Archive for December, 2011

Job o' the Day: Law Clerk at the Asian American Justice Center in DC!

Founded in 1991, the Asian American Justice Center works to advance the human and civil rights of Asian Americans, and build and promote a fair and equitable society for all.

The Asian American Justice Center is one of the nation’s leading experts on issues of importance to the Asian American community including: affirmative action, anti-Asian violence prevention/race relations, census, immigrant rights, immigration, language access, television diversity and voting rights. Our expertise is widely acknowledged: in the media, by the public and lawmakers at the very highest tiers of government.

The AAJC clerkship program is a competitive program for law students. Law clerks work together with staff attorneys. Typical duties clerk perform include researching and writing memoranda, preparing case briefs, drafting summaries of legislation for AAJC attorneys, and developing community education and advocacy briefs. Clerks will also have the opportunity to attend briefings, hearings, and lobby visits on Capitol Hill and attend coalition meetings with other human and civil rights organizations.

Clerks will have the opportunity to rotate among different practice areas at AAJC in order to gain a wide breadth of experience. By the end of the semester, clerks will have had exposure to many of the types of work that AAJC attorneys perform.

Interested? Check out the listing at PSLawNet!

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Public Interest News Bulletin – December 30, 2011

By: Steve Grumm

Happy Friday, dear readers.  2011: the end is nigh.  At the close of every year the Washington Post publishes a “what’s going out?/what’s coming in?” piece about cultural trends, the changing zeitgeist, etc.  The piece seems perfeclty designed if the goal is to remind me how out of touch I am.  For instance, “Ovaltine nostalgia” is out while a “Tang renaissance” is coming in.  I love Ovlaltine!  How did I miss that!?  And, while seemingly crass but otherwise a mystery to me, “Pippa’s bum” is losing in favor of “Kate’s uterus.”  Sorry, Pippa.  Greek yogurt, which I had noticed was all the rage in 2011, is being pushed out by something called Icelandic skyr.  I hope Pippa’s not Greek.  That would be a double-whammy for her.  Anyway, as we turn to 2012 I wish you a happy and safe New Year’s holiday.

Here’s what we’ve got in the public interest department:

  • it’s a revolving employment door for Wisconsin’s assistant prosecutors;
  • lots of news about how LSC cuts will affect Virginia legal services providers;
  • Michigan Community Resources expands to provide more than legal assistance to its nonprofit clients;
  • DC’s LRAP program is coming up dry (boo!!);
  • study shows that a homicide defendant with a public defender will fare a lot better than with court-appointed counsel;
  • prosecutors and defenders square off, but this time everybody wins;
  • Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma bracing for the LSC funding cut pinch;
  • a good idea for raising legal services funding from law firm associates.

This week:

  • 12.28.11 – Wisconsin struggles to retain its prosecutors, according to a new study.  Here’s a report from WISC-TV: “They carry much of the workload in Wisconsin’s criminal justice system, and a study found that many assistant district attorneys, or ADAs, are leaving their posts at an alarming rate.  The study called “Public Safety and Assistant District Attorney Staffing in Wisconsin” surveyed past and present ADAs and found that while an overwhelming majority of these state workers went into the field to perform a public service, for several years most are leaving for better paying jobs with better benefits in the private sector….”
  • 12.28.11- three stories about how LSC cuts will impact Virginia-based legal services providers:
    •  From WVIR: “Legal aid groups across the commonwealth are preparing to lobby the Virginia General Assembly for losses in funding. That funding has decreased by $8 million since 2008, affecting the services available to more than a million Virginians that cannot afford other legal help.  For some, it could mean job cuts. That is why groups across the state plan to ask the General Assembly for increased funding when its session begins in January.”
    • The News-Leader reports on how Blue Ridge Legal Services, in central/western Virginia, will be impacted: “Congressional action in mid-November reduced federal funding for civil legal services to low-income residents by 15 percent. This cut came on the heels of an earlier 4 percent cut in federal funding in April, sparking Blue Ridge’s first round of cuts, halving the number of attorneys at its Harrisonburg office, which serves Staunton, Waynesboro and Augusta County, said John Whitfield, executive director and general counsel for the organization.”
    • Here’s a statewide look at the potential for cuts, from the Northern Virginia Daily: “A statewide agency that gives legal aid to the poor faces layoffs as a result of congressional funding cuts.  Representatives with Legal Services Corp. of Virginia said Friday they plan to ask the General Assembly to help restore funds lost this fall when Congress reduced grants by 15 percent, according to a news release.  The agency provides funding and oversight of the state’s legal aid system — nine direct-service programs in 38 offices statewide and the Virginia Poverty Law Center, which assists with advocacy, education and litigation support.  Statewide the agency faces losing 20 attorneys and 10 support staff, according to legal services group’s executive director, Mark D. Braley. 
  • 12.27.11 – Michigan Community Resources, formerly known as Community Legal Resources, outgrew the “Legal” in its name.  MCR used to provide legal assistance to under-resourced nonprofit organizations.  Now it offers a broader range of services, and works with an expanded circle of client organizations.  From the Huffington Post: “MCR now services the entire state and offers planning, technical and educational support in addition to legal aid. Its clientele has expanded, too. Many of the groups MCR assists are 501(c)3 nonprofits, but the organization also helps groups like block clubs and neighborhood associations.”  I used to work with a transactional pro bono program that served nonprofits in need of legal help.  Often times, they would also require technical assistance that was not directly legal in nature.  Taking a more holistic approach to client services makes a lot of sense to me.  Congrats, MCR.  
  • 12.25.11 – the LRAP program for DC-based poverty lawyers is short on the cash to meet demand from debt-laden lawyers.  From the Washintgon Post: “For the first time in its five-year history, the privately funded program that helps lawyers at Washington nonprofits repay law school debt — the Loan Repayment Assistance Program — fell short of covering the majority of lawyers’ eligible monthly loan payments. In past years, the program managed to cover at least 90 percent of those monthly loan repayments; this year, they only have enough money to cover about half.  That’s because the need for aid is outpacing the money coming into the program. In 2007, the first year of LRAP, 14 percent of lawyers applying for the grants had debt of more than $150,000, and their average debt was $92,000. Today, 27 percent have debt of more than $150,000, and their average debt has jumped to $119,000.”
  • 12.24.11 – here may be our data points of the week.  A study of indigent homicide defendants that took place in Philly found a sharp difference in outcomes based on whether they had a public defender (on staff w/ the Defender Association of Philadelphia) or a court-appointed lawyer.  An NY Times editorial summarizes the RAND study: “The study examined murder cases of indigent defendants with similar profiles in the city from 1994 to 2005. The conviction rate of clients represented by staff lawyers working for the public defender association…was 19 percent lower than those represented by court-appointed lawyers working alone. Their expected time served in prison was 24 percent lower, and they were far less likely to get a life sentence.”   
  • 12.24.11 – on a lighter note, prosecutors and defenders in Alaska engaged in some non-hostile combat to generate a whole bunch of food donations for the needy.  From the Peninsula Clarion: “A friendly competition between the Kenai’s District Attorney’s Office and the Public Defender Agency helped people in need this holiday season. The two offices, which generally compete toe-to-toe at the Kenai Courthouse, collected food last week as part of a private food drive. The public defenders won the competition, donating 1,547 pounds of canned and dried foods. The district attorneys donated 978 pounds of food.”
  • 12.23.11 – on the heels of the LSC funding cut, Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma is bracing for impact.  From the Express-Star: “Oklahoma’s statewide nonprofit law firm providing free civil legal services to elderly and low-income persons who are about to lose their children, housing, health care or income or who are victims of domestic violence, is preparing for a federal funding cut of approximately $700,000 for the coming fiscal year.”  ($700,000 represents about 10% of LASO’s budget.)  “No decisions have been made by LASO’s Board of Directors regarding implementation of LSC’s funding cut.”
  • 12.22.11 – a good legal services fundraising idea.  Here’s some information on the “One Hour of Sharing Associates’ Campaign, which encourages Minnesota-based law firm associates to make a cash donation, in the amount of their hourly billing rate, to the Fund for the Legal Aid Society.  The JD Rising blog has more detail

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Landing the Job: Steer Clear of Hiring Managers' Pet Peeves

by Kristen Pavón

Hi everyone — I hope you’ve all been enjoying the holidays with lots of friends and family, and are getting ready to take on the new year!

Today, I’m bringing you some tried and true pointers for the job search. In addition to suggesting words to avoids on your resume, Career Builder’s Jobology guide includes 5 annoying actions to steer clear of during the interview process!

