LSC Briefing: Domestic Violence and Civil Legal Services during the Coronavirus Pandemic

Well, good morning, everyone I hope you all had a good Mother’s Day weekend during this COVID crisis I’m John Levi It’s my great honor to serve as the 10th chair of the board of the Legal Services Corporation And on behalf of our board, welcome to this important virtual briefing on how civil legal services are addressing domestic violence issues during this unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic We’ll be privileged to hear remarks this morning from four distinguished members of Congress– Susan Brooks of Indiana, Debbie Dingell of Michigan, Gwen Moore of Wisconsin, and David Price of North Carolina North Carolina’s remarkable Chief Justice Cheri Beasley and LSC leader council co-chair Harriet Miers, a former White House counsel and partner at Locke Lord, will also deliver remarks Our briefing features a panel discussion among LSC grantees around the country and a magistrate judge all experienced in dealing with the legal issues surrounding domestic violence It will be moderated by LSC’s president Ron Flagg A sharp increase in domestic violence is just one of the many legal challenges LSC and its grantees are facing during this pandemic Just a few weeks ago before the pandemic erupted, 59 million Americans qualified for civil legal assistance because they were living at 125% of the federal poverty guideline or below As we know, coming out of the last recession, that number grew to 65 million Americans in 2012 And that is when unemployment grew to near 10% Well, seeing last Friday’s numbers, tha unemployment is now almost 15% and may well rise in May to 20%, really depression era levels, we have to assume that the number of individuals who qualify for civil legal assistance may well jump to 80 or even 90 million And just last year when the number of qualified individuals was so much lower, LSC conducted an intake census of its grantees and found that 42% of the legal problems presented received no service of any kind That four-week study also found that only 27% of eligible problems presented were served fully because of a lack of resource Well, these numbers tell the story only of individuals who knew to come to our grantees because they understood their issue to be a legal one But studies continue to show that many qualified low income Americans do not even recognize their problem as a legal one and thus do not seek assistance, either forfeiting their rights or attempting to navigate the system on their own We also know from past recessions that there will be a huge increase in the kinds of matters that many low income Americans deal with In addition to domestic violence and abuse, they fight unlawful evictions and foreclosures, struggle to access health care, seek unemployment insurance, and fend off scams and unscrupulous debt collectors And to make matters worse, LSC grantees will likely face sharp cuts from state funding resources As the Federal Reserve necessarily lowered interest rates a few weeks ago to near zero, interest on lawyer trust account IOLTA will surely plummet And that source of state funding for civil legal aid will likely drop by as much as 75% or more In 2018, IOLTA programs provided $65 million to LSC’s grantees– over 5% of their budgets And other sources of state funding like corporate filing fees will also be challenged We are very grateful to Congress for recognizing the significance of this crisis and awarding $50 million to LSC and its grantees during the recently enacted CARES Act And we hope to receive another $50 million in legislation now under consideration But as you can see, such funding will hardly– will barely allow our grantees to hold their own

This morning, we focus our attention on one of the major issues the clients of our grantees are facing in this domestic violence LSC grantees handle a large volume of domestic violence cases every year– just last year, nearly 137,000 cases where domestic violence was a significant factor, the highest number of such cases recorded since LSC began collecting this data in 2011 These numbers will clearly spike during the pandemic as sadly, domestic violence typically increases under the kinds of health and financial stresses many Americans are experiencing with tensions exacerbated by the isolation associated with COVID-19 prevention efforts Children home with remote school will often witness such violence in the home and may themselves be the subject of abuse We’re already seeing evidence of this increase in domestic violence Police stations in and around Pittsburgh report a 62% increase in domestic violence calls In Orange County, they’re up 25% and here in Chicago nearly 15% On behalf of the American people, we have a responsibility to call attention to the seriousness of this issue and to do our very best to make sure that our system of civil justice is fairly accessible to our fellow countrymen, irrespective of their economic means Just a week and a half ago, we observed the 62nd Annual Law Day first established in 1958 by President Dwight D Eisenhower, who in his proclamation called upon us to, and I quote, “vigilantly guard the great heritage of liberty, justice, and equality under law which our forefathers bequeathed to us.” Well, we at LSC are committed, as I hope you all can see this briefing demonstrates, to do our part to heed President Eisenhower’s stirring call Well, thank you very much for joining us this morning And let’s begin the program I’m introducing our president Ron Flagg Thank you, John I’m Ron Flagg Today, I have the pleasure of introducing Congressman– Congresswoman Susan Brooks Congresswoman Brooks has represented Indiana’s 5th district since 2012 She co-founded the Access to Civil Legal Services Caucus in 2015 with representative Joe Kennedy And she is a true champion for LSC and of equal access to legal representation for low income families As a standing member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and former chair of the House Ethics Committee, Congresswoman Brooks has advocated in part for improvements in mental health services, biodefense, and public safety Prior to serving in Congress, Congresswoman Brooks served as US Attorney for Indiana’s Southern District and spent more than a decade in private practice She also served as deputy mayor of Indianapolis for two years We are grateful for how she supports the legal aid community in Congress And we have been privileged to partner with her on many occasions, including our opioid task force Congresswoman Brooks, [AUDIO OUT] again for joining us Good morning, everyone And thank you so much for the opportunity for me to come during this incredibly difficult time in our country’s history and be a part of this And I’m really proud to have co-founded, with my good friend Joe Kennedy, the Access to Legal Services Caucus We’re proud that it has grown And with Joe and I both leaving the House of Representatives at the end of this term, it is very important that we bring as many people into this discussion as possible And I think the work that you all are doing is even more important And representatives all across the country need to continue to understand and have a better understanding from us and from you what you’re doing in your local communities So while these weren’t in my remarks,

I would encourage you to consider reaching out to your own representatives wherever you might represent and make sure they know about the services of LSC and all of the incredible work you’re doing now I’ve been asked because this is specifically focused on domestic violence, we know that millions of Americans, as John just talked about, have– they experience domestic violence each and every year But we know that stress can also be a significant contributing factor to domestic violence incidents, whether it is increased domestic violence against a partner or whether it is child abuse And we know that while COVID-19 has brought tremendous uncertainty for so many of our neighbors, one thing that we know is happening is domestic violence In fact, in Indianapolis, I represent northern Indianapolis and eight counties to the north It’s an urban, suburban, and rural district So I have that my district, central Indiana, is a bit of a microcosm of the country But according to Indiana University, Purdue University, and Indy, domestic violence calls have increased in Indianapolis Research that came into– which I thought IMPD did an interesting analysis, this research, after schools began to close and when our stay at home order first went into effect in March 23, they compared that with calls from January 1 through March 16 Domestic calls did increase about 22% in Indianapolis during that period of time An average of 73 calls per day in Indianapolis rose to 89 calls per day a week after schools closed Tragically, we also had a horrific incident where we lost a young 24-year-old police officer She was responding to a domestic violence call just a few weeks ago And I attended an incredible funeral service that was held for Officer Breann Leath She was only 24, a young mom And the perpetrator shot her through the door They were doing everything by the book And I think what I have read and what I know is that he was experiencing some significant mental health issues at the time But we did honor her out at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Had an incredible service in her honor But I think it certainly remind our community of the incredible dangers that law enforcement is facing responding to domestic violence calls particularly now As it wears on and stay at home orders continue, even though we’re beginning to slowly reopen, many, many states are still at significant stay at home orders Our state has moved into stage two of reopening We know that many victims are scared to leave And they’re scared to stay So there is tremendous fear on top of the fear they already have We also know that it’s fairly– it’s not uncommon for abusers to isolate their victims as an act of control or to reduce their opportunity to disclose the abuse And now with home cameras becoming so much more popular, victims can become even more isolated and can be monitored even more by their abusers So with all of this amazing technology we’re now taking advantage of, we know that abusers can even use that technology to really monitor either the outreach by phone or by computer of those being abused And we need to recognize that And so it is a huge concern I recently signed on to actually led a letter with Rodney Davis of Illinois and Ann Kirkpatrick from Arizona calling for– you may or may not realize But the VAWA Violence against Women Act it has been allowed to lapse, unfortunately And so it is not reauthorized right now There is still funding that the Justice Department has However, we do need to reauthorize VAWA And we have asked for that to be included in the next pandemic response package because we know that it provides grants to your communities across the country, whether it’s for first responders, sexual assault nurses, domestic violence centers, victim advocates

