From Vice Chancellor Donald F. Parsons, Jr.
Chief Justice, honored guests, distinguished elected officials, and colleagues of the Delaware Bench and Bar, it is a great privilege and pleasure for me to speak to you briefly about the history of something near and dear to [me], Delaware’s Combined Campaign for Justice.
I am honored and humbled to have the opportunity to speak to you on behalf of all of the CCJ’s past [campaign] chairs. They are [photographed here] and the list reminds us how fortunate we are that, consistent with the best traditions of the Delaware Bar, such outstanding members of the Bench and Bar have volunteered over the last two decades to lead this important endeavor.
Another critical component of the CCJ’s success was the work of our fundraising consultant, MC Byrd. She was invaluable to me and the Campaign’s leadership team in the first two years, 1999 and 2000, and she provided her considerable expertise, unflagging optimism and good humor to the CCJ’s leadership for the next 16 years, as well.
First, the history [of CCJ]. In the late 1990’s, as is true today, three agencies were most prominently involved in providing legal services to the poor in Delaware:
a. Community Legal Aid Society, Inc. (CLASI) headed by Judy Schuenemeyer and Bill Sudell. http://www.declasi.org/
b. Delaware Volunteer Legal Services, Inc. (DVLS) headed by Dana Harrington and Jim Woods. http://www.dvls.org//
c. Legal Services Corporation of Delaware, Inc. (LSCD) headed by Doug Canfield, who still leads the agency today, and Laura Waterland. https://www.lscd.com/
In late 1997, under the auspices of the DSBA and specifically as part of the DSBA’s Committee on the Provision of Legal Services to Low Income People, a Task Force on Joint Fund Raising was formed to explore the possibility of implementing some form of coordinated fundraising in place of the three separate, annual campaigns then being run by CLASI, DVLS, and LSCD. In 1998, those three independent fundraising campaigns collectively raised a total of approximately $185,000. Most of that money was generated by CLASI, followed by DVLS, with just under 10% being raised by the then-fledgling LSCD.
The Task Force ultimately assisted the volunteer and staff leadership of the three agencies in crafting a three-year contract for the initial joint fund-raising effort. The formal agreement was signed on September 3, 1998, and the first meeting of the CCJ Steering Committee was held that same month. According to my notes, the term “Combined Campaign for Justice” first appeared in early January 1999. The earliest documents I have regarding the objectives for the first Campaign indicate: “Goal: $250,000; 1000 contributors; $150 average gift.”
To my pleasant surprise and the relief of the agency leaders, the first Combined Campaign resulted in total contributions of over $300,000. More importantly, we had established a strong foundation of trust and cooperation among the agencies and the Bench and Bar that helped strengthen legal services to the poor in Delaware ever since then.
Over the intervening years, CCJ has comprised, on average, 15% of agency budgets. In other words, if the agencies are handling 5000 cases per year, the CCJ enables them to help 750 families each year who otherwise might be homeless, hungry, or unable to get protection from abusers.
You might wonder where the other money to provide these services comes from. First, to varying degrees, the federal government has provided an important source of funding for CLASI and LSCD. In addition, the Delaware Bar Foundation through its administration of IOLTA funds and the Delaware Supreme Court through its pro hac funds, at times, have also provided important financial support to the agencies’ efforts to provide legal services to the poor. For example, in 2005, the earliest year for which DBF data is easily available, the agencies received a high of just under $2 million in IOLTA funds. Five years later in 2010, after the 2008 financial crisis, the funding from IOLTA had dropped to its nadir of $300,000. In all between 2005 and FY 2020, the legal service agencies have received approximately $13.7 million in IOLTA funds. Lastly, during that same period, the State has provided funds for legal services for the poor, ranging from a low of $275,000 in 2005 to a high of $600,000 in FY 2017, for a total amount from FY 2005-2020 of $ 6.7 million.
It is important to recognize, however, that dollars or financial resources comprise only half the equation. The other critical component is the truly outstanding and unselfish work of the many Delaware attorneys who have served over the last 20 years on the staff of CLASI and LSCD, as volunteers for DVLS, and as members and officers of the Boards of one or more of those agencies. Those individuals are on the front lines and contribute their time and talent to improving access to justice in our state by providing effective and necessary legal services to the poor.
Finally, let me describe some of the key accomplishments of the CCJ over its 20 year history and one or two important new initiatives.
Since 1999, CCJ has raised close to $20 million, including $2.2 million for the Holland Fund in honor of Retired Justice Randy Holland. The first fellow underwritten by that Fund will start in 2020 at DVLS.
CCJ raised over $1 million in 5 out of the last 7 years.
In 2018, the Campaign raised approximately $1.25 MILLION.
In terms of new initiatives, Betsy McGeever and Bill Sudell are chairing a planned giving initiative. The initiative encourages people to join the CCJ Equal Justice Society by completing a form indicating that they either are making a gift to the CCJ General Endowment Fund or that they intend to make a provision for a legacy gift to that Fund in the near future. The CCJ General Endowment Fund is being managed at the Delaware Community Foundation. Forms are available this evening.
And lastly, as a point of personal privilege, I suggest one other new initiative for consideration, if it has not been considered already.
In 1999, one of the Campaign’s and my personal goals for the CCJ was to have 1,000 donors. To my personal chagrin, we failed to reach that goal or even come close to it. In fact, it took to the Campaign 18 years to reach that milestone. I am proud to report, however, that through the excellent work of later chairs CCJ surpassed 1,000 donors in both 2017 AND 2018, and this year’s campaign is on target to have over 1,000 donors again.
I applaud that achievement, but I would also remind you that there were approximately 2,600 Delaware lawyers in 1999. Today, there are about 3,800. Consequently, 1,000 lawyers currently represent only about 1 in 4 Delaware lawyers. For a cause as important as the Combined Campaign, and consistent with Chief Justice Strine’s Four Pillars, I suggest that the current leaders of the Campaign set a new goal of 1500 contributors or just under 40% of all Delaware lawyers. In that regard, I recognize that the circumstances of each lawyer vary. The amount each lawyer contributes, however, is far less significant than the fact that they make some monetary commitment, even if only a small one, to support the important objectives of our CCJ.