Archive for April, 2011

Case Backlog Challenges Veterans Appeals Court – Some Vets Wait and Wait for Resolutions

The Washington Post reports on the swelling case backlog at the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, which hears appeals from vets who are denied benefits by the Veterans Administration: “The caseload at the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims has doubled in recent years, with the court deciding more than 600 cases per judge each year — far more than other federal appellate courts. Judges are working nights and weekends but say they still have difficulty keeping pace.”

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Job o' the Day: International flavor @ the Hague

Are you a specialist in criminal and international humanitarian law?  The International Criminal Court for the Former Yugoslavia may have an ideal position for you.

Under the guidance of the Judges of the Trial Chamber and the Senior Legal Officer or Head of Chambers, the incumbent will provide specialized legal advice on all aspects of law and procedure with emphasis on criminal and international humanitarian law.

S/he will:

  • Attend judicial proceedings and hearings and provide expert advice in an expeditious manner on the various issues arising, particularly where the Judges wish to enter an immediate oral decision;
  • Under the guidance of the Presiding Judge and the Senior Legal Officer or Head of Chambers, ensure the day to day management of proceedings, including contacts with the parties and others involved;
  • Supervise staff and organize the distribution of work within the team; supervise the drafting of preparatory documents, decisions and judgments for the Chamber;
  • Undertake legal drafting as required; supervise research undertaken by the legal officers and associate legal officers under his/her authority; provide the Judges with draft memoranda and decisions in a timely manner.

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

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Public Interest News Bulletin – April 22, 2010

This week: changes to Ohio’s patchwork indigent defense system?; a medical-legal partnership in the City of Fountains (and now you know Kansas City’s nickname – you’re welcome); praise from law firm associates on the value of law school clinical and externships programs, according to new NALP report; legal services funding bills making headway in Texas legislature; “future of legal education” conference gives props to proposal that would teach law students to teach pro-se litigants; $200K in HHS domestic violence victim assistance grant leads to legal services partnership in Michigan; is Birmingham, Alabama’s money better spent on public defenders or appointed counsel?; Colorado Legal Services takes a $170K hit after federal budget compromise; make that figure $300K in Virginia; are law school clinics vehicles for advancing liberal causes?; law school scholarship opportunities for would-be Garden State prosecutors; Quinnipiac (we love that name!) law students run/walk to benefit injured U.S. servicemembers – kudos!; a libertarian proposal to create an indigent defense voucher system; tumult among the leadership of the Peach State’s indigent defense program.

