Archive for February, 2012

PSLawNet Public Interest News Bulletin – February 27, 2012

By: Steve Grumm

Happy Friday Monday, dear readers. This is a special “72 Hours Late” bulletin edition.  The reason, of course, is that I spent the better part of last week preparing for the sublime glory of the Academy Awards.  I simply need to know whom Joan Rivers adores as Hollywood’s most glamorous promenade upon the red carpet.  This week we’ll return to the every-Friday schedule.  While we’re running with the movie theme, here’s a list of the all-time 10 best legal movie lines (from the people at Bloomberg Law).  And as for the public interest news:      

  • A  proposal in the Buckeye State to move toward more state funding of the indigent defense program;
  • Large-scale public defender layoff in NOLA forces legal luminaries into indigent defense roles;
  • In Washington State, a class action alleging unconstitutionally overburdened indigent defense programs goes forward;
  • Pay raises for Wisconsin prosecutors (and maybe public defenders) to support attorney retention;
  • Yale Law School clinic files a federal suit challenging Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainers;
  • the boom in pro bono work by corporate counsel offices;
  • plumbing the depths of Florida’s legal services funding crisis;
  • continuing a national trend, a new veterans diversionary court in PA;
  • to address swelling demand for legal services, stakeholders in Tennessee are serving clients by answering legal questions online;
  • a Baltimore legal services provider partners with a social work school to provide more holistic services to clients.    

The summaries:

  • 2.26.12 – a move to change the Buckeye State’s indigent-defense funding system.  From the Columbus Dispatch: “The County Commissioners’ Association of Ohio again has on its legislative agenda the issue of transferring the responsibility of providing indigent defendants with legal representation from the counties to the state…. Currently, counties set up their own ways of providing lawyers for indigent defendants, and they allocate money. The state then reimburses all counties at the same rate, which last year was about 35 percent. That’s down from the 50 percent the state promised when the system was set up in the early 1970s.
  • 2.23.12 – from the AP: “A federal judge in Seattle says a lawsuit challenging the public defense systems in the cities of Mount Vernon and Burlington can proceed. Judge Robert Lasnik also granted the case class-action status Thursday.  The American Civil Liberties Union alleges that two part-time attorneys contracted by the cities fielded more than 2,100 cases in 2010. That’s although Washington state Bar Association guidelines specify full-time public defenders shouldn’t surpass 400 cases a year. The lawsuit alleges the cities fail to provide adequate resources to the public defender system.”
  • 2.22.12 – from the State Bar of Wisconsin: “A bipartisan bill intended to retain experienced prosecutors by improving their compensation…advance[s] in the Legislature….  The legislation, 2011 Senate Bill 394 and Assembly Bill 488, establishes a pay progression program for assistant district attorneys (ADAs), but does not fund it in the current biennium, leaving that issue for a future Legislature to address in the next state budget….  On Feb. 15, legislators introduced a bill to create a similar pay progression system for assistant state public defenders.”  The public defender bill is not out of committee yet.
  • 2.22.12 – “An immigration law clinic at Yale Law School has filed a federal class action lawsuit challenging the use of detainers by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and asked Wednesday that the suit be expedited now that ICE is rolling out Secure Communities in Connecticut statewide.”  (Story from the New Haven Register.)
  • 2.20.12 – a Miami Herald editorial plumbs the depths of the Sunshine State’s legal services funding crisis.  The state government does not fund legal services, so programs have long been dependent on IOLTA funds.  With the real estate market collapsed and interest rates at historic lows, IOLTA funding has been gutted by 80%.  This will lead to lawyer layoffs – “…some 120 of Florida’s 410 Legal Aid attorneys are expected to lose their jobs…” – and fewer clients served unless action is taken now to shore up funding.
  • 2.17.12 – continuing a national trend, a suburban Philadelphia county is creating a veterans court to adjudicate some cases involving vets who run afoul of the law.  “Congressman Pat Meehan (R-7) hosted a roundtable discussion to iron out the details of Delaware County’s Veterans Justice Initiative. With representatives from the Veterans Administration…it was announced that a Veterans Treatment Court was ready to go in Delco…. The goal [is] the creation of a diversionary court track for non-violent offenders who served in the military.”  (Story from the Delco News Network.)
  • 2.16.12 – “More than 100 low-income Tennesseans are receiving free legal assistance every month through the website, but backers of the project want to serve more….  The initiative is a joint project of the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services and the Tennessee Bar Association. The site allows clients to request advice about specific civil legal issues from volunteer lawyers and get their questions answered online.” (Story from the Tennessean.)
  • 2.16.12 – a legal services office pairs with a graduate social work school to provide more holistic services to clients.  From the Public News Service: “The downtown Baltimore [Maryland Legal Aid Bureau] office has been trying something new: teaming up with social workers through the University of Maryland School of Social Work….  Legal Aid offices around the state want to replicate the Baltimore program, but it does require resources, and regular Legal Aid funding cannot be used for the social workers.”


