Public Interest News Bulletin – May 28, 2010

  • 5.26.10 – New York Law Journal – the “Attorney Emeritus Program,” a project spearheaded by New York Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman to engage retired lawyers in pro bono service, “has enlisted more than 120 retired lawyers since January to offer free legal advice and representation to poor New Yorkers in foreclosure, debt collection, housing, family and other civil cases.”  The program, now guided by a 30-attorney advisory council representing all corners of the profession, hopes to tap into a projected, large-scale increase in retirees as the first Baby Boomers turn 65 next year.  Lippman anticipates the volunteer numbers to swell and hopes that the project may be “permanent piece of the puzzle” in delivering legal services to low-income clients.  Link to article.  [Ed. Note: in January, the New York Times covered Chief Judge Lippman’s announcement of the program’s beginning.]
  • 5.26.10 – Louisville Courier-Journal (covering Kentucky and Indiana) – in Clark County, Indiana, officials announced the launch of the Clark Legal Self Help Center, a resource for low-income people in need of free legal assistance on civil matters.  The Center will be staffed by volunteer attorneys and law students, and will offer help with reviewing court documents, determining the nature of legal problems, and directions on how to find an attorney if needed.  Law students will handle most of the initial meetings with individuals seeking help; volunteer attorneys will also participate in the program, but will not necessarily establish attorney-client relationships.  Those who are eligible may be referred to Indiana Legal Services for additional help.  Link to article.  
  • 5.25.10 – New York Law Journal – this week the Pro Bono Institute released a report, Law Firm Deferred Associates and Public Interest Placements: Survey Report and Preliminary Assessment, documenting findings from surveys done over the winter to analyze how well deferred associates’ public-service placements were progressing.  The report’s findings paint the phenomenon in a largely positive light.  Public interest organizations that are hosting deferred associates are generally very satisfied with the contributions made by the associates, and demand to host associates in the future remains high.  Link to article.  [Ed. Note: here is a link to the full Pro Bono Institute report, as well as a link to a PSLawNet Blog post reviewing the report.]
  • 5.25.10 – Triangle Business Journal (North Carolina) – the Duke University School of Law is expanding its Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP) for students on public service careers.  The LRAP now “will cover 100 percent of loan payments for graduates making $60,000 a year or less, up from $35,000. The program also provides some assistance, on a sliding scale, for graduates making between $60,000 and $75,000. Additionally, Duke has eliminated the cap on lifetime loan repayments, which previously stood at $80,000.”  Only federal loans are eligible for the LRAP program.  Link to article.  [Ed. Note: Duke joins at least four other law schools – Northwestern, UVA, Cal-Berkeley, and Georgetown – in tailoring its LRAP program around the College Cost Reduction & Access Act’s Income Based Repayment provision.]
  • 5.24.10 – WHYY Radio Station Website (Serving Philadelphia/New Jersey) –  “State budget cuts may mean less legal assistance for New Jersey’s poor.  The budget plan reduces funding for Legal Services of New Jersey by 33 percent.  Legal Services President Melville Miller says the funding reduction means they’ll have to cut their staff and turn away about 11,000 people seeking assistance, many of them trying to avoid foreclosures and evictions.”  Link to brief blurb.  [Ed. Note: last week, Legal Services of New Jersey released An Open Report to New Jersey Concerning Funding for Civil Legal Services and Its Human Consequences, highlighting the severe funding cuts that are plaguing legal services programs throughout the Garden State, and making the case for the importance of adequately funding programs.] 
  • 5.24.10 – National Law Journal – a case arising out of Georgia in which an indigent, capital criminal defendant sat in jail for four years because of problems with funding his defense and is now asking for the U.S. Supreme Court to review right to counsel claims “comes at a time when an increasing number of legal challenges are being made to underfunded and overburdened state indigent defense systems” across the country.  The Georgia indigent defense system has long been plagued by problems.  And while legislation in 2003 to shore up the system offered promise, adequate funding remains elusive.  Link to article.
  • 5.23.10 – The Citizen (New Hampshire) – a bill to make free legal services available to New Hampshire’s veterans is winding through the state legislature.  While the bill’s passage is expected the funding mechanism for the program is uncertain.  The funding, if obtained, would allow the New Hampshire State Veterans Council to hire staff attorneys to represent veterans on a variety of matters, including home foreclosure and consumer debt issues, as well as family law and veterans benefit cases.  Link to article.  [Ed. Note: for additional coverage of a national trend toward expanding legal services/resources for veterans, see two items below (El Paso Times).]
  • 5.23.10 – Dallas Morning News – the conviction integrity unit that operates out of the Dallas County District Attorney’s office has for several years been working with DNA evidence to ensure the propriety of past convictions and exonerate the wrongly convicted.  Now, the unit is expanding the scope of its activities to the more time-consuming review of convictions where there may be some question of guilt but no DNA evidence is available for review.  The unit’s work has captured national attention because it is unusual for a prosecutor’s office to have devoted so many resources to post-conviction reviews.  Link to article.
  • 5.21.10 – El Paso Times [Special Feature Article] – “Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans is a new State Bar of Texas Committee established…to develop and assist pro bono legal clinics throughout the state for military veterans and their families who cannot afford or do not have access to legal services they need.”  El Paso Lawyers for Patriots is the local extension of the statewide initiative.  The local program “is developing a coordinated network of El Paso lawyers to assist veterans and active-duty military and their families who cannot afford or have no access to legal services through the El Paso Bar Association and veterans service providers.”  A local judge also recently established a Veterans Mental Health Treatment Court to “address cases involving combat veterans and active military personnel involved in the criminal justice system due to conduct related to post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries or other mental diseases and disorders as a result of military service.”  Link to article.  [Ed. Note: there is a national trend involving the legal community establishing diversionary judicial programs and other resources for veterans with legal problems.  See the PSLawNet Blog’s March 16 post, linking to news coverage of the trend.]
  • 5.21.10 – Blog of the Legal Times – “The Justice Department is studying Monday’s Supreme Court ruling barring life sentences for juveniles convicted of non-homicide crimes, possibly with an eye toward improving rehabilitation programs for juveniles in prison.”  Link to blog post.  [Ed. Note: the PSLawNet blog posted about the Supreme Court decision – Graham v. Florida – and linked to news coverage here.]

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