Archive for April, 2012

Job o' the Day: Immigration Attorney at Make the Road New York in Brooklyn!

Make the Road New York is looking for a bilingual (Spanish & English) experienced immigration attorney to start in the summer of 2012.

In particular the new attorney will:

  • Represent detained and non-detained individuals in removal proceedings;
  • Provide legal advice to immigrants in removal proceedings about options for obtaining or maintaining lawful status; and
  • Advocate to obtain favorable exercises of prosecutorial discretion where appropriate.

The new attorney will also screen, refer and, in some cases, provide representation to members on affirmative immigration filings (including family petitions, citizenship applications, U and T visas, SIJS applications, and others).

The new attorney will provide outreach services and know-your-rights workshops to educate immigrant communities about how to avoid notario fraud, the immigration consequences of criminal infractions, the risks of traveling, and other important legal issues.

Make the Road New York builds the power of Latino and working class communities to achieve dignity and justice through organizing, policy innovation, transformative education, and survival services. Make the Road operates neighborhood-based community centers in Bushwick, Brooklyn; Jackson Heights, Queens; Port Richmond, Staten Island; and Central Islip, Long Island. With a membership of more than 10,00 low-income New Yorkers, Make the Road tackles the critical issues facing our community: workplace justice, tenants’ rights, immigrant civil rights, language-access, LGBTQ justice, public education, health care access, and immigration reform.

Learn how to apply at PSLawNet!

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Rising Concern about Long-term Consequences of Educational Debt

By: Steve Grumm

Because everyone loves to think about student debt as they begin their weeks…

  • In a Minnesota Lawyer piece, legal management analyst Edward Poll notes that the landscape is changing with respect to the value of legal education, and cites alarming statistics about loans as he wonders whether law student loans are a “debt bomb” in the making.
  • Will Congress move to make student debt dischargeable – or at least subject to more flexible treatment – in bankruptcy proceedings?  The Wall Street Journal reported over the weekend:

The growth of student debt is stirring debate about whether the government should step in to ease the burden by rewriting the bankruptcy laws—again.

In 2005, Congress prohibited student debt from being discharged through bankruptcy, except in rare cases, because of concerns that many young graduates—who often have no major assets such as a house or a car—would be tempted to walk away from loan obligations.

Some lawmakers now want to temper that position, pointing to concerns that a significant number of Americans could be buried under education loans for decades. Their efforts, however, would apply only to private loans—a fraction of the market.

All of this suggests to me it’s dawning on high-level policymakers that decades of increased tuition costs and student borrowing have saddled millions with debt that they’ll be servicing for years to come.  (Including yours truly!) 

The single most important key to managing your educational debt is educating yourself about it.  Use resources provided by our friends Heather Jarvis and the folks at Equal Justice Works to understand what it is you’ve borrowed and how you can minimize your debt obligations most quickly.

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California May Be Second State to Bar Employers From Requesting Your Facebook Password

From The Sacramento Bee:

The Social Media Privacy Act, sponsored by state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, sailed through the Senate’sEducation, and Labor and Industrial Relations committees.

The bill’s Assembly counterpart, authored by Silicon Valley Democrat Nora Campos, D-San Jose, passed unanimously through the Assembly Judiciary Committee last week.

Campos said California’s privacy protections must keep pace with technology.

“Our social media accounts offer views into our personal lives and expose information that would be inappropriate to discuss during a job interview,” Campos said in a statement after the Tuesday committee vote.

Though some employers say access to social media accounts is important to find the best candidate, opposition to the practice has gathered momentum.

Maryland lawmakers earlier this month were the first to pass legislation that banned employers from asking for social media passwords and log-ins. . . .

Along with California, lawmakers in another eight states – Illinois,Massachusetts,Michigan,Minnesota,Missouri,New York,South Carolina and Washington – have filed or are reviewing bills barring employers’ access to applicants’ and employees’ social media accounts, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Read more here.

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Job o' the Day: Capital Trial Attorney at Louisiana Capital Assistance Center in New Orleans!

The Louisiana Capital Assistance Center (LCAC) is a not-for-profit law office based in New Orleans, Louisiana committed to excellence in the provision of defense services to indigent clients facing the death penalty.
The LCAC is principally a trial level office, representing indigent capital clients in cases throughout Louisiana. In addition, the LCAC provides resource and consultative services to other capital trial counsel throughout Louisiana. LCAC also represents capital defendants in state post-conviction and federal habeas proceedings.

