PSJD Public Interest News Digest – September 19, 2014

by Christina Jackson, NALP Director of Public Service Initiatives & Fellowships

Happy Friday everyone!  I’m writing to you this week from Happy Valley.  So excited to see a game at my alma mater.  I know the semester is starting (starting?) to get hectic, but remember to take a minute or two to touch base with what recharges you.  You can’t help others if you’ve got nothing in the tank.

And thank you all for sending in your 1L Orientation Service Projects.  There are some great ideas out there to replicate at your school, and a wonderful pick me up when you see all the hard work being done!

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: If you know someone we should honor, drop me a line.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Widener Law Veterans Law Clinic honored;
  • Nova Scotia Legal Aid expands services for Halifax-area youths;
  • Public Council expands litigation and lobbying efforts;
  • TX veterans to receive funds for legal services;
  • New program helps NM vets with legal assistance;
  • Legal Aid of Western Missouri marks 50 years;
  • Boston VLP receives grant for bankruptcy help;
  • San Francisco Supervisors ok $2.1 mil in legal services funding for immigrant children;
  • NYC agencies to provide legal services to migrant children;
  • 3 lawyers win MacArthur Genius Award;
  • 2014 recipients of Skirnick, Kaufman and One Day’s Work Fellowships for public service announced;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: Professional Development and Pro Bono staff of Georgetown University Law Center, Columbia University School of Law, and Rutgers Law School;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

September 10, 2014 – “The Widener University School of Law and its Veterans Law Clinic are being honored with a 2014 Delaware Governor’s Outstanding Volunteer Award for community service”  “The Veterans Law Clinic, based at Widener Law Delaware, provides free legal aid to disabled veterans and their dependents with claims pending before the Department of Veterans Affairs.”  Congratulations!!!  (delawareonline)

September 10, 2014 – “Young people who are not even in trouble with the law will soon be able to get help with issues involving school, housing and income assistance, police complaints, licence suspensions and Protection of Property Act matters through the Nova Scotia Legal Aid Commission in Halifax.  ‘We know that when people turn to us for criminal or family law assistance there are often many other stressors contributing to those issues, which are sometimes just symptoms rather than problems that exist in a vacuum,’ Megan Longley, managing lawyer of Nova Scotia Legal Aid’s youth justice office, said in an email.”  “No new money is going into the expanded services. The commission’s staff lawyers, who have already been informally providing these services to existing clients, will handle these cases on top of their regular workloads.”  (Herald News)

September 10, 2014 – “The former legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California will lead an expansion of Public Counsel’s litigation and lobbying efforts across the country.  Mark Rosenbaum, most recently chief counsel of the ACLU of Southern California, is now director of Public Counsel Opportunity Under Law, a new initiative at Los Angeles-based Public Counsel, the nation’s largest pro bono organization.”  “Hernán Vera, president and chief executive officer of Public Counsel, said the initiative expands on a program launched in 2009 to broaden the nonprofit’s reach.” (National Law Journal)(subscription required)

September 12, 2014 – “Legal aid services for indigent defendants in Texas are receiving a boost from the Texas Access to Justice Foundation.  The nonprofit has announced grants of $426,000 to 11 organizations, including one in San Antonio, to help fund services specifically for Texas veterans.”  Organizations receiving funds are Baylor University School of Law, Waco; Cathedral Justice Project, Houston; Community Justice Program, San Antonio; Fort Bend Lawyers Care, Richmond; Houston Bar Foundation, Houston and surrounding area; Jefferson County Bar Foundation, Beaumont; Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas, Fort Worth (also includes Dallas, North Texas, Panhandle, and West Texas); Lone Star Legal Aid, Houston (includes Gulf Coast and East Texas); Oficina Legal del Pueblo Unido, Inc. (Texas Civil Rights Project), statewide; Tarrant County Bar Foundation, Fort Worth; Texas Legal Services Center, Austin (statewide).  (San Antonio Business Journal)

September 14, 2014 – “Nonprofit legal services organization New Mexico Legal Aid recently partnered with the New Mexico Department of Veterans Services, the New Mexico Veterans Integration Center and the State Bar Young Lawyers Division to create the Veterans Justice Project. This program provides free legal assistance to low-income veterans and helps them navigate the application process to receive benefits.”  “With funding from the [Legal Services Corporation] and other sources, New Mexico Legal Aid is able to provide assistance and create programs that address pressing needs. Programs like the Veterans Justice Project get other leaders in the community to take notice.”  (Albuquerque Journal)

September 14, 2014 – “Working for Kansas City’s eighth-largest law firm is kind of a low-glamour affair.  Its downtown offices are respectable, but not like the palatial digs that some others sport. And most of the firm’s 56 lawyers spend their time doing legal work that seldom comes in the door at the pricier addresses.  Such as helping poor people get health care when they are denied coverage. Keeping indigent clients in their homes while a landlord-tenant dispute plays out. Standing up for a domestic abuse victim as she fights for custody or child support.  That is what Legal Aid of Western Missouri has done for a half-century now: Provide legal services at no cost to the region’s neediest residents.”  Congratulations and here’s to 50 more! (The Kansas City Star)