counselors Those are the types of funding We need to make sure that VAWA is in this next package And I’m going to continue to advocate for that I also signed on to– and I will tell you that 115 members in a bipartisan basis signed on to that letter So that is a really significant– I think a significant letter that we led It will show our leadership that this is a bipartisan issue We need to get VAWA reauthorized I also signed on to a letter with five other members asking for the additional $50 million that John mentioned for legal services And I think now is the time for many of you to let your own members of Congress and senators know the critical important work that you are providing I know that in the first $50 million that we provided, millions already got out to the different– your different organizations across the country to increase the telework capacity and to try to make sure that you have the resources you need as all of you work from home I think that additional funding is going to be critically important as our neighbors receive more and more eviction or foreclosure notices, as they go through challenges with or without health insurance, as they– and particularly for those victims who are trying to reach out to the courts relative to domestic violence Law enforcement– this is National Law Enforcement Memorial Week or National Police Week And so I always like to remind folks about the important roles they are playing right now and that some officers are giving their lives as they are responding to these domestic violence and child abuse calls So I want to thank you all for being that resource for clients who may call you for help, who may call and ask you to connect them to the resources they need, whether it is shelters, whether it’s counselors Now, that connection to legal services is more important than ever And so I want to thank you for shining that light for members of Congress I’m going to do my part Joe Kennedy and the other members, David Price and others, who are going to come on the call, we’re going to try and make sure that our fellow colleagues know how important it is, the work you are doing So thank you for giving me this opportunity And I look forward to listening as long as I can to the rest of this conference Thank you, Congresswoman Brooks I believe Abby Kuzma is now on the line and want to add her greetings Right Yes Absolutely And wonderful to hear you, Congresswoman Brooks And as everyone can hear from her words, she is so passionate and effective in working with as a tireless advocate for those suffering from domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking And this is true in Indiana as well And in fact, I was blessed to work with Congresswoman Brooks when she formed the first task force in Indiana to fight human trafficking We owe her a great debt for all she’s accomplished And again, you can hear her passion on the phone Just thank you so much, Congresswoman Brooks It’s a blessing for all of us to be working with you And that your strong voice is going to be the strong Hoosier common sense Let’s get some good things done and protect our fellow citizens Thank you Absolutely Thank you both And now, John Malcolm, a distinguished member of our board Oh, fantastic Well, my name is John Malcolm And I’m a member of the board of directors of LSC And so actually, while I’m hiding out in North Carolina’s 11th district, it gives me great pleasure to introduce Congressman David Price, who represents North Carolina’s 4th district Congressman Price serves on the House Appropriations Committee and the House Budget Committee, is chairman of the Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee And he also serves on the Subcommittee on Homeland Security and on the Subcommittee on State Foreign Operations and Related Programs Before his election to Congress in 1987, Congressman Price was a professor of political science and public policy at Duke University And he’s authored four books on Congress and the American political system He’s also received numerous awards, including a Lifetime Champion by the North Carolina Justice Center, which, among other things, provides legal services to low income families Congressman Price, thank you very much for joining us Thank you Thanks for those kind words

And I’m sorry for the delay in getting on here Seems like every conference has a slightly different set of hurdles someone has to clear So here we are And I’m glad to be on with my colleague Susan Brooks and Gwen Moore and, of course, with Cheri Beasley, our chief justice from our North Carolina Supreme Court, TeAndra Miller from Legal Aid of North Carolina, and a good lineup So since we’re running a little late now, I will be brief But I do welcome the chance to say hello to you and to commend you for your work and to wish you a successful conference As Susan was saying, we are all getting reports of increases in domestic violence, child abuse in these difficult times Our Compass Center here in North Carolina is experiencing an increased demand up 15% from March of last year in survivors seeking supportive services and up a stunning 116% in requests from survivors seeking emergency housing I just got off a call We have, every other day, we have staff debriefs And this call this morning featured a discussion of a case with regard to these direct payments where the direct payments go out through the IRS In the case of a separated couple where there had been serious abuse, the woman in the couple had made that known to the IRS But nonetheless, the money came through entirely to the abusing spouse And he’s not going to share it And so we need to, of course, track this case down But that also tells me that in this next CARES bill, we need to make sure that there’s an opportunity to give notice of a situation like this And for those direct payments who are– that are desperately needed, of course, to many people, for those direct payments to be– to go to who they should go to So a lot of problems and a lot of challenges and not least of which, of course, is adequate funding also at issue in this next CARES bill, adequate funding for violence against women and also for legal services I think Susan probably mentioned that in the first bill, there was $45 million for critical emergency shelters through the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act, $2 million for the hotline $50 million– should have been a lot more, by the way– but $50 million for legal services in the CARES Act They quickly have distributed that money to their grantees, including our own legal aid in North Carolina So we’re now working on CARES point 2 or 2.0 We know that legal assistance has to be part of this And so we need to get an accurate assessment of the need and plug that into this bill and hopefully move on this bill within maybe this week, get it formulated this week, and then pass it with– by next week That’s the challenge And we know that this needs to be a part of it This need isn’t going away This is a prolonged crisis None of us ever been through anything like this But I know that many of you and your organizations are responding to the need, are rising to the occasion And that’s what we need to do And we in the House of Representatives and the Congress need to understand that we need to be present and accounted for in terms of support, financial support, also the kind of casework we do All of us are involved in casework by remote– from remote sources these days But these cases are coming in where we’re still having to deal with these matters, in fact, more such problems And so it’s wonderful to have the women’s centers, also, the legal services operation, of course, that we can refer people to and work with locally So thank you for the chance to greet you and to be part of this I too will stay on as long as I can I look forward to hearing what everybody has to say Thank you very much Thank you, Congressman

