Archive for June, 2011

Public Defender Hosts Group Night at the Verizon Center

By Jamie Bence

The Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia is excited to host a group night at the Verizon Center on July 29th, featuring discounted pricing to watch the Washington Mystics take on the Indiana Fever!

Tickets begin at only $10/seat and include an option for premium center court seating at only $25/ticket!  To purchase your tickets:

  1. Click this link – Special Group Priced Mystics Tickets for Friday, 7/29 – 7pm
  2. Enter the passcode – mystics
  3. Login or create a Mystics account – allows us to e-mail you your tickets directly!
  4. Choose your location & number of tickets
  5. Complete the purchase and receive tickets via e-mail
  6. ENJOY THE GAME!

If you’d prefer to order on the phone – our personal Mystics Agent, Neil Hofman, would be glad to work with you.  He can be reached at – (202) 527-7506 and be sure to reference the D.C. Public Defender’s Office to get the discount.

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Job o'the Day: Children's Health Policy Director in Georgia

By Jamie Bence

Voices for Georgia’s Children is a nonprofit agency seeking an Associate Policy Director.

The Associate Director for Child Health Policy provides the direction and leadership for Voices to achieve the policy changes necessary to improve children’s health in Georgia. Our stated health objective is to increase the percentage of children with healthcare coverage, knowing that children with insurance are more likely to be healthy. In addition we track five measures of child health and advocate policies and systems that will improve outcomes. To achieve these changes, the associate director works with both public and private child health agencies and associations in developing and promoting effective policy, produces regular reports for lawmakers and the public on the health status of children, and provides independent analysis of proposed legislation and regulation. The Associate Director will focus the majority of his/her time on access to health coverage and on policies to promote selected health outcomes, including obesity and oral health. As a health specialist, he/she also will support the health aspects of our early childhood and transitioning youth agendas. The position reports to Voices’ Executive Director.

Voices is a small organization that relies on the flexibility of its staff but also tries to maximize the specific interests and talents of each. We seek someone who is team-oriented, willing to try new and different strategies, and excited to help build the growing organization.

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

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DC Bar Foundation Channels $865K of Additional Funding to Local Legal Services Providers

By Steve Grumm and Jamie Bence

Some exciting news for legal aid providers in the capital:

“The DC Bar Foundation announced awards totaling $865,000 to support direct civil legal services for the poor and underserved in the District. These grants are in addition to the $2.8 million the Foundation awarded in April 2011 with funding from the District government, and to the more that $500,000 the Foundation awarded in FY2011 Loan Repayment Assistance Program loans to DC poverty lawyers, and training and technical assistance for the District’s legal services community.”

“The economic downturn has created an enormously challenging environment for non-profit civil legal services organizations, precisely at a time when the need for their services is increasing. We are grateful for the continued support of our legal community, and the commitment of local financial institutions to securing a baseline of     funding for legal services in our city,” said W. Mark Smith, President of the D.C. Bar Foundation.

The grants will help fund 22 organizations that make legal services available to those less fortunate who would not otherwise have access to assistance. The grants are made after a detailed evaluation of grant proposals, site visits and interviews.

You can read the Bar Foundation’s complete release here, including a list of the grant recipients, which include the Legal Aid Society, the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project, and exactly 19 others.

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7th Annual IMPACT Career Fair- Student Registration Deadline Soon!

By Jamie Bence

The University of Arizona Rogers College of Law and Georgetown Law Center invite 2011 graduates and returning law students to the IMPACT Career Fair for Law Students and Attorneys with Disabilities in Arlington, Virginia on August 5, 2011.

The student registration deadline is coming up on July 10, 2011. The fair will feature a keynote address by Christie M. Griffin, the Deputy Director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, as well as ample interview opportunities.

For additional information on upcoming career fairs, check out the PSLawNet Career Fair Guide!

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Job o' the Day: Career Consultants in Colorado

By Lauren Forbes

Too much alliteration? Apologies! The Career Development Center (CDC) at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law is seeking to hire two committed, energetic professionals for Career Consultant positions.

The positions report directly to the Assistant Dean of Career Opportunities. They will provide career consulting services and resources to assist law students and graduates in the areas of career development, effective job search strategies, networking, interviewing and cover letter / resume writing.

