Campaign History

Origin of Legal Services in Delaware

Origin of Legal Services in Delaware

The Combined Campaign for Justice is a partnership of the Delaware State Bar Association, the Community Legal Aid Society, Inc., Delaware Volunteer Legal Services and the Legal Services Corporation of Delaware. These partners joined to increase the availability of civil legal services to people of low income in Delaware by increasing the resources available to fund legal services. The Combined Campaign For Justice kicked off March 1, 1999.

Delaware lawyers developed a commitment to serve people of low income in an organized way in 1946, when three bar leaders founded the Legal Aid Society in Wilmington. According to The Delaware Bar In The Twentieth Century, H. Winslow, ed. (1994), it happened this way:

During a bumpy plane ride to Philadelphia from Cleveland where they had attended the 1945 American Bar Association annual meeting, Collins J. Seitz and William Poole discussed the idea of starting a legal aid society in Delaware. They were inspired by a speech given at the meeting by Harrison Tweed, known as the father of legal aid in America.

That organization grew from one with a single part time attorney to a state-wide agency of full time staff in 1972. Now known as the Community Legal Aid Society, Inc. (CLASI), the agency has provided civil legal services to thousands of Delawareans in matters of basic need – landlord/tenant, welfare rights, consumer protection, domestic violence and family law cases.

The Delaware State Bar Association (DSBA) organized Delaware Volunteer Legal Services (DVLS) in 1981. In association with the Widener University School of Law, DVLS coordinates the pro bono publico work of Delaware lawyers and matches law school clinic students with indigent clients.

From 1974 through 1995 CLASI received a significant portion of its funding from the federal Legal Services Corporation. Congress imposed restrictions on that funding in 1996 which prohibited CLASI from accepting it, so that year CLASI worked with the DSBA to form the Legal Services Corporation of Delaware (LSCD), an agency eligible to receive those funds.

Delaware now has three organizations addressing the needs of low income Delawareans, coordinated through the Delaware State Bar Association Standing Committee on Serving the Legal Needs of Low Income Persons. Using the same income eligibility criteria, each of the service providers concentrates on discreet areas of the law, in order to promote efficiency and reduce duplication.

The Campaign is Started

The Campaign is Started

CLASI, DVLS and LSCD each need to raise money to maintain the high standards of service their clients have a right to expect. A natural source of funding is the Delaware Bar since many Delaware lawyers are committed to equal access to justice and, consequently, are quite supportive of legal services. With the advent of a third nonprofit organization soliciting lawyers for contributions, it quickly became evident that a coordinated approach to fund raising was the best way to maximize the resources the bar could make available for this important work.

The Delaware State Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Serving the Legal Needs of Low Income Persons, under the leadership of then President-elect Donald F. Parsons, Jr., organized an historic campaign to jointly approach Delaware lawyers for support. In 1998, the Steering Committee for the Combined Campaign for Justice was established under the leadership of Don Parsons and with representatives of the Delaware State Bar Association, CLASI, DVLS and LSCD. The parties agreed to jointly raise funds from the bar for three years, and they agreed to a formula for distribution. The Campaign hired part-time clerical support and a fund raising consultant. Each of the organizations assumed some of the campaign responsibility. The Campaign kicked off on March 1, 1999.

In their individual Bar campaign efforts, the three partners had never raised more than $175,000 in the aggregate. The Steering Campaign set aggressive goals of $250,000 in contributions and 1000 contributors for this experiment. The 1999 Combined Campaign astounded everyone by raising approximately $360,000. The significance of this amount in a state of only about 2700 lawyers is monumental, especially in light of the fact that the number of actual contributors was only half of the established goal.

Campaign Chairs Don Parsons, Victor Battaglia and Anne Naczi, along with volunteer lawyer-solicitors from law firms, banks and corporations, worked tirelessly to insure the success of this, the inaugural campaign. The campaign volunteers engaged in solicitation face-to-face and through a “phone-a-thon”. The money raised allows the legal services providers to hire, and to keep, qualified attorneys to represent Delawareans of meager means in cases of tremendous import. Victims of domestic violence, illegal eviction, fraud, and government misfeasance have greater access to the justice system.

The Years of Success Continue

The Years of Success Continue

The partners continued this joint fund raising project with a campaign in 2000. Don Parsons was again a co-chair of the 2000 effort, bringing with him the support of DSBA. He was ably joined by Rod Ward and Jan Jurden as co-chairs. The 2000 Campaign garnered pledges in excess of $389,000, an increase of 8.7% from 1999. In addition, 822 donors contributed to the 2000 Campaign, an increase of nearly 50% from the prior year.

In 2001, Claire DeMatteis and William D. Johnston joined Rod Ward as Campaign co-chairs. Through their fine efforts the Campaign continued to garner tremendous support from the Bench, the Bar and the Delaware Community. The Campaign raised pledges totalling $405,000, an increase of 4.5 % from 2000 and 200 donors to the 2000 Campaign increased their contributions to the 2001 Campaign by at least ten percent.

