Archive for July, 2010

Final Reminder: Federal Government Career Fair – July 14 in D.C.

As we noted in May, the Partnership for Public Service is hosting its 2010 Public Service Career & Internship Fair in downtown Washington DC this Wednesday, July 14.  Registration is still open via the Partnership’s career fair webpage.  From that page:

Don’t miss your opportunity to network with representatives from more than 75 federal agencies across government during the 2010 Public Service Career and Internship Fair, hosted by the Partnership for Public Service. This year’s event will be held on July 14 from 3:00-7:00 p.m. at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. Admission is FREE!

Agencies will be recruiting for a variety of internships and entry-level positions including special agents, engineers, program analysts, financial specialists, environmental scientists, IT specialists, economists, contract specialists and more. Check out the list of registered agencies, learn more about what to expect and view our event map ahead of time to maximize your participation in the Career Fair

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Presidential Management Fellows Program to Get a Tune-up from OPM

As the PSLawNet Blog has noted before, the federal Office of Personnel Management has been busy this year, tackling a large-scale federal hiring reform project.  Now, at the behest of OPM director John Berry, the popular and highly competitive Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) program will undergo a facelift of sorts.  Initial goals seem centered on improving outreach to schools and shoring up the fellow placement infrastructure.  From a recent Berry memo:

…I am taking steps to reinvigorate the PMF Program.  As we build a 21st century workforce, the PMF Program will play a vital role in attracting men and women from a variety of academic disciplines and career paths who have a clear interest in, and commitment to, excellence in the leadership and management of public policies and programs.

…I am creating Power Packs to bring together several small teams of PMFs to work on projects as part of the reinvigoration effort.

…The initial Power Packs will focus on the following projects:  1) increasing outreach to deepen and broaden the PMF applicant pool; 2) revamping future orientation sessions; 3) developing a job-matching process to connect Finalists to jobs; 4) reenergizing the PMF Alumni Program; and 5) planning and executing the assessment center interview that we are restoring for the Class of 2011.  

We have no earthly idea what a “Power Pack” is, although from context we suspect it just means “group of people tasked with achieving a goal”, i.e. a work group.  It smacks of corporate management-speak to us.  Anyway, for aspiring fellows, here is more info about the PMF program.

[Tip of cap to the Government Executive website’s FedBlog, which posted on these developments late last week.]

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2010-11 DOJ Attorney General's Honors Program – Application Period Approaching

The application period for DOJ’s Attorney Honors Program will open on July 26 and close on September 7. The program is open to “students graduating from law school in academic year 2010-2011 (i.e., between October 1, 2010 and September 30, 2011) and from law school graduates who meet specific eligibility criteria.”

Detailed information is available at DOJ’s Attorney General’s Honors Program page.

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Public Interest News Bulletin: July 9, 2010

The PSLawNet Blog took a news bulletin vacation last week in order to celebrate liberation from the rule of King George III and, on Saturday, to attend a baseball contest in which the Glorious Philadelphia Phillies soundly defeated the Pirates of Pittsburgh.  (Unfortunately, the Bucs took the series.)  In any event, we are now back to our weekly posting schedule. 