September 14, 2014 – “The Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association has received a $158,000 grant to develop new legal aid clinics and technology to help low-income clients with bankruptcy.  The project will test ‘pop-up’ bankruptcy clinics, a customized virtual law firm platform and videoconferencing to train pro bono attorneys in parts of the state where no volunteer bankruptcy attorneys are available.  The project is one of 11 inaugural recipients of Legal Services Corp.’s $2.5 million Pro Bono Innovation Fund, a competitive grant that invests in projects to identify and promote innovations in pro bono for low-income legal aid clients.”  (News Observer)

September 17, 2014 – “San Francisco [California] approved $2.1 million in spending Tuesday on legal services for immigrant youths who fled Central America and face deportation after crossing the border illegally to seek refuge in the United States.  The funding comes as U.S. Customs and Border Protection is apprehending a larger number of undocumented youths entering the country and a so-called rocket docket is in effect fast-tracking these cases through the courts in response to a directive from the Obama administration.”  (The Examiner)

September 17, 2014 – “Child migrants who have recently arrived in New York City and are going through deportation hearings will now have access to services from multiple agencies, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Commissioner of Immigrant Affairs Nisha Agarwal said Tuesday. According to the mayor’s office, some 1,350 unaccompanied children have been placed with their families or sponsors in the city between January and July of this year. The services, which will be provided at New York City Immigration Court, will help the children enroll in school, state-funded health insurance through Child Health Plus and medical and mental health treatment. Legal services will be made available as well, and this is the first time direct services have been made available at the court, according to the mayor’s office.”  (Metro)

September 17, 2014 – In the Class of 2014 MacArthur Fellows, there are three wonderful advocates for change.  Mary L. Bonauto, Director of the Civil Rights Project for the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders; Sarah Deer,Professor of Law at the William Mitchell College of Law; and Jonathan Rapping,President and Founder of Gideon’s Promise.  Read more about their wonderful work, and perhaps you too will be inspired along these lines.  (MacArthur Foundation)

September 18, 2014 – “Twenty-three public service visionaries and social entrepreneurs from Harvard Law School have been selected as recipients of grants from the Public Service Venture Fund, a unique program that awards up to $1 million each year to help graduating Harvard Law students and recent graduates obtain their ideal jobs in public service.”  Check these outstanding recipients and their amazing work.  (Harvard Law Today)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: 

One of the highlights of Georgetown University Law Center’s Orientation Week is the opportunity for students to spend a morning or afternoon giving back to the DC community by participating in a 1L Orientation Service Project. For many 1Ls, this event also serves as a way to meet classmates, staff and faculty, explore Washington DC, and learn about the wealth of service and pro bono opportunities available at Georgetown Law.  This year approximately 300 students went to 7 volunteer sites over two days. The projects took place the first two days of orientation, and current students as well as staff and faculty members serve as “project leads” to help oversee the projects and welcome the students. Projects vary from year to year, but usually include work at food banks, soup kitchens, shelters, national parks, and other social service organizations.

Columbia University School of Law holds a Community Service Day immediately prior to the formal orientation.  A large portion of the entering class participates, and this year hosted ten projects, including volunteering at a clothing pantry for battered women and their families, work at a large food bank, gardening, cleaning and painting at various local parks, projects with the elderly, a project for veterans, cooking in a soup kitchen and stocking a food pantry, and various projects at local public schools.  Each group is led by a staff member or upper year student and we invite faculty to participate as well.

Rutgers Law School incoming students volunteer to paint, clean, organize or do whatever else the local libraries in Camden need on the Saturday before classes start. Likewise, incoming students at Rutgers-Newark have served a variety of sites in the city over the years.

Super Music Bonus!  This week we celebrate Chris Brown’s alma mater.

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Starting your project-based fellowship proposal: Where and why lawyers give great ideas away

by Sam Halpert, PSJD Fellow (2014 – 2015)

Those of you in your last year of law school are probably considering the variety of organizations offering themselves as potential partners for 2015’s batch of project-based fellowships.

If you haven’t heard about these entry-level opportunities, here’s the short version: they’re the most straightforward way to do what you are most interested in straight out of law school. You should read each fellowship’s application materials carefully before applying, but speaking loosely each follows a similar model: Prospective fellows partner with non-profit organizations to propose new projects that the hopeful applicant would undertake—projects which would expand the scope of the sponsoring non-profit’s work. Fellowship committees provide grants to their new Fellows to complete the proposed project at the host organization. In other words, successful fellowship candidates write their own job descriptions—not a bad first year as a lawyer.

The tricky part about getting a project-based fellowship is that you can’t apply on your own. You have to convince a non-profit to sponsor your application. You can find a sizeable number of non-profits looking for promising potential fellows to sponsor right now on PSJD. (Try searching for “Job Type: Fellowship – Legal: Project-Based” in the advanced search or searching for the keyword “Fellowship Sponsor” [in quotations].) Some of these organizations have project ideas already, and are looking for a 3L with the right experiences and skillset to successfully pull them off. Many, however, expect prospective fellows to bring their own proposals to the table.

This can be a daunting task. At the beginning of your third year of legal education, you may have been exposed to public-interest legal work through your internships or a clinic, but that doesn’t mean that you’ve observed some “group or issue not adequately represented in our legal system” and arrived at a clear idea about how to address the problem legally with the support of a host organization, to paraphrase the EJW Application Guide. So, as you set out to secure yourself a sponsor, you may be wondering, “Where do project ideas come from?”