We’re next joined by Frank Neuner, a distinguished member of our board Good morning My name is Frank Neuner I serve on LSC’s board of directors It’s my pleasure to introduce Chief Justice Cheri Beasley of the Supreme Court of North Carolina Chief Justice Beasley began her judicial career as a district court judge in Cumberland County where she served for a decade before she was elected to the North Carolina court of appeals in 2008 She served as an associate justice on the Supreme Court of North Carolina for seven years before she was appointed to lead the Supreme Court and North Carolina judicial branch of government, which has more than 6,500 elected officials and employees in 102 courthouses She is the first African-American woman in the Supreme Court’s 200-year history to serve as Chief Justice As Chief Justice, she advocates for a court system that solves legal disputes and helps people better their lives By engaging local judges, educators, and law enforcement, she helps to reform discipline in schools and keeps kids out of courtrooms She supports expanding specialized treatment courts that better serve the needs of North Carolina children and families And she works to leverage the power of technology to make North Carolina courts efficient and accessible Please join me in welcoming and thanking Chief Justice Beasley for being a part of our program today Thank you so much, Frank And thank you so much for having me John, it’s good to see you, as well as you, Ron My Congressman, David Price, it’s great to see you And Congresswoman Brooks, thank you so much for all of your work and support on this really important issue It’s been my responsibility as the chief justice to make sure that our courts have been accessible during this pandemic for the most emergent issues And I have been in touch with chief justices from all over the nation And we’ve all got the same concerns around making sure that people have access to courts while, on the other hand, we are largely reducing the foot traffic in our courts because we want to do our part in reducing the impact of COVID-19 In North Carolina, we are the ninth largest state in the nation with a population of roughly 10 million people And we have a unified court system, which all court systems do not have But I hope in some way that makes my orders a little bit easier to interpret However, all the local jurisdictions have their own administrative orders, which are largely consistent with mine In North Carolina, there are four kinds of cases that, even through the pandemic, we are hearing And certainly, domestic violence cases are one of those kinds of cases It’s been really important to me to make sure that our courts are available for the most emergent needs And we certainly know that as we’ve already heard that during this period of time especially, courts must be available for people who are experiencing domestic violence, especially in their homes In North Carolina, just like in much of the rest of the country, domestic violence filings are actually down, even though as you’ve already heard, the calls to hotlines have increased tremendously So we do know that there are folks who are living in crisis And while the stay at home orders that have– our executive orders by our respective governors around the nation have been entered in order to keep people safe, we also know that home can often be a place that is not safe for people who are experiencing increased domestic violence We also know that since children are not in school right now, and they are being schooled virtually through their homes, that domestic violence for children or child abuse filings and petitions around abuse, neglect, and dependency are down in great part because those reports often come from doctors They come from social workers They come from teachers and educators and a whole host of folks who encounter young people every single day And so we’re very concerned about the fact that we want to make sure that families who are in the greatest needs are receiving supports We do have, even though one can hear– can have their domestic violence cases heard actually in court while we are observing domestic violence– I’m sorry– social distancing at this time in our courts,

and there are very few cases being heard there We also have an e-courts civil domestic violence system which allows, even before the pandemic, for victims of domestic violence to go to family justice centers across the state of North Carolina to make their filings And in many of those areas, those cases can be heard through a telecourt And so there’s audio-visual equipment that’s being used to help people Victims don’t even have to go into courtrooms, even before the pandemic, to have those cases heard And so we’re excited about the fact that we at least had that technology up and running before the pandemic began And as a part of the pandemic’s impact, I have made sure that we have changed and made way for alternate ways for service of domestic violence protective orders on perpetrators to make sure that we don’t have to rely on the US mail, and service can be accomplished We’re also excited about the fact that we are able to allow for language access needs either in our courts or through our telecourt system for domestic violence And those services are still being provided We have large military communities in North Carolina In our population of roughly 10 million people, we have roughly a million veterans and also active service persons And so for the two counties that have the largest numbers of active service persons, we are especially considerate around the fact that not only do victims need the access to be able to file domestic violence protective orders, also to have the hearings done, but also to make sure that those families have wraparound services– stable housing and other kinds of resources that courts and domestic violence advocates are providing for those families And unfortunately, in North Carolina, we know that there is at least a slight uptick in domestic violence homicides And so we have to be ever present and mindful that we must provide resources for families who are all experiencing the greatest needs And as I speak with chiefs from around the nation, we’re all grappling with how to make sure that we can make those resources available I’m excited that by the end of 2020 in North Carolina, about 50% of our population will have access to electronic filing through our e-courts civil domestic violence system So Congressman Price is right We need more funding for domestic violence programs But we also need more funding for courts to make sure that we can truly allow good accessibility in our courts but also technologically allowing access to domestic violence victims all over the nation And so I thank you so much for the opportunity to be here and to share with you today Thank you, Chief Justice Easley, and for your leadership as well We will now turn to our panel discussion on domestic violence and the response of legal aid and the courts to domestic violence Our panel today includes four legal aid lawyers and one judge, another judge, on the frontlines of responding to the domestic violence crisis Let me introduce our panel Chief Judge Wanda Dallas serves as the chief judge for the Magistrate Court of Clayton County, Georgia She oversees the court’s administrative duties as its CEO, as well as sitting as one of the full time judges in court Sarah White is a senior attorney in the Clayton and South Fulton office at Atlanta Legal Aid She manages a court-based family violence project in Clayton County Georgia, and represents survivors of violence and family law, housing, and public benefits cases Katie Aldrich is the supervising attorney of the Milwaukee Family Law Unit for Legal Action Wisconsin She and her team partner with the Sojourner Truth Family Peace Center to help domestic violence survivors secure protective orders Julianna Lee is a supervising attorney of the Supporting Families Work Group at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles

She manages two court-based domestic violence clinics and leads the foundation’s family law and domestic violence practice Finally, TeAndra Miller is Managing Attorney and Director of Legal Aid of North Carolina’s civil statewide domestic violence and sexual assault project She manages the legal advocacy and strategic vision for project attorneys who are in 20 local offices throughout North Carolina We have all been asked to stay home to help stem the tide of the coronavirus But for those who experience domestic violence, home might not be a safe place to stay We’ve heard some statistics I’ll add a few more In 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that about one in four women and nearly one in 10 men have experienced contact sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime Today, our panelists will discuss how the coronavirus is aggravating incidents of violence We’ll also discuss how civil legal aid providers, judges, and court administrators continue to serve domestic violence survivors during the pandemic We’re going to start from the west coast with Julianna Tell us, please, how has the pandemic affected domestic violence cases in Los Angeles? Hi Well, this has really been an unprecedented and extraordinary time Even before all this, Los Angeles County had the highest poverty rate in the country at 17% As of last Friday, California’s unemployment rate will be 18% compared to a peak of 12.3% during the Great Recession And since March 12th, more than 4.3 million Californians have filed new claims for unemployment So the heightened stress and anxiety people are feeling is palpable and particularly acute for our clients who were already living in poverty The pandemic has been described as the perfect storm for surges in domestic violence So survivors are stuck at home, perhaps the most dangerous place for them And they’re stuck for much longer stretches with the person that– who makes the home dangerous And everyone is incredibly stressed out So the physical with the social isolation have disrupted all the usual methods survivors use to gather knowledge, access resources, and use social networks to safely leave an abusive relationship So whatever their plans were pre-COVID, those aren’t going to work anymore But leaving is often the most dangerous moment in a domestic violence situation because that’s when lethality concerns spike Domestic violence survivors are also in special need of assistance right now because the coronavirus has done the remarkable trick of making their impossible dilemma worse So at any time, they face a choice between losing their health and safety that a home brings– shelter, food, and some stability for children– and remaining vulnerable to ongoing abuse and the resulting damage and injury to their physical and emotional and mental well-being The coronavirus has ramped up both So the cost of giving up stability have skyrocketed And so have those vulnerability to now elevated this sense of abuse, which according to law enforcement in Los Angeles as of Friday, are up as much as 50% So in these ways, domestic violence is also different from other legal issues COVID has caused a spike in evictions, unemployment, and need for public benefits Requests for legal assistance with such matters exploded early and remain high Domestic violence was already an epidemic before COVID and has only worsened But because domestic violence survivors risk so much by leaving, we were not surprised to nonetheless see a lower number of calls early in the pandemic But as word has spread that the court remains open for restraining orders, that housing may be available for survivors, and that legal services are accessible, survivors are calling our hotline to file restraining orders Those calls have steadily increased So just one example, we recently assisted a client with a domestic violence restraining order

