Archive for March, 2012

Doing Good Work: Georgia Legal Service Program's Wanda Andrews Says She's "Just Another Lawyer"

From Savannah Morning News:

Attorney Wanda Andrews is the type of person you wouldn’t even know was there unless you needed her or injured one of her clients.

“I’m just another lawyer,” said the low-key senior staff attorney at the Georgia Legal Service Programs office on Abercorn Street.

She handles domestic cases — including domestic violence issues — for the office’s low-to-moderate income clients in an 11-county region.

That seems rather mundane, except for many of those clients, she is their only shot at getting access to justice or a voice before a judge.

“I think the ability to be of service is important,” Andrews, 56, said. “A lot of people need legal assistance but would not be able to afford equal access to justice without our help.”

For Andrews, legal aid has dominated her life since law school at Northwestern’s law school in Chicago, where she earned her law degree in 1981. While doing so she worked for two years in the school’s clinic before returning to her Savannah home and the Georgia Legal Services office.

She credits her grandmother, Agnes Key, and mother, Mildred Stewart, for her work ethic and desire to help others.

“They believed in work, being independent,” Andrews said. “I grew up with the work ethic.”

The Statesboro native moved to Savannah when she was 14, later graduating from Beach High School in 1974. She graduated from Fisk University in 1979, then law school in 1981.

She never seriously pursued going into private practice, Andrew said, and never really considered leaving the legal aid work. That work, while personally rewarding, does not offer the big-bucks opportunities of the private-practice arena.

Money is not everything, she explained.

“I think what I do makes a difference in the lives of a lot of people in a variety of ways,” she said.

Read more here.

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Job o' the Day: Legal Counsel at the University of Mississippi Civil Legal Clinic!

The Civil Legal Clinic’s mission is to provide a capstone course at The University of Mississippi School of Law in which students learn skills that are essential to the competent practice of civil law, how to apply the law and theories learned in the classroom, and how to professionally interact with clients, lawyers and others by providing the highest quality legal assistance to indigent persons in civil matters.

The Civil Legal Clinic seeks to fill two legal counsel positions. These are professional positions, within a non-profit office and free legal clinic, in which the incumbent manages and litigates civil cases on behalf of low-income litigants, supervises and instructs law students in the practice of law, participates in policy research projects, and provides a variety of programmatic and administrative support in the Clinic.

To learn more about the position, check out the listing at PSLawNet!

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Texas City Pushing For New Law Targeting Undocumented Renters

From Fox News Latino:

Local officials in a Dallas suburb [Farmers Branch]  say they plan to continue pushing for a ban on undocumented immigrants renting property within the city limits — a measure that has cost the city $5 million and remains unenforceable due to court challenges. . . .

City officials and law backers argue that undocumented immigrants strain local schools and police resources. They also note that local voters supported an early version of the law five years ago by a 2-to-1 margin.

The new law would require all renters to obtain a city license and the city’s building inspector to check the status of any applicant who wasn’t a U.S. citizen. Undocumented immigrants would be denied a renters’ permit, and landlords who knowingly allowed them to stay could have their renters’ license barred. . . .

Glancy emphasized that the city is targeting undocumented immigrants, not documented immigrants or U.S. citizens, noting that the city’s library hosts English classes. . . .

The mayor also said that since the law was first passed, the number of car accidents involving uninsured drivers has declined and fewer students have moved in and out of local schools. . . .

Elizabeth Villafranca sees things differently. Villafranca owns a local Mexican restaurant and moved to Farmers Branch after the push to ban undocumented immigrant residents began. She ran and lost for city council.

Villafranca said she and other U.S.-born Latinos, along with legal immigrants, are more often pulled over by police or threatened by other residents. Though the law never went into effect, Villafranca said, supporters “had the effect they wanted.”

Read more here.

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RIP John Payton – Renowned Civil Rights Advocate

By: Steve Grumm

John Payton, most recently the president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, died yesterday at a young 65 years of age.  Here’s more from the National Law Journal:

Celebrated civil rights attorney John Payton, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, died late March 22 following a brief illness, the organization confirmed.
 
