Archive for April, 2011

Public Interest Law News Bulletin: April 29, 2011

This week: what started as law student project to aid Iraqi refugees has evolved into a shiny new nonprofit organization; LSC cuts impact the grantee up in Maine; Legal Services of New Jersey’s 2011 Civil Justice Gap report is out; Wisconsin’s governor seems to like legal services about as much as labor unions; a week in the life of a deputy district attorney; the loss of government grants could mean the loss of prosecutors in North Carolina; is the Supreme Court going too easy on misbehaving prosecutors?; a grand jury tells Riverside County officials that they’re messing up the county’s indigent defense system; Jacksonville Area Legal Aid gets a $625K HUD grant to help Floridians in foreclosure; the docket’s backed up at the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

  • 4.25.11 – in North Carolina, the Post and Courier reports about the impact that government grant cutbacks can have on local prosecutors: “The Berkeley County solicitor’s office could lose two prosecutors within the next couple of months, unless the county comes up with an extra $143,651.  The Moncks Corner office is losing grants that are supporting two of its seven assistant solicitors. A Department of Justice grant for general prosecution expires at the end of this month. A state Department of Public Safety grant to prosecute criminal domestic violence cases expires at the end of June.  It’s another example of those state and federal budget cuts that leave local municipalities scrambling to make up.”
  • 4.24.11 – in California, the Press-Enterprise reports on controversy surrounding the indigent defense system in Riverside County: “Riverside County supervisors failed to follow their own policies when awarding a new criminal defense contract earlier this year, a newly released grand jury report concludes. The report, made public this month and set to go before supervisors Tuesday, asserts the board’s action circumvented the recommendations of three Northern California public defenders brought on to evaluate competing bids. As a result, the grand jury is recommending that supervisors construct a bidding process that ensures transparency on future criminal defense contracts.”

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Job o' the Day: Immigration Clinic Faculty in Charlotte

CharlotteLaw seeks to add to our faculty a full-time professor who will start and run an Immigration Law Clinic and teach related podium courses. The successful candidate will preferably begin January 2012. He or she will join a growing faculty dedicated to experiential learning integrated throughout the curriculum and an academic team that includes a Director of Experiential Learning and three additional full-time professors who teach in and run clinics, an externship program and a pro bono program. We also have adjunct professors who teach clinics.

The mission of CharlotteLaw is to provide a legal education that is student-centered, facilitates practice readiness in a way that stimulates intellectual excellence and fosters personal integrity, and serves underserved communities. We seek candidates with distinguished academic records, excellent written and oral communication skills, practice and teaching experience, as well as a strong commitment to public interest law and clinical legal education.

Applicants should have at least 5 years of practice experience in the field of immigration, or a combination of immigration and criminal law, as well as experience or a strong interest in clinical teaching. All applicants must be members of a state Bar; North Carolina bar membership is preferred. We are looking for a candidate who is the best fit for this faculty position and, thus, the position may be filled by a candidate who is interested in either a tenure track or a non-tenure-track faculty appointment, subject to long-term contract renewal, with a ten or eleven month contract. All full-time faculty have full faculty voting rights, except in the area of promotion and tenure. Opportunity for research and scholarship development is available.

To view the full job posting, go to PSLawNet (login required).

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Law students aid Iraqis in gaining refugee status

The Iraqi Assistance Program, an effort by law students to help Iraqis seek refugee status, has grown immensely. This week, The National Law Journal reported that the program began in 2008 with 100 Yale Law students and now has student chapters at nine law schools and three more on the way.

The growth of the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Program reflects both the commitment of law students to pro bono work and the overwhelming need of thousands of displaced Iraqis to secure refugee status, said recent Yale law graduate and project executive director Becca Heller.

The project — which Heller projected could expand to as many as 20 chapters by 2012 — appears to be the only organization in the United States devoted to assisting Iraqis seeking to resettle in other countries.

The idea came about when Heller spent the summer after her 1L year in Tel Aviv. She learned about the problems facing Iraqi refugees, many of them stuck in limbo in Jordan and Syria, where they lack legal status. She traveled to Amman, Jordan, and met with six refugees.

“All were in heartbreakingly tragic situations,” she said. “They didn’t really understand the refugee process. I was sort of bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and thought, ‘Law students can help with this.’ ”

Back at Yale, Heller joined forces with fellow law student Jonathan Finer, who was working to resettle some Iraqi interpreters he had met while embedded with the U.S. military as a reporter for the Washington Post.

They discovered myriad hurdles facing refugees — including a lack of understanding about the process; the numerous interviews they must complete; and the massive amounts of paperwork they must submit. Many refugees suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, and the prospect of repeated interviews — in which they must discuss why they are persecuted or unsafe in Iraq — can be difficult and painful, Heller said.