where the abuser exploited the pandemic and shelter at home orders to amplify his abusive behavior Knowing that the survivor and the children were taking necessary measures to abide by orders to stay at home and reduce exposure, the abuser flaunted precautions He kind of ostentatiously came and went needlessly, refused to wash hands, engaged in unnecessary touching, and all this just to cause distress This was not the worst of the abuse Far from it But it did deprive the survivor and her children of a key benefit of staying in the home– shelter from the pandemic Without that reason to remain, the survivor made the courageous decision to leave, call our hotline, and file for a restraining order Thank you, Julianne We’re going to take a short break from the panel and turn to Congresswoman Gwen Moore, who has just joined us And to interview Congresswoman Moore, Julie Reiskin from our board of directors Hi, everyone Good morning My name’s Julie Reiskin I’m a board member– a client representative board member on the LSC board of directors I want to thank everyone for being here to listen to this really important briefing and thank, of course, our essential workers at LSC and all of the grantees I’m very honored to introduce Congresswoman Gwen Moore, who represents Wisconsin’s 4th district, which encompasses the greater Milwaukee area Congresswoman Moore is a lifetime advocate for low income people for the communities that we represent Since she joined Congress in 2004, she’s been a champion for historically low income and discriminated against communities As a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, she worked to prevent predatory lending in minority neighborhoods, which is a huge issue, advocated for living wages and affordable housing Even before she joined Congress, Congresswoman Moore served in the Wisconsin State senate and the state assembly for more than a decade She also worked as an organizer for AmeriCorps VISTA And she was awarded the National VISTA Volunteer of the Decade for her work establishing a community development credit union offering grants and loans to low income residents Congresswoman Moore, thank you so much for your decades of work on behalf of our communities and for joining us today Well, listen Let me say that I am so happy to be here with the Legal Services Corporation And throughout my entire career– and I mean back in 1988 when I first joined the state legislature– I have always known Legal Services, the Legal Services Corporation, being that last stand of our institutions And I’ve always felt so guilty about engaging in these conferences and calls and meetings because I know that there’s someone getting evicted, someone who is not being represented, someone who is very vulnerable to a lack of services in our system because of the work that you guys do for the neediest people So I want to thank you for all that you do This is a premier services And unfortunately, the need for it is even greater now during this pandemic And I was able to catch some of the discussion from your panelists earlier And I thought about a domestic violence situation A man killed his whole family And it seems like my daughter and everybody else I know knew the 14-year-old that was killed by his father and the whole family during this pandemic here in Milwaukee And that is why I’ve joined with so many of my colleagues to try to make sure that we get $100 million in the next package for family services and prevention services, that we get $50 million in the next settlement for victim services and support services, and then $100 million for VAWA And with $55 million for family– $200 million for VAWA’s formula grants in addition to that, and $20 million each breaking that down for culturally competent services to make sure that the services that are provided really

fit the situation– I’m thinking right off the top of my head the unique needs of communities like tribal communities and families that are mixed status, immigration status families And so there are all these culturally specific programming that needs to be done And we just need to resource people up People are safer at home is an oxymoron to some extent because you are not safer at home when domestic violence is present Thank you for this forum Thank you, Congresswoman Moore You are not safe at home is the watchword for our panel And we’ll reconstitute our panel When we broke, Julianna had just described the effect of the pandemic in Los Angeles I’d like to go around the rest of our panel to get brief reports from around the country starting with TeAndra and North Carolina Good morning I would just like to piggyback on some of Julianna’s comments We are seeing similar statistics in North Carolina In fact, although there had been a dip in some of the civil filings, our law enforcement officers have seen an uptick, not only in the murders, but domestic violence-related calls In fact, at a recent taskforce meeting, they said there was a large percentage of those calls were directly tied to COVID type intimidation For example, there was a situation like Julianna described where the abuser was using exposure to COVID as a weapon And it actually resulted in some physical violence And part of that violence was literally holding the person down and coughing in her face And they’re seeing a lot of those similar incidents as well And so that, unfortunately, that’s happening across the state Thank you Sarah, can you give us a brief summary of what you’re seeing in Georgia? Absolutely The Atlanta area has reported about a 15% increase in hospitalizations specifically due to domestic violence We have also heard from our colleagues in Savannah in South Georgia There has been domestic– excuse me The police department is reporting about a 33% increase in domestic violence calls up from 9 per day last year this time to 12 a day We have also seen in Clayton County, where we are practicing, an increase in the number of people who are registering to try to file for a civil protective order It’s up about 20% from what we would normally expect for this time of year And it’s also been anecdotally our experience that the vast majority of those applications are serious cases where they really do need emergency protective orders I would also add that one thing that hasn’t been mentioned yet– the closure of courts can lead to additional frustrations in ongoing cases, for example, divorce and custody cases, which, of course, a lot of our clients are in the middle of And we have had some situations, for example, we had a client who was supposed to have a divorce already But that hearing has been postponed several times now And because there was no custody arrangement, there was a dispute over custody that resulted in her being dragged behind her current husband’s car and, as a result, needing a protective order So those ongoing custody disputes that are really only exacerbated by the fact that they can’t be resolved through the courts right now, through most courts anyway, end up in the domestic violence realm Thank you, Sarah Katie, we’ve just heard from your representative, Congresswoman Moore Can you give your perspective on what you’re seeing in Milwaukee in southeastern Wisconsin? Yes, thank you So we already knew, as Julianna mentioned, that domestic violence was increasing prior to COVID In Milwaukee, police calls related to domestic violence were up by 8% year over year from January 1st to April 1st

