Public Interest News Bulletin – August 27, 2010

This week:  Pro bono, Mick Dundee-style; exploring solutions to expand legal services in Mississippi; comparing public defenders and private defense counsel; Comcast shows a little  love ($$$) to a medical-legal partnership; a legal services hotline for California seniors loses funding; more on Missouri’s ailing public defense system; the wheels of justice turning in New Mexico; terrific legal work on behalf of veterans in Michigan; and two former Minnesota legal services lawyers form a for-profit firm, but work primarily with low-income clients. 

  • 8.27.10 – Fallen behind on the pro bono scene Down Under?  Well, The Australian has a piece about new data from the country’s National Pro Bono Resource Centre. The data show that, just as in the U.S., large firms are making large pro bono contributions: “24 firms with more than 50 lawyers did 322,343 hours of pro bono work last financial year.  The resource centre did not provide costings, but a conservative hourly rate of $250 shows the firms gave away legal work worth at least $80m.”  Read the Australian’s article on the National Pro Bono Resource Centre’s new data.  The two reports which present the data are presently available on the Resource Centre’s homepage.  As an aside, the PSLawNet Blog met the Centre’s director, John Corker, a couple of years ago at a public interest conference in Minneapolis.  We sat next to him as he took in his first baseball game.  The PSLawNet blog explained the basics, and apologized for both the Metrodome and for the diabolical Red Sox Nation, which had overrun the place to see the visiting Sox.
  • 8.23.10 0 – the Lincoln County Journal reports on Missouri’s indigent defense caseload crisis.  “Public defender offices statewide are seeing increasingly heavy case loads putting attorneys well over their monthly limits.”  District Defender Thomas Gabel, who oversees programs in Lincoln and Pike Counties, observed that “Missouri is ranked 49th out of 50 states for public defense funding and in the past decade the state has taken in 12 thousand additional cases a year with no additional funds.”  Also, on 8.21.10, KSPR in Springfield reported that “Missouri Auditor Susan Montee plans to review the state Public Defender Commission.”  The PSLawNet Blog has been covering this series of events; to track back to past coverage, begin with our 8/20/10 Public Interest News Bulletin.
  • 8.21.10 – the Las Cruces Sun-News in New Mexico reports that, in spite of budgetary pressures on the prosecutor’s and public defender’s offices, and in spite of the public’s misperception – driven by television crime dramas – about how fast the wheels of justice should turn, the Do-a Ana County courthouse is moving with all deliberate speed in handling criminal matters.
  • 8.21.10 – according to the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, two former legal aid lawyers formed their own law firm, specializing in “destitute and low-income clients.”  While some clients can afford to pay a little bit of money, the firm will also rely on a Minnesota program that “pays advocates to help low-income adults with the complicated paperwork to go through the [federal Supplemental Security Income application] process.”  It can be a win-win-win when a client is approved to receive SSI benefits: the client has increased income, the attorneys are compensated by the state, and the state will actually save money because the client’s move to a federally-funded support program will often take them off of the rolls of state programs. 

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