Group Legal Services, a Member Benefit
by Maripaz Berlin, Vice President & Grievance Chair
Lately there have been more than a few requests and inquiries into legal services. OGEA and CTA members have access to Group Legal Services Program. These are the FAQs from CTA LEGAL SERVICES
GROUP LEGAL SERVICES PROGRAM - FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is a Group Legal Services (GLS) attorney?
GLS attorneys are a network of attorneys throughout California with their own law practices who provide legal services to CTA members. GLS attorneys are well-versed in education and labor law and are familiar with issues that arise for teachers, e.g., credential problems, permanent teacher dismissals, RIFs, employment-related criminal charges, and probationary non-reelections.
I want to speak with an attorney about an issue—how do I receive a referral?
First, you should always bring employment-related issues to the attention of your CTA representative; members sometimes have to go first to a building representative. Often he or she will resolve the issue. For example, your issue might be resolved by filing a grievance on your behalf. GLS attorneys do not handle grievances. A grievance would be filed and handled by your chapter or CTA representative.
Your CTA representative will determine whether you need to be referred to a Group Legal Services (GLS) attorney. Your CTA representative handles the referral and does the paperwork so that CTA— not you—will be charged for the initial advice and consultation. As a current CTA member you may be entitled to receive one free hour of advice and consultation in a civil employment-related matter and a half-hour free advice and consultation in a non-employment matter. Agency fee payers are not entitled to receive GLS services.
Are there other requirements for me to meet in order to be referred to a GLS attorney?
Yes. You must have been a CTA member at the time of the incident giving rise to the need for legal services and at the time the request for legal services is made. You must also keep your CTA membership current while receiving legal services. In addition, to avoid conflicts of interest, a member who is asserting a claim against CTA or one of its chapters is ineligible for a GLS referral.
A family friend is an attorney. Can I see him and expect CTA to pay for it?
No. CTA will not pay for attorney services if the attorney is not a GLS attorney. CTA will not pay for the services of a GLS attorney if you bypass the CTA representative and contact a GLS attorney directly, i.e. a referral was not done by a CTA representative. You must go through your CTA representative for every referral to a GLS attorney. Each referral has a unique number assigned to it. This number is how the GLS attorney bills CTA and how CTA tracks cases being handled by GLS attorneys. Also, a member must use the attorney assigned by CTA to his or her case.
What funding is available to my GLS attorney for services under the GLS program?
Please refer to “GLS Member Summary of Benefits” for more information on basic funding. In addition, the CTA Chief Counsel and Legal Director have the authority to authorize additional funding in cases that are significant or precedential.
What happens if funding is denied on my case? Is there any appeal process?
Yes. You may request funding from the Advisory Panel on Legal Services (APLS). An application and supporting documentation must be completed and sent to Rachel Quiles of the CTA Legal Department in Burlingame. You may request an application from Rachel at (650) 552-5425. She can inform you when the next APLS meeting will be held and answer any questions you may have pertaining to the panel.
Who are the APLS members? How do they work?
The APLS panel consists of CTA members. The panel meets approximately 4 times per year. The Chief Counsel or her designee also attends the APLS meeting. At the meeting the panel reviews applications submitted for appeal and makes decisions regarding granting all or part of the funding requested or denying it. The panel’s decisions then become recommendations to the CTA Board of Directors. The Board of Directors hears the recommendations at the board meeting immediately following the APLS meeting. The Board of Directors can agree or disagree with the panel’s recommendations. The CTA Board of Directors has the final say on the appeal.
Why can’t I call the CTA Legal Department and speak with a staff attorney?
There are currently 9 staff attorneys in the CTA Legal Department and approximately 325,000 CTA members. Given that ratio it would be impossible for staff attorneys to answer questions from members throughout the state and attempt to handle their caseload at the same time. CTA staff representatives work with chapters on potential legal issues and may contact staff attorneys when such issues arise.
What’s the difference between a CTA staff attorney and a GLS attorney?
Generally, staff attorneys represent CTA and its chapters in unfair practice charges and other matters filed with the Public Employment Relations Board, court cases, and arbitrations. They provide legal advice to CTA and its chapters o a wide variety of subjects. They also provide training to members and staff representatives.
GLS attorneys generally represent individual members in credential proceedings, employment-related criminal cases, permanent teacher dismissals, and various other employment-related problems.
Maripaz Berlin, Grievance Chair
Bob Prola, Grievance Committee Member