  • 4.21.11 – could Ohio see a change in its indigent defense system, with the state easing some of the funding and administrative burdens resting on county shoulders?  An article from the Elyria, Ohio-based Chronicle-Telegram (a/k/a the New York Times of Northern Ohio) sheds light on how a state legislative proposal could impact Lorain County’s appointed-counsel system (and, we would presume, other counties’ systems as well): “County officials have been reviewing whether creating a public defender’s office would save the county money over the approximately $1.8 million spent annually to pay court-appointed attorneys. Under the current system, the state reimburses the county around 30 percent of its annual expenditures for court-appointed lawyers. [County Commissioner Lori] Kokoski said under the proposal being reviewed in Columbus the reimbursement number would jump to 50 percent next year and climb by 10 percent each year until the state was fully funding a county public defender’s office.  She also said that the Office of the Ohio Public Defender would take over operating the county’s public defender’s office — if one exists — under the proposed change to state law.”  
  • 4.20.11 – as we’ve noted before on the Blog, an exciting new Medical Legal Partnership has sprung up in Kansas City between Legal Aid of Western Missouri and Saint Luke’s hospital.  Health Leaders Media has a nice write-up: “Legal Aid began its first medical-legal partnership in Kansas City in 2007, but the Saint Luke’s partnership is the first to use legal staff working full-time at a medical site. Amber Cutler, an attorney with Legal Aid, said that has been critical to the success of the four-month-old project.   ‘On site is best, not only because we are more accessible to the patients, but because we are more visible,’ Cutler says…’It’s a critical component.’ … The Saint Luke’s medical-legal partnership is based on the I-HELP model. I stands for income and insurance issues; H is for housing issues; E is for ensuring patient safety in domestic situations; L is for legal status; and P is for power of attorney and guardianship.”  BONUS EASTER SEASON TRIVIA: St. Luke, known primarily as a Gospel writer, was very likely trained as a physician.
  • 4.19.11 – law firm associates think law school clinics and externships were just gangbusters in preparing them for the practice of law.  As we noted on the blog earlier this week, a new NALP report indicates that present-day associates benefitted from participating in clinics and externships during their student days.  The report compares the various experiential opportunities to determine their effects on lawyer preparedness.  While only 30 percent of the associates reported participating in at least one legal clinic, almost two in three of these folks (63%) found the experience “very useful,” the highest value on a scale of 1-to-4.   Similarly, 36% of the associates said they took part in an externship or field placement, and 60% of them rated the experience “very useful.”  Pro bono programs and legal skills classes earned lower ratings from associates.  Here’s a link to the report, the 2010 Survey of Law School Experiential Learning Opportunities and Benefits.  And here’s some National Law Journal coverage of the report.
  • 4.18.11 – the Texas Lawyer runs a detailed piece on two companion bills winding through the Texas legislature that would generate funding for legal services:  “Senate Bill 726 and House Bill 2174 would create new court costs and document filing fees to help fund indigent civil legal aid, indigent criminal defense and the implementation of electronic filing in all state courts.”  We checked up on the bills on 4/21 via the Texas legislature’s website.  They’re both reported has having passed in committee votes.  Faithful PSLawNet Blog readers will have seen coverage of these bills in past News Bulletins.  One of the most interesting dimensions is the bipartisan support to improve funding for the beleaguered legal services community.  Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht has been a champion for increased funding, and he’s a solid conservative.  Also, Rep. Will Hartnett, the sponsor of HB 2174, is a Republican who noted in the Texas Lawyer piece that legal services is not typically a Republican cause.
  • 4.18.11 – at the intersection of technology, legal aid, and legal education sits a project proposal to have law students create self-help software for people who have legal problems but may not be able to afford an attorney.  The proposal, “Apps for Justice: Learning Law by Creating Software,” won accolades at the “Future Ed” conference, a recent gathering of stakeholders in the legal education world that explored ways to improve the way tomorrow’s lawyers are trained.  The National Law Journal covered both the conference and the “Apps for Justice” proposal, which is designed to help law students learn legal principles and processes as they create self-help software for pro se clients.  The “Apps for Justice” project proposal contemplates a grant from the Legal Services Corporation to fund pilots at 5 law schools.  (Here is a press release about Apps for Justice being honored at Future Ed.)
  • 4.18.11 – the federal budget compromise earlier this month means depleted funding for LSC grantee Colorado Legal Services, to the tune of $170,000.  From Law Week Colorado: Colorado Legal Services will lose $170,000 over the next seven months as a result of the congressional budget compromise, the Colorado Bar Association said today…. ‘This loss will have a serious impact on the program’s ability to meet the most essential legal needs of low-income, elderly, and disabled Coloradans,’ the bar association said in a statement.  Law Week publishes the full Colorado Bar Association statement here.
  • 4.17.11 – the right-of-center Washington Times runs a review about a book criticizing legal education in the U.S. as being, well, elite and leftist.  According to the review of Schools for Misrule: Legal Academia and Overlawyered America, law school clinics in particular are vehicles to make social change: “The advent of law school ‘clinics’ brought both foundation funding and pedagogical cover for ‘social justice’ projects. In reality, the professed goals of training lawyers and serving indigent clients often were eclipsed by the quest for ‘test cases’ and ‘social change.’ Poor people, it turned out, wanted legal services (divorce, traffic violations, misdemeanor defense) that had “little to do with changing society.” The clinics preferred to turn away such matters in favor of ‘high profile cases,’ so that the lawyers could ‘save thousands instead of a few.’ And in numerous cases, the ‘public interest’ remedies pursued by law clinics brought results harmful to the communities they professed to serve.”  Yikes!  While the PSLawNet Blog supports changes in the legal education model that would lead to skill-based training, we’re not sure that’s a fair characterization of clinical education writ broadly.  Political ideology aside, we think most clinics handle everyday cases involving evictions, public benefits terminations, domestic violence prevention, and other matters that directly impact clients’ health and economic security. 
  • 4.17.11 – the New Jersey Star-Ledger reports on three law school scholarship opportunities for Garden State residents who are aspiring prosecutors.  The scholarships are sponsored by the state’s County Prosecutors Association, and the application deadline is June 23, 2011.  Click through to the article for more detail, but here are some basics:
    • To be eligible for the Oscar W. Rittenhouse Memorial Scholarship, an applicant must be accepted for admission to a law school and must have an interest in becoming a prosecutor.
    • The Harris Y. Cotton Memorial Scholarship is also for applicants accepted for admission to law school who want to be prosecutors with an emphasis on domestic violence or hate crime prosecutions.
    • Applicants for the Andrew K. Ruotolo Jr. Memorial Scholarship must be accepted to law school or graduate school and exhibit an interest, and commitment to, enhancing the rights and well-being of children through child advocacy programs.
  • 4.15.11 – according to the Daily Journal, there are big changes affecting the embattled Georgia Public Defender Standards Council (which is the statewide indigent defense service): “…Georgia lawmakers voted to replace the [Council’s] current 15-member board with nine new appointees tapped by the governor, the lieutenant governor and the House speaker. The measure, which must be signed by Gov. Nathan Deal, also gives the [Council’s] director more power over whom the system hires.”  The Council has been in the legislative doghouse for some time, particularly among conservative lawmakers.  As noted by the Daily Journal one departing board member complained that “the measure only marginalizes the council, turning it into a mere advisory board while putting more power in the hands of the director, ex-prosecutor Travis Sakrison, who is the third leader of the group in the past six months.”  Indeed, he referred to the move as a “pig in a poke,” which we suspect constitutes fightin’ words in the Peach State.

