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Meeting Minutes Feb 18, 2004 Task Force on Loan Forgiveness

At PBA in Harrisburg:
Louis S. Rulli, Tri-Chair (University of Pennsylvania Law School), Samuel Tyrone Cooper, III, Tri-Chair (Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott LLC), Alfred J. Azen (PA Interest on Lawyers Trust Account Board), Joseph A. Campagna, Jr. (North Penn Legal Services), Sheila E. Dow-Ford (PHEAA), Andrew Gonzalez (Widener Law Student), Hon. Kathy M. Manderino (PA House of Representatives), Angel Markle (Dickinson Law Student), Samuel W. Milkes (Pennsylvania Legal Services), Dveera Segal (Villanova University School of Law), Sandra Brydon Smith (Erie County Bar Association), Gregg Warner (for PA State Senator Stewart J. Greenleaf), James A. Wells (Belden Law), David Trevaskis and Dale Schell (PBA Pro Bono Office)

On the phone:
Maureen P. Kelly, Tri-Chair (Babst Calland Clements & Zomnir PC), Gregg S. Behr, (Buchanan Ingersoll, PC), Susan Curry (American Bar Association), Pamela G. Day (University of Pittsburgh School of Law), Christine Kirby (Pennsylvania Legal Services), Laval S. Miller-Wilson (Juvenile Law Center), Robert V. Racunas (Neighborhood Legal Services), Susan Sherman (Independence Foundation), Thomas M. Thompson (Buchanan Ingersoll, PC)

Catherine C. Carr (Community Legal Services), David Jackson DeVries (Office of General Counsel), Elizabeth C. Price (Delaware County Bar Association)

PBA President Thomas Golden called into the meeting to provide a welcome to the Task Force at 10:00 a.m. He reviewed the strong tradition of the PBA in supporting civil legal aid, noting the PBA’s pro bono efforts. Golden called the Task Force’s mission a “companion piece” to what the PBA already has done and he expressed his thanks to the Task Force members, saying he “deeply appreciates your leadership in this area.” PBA Executive Director Barry Simpson joined the Task Force meeting in Harrisburg for Golden’s remarks and he offered his support and the support of the PBA staff

Next followed the introduction of the tri-chairs and members of the Task Force, both on the phone and at the PBA in Harrisburg. Each person provided a brief statement of their background and their connection to the Task Force’s mission. Christine Kirby, a PLS staffer assisting the Task Force, was thanked for her involvement in forwarding resource materials to the Task Force in preparation for the meeting. It was noted by PBA staff that contact information for all members of the Task Force was already on the PBA Web site at http://www.pabar.org/pdf/tfrosterloanforgive.pdf.

David Trevaskis, PBA staff liaison to the Task Force, explained the staff support for the Task Force and introduced Dale Schell, administrative assistant for the Pro Bono Office. Trevaskis’ and Schell’s contact information was provided and is listed below: David.Trevaskis@pabar.org; Dale.Schell@pabar.org; 1-800-932-0311, Ext. 2236 (Trevaskis) and Ext. 2297 (Schell).

Lou Rulli then provided an overview of the history that led to the new Task Force and it was noted that the original proposal for the Task Force is available on the PBA Web site. Rulli then offered a PowerPoint presentation titled “The Student Loan Debt Crisis & Public Interest Law,” which provided a summary of the reasons for the existence of the Task Force. The PowerPoint presentation traced the history of the issue from the first PBA Task Force on the Delivery of Legal Services to the Needy in 1989 and noted the “staggering statistics” that showed the current problem. The PowerPoint presentation is available through the PBA.

Following the PowerPoint presentation, various members of the Task Force shared their perspectives about the issue. Joe Campagna noted the surveys he had conducted of civil legal aid attorneys and he shared his belief that the problem is “too big to finance it from any one place.” Campagna called for a partnership approach to attack the problem and he presented a three-year-old figure of $650,000 as the minimum needed yearly to target debt relief.

Kathy Manderino expressed the importance of showing the need to the public and she stressed structuring what the Task Force does in a manner that will allow for such a showing of the need. Sam Cooper raised the question of whether the Task Force needed to develop a mission statement to place in writing the parameters of its work. Sam Milkes emphasized the multiple partners, beginning with the PBA, that were needed to solve the problem and he asked the group to consider who are those multiple partners. Gregg Warner followed up on Manderino’s remarks and noted the needs for debt relief of government attorneys, legislative attorneys and others.

Manderino then listed the support programs she knows about, including nursing, rural and urban teachers and child care workers. She explained how they all had different funding streams that made them more and less effective. Law school loan efforts such as the program at Dickinson also were mentioned at this point. Shiela Dow-Ford then explained how PHEAA administers various programs that offer support in various ways. It was noted that the Task Force needed to look at the societal benefit being provided and to carefully look at what currently is taking place in Pennsylvania.

Questions about the division of labor and the forming of Task Force committees led to a discussion led by Rulli on the need for fact gathering by region and on what would make for the most efficient way to develop a plan of action for the Task Force. Dow-Ford listed the variety of data already available — law school data, legal services data, PHEAA data — and suggested that the Task Force might synthesize this information to fulfill the fact-finding role. Maureen Kelly then noted the importance of not duplicating efforts that seemed the proper moment to introduce Susan Curry, American Bar Association consultant on State LRAP Issues, who then provided an overview of what other states are doing in this area.

