We blogged back in April about the Christian Legal Society v. Martinez case (both before and after oral arguments), which centered over whether the University of California, Hastings Law School (as a public entity) had to grant official school recognition and the benefits that entails to the school’s chapter of CLS. CLS requires members to sign a statement of faith and explicitly forbade open GLBT members, in violation of the school’s non-discrimination policy, but the organization argued that by not getting an exemption their First Amendment rights were being unfairly curtailed.
Well the Supreme Court finally weighed in yesterday, and came down 5-4 on the side of the law school and their non-discrimination policy. The San Jose Mercury News has a good recap of the decision and Justice Alito-authored dissent, with thoughts from several experts in the field.
The Office of Personnel Management hosted a public hearing last week, according to this helpful article from Government Executive, where many top agency hiring officers talked about how the competitive hiring system is not an effective way to hire recent college or graduate school grads. One speaker discussed the particular disadvantage recent grads have going up against applicants with more experience but perhaps less education:
Officials also agreed that hiring based on past work experience also puts college graduates at a disadvantage when they are compared with applicants who have been in the workforce for many years. Instead, they should be evaluated based on “foundational competencies that we believe are lifetime skills and underpin every job,” said [Marilee] Fitzgerald [of the Department of Defense], such as optimism and intellectual curiosity.
Changes in the federal hiring mechanism that make it easier for recent grads to find a way into the system, whether through structured internships, honors programs, or other options, all spell good news for recent law graduates looking to get into the federal market.
Emily Savner of the Brennan Center for Justice makes a strong case for the need to increase Legal Services Corp. funding to support civil legal services work over at the National Law Journal (something we’ve blogged about here in the past). Savner argues that LSC funding has become even more critical in the face of IOLTA funding decreases (we blogged about that earlier as well) and increased demand for services. Some numbers she cites includes:
The Legal Aid Society in New York City, for example, reported a 16% increase in clients seeking domestic violence-related help, a 40% increase in health cases, a 30% increase in employment-related cases and a 20% increase in housing cases from the recession’s start to July 2009. Legal services programs in Maryland reported a 60% jump in requests for assistance from 2008 to 2010. And in Florida, one program alone, Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida, has seen a 700% increase in the number of people seeking advice in the 12 counties it serves.
Today’s Expert Opinion column, on five concrete ways to strengthen your professional network this summer, comes to us from Alisa Rosales. Alisa is the Associate Director of Public Service Law at DePaul University College of Law in Chicago, where she specializes in public interest career advising and program development. Nationally, she is a member of the NALP PSLawNet Advisory Board and serves as NALP Public Service Section Chair. Locally, Alisa developed and served as inaugural Chair of the Public Interest Committee for the Chicago Area Law School Consortium. She is an alumna of the University of Nebraska.
Check out Alisa’s 5 Networking Tips after the jump!
Earlier this year we covered the appointment of Harvard professor Laurence Tribe as the Senior Counselor for DOJ’s Access to Justice Initiative, which is exploring what role the federal government’s chief criminal justice arm should play in shoring up weakened indigent defense infrastructures on the state level. In states throughout the country (e.g. New York, Michigan, and Idaho) funding pressures are weighing heavily on public defense programs. While exacerbated by the recession, many of these funding problems existed on a systemic level long before.
Anyway, this brings us to what’s been happening recently in Washington. Last week, Reps. John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) and Bobby Scott (D-VA) hosted an indigent defense summit called ”The Constitutional Right to Counsel Summit: A Dialogue on the State Public Defense Crisis & the Federal Response.” Courtesy of the Constitution Project, the National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA) has put up a nice summary of the program. Professor Tribe spoke, as well as defenders and prosecutors from around the country. Several panelists discussed the imbalance in federal funding to prosecutor’s offices and defender’s offices.
Also last week, Prof. Tribe spoke at the American Constitution Society’s National Convention. He actually was featured on two panels, one concerning civil legal services on Friday (Main Justice has a summary of that panel), and one on Saturday regarding indigent criminal defense (the Blog of the Legal Times had that summary). During the indigent defense panel, Prof. Tribe mentioned the importance of increasing law firm pro bono efforts. However, it was unclear whether he meant that law firms should make efforts to take more indigent defense cases, or whether he was merely discussing DOJ’s efforts to expand civil access to justice as well (as he had been talking about the day before).