1. Arriving too early.

2. Acting desperate.

3. Following up aggressively.

4. Badmouthing anyone.

5. Lacking direction. (Yes, you should be flexible in “this economy,” but always tailor application materials to the job you’ve applied for and be prepared to talk about how the job will further your professional goals.)

I have a few additional suggestions:

  • Maintain eye contact with interviewers.
  • Ask questions!
  • Double- and triple-check that you’ve turned your phone off.

Anything else?

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Job o' the Day: Staff Attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights in NY!

The Center for Reproductive Rights is a non-profit organization that promotes women’s equality worldwide by securing reproductive rights in constitutional and international human rights law. Its mission is straightforward and ambitious: to advance reproductive health and rights as a fundamental right that all governments are legally obligated to protect, respect and fulfill. The Center is unmatched as a reproductive rights organization in its expertise on U.S. constitutional law, comparative law, and international human rights law.

In the U.S. Legal Program, the Center’s preeminent litigation team has helped millions of women and their families by securing government funding for abortions, striking down absolute abortion bans and other access restrictions, and protecting teens’ access to emergency contraception and confidential reproductive healthcare services and information. During the past 19 years, Center attorneys have been counsel in virtually every major U.S. Supreme Court case about reproductive rights. In the last two years, the Center litigated over 20 cases on a range of reproductive rights issues. The Center’s state program is actively engaged in strategic state- and local-level advocacy across the country. At the same time that the Center is defending women’s reproductive rights in courts and legislatures, it works toward the long-term goal of promoting reproductive rights and health as a fundamental human rights issue.

The Center seeks an attorney to litigate reproductive rights cases and to develop and manage other advocacy projects on reproductive rights and health issues. The attorney will be responsible for all aspects of litigation, including developing new cases, discovery and motion practice, trials, and appeals. Other projects may include legislative advocacy, human rights advocacy, developing policy papers and drafting legal or fact analysis for Center publications or articles.

For more information, see the listing at PSLawNet!

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New Findings: Turnover Rate Very High for Wisconsin Prosecutors

By: Steve Grumm

Here’s coverage from WISC-TV:

They carry much of the workload in Wisconsin’s criminal justice system, and a study found that many assistant district attorneys, or ADAs, are leaving their posts at an alarming rate.

The study called “Public Safety and Assistant District Attorney Staffing in Wisconsin”surveyed past and present ADAs and found that while an overwhelming majority of these state workers went into the field to perform a public service, for several years most are leaving for better paying jobs with better benefits in the private sector.

“There were a lot of people who just seem to be leaving after a relatively short period of time,” said Dennis Dresang, a University of Wisconsin professor emeritus, who worked on the study.

So Dresang set out to study what appears to be a revolving door among the state’s ADAs.

He found that out of 330 Wisconsin ADAs, 246 left their jobs between 2001 and 2007. The annual turnover rate among ADAs since 2005 is 18.4 percent, and half of Dane County’s ADAs have less than five years experience

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On a Lighter Note: The 2012 What's In/Out List from the Washington Post

By: Steve Grumm

Tigers are so 2011.  Sloths are 2012.  The Greek yogurt fad is also coming to an end.  Its 2012 replacement: Icelandic skyr (whatever that is).  These and other such revelations come to us from the Washington Post, which annually publishes its end-of-year “what’s out?  what’s in?” list.  For me, the list mainly serves as a reminder about how woefully out of touch I am.  Most of the “going out with 2011” items are brand new to me.  For instance, I have no idea why “Pippa’s bum” is being replaced by “Kate’s uterus.”  I’m not sure I want to know.  Anyway, the list is worth a look.

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Deportation Without [Adequate] Representation

by Kristen Pavón

A New York Times Christmas Eve op-ed highlights [unsurprising] findings of a Cardozo Law Review study that examined legal assistance during the deportation process.

Sure — a severe lack of representation was found [where isn’t there a shortage of representation?] — however, the study also found that in 14% of cases out of five immigration courts in NY, attorneys were “grossly inadequate.”

The report surveyed judges in five immigration courts and found shoddy lawyering widespread. According to the judges’ responses, in nearly half the New York cases, immigrants who had lawyers received inadequate representation.