  • 7.7.10 – National Law Journal – a new, statewide Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP), approved by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, is intended to offer financial relief to debt-laden public interest lawyers who are working with IOLTA-funded organizations in the Keystone State.  Link to article.
  • 7.6.10 – American Lawyer Daily – Andrew Ardinger, a deferred first-year associate with Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe reflects on how his temporary placement with the Public Interest Law Project has allowed him to experience, and see the links between, direct advocacy for clients on discrete matters and more systemic advocacy that is intended to serve larger constituencies.  Link to blog post.  [Ed. note: this post is the fourth that Ardinger has contributed to AmLaw during his deferral experience.  Here are links to the firstsecond, and third.]
  • 7.5.10 – New York Times – the legal saga surrounding Jamie Weis, a man charged with murder in Georgia but who has yet to be tried after four years, highlights how weak the indigent defense infrastructure is in the Peach State.  The state sought to establish a statewide public defense network in 2003, but it has since been plagued by budget and other resource problems.  In Weis’s case, he has sat in jail as a capital defendant for four years amidst problems finding resources to put on a defense.  In a very unusual move, the prosecutor had urged a trial judge to appoint two specific public defenders, and the judge did so.  The defenders sought to remove themselves from the case on account of insufficient resources or capital trial experience to mount a defense.  The Georgia Supreme Court sanctioned the lower court’s arrangement, but these proceedings have taken some time to play out.  Weis is now seeking relief from the U.S. Supreme Court, which has not decided whether to hear the case.  Link to article.  [Ed. note: the PSLawNet Blog reviewed coverage of the Weis case earlier this year, and included links to other articles looking at insufficiencies within the Georgia indigent defense system.] 
  • 7.3.10 – Palm Beach Post – following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision earlier this year banning life-without-parole sentences for juveniles convicted of non-homicide crimes, a question has arisen in Florida about what to do with the 77 inmates in state prisons who were already sentenced to life for non-homicide crimes committed while juveniles.  (Florida is apparently hosting the large majority of inmates nationwide who are in this circumstance.)  The problem lies in the fact that, by state law, there is currently no parole eligibility for anyone with a life sentence in Florida.  “The state’s public defenders and the attorney general’s office now are debating just what should be done to comply with the [Supreme Court’s] May ruling.”  Link to article.  [Ed note: here is National Law Journal coverage of the Supreme Court’s Graham v. Florida decision.]
  • 6.30.10 – Press Release on LSC Budget Development –  “The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies approved a $440 million Fiscal Year 2011 budget for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) on June 29…[representing] a nearly 5 percent increase in the LSC budget….The Subcommittee bill continues existing restrictions on the use of funds, but lifts the restriction on the ability of LSC-funded programs to consolidate related client cases into class-action suits.”  Link to press release.
  • 6.28.10 – Cincinnati Enquirer – Ohio’s state public defender commission is exerting pressure on Hamilton County (which includes Cincinnati) to devote more resources to its public defender program.  The state is demanding that a written improvement plan be produced this month.  A draft of a memorandum obtained by the Enquirer suggests that the improvements will include increasing salaries, hiring additional staff and attorneys, and moving to a larger office with improved office technology.  Right now, attorneys are “working out of 30-by-60-inch cubicles, with no computers of their own.”  One county official noted that this is a difficult time to find funding to support improvements, but supporters of the changes say that the current state of affairs has resulted from years of under-funding, and that there is no choice but to live up to constitutional obligations to provide adequate resources for indigent defendants.  Link to article. 
  • 6.28.10 – National Law Journal [Opinion Piece] – “Lawmakers should take steps to increase access to civil legal services while the poor continue to be battered by the recession: increase federal funding for legal services, lift federal restrictions hindering representation and pass legislation currently pending in Congress…to…revitalize the federal commitment to legal aid, the Civil Access to Justice Act.”  The number of people qualifying for legal services is rising, and along with that increase, “[t]he legal needs of the poor and working poor are rising in both volume and intensity.”  Legal services programs in New York, Maryland, and Florida, for instance, have seen double- or even triple-digit percentage jumps in requests for help.  This comes at a time when, nationally, “IOLTA revenue dropped from $371 million in 2007 to an estimated $92 million in 2009, a 75% decrease.”  Link to piece.
  • 6.28.10 – NJ.com (New Jersey news website) – Legal Services of New Jersey will see one-third ($9.7 million) of its state funding cut for the fiscal year beginning July 1.  This compounds the extraordinary strain put on the program’s budget by a collapse in IOLTA yields, which fell from $40 million in 2007 to $8 million in 2009  Link to article.  [Ed note: the Jersey Journal offered pre-budget-vote coverage of how Northeast New Jersey Legal Services would be affected by the anticipated state budget cut.  The program had already lost 21 employees to layoffs or attrition over the past year.  The budget cut was predicted to result in additional layoffs and services cuts.  Link to article.]
  • 6.26.10 – Houston Chronicle [Editorial] – In Texas, one of the chief criticisms of the death penalty’s administration is that “a higher percentage of poor defendants represented by court-appointed counsel are executed than those who can afford their own defense lawyers.” It is a “welcome step” that the state has created an office specifically to provide appellate advocacy for indigent clients on death row.  The lawyer chosen to head the office, Bard Levenson, is currently a federal defender in California, and brings experience with capital punishment issues and a willingness to face down injustice.  Link to editorial.  [Ed. note: news coverage of the office’s creation and Levenson’s hiring is found in this Chronicle article.]
  • 6.25.10 – The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN) [Editorial] – at a time when Tennesseans face increased barriers to accessing legal services, the state’s high court and the American Bar Association have taken positive steps toward promoting access to justice.  The Tennessee Supreme Court’s Access to Justice initiative, in particular, is producing self-help resources for pro se litigants and convening a pro bono summit to discuss how low-income Tennesseans can be better served.  Link to editorial.  [Ed note:  PSLawNet’s June 25 Public Interest News Bulletin featured coverage of the Tennessee Access to Justice Commission activities and a report on the increased need for legal services for low-income people.]
  • 6.25.10 – Washington Business Journal (Washington, DC) – according to a report by the DC Bar, pro bono hour contributions ticked upward by 2.5% among large Washington, DC law firms in 2009 compared to 2008.  Link to short piece.  [Ed. note: more information about the report, which surveyed law firms participating in the DC Bar’s Pro Bono Initiative, is available on the DC Bar’s website.] 