In 2002, Charles S. McDowell joined Claire DeMatteis and William D. Johnston as a co-chair of the Campaign. Claire, Bill and Charlie set a fundraising goal for the Campaign of $425,000— a five percent increase from the pledges received in the 2001 Campaign. However, the 2002 Campaign did not meet that goal—it exceeded that goal and raised over $436,000!

In 2003, Allen M. Terrell, Jr. joined Claire and Charlie as a co-chair of the Campaign. In light of the funding crisis for legal services the co-chairs set their sights much higher than ever before. The goal was $500,000 – twice the original goal in the first 1999 Campaign. The response to the appeal was overwhelming. More than 1,000 donors contributed to the Campaign and the Campaign goal was blown away when donations exceeded $578,000!

In 2004, Helen L. Winslow joined Charlie and Allen to lead the Campaign. Since the funding crisis continued the co-chairs raised the Campaign Goal at $650,000. In response, lawyers, judges, law firms, banks, corporations and foundations pledged over $563,805. Support continued to grow as more than 200 new donors joined the ranks of supporters of equal access to justice.

In 2005, Charlie McDowell stepped aside as co-chair and David Brown became the third co-chair with Allen and Helen. Charlie continued his dedicated efforts however, as the Corporate Committee Chair. The Co-chairs set an ambitious goal of $650,000 only to blow the goal away by raising more than $750,000. As a consequence, Delaware and the Combined Campaign for Justice continue to lead the nation for per capita giving by attorneys and law firms to statewide legal services campaigns.

In 2006, Karen Valihura joined Allen and Helen as co-chair of the Campaign. Karen, a former New Castle County chair, had extensive experience with the Campaign and,as the pro bono coordinator for her firm, Skadden Arps, had a keen understanding of the good works performed by the three legal services providers. The co-chairs set the Campaign sights on a goal of $675,000. Remarkably, the Campaign raised in excess of $900,000. A tremendous success!

In 2007, Richard H. Morse joied Karen and Helen as co-chair of the Campaign. Richard was honored two years earlier by the Campaign for his efforts in achieving 100% participation from his firm, Young Conaway. The co-chairs set the Campaign goal at $700,000 but with hard work and perserverance the Campaign exceeded that goal. The Campaign raised over $775,000. Many thanks to Helen Winslow who led the Campaign so hard and tirelessly in her final year as chair. Helen dedicated herself to the mission of equal access for justice and her enthusiasm carried over to the Delaware legal community.

Betsy McGeever joined Rich Morse and Karen Valihura as co-chair of the Campaign in 2008. Despite the slackening economy the chairs were optimistic that they couold reach the Campaign goal of $750,000. The Delaware Bar stepped up and helped the Campaign beat its goal again to remain the number one campaign in the country.

P. Clarkson Collins, Jr. joined Rich and Betsy in 2009 as a Campaign co-chair. Although the economy was in its worst shape since the Depression the Delaware legal community met the challenge and exceeded the goal of $775,000. However, they are quite confident the legal community and the Delaware community in general will respond. These continued efforts for the Combined Campaign For Justice will enable CLASI, DVLS and LSCD to continue providing high quality,professional legal services to people in Delaware who would otherwise be without access to justice.

In 2010 Karen Jacobs Louden joined Betsy and Clark as a Campaign co-chair. Again, in the face of a challening economic climate the Campaign exceeded all expectations. In 2010, the Campaign set a record, raising over $1 million for the first time in its history!

Clark and Karen were joined by Barry Guerke and Diane Zilka in 2011. As the economy continued to struggle, the chairs set an ambitious goal of $900,000. Members of the Delaware Bar, and the community in general, rose to the challenge and raised over $930,000.

In 2012 Peter J. Walsh, Jr. joined Bary, Diane and Karen. The co-Chairs also added a new Legal Support section to solicit the many vendors who support Delaware’s legal community. Thanks to a generous gift from the law firm Prickett Jones & Elliott, the campaign exceeded its goal of $950,000, raising a record $1.3 million.

The Campaign in 2013 and 2014

The Campaign in 2013 and 2014

The Combined Campaign 2013

In 2013 Derek Abbott, a long-time New Castle County Chair, has joined Barry, Diane, and Peter. The chairs have set an ambitious goal of $1 million. The New Lawyers and Litigations Sections of the Bar collaborated to put on the inaugural Combined Campaign Cup golf tournament to benefit the Campaign. The event netted over $16,000. With this,help from a generous kick-off gift of $110,000 from the Delaware Bar Insurance Services (DSBIS), the Campaign once again exceeded $1 million.

The Combined Campaign 2014

This year, Barry, Pete and Derek welcome David Stratton as a new general chair. The committee once again set a goal of $1 million. With help from George Massih of Corporation Service Company, the Campaign is producing a video that will feature clients of the agencies telling their stories and what access to justice means to them. The need for low-income Delawareans to have equal access to justice remains strong. The co-chairs are quite confident the legal community and the Delaware community in general will respond to the challenge again this year. These continued efforts for the Combined Campaign For Justice will enable CLASI, DVLS and LSCD to continue providing high quality,professional legal services to people in Delaware who would otherwise be without access to justice.