But during the first week of the quarantine, we saw a huge spike here in Milwaukee in police calls They were up 28% with referrals to the district attorney’s office for possible charges up 15% Since then, we’ve now seen a dramatic drop Referrals to the DA’s office have actually gone down 10% And calls to the police department have also gone down And I think Congresswoman Brooks mentioned one of the main reasons for that, which is the ability of abusers to very closely monitor the victims right now It used to be the victim could flee to a neighbor’s house or to a family’s house and call the police from there But that’s simply not possible at this time And another– Congressperson– Congressman Price mentioned the lack of emergency housing So victims have to consider if I do this, where can I go? Where am I going to live with my children? In Milwaukee County, we’ve also been seeing a huge spike in domestic violence homicides We’ve had 23 homicides from January 1st to present 13 of those were pre-COVID And Congresswoman Moore mentioned a tragedy we had about two weeks ago here where one man killed five members of his family Four of them were teenagers So since COVID, we’ve had 10 new domestic violence-related homicides Filings for restraining orders have also gone down But that’s because I think we are trying new things with the court closures And there’s a learning curve And they’re starting to pick back up Thank you Thanks, Katie Let’s stick with you for the moment We keep hearing about protective orders And protective orders are one way for courts and civil legal aid attorneys to protect survivors Can you give our audience a primer on protective orders and how can a survivor secure one? Absolutely And you’re going to hear them called a lot of different things– protective orders, restraining orders, injunctions And these are creations of state statute So every state, it’s going to be different Every state, there’s going to be a different procedure And every state, there’s going to be different things you can get through the restraining orders At heart though, every protective order is essentially a no contact order It keeps the abuser away from the victim and through that removes the abuser from the home And then different states are going to have, for example, in Illinois, they include children In Wisconsin, we do not The procedure for getting a restraining order is also going to vary state to state and also from jurisdiction to jurisdiction within the state So I’m going to talk about Milwaukee County because that’s what I know best That’s where I’ve been during this for the last 20 years In Milwaukee, in Wisconsin, you first apply for what’s called a temporary restraining order, which is a two-week order If granted, it’s a two-week no contact order And it removes the abuser from the home And it’s done– the legal term is ex parte But what that means is only one person participates in the hearing So only the victim is going to the court and asking for this temporary restraining order The court is not hearing from the alleged abuser at that point Two weeks later, there’s going to be a full hearing to either court commissioner or a judge And here in Milwaukee County, we’ve adopted e-filing for getting the temporary restraining orders, which has been a big change for us and, I think, again, is part of the reason we’ve seen these numbers go down recently But the actual hearing for a restraining order, a protective order, which can last, generally, up to four years or in extreme circumstances up to 10, those hearings are still happening in person It’s one of the few hearings actually happening in the courthouse And that is in part because we simply don’t have the technology right now in that courtroom to do remote hearings In Milwaukee, we have one courtroom that is completely dedicated to doing restraining orders That’s what they do five days a week all day In Wisconsin, if you have a hearing in front of a commission, and you disagree with the results, so whichever side loses, you have the right to request a new hearing from a judge Those are called de novo hearings And by statute in Wisconsin, those are supposed to occur within 30 days However, obviously, during the coronavirus when the vast majority of cases are not being heard, those hearings aren’t occurring And they’re just being adjourned and set out till whenever we hopefully reopen the courts

But what that means for a victim of domestic violence is if she didn’t get the restraining order, the protective order that she wanted from the commissioner, now, she has nothing She’s done this She’s gone to the court She’s exposed the violence She’s talked about it, which is often something that abusers threaten “If you tell anyone what’s happening, you’re going to be really sorry.” And now, she has nothing She has no protective order while she’s waiting for who knows how long to be able to get a hearing in front of a judge So that can greatly increase the risks for victims of domestic violence Thank you, Katie Judge Dallas, we heard from Chief Justice Beasley We’d like your perspective Courts around the country have closed or altered their operations And in some instances, survivors may be confused about whether courts can help them right now What have you done to help ensure that your court keeps serving domestic violence survivors? And how did you work with Legal Aid of Atlanta? First, I want to thank the coordinators of this conference It’s so important that we have these important conversations and that we can stimulate dialogue and interest in what happens to domestic violence victims And in this season that we are struggling with getting information out and getting help to people, it’s critical that they know where to go So in Georgia, I’ve witnessed firsthand how my court had to alter our operations to adjust this pandemic And so when our courts closed, our chief justice– it’s similar to the chief justice in North Carolina, Chief Justice Beasley, closed the courts, except for essential functions And basically, what we had to understand from the order is that essential functions involve criminal court arrest warrants They involve first appearance hearings and domestic abuse temporary protective orders similar to what we just mentioned about protective orders And that’s what Magistrate Court handles So as it relates to the arrest warrants and the court proceedings, we immediately began to see an increase, as the other states have mentioned, in the arrest based on allegations of violence and abuse And those cases are tracked through the system And we attempt to ensure that there are bond conditions to protect the victims However, the challenge remains how to get the information to victims who did not call the police And there seems to be this thread of victims being hesitant to come and report the abuse to the police So how do we get the victim– the information, rather, to victims so that they knew that the courts were available to assist them and that they still had some layer of protection, how to assist those to make sure that they knew that they still have access to courts? So even though the court was technically closed, the doors to the courthouse were open And we still saw a constant influx of victims coming to the courthouse for help on how and where to apply for protective orders Because before this situation occurred, victims would come to the courthouse We had a victim advocate in the courthouse Legal aid was in the courthouse And the victims could come to the courthouse and apply for temporary protective orders protection And that was their way of calling out and asking for help So when the courts were closed, we still needed to get the information to victims on where they can go to get this help So with our protective orders, we needed immediate assistance And we called on our partner, Clayton Legal Aid, who did not hesitate to assist Now, we had to work this out because it took a couple of trial and errors for us to figure this out In Magistrate Court, we– on our voicemail website We had handouts at the courthouse And we gave information to victims on how to apply for temporary protective orders Originally, we partnered with the Clayton County Police Department, one of their headquarters, where the victims could be linked to a judge So we had to become very technologically savvy quickly And so we began to use Zoom as a way for the victims to access help And so what they were able to do is through the Clayton County Police Department, they were able to– there was a laptop portal that was right there in the police department And they were able to access that portal They could call up Legal Aid, Clayton Legal Aid And they were connected through the Clayton Legal Aid and the police department But originally, the hours were limited So what Clayton Legal Aid did, they took the initiative to offer assistance to victims to interview them in I believe they said an eight-hour timeframe And in this eight-hour timeframe, Clayton Legal Aid literally interviewed the victims So by the time we had our hearings via the Zoom