Payton’s career spanned more than three decades in private practice, where he was one of the first African-American partners at a major law firm in Washington, and public service. He was a renowned member of the U.S. Supreme Court bar as well as a fierce advocate of pro bono work.
 
Payton, 65, was a “true champion of equality,” President Barack Obama said in a statement. “The legal community has lost a legend, and while we mourn John’s passing, we will never forget his courage and fierce opposition to discrimination in all its forms.”

Mr. Payton’s Washington, DC roots ran deep.  After graduating from Harvard Law School, he became one of Washington’s first minority partners at a major law firm.  Payton’s work included a tenure as chief counsel for the DC government and a term as president of the DC Bar.

The NLJ article includes praise of Payton from those who occupy rarified air in DC’s legal community, and is worth reading.

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Job o' the Day: Staff Attorney at Immigration Counseling Service in Portland, OR!

For more than 30 years Immigration Counseling Service (ICS) has been dedicated to improving the lives of Oregon’s immigrant communities through access to affordable legal services.   Our client base is quite large and our staff is not.  If you like to handle a variety of cases, then please consider our very fast paced, not-for-profit immigration law firm.  We are located in downtown Portland, Oregon.

ICS has an immediate opening for a staff attorney who is bilingual and has considerable experience practicing family related immigration law. We are looking for an individual who is committed to immigration and human rights issues and who works best in a collaborative work environment.

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Public Interest News Bulletin – March 23, 2012

Photo Credit: ChicTraveler website

By: Steve Grumm

Happy Friday, dear readers.  The Spring Equinox has…equinoxed, and with it come Washington DC’s cherry blossoms.  The annual explosion of cherry blossoms, tulips and other cheerful-looking flora has become one of my favorite observances in almost six years of DC residency.  This year marks the 100th anniversary of the planting of two cherry trees just off the tidal basin which sits between the National  Mall and Potomac River.  As for the public interest funding news… 

This week:

  • private seed funding for a new diversionary program serving at-risk offenders in Philly;
  • a group antagonistic towards LSC enters the appropriations debate;
  • Florida’s family lawyers fork over $ to support legal services for children;
  • indigent defense funding in Maine needs a boost;
  • some judges in Houston aren’t referring cases to the newly created PDs office;
  • fiscal woes for Pelican State public defense offices;
  • LSC president talks about funding, using technology, and his career path while speaking in NY;
  • the DC Bar Foundation awarding over $3 million in grants to local providers;
  • the importance of boosting state funding for legal services in Florida;
  • a new federal defender’s office in the W. District of Arkansas will open….whenever it gets funding;
  • UVA law students volunteered about 10,000 hours over the recent winter break.

Here are the summaries:

  • 3.22.12 – a public-private partnership including the Philadelphia DA’s office, the local defender’s office, and two charitable foundations has launched “The Choice is Yours,” a diversionary program that will offer education and other supports for at-risk offenders to help them avoid future criminal activity and offer opportunities to better their education and income prospects.  No tax dollars are used to fund the program.  The story notes that participants in a similar program in San Francisco have a recidivism rate of 10%, compared with a 54% recidivism rate for other offenders.  (Story from the Philadelphia Inquirer.) 
  • 3.21.12 – the Florida Bar’s family section donated $75,000 to support legal aid for Children in the Sunshine State.  (Story from the Sunshine State News.) Between IOLTA revenue shortfalls and other funding cuts, Florida’s legal services programs have been among the hardest hit in the Great Recession’s aftermath.

  

  • 3.20.12 – from the Maine Public Broadcasting Network: “The state commission that provides legal services to the poor may run out of money for court-appointed lawyers six weeks before the fiscal year ends June 30. The latest projected budget shortfall for the Maine Commission on Indigent Legal Services may delay payments to the lawyers who represent low-income clients.  The commission requested $1 million in the state’s supplemental budget, an amount that was reduced to $400,000 in the budget proposed by Gov. Paul LePage.”
  • 3.20.12 – Houston launched a public defender’s office for the first time in 2011, but some local judges are still referring cases through the old appointed counsel system rather than using the defender.  Is this force of habit?  A form of protest at the decision to move away from the appointed counsel system?  Are politics involved?  It is alleged that the local Republican Party sent a letter to judges urging them not to use the defender’s office.  (Story from Fox 26.)
  • 3.19.12 – while in Rochester, NY, Legal Services Corporation president Jim Sandman praised New York’s Chief Judge’s efforts to promote access to justice, looked at the state of legal services funding generally, highlighted the effective use of technology in serving clients, and talked about his motivation for leaving law-firm practice for the “best job in American law.”  (Story from the Daily Record.) 
  • 3.19.12 – some good AtJ news on the local front.  The DC Bar Foundation is awarding over $3 million in grants to local service providers, according to the Blog of the Legal Times.  This amount is slightly up from last year’s awards.  The Bar Foundation administers funds appropriated by the DC city council, runs the District’s IOLTA funding program, and conducts other fundraising initiatives to raise money for the legal services community. 
  • 3.18.12 – the go-ahead’s been given to open a new federal defender’s office that would operate in the Western District of Arkansas.  But this development has to wait for funding to materialize.  From the AP: “Available funding from the government will determine when the federal court system’s western Arkansas district can establish its own federal public defender office.  The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in August approved a request from then-Chief Judge Jimm Larry Hendren that the Western District be allowed to open such an office.”  
  • 3.17.12 – UVA Law students did some serious volunteering between semesters.  From the Daily Progress: “Students at the University of Virginia School of Law volunteered a record number of hours of pro bono work over winter recess. More than 200 students donated their time and legal services, logging about 10,000 hours in less than a month.” 

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Register for Washington Council of Lawyers, Arnold & Porter, LLP's Litigation Skills Training!

Registration is now open for the Washington Council of Lawyers and Arnold & Porter’s annual Litigation Skills Training on May 17 & 18.

Litigation Skills Training is a two-day course that provides a combination of lecture presentations and on-your-feet skills practice.

Topics covered include:

  • opening & closing statements
  • evidence & impeachment
  • direct & cross examination

Registration for the full two-day course for public interest attorneys is $60 (council members) or $90 (non-members). For private attorneys, registration is $90 (council members) or $150 (non-members).

For more details, see the Washington Council of Lawyers website.

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Equal Justice Works' Summer Corps Application Deadline Extended

By: Steve Grumm

An announcement from Equal Justice Works:

Summer Corps is now accepting online applications for the 2012 program. Due to numerous requests, we have extended the deadline to Tuesday, April 10, 2012 at 11:59 p.m. PDT.  All application materials must be submitted by this time. Late or incomplete applications will not be accepted.

 More info on the program at EJW’s Summer Corps page.

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Job o' the Day: Pro Bono Coordinator at Kids in Need of Defense in NYC!

Kids In Need of Defense (KIND) is an innovative partnership among the Microsoft Corporation, Angelina Jolie and other interested philanthropists, law firms and corporate supporters. KIND is dedicated to providing both pro bono representation and positive systemic changes in law and policy to benefit unaccompanied immigrant and refugee children. Launched in fall 2008, KIND is headquartered in Washington, D.C.

KIND seeks a Pro Bono Coordinator in New York City to help develop, maintain, and oversee the provision of pro bono legal representation to unaccompanied children through KIND’s network of major law firms and corporate partners.  This includes helping children to understand the immigration process and training volunteer attorneys to effectively represent individual child clients before immigration authorities.  The Pro Bono Coordinator’s role does not include direct legal representation.

Learn how to apply at PSLawNet!

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Affordable Housing in the U.S. is a Myth?

From the Washington Post:

While rents have been rising, wages have stagnated, making affordable housing an increasingly scarce commodity. The National Low Income Housing Coalition, an advocacy group, calculated how many hours of work at the minimum wage would be required to afford a two-bedroom unit at Fair Market Rent—the government’s measure for the monthly cost of a “modest, non luxury rental unit” in a specific area, plus utilities. In no state was a 40-hour work week enough.

Read more and see the National Low-Income Housing Coalition’s chart here.

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