In the non-profit legal world, there is far more work to be done than resources with which to do it. Mostly, this fact is discouraging. But students looking for project ideas should take heart: with a little research, you can find a plethora of already-identified legal needs begging for more attention.

Some of these issues are lucky enough to make the news. For example, last May NPR ran “Guilty and Charged”: a special series documenting at length its yearlong investigation into nationwide practices punishing impoverished defendants more harshly than those with means.  Among other resources, the series includes a state-by-state survey of costs courts pass on to defendants and profiles of a variety of individuals who suffered at the hands of such fee-based justice systems. If you’re interested in procedural due process or economic justice, check out the series and see what jumps out at you.

When reading NPR’s series, one thing you’ll notice is that particular legal organizations, such as the Southern Center for Human Rights, NYU’s Brennan Center for Justice, and Arch City Defenders, drove NPR’s reporting. Many legal practitioners already know what they would work on if they had the resources and the manpower. Not all of them are fortunate enough to attract NPR’s attention. Look for organizations with missions related to your particular social concerns (try searching PSJD’s employer profiles) and see if they have white papers or reports about emergent issues they hope to address. For example, Georgetown Law’s Human Rights Institute funds a student-led fact-finding mission investigating an emerging human rights crisis each year. Each mission generates a report based on its research, but few of them attract enough resources to continue their work beyond their initial year. A number of these reports focus on human rights crises in the United States and would be excellent sources for a project proposal.

Once you find an idea that grabs you, try following up with some of the legal authorities behind it. An email or phone call might seem pushy, but these organizations will have unbeatable insight into what needs to be done next and will jump at the chance to help you convince a fellowship committee to devote resources to their issue. (Speaking personally, I would love to see my past work with Georgetown on urban water shutoffs receive this kind of attention from prospective project fellows.)

So remember, if you’re stuck: The proposal will be yours. The project will be yours. The inspiration doesn’t have to be. While you’ve been in school, some lawyer somewhere is already championing your particular interest. Find out what that person would do with enough time or enough money and begin your project proposal there.

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Equal Justice Works News: Free Student Debt Webinars & Sen. Warren’s Student Loan Refinancing Bill

Over the last few years, homeowners have taken advantage of historically low interest rates to refinance their mortgages and improve their finances. But that hasn’t really been an option for federal student loan borrowers, though many loans borrowed during the last decade had rates of 8 percent or more.

That’s a good reason to support Elizabeth Warren’s Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act (SB 2432), which would allow millions of individuals to refinance their student loans at lower rates.

Although you can’t refinance your federal student loans (yet!) there are powerful federal programs like income-driven repayment plans and Public Service Loan Forgiveness that can help. Get the details – and learn how President Obama’s proposal to cap Public Service Loan Forgiveness may affect that program.

Register for one of our free September webinars

  • Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2014 from 3:00-4:00 p.m. EDT
    Pursuing Public Interest: What about my student debt?

    This is Part Two of our special webinar series for new law students. Click here to view a recording of Part One, Pursuing Public Interest: Equal Justice Works Programs, and sign up for Part Three, Pursuing Public Interest: Paving your own path.

If you register but cannot attend, you will receive a recording of the webinar you can view anytime.

Share and get involved!

Please forward this information on to anyone you think might benefit from it. Our student debt webinars are tailored for law students and lawyers, but the information is accessible and applicable to anyone who needs help managing their student debt.

And check out the Generation Progress campaign to tell Congress to support borrowers’ ability to refinance their student loans.

Equal Justice Works is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a just society by mobilizing the next generation of lawyers committed to equal justice. To stay up to date, follow us on Twitter (@EJW_org, #studentdebthelp) and on Facebook.

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – September 12, 2014

by Christina Jackson, NALP Director of Public Service Initiatives & Fellowships

Happy Friday everyone!  We continue our focus on 1L Orientation Service Projects through this month.

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: If you know someone we should honor, drop me a line.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Duke Law clinic helps exonerate man imprisoned for 22 years;
  • Report questions billings to IA state public defender;
  • Iowa Supreme Court declines to adopt diploma privilege;
  • BC lawyers holding advice-a-thons;
  • Bay Area Legal Services receives grant;
  • Legal Aid Ontario launches Durham family law centre;
  • Foundation launches website to connect volunteers & immigrants;
  • Case Western Reserve receives gift to endow Intellectual Property Center;
  • LSC awards 11 Pro Bono Innovation Grants;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: Professional Development and Pro Bono staff of University of Wisconsin Law School, University of Houston Law Center, Baylor University Law School;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

September 5, 2014 – “Michael Parker spent 22 years in jail for crimes he did not commit—and now, thanks to work by Duke’s Wrongful Convictions Clinic, he is finally free.”  Parker had sought out the clinic’s help after hearing about their success in a similar case.  “Parker’s case is the fifth since 2010 to be overturned through work by the clinic. Two convictions were overturned both in 2010 and in 2012, and a sixth client’s release is pending for later in 2014.”  (Duke Chronicle)

September 5, 2014 – “Private attorneys working as public defenders overbilled the state by $311,182 during a four-year period, according to a report released Thursday by Iowa’s state auditor.  Auditor Mary Mosiman reviewed data from July 1, 2009, through Aug. 31, 2013. Her report says 13 attorneys filed improper mileage claims, and 11 billed for work days that were longer than 12 hours — in some cases, claiming to work more than 24 hours in a day.”  “The investigation was conducted at the request of the State Public Defender’s Office after concerns with reimbursement claims. A previous internal investigation led to criminal charges for one attorney last year and prompted the office to cancel contracts with some attorneys.”  (Daily Reporter)