Worse, a huge number of immigrants in New York have no representation at all. Although poor defendants in criminal courts are entitled to court-appointed lawyers, people in immigration courts are not. Over all, immigrants appeared in court without a lawyer in nearly 15,000 cases (27 percent of the total) between October 2005 and July 2010. About two-thirds of immigrants in detention were lawyerless. Other jurisdictions provided even less access to counsel: 79 percent of those arrested and transferred to immigration detention in other states lacked attorneys.

The author offers two, somewhat cursory, solutions: 1) dismiss the cases that fall outside of the Obama administration’s focus to free up competent attorneys and 2) having private foundations and bar associations create programs to put young lawyers to work on immigration issues.

I don’t know what the solution to our legal aid representation shortage is, but on the issue of grossly inadequate legal representation — I do believe that law students should be immersed in the actual practice of law before graduating. Too much is at stake. Plus, law students pay way too much in tuition to have to learn on the job.

Read the whole op-ed here. Thoughts?

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Job o' the Day: Summer 2012 Legal Internship at the Organization for Refuge, Asylum & Migration in San Fran!

ORAM – Organization for Refuge, Asylum & Migration – is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping refugees worldwide who have been forced to flee their home countries due to persecution based on their sexual orientation, gender or gender identity. ORAM provides free legal aid to refugees and help resettle and reintegrate them into safety and works closely with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to improve the adjudication of LGBTI claims for protection.

ORAM also works to better educate not only the general public of the plight of LGBTI refugees, but to train and educate NGOs and institutions worldwide to develop the procedural conditions for LGBTI refugees.

ORAM is seeking highly qualified and dedicated interns to perform a wide range of activities, including extensive research and writing on a variety of issues related to protection for persons fleeing persecution based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

Participants will have the opportunity to work with the foremost human rights advocates in the international community as part of the world’s leading non-profit for LGBTI refugees. Interns will participate in the process of developing, researching, preparing, and generally supporting our advocacy projects.

Interested? Check out the listing at PSLawNet!

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The Notable Quotes of 2011. In a Word, This List is…Winning.

By: Steve Grumm

A Yale Law librarian has for the past several years compiled a list of the outgoing year’s ten most notable quotes.  Here’s the Detroit Free Press reporting on 2011’s best (and sometimes, worst) rhetorical flourishes:

Fred Shapiro, associate librarian at Yale Law School, has released his sixth annual list of the most notable quotations of the year.

The original “Yale Book of Quotations” was published in 2006. Since then, Shapiro has released an annual list of the top 10 quotes that would be incorporated into the next edition. Shapiro picks quotes that are famous, important or revealing of the spirit of the times, not necessarily ones that are the most eloquent or admirable.

The list:

1. “We are the 99%.” — slogan of the Occupy movement.

2. “There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there — good for you! But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for.” — U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren, speaking in Andover, Mass., in August.

3. “My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress.” — Billionaire Warren Buffett, in a New York Times op-ed on Aug. 15

 …

Click into the story for the rest of the quotes, including Herman Cain’s pronunciation of a central Asian nation, Charlie Sheen being high on life, and former Rep. Anthony Weiner’s seeming inability to recognize…oh, those jokes were always too easy.

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The Law School Tuition Kerfuffle: What Causes Tuition to Rise?

By: Steve Grumm

Much ink has been spilled in the past year about the quickly rising cost of legal education, and the return on investment that law grads receive from that education.  A latest installment in the ongoing conversation comes from the American Lawyer, in a piece entitled “ABA Regulations Don’t Cause Tuition Increases, Law Schools Do.”

In the piece, author Matt Leichter deconstructs what he perceives to be the core arguments arising from the most recent of New York Times reporter David Segal’s articles on the value of legal education.  Leichter begins:

In his latest New York Times piece on law schools’ problems, “For Law Schools, a Price to Play the A.B.A.’s Way,” David Segal places the responsibility for needless tuition increases on the American Bar Association’s (ABA) accreditation regime.

I think Segal is trying to make three claims here:

(1) The consent decree caused law school tuition to increase over the inflation rate.

(2) Tuition increases at the most well-regarded law schools are caused by U.S. News‘s rankings and the Federal Direct Student Loan Program.

(3) The ABA’s standards cause tuition increases in law schools that are not well regarded by U.S. News.

These are bold statements, particularly the third one, because if they are true, then criticism toward law schools ought to be redirected towards the ABA, and the solutions would probably not require significant modifications to the federal student loan system as it works with law schools.

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