Following are the essential duties of the position:

Career consulting, planning and programming as noted below. 60%

Primary duties include providing effective career consulting, planning and implementing career-related programming, building relationships with employers for the benefit of DU Law Students and alumni. The Career Consultants provide career advising on a broad range of career paths.

In addition, each consultant has particular areas of focus for purposes of providing specialized career advising, programming, and conducting employer outreach.

The CDC anticipates that the following areas of focus will be divided between the two new consultants:

(1) Public Sector – specialized advising on career paths in government and public interest; planning programs on public sector careers; building relationships with local and national government and public interest employers

(2) Private Sector – specialized advising on career paths in law firms and corporate legal departments; planning programs on private sector careers; building relationships with local and national private sector employers

(3) Judicial Clerkships – judicial clerkship advising, related programming, and employer outreach

(4) Diversity and Inclusiveness – providing specialized advising on the Colorado Pledge to Diversity Program and other hiring programs focused on recruiting law students from diverse backgrounds

Participating in relevant professional organizations, conducting employer outreach to build and maintain relationships with employers, and helping to “match” students with employment opportunities. 30%

The Career Consultant also helps the Assistant Dean to compile and report employment statistics. 5%

Other duties as assigned. All members of the CDC staff assist with other functions as needed to meet the office’s short and long term goals. 5%

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

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Public Interest News Bulletin: June 24, 2011

By: Steve Grumm (with big assists from Lauren Forbes and Jamie Bence)

Happy Friday, dear readers!  The bulletin was on vacation last week, so today we bring you two weeks of news.  Featured: legal services office closure threat in TN; an all-star panel tackles the civil justice gap; how could a MN state government shutdown impact indigent defense?; NY indigent defense programs will save some coin, courtesy of the state legislature; an access-to-justice conference today in Honolulu; SCOTUS says no right to counsel in civil contempt proceeding; wrongful convictions in IL have cost taxpayers millions; CA’s capital punishment program has done the same to Golden State taxpayers; also in CA, a new court diversionary program to benefit the homeless; the state high court acts to channel funding to legal services in Hawaii; NELP launches a new website for fair wage advocates; an innovative program in Oregon pairs law grads with public interest advocates to help the former build skills; a new medical-legal partnership in Arkansas; more funding woes in TN; after a state funding cut, local officials scramble to help fund Jacksonville Area Legal Aid in FL; in NC, Pisgah Legal Services loses some funding in political spat; a legal clinic in Mexico does some groundbreaking work toward promoting the rule of law; a great primer on the current state of Legal Services Corp. funding; the Missouri indigent defense crisis has victims.