September 5, 2014 – The Iowa Supreme Court declined to establish a diploma privilege and “will take no further action on a recommendation from the Iowa State Bar Association in December, which suggested changes in admission procedures, including eliminating the bar exam requirement for graduates of the state’s two law schools who want to practice in Iowa.  The Uniform Bar Exam, a test accepted in 14 states, would have been available for those who wanted to take it.”  However, the Iowa Board of Bar Examiners will look at alternatives to address the Bar’s concerns about the delay in graduates beginning their careers while they await exam results.  One of the proposed options is to allow third year law students to take the February bar exam.  (The Des Moines Register)

September 8, 2014 – “On a Friday afternoon in Vancouver’s Victory Square park, a dozen or so tents, tables and booths are filled with lawyers in suits and ties listening to clients of many backgrounds, binders of documents at the handy.”  “Organizers of the Pro Bono Going Public events say the services are intended for low-income people who face barriers in dealing with their legal troubles. The events started in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside last week and will soon be available in four other B.C. cities: Surrey, Victoria, Kelowna and Kamloops.”  Organizer Jamie Maclaren (who is also Executive Director of the Access Pro Bono Society of B.C.)  said “the ‘advice-a-thon’ is a chance for lawyers to do their part in helping those without means access an often opaque and complex justice system.”  Maclaren is also trying to exert pressure on the provincial government to fund legal aid more properly.  (The Tyee)

September 9, 2014 – “Bay Area Legal Services will receive a nearly $500,000 grant to bolster civil and criminal legal assistance for adult and minor victims of domestic violence, dating violence and sexual assault. The money is made available under a grants initiative funded by the federal Violence Against Women Act.  Last year, Bay Area Legal Services, a nonprofit, helped about 1,200 victims receive protective injunctions, child custody and alimony.”  (Tampa Bay Business Journal)

September 9, 2014 – “Legal Aid Ontario has opened a new centre in Durham, offering legal help to Durham residents navigating the family court system.”  “The Family Law Service Centre will be staffed by a lawyer, a legal assistant and there will be another legal assistant and duty counsel available at the courthouse.”  (durhamregion.com)

September 9, 2014 – “In anticipation of an eventual federal overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws and a growing immigrant population in Silicon Valley, Mountain View-based Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF) launched last week a new online tool to recruit volunteers for nonprofit organizations that provide legal services to the 200,000 low-income immigrants living in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.  Dubbed CONEC, the tool allows volunteers to search for opportunities via ZIP code, distance or key words and then matches their skills, location and availability with needs of local nonprofit legal-services groups. The website also provides a calendar detailing volunteer opportunities, posts upcoming immigration workshops and offers information about nonprofits who might need volunteer help, from Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto to Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County and the Asian Law Alliance.”  (Palo Alto online)

September 9, 2014 – “The Spangenberg Family Foundation, a Dallas-based philanthropic organization established by the family of Case Western Reserve University School of Law alum Erich Spangenberg, has committed $3 million to endow the university’s Intellectual Property (IP) Center.The newly endowed Spangenberg Center for Law, Technology & the Arts will allow more opportunities for students to gain interdisciplinary, practical experience in the rapidly growing field of IP law. The pledge also provides faculty members and visiting fellows more resources to participate in important IP research.”  (newswise)

September 10, 2014 – The Legal Services Corporation announced today that eleven organizations will receive a Pro Bono Innovation grant to totally more than $2.2 million.  The 11 organizations are Atlanta Legal Aid Society, Colorado Legal Services, Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, Legal Assistance of Western New York (LawNY), Maryland Legal Aid, Montana Legal Services Association, Northwest Justice Project, Philadelphia Legal Assistance, Prairie State Legal Services, Inc., Utah Legal Services, and Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association. Each of their programs are outlines in the LSC press release. (LSC)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: 

 On August 28, incoming University of Wisconsin Law School students participated in Community Service Day, an annual day of volunteering with local nonprofit agencies.  As part of orientation week, the event is designed to connect new students’ educational experience to public service, while giving them a chance to get to know each other.   Students volunteering in this year’s Community Service Day pulled weeds, made blankets for children in need, painted and cleaned, among other activities.

The University of Houston Law Center Community Service Day 2014 saw over 180 1L students, faculty and staff work at the Houston Food Bank and Neighborhood Centers and Own the Dream.  At the Houston Food Bank, the Law Center volunteers assembled 14,232 lbs. of food, which will provide 11,800 meals to economically challenged families in the greater Harris County community. At the Neighborhood Centers and Own the Dream, the Law Center volunteers worked along with attorneys to do intakes of Deferred Action Childhood Arrival (“DACA”) cases. They processed approximately 60 cases on Saturday.

Baylor University Law School 1L Orientation Community Service Project has seen 100% participation since its inception.   During their first-year orientation, every student participates in a community service event. These events have ranged from helping build a house with Habitat for Humanity Waco, working with Meals on Wheels preparing food, and cleaning up Waco’s historic Cameron Park.

Super Music Bonus!  This week the Fellows battle it out.  All in good fun, of course.