Requiring a Pharmacist to Sell Emergency Contraceptives is Unconstitutional in Washington State

From Reuters:

A federal judge declared on Wednesday that a Washington state rule requiring pharmacists to dispense emergency contraceptives against their religious beliefs is unconstitutional. . .

The ruling only applies to Washington state but is sure to reverberate nationally, as it comes in the midst of a roiling political debate about a new federal regulation mandating that all health insurance plans – even those sponsored by religious employers – provide free birth control. . . .

Washington Governor Chris Gregoire, a Democrat who had pushed for the pharmacy mandate, said the judge’s ruling left her concerned that some women will be denied timely access to emergency contraception, which can prevent pregnancy if taken within a few days of unprotected sex.

Gregoire said she saw “strong arguments” for an appeal of the ruling, though she said no decision had been made.

The lawsuit was brought by a drugstore owner in Olympia, Washington, and two of his pharmacists, all of whom shared the religious conviction that emergency contraceptives are tantamount to abortion because they can block a fertilized egg from implanting in the womb.

They refused to stock or dispense the medication, often referred to as the “morning-after pill” or by the brand name Plan B, and sued to block the regulation.

“I’m just thrilled that the court ruled to protect our constitutional right of conscience,” one of the pharmacists, Margo Thelen, said in a statement issued through her attorneys at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

The case stems from a rule adopted by the Washington State Pharmacy Board in 2007 requiring pharmacies to stock and dispense most medications, including Plan B, for which there is a demonstrated community need.

In his 48-page opinion, Leighton noted that Washington permitted pharmacy owners to decide against stocking certain medications for any number of “secular reasons” – because they are expensive, for example, or inconvenient to dispense, or because they simply don’t fit into the store’s business plan. Yet the rule did not allow pharmacists to assert a religious reason for keeping certain drugs off their shelves.

“A pharmacy is permitted to refuse to stock oxycodone because it fears robbery, but the same pharmacy cannot refuse to stock Plan B because it objects on religious grounds,” the judge wrote. “Why are these reasons treated differently under the rules?”

Hmmm. Thoughts? You can read the full story here.


Job o' the Day: Summer Legal Intern at Room to Read in San Francisco!

Room to Read seeks to transform the lives of millions of children in developing countries by focusing on literacy and gender equality in education. Working in collaboration with local communities, partner organizations and governments, we develop literacy skills and a habit of reading among primary school children, and support girls to complete secondary school with the relevant life skills to succeed in school and beyond.


The Legal Intern position is part of the Legal, Finance and Accounting Department and will report directly to the Senior Manager, Legal Operations. This position is an eight week, full-time summer internship for a law student who has completed his/her second year of law school. The position is project-focused and will include the review of corporate governance documents, compliance and legal assessments of Room to Read’s international entities and the drafting of legal memorandum.

The Legal Intern will review corporate governance documents and make recommendations, corporate minute books of international entities for compliance, and legal and organizational documents for international offices, as well as research legal requirements for corporate governance, update internal policies and procedures, as necessary, and complete additional projects depending on time and skills.

To learn more and apply, see the listing at PSLawNet!


Staff Attorney at the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) in Montgomery, AL!

The Southern Poverty Law Center seeks a staff attorney to join its Montgomery, Alabama office. The Center is a national non-profit organization dedicated to reducing bigotry and oppression through litigation, public education, and community organizing. The Center is exploring emerging legal issues affecting low-income people in the Southeast, such as consumer lending, employment and housing discrimination, public benefits, and other economic justice concerns.