  • 6.22.11 – I had a chance to attend a terrific program called “Closing the Justice Gap,” hosted by the Center for American Progress.  I’m hoping to do a write-up on it later.  Suffice to say for now, though, the program panelists have all penned white papers on the access-to-justice crisis.  The papers, from different angles, look at the significant barriers facing poor people who try to access the justice system, and they propose solutions toward knocking down those barriers.  All four papers are worth a read:
    •  Grounds for Objection by Joy Moses, a senior policy analyst at the Center for American Progress;
    • The Justice Gap by Alan Houseman, executive director at the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) – and speaking of CLASP, scroll down to see a terrific update on Legal Services Corporation funding from CLASP’s Linda Perle;
    • When Second Best is the Best We Can Do, by Prof. Peter Edelman of Georgetown Univ. Law Center;
    • Access to Evidence, by a team of authors from Harvard Law School and Yale Law School.
  • 6.20.11 – um, my invitation to the access-to-justice conference taking place today in Honolulu must have been lost in the mail.  The Pacific Business News notes that the Hawaii Access to Justice Conference will “deep-dive into the major issues affecting access to civil legal services in Hawaii for underserved populations.  Among the most pressing issues to be tackled at this year’s conference is the search for more funding sources for legal services providers that cater to these groups — organizations such as Legal Aid Society of Hawaii , the Hawaii Justice Foundation and the Mediation Center of the Pacific — which were hit hard in the economic downturn when government funding for their programs was slashed.”  The Aloha State’s AtJ Commission was created in 2008.  Here’s a link to their most recent report, from 2010.  And see a few stories down for some good funding news for Hawaii legal services providers…
  • 6.20.11 – a different National Law Journal piece reports on a study out of Chicago finding the cost to the public of wrongful convictions in Illinois over the past two decades to have topped $200 million:  “Wrongful convictions don’t just harm those who spend time in jail for crimes they didn’t commit and their families. They also come at a hefty cost to the public, according to a study by the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law and the Better Government Association, a Chicago-based good-government group.
    The study concluded that wrongful convictions for violent crimes in Illinois have cost taxpayers more than $214 million since 1989. Those wrongful convictions also resulted in people later proven innocent spending more than 900 years in prison…. Researchers calculated the financial toll by tallying the cost of incarceration, compensation to those wrongfully convicted and civil litigation costs. Settlement payments represented the largest portion of the bill, at nearly $160 million. Another $31.6 million was spent to hire private attorneys to defend the government against civil suits, while jail and prison costs totaled $18.5 million. State compensation payments came to $8.2 million.”  Here’s a link to the report on the Better Government Association’s website.
  • 6.20.11 – as noted above, putting the wrong people in jail costs Illinois taxpayers a lot of money.  According to a Los Angeles Times article, maintaining California’s capital punishment system is also a bit pricey: “Taxpayers have spent more than $4 billion on capital punishment in California since it was reinstated in 1978, or about $308 million for each of the 13 executions carried out since then, according to a comprehensive analysis of the death penalty’s costs.  The examination of state, federal and local expenditures for capital cases, conducted over three years by a senior federal judge and a law professor, estimated that the additional costs of capital trials, enhanced security on death row and legal representation for the condemned adds $184 million to the budget each year…. The authors outline three options for voters to end the current reality of spiraling costs and infrequent executions: fully preserve capital punishment with about $85 million more in funding for courts and lawyers each year; reduce the number of death penalty-eligible crimes for an annual savings of $55 million; or abolish capital punishment and save taxpayers about $1 billion every five or six years.”
  • 6.18.11 -also in California, the Marin Independent Journal reports on a new, diversionary program to help the homeless deal with minor legal infractions outside of court:  “The Marin Community Court, a collaboration among Legal Aid of Marin, the St. Vincent de Paul Society of Marin County and the Marin County Superior Court, has held three sessions [since its launch in April].”  One of the program’s driving motivations is helping the homeless and those struggling with housing to avoid the spiral of accumulating legal fines and penalties that begins when they can not afford to resolve a problem at the outset.  The Community Court program includes one-on-one counseling sessions between a participant and an attorney, and then a “hearing” which often results in sentencing that focuses on treatment and support services rather than sanctions.  (A note to the law student readers who are interested in postgraduate fellowship proposals:  If I were in your shoes I would give serious thought to proposals that help poor people more efficiently navigate the justice system, like either diversionary programs or courthouse resource centers for pro se litigants.  There are a lot of people these days who can’t afford a lawyer, and there are a lot of courthouse officials looking for ways to keep the wheels of justice turning smoothly by helping these people navigate the system as efficiently, and as cheaply, as possible.)
