— Heidi Sfiligoj, News Staff
The NASW Legal Defense Fund (LDF) recently released its annual report for the 2007-2008 fiscal year, which began July 1, 2007, and ended June 30, 2008.
LDF offers financial support to many members' legal cases and also provides support for friend-of-the-court briefs filed by NASW. Additionally, LDF supports educational projects and programs to enhance the legal status and knowledge of the social work profession. LDF obtains the bulk of its funds for case support and other projects from the dues renewal check-off by members on their annual renewal applications.
"During the program year, the Legal Defense Fund approved funding for five applications for financial support and authorized the expenditure of $98,591 for legal matters and educational programs, cases and projects affecting the social work profession," the report states.
During the 2007-2008 fiscal year, on behalf of NASW and relevant NASW chapters, 15 friend-of-the-court briefs were filed. "The topics addressed in NASW's briefs included the death penalty for child rape, same-sex marriage, child custody for same-sex couples, strip searches of minor school children, confidentiality in professional disciplinary actions, prosecution of pregnant women addicted to illegal substances, access to abortion services, employment discrimination, medical records privacy, exceptions to psychotherapist-patient privilege, and the constitutional rights of 'enemy combatants,'" the report states.
Some court decisions were also rendered during the fiscal year in cases in which NASW had filed a brief in a past fiscal year. In total, "nine favorable court decisions were reached this fiscal year" in support of NASW's positions.
The report also notes how LDF enhanced communication with members during the 2007-2008 fiscal year. In recognition of its 35th anniversary, LDF started a regular electronic mailing that is e-mailed 10 times each year to around 30,000 NASW members who support LDF through their NASW membership renewal check-off. The e-mail offers direct access to the latest Legal Issue of the Month article and hypertext links to LDF online content.
LDF also continued its educational outreach to social workers by updating the online resource center, "HIPAA Highlights for Social Workers," and by presenting "Social Workers and the Legal Rights of Children," the initial workshop in the NASW Lunchtime Teleconference Series.
LDF also regularly posted new material on its Web page, including 10 Legal Issue of the Month articles. A special Web page for legal issues related to the Guantanamo Bay detainees and their access to the U.S. courts was also created.
At the end of the fiscal year, a new Law Note, Social Workers and the Legal Rights of Students, was nearly completed, while writing and research continued for future law notes.
"The LDF continued its role in educating members about social workers' legal rights and responsibilities through teleconferences, conference presentations, Internet resources, legal articles and Law Note publications," the report concludes.