Archive for May, 2012

Job o' the Day: Paid Asylum Program Internship at Human Rights Initiative of North Texas!

Human Rights Initiative is currently seeking a participant for our Asylum Program Paid Internship for fall 2012. The Asylum Program represents immigrants who have fled their home countries due to persecution and torture based on their religion, political opinion, race, nationality or membership in a particular social group. This program will provide practical, hands-on litigation experience in the area of immigration law and removal proceedings while serving some of the agency’s neediest clients.

As an Asylum Intern you will shadow attorneys who prepare applications for various forms of immigration relief.  You will also assist in conducting client interviews, draft supporting affidavits and outline direct and redirect examinations. You will observe the witness preparation that is crucial in Asylum cases and perform legal research, brief writing, and country conditions research. Finally, at the end of the semester you are expected to provide a final report to the Litigation Section of the State Bar of Texas summarizing the internship experience with HRI.

To learn how to apply, see the listing at PSLawNet!

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New Report: the Economic Benefits of Civil Legal Aid in Illinois

By: Steve Grumm

The Chicago Bar Foundation and a group of other stakeholders have released a report they commissioned to look at the economic benefits that the work of the Illinois civil legal aid community brings to the larger society.  The study, performed by the Social IMPACT Research Center of the Heartland Alliance, looks like it was a pretty rigorous affair.  And it concludes that, considering work done in preventing homelessness and domestic violence, as well as securing federal benefits and monetary awards to which low-income clients are entitled, the benefits of civil legal aid to larger society are tangible indeed.

Here’s a link to press release, and here’s one to the full report, Legal Aid in Illinois: Selected Social and Economic Benefits.

Here’s are some key points from the report’s executive summary:

The Chicago Bar Foundation, the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation, the Illinois Bar Foundation, the Lawyers Trust Fund of Illinois, and the Polk Bros. Foundation commissioned this study to inform policymakers and other stakeholders about the tangible economic benefits of legal aid. This study quantifies some of the benefits to clients and other Illinoisans from cases closed by seven legal aid providers that are part of the larger network of 38 legal aid providers funded by The Chicago Bar Foundation and the Lawyers Trust Fund. It uses data from civil law cases in which clients resided in Illinois. These include cases in which a provider communicated with a third party, prepared legal documents, or helped a client represent himself or herself; negotiated a settlement with a third party; represented a client in an administrative agency process or court proceeding; and provided other services beyond legal advice. Data from 8,134 cases were used in the study. The average client helped by one of these cases belonged to a household of three people and reported annual household income of $14,075, meaning that his or her household was well below the federal poverty level.

The study quantifies four economic benefits from cases closed in 2010 by the seven legal aid providers:

  • Legal aid providers won $49.4 million in monetary awards for clients. Examples of monetary awards are child support and alimony, public benefits like Social Security and unemployment insurance, and relief from illegal charges by a landlord or payment to a predatory lender;
  • Legal aid providers won $11.9 million in benefits wholly or partially paid for by the federal government. It is estimated that these awards were associated with $9.3 million in demand for goods and services, $5.4 million in household income, and 172 non‐legal‐aid jobs across Illinois.
  • By preventing or obtaining more time in foreclosures or evictions, obtaining, protecting, or increasing rental subsidies, and assisting clients with other housing issues, legal aid providers avoided $1.9 million in costs to homeless shelters.
  • By obtaining protective orders, divorces, child custody, and legal recognition for noncitizens experiencing abuse, legal aid providers avoided $9.4 million in costs of domestic violence to individuals.

The economic benefits of legal aid in Illinois are likely to be greater than those estimated in this study. The study uses data from only seven of 38 legal aid providers funded by The Chicago Bar Foundation and the Lawyers Trust Fund. Additionally, civil law cases other than those involving monetary awards and federal benefits, homelessness, and domestic violence may have outcomes with economic benefits for legal aid clients and other Illinoisans: by overcoming expulsion of a student from school, legal aid may enable the student to obtain a high school diploma, increasing his or her lifetime earnings; by restoring a client’s drivers license or recovering a repossessed vehicle, legal aid may enable the client to access employment far from home, meeting an employer’s need for labor and contributing to the local economy. Because this study estimates economic benefits of legal aid in only four easy‐to‐monetize areas, it represents an incomplete estimate of the economic benefits of legal aid in Illinois. While a complete inventory of the economic benefits from legal aid is beyond the scope of this study, the estimates it presents can help inform policymakers and other stakeholders as they make decisions about the future of legal aid. 

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Job o' the Day: Community Law and Policy Intern at the Center for Collaborative Change in Newark, NJ!