for the judges, the judges were able to just kind of hone in on the issues that were left that we needed to decide in terms of just like the ex parte is entering this protective order that gave a protection to the victim that came to seek some type of help that was suffering from domestic violence And currently, the process is much more fluid And the expertise that Legal Aid is providing is unparalleled Victims who feel like they suffered in silence– they found a voice and an advocate through our Legal Aid partners Thank you, Judge Yes, sir Obviously, the watchword these days for all of us, but particularly in legal aid and particularly in responding to domestic violence, is innovation and flexibility and treating the issue in an urgent way that it demands We’re going to now turn to Sarah, who is also in Georgia Sarah, how has the coronavirus– we’ve already heard a bit about it But how has the coronavirus affected your work and your funding at Georgia– at Atlanta Legal Aid? We’ve seen a significant effect, as Judge Dallas was describing, we’ve essentially had to create or significantly expand our existing projects that serve victims of domestic violence We have been serving victims through a courthouse project But we have, in the past, victims have talked to a legal advocate first Now, we at Legal Aid are the point of entry for survivors, victims, who are seeking protection from the courts So we do provide those consultations through attorneys are on duty– excuse me– Monday through Friday making sure that everybody who applies for assistance receives services from us We are a nonprofit law firm So we do have to deal with the possible technicalities of potential conflicts of interest But we are assisted by a robust team of volunteer attorneys so that we do make sure that everybody receives legal advice, receives some consultation on what to do, make sure everything is done fully and completely before they actually speak to the judge in the ex parte hearing that Katie was describing We are using a clinic model, which is a brief consultation typically limited to that one day or possibly a follow-up day they have to come back But many of the applicants are also eligible for our ongoing services, for continued legal consultations and advice and possible representation We’ve seen over 200 people through that program since it started in late March And in the meantime, we are also seeing an increase in the need for emergency housing Because both of the increase in domestic violence but also, of course, as some of my colleagues have mentioned earlier, the financial pressures mean more people are needing housing right now And the shelters are full So our legal– our navigators, our resource navigators on staff are also working overtime in conjunction with this project to get as many survivors housed as possible It is unusual to have lawyers do– at least in the state of Georgia, it’s unusual to have lawyers be that first point of contact, that it’s typically done by a trained social worker that we call a legal advocate And as a result, there’s a particularity in the state funding, which is that the state funding for these domestic violence projects is focused on the second hearing, which is where lawyers usually traditionally would get involved in Georgia So we are not seeing coverage from our state funding for this particular type of service Other types of funding, I think Ron was talking about IOLTA, the Interest on Lawyer Trust Accounts funding earlier, that has historically gone down whenever interest rates go down So for example, in 2008, at Atlanta Legal Aid, we saw a 90% decrease in our IOLTA funding from one year to the next from over a million dollars to about $115,000 This time around, we are expecting– we’re forecasting approximately a 70% decrease

in that same funding We’re also seeing a projected state budget cut of about 14% for now in Georgia State funding So we are definitely losing a significant amount of our resources in our office and, in the meantime, seeing the very real possibility that our ongoing resources are not going to increase to cover those increased hours that our attorneys and our other staff are having to put in to make sure all this work gets done Chief Judge Dallas, you talked about the innovations you’ve had to try to make Courts face funding issues just as legal aid programs do Can you talk about the budget constraints that you’re facing or you may be facing? Absolutely We’ve been hit with a lot of challenges just like other jurisdictions And we’ve had to spend money we did not contemplate by all eight of our judges had to have desktop computers We had to have scanners Because we have to allow the ability to video conference, we’ve got to be able to take– to print just a enormous amount of documentation that we previously relied on our assistants to give us And now that the judges are all home, we’ve got to do this ourselves, which is fine We’ve adapted But it’s just been a lot to get– the IT has to come to the house and set you up Our judicial assistants have to be given similar hardware And understand something that we’ve got part time judges that we depend on And previous to this situation and this environment, our part time judges were just to help us where we needed a gap to be filled But now, our part time judges have to work a lot more And more hours are required And that’s an additional expense that we didn’t contemplate So the things that we’re spending now– the money that we’re spending now, money that was earmarked for a season prior to coronavirus, earmarked for money that we had to spend on our previous budget to determine how much we had to allocate so things like going forward even, we’ve got to configure our courts to allow protection to the general public when they open up We’ve got do the masks, hand sanitizer We’re actually outfitting each courtroom with plastic shields now So when we do open, we’ve got to have some source of protection for the public, as well as for the court personnel So the things that you don’t really think about that’s going to cause a significant economic challenge to opening up, to make sure when we do open up that people are as safe and protected as they are now at home Thank you, Judge As I said, a watchword of this time is flexibility and innovation In the spirit of flexibility, we’re going to take another break in our panel to introduce Congresswoman Debbie Dingell from Michigan And to do that, we have Father Pius Pietrzyk from our board Thank you, Ron As Ron mentioned, my name is Father Pius Pietrzyk I serve as the Vice Chair of LSC’s board of directors And I have the great pleasure of introducing Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, who for the last five years has represented Michigan’s 12th district Stretches from Ann Arbor to west Detroit, my home city where I was born in Detroit It was only six months ago back in October of 2019– although it seems like a lifetime ago given the times that we’re in– that we at LSC were gathered in Ann Arbor at the Michigan Advocacy Program’s new offices And I’ll say the highlight of that luncheon that afternoon was Congresswoman Debbie Dingell’s really rousing address on the need to support legal aid and legal services But more powerful than her words that day have been her actions in support of legal services in Congress, most notably as Co-chair of the Access to civil Legal Services Caucus And relevant to our topic today, Congresswoman Dingell shows that same combination of passionate voice and vigorous action in her support of victims of domestic violence, especially women and children Even before her election to Congress, she founded The Children’s Inn at the National Institutes of Health She co-founded the first Race for the Cures in Michigan and in Washington, DC There are few leaders in this country more committed to the cause of legal services and aiding victims of domestic violence than Congresswoman Debbie Dingell It is therefore my great pleasure to invite her to address the conference this morning Congresswoman Dingell, thank you so much for joining us Thank you, Father I really appreciate that introduction

And I’m sorry that I’m late to this phone call But we were doing a delegation meeting worrying about a lot of people It does seem like it was a long time ago when we were all in Ann Arbor And the two subjects you’re talking today about are two subjects that means more to me than you will ever know The day Jim Harbaugh came into my office with John and asked me to be a co-chair for Legal Services Corps was a day that really meant a lot And I’ve taken it seriously from the moment that they asked I think too many people don’t understand what it’s like not to have someone to represent them Most of us on this video call today, or most of us who are home safe, have access to good legal advice And there are too many of us that– too many in our communities that don’t have that access So I take it very seriously to be the advocate for you for full funding in the Congress with my other colleagues and will always do that Because ensuring that every person in this country has representation when they need it is a fundamental right of our constitution But you’re also talking today– and I’m about to talk to you from my heart– about something that really matters to me And that’s domestic violence It is a subject that I have always cared about but was really afraid to talk about for many decades And I found my voice a few years ago when we were on the House floor doing a sit-in on guns And for many years, I was embarrassed about what happened in my family I remember one night when I thought that we would all die, calling the police and the police not answering And I find myself now, as we are in this stay at home order in many states across the country, thinking about what it would have been like if we had all been in that same household that many years ago And would we have even made it? If you talk to the experts right now, we renewed the Violence Against Women Act more than a year– it’s been almost a year and a half The Senate still hasn’t taken it up And many of these domestic violence centers aren’t getting critical funding that they need And right now, with people in confined spaces, we know that there is an increase of domestic violence But if you talk to the centers, if you talk to the police department, they’re getting fewer calls And that’s because many women– it does happen to men But most often, it’s women are afraid to leave They don’t know how they’re going to get by They don’t have financial resources And they’re really afraid for their children I sometimes look at my mother And I’m very lucky she’s still alive But my sister and I talk about it more now, not less, and wonder why she stayed Why did we live in fear? Why were our lives at risk? And in those days, it wasn’t only my father who had guns But she went out and bought a gun to protect us And we worried about the guns that were every place Women and children need somebody that’ll be there to help them That’s how I heard one of the early panelists say lawyers aren’t the typical place that people first go But you know what? Too many of them don’t think that there’s anybody to help them The centers for domestic violence that are in our communities at the grassroots level are there to give them a helping hand, give them a place to stay But many men have many more resources than women do They know how to use the courts And too many are just afraid to leave, that there’s no hope There’s no resource So I am more worried about domestic violence today when we’re in these times that women are at home and children are at home and the kind of violence and the kind of– it’s a complicated issue People suffer from mental health illness

