Public Interest News Bulletin: August 6, 2010

This week: Professor Laurence Tribe proposes innovations in achieving access to justice; Missouri public defenders say “Show me lower caseloads!”; volunteer prosecutors are all the rage; Connecticut legal services providers expand use of the Internets to reach low-income residents; West Virginia does same telephonically; funding cuts portend bad times for the New Jersey legal services community; and finally, the Hennepin County (that’s Minneapolis) public defender tries to make budgetary ends meet by enticing older lawyers to retire. 

  • 8.3.10 – National Law Journal – Laurence Tribe, Senior Counselor for Access to Justice at the U.S. Department of Justice, addressed the Conference of [state court] Chief Justices in late July.  He called on “…the judges to engage in a form of ‘judicial activism’ – not ideological, but rather, as he put it, the ‘opposite of passivity’ – [and]…laid out specific measures that the chief justices could take to make pro bono and pro se representation easier, as well as to enforce the rights of juveniles and indigents to counsel.”  Link to article.
  • 8.3.10 USA Today – state and federal prosecutors’ offices throughout the country are taking on volunteer lawyers to augment the work of their (often overextended) paid staffs.  “Despite the financial downturn and, in some cases because of it, state and federal officials said the work experience alone offered by the prosecutor jobs is drawing unexpected numbers of willing applicants to positions across the country.”  Link to article.
  • 8.2.10 – Hartford Courant – the Connecticut legal services community has launched a new website – Connecticut Network for Legal Aid – to assist low-income residents who are seeking free legal services or who need help navigating the court system as pro se litigants.  Link to announcement.
  • 8.2.10 – Press of Atlantic City – South Jersey Legal Services plans to lay off “about a third of its employees – including about a quarter of its attorneys – by the end of the year.”  The organization has been hit hard by falling IOLTA revenues and a recent state budget cut to legal services funding.  Link to article.  [Ed. note: we covered the state budget cut in our July 30 Public Interest News Bulletin (Item 2), and our July 23 Bulletin (Item 10).  Last week John D. Atlas, former executive director of the Passaic County Legal Aid Society, blogged an opinion piece critical of the state budget cut.  He further noted that “quality legal representation, especially for the poor, is one of the lynchpins of a fair and equal justice system.  Concerned citizens should fight back but we should also take this opportunity to rethink how to help the poor.”  Atlas argues that since there will never be enough legal services lawyers to directly represent all of the poor people who need help, legal services programs could partially refocus their delivery models to support other social services providers that work to stop problems plaguing poor communities before they start.]
  • 7.31.10 – Star-Tribune (Minnesota) –  the Hennepin County public defender’s office is already short-staffed, but in order to comply with a county request to cut budgets by 5%, the defender “plans to offer $400 tax-free for every year of service to veteran county employees who retire or resign this fall.”  The staff-reduction idea comes with an obvious downside: “Diminishing the ranks of an office that handled 54,000 cases last year and now has 116 lawyers – who already carry double the caseload recommended by the [ABA] – is a sobering prospect.”  Link to article.
  • 7.30.10 – State Journal (West Virginia) – “The West Virginia State Bar and Legal Aid of West Virginia are partnering together to launch Lawyer Information Service.   The service is a collaborative effort to provide legal information and services to West Virginians who need legal advice and help but cannot afford to pay for it.”  Volunteer attorneys will staff phone lines once a week to speak to those with legal problems.  “Legal Aid said the Lawyer Information Service cannot guarantee legal representation, but it does offer people the opportunity to speak with a lawyer who can offer up legal information.”  Link to announcement.

RSS feed for comments on this post · TrackBack URL

Leave a Comment