The Center for Collaborative Change is seeking an energetic, dedicated graduate student or recent graduate with inter-disciplinary skills and a passion for collaboration to join our team as a Summer 2012 Community Law and Policy Intern.  Current projects that interns could be involved with include a community wide needs assessment for Newark, community input portions of the Newark Master Plan, and a non-profit community organization incubation summit.

The Center for Collaborative Change is a community-based nonprofit that brokers collaborative solutions to make Newark thrive. Our mission is to engage community and civic leadership in policy and program development in order to accelerate Newark’s revitalization while ensuring that the process includes and responds to the priorities of its community members. The Center is committed to restoring trust between Newark’s decision-makers and residents, realigning them to be on the same team, and using the knowledge and resources of that alliance to establish a critical mass of reforms that will bring Newark to a tipping point where a positive cycle of health, abundance and opportunity can achieve momentum. For more information about the Center, please visit our website: www.newarkchange.org.

See the full listing at PSLawNet!

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Double Jeopardy Protection? Maybe.

By: Maria Hibbard

Before I came to law school, I thought the right to be protected from double jeopardy, or being tried for the same crime twice, was one of the guaranteed rights of the American judicial system. If I’ve learned anything throughout my first year of law school, however, it’s that the answer to the question of whether anything is guaranteed is “possibly” or “maybe.”

Although the right to be protected from double jeopardy is preserved in the Fifth Amendment, as Andrew Cohen noted this weekend in The Atlantic, this right has frequently been eroded by precedent and the very nature of our judicial system. When the Supreme Court decided Blueford v. Arkansas last week, the right against double jeopardy became even more subject to parsing. In the original trial, Blueford was charged with capital murder, first-degree murder, manslaughter, and negligent homicide for the death of a one-year old child. When the jury returned from deliberation, the foreperson stated that although they had voted unanimously to acquit the murder charges, they were deadlocked on manslaughter and did not vote on negligent homicide.  Although the judge sent the jury back to deliberate more on the lesser charges, a mistrial was declared.

The Supreme Court had to decide whether the foreperson’s announcement of the jury’s votes to acquit were sufficient to invoke double jeopardy protection on the murder charges. The Court agreed with the state, however, saying that protection was not valid because the jury could have re-evaluated their acquittal when they were sent back to deliberate further on the lesser charges. Chief Justice Roberts writes, “It was therefore possible for Blueford’s jury to revisit the offenses of capital and first-degree murder, notwithstand­ing its earlier votes. And because of that possibility, the foreperson’s report prior to the end of deliberations lacked the finality necessary to amount to an acquittal on those offenses…” In his analysis, Cohen criticizes the majority’s use of a hypothetical (not unlike the “what if” Socratic questions of my law school professors), noting the irony in the fact that although Blueford had heard the jury acquit him of the murder charges in open court, in his new trial (still yet to come) another jury could possibly still find him guilty.

What does this case mean for public defenders and appellate advocates? There’s no double jeopardy protection in a mistrial, even if the jury’s vote to acquit is stated in court. Although the Fifth Amendment seems to guarantee double jeopardy protection for every defendant, the only thing that seems to be sure is that it “depends on the circumstances.”

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Mandatory Pro Bono? Be Part of the Conversation!

From the New York Times’ Opinion Pages:

In “Rethinking Pro Bono” (Op-Ed, May 14), Ben Trachtenberg casts Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman’s new legal public service requirement as bad policy, saying students and graduates can’t afford it, can’t do it and shouldn’t be asked to do it since better ideas abound. Starting in 2013, candidates for admission to the New York State Bar must complete 50 hours of public service.

Contrary to Mr. Trachtenberg’s argument, 50 hours of pro bono work will not mire law students and graduates in poverty. Moreover, volunteers can make a difference while gaining skills, confidence and links to jobs. . . .

The pro bono requirement may have hidden virtues. Over time, schools, firms and the courts may guide more resources toward public service, helping to improve its quality. The first opportunity to do pro bono can also make the second easier, instilling in many a commitment for life.

Alternative approaches may also have merit, but credit the chief judge for acting in urgent times to make this good idea a reality.

Read the rest here and respond to this letter for NYT’s Sunday Dialogue.

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Job o' the Day: Director of Justice Programs at Alliance for Justice in DC!

Alliance for Justice is a national association of over 100 organizations, representing a broad array of groups committed to progressive values and the creation of an equitable, just, and free society. AFJ works to ensure that the federal judiciary advances core constitutional values, preserves human rights and unfettered access to the courts, and adheres to the even-handed administration of justice for all Americans. It is the leading expert on the legal framework for nonprofit advocacy efforts, providing definitive information, resources, and technical assistance that encourages organizations and their funding partners to fully exercise their right to be active participants in the democratic process.