But what we have to do is help people that are in those situations– they don’t have to put up with that abuse They don’t have to have their lives threatened Children don’t need to be hit There are alternatives So you all play such a critical, critical role in being that helping hand for so many women that don’t think that they have any options So thank you for doing this today Thank you to everybody that’s engaged from the courts and the judges to law enforcement Domestic violence cases are absolutely the worst cases that law enforcement has to handle But a lot of women just need help They need somebody to be there to help them fight, to help them fight for justice for themselves and for their children And I thank you for being here today and for being there for those that need you And I want to reinforce the importance of legal services to victims of domestic violence and the role that you play Thank you Thank you, Congresswoman Dingell, for those very moving personal comments were being fueled by your experiences and your leadership We’ll go back to our panel now and actually turn to a barrier that most of us don’t think about when it comes to domestic violence But TeAndra in North Carolina, you have a statewide program And your lawyers have to work with courts and judges throughout quite a large state And you’ve seen local judges make varied decisions about how to work through their court operations during these periods Can you talk about the challenges the statewide program faces and how you’ve worked and leveraged your relationship with judges and their staff to try to work through those challenges? First of all, I would like to thank LSC for shining a spotlight on this issue As we’ve heard from other panelists, this is crucial I would also like to thank the Chief Justice Beasley and Congressman Price for their ongoing support I have been asked to share some of the early challenges And although we’ve heard about the solutions from Chief Justice Beasley, I think it’s important for us to remember some of those earlier challenges that can inform things that we can do going forward And so with that, a lot of my comments will be based on observations shared by my colleagues who, along with their clients, went into uncharted territory by going into these courtrooms in the early stages of this pandemic As Chief Justice Beasley mentioned, North Carolina ceased operations around mid-March, except for I think she mentioned four areas, including domestic violence In the days that followed, both the survivors and my colleagues were very concerned as they entered into these courthouses across the state Let me just set the stage for you North Carolina has 100 counties And each of those counties have at least one courthouse with very unique– with a very unique culture, if you will And so in the beginning, beyond signs being posted on the doors that prohibited folks from entering those buildings if they exhibit any kind of COVID-related responses, there is very little happening inside those courtrooms For example, there was just a lack of sanitation, a lack of any type of social distancing in the courts In a survey that we gave our attorneys probably in week three, one of my colleagues reported the following She said when she arrived to court that day, there were 22 cases on the docket People were still sitting shoulder to shoulder For the witnesses who were told to stay in the hallway,

they were milling around There was absolutely no social distancing happening And the courts at that time were very reluctant to engage in remote hearings As I’ve heard from other panelists, there was some kind of remote hearings occurring And that was at the ex parte level So that is that very first stage when people get the emergency hearings for a week and, in our case, for 10 days Regarding the remote hearing, that has been something that Legal Aid has pushed from the very beginning It is our hope that we could really decrease the exposure for our clients and ourselves And so in order to address some of those early concerns, we aggressively start reaching out to our local judges by providing detailed letters that really explain the observations of what was going in court and also encouraging them to engage in remote hearings As the Chief Justice mentioned, she had actually ordered that all civil hearings could be held by audio or visual remote platforms And so with that type of support we were able to push the needle a little bit And so in situations where judges would say we can’t handle these type of cases, how do we get in evidence? How would we utilize witnesses? What we did, we filmed a mock hearing to show how we use the WebEx platform to show how you could hold a hearing And we use that video for judges to look at And that really got some traction A lot of judges reached out where they could actually see that in action It seems that they were willing to at least move in a positive direction We also ran into scenarios where people just did not have the equipment And we decided to look in our stash of laptops and things of that nature And we actually used our IT department to go to those courthouses and facilitate them obtaining equipment because it was that important to us not just for our staff, but for our clients as well And so now that I mentioned some of those challenges, I would like to say that we have made improvements In fact, we did a poll this past Friday And I’m happy to report that conditions at the courthouse have improved We still have a ways to go There are still some areas where social distancing or modeling social distancing by judges or some of the other courthouse would be very helpful Also, we are happy that remote hearings are becoming more prevalent However, there is a caveat with that Although remote hearings are increasing in the family law area, somehow there still seems to be a gap between other family law matters such as temporary custody, divorces, and things of that nature and domestic violence And so we’re still trying to address that gap But we are hopeful as these judges become more acquainted with these remote platforms that they will also begin to integrate more of the domestic violence hearings Because as you guys know, I think there is a long road to go A lot of us are reopening And I understand that But this is an opportunity for us to really work through these type of processes so if we’re hit with this in the future, or if we’re dealing with this down the line, that victims have a safer way to access our court And I want to circle back to something that one of the panelists said in terms of seeing a decrease with our victims initially being

access the courts We saw that too in North Carolina and because initially, a lot of our domestic violence agencies, they either shut down, or they significantly curtailed their services So in response to that, we made posters We plastered them throughout the community to inform victims that they can contact Legal Aid directly Typically, we also got the cases at the permanent hearing stage But under these conditions, we will take clients at any stage and help them work through the process Thank you, TeAndra Julianna, could you briefly– TeAndra just mentioned outreach to survivors of domestic violence And we’ve heard repeatedly how dangerous it can be to seek help while trapped at home Can you talk about the strategies you’ve used? Again, if you could do it briefly, that’d be great Thanks Sure So we use multiple channels to communicate that we are still open and available Early on, LAFLA installed large banners outside all of our offices with our hotline number Before the courthouses closed, we posted signs at our court-based domestic violence clinics that we were offering those services remotely through our new domestic violence hotline And now, online matters more So on social media, we provide key updates about services, resources, and court operations Our website also provides information to survivors It still has its emergency exit button, which allows the survivor to instantly leave our website if they are concerned about monitoring and safety Last year, we started an adopt a shelter program to help survivors, especially those in shelters, to help them where they are With transportation, child care, and safety more difficult now, the program is all the more important LAFLA also leads the family law coalition of several dozen family law and domestic violence legal services attorneys By collecting, updating, and publicizing everyone’s information, we created a living document of domestic violence legal services resources And we circulated that to law enforcement, child welfare workers, city and county entities, the media, and the courts so people are aware of our services We also train and inform other frontline responders So recently, we trained 400 survivors, frontline service providers, and domestic violence advocates on changes at court and how to pursue a restraining order during the pandemic Three times a week, we update domestic violence service providers on the latest about the court and the domestic violence restraining order process Through that group, we’ve been able to disseminate information about domestic violence to resources at mainstream and ethnic grocery stores and at the public school food distribution centers that distribute roughly 600,000 meals a day What we’ve learned from these meetings also informs our own advocacy So for clients who may have concerns about domestic violence shelters and shared spaces with other survivors and their children, we’re able to explain that shelter options under the pandemic are individual rooms and bathrooms without common spaces We’ve also had over 150 pro bono attorneys sign up for our remote training on domestic violence restraining orders My office has also partnered with a local law library to hold virtual clinics linking low income survivors to pro bono counsel We host live events on social media and post all our recorded trainings there And later this week, we’ll be hosting a presentation on stimulus checks and low income survivors That was an issue that was highlighted earlier by Congressman Price So it’s been an evolving process But by staying proactive, we’ve been able to make progress Thank you so much Chief Judge Dallas, last word in a minute Can you tell us in all this challenge and bleakness, are there any silver linings or lessons learned? I say this to you, Ron Flagg I think the silver lining in the midst of this environment and this season is what we’ve begun today From around the country, we’re connected with each other in real time And when you’re in a stressful situation, people either run away from the problem or work toward a solution Victims who’ve already been forced to suffer at home don’t have the option of running from the problem