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Teriffic New Website with Resources on Law School Debt

Our good buddy Heather Jarvis has just launched the Ask Heather Jarvis website.  For several years now, Heather has been a national leader in working on solutions to the student debt burdens that weigh upon law grads, in particular those who pursue public interest careers.  

Our initial scan of the website suggests that Heather’s done a great job organizing educational resources for borrowers.  And she’s presenting a free webinar entitled “Public Service Loan Forgiveness in Five Easy Steps” on multiple dates/times in May.  Good stuff.

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Job o' the Day: Passionate about protecting wildlife?

Find a job you’re wild about at the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), the nation’s largest member-supported conservation organization, which is at the forefront of global warming issues, reconnecting our children with nature, and protecting America’s wildlife and habitat.

NWF seeks a Conservation Litigation Director to be responsible for leading NWF’s efforts to advance its conservation priorities through litigation. Litigation is one of the key tools that NWF uses to advance its agendas of confronting global warming and safeguarding nature for people and wildlife. NWF litigators build their cases in support of the organization’s advocacy campaigns. This position will therefore work closely with program staff to identify the evolving needs and objectives of advocacy campaigns and help design and implement litigation strategies to meet those needs and objectives. This position will expand NWF’s litigation capacity by filing cases, recruiting other attorneys to provide donations of pro bono or reduced fee services, and fundraising.

Qualified candidates for this position must possess a J.D. and a minimum ten years experience in conservation litigation. He or she must be a highly organized professional, able to identify, articulate and implement effective litigation goals and strategies and be able to work hard while maintaining a sense of humor.

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

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N.J. county prosecutors offer scholarships for law school students pursuing law enforcement careers

The County Prosecutors Association is offering four scholarships to law school students who want careers as prosecutors and police officers hoping to attend college to advance their law enforcement careers.  Three of the scholarships are for applicants who are accepted to law school.

The scholarships, each amounting to a one-year grant of $2,500, will be paid directly to recipients who will be selected by the County Prosecutors Association of New Jersey Scholarship Foundation’s board of trustees, according to Middlesex County Prosecutor Bruce Kaplan.

To be eligible for the Oscar W. Rittenhouse Memorial Scholarship, an applicant must be accepted for admission to a law school and must have an interest in becoming a prosecutor.

The Harris Y. Cotton Memorial Scholarship is also for applicants accepted for admission to law school who want to be prosecutors with an emphasis on domestic violence or hate crime prosecutions.

Applicants for the Andrew K. Ruotolo Jr. Memorial Scholarship must be accepted to law school or graduate school and exhibit an interest, and commitment to, enhancing the rights and well-being of children through child advocacy programs.

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NALP Report on Value of Law School Experiential Learning Programs

Tomorrows Lawyers Need More Than The Book-Learnin.

In recent years, there has been much debate about the traditional legal education model’s effectiveness in preparing new lawyers for the practice of law.  Well, in reality, various stakeholders in the legal industry have been debating this for years.  New life was breathed into the conversation by the 2007 release of the Carnegie Foundation’s report, Educating Lawyers: Preparing for the Profession of Law.  Among the report’s major recommendations was an increased emphasis on experiential learning in law school curricula.

Fuel was added to the fire when the bottom dropped out of the legal employment market in 2008.  Suddenly, in a hyper-competitive job market,  everyone was talking about whether law schools could produce more practice-ready practitioners by bolstering experiential learning programs.  The PSLawNet Blog has been very interested in this discussion because so many experiential learning programs have public service dimensions to them, e.g. clinicals, externships, pro bono programs, etc.  So we’re pleased to note that our colleagues at NALP have released a report based on our 2010 Survey of Law School Experiential Learning Opportunities and Benefits.  The survey was distributed to law firm associates, with various experience levels, at firms around the country, and garnered over 900 responses.  (It’s noteworthy that we didn’t survey public interest lawyers, and subsequent research that we conduct may target this group.  In any event the report’s findings speak to what kind of experiential learning programs associates value most as having made them better practitioners.)