AFJ is seeking a Director of Justice Programs.  The Director of Justice Programs is a senior staff member who will be responsible for managing research and developing and implementing strategy around AFJ’s justice policy initiatives.   The Director of Justice Programs reports to the executive vice president.

The Director of Justice Programs is expected to be a national authority on the broad range of legal policy issues handled by AFJ.

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The Yellow Brick Pathway to Federal Employment

By: Maria Hibbard

Since it’s intern season here in Washington, D.C., many bright-eyed and bushy tailed students with hopes of potentially working for the federal government are streaming into the city.  I may or may not be one of them!  My name is Maria Hibbard, and I’m the resident PSLawNet Intern and Publications Coordinator for the summer. I’m a rising second year law student at Case Western Reserve University. Since I grew up in Columbus, Ohio and am now in Cleveland for law school, D.C.’s vast system of public transportation and plethora of free summer activities (see the Having Fun on the Cheap page!) definitely has a big-city allure for me as well. I’ll be blogging throughout the summer here while avoiding the D.C. heat in the air conditioned office, of course.

Until recently, the path to employment at a federal agency or department has been a mystical jumble of various opportunities only found through a great degree of research: volunteer internships, compensated internships, fellowships, short-term and long-term programs. Hopefully, this jumble will soon become clearer–when President Obama’s Executive Order 13562 takes effect on July 10, 2012, current students and recent graduates will have three clear paths to federal employment via The Pathways Program. To break it down, everyone loves a list:

  • Some aspiring federal employees may have heard of the Student Career Experience program (SCEP) and the Student Temporary Employment Program (STEP); both of these programs are being replaced by the all-encompassing Internship Program. While the program is still administered primarily by the hiring agency, students can possibly earn conversion into a permanent position after the completion of 640 hours of work experience.
  • The Recent Grads program is a new opportunity for recent graduates within two years of obtaining any degree. Like the internship program, it is administered individually by the federal agencies, but the one year program provides structured mentorship opportunities, 40 hours of formal training, and the creation of an individual development plan. After 1 year, the graduates of the program can be eligible for conversion to permanent employment at the selected agency.

Starting in July, agencies will have to provide information about both of these programs, their specific opportunities, and application procedures on www.usajobs.gov/studentsandgrads/.

  • Finally, the Presidential Management Program, while obviously not new, has been reworked to provide for a more seamless application process and administration (especially after last year’s acceptance snafu). This prestigious program, for professionals of all disciplines, places fellows at the center of federal policy making, provides at least 80 hours of formal training, and encourages the development of a performance plan.

We’ll remind you in July to start looking for opportunities on the reworked federal website; hopefully, the Pathways Program will lead more aspiring students and recent grads down the yellow-brick-“pathway” to federal employment.

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Here's Why You Never Falsify Records (as a Law Student or a Lawyer)

By: Steve Grumm

I’m typically reticent to single out individuals’ professional bad acts as object lessons.  Even good people sometimes do bad things.  But in this case the individual is a very public figure and the bad act offers such a valuable lesson for law students and junior attorneys about personal integrity and accurate record-keeping. 

There is a all kinds of news coverage about the fact that the erstwhile Republican leader in the New Hampshire house, who also just graduated from the U. of New Hampshire School of Law, resigned his office and admitted that he falsified his reporting of final-semester internship.  From the Boston Globe

Representative D.J. Bettencourt announced Sunday he was resigning from the Legislature immediately while admitting he had misrepresented legal work he performed for another legislator while attending the University of New Hampshire School of Law.

Matters came to a head over the weekend after Representative Brandon Giuda, Republican of Chichester, called on the 28-year-old Bettencourt to resign, accusing him of fabricating law school records indicating he completed a semesterlong legal internship at Giuda’s office despite working there for only one hour.

Giuda said Monday he agreed last winter to let Bettencourt work for him in his one-person home office for a legal internship to meet his requirement to graduate from law school. Bettencourt agreed to work every Friday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. for the semester but ended up working only one hour in total, Giuda said.

Giuda said that after he saw that Bettencourt had participated in the law school’s May 19 commencement in cap and gown, he obtained the internship records and learned that Bettencourt had submitted to the university 11 weeks of reports — with details such as court hearings, meetings, and talks with clients that had never happened — giving him the credits he needed to graduate.

‘‘When I saw those, I got a pit in my stomach,’’ Giuda said. ‘‘This wasn’t just cheating. This was premeditated at the same time he’s standing at the podium castigating other people on ethics.’’

[More coverage from the Nashua Telegraph.]