  • 6.17.11 – TheHonolulu Star Advertiser reports that Hawaiian legal services providers are due to benefit from class-action residual funds: ”A rule adopted by the Hawaii Supreme Court helps clear the way for money left over from class-action lawsuits to be given to nonprofit groups that provide legal services to the poor. The rule takes effect July 1 and provides guidance on how to distribute money from lawsuits after the plaintiffs, attorney fees and expenses have been paid. Those residual funds include money for plaintiffs who cannot be located or who don’t file claims….  The groups that would qualify for the money under the high court rule include the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii, the University of Hawaii Elder Law Program, Voluntary Legal Services Hawaii and the Domestic Violence Action Center.”
  • 6.17.2011- The ABA Journal reports that a new program in Oregon for recently graduated lawyers is receiving overwhelming response. Announced last month, the Practical Skills through Public Service Program pairs Oregon law school graduates with public interest attorneys, in hopes of giving young practitioners the opportunity to learn by doing. The Oregonian reports that this program is part of a larger effort in the state to prepare new law grads for solo practice, in light of diminishing offers from law firms.
  • 6.17.2011- A new medical-legal partnership in Arkansas aims to improve access to healthcare and education for at-risk children in the state. Walmart and Legal Aid of Arkansas have teamed up to provide legal assistance to children and families staying at the Arkansas Children’s Hospital, providing holistic advice and guidance to help children and families get back on track. KTHV notes: “Direct access to legal services will help many families address obstacles to good health and continuing recovery. Attorneys can help families who need utility service recovery for the child’s home care, assistance negotiating with a landlord over the environment of an apartment or even special educational testing.”
  • 6.16.2011- Just four attorneys will remain to assist clients at Northeast Tennessee Legal Aid after the end of this month. Federal budget cuts coupled with dwindling grants and donations have caused the office to lay off one third of its attorneys, including an associate director, according to TriCities News.
  • 6.15.2011- The Jacksonville Daily Record calls the new ethics commission now in place for the city government “a promise kept.” In a unanimous vote after several months of heated debate, the city council voted to reinstate an ethics code and ultimately create an independent Office of Ethics, Compliance and Oversight. In the same session, the council considered a bill to impose a $50 court fee to benefit Jacksonville Legal Aid, a measure supported by Fourth Circuit Judge Donald Moran and intended to help offset decreased funding from the Florida Bar Foundation and the state legislature. “The funds from the court fee would be used to provide free legal services for the disadvantaged through JALA, including services to domestic violence victims, the mentally ill or disabled, the un-deremployed or unemployed, residents facing landlord/tenant issues or homelessness, foreclosure-related educational, mediation and defense programs, and the elderly.” The council will vote on the measure during its June 28th meeting.
  • 6.14.11 CLASP’s Legal Services Corporation update reiterates the uncertainty and disconcerting impact that the proposed cuts would have. LSC has asked Congress to appropriate $516.5 million for FY 2012.  President Obama’s budget request sought $450 million for LSC.  However, during the April 5, 2011, hearing of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS) on the FY 2012 LSC budget, there was again discussion of returning LSC funding to the FY 2008 level — all in the name of deficit reduction.  CLASP is working to increase the LSC funding level in the Senate and is hopeful that the Senate will adopt a funding level close to the President’s request of $450 million.   given the slow pace of events to date, and the need for Congress to act to raise the debt ceiling before August 2, there is unlikely to be a conclusive action on LSC’s FY 2012 funding before September.
  • 6.14.11 In Missouri, Jared Blacksher is caught in the middle of a public defender debate.  Last year, Blacksher, 22, reached a plea deal with prosecutors that would have put him in a drug treatment program.  In July 2010, Blacksher was booked into the Christian County Jail on charges of burglary and forgery. He and prosecutors reached a plea agreement that would have given him 120 days in a drug treatment program in the Missouri Department of Corrections, which would have ended in January. However, he never got a chance to enter the program — his was one of the first cases the Missouri Supreme Court put on hold in 2010 during debate over the Missouri public defender system, putting him in jail. Assistant Prosecutor Ben Miller said Blacksher’s case is an unfortunate one that could have been prevented had he been able to take advantage of a plea agreement last year.

