Every year, the Public Interest Law Foundation of the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law recognizes the pro bono work of two attorneys with its Excellence in Public Service Award.
The 2014 award in the public/nonprofit sector has been given to Dianna Parker Howie, pro bono coordinator for the Columbus Bar Association.
Howie is a past-president of the Public Interest Law Foundation and a graduate of the Moritz College of Law, where she was an Equal Justice Fellow for two years. In 2013, Moritz awarded Howie the Alumni Public Service Award for Commitment to Promoting and Providing Access to the Justice System.
Stephen Chappelear, senior litigator in Frost Brown Todd’s Columbus office, is the 2014 private-sector honoree.
Chappelear says his average active caseload of 15 will include two or three individual pro bono cases. Though his Frost Brown Todd practice focuses on business litigation, Chappelear’s pro bono work covers a wide range of civil matters. As a member of the CBA Lawyers for Justice program, Chappelear works to involve other Columbus attorneys in the pro bono program.
In 2014, the Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA) enacted a rule allowing Ohio attorneys to receive one hour of Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credit for every six hours of pro bono service; attorneys can earn up to six hours of pro bono CLE credit per biennial reporting period towards the required 24 hours.
Chappelear recently joined an OSBA mission to Washington to lobby House and Senate members on the need for increased funding for legal aid programs. The federally-funded Legal Services Corp. provides legal aid funding to Ohio legal services organizations. Ohio received $12.14 million in LSC funds in 2014; Chappelear’s delegation lobbied for an overall funding increase that would bring Ohio’s FY2015 LSC funding to $14.29 million.
Ohio’s legal aid funding has been stretched thin by decreased lawsuit filing-fee revenues ($10 per filing is designated for legal aid) and decreased funding from Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts (IOLTA monies are remitted to the state treasurer for legal aid). An increase in Ohio’s poverty population has led to an increase in eligible legal aid clients, says Chappelear.
“There are people suffering around Ohio every day, who oftentimes are veterans, are women and children who have problems because they’re about to lose their homes through a foreclosure, they’re not getting support payments from a divorce, who struggle with understanding and being able to work through Medicaid or Medicare to get reimbursement, who have been injured in accidents,” says Chappelear.