As a part of a defense team, the capital trial attorney will be involved in and/or take direct responsibility for the provision of effective assistance of counsel in accordance with the ABA Guidelines for the Appointment and Performance of Defense Counsel in Death Penalty Cases.

Interested? Learn more at PSLawNet!

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Affordable Housing is Not Optional… Read this Compelling First-Person Account of a Homeless Mother and Daughter

Yesterday, the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless’ blog featured a guest blogger who had a pretty compelling story to tell. Here’s a quick snippet, but read her post in its entirety at WLCH’s blog.

. . . I grew up in the DC foster care system. I didn’t have an easy childhood, but I was always a good student (I even won the science fair two years). After my high school graduation, I went to medical assistant school and began working. Three months after I had my daughter in 2008, I found out that I had Multiple Sclerosis. My daughter’s father decided he couldn’t deal with the stress, so he opted out of our lives. I went to work and realized that I would get sick in spurts. My relapses would come suddenly and fiercely, sometimes a numb leg or numb arms, sometimes I would go blind, sometimes I wouldn’t be able to move at all. It started to affect my ability to keep a job, and I fell behind on my rent.

I first went to Virginia Williams Family  Resource Center (FRC) in 2010 because I lost my apartment, but I was still employed. They gave me first month’s rent and security deposit, but I knew I would get sick again and that the short term assistance would not be enough to keep me from losing yet another apartment. I lost my job again because of my illness and I was evicted from my apartment shortly after that in the fall of  2011. My daughter and I house-hopped between our friends and family for almost two months, sleeping on couches and floors for as long as we could.

Finally, just before the New Year, we were placed in a hotel room on NY Avenue. I was grateful to have a bed to sleep on after so long. But now it’s been months and it feels like we’ve been forgotten. I don’t know what the rest of the shelter system is like, but when you’re in a hotel, you don’t talk to anyone, you don’t see anybody, you have no sense that anyone is working to help you. We’re just there. We’re just a number. I have not seen a caseworker since I got here.

Read the rest of Charmaine Walton’s story here.

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Public Interest News Bulletin – April 27, 2012

By: Steve Grumm

Happy Friday, dear readers.  Today is the 140th anniversary of Arbor Day, which has its roots, so to speak, in a Druidic tree-worship ritual.  I made that up.  It is the 140th.  But we’re just supposed to plant trees, not worship them.  Unless that’s your thing.  Anyway, for the occasion here’s the Screaming Trees’ 90s indie anthem “Nearly Lost You”, a favorite from my flannel-clad adolescence.  Great drums.  Blistering guitar lick.  (Far be it from me to give credence to gender stereotypes, but I predict the fellas will like this one more than the ladies.)

Unrelated: huzzah(!) to our partners at Street Law, Inc., who celebrated a 40th anniversary here in DC on Wednesday.  Special shout-out to exec. director Lee Arbetman, who, based on the photographic evidence I’ve heard about, was an even more dapper dresser in Street Law’s early days than now.  (Congrats, Lee, Megan and company!)

Friday Trivia: there are three words in the English language that begin with “dw”.  What are they?   

Now to business.  This week in access-to-justice, funding, pro bono, and related news:

  • the websites of for-profit AZ law firms can use the ol’ dot-org, says ethics opinion;
  • in Spokane, WA, client demand for legal aid rising but funding is a challenge;
  • the NY AG directs $3 million to legal services on foreclosure matters;
  • last week’s White House Forum on the State of Legal Assistance;
  • $450K in grants from the NY Bar Foundation split amongst 67 groups;
  • Two grants will help U. of Wisconsin law students help vets in need;
  • funding challenges confronting the Vermont Bar Foundation and legal services community;
  • in the UK, the House of Lords still opposed cuts to legal aid funding;
  • Florida governor’s veto of $2 million legal services appropriation draws lots of reaction;
  • support for state funding of legal services in Connecticut;
  • the LSC board chair on closing the justice gap;
  • Illinois AG directs $20 million to legal services.  Nice way to close.

