Public Interest News Bulletin – September 30, 2011

By: Steve Grumm

Happy Friday, dear readers, and greetings from the nation’s capital, where the First Lady is out and about with the regular people and those wiseacre rascals at the Onion have drawn the attention of Johnny Law.

This week in the public interest world: a Rainbow State legal services program merges with Appleseed; Cleveland Legal Aid Society gets a $ boost to help with an office move; the importance of maintaining government legal services funding here in DC; MLAB hits the century mark, and there’s no shortage of work; news about the new USAJobs site; training bilingual law students in proper legal translating/interpretation (great idea!); checking in with the Legal Services Corp.’s prez; AtJ in the Cornhusker State; a long-cherished UAW legal services programs is going the way of many other union benefits. 

  • 9.27.11 – right here in the District, UDC Law Professor Matthew Fraidin makes the case for local government funding of legal services.  Writing in the Huffington Post, Fraidin highlights a recent death of a woman who had sought, pro se, a protection order against the alleged killer.  Fraidin uses this tragedy to illustrate the invaluable role that public interest lawyers play in guiding DV victims through a highly complex legal system.  (He notes the benefits of representation for alleged DV perpetrators, as well.)  As DC’s local elected officials are forming the budget, Fraidin argues, they must appreciate the value and importance of funding legal services.”
  • 9.26.11 – the Maryland Legal Aid Bureau turns 100. Birthday present: tons and tons of clients. A Baltimore Sun article highlights the uptick in cases: Legal Aid, which employs about 150 lawyers around the state, has seen its annual caseload grow from less than 42,000 five years ago to nearly 70,000 in the fiscal year that ended in June.  The challenges faced by clients reflect the times. Unemployment insurance cases are up 150 percent in the last four years. Consumer collection cases — default on debt, Social Security attachments and the like — are up 30 percent.”
  • 9.26.11 – the new (and promised-to-be-improved) USAJobs website is set to launch officially on 10/13.  From the Government Executive website, some important details about the transition: “Agencies will have to close all open job announcements before Oct. 6, when the system will be made unavailable to all applicants. The downtime will allow agencies to move data to the new platform built by OPM and create a level playing field for job seekers and human resources staff. According to agency officials, the system could be back up and running as early as Oct. 11.”
    • “Create an independent body to make fiscal operations more efficient;
    • Focus on getting services to hard-to-reach communities;
    • Prove legal aid is different [than other federally funded programs that are threatened with funding cuts.  In particular: providing citizens with equal access to justice is in keeping with our Constitution’s fundamental tenets.]
    • Seek alternative revenue sources.”
  • 9.25.11 – AtJ news from the Cornhusker State.  The Grand Island Independent – hey, I spent a night there in a roadside motel while driving cross-country in my beloved 1991 Honda Civic – reports on a widening justice gap.  “More Nebraskans than ever have the need for free legal aid, but the available funds and number of attorneys willing to take on a pro-bono case are limited, said a group of Nebraska Bar Association executive committee members who were traveling the state last week talking about the cause…. State bar president-elect Warren Whitted noted that “of 25,000 qualifying applications [for legal services], about 10,000 were able to be served [because of resource shortages]. Most of those cases involved domestic matters, landlord/ tenant disputes, and social security questions.”
  • 9.24.11 – did you know that, for decades, free legal services were available to some GM autoworkers via their union contract?  Neither did I.  Does it surprise you that this benefit is going away as the UAW continues a fundamental restructuring of its relationship with American automakers?  Me neither.  The Detroit Free-Press reports that via a tentative labor deal, in 2014 a UAW-created legal aid program will come to an end: “The program, which operates separately from the UAW, employs about 200 attorneys and covers legal services, such as adopting a child, probate proceedings and real estate disputes.”  Similar programs for Ford and Chrysler workers could suffer the same fate.  

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

RSS feed for comments on this post · TrackBack URL

Leave a Comment