This appears to be an egregious act: simply making up an internship experience on paper that never existed in real life.  The more dangerous kinds of temptations for legal professionals come in trying to keep up with record-keeping requirements.  If there is a lawyer alive who has not, at some point in their careers, struggled to keep up with time records, I’ve not met him.  But, accurate record-keeping and reporting – whether it’s hours worked, time billed, CLE hours, etc. – are central to law students’ and lawyers’ professional obligations.  This is why, lawyer jokes notwithstanding, dishonesty and theft offenses can not just tarnish a professional record, but can end careers.

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Job o' the Day: Legal Intern at Brazilian Alliance in CA!

Brazilian Alliance – a non-profit organization providing legal, educational, and advocacy services to Portuguese-speaking communities in the San Francisco Bay Area – seeks legal interns for the Spring, Summer, and/or Fall. 

Brazilian Alliance wants to give their interns significant work responsibility. Interns will interview and perform legal tasks under attorney supervision, and draft written work products.

Brazilian Alliance’s mission is to provide Social Services to the Brazilians and Portuguese-speaking (Lusophone) communities living in the Bay Area by building alliances with local, state, federal, and international community organizations.

To learn more, visit PSLawNet!

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Public Interest News Bulletin – May 25, 2012

By: Steve Grumm

Happy Friday, dear readers.  Earlier this week I participated in a one-day conference focused on the role of New York State’s 15 law schools in addressing the civil justice gap.  Much discussion centered on the recent announcement by NY Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman that 50 hours of pro bono service will be required for admission to practice law in New York.  Most of this blog’s readers will have been aware of how much buzz this announcement has generated.  Ink has been spilled.  Articles and opinion pieces have run in legal and mainstream media.  The old debate about making volunteer service mandatory has been revived. 

Letting alone the “mandatory v. voluntary” policy debate, I think this requirement will prove fairly easy to satisfy.  Pro bono performed in law school satisfies the requirement.  Fifty hours of pro bono over three years is just less than 17 hours per year.  Frankly, that’s easy for any law student.  That said, there are two noteworthy considerations:

  1. There will be some burden on law schools (both inside and outside of NY State) to make sure worthwhile pro bono opportunities exist for their students.  Two of the law school deans who attended this week’s program made the point over and over that pro bono also has to mesh with law school’s larger mission of training tomorrow’s lawyers.  So pro bono programs should be efficiently administered, and should offer skill-development chances for students.
  2. The pro bono work itself must effectively serve client communities.  And public interest law offices should not be overly burdened in offering pro bono opportunities for students.              

But given that so many schools already have some infrastructure in place for student pro bono, I think the 50-hour requirement will not be too much of a burden on students, schools, or the public interest community.

This week:

  • more on NY State’s 50-hour pro bono requirement;
  • $300K in grant funding divided among NV legal services providers (and my thoughts on the Las Vegas bachelor party);
  • mandatory pro bono in the Caymans;
  • addressing legal needs long after Hurricane Irene struck NC;
  • fewer death sentences in Ohio, tracking a national trend;
  • tracking wrongful convictions nationally;
  • for reasons of efficiency and expediency, an early intervention court program for nonviolent offenders in one county courthouse;
  • the justice gap, and legal services funding shortages, in Cleveland;
  • a 2012 law grad on why he’s chosen a career in indigent defense (hint: it’s not the money);
  • a special master appointed in the PA lawsuit over an underfunded indigent defense program;
  • one Maryland prosecutor, under the weight of an overwhelming caseload, is pushing hard for $ to hire new attorneys.

The summaries:

  • 5.24.12 – more on the recent announcement in NY State about requiring 50 pro bono hours from all bar license applicants.  While the larger policy debate about mandatory vs. voluntary pro bono will continue both in the context of this announcement and more broadly, New York’s top jurist is moving into the implementation stage: “Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman yesterday announced the creation of an advisory committee that will make recommendations on how to implement a new pro bono service requirement set to become a prerequisite in 2013 for admission to the New York bar.”  (Story from Corporate Counsel.)  And here’s more coverage from the New York Law Journal and the Lower Hudson Blog
  • 5.23.12 – in Nevada, the state bar is divvying up about $300K in grant money among legal services providers.  (Story from KLAS in Las Vegas.)  As a personal aside, I have never told you about the bachelor party I attended in Las Vegas last year.  There are many good reasons for this.  Suffice to say I am still angry with the erstwhile bachelor for deciding that, at 35 years of age, we’d be able to contend with Las Vegas’s many attractions and excitements.  We were not.  The Vegas bachelor/ette party is a young person’s game.  What happens in Vegas does not stay in Vegas if “soul-crushing physical exhaustion” can be said to happen in Vegas.  Rather, soul-crushing physical exhaustion flies home on the plane with you and stays in your place for a week.  Never again.
  • 5.22.12 – more mandatory pro bono, this time with a tropical-tax-shelter theme.  “All practicing attorneys in the Cayman Islands would be forced to work a certain number of hours for free or pay an annual fee of $2,500, according to a draft of the Legal Aid and Pro Bono Legal Services Bill, 2012.  The draft bill was made public by the attorney general’s office
last week.  According to a summary of the proposal, every attorney-at-law in the Islands to whom a practicing certificate has been issued “shall render pro bono legal services to persons in accordance with this legislation”, or face discipline under the territory’s Legal Practitioners Law.”  (Story from the Cay Compass.)
  • 5.21.12 – legal woes caused by a natural disaster can exist long after the disaster itself has dissipated: “A Raleigh law firm is working with Legal Aid of North Carolina to find what problems people still have from Hurricane Irene.  [Irene struck North Carolina in August, 2011.]   The Daily Reflector of Greenville reported that Womble Carlyle and Legal Aid are asking individuals who may be struggling with recovery problems from last August’s storm to call a toll-free hotline. Such issues could include insurance claims, construction scams and mortgage-related problems.”  (Story from the Associated Press.)  
  • 5.21.12 – a trend in Ohio which basically tracks national developments: far fewer death sentences as lawmakers, prosecutors, and court officials contend with the high cost of administering capital punishment programs along with changing sentiment about the death penalty’s effectiveness and propriety.  (Here’s the article from the Columbus Dispatch.)  And here’s some related follow-up…   
  • 5.21.12 – ….of course one of the long-running criticisms of capital punishment stems from the risk of executing an innocent person.  Here’s an AP report on wrongful convictions: “More than 2,000 people who were falsely convicted of serious crimes have been exonerated in the United States in the past 23 years, according to a new archive compiled at two universities.  There is no official record-keeping system for exonerations of convicted criminals in the country, so academics set one up. The new national registry, or database, painstakingly assembled by the University of Michigan Law School and the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law, is the most complete list of exonerations ever compiled.  The database compiled and analyzed by the researchers contains information on 873 exonerations for which they have the most detailed evidence. The researchers are aware of nearly 1,200 other exonerations, for which they have less data.” 
  • 5.20.12 – “One of the initiatives that Bibb County commissioners are considering for next year’s spending plan is a $600,000 request designed to expedite the legal process in local courts.  The request, made jointly by the Bibb County District Attorney’s Office and the Macon Circuit Public Defender’s Office, would allow each office to hire two additional attorneys as part of an Early Intervention Program. The program, officials say, would reduce the number of cases in the court system by allowing for a quicker disposition of nonviolent crimes.”  (Full story in the Macon Telegraph, a newspaper with an oddly Tolkienesque tagline: “Middle Georgia’s News Source.”)
     
  • 5.20.12 – in Cleveland, the local bar president and board president of the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland make it clear just how much the organization’s funding situation has worsened, and explains how vital a service legal aid is in preserving justice.  (Op-ed in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.)   
  • 5.20.12 – more Cleveland!  Jeffrey Stein, a 2012 NYU Law grad, explains his decision to pursue a career in indigent defense in the pages of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.  “It’s hiring season for public defender offices, which means it’s also the time when law students pursuing jobs in indigent defense enjoy the privilege of justifying their chosen career to skeptical — and, inevitably, disappointed — relatives (“You’re sure you wouldn’t rather make $160,000 as a first-year associate at a firm?”), friends (“But what if you know they’re guilty?”) and professors (“Ah, that’s . . . great.”).  Like the populations we serve, we who devote our professional lives to defending poor people are not a monolithic group. But, to answer your questions, here are some of the reasons I have chosen to commit my life to public defense….”  
  • 5.19.12 – in the Pennsylvania lawsuit about alleged underfunding of indigent defense, a special master has been appointed to help sort things through.  (Story from the Citizens Voice of Luzerne County.) 
  • 5.18.12 – in Charles County Maryland, the state’s attorney is pressing hard for funding to hire new attorneys.  “…[P]rosecutors are so overworked that they soon will have to pick and choose which cases to pursue in court, State’s Attorney Anthony B. Covington warned the Charles County commissioners Tuesday.  He asked the commissioners to give his office a $989,000 budget increase, or 41 percent, which would include enough to hire five new prosecutors in fiscal 2013, which begins July 1. Over three years, his office will require a $1.7 million increase, enough to hire a total of eight new attorneys and at least one researcher, he said. (Story from Southern Maryland News Online.)

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