The Southern Poverty Law Center was founded in 1971 as a small civil rights law firm. Today, the Center is internationally known for its tolerance education programs, its legal victories against white supremacists and its tracking of hate groups. Located in Montgomery, Alabama – the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement – the Center was founded by Morris Dees and Joe Levin, two local lawyers who shared a commitment to racial equality. Its first president was civil rights activist Julian Bond.


Throughout its history, the Center has worked to make the nation’s Constitutional ideals a reality. The Center’s legal department fights all forms of discrimination and works to protect society’s most vulnerable members, handling innovative cases that few lawyers are willing to take. Over three decades, it has achieved significant legal victories, including landmark Supreme Court decisions and crushing jury verdicts against hate groups.

To learn more and apply, see the listing at PSLawNet!


In the D.C. Area? There's a Career Fair this Saturday!

The Washington Bar Association is hosting its Ninth Annual Career Fair this weekend at the University of the District of Columbia School of Law. In addition to resume critiques and mock interviews, attendees will learn about the “ideal law clerk” and meet attorneys and judges from the area!

So, if you’re in the area, check it out. Here are the deets:

Saturday, February 25, 2012
9 am – 12 pm

4340 Connecticut Avenue, N.W.
Building 52
Washington, D.C. 20008

Find out more here.


NALP's 2012 Public Interest Salary Survey – Response Deadline Extended to March 16!

Participate in the National Association for Law Placement’s 2012 Public Sector & Public Interest Attorney Salary Survey.  Every two years, NALP conducts this unique survey to gather important data on attorney salaries, benefits packages, and loan repayment assistance programs.  Public interest law offices rely upon this survey data to set salary scales, negotiate union contracts, implement loan repayment programs, and for other purposes.

Who should participate?

  • Civil Legal Services Organizations
  • Public Defenders’ Offices
  • District Attorney/Local Prosecutors’ Offices
  • All other nonprofit, public interest law offices (e.g. those organizations that promote civil liberties, human rights, advocate for the homeless, etc.)

A survey instrument was mailed to public interest organizations throughout the country on 1/19/12.  An electronic version is available here:  A PDF is available for hard-copy printing here: complete only one version of the survey.)  All survey participants will receive a free electronic copy of the report when it is released later in the year.  The survey response deadline is extended until March 16, 2012, but we encourage you to complete it as soon as possible.

Please contact Steve Grumm, NALP’s Director of Public Service Initiatives, with any questions: or 202-296-0057.


Job o' the Day: Immigrants' Rights Internship at Massachusetts Jobs With Justice in Boston!

Massachusetts Jobs With Justice is an activist coalition working on issues of workers’ rights, support for labor, immigrant rights, health care and global justice.

Jobs with Justice is a coalition of labor, community , faith and student organizations working together to build unity and support for the struggles of working people. JwJ is a campaign for workers’ rights. Our mission is to defend working people’s standard of living, fight for job security, protect our right to organize and support contract campaigns and strikes. JwJ opposes racism, sexism, ageism and homophobia and will actively support struggles against any form of discrimination. JwJ is action oriented.

Work with Massachusetts Jobs With Justice to build a movement for immigration reform and immigrant workers’ rights. You will be working with local immigrant community organizations and activists to plan events, rallies, etc. to promote immigration rights and protect immigrant workers from employer abuses.

To learn more and apply, see the listing at PSLawNet!


Wanna Win $1,000? Write!

The National LGBT Bar Association is sponsoring the Michael Greenberg Student Writing Competition. Here are the deets:

The Michael Greenberg writing competition scholarship recognizes and encourages outstanding law student scholarship on the legal issues affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex persons. The scholarship was established in memory of Michael Greenberg, former National LGBT Bar Association board member and Philadelphia attorney who died in 1996 from complications related to AIDS.

TOPIC: Legal issues affecting the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and/or Intersex community.
ELIGIBILITY: Students must be enrolled in an ABA-accredited law school during the 2011-12 academic year.

DEADLINE: Entries must be submitted before the competition closing date of May 20, 2012. All entries must be submitted via email to Please write “Michael E. Greenberg Writing Competition” in the subject line.


First Place

  • $1,000 cash prize
  • Publication in the Journal of Law and Sexuality at Tulane University Law School
  •  Registration, airfare (within the 48 contiguous United States) and lodging for the Lavender Law Annual Conference and Career Fair in Washington, D.C., which will take place from August 23-25, 2012.

