Vermont Bar Journal
"It's That Pro Bono Lady": Angele Court and the Volunteer Lawyers Project
THE VERMONT BAR JOURNALVolume 35, No. 3Fall 2009 "It's That Pro Bono Lady": Angele Court and the Volunteer Lawyers ProjectBy Mary C. Ashcroft, Esq.She's on the phone, persuading and reminding you that access to justice is hard to come by for poor Vermonters. She's at bar meetings with cookies, multicolored forms, and a fstful of case summaries about clients needing help. She's at Supreme Court swearing-in ceremonies with immediate practice opportunities for new and new-to-Vermont attorneys. "I have this case a " she begins, and before she ends her story of injustice, bad luck, and hardship, you're shaking your head in disbelief and signing up to take on another pro bono case with impossible deadlines, snarled legal issues, and colorful clients.
And you're glad to do it.
It's hard to say no to Angele Court, Director of the Vermont Volunteer Lawyers Project. That's part of the reason why VVLP is going strong after 25 years, and boasts a panel of close to 250 pro bono attorneys.
Angele started at VVLP, then part of Vermont Legal Aid, as an administrative assistant in 1988, just a few years after the Project's creation in 1984. She was among a staff of fve who worked to place both Judicare and pro bono cases among private attorneys statewide. At that time, Judicare paid a stipend of $25 per hour for priority cases that Vermont Legal Aid could not handle.
Angele took over as Director of VVLP in 1991, just before the Legal Services Corporation suffered the severe funding cuts and restrictions that cramped the delivery of legal services to the poor. Judicare was eliminated, several Legal Aid offces in Vermont were closed, and the VVLP staff shrank. Law Line was created as a separate corporation to provide over-the-phone legal advice to low income clients, and to avoid the onerous restrictions imposed on LSC funding. Angele's position and the Volunteer Law Project were shifted under Law Line, where they remain today.
About 80% of the several thousand cases coming in to Law Line each year could use direct attorney representation, if enough volunteers were available. Potential clients are screened for income eligibility, and if they have income of 125% or less of the federal poverty guideline, they qualify for free...