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Job o' the Day: Austin Appleseed Calls!

By Lauren Forbes

Texas Appleseed, a public interest law center, seeks a staff attorney. This position works under the direction of the Legal Director and the Executive Director to implement Texas Appleseed’s programs on Dismantling the School-to-Prison Pipeline and Improving the Foster Care Court & Legal System.

Primary Duties and Responsibilities:

  • Conduct legal and programmatic research and advocacy
  • Draft policy recommendations, reports, presentations, correspondence and other documents
  • Assist in developing and implementing legislative and policy strategies
  • Assist in litigation and administrative complaints
  • Conduct presentations for judges, agency officials, stakeholders, policy makers and/or the public
  • Work with local community partners across the state
  • Testify at hearings, legislative meetings or other events
  • Represent Appleseed at meetings, forums and other events
  • Assist in implementing media outreach
  • Coordinate with pro bono partners, advocates, community partners and other stakeholders
  • Prepare and present programmatic goals, plan of implementation and policy recommendations to appropriate stakeholders and the public.

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

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Thursday Blog Roundup: Our Favorites from the Public Interest Blogosphere

By Lauren Forbes and Jamie Bence

Howdy, folks! Every Thursday, the PSLawNet Blog posts a compilation of some of our favorite posts from the public interest blogosphere. Here’s what looks good this week:

  • Many new law grads might be thinking about their options for loan repayment, and Equal Justice Works has some options to look into if you’re trying to decide how to manage your debt.
  • The Legal Aid Society of DC’s blog breaks down this week’s Supreme Court Decision rejecting right to counsel for child support respondents, and why the decision could have an unexpected impact in the long term.
  • DePaul Law Center’s Career Services Blog features some interesting public defender resources for students considering a career in criminal law.
  • In a time when government funding and private grants are continuing to plummet, 275,00 nonprofits have lost their tax-exempt status, the Not for Profit/Exempt Organizations Blog explains.
  • Technola breaks down the results of a new study and explains why online resources are more important for Legal Aid Providers than ever before.
  • The ACLU Blog reports on the staggering number of incarcerated persons who committed crimes while they were children, and efforts to reform the system for juvenile offenders.

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Job o' the Day: LawNY Lawyer needed in Ithaca

By Lauren Forbes

Legal Assistance of Western New York, Inc.® (LawNY®) seeks an Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Legal Fellow (“AmeriCorps Legal Fellow”) to be housed at our Ithaca, New York office. Based on Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps’ guidelines, the term of service will begin in early August, 2011 for one year (with a possible renewal for one more year).

POSITION DESCRIPTION: The AmeriCorps Legal Fellows housed at LawNY®’s Ithaca office will help build capacity by strengthening LawNY®’s relationship with volunteer law students and pro bono attorneys, and by providing direct legal services to clients with prisoner re-entry, employment law, and matrimonial law issues. The AmeriCorps Legal Fellow will be the primary liaison between LawNY® and Cornell University Law School, and will work cooperatively with the other AmeriCorps Legal Fellows to create placement opportunities at LawNY® and other public interest law firms, and to recruit volunteers, across New York State and nationally, to fill those positions. The AmeriCorps Legal Fellow will staff the Ithaca divorce and prisoner re-entry clinics, will provide direct representation in matrimonial cases, prisoner reentry cases, employment law cases, and other cases arising from the clinics, and will collaborate with a number of community organizations in the Ithaca area that are working on these issues. It is estimated that the Fellow’s time will be spent 30% on community outreach and clinics, 30% on pro bono recruitment and management, and 40% on case management and direct representation.

LawNY® is a not-for-profit law firm established to provide access to the justice system to lowincome people and other vulnerable populations who have civil legal problems. LawNY® serves a 14 county area in central and western New York through seven regional offices located in Geneva, Ithaca, Rochester, Elmira, Bath, Olean and Jamestown. In 2010, LawNY® closed 6,668 legal cases benefitting a total of 15,901 people. LawNY® presently operates a wide variety of civil legal services projects, including a disability advocacy project, a seniors legal services project, a homelessness intervention project, a domestic violence project, a foreclosure prevention project, a pro se divorce clinic program, an employment law/prisoner reentry project, and a nutrition outreach and education project.

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

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The High Cost of Wrongful Convictions in Illinois

By Jamie Bence

A new piece from the National Law Journal reports on a study out of Chicago finding the cost to the public of wrongful convictions in Illinois over the past two decades to have topped $200 million. The National Law Journal concludes:

Wrongful convictions don’t just harm those who spend time in jail for crimes they didn’t commit and their families. They also come at a hefty cost to the public, according to a study by the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law and the Better Government Association, a Chicago-based good-government group.

Here are a few of the most striking statistics from the report:

  • The study concluded that wrongful convictions for violent crimes in Illinois have cost taxpayers more than $214 million since 1989 (Researchers calculated the financial toll by tallying the cost of incarceration, compensation to those wrongfully convicted and civil litigation costs).
  • Those wrongful convictions also resulted in people later proven innocent spending more than 900 years in prison.
  • Settlement payments represented the largest portion of the bill, at nearly $160 million.
  • Another $31.6 million was spent to hire private attorneys to defend the government against civil suits,
  • Jail and prison costs for wrongful convictions totaled $18.5 million.
  • State compensation payments came to $8.2 million.

For more of the alarming results, check out the Better Government Association’s report on their website.

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