The project has secured the declassification through the Freedom of Information Act of more than 5,000 pages of government documents pertaining to refugee processing. Heller finds that these refugees are fighting so hard for their own survival and recognizes  that the United States has “special obligation” to take in Iraqi refugees displaced from the war.

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Blogging the NALP Conference: Five Qualities to Make Yourself a Strong Candidate for International Public Interest Jobs

Greetings from NALP’s annual conference in sunny Palm Springs, California.  Earlier today we sat in on a terrific program called “Counseling for International Public Interest Careers.”  Several dozen law school public interest career counselors were in attendance to pick up best practices and strategies for advising students and alumni.

One of the panelists, Akua Akyea of Yale Law School, laid out five qualities that successful candidates for international public interest jobs typically possess:

  1. Substantive Knowledge of International Legal Issues – sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s important for law students who wish to work in the international arena to figure out  how they can soak in the most knowledge through classes, writing opportunities (journal, etc.), experiential learning opportunities, attending extracurricular lectures/programs, networking with faculty and practitioners, and of course, through summer work.
  2. Demonstrated Commitment to Becoming an International Public Interest Advocate – this career path is not a backup plan.  Aspiring international public interest lawyers should take advantage of every opportunity they can get to build their credentials.  (See no. 1 above.)  It’s one thing to tell a job interviewer that you’re committed; it’s another to show that you’re living out that commitment through your legal education.
  3. Language Skills – when the PSLawNet Blog practiced in civil legal services, he often found himself regretting that he never developed anything even approaching a proficiency with a second language.  (Some would say the PSLawNet Blog is still struggling enough with English.)  In any case, possessing  foreign language skills – or not – can make a break a candidate for an international public interest law job.  It’s not too late to build skills.  Look into foreign language offerings within your law school’s larger university system.  Some students even take temporary leave to pursue language immersion courses – or do it during the summer.
  4. International Travel Experience – in two words: “Go abroad!”  Travel abroad – even for leisure – helps us to build awareness of different cultures, and it helps us to at least begin to understand what might be involved in integrating and working in a different culture.
  5. Gain Relevant Work Experience – this will help you take care of tips 1 and 2, and at the same time you’ll figure out what kind of work setting is right for you, what areas of law/policy interest you, and where in the world you might like to work.

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Job o' the Day: Intern with the EEOC in Minneapolis!

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will hire 2-4 1Ls and 2Ls for its volunteer Summer 2011 externship program. Program dates are flexible, but externs must work 20-40 hours per week. Externs conduct legal research and writing, as well as substantive work relating to the investigation of charges of discriminations. They may assist with interviewing claimants and witnesses, prepare discovery responses, or aid in the preparation of witnesses for depositions. They also attend intake interviews, mediation sessions, court hearings, and trials. Externs are assigned to mentors and encouraged to interact with as many attorneys and administrative judges as possible.

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing anti-discrimination laws in the federal sector. The Minneapolis Area Office has jurisdiction over the States of Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota.  Candidates will be evaluated based on academic performance, demonstrated research and writing skills, and interest in furthering the mission of the EEOC.

To view the full job listing, go to PSLawNet (login required).

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American Society of International Law Awards Fellowship to Rutgers Law Student

When Alexander (“Sash”) Lewis receives his J.D. from Rutgers School of Law–Newark on May 27, 2011, he will have already completed four notable internships in the area of international law. For his fourth position, which he is currently undertaking in Madagascar, Lewis has been awarded an Arthur C. Helton Fellowship from the American Society of International Law (ASIL).

Lewis is one of nine student and young professional winners selected from more than 50 applicants from Africa, Asia, Europe and Eurasia, Oceania, and North and South America. The Arthur C. Helton Fellowship Program recognizes the legacy of Arthur C. Helton, an ASIL member who died in the August 19, 2003 bombing of the UN mission in Baghdad.

As a student at Rutgers School of Law–Newark, Lewis has demonstrated an avid interest in public interest law and the ability to do high-quality international humanitarian legal work. A Marsha Wenk Fellow in Public Interest Law and the recipient of a Rutgers Public Interest Law Foundation grant, he has worked in the Constitutional Litigation Clinic and interned at the ACLU–NJ.

Our hats off to Sash! Congrats on the ASIL Fellowship!

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Job o' the Day: Calling for an experienced attorney to aid older Pennsylvanians!

SeniorLAW Center seeks an experienced attorney, leader, and manager to serve as Managing Attorney of its legal staff.

SeniorLAW Center is a nonprofit public interest legal services organization which improves the lives of thousands of older Pennsylvanians and protects their rights through legal representation, education and advocacy.  This position presents an opportunity to make an enormous difference in the lives of individuals and communities in need. We seek an energetic, detail-oriented, highly organized, confident, flexible and culturally-sensitive individual to provide day-to-day management of intake, caseload, and SeniorLAW Center’s legal staff of attorneys and advocates, law students and volunteers.