The cost of prosecution and defense was another popular topic at the ACS panel, with Jo-Ann Wallace (president and CEO of NLADA) pointing out that if states provide competent counsel at the beginning of cases, they can avoid higher costs associated with appeals later due to less-than-stellar representation. Erik Luna (professor at Washington and Lee, whose op-ed we blogged about back in March) argued that there is no appropriate role for the federal government in state-level indigent defense (or state-level prosecutions), and that a complete withdrawal of support on all levels could force states to cut down on their prosecutions in order to stay within their new budgetary constraints.
We linked yesterday to the video and audio of many of ACS’s convention panels, but the two discussed here are not yet posted. If they go up, we will link to them as well.
The 2010 American Constitution Society National Convention was held this past weekend in Washington, DC. The convention featured panels on myriad topics (from immigration to environmental protection to access to justice) with many high-powered guests, and for those who couldn’t make it in person, audio recordings of most panels are now available on ACS’s homepage. One of the panels featured Laurence Tribe in his new(ish) role as head of the Access to Justice Initative at the U.S. Department of Justice, and while audio isn’t available for that one, the Blog of the Legal Times provided a brief summary on Saturday.
The McClatchy News Service recently ran a piece about political perceptions – particularly in California – of the Legal Services Corporation and the work of its grantee organizations.
Conflicting sentiments surround the federal agency that helps provide legal services to California farm workers and the poor.
Some lawmakers now hope to boost funding for the Legal Services Corp. and lift some longstanding restrictions on its work. Others consider the agency a bastion of liberal activism and want it curtailed.
No region has a bigger stake in the political outcome than the Central Valley [in California], home to thousands of legal services clients as well as some of the federal program’s most vocal critics.
The article notes that while President Obama supports a slight boost in LSC’s annual appropriation, from $420 to $435 million next fiscal year, some in Congress wish to significantly expand LSC’s funding and vanquish operating restrictions that have hindered grantee organinizations from offering a full range of advocacy techniques to their clients. (The article also notes that a jam-packed legislative calendar this fall, in tandem with the strong feelings around LSC, may make it difficult to get a new appropriation passesd before recess.)
Political debate surrounding LSC is, of course, nothing new. Recently, we covered the (controversial-but-eventually-successful) nomination of Sharon Browne to the LSC’s board, and tracked the LSC’s work on the Hill to lobby for additional funding to serve the increased numbers of impoverished individuals and families throughout the country.
This week’s Expert Opinion, on how to maximize your summer internship experience comes to us courtesy of Deb Ellis, Assistant Dean for Public Service at NYU School of Law, where she directs the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) and the Root-Tilden-Kern Scholarship Program and oversees the Judicial Clerkship Office. Prior to heading PILC, Deb had a varied public interest career, including serving as Legal Director of the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund, where in 1992 she argued Bray v. Alexandria Women’s Health Clinic before the U.S. Supreme Court. She also served as Legal Director of the ACLU of New Jersey, and as a Staff Attorney at the ACLU Women’s Rights Project, and at the Southern Poverty Law Center. Deb graduated from Yale College and from NYU Law where she was a Root-Tilden-Kern Scholar. She clerked for the late Judge Frank M. Johnson, Jr., of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, in Montgomery, Alabama.
Exams are over and you’ve begun your public interest internship! How can you be the kind of intern that employers will rave about and hopefully want to hire as an attorney someday?
From my perspective as both a public interest practitioner and now a law school counselor, I have developed eight tips based on what I look for when I hire: individuals who take initiative — who can figure out what needs to be done on their cases and projects. In short, I look for people who are proactive.
Sometimes students find that it takes a change of perspective to be proactive after a year spent in classrooms, where their role is more passive. But in the work world it is essential to take responsibility for your own learning. If you make that effort – to think through your priorities, contribute as much as you can to your employer, and be a team player – you will learn the most, and have the most fun, too.
Read Deb’s 8 Tips after the break!