Curry began with a review of the ABA Commission and its work, explaining that it had three work groups — federal, law school and state. These work groups produced a report that all members of the Task Force received the summary of and a tool kit for states getting involved in this area. Curry promised to provide a link for the PBA to the ABA Web site for the materials produced by the Commission and she noted that her role as an ABA consultant was to help states such as Pennsylvania implement plans for tackling this problem. Curry identified nine statewide programs around the country, with Maryland being the largest at $670,000 of annual funding, though that funding covers more professions than lawyers. The programs range in size from Maryland’s figure down to New York, which gave out one grant of $25,000 in 2003. Curry noted that only four or five states have enacted legislation to support this effort and that there is no funding, despite the legislation, in two or three of those states.

Curry touched on the tax consequences of whether programs are presented as grants or loans and then discussed program eligibility and ongoing national efforts in the field. Curry then took questions and comments from the Task Force. Al Azen suggested that there were marketing pieces available for this and he discussed the need to determine the vehicle model to be used to facilitate funding participation from various groups. Angel Markle questioned whether a program could be designed that started while students were still in school, enabling law students to commit to careers in public interest. Pam Day then raised the question about the distinction between scholarships and LRAP and Dveera Segal shared how Villanova funds things up front through its Public Interest Scholars Program. Curry concluded by discussing the choices the Task Force would face — such as whether to fund a few well or many in a more limited fashion — and then she gave her contact information: Susan Curry, susan@consultcurry.com, 773-728-7026.

Following a break for lunch, Sheila Dow-Ford gave a detailed presentation about the various loan forgiveness and debt relief programs administered by PHEAA. She stated by describing the Nursing Education Loan Forgiveness Program that has hybrid funding sources. Among the funders for this program are hospital associations, nursing schools, 2 PHEAA foundations and direct funding through PHEAA. The nurses benefit from tobacco settlement money. Nurses participating in the program have a service requirement and sign a promissory note.

Dow-Ford then noted that the urban and rural teachers loan program is funded solely through the legislature. A third program, the Early Childhood Education Loan Program, is funded by PHEAA and the legislature, representing the recent emergence of public/private funding efforts. She also noted programs in Science and Technology and in Agriculture. These programs all have expectations of service, contracts and promissory notes with repayment if you fail to meet expectations. Dow-Ford also described a medical school, Primary Health Care Practitioner Program that had block grants of federal dollars with matching state funds. She noted that some of the contracts in this area have the recipients repay at a premium if in default, up to three times the amount provided.

Lou Rulli began the discussion of the Task Force action plan by suggesting certain working groups, law school, private/public employers and tracking what happens on the federal level. It was noted that the core programs all had issues of eligibility, vehicle for funding and the funding itself. A discussion of the best target area led to the suggestion that three to five target sectors might be identified, such as law schools, government attorneys, private and public lawyers. Rulli wondered if prosecutors and defenders should be included, noting that a Senate bill was more broadly targeted.

A general discussion of the need to hold public hearings and whether they should be held at law schools or in community forums followed. Maureen Kelly raised the question of the value in telling the story of the need to the public and to the profession. Gregg Behr offered research recently published by the Forbes Fund and that research was sent electronically to all members of the Task Force. If the goal of obtaining information is to build support for the Task Force effort, Andrew Gonzalez suggested gathering testimonials from recent law school graduates and others impacted by the debt burden. Sam Cooper said he thought it would be a good idea to hold these kinds of hearings to get the word out to law students and lawyers across the state. Rulli asked Jim Wells if the YLD might work with law students across the state on this effort and Wells agreed that it would be a good focus for the YLD.

Following this discussion, the Task Force decided to break into four work groups, with descriptions following, as outlined below:

1. Law Schools. (Review law school LRAP programs and latest reports on student loan obligations; contact with law school career planning and placement offices and public service programs, interact with law school deans, faculty, students; review and analyze innovative approaches to the problem at law schools around the country; etc.).

2. Employers. (Review and analyze student loan programs and policies of public and private employers, legal services programs, non-profit organizations, etc.).

3. Funders. (Review and analyze student loan programs of funders: legislative initiatives, higher education assistance agencies, foundations, financial institutions, bar associations, etc.).

4. Research. (Compile external resources, studies, articles, latest developments regarding student loan obligations and assistance programs; provide needed information to the workgroups; etc.).

The Task Force leadership agreed to afford all members of the Task Force an opportunity to express their preferences for assignment to the work groups and PBA staff took the responsibility for working with leadership to survey members as to their preferences.

Rulli noted that once the working groups were in place, an overall timetable for the Task Force would be established. It was initially agreed that the timetable for our work would be to shoot for the House of Delegates meeting in the Spring of 2005, but if that turned out to be unrealistic to shoot for the House of Delegates meeting in the Fall of 2005. Depending on the target date for competing the Task Force work, the calendar for the group would be created working backwards from the closing date and taking into account PBA reporting deadlines for Board of Governors and House of Delegates meetings. After mention of the upcoming May 12, 2004, Pro Bono Conference in Harrisburg, the Task Force meeting closed at 2:00 p.m.