This week’s Bulletin carries news of a possible indigent-defense caseload crisis in Missouri, more bad news about legal services funding in New Jersey, good news about clinic funding at Albany Law School, staff expansion at Pisgah Legal Services, a successful diversionary program for wayward Connecticut yoots, and a medical-legal partnership in the Lone Star State.
- 7.29.10 – Saint Louis Post-Dispatch – an official from the Missouri State Public Defender System notified Saint Louis County’s top prosecutor and judge that the local defender’s office has “begun steps to refuse to take new criminal cases” because the office does not have the resource capacity to handle its caseload. The county’s chief prosecutor has been sharply critical of the developments, charging that the claim of being so overworked is a “contrived issue.” “St. Louis County is the defenders’ third battleground. Last week, they closed the offices in Troy, Mo., and Springfield to new cases through the end of July.” Link to article. [Ed. note: here is additional coverage from the KTVO TV station website. Last week the Columbia Missourian reported on the Springfield office’s decision to stop accepting new cases, as did the Springfield News-Leader. And here is a brief AP blurb on the Troy office decision from the KOAM TV station website.]
- 7.29.10 – The Record (New Jersey) – “[L]ow market [interest] rates and a weak housing market — which means less money set aside in trust for real estate closings — have devastated [New Jersey’s] Interest on Lawyers Trust Account fund, resulting in the loss of scores of New Jersey legal aid jobs, and far fewer clients being served.” IOLTA revenue recently fell by 80%. Link to article. [Ed. Note: state funding for legal services in the Garden State was also recently cut by 33%, according to a July 17 Record article.
- 7.28.10 – Press Release – “Albany Law School recently received a $205,000 grant from the New York State Housing Trust Fund Corporation (HTFC) to fund a new Housing Clinic within the law school’s Clinic & Justice Center. In the Housing Clinic, students will work with Albany Law faculty to offer legal services, outreach, educational opportunities and housing counseling to homeowners and tenants affected by foreclosure in Albany, Rensselaer and Schenectady counties.” Link to press release.
- 7.27.10 – Mountain Express (North Carolina) – with the addition of four staffers to its Mountain Violence Prevention Project, Pisgah Legal Services has doubled its person-power in providing assistance to domestic violence victims. Link to article.
- 7.25.10 – Connecticut Post – a Connecticut program to divert teens who are status offenders (skipping school, running away, etc.), but who do not actually commit crimes, to support centers rather than detention facilities has met with considerable success. “[T]he model is seen as so successful it’s being touted as a “best practice” by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.” Link to article.
- 7.23.10 – Brownsville Herald (Texas) – a medical-legal partnership between Texas RioGrande Legal Aid and the Brownsville Community Health Center, forged in 2008, promotes collaboration between medical and legal professionals and allows them to take a holistic approach to helping l0w-income client populations. “For years, the traditional health-care system and the legal system have treated low-income, underserved populations in isolation, despite the strong connection between social stressors and health, partnership members said. But the health center’s medical-legal partnership…allows doctors and attorneys to work together…” Link to article. [Ed. Note: in March the PSLawNet Blog covered the trend of similar medical-legal partnerships springing up across the country. Public-interest minded law students who have a background or interest in the healthcare system should think about how they may connect to this “growth field” in the legal services community. Often the lawyers participating in such partnerships will be working on matters unrelated to healthcare, such as housing or public benefits, but a knowledge of how low-income communities access healthcare would still be a terrific asset for a lawyer who is working with medical professionals.]