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Equal Justice Works Career Fair & Conference – last week to register

The Equal Justice Works annual Conference and Career Fair is the largest public interest legal career fair in the country. It is the only event where you’ll find more than 1,200 public interest-minded students representing 200 law schools from across the country coming together to explore career options with more than 130 leading nonprofit organizations and government agencies.  The Conference and Career Fair provides access to job opportunities for law students; connects employers with talented attorneys and law students; and offers a multitude of skill-building and career advising sessions with experts from around the country. Our conference continues to be an unparalleled networking opportunity for students, law school professionals and legal professionals. Students and recent graduates can apply for interviews through September 16 and may register to attend informal table talk networking and workshop sessions through October 10. For more information, visit the Equal Justice Works website.

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – September 5, 2014

by Christina Jackson, NALP Director of Public Service Initiatives & Fellowships

Happy Friday everyone!  Welcome to September!  I don’t know about your area, but the late summer heat here is awful!  But, despite the high temps, we have some dedicated students out there helping their communities.  We continue our focus on 1L Orientation Service Projects through this month.

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: If you know someone we should honor, drop me a line.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Alberta legal aid lawyers taking action over funding;
  • Federal grants to aid victims of violence in ND Bakken region;
  • Victoria legal aid restored for family violence victims;
  • ME Volunteer Lawyers Project launches new legal aid program;
  • Court fee hike supports PA legal services;
  • CO Public Defenders want juveniles out of restraints in court;
  • Legal Aid Ontario funding law school clinics;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: Professional Development and Pro Bono staff of Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School, University of Pennsylvania Law School, Brooklyn Law School;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

August 28, 2014 – “Alberta’s legal-aid lawyers are threatening to clog the courts with applications from people denied coverage to draw attention to what the lawyers say is a severely underfunded system.  Ian Savage, president of the Criminal Defence Lawyers Association in Calgary, says the government has raised the bar so high that people living on income support or with major disabilities can’t get a legal-aid lawyer.”  “Justice Minister Jonathan Denis has rejected calls for increased funding and has instead asked the federal government to provide more money to Alberta. He has said he is willing to look at what can be done in next year’s budget for legal aid.”  (Global News)

August 28, 2014 – “The North Dakota Council on Abused Women’s Services has a three-part plan for its share of a $3 million grant from the Department of Justice. It includes counselors, legal services and advocacy.  CAWS North Dakota is one of five recipients sharing the award from the Office on Violence Against Women special initiative.  The grants are to provide services for victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking, and to help local and tribal governments prosecute violence against women in the Bakken Region of North Dakota and Montana.”  (Bismark Tribune)

August 31, 2014 – “Victoria Legal Aid will restore free legal help for family violence victims in child custody battles, reversing cuts that left some to face their attackers in court alone.  The organisation stopped funding legal assistance for people in the Family Court if they were against a person who was also without a lawyer last year, amid drastic cuts to its services to save money.”  “From Monday, Legal Aid will make an exception for family violence victims whose perpetrators had been convicted of breaching an intervention order or other family-violence related offences, or if the police or government department had helped them move due to safety concerns.”  (The Age)

August 31, 2014 – “The Maine Volunteer Lawyers Project, with the cooperation of lawyers in Washington County, is getting ready to launch a new legal aid program to serve needy people.  The Courthouse Assistance Program will provide legal aid to people on a walk-in, first-come, first-served basis. They will receive a free initial consultation with a volunteer lawyer.  People will be screened according to income level using the same guidelines as Pine Tree Legal Assistance and social service agencies.”  (Bangor Daily News)

September 1, 2014 – “A $1 increase in court surcharges that took effect Aug. 8 is generating more revenue to fund legal services for low-income Pennsylvanians, a step in a broader effort to expand access to justice.  The additional surcharge on court costs and filing fees is authorized under legislation sponsored by Rep. Tarah Toohil, R-116, Butler Twp., that was signed into law in July.  The money will support the Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network, which assists the poor in civil cases that often involve domestic violence, eviction and emergency custody issues.  The extra money will help address a problem facing thousands of citizens who qualify for that assistance based on poverty income guidelines but are being turned away because legal aid has insufficient funding, said Ms. Toohil.”  (thetimes-tribune.com)

September 1, 2014 – In all but three [Colorado] courthouses, juveniles as young as 10 are led into courtrooms wearing restraints that can weigh as much as 25 pounds. Defense attorneys and advocates say the long-term effects of shackling juveniles can be devastating for children still developing their self-worth.  Sheriff’s departments — which are in charge of the custody of all offenders and courthouse security — cannot readily recall a recent assault or escape attempt by a juvenile inside a courtroom, but most still say the risks of removing restraints are too great. Judges, who have the ultimate say of whether juveniles wear restraints in their courtroom, have repeatedly deferred to the sheriff’s judgment.”  “Public defenders and child advocates have been working with judges and law enforcement for several years to change the practice. Since the beginning of the year, three districts — Boulder, Jefferson and La Plata counties — have started unshackling juveniles while they are in the courtrooms.”  “Law enforcement and public defenders in each of those counties said there have been no problems inside the courtrooms since they started removing the restraints. Some even reported improved behavior.”  Advocates are fighting to create a state-wide policy.  (The Denver Post)

September 2, 2014 – “Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) is providing over $2 million over three years to six university-operated legal clinics to provide family law services for low-income Ontarians.  Starting in September (January for the University of Windsor), four student legal aid services societies will begin offering family law services. The University of Toronto’s Downtown Legal Services will be using the funds to expand its existing family law division. All of these societies will use a combination of summer students, in-term students and staff lawyers to broaden access to justice by addressing the unmet legal needs of family litigants.”  (CNW)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: 

Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School Community Service Day took place on August 15, 2014.  Students participated in a variety of projects including visiting a prison, conducting a phone bank to update the re-entry guide for formerly incarcerated citizens, did police ride-alongs, volunteering at a food bank, and helping to collect and ship books for students in Africa.

