By: Steve Grumm
Happy Friday, dear readers. First, the Friday Trivia Question is a fairly simple one. Four of the United “States” are actually commonwealths. Which are they?
- bad news for Florida legal services providers;
- good news for Florida legal services providers;
- the House’s proposed LSC appropriation is $328 million;
- HUD money to Vermont Legal Aid;
- the tug of war for mortgage foreclosure settlement money in AZ;
- ABA Question of the Week: Should pro bono be required?
- this D.A. has remarkable success getting people out of jail(?);
- a pro bono appeal from a West Virginia justice;
- coverage and opinion about New York requiring 50 pro bono hours of bar applicants;
- indigent defense funding needed in Massachusetts;
- indigent defense funding needed in Tennessee;
- the increasing sophistication of corporate counsel pro bono programs;
- a report on the state of legal services funding nationwide;
- legislative efforts to raise funds for Louisiana indigent defense.
- 5.11.12 – the Orlando Sentinel looks at the problem of the “new poor” who are, in large numbers, seeking help from Broward and Palm Beach County legal services providers. Those providers are laboring under extraordinary budget strains even while trying to deal with increased client demand.
- 5.10.12 – on the other hand, class-action residuals will offer some financial help to cash-strapped legal services providers in the Sunshine State. “More than $825,000 in unclaimed settlement money is about to be donated to eight local organizations. The donations came from four Tampa law firms, which said the organizations were selected because of their public service and consumer advocacy efforts. Recipients include Bay Area Legal Services and Gulf Coast Legal Services, two groups that provide free legal counseling for people who otherwise couldn’t afford it.” (Story from Tampa Bay Online.)
- 5.10.12 – from the Legal Services Corporation: “The U.S. House of Representatives today approved funding legislation that provides $328 million for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) in Fiscal Year 2013, after turning back two amendments that would have further cut or eliminated funding for the Corporation. Rep. Austin Scott’s (R-Ga.) proposed amendment to the 2013 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations bill, which would have eliminated all funding for LSC, was defeated Tuesday night by a vote of 289-122. The House also rejected, 246-165, a proposal from fellow Georgia Republican Rep. Lynn Westmoreland to cut the Corporation’s budget to $200 million.
- 5.9.12 – some good news in Vermont. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development today awarded more than $324,987 to Vermont Legal Aid, Inc [VLA] to assist people in Vermont who believe they have been victims of housing discrimination. VLA will use its grant to conduct a full service, coordinated and comprehensive fair housing program of testing, targeted private enforcement actions, broad systemic investigation, engagement with the land use and transportation planning process, and collaborative efforts to raise public awareness of housing discrimination…. The competitive grants are funded through HUD’s Fair Housing Initiatives Program (FHIP), and are part of nearly $41.18 million distributed nationwide to 99 fair housing organizations and other non-profit agencies in 35 states and the District of Columbia. (Story from Vermont Business Magazine.)
- 5.9.12 – a debate in Arizona over the government’s distribution of national mortgage class-action settlement funds highlights the fiscal tugs of war at play in many states as cash-starved governments and public interest advocates try to wrestle – I am really maximizing this metaphor – away as much funding as possible for their causes. “State Attorney General Tom Horne said Tuesday he has to implement an Arizona law taking $50 million from a settlement paid by mortgage lenders over their loan practices though he thinks the transfer to help balance the budget is poor public policy. Public interest law firms are threatening to sue to block the transfer, contending the money should be reserved for helping stressed homeowners and coping with the effects of the housing collapse.” This greatly impacts some legal services providers who would use settlement funds to aid clients in foreclosure. (Story from Bloomberg Businessweek.)
- 5.9.12 – the ABA Journal’s Question of the Week: “Many readers and law bloggers had a strong reaction to last week’s Law Day announcement by New York Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman that all would-be lawyers will have to perform 50 hours of pro bono before they can get a law license in the state…. So this week, we’d like to ask you: Should all lawyers be required to do pro bono or monetarily contribute to legal services offices?
- 5.8.12 – the L.A. Times looks at Dallas (Texas) District Attorney Craig Watkins’ nationally acclaimed work on exonerating the wrongfully convicted.
- 5.8.12 – “West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals [J]ustice Brent Benjamin is imploring attorneys to come to the aid of Legal Aid of West Virginia…..’Before the [recent round of Legal Services Corporation budget] cuts, Legal Aid only had 51 attorneys covering 55 counties…,’ Benjamin noted. [Legal Aid was subsequently force to lay off staff and close an office.] ‘Since the most recent cut happened, they are doing the best they can with what they’ve got. We, as a Supreme Court, are stepping up to try to help them as well as help lower income West Virginians by going to the lawyers and asking directly for help.” (Story from The State Journal, whose tagline is “West Virginia’s Only Business Paper. Hot Damn!” (I added the hot damn. I should have gone into marketing.)
- 5.7.12 – some coverage stemming from New York Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman’s much-publicized announcement that, starting later this year, would-be bar admitees will have to perform 50 hours of pro bono service to be licensed in New York.
- 5.7.12 – a New York Law Journal piece looks at the raft of implementation questions that must be answered (including an interesting one from our friend Tom Maligno about whether pro bono performed in law school would count toward the 50-hour requirement);
- 5.7.12 – likewise, Pro Bono Institute prez Esther Lardent, writing in the National Law Journal, moves past the question of policy wisdom to look at practical implementation challenges.
- 5.3.12 – former Association of Corporate Counsel official Susan Hacket is critical of Lippman’s proposal.
- 5.7.12 – in Massachusetts, the state house is working on a bill to shore up funding for the state’s indigent defense program, whose coffers are depleted. (Story from the Boston Herald.)
- 5.5.12 – in Memphis, two public defenders make the case for remedying a ”20-year recurring state budget miscalculation that has resulted in a multimillion-dollar funding shortage for public defense in Davidson and Shelby counties.” (Story from the Memphis Commercial Appeal.)
- 5.4.12 – the Washington Post looks at the increasing sophistication of in-house pro bono programs: “In-house attorneys have historically gotten their hands on pro bono cases through legal aid groups or law firms on an individual basis, often without systematic backing from their employers