First & Second Runner-up

  • Registration for the Lavender Law Annual Conference and Career Fair in Washington, D.C.

FORMAT: Each entry should be a scholarly piece fit for publication in a law review. Entries should follow standard note format, including Bluebook (19th edition) citation form. All entries must be submitted in English. Each entry should be no longer than 25 single-sided pages with one-inch margins and 12-point Times New Roman font, double-spaced. The page limit includes footnotes. Footnotes should be single-spaced and 10-point font. Entries containing endnotes or including appendices or supplemental material will not be considered. Published papers or papers to be published in other publications during the entirety of the competition process are ineligible. Each individual may submit only one entry and group entries will not be accepted. Entries should be the sole work of the author and should not yet have undergone significant editing by others. Editing includes any significant revision as well as technical or substantive review of citations. Informal support, such as general comments on preliminary drafts, is allowed.

All entries must be submitted electronically in either Word or PDF format. Entrants must not include their name or the name of their school on the competition paper itself. Instead, participants must submit a separate cover page indicating their name, school, permanent address, telephone number, and a statement indicating that a preemption check has been completed as of the date of submission. We reserve the right to reject any submissions that do not conform to these standards, in particular those that list any identifying information on the submission directly.
Please contact LGBT Bar Law Student Division Co-chair Ashley E. McGovern at with any questions or concerns. Do not include any substantive information regarding your piece, as submissions are blind-graded by student co-chairs. For more information about the National LGBT Bar Association, please visit:


Access to Courts: Get Creative or Face Disaster

by Kristen Pavón

From The Miami Herald:

This nation, a beacon of hope for so many around the world for upholding the rule of law for all, is facing a disaster if access to the courts is denied to the poor simply by economics. This is especially true in Florida. It is one of just four states that currently has zero state funding to help low-income people pay lawyers to dodge foreclosure and eviction or secure unemployment or disability benefits.

Where other states charge court filing fees or allocate money from the state budget, Florida does neither. That’s a black eye for the state that led the nation 30 years ago in finding a novel way to pay for lawyers to represent the indigent in civil cases.

Florida’s Legal Aid community still relies on that 1981 funding base: interest-bearing trust accounts — client money lawyers set aside in escrow for short periods of time. Unfortunately, record low interest rates the past few years have created an unsustainable situation.

Some 120 of Florida’s 410 Legal Aid attorneys are expected to lose their jobs. The Legal Aid Service of Broward will cut 20 positions. The 100,000 cases a year that the Florida Bar Foundation funds will drop by at least a third.

Not surprisingly, Florida Governor Rick Scott [and the entire legislature, for that matter] isn’t doing much about the access to courts situation. He vetoed a $1 million measure that would have helped the Florida Bar Foundation stay afloat (I’ve already mentioned how FBF’s budget crisis upsets me on a personal level).

However, The Miami Herald editorial staff proposed a couple of creative solutions:

  • Charge a fee (even if temporary) for bar dues
  • Charge sliding scale fees for clients able to pay something
  • Claim a fee from retroactive court settlements

You can read the rest of the article here.

It’s tough to think about having our clients bear the burden of the dismal state of access to justice, but is this what we may have to succumb to? What do you think?


Job o' the Day: Advocacy Associate at the Association for Neighborhood & Housing Development (ANHD) in NY

The Association for Neighborhood & Housing Development (ANHD) – a member-organization of neighborhood-based affordable housing groups – seeks an Associate to coordinate policy and advocacy to win improved affordable housing policies in New York City. The Associate will help develop clear affordable housing policy recommendations, then implement those recommendations to win policy change by mobilizing advocacy campaigns with ANHD’s member organizations.

The Advocacy Associate will assist with the research, policy analysis, and development of ANHD’s housing production and preservation priorities, including a campaign to win policies that require permanent affordability of publicly-subsidized housing as well as synthesize policy ideas into easily understood materials for diverse audiences, including member groups, elected officials, policymakers/experts, and other issue stakeholders. The Associate will support member advocacy committees and working groups by working collaboratively with our members, providing them with the information and technical assistance needed to formulate and pursue successful Citywide advocacy campaigns.

To learn more and apply, see the listing at PSLawNet!