University of Pennsylvania Law School’s Orientation Service Day connected students, staff and faculty with five sites.  More than half of the incoming class signs up and the sites are set up throughout Philadelphia so that students can get to know the community they’ll be part of for the next three years.  It starts with breakfast and ends with a late lunch.  Students clean neighborhoods, spruce up schools, work in urban farms/gardens, sort food/clothes, etc. Current students, staff and faculty are invited to participate.

On August 17, Brooklyn Law School held its Inaugural Orientation Community Service Day, co-sponsored by Brooklyn Law Students for the Public Interest (BLSPI) and the Environmental Law Society. New and continuing students came together to beautify the area around Gowanus Canal by painting, gardening, and sifting compost. The event was held in partnership with the Gowanus Canal Conservancy, a nonprofit organization that works to maintain and develop the canal for the public.  Each group was led by a team of upper classman as well as one staff member. All faculty and staff were also invited to participate.

Super Music Bonus!  This week we honor Mary’s home state.

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – August 29, 2014

by Christina Jackson, NALP Director of Public Service Initiatives & Fellowships

Happy Friday everyone!  See below for more great Orientation Service Projects!

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: If you know someone we should honor, drop me a line.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • New commission to make recommendations on access to justice in AZ;
  • Young immigrants could benefit from proposed bill in CA;
  • Legal Aid Alberta welcomes new funds;
  • Jacksonville (FL) to cut legal aid for thousands;
  • Legal Aid groups to get $30 million from bank settlement;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: Professional Development and Pro Bono staff of Boston University School of Law, Wayne State University, The University of Iowa College of Law, DePaul University College of Law, and George Washington University Law School;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

August 22, 2014 – “A new commission will make recommendations on ways to improve access to justice, including use of Arizona’s legal system and obtaining legal representation.  Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Scott Bales ordered the formation of the Commission on Access to Justice, naming Court of Appeals Judge Lawrence Winthrop as its chairman.  Other members include lower court judges, court officials and legal aid providers.  Bales set initial priorities that include helping people representing themselves in legal matters to get access and fair processing of family court and eviction cases. Another is encouraging law firms to provide free legal services or financial support for legal aid.  Winthrop says he also hopes to encourage more business involvement. He says a business can suffer when an employee is burdened by dealing with a legal matter.”  (azdailysun.com)

August 22, 2014 – “Young immigrants poised to flood California’s courts could get extra legal help under a bill offering $3 million to bolster legal services.”  “The newly announced bill would set aside $3 million that would be distributed to nonprofit organizations that offer legal services. Many of the immigrants pressing their cases could be seeking refugee status.”  (The Sacramento Bee)

August 22, 2014 – “Legal Aid Alberta welcomed the news Friday that the province will cover some unexpected costs that have taxed the already overburdened agency.  Alberta Justice and the Solicitor General confirmed it will provide funding over and above Legal Aid’s 2014/15 budget to cover costs when a judge orders the province to pay for a client’s defence lawyer.  Legal Aid used to get one or two such orders a year, but they have had more than 40 so far in 2014 and expect more.”  Deputy Minister Tim Grant said “his department would cover all orders for state-funded counsel until March 2015 and revisit the issue during next year’s budget discussions.” (Global News)

August 25, 2014 – “Thousands of working poor in Jacksonville could soon be out of luck when looking for a lawyer in a civil case.  The Executive Director of Jacksonville Area Legal Aid says he’ll need to make big cuts if more than $400,000 in funding taken out of the budget isn’t restored.”  “In Mayor Brown’s budget for next year, the agency was set to receive $433,000 to help them continue to provide those services. The Finance Committee looked at the budget, and slashed those funds completely.  JALA also didn’t get any funding last year.”  (First Coast News)

August 27, 2014 – “The $17 billion settlement that Bank of America reached with the Justice Department last week will result in at least $30 million for a program that raises funds for the nation’s providers of civil legal services to the poor.  The settlement — which resolved claims that the bank and its subsidiaries sold billions of dollars of mortgage-backed securities without fully disclosing to investors the quality of the loans — requires Bank of America to allocate $7 billion to consumer relief efforts. Of that portion, at least $30 million will go to the Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts program, known as IOLTA.  The program, which is run independently in all 50 states, D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands, pools interest generated from client funds being held by lawyers in each state, and distributes the proceeds to civil legal services providers in that state.”  (Washington Post)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: 

The Boston University School of Law Pre-Orientation Service Day saw more than 80 1Ls serve six locations.  Participating in service day is great way to get to know Boston, while volunteering for local non-profit organizations and making friends with your new classmates at the same time.

Incoming students at Wayne State University Law School, as well as returning students, faculty and staff, volunteered at the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative site near campus in Detroit, MI on Thursday, August 21, 2014.  Tasks ranged from planting and harvesting produce to demolition and construction of structures located on the farm.