Primary duties include: detailed oversight of client intake, services and emergencies; daily management of caseload and management/supervision of legal staff; volunteer attorney training and oversight; and developing organizational policies and priorities with Executive Director. The Managing Attorney fosters relationships with a diverse range of local and regional legal and aging service providers and community groups and is an essential member of SeniorLAW Center’s Leadership Team.

The job is based in that famous city of brotherly love, Philadelphia!

To view the full job listing, go to PSLawNet (login required).

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The Sword and the Mercy: Behind the Curtain of an Oregon Prosecutor

This week, Chris Parosa, an eight-year Lane County deputy district attorney allowed Eugene, Oregon’s Register-Guard to pull back the curtain on the many offstage duties that also make up a typical week for a deputy district attorney.

He allowed a reporter to watch or query him about the job’s less-recognized tasks — some mundane, some horrifying — to show what Lane County’s 32 prosecutors do.  It is clear that the role of prosecutor extends far beyond what the public understands from Law and Order.

One surprising duty, perhaps, is deciding not to prosecute people…“We have to be sure we’ve got proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” Parosa says. “I have to verify that there’s credible evidence for every charge.”

Even when there is, he says, “I have to ask myself: Is this a case that’s worth pursuing? Is this something the community wants me to be prosecuting, given our limited resources?”

Parosa and other prosecutors also handle volumes of cases at parole violation hearings.  While several defense attorneys are here on behalf of their clients, Parosa is the sole prosecutor in the room, and most of these cases are not his own.  As the judge calls each defendant, Parosa pulls the corresponding file from a cart of files, carefully studying it before providing his recommendation.

One of the worst parts of his job, the deputy D.A. says, is telling victims of alleged crimes that his office will not be filing charges for lack of sufficient proof.  “I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had where I have to tell them, ‘I believe he did this, but I can’t prove it.’ ”

There’s also the matter of plea bargains. Parosa finds, “You can have the sword in your hand, but you can also show some mercy.” He confesses that he was the beneficiary of mercy, for when he was 18, he was busted for using a fake ID to buy alcohol while he was a student at the University of Oregon.  

Bill Warnisher, now one of his colleagues, was the prosecutor in that case.  “In his wisdom, he saw that I was a young kid who made a bad choice, and he deferred adjudication,” Parosa says. While his case was on hold, he successfully completed a diversion program. The charge was dropped and his record expunged.

“I’m thankful for the opportunity I had, and I often reflect on that when deciding what to do in my cases,” Parosa says. “It’s not our job to make everyone who comes through this office a criminal. … I love what I do because I get to come in every day and do the right thing.”

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Uncle Sam a Little Nimbler These Days When It Comes to Hiring Employees

I Want You...to remain patient. But I promise we're moving faster...

Good news for aspiring bureaucrats!  A short Washington Post piece today offers an update on the Obama Administration’s goal to speed up the federal hiring processes:

The Office of Personnel Management wants to know what percentage of workers are hired within the 80-day goal, and how long it’s taking on average per hire. In a memo sent last week, it’s also asking agencies how long it takes to fill “mission-critical” jobs, including information-technology specialists, human resource officials and top career positions.

Numbers released in March suggest the government is still about 25 days shy of Obama’s 80-day goal, with agencies taking about 105 days to recruit and fill slots in fiscal 2010. Those numbers are down from about 122 days the year before and in the past, it used to take agencies up to 200 days to post a job, interview applicants and hire a new worker.

Obama and other administration officials have argued that the long hiring process is deterring otherwise qualified applicants from seeking federal positions.

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Job o' the Day: California HUD Attorney needed!

The Regional Counsel for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is responsible for providing legal counsel, review, assistance and recommendations to the Regional Administrator, Field Office Directors, program managers and directors and heads of various Centers operating within his or her jurisdiction on a variety of complex issues raised by top management and program staff with respect to all programs within the jurisdiction. The Regional Counsel’s activities may embrace any legal issue pertaining to the administration of HUD programs and operations including, among others, issues related to housing and community development, contracts, real property, constitutional law, corporations, associations, partnerships, agency, foreclosures, torts, employee and labor relations, taxation, negotiable instruments, municipal corporations, municipal and private financing, environmental law, creditors rights, bankruptcy, civil procedure, fair housing, equal employment opportunity, ethics and administrative law.

The Regional Counsel actively participates in setting policy in all matters affecting HUD programs and administration within the office jurisdiction and exercises independent judgment and discretion in formulating responses to legal issues. The incumbent renders advice and recommendations at all levels of the organization, from the General Counsel and Assistant Secretaries to field managers and directors.

The best news? Many are eligible: first professional law degree (J.D. or LL.B.), second professional law degree (LL.M.), or superior law student work!

To view the full job listing, go to PSLawNet (login required).

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