.

It was an unusual choice, but it allowed me to stretch the students’ understanding of what the word property meant and at the same time allowed me to play a bit of Let It Be, the film at issue. This is what passed for advanced electronic pedagogy at the time and presumably was fair use under the copyright laws. In their first week of law school, and barely introduced to civil procedure, the students did not ask me why the plaintiff didn’t simply serve process on a Beatle or two—which is just as well, as I did not know the answer.

Now I do, thanks to Stan Soocher’s fascinating article. Perhaps out there in your audience there are a few lawyers, now 30 years into their careers, who will read the article and pause to reflect on those days when they first came to realize that the study of the law was going to be more complicated than they anticipated.

Robert Laurence
Fayetteville, Arkansas

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