Over 160 new JD, LLM, and exchange students at The University of Iowa College of Law participated in Tuesday’s orientation service event coordinated by the Citizen Lawyer Program.  These newest members of the Iowa Law community were joined by a dozen upper-class leaders and worked with six organizations at locations around Johnson County.

Iowa Law’s orientation service event is an annual tradition and introduces students to the importance of service in the legal profession and the work of the Citizen Lawyer Program.

DePaul University College of Law hosted its third annual 1L Service Day the day after 1L orientation.  The College of Law’s Pro Bono & Community Service Initiative coordinates the service day with the assistance of University Ministry and the Center for Public Interest Law. Law staff and faculty, as well as 2Ls and 3Ls, serve as site leaders.  This year, volunteers headed out to six different sites throughout Chicago and packed food boxes, read to children, served meals and made beds at a homeless shelter, organized classroom libraries, visited with seniors, and sorted clothing donations.   DePaul’s service day includes time for reflection about the University’s Vincentian mission and the impact and meaning of service and social justice.

George Washington University Law School’s Public Interest & Pro Bono Pre-Orientation was held on Wednesday, August 13 (the day before the general orientation for all 1Ls).  Approximately 90 new 1L students took part in the Community Service Program. This year’s project involved painting benches, lamps, and fences near the Smithsonian with the National Park Service.

Super Music Bonus!  This week is the battle of the Big 10 with myself and Meghan.

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D.C. Bar Launches Web Resource Helping Federal Attorneys Pursue Pro Bono

by Sam Halpert, PSJD Fellow (2014 – 2015)

This week, the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Program announced the launch of a new national practice area within Probono.net designed specifically for federal government attorneys. Probono.net is Pro Bono Net’s national online resource promoting collaboration between attorneys in order to foster pro bono work. The new practice area, located at www.probono.net/governmentprobono, helps government attorneys understand how to avoid conflicts of interest, connect with pro bono programs in different geographical areas, and locate the pro bono policies of various federal agencies.

Lise B. Adams, Assistant Director of the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Program, took time when announcing the resource to thank the multitude of federal government lawyers who take time to handle pro bono cases in their individual capacity through the D.C. Bar’s various clinical programs.

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – August 22, 2014

by Christina Jackson, NALP Director of Public Service Initiatives & Fellowships

Happy Friday everyone!  This week the 2014-2015 PSJD Fellow Sam Halpert and the 2014-2016 Street Law Fellow Emily Peeler joined our team.  We are thrilled to have them!  We have also gotten a great response from our request to schools to share their Orientation Service Projects.  So, for the next few weeks, we will be featuring information about those projects.  There is some amazing work going on out there, and we’re thrilled to see the dedication these students and law school professionals have to their communities.

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: If you know someone we should honor, drop me a line.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Legal Aid Alberta ordered to take on more clients;
  • Mississippi Center for Legal Services celebrates 40 years;
  • Columbia Law given $3.5 mil for climate change center;
  • Suffolk University closes Rappoport Center;
  • University of Ottawa Law School launches Business Law Clinic;
  • Duke Law launches Civil Justice Clinic;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: Professional Development and Pro Bono staff of IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, Fordham Law School, USC School of Law, Georgetown University Law Center, and Penn Law;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

August 14, 2014 – “Legal Aid Alberta’s already-dire finances worsened this week when a provincial court judge decided the group should fund three more clients previously rejected based on eligibility requirements.  Assistant Chief Judge Larry Anderson called Legal Aid’s budget ‘clearly’ inadequate and concluded that the right to a fair trial for three separate accused was in jeopardy without a government-funded defence. All three receive Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped that puts their monthly income roughly $40 too high to qualify for a discounted lawyer.  Anderson ordered all three should be provided with Legal Aid counsel within a week. Failing that, he wrote, their charges should be stayed.  ‘Providing access to justice is the obligation of the government,’ he wrote.  Such court-ordered funding is an unbudgeted expense for Legal Aid. Since February, when Legal Aid began to strictly enforce financial eligibility because of stagnant government funding, it has been ordered to provide counsel 40 times. In all of 2013, that only happened twice.  ‘The explosion of these orders will bring Legal Aid Alberta to the precipice of our impending financial difficulties much sooner,’ said Suzanne Polkosnik, Legal Aid’s president and CEO. ‘It could cause us very quickly to be in a negative-cash position this year.’”  (Edmonton Journal)

August 14, 2014 – “The Mississippi Center for Legal Services will celebrate its 40th anniversary.”  “On July 24, 1974, Congress passed the Legal Services Act. The Mississippi Center for Legal Services (MCLS) believes it is essential that the 40th anniversary of the passage of this important legislation be celebrated.”  “The Mississippi Center for Legal Services represents low-income people in 43 central and south Mississippi counties in civil legal matters including family law, housing and foreclosure, consumer issues and income maintenance. Legal Services also assists military families and provides civil legal assistance to victims of disasters.”  (Mississippi Business Journal)

August 18, 2014 – “Columbia Law School has received a $3.5 million gift from the Andrew Sabin Family Foundation to bolster its Center for Climate Change Law.  That center, which develops legal avenues to fight climate change and trains lawyers in those techniques, has been renamed the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law. The money will allow the center to hire a full-time executive director and help pay for an annual Sabin Colloquium on Environmental Law Scholarship.”  (National Law Journal) (subscription required)