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New Challenges Face Federal Agencies with Hiring Reform

We’ve blogged in the past about the major federal hiring reforms underway, most importantly getting rid of KSA essays in favor of a more traditional resume and cover letter application format, and accelerating the hiring process. Last week, Government Executive had a really good article explaining a lot of the challenges that are facing agencies and OPM as they all move forward on these reforms.  For example, one reason hiring moves really slowly right now is because the process “can involve as many as 40 steps and 19 signatures,” according to John Berry, Director of OPM. As agencies determine which of these steps are necessary and which can be eliminated, things will move forward, but the article also stresses the need for a focus on quality rather than mere speed.

Another interesting tidbit from the article may come in handy for anybody looking to apply for federal jobs in the near future – you won’t be able to just submit your standard resume:

Agencies also will run up against the challenge of marrying a common-sense resume-based system with current automated processes. “There’s a dirty little secret about this resume business,” Desenberg says. “People at the agencies would tell their friends and family that even if they just ask for a resume, you must redo your resume to echo the position description, literally sometimes word for word. The sense that ‘Oh, I can just hand in my resume,’ that is not at all the reality.”

Desenberg says automated resume screeners are looking for key words from the job announcement and resumes without those words are likely to get thrown out early in the process. “You may have gotten away from some of the mechanical cranking out of essays, but you’re still requiring people to mold whatever they send in around the position description,” he says.

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Civil Legal Aid Loan Assistance Funds Available Now – Apply ASAP

From our friends at Equal Justice Works comes this time-is-of-the-essence news (mentioned here back in May): Five million dollars is now available for distribution to qualified civil legal assistance attorneys.  The online application is accessible here:  http://studentaid.ed.gov/students/attachments/siteresources/CLAARPapp.pdf and applying as soon as possible is critical because the Department of Education will commit these funds to eligible civil legal assistance attorneys on a first-come, first-served basis.Completed and signed applications can be returned to the Department of Education as follows:  

  • Fax Number: 1-315-738-6674
  • Mail:
    U.S. Department of Education
    Civil Legal Assistance Attorney
    Student Loan Repayment Program
    PO Box 4399
    Utica, NY 13504
  • Overnight mail: Call 1-877-699-1834 for courier/overnight addres

Complete and signed applications will be date and time stamped and processed in the order they are received.  Do not submit an incomplete application–  if the application is denied because it is incomplete, the Department of Education will send a letter explaining the reason it was denied, and a resubmitted request will receive a new date and time stamp. 

This new program, the Civil Legal Assistance Attorney Student Loan Repayment Program (CLAAP), repays a portion of eligible federal student loan debt for civil legal assistance attorneys who are employed full-time.  Attorneys are advised to understand the program requirements, and to carefully consider the Ineligibility for Double Benefits provision before determining whether or not to apply for CLAAP.

For more information, check out EJW’s CLAAP page.  

 

   

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Neat Opportunity for DC-area Students Interested in Public Defense

This comes to us courtesy of Jen Thomas at the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia (who blogged for us way back in January). It sounds like a great opportunity for any law students who are in the DC area this summer and are considering indigent defense work.

Public Defender Advocacy, Training & Hiring Conference (PATH):  This biennial conference will take place at Georgetown University Law Center on Saturday, July 31, 2010 from 8:00 a.m. until 5:30 p.m.  Immediately following the conference, we will have a networking happy hour at a local venue. Students can register for the conference at http://www.pdsdc.org/LegalCommunity/CalendarItem.aspx?TrainingID=75.

PATH is a free conference for law students committed to, or interested in exploring careers in, indigent criminal defense representation – the ‘PD committed’ and the ‘PD curious’.  I conceived of the conference in 2008 as a way to help students navigate the very specific recruitment and hiring processes of public defender offices.  In this vein, students may choose from 12 sessions on the Advocacy, Training or Hiring tracks to self-direct their learning.  Although the conference is PD-specific, there are panels that will be of interest to students who are focusing on civil legal services work with low income, low wealth clients. Those students should feel free to register for PATH. You can check out the schedule for the conference online as well (pdf).

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LSC Funding Bill Moves out of Subcommittee

We’ve blogged a lot recently about the funding plans for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) – most recently here. Well, yesterday the House Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Subcommittee approved the LSC funding bill with a budget of $440 million, $5 million above the president’s request (and a 4.7% increase from last year). The subcommittee also lifted the restriction on LSC grantees against class action suits, OMBWatch reports. This change may allow some legal aid offices to engage in more effective action litigation, particularly in areas such as predatory lending and unfair housing practices that tend to impact large groups of people. The bill now moves to the Appropriations Committee before it can be considered by the full House.

In related news, the NLADA has a short piece with the background of the last two nominees for the LSC Board of Directors, who were announced June 25.

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