The report indicates that experiential learning opportunities, such as clinics and externships, are growing in popularity, as more recent law school graduates reported higher rates of participation than earlier graduates. And, whether required or optional, most of the simulated learning opportunities law schools offer are instrumental in preparing new associates for the demands of the practice of law reports the National Law Journal of the NALP research.

The report compares the various experiential opportunities to determine their effects on lawyer preparedness.  While only 30 percent of the associates reported participating in at least one legal clinic, almost two in three of these folks (63%) found the experience “very useful,” the highest value on a scale of 1-to-4.   Similarly, 36% of the associates said they took part in an externship or field placement, and 60% of them rated the experience “very useful.”

Seventy percent of the associates took at least one legal skills class during law school,  but only about 36 percent found the courses to “very useful.”

The ABA Journal also released an article about the research, making pro bono participation its lead.  NALP’s research revealed that 42% of the associates participated in pro bono work during law school; most spent less than 40 hours on the volunteer work.  And interestingly, only 17 percent of those who spent time on pro bono found it to be “very useful.”  (Contrast that against the clinic and extern stats.)

One thing to note about law students’  pro bono participation is that pro bono work categorically is often quite varied.  In parsing out students’ pro bono experiences instead of examining them in the aggregate, one might reach more specific conclusions about how well pro bono work affects preparedness to practice law.  For instance, some pro bono work is done through the auspices of a rigorous law school program with considerable oversight and supervision.  This experience would be closer to an externship or clinic experience, we think.  A lot of pro bono, though, it not nearly as well structured, and this may account for its relatively thin “usefulness” numbers.

Check out the report for yourself and share your thoughts in the Comments section.

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Job o' the Day: Tax Savvy in the Land of Lincoln

Prairie State Legal Services (PSLS), a 65-lawyer legal services organization, serving 36 counties in northern and central Illinois outside of Cook County, is seeking applicants to direct its Low-Income Tax Clinic.  The Clinic provides free legal advice and representation in tax controversies to low-income individuals.  The Clinic serves all 36 counties in PSLS’ service area.  The Clinic Director would be responsible for all Clinic activities, including client representation, supervision of interns and volunteers, community outreach, staff training, and grant reporting and preparation.  Prefer candidates with a tax or legal aid background.

Tax issues are of crucial importance to many low-income individuals – and to low-wage workers, single parents, and immigrants in particular.  Critical issues our clients face include denial of anti-poverty credits (such as the Earned Income Tax Credit), wage and benefit garnishments, tax problems stemming from identity theft, tax problems related to domestic abuse, worker misclassification, and deceptive tax schemes.  The Clinic assists clients through litigation (primarily in the United States Tax Court), administrative and agency advocacy, and, where appropriate and permitted, systemic advocacy outside the legal process.

PSLS has 12 offices across its service area, and will consider placing the director in the location which best meets the needs of the program and the interests of the director.  For further information about PSLS and its office locations, see www.pslegal.org

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

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Kansas Law Student Organizes Animal Cruelty Clinic

A dog-loving law student at the University of Kansas wants to make sure criminal cases of animal cruelty are prosecuted as thoroughly as violence against people. At the suggestion of a professor, Katie Barnett is organizing what her research suggests would be the first animal cruelty prosecution clinic at a U.S. law school.

Law students taking part in the clinic will work with animal control, animal cruelty investigators at the Humane Society, police and prosecutors in Douglas County to make sure cases are prosecuted to a conclusion.

“This is the chance for me to give the animals a voice and a place in the justice system,” said Barnett, a 30-year-old third-year law student.

“She has a long history in involvement in animal rights issues,” said law professor William Westerbeke, who approached Barnett about starting the clinic.

Many law students do clinical work already, and he said designating one to specifically coordinate and keep track of the animal cases would be beneficial for all involved. It also would save the Humane Society money and be terrific experience for the student, he said.

The first student in the program will begin in fall 2011, and Westerbeke said other eastern Kansas counties have expressed interest in the program if it succeeds.

The PSLawNet Blog couldn’t help but notice this innovative program!  High fives from the animal kingdom and public interest world!

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Job o' the Day: Getting Techy in Boston

Are you a lawyer interested in dealing with emerging legal issues related to law, journalism, and new media on the Internet? Would you like to help online journalism and new media ventures meet their legal needs? Do you want a stimulating yet laid back work environment?

The Citizen Media Law Project (soon to be renamed the Digital Media LawProject) at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society is looking to hire an Employee Fellow / Staff Attorney commencing in June 2011 to assist with the project’s work.  Candidates should be energetic and passionate about working on journalism, online speech, intellectual property, and cyberlaw issues. The offices are located at the Berkman Center at Harvard Law School, so the Employee Fellow / Staff Attorneymust be willing to work in Cambridge, MA.

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

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