The summaries:

  • 5.1.12 (from the future!) – the forthcoming ABA Journal runs a short piece about an Arizona state bar ethics opinion that allows for-profit law firms to use “.org” website domain extensions.  I predict that the “.org” will never, ever be misused by a for-profit outfit providing “legal assistance services” or some such.  No chance.  Right? 
  • 4.26. 12 – the Spokane Journal of Business looks at the increased demand for legal services within the local, low-income community even as providers struggle with funding pressures.  (Password-protected.  Sorry.)
    • Personal aside: I gained my first exposure to civil legal aid in Washington State while working as a Jesuit Volunteer with the Northwest Justice Project’s Yakima field office.  One of my fondest Eastern Washington memories is running Spokane’s annual Bloomsday race, a 7.5-miler that, amazingly, draws upwards of 50,000 people.  It’s a beautiful course. 
  • 4.25.12 – the New York Attorney general directed $3 million to be shared by 31 public interest law offices for foreclosure defense funding.  The funding comes from settlements over questionable mortgage lending practices.  (Here’s the Legal News Line story.)
  • 4.24.12 – last week’s White House Forum on the State of Legal Assistance gathered access-to-justice stakeholders from the legal services world, law firms, and government.  (Read the full summary from the DOJ’s Access to Justice Initiative.)
    • Phyllis Holmen, executive director of the Georgia Legal Services Program, recounts her experience participating in the forum: “Six of us were chosen from around the country, directors of legal aid and legal services organizations accustomed to toiling quietly in the hinterlands. We work on behalf of low-income folks with the kind of life-and-death legal problems that the poor face: the plague of domestic violence, the near impossibility of maintaining a family structure in the face of grinding poverty, the gut-wrenching choices that have to be made between paying medical bills or buying groceries.  The opportunity to tell the president of the United States why we think our work is important was unprecedented. It was a chance to speak at the highest level of our government about the cause to which I have devoted my career: justice for all.”  (From the Daily Report.)

   

  • 4.24.12 – “Sixty-seven organizations across New York State have received grants totaling $450,000, The New York Bar Foundation announced today….Thirteen grants will support Youth Court activities, while others will support programs that assist domestic violence victims, low-income immigrants, public service attorneys, vulnerable senior citizens and incarcerated women.”  There’s a slew of organizations receiving grant money, all of which are listed in the story from the Saugerties Post Star.

 

  • 4.24.12 – “Two new grants will help University of Wisconsin law students gain valuable experience while helping veterans who need legal assistance.  The two Pro Bono Initiative grants for $5,000 each come from the State Bar Legal Assistance Committee and have been awarded to Dane County Veterans Legal Clinic to start a free legal clinic and to the UW Law School Pro Bono Program to expand its efforts to involve more law students in pro bono activities.”  (Story from the University of Wisconsin’s website.)
  • 4.24.12 – “[L]ike so many organizations, the Bar Foundation has found itself with less money to give out in the past few years, while the need for the kind of legal services it helps fund has risen.  Vermont Supreme Court Associate Justice John Dooley is a member of the board of directors of the Vermont Bar Foundation. He spoke with VPR’s Jane Lindholm about the financial challenges faced by the organization. (Listen to the interview on Vermont Public Radio.) 
    • As an aside, when I was a 3L my dad and I went skiing in Vermont.  We stayed at a family-owned place called the Swiss Inn.  Turns out the owner was a native Philadelphian (like me and Pa Grumm) and he owned a couple of the Jersey Shore video-game arcades that sucked quarters from my pockets like a vacuum cleaner when I was a youth.  He was very generous to me at the Swiss Inn afternoon happy hour.  My quarters, after all, had paid for his inn. 
  • 4.23.12 – in the UK, the House of Lords still refuses to go along with broad-based proposed cuts to the legal aid system. Watch the video on BBC.  Watching British legislative sessions is downright enjoyable.  Ever seen the SNL spoofs? 
  • 4.21.12 - ”Shelby County Public Defender Stephen Bush claims state finance officials have been misinterpreting state law regarding funding for the public defenders in Shelby and Davidson counties for 20 years and that the offices are owed $45.2 million — $28.4 million for Shelby and $16.8 million for Davidson.  The public defenders, who appeared before a state legislative committee this week, are asking the state legislature to restore that funding and fix the error going forward.”  (Here’s more in the Commercial Appeal.)
  • 4.20.12 – a Hartford Courant op-ed makes the case for a legislative measure that would boost funding for legal aid in the Nutmeg State: “The Judicial Branch has recognized the seriousness of this problem. It has proposed legislation that would use increased court fees to raise $5.2 million for legal aid — enough to maintain the current level of services. There has been broad bi-partisan support to address the legal aid funding crisis. And the Judiciary Committee of the General Assembly has approved the bill on a 45-to-1 vote.  The pending legislation would successfully restructure funding for legal aid, and provide a future anchor to fund access to justice. It is vital that the Connecticut legislature approve this measure. Our system of justice depends on it.
  • 4.20.12 – writing in The Hill, LSC Board chair John Levi, who has been very active in his public advocacy of LSC’s mission, explores the “widening justice gap, and why we must close it.”
    • Speaking of closing gaps, as noted last week a House proposal would cut LSC funding from the current, FY12 figure of $348 million -  which itself represents a ~14% cut from the FY11 figure – to $328 million.  A Senate proposal would ratchet funding back up to $402 million.  To put the House proposal in context: in 1981 LSC’s appropriation was about $321 million.  If that figure simply kept up with inflation, LSC’s funding in 2011 should have been over $800 million.  We’ll be lucky to get to half of that this year.
  • 4.18.12 – great funding news out of Illinois, from the state attorney general’s website: “Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced that $20 million in funding from the national foreclosure settlement reached this year will be given to legal assistance programs in Illinois to address the current foreclosure crisis and to provide access to the justice system for homeowners and renters.” 