The problem may be right there in their own homes So we’re the ones who’ve got to create solutions for them I’ve seen court personnel in our county become solution seekers We’ve had to become technologically savvy in a very short period of time and to adapt new and novel ideas to communicate remotely And these are going to continue for some time Legal aid is emerging through this system like the health care professionals whose value is not totally appreciated until this coronavirus pandemic erupted And from where I sit literally on the bench, and where I sit remotely in my dining room, the legal aid attorneys have never bowed down from a challenge or backed away from a problem Ultimately, we as a society have to give voice to the voiceless and power to those who have suffered in silence for far too long The coronavirus has simply exposed the unseen victim– faces of victims who find no safety or protection in what we think is a shelter at home order Thank you so much And I want to thank all of our panelists today not just for their remarks and presentations, but for their heroic service in response to the scourge of domestic violence And it’s now my privilege to wrap up our briefing with our concluding speaker, d LSC’s Leaders Council Co-chair Harriet Miers Harriet is a partner with the law firm of Locke Lord She was previously co-managing partner of the firm before she took a detour for government service, including as White House counsel to President George W. Bush Harriet was the first woman president of both the Texas State and Dallas Bar Associations When it comes to access to justice and leadership, Harriet Myers is Dr. Yes When Harriet is asked to speak up for the rule of law and justice for all, her answer is always yes and that is when she isn’t already taking the lead She is an eloquent, indefatigable, and highly effective advocate for LSC and civil legal aid– exactly the kind of leader we need today Harriet, thank you for saying yes again and being with us today Thank you, Ron, for that very, very wonderful introduction I appreciate it You’re too generous But we are very grateful, absolutely grateful for all of our speakers today, for sharing their generous and much in-demand time with us and their insights and knowledge It’s been a privilege to be able to hear everyone speak And particularly Congresswoman Dingle, we appreciate your very personal remarks But everyone who has spoken has done such a great job And we are addressing critical, incredibly difficult, and important and pressing issues altogether, as we’ve heard, in fact, many times, life and death issues So thank each of our speakers for what they have said and all that they do And I just want to add a few takeaways from our discussions today We can see why shelter in place is anything but shelter when a spouse is an abuser We can see how living in fear in close quarters causes tempers to flare and violence to erupt We can see why the loss of a job, a car that breaks down, and it’s the only means of transportation, or scarcities– just not having the bare necessities to live– can be the last straw resulting in rage and domestic violence And the use of the virus itself as a weapon– how despicable a development is that for our society COVID-19 surely has been an invisible enemy [AUDIO OUT] exacerbate domestic violence and also importantly for us to remember sexual assault Facts make clear how important legal services are in these and similar situations to save a life and help a potential victim And the absence of those needed legal services we have seen can result in tragedies, life-ending tragedies,

beyond our true understanding In normal times, the need for more legal services resources is dire to protect our women and children in harm’s way because of violent and deranged persons As you heard though, those increased resources are even more needed in the middle of this pandemic as is true in many disaster situations that we’ve experienced over the course of time And food, and clothing, and housing are admittedly– and everyone understands– bare necessities in our society But so are legal services to those who need someone to intercede for them and prevent harm to them or even someone taking their life That’s what we need our leaders to understand That’s what we need decision makers to understand is that these legal resources are bare necessities for those that need them For example, we are in Texas I’ll just mention a statistic or two in our state The last report was that the overloaded systems that we already have have now seen a 21% rise in calls seeking help from domestic violence in just the month of April Think about that– 21% increase over the percentages that were talked about at the beginning of unmet need These same providers report an increase interestingly– and again just emphasizing how pressing these needs are– in extreme and deadly violence on the increase Recent reports include the killing of a father trying to help his daughter and his grandchildren escape an abuser As mentioned earlier, we also have experienced a abuser killing a police officer who was just trying to help, just trying to intervene to help a threatened woman In shelters, we’ve talked about shelters And those are overloaded now at greater degrees And their ability to be increase in other shelters found in the face of COVID-19 certainly just increased dire needs that can’t be met And these, as we can tell from all these speakers, these are universal problems that are being experienced across our nation We see that rural areas that don’t have resources and where the abused is able to be in constant scrutiny of those that they would have abuse It is situations that we just haven’t faced before until recently The reduced reporting of sexual assaults is another very saddening development from COVID-19 and its influence And we here in Texas– I’m sure across the nation– the providers are believing that that drop in report is likely because hospitals are not allowing the victim advocates to accompany the survivors into the hospital There is an increased fear by those who are victims of even going to a hospital because of fear of the virus And so and with the increased isolation, we are seeing the perpetrators simply having more ability to control those they intend and do abuse All tragic circumstances So our providers in Texas and elsewhere are straining and working double time to try to protect the vulnerable But the efforts of program participants today are– they’re just our heroes and our heroines And they’re also trying to encourage volunteer help But adequate funding for legal service providers is most needed for effectively stopping abusive conduct and the maiming or killing of victims And we are appreciative of all the work that’s being done here But it’s a never ending demand for resources that, in our nation, sadly we do not have

So I especially thank the members of our leaders councils who have been so great Jim Harbaugh was mentioned earlier in remarks You’ve been a potent support for the Legal Services Corporation and its needs We’re greatly indebted to you And we thank all of those viewing who care enough to spend this amount of time to listen to these issues and understand them better We are indebted to you And I thank the planners of the program and our speakers And I, as always, thank John Levi and the Board of Legal Services Corporation They are great leaders And so thank you all for being here to listen here I’ll put in quotes But I’ll end by saying God bless America and all of our frontline workers in this pandemic, all of our first responders, and always our servicemen and women around the world facing unusual and difficult circumstances because of this virus So thank you, Ron, for having me And keep up the great work