August 18, 2014 – Suffolk University Law School has closed the Rappaport Center for Law and Public Service, and this summer graduated the center’s last class of Rappaport public service fellows.  “With the closure of the Rappaport Center, Suffolk will transfer the remaining money from the original endowment to the law school that continues on with the Rappport programs, said [Phyllis] Rappaport. The foundation now is talking with other law schools in the area to find a new home for the program, she said, and the plan is to have a new Rapport center program up-and-running at another law school by the end of September.”(Boston Business Journal)

August 19, 2014 – “The University of Ottawa has announced it will launch its Business Law Clinic in September, a program it says will benefit both the university and the business community.  The clinic will offer pro bono legal services to entrepreneurs, small businesses and non-profit organizations in both official languages.”  (Ottawa Business Journal)

August 19, 2014 – “Low-income Durham residents who need a lawyer but can’t afford one will get a boost from Duke Law School as it launches a Civil Justice Clinic.  The clinic will partner with Legal Aid of North Carolina, a nonprofit law firm with an office in Durham, that provides free legal services to those in poverty in civil matters such as housing and employment.  The clinic will welcome its first class of students next week. It will provide them real-world experience as they work directly with clients and enhance their litigation skills, according to Duke law professor Charles Holton, who directs the new clinic.”  “Housing matters involving tenant-landlord disputes will be a top priority at the clinic, Holton said.”  (The Herald-Sun)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: 

Chicago-Kent College of Law’s Public Service Day.  Incoming first year students have the option to volunteer at three locations, mainly helping out some schools with set-up for the start of the year. Students can also volunteer with the Center for Disability and Elder Law, with one of the school’s alumni. There students prepare Illinois Statutory Powers of Attorney for Health Care and Property, as well as Illinois Living Will Declarations for residents at several facilities.

Fordham Law School’s Public Service Day is in its 9th year.  The event is coordinated by our Public Interest Resource Center, the home of student initiated public service.  Each project is organized by student groups, in partnership with community partners—some of which are legal services providers.   Faculty, administrators and staff are invited to attend (via school wide email) and each year between 2 and 5 members of that community join us.

During USC School of Law’s 6th Annual Incoming Law Student Community Service Project, the Class of 2017 will be joined by members of the faculty and staff and lead by their peer mentors as they strive to make a difference in 14 locations around the Midlands.  During the afternoon the teams will paint apartments, sort food and clothes, landscape, move furniture, reshelf books and a variety of other tasks. Law students volunteer throughout the year with a number of these organizations to help address legal issues, but for this one afternoon they will not be relying on their professional skills. Instead they will be making a difference with a totally different set of skills- strong backs and a willingness to get dirty!  The Incoming Law Student Community Service Project is a joint effort sponsored by the Office of Student Affairs, the Pro Bono Program and the SBA.

Georgetown University Law Center’s Orientation Community Service Project will visit six sites this year.  One of the highlights of Orientation Week is the opportunity for students to spend a morning or afternoon giving back to the DC community by participating in a 1L Orientation Service Project. For many 1Ls, this event also serves as a way to meet classmates, staff and faculty, explore Washington DC, and learn about the wealth of service and pro bono opportunities available at Georgetown Law.

Each year the University of Pennsylvania Law School’s Toll Public Interest Center sponsors a half day of hands-on service in Philadelphia for Penn Law students, faculty, and staff.  This year, five sites will benefit from their work.  More than half of the incoming class signs up a to get to know the community they’ll be part of for the next three years.  Students will clean neighborhoods, spruce up schools, work in urban farms/gardens, and sort food/clothes among other projects. Current students, staff and faculty are also invited.

Super Music Bonus!  We start our tribute to staff alma maters this week with one of Fred’s picks – the USC Fight Song.

 

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Next Equal Justice Works student debt webinar August 27 at 3pm EDT

The following is a message from Equal Justice Works and an announcement about their next student debt webinar.

Relief for Underwater Student Borrowers Act

On July 29, Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL) introduced the Relief for Underwater Student Borrowers Act (H.R. 5239). This bill would prevent borrowers who earn forgiveness after 20 or 25 years of consistent repayment in the Income-Based Repayment (IBR) and Pay as You Earn (PAYE) repayment plans from having to pay taxes on the amount forgiven. Millions of borrowers currently face the possibility of having to deal with this potentially devastating tax liability. We urge you to call your Congressperson and Senators to support this bill!

To learn more about IBR, PAYE and Public Service Loan Forgiveness (tax-free forgiveness you earn by working at a wide range of qualifying public service jobs for ten years!) please attend our free webinar, Drowning in Debt! What Law Students & Lawyers Need to Know About Managing Student Debt & Earning Loan Forgiveness, on Wednesday, August 27 from 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM EDT. If you register but cannot attend, you will receive a recording of the webinar you can view anytime.

If you have recently watched one of our webinars, please forward this information on to anyone you think might benefit from it. Our student debt webinars are tailored for law students and lawyers, but the information is accessible and applicable to anyone who needs help managing their student debt.

Equal Justice Works is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a just society by mobilizing the next generation of lawyers committed to equal justice. To stay up to date, follow us on Twitter (@EJW_org, #studentdebthelp) and on Facebook.

Isaac Bowers
Associate Director, Law School Engagement & Advocacy
Equal Justice Works

ibowers@equaljusticeworks.org | www.equaljusticeworks.org

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