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Etiquette for the "Proactive" Linked-In User

By: Steve Grumm

Picked this up from the Philadelphia Business Journal, which is my non-Wall Street Journal business journal of choice.  Advice geared toward those who are very active networkers on Linked-In.  I use LI only passively, so this kind of behavior seems way aggressive to me.  But I suppose it’s useful for the more active users to draw some lines of appropriate/inappropriate use of the site.  FWIW.

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Tennessee Juvenile Detention Center Fails to Protect Children's Rights

From The Commercial Appeal in Memphis:

Federal officials announced today that an investigation of Shelby County’s juvenile justice system found violations of children’s constitutional rights and discrimination against African-American children.

Prepared remarks by Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, and U.S. Atty. Edward L. Stanton III said an investigation opened in August 2009 found that the Shelby County system “fails to provide constitutionally required due process to all children appearing for delinquency proceedings, that the court’s administration of juvenile justice discriminates against African-American children and that its detention center violates the substantive due process rights of detained youth by not providing them with reasonably safe conditions of confinement.”

Justice Department attorneys visited the court and detention center in 2010 and 2011 for the review, and the investigation included analysis of 60,000 youth files. . . .

The complaint filed by Brooks in 2007 alleged mistreatment of juveniles based on race, discriminatory hiring practices, widespread nepotism and political patronage and disregard for federal anti-discrimination laws.

Read the rest here.

For further reading, you can read the Department of Justice’s press release and letter on the investigation here.

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Job o' the Day: Assistant Public Defender in Maryland!

The Maryland Office of the Public Defender is an independent state agency with over 800 employees dedicated to providing superior legal representation to indigent defendants in the State of Maryland.  The Office of the Public Defender seeks dynamic and dedicated litigators to serve as Assistant Public Defenders in District Court locations throughout the State of Maryland. 

Assistant Public Defender I Responsibilities:

  • Represents indigent defendants who are charged with misdemeanor criminal and traffic cases in district courts throughout the State of Maryland.
  • Prepares for and handles bail review hearings, district court trials, preliminary hearings, violations of probation hearings, sentence review hearings and modification of sentence hearings.
  • Handles telephone inquiries and correspondence from clients and the public.
  • Participates in Office of the Public Defender trainings.

Assistant Public Defender I positions are located at OPD offices throughout the State of Maryland.

Learn how to apply at PSLawNet!

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Thirty-one NY State Public Interest Offices Splitting $3 Million for Foreclosure Work

By: Steve Grumm

There has been much more than the normal share of good funding news this week.  (My weekly bulletin tomorrow may, for the first time in memory, contain more good funding news than bad.)  Today’s item comes from the Empire State.  The New York attorney general directed $3 million to be shared by 31 public interest law offices for foreclosure defense funding.  The fuding comes from settlements over questionable mortgage lending practices.  (Here’s the Legal News Line story.)

Here’s a complete tangent which is prompted by “New York + Mortgage.”  If you want a thoroughly informative yet easy-to-digest explanation of the events leading to the 2008 Wall Street crisis, do yourself a solid and watch the first two parts of this PBS Frontline series, “Money, Power & Wall Street” (parts 3/4 to air later).  This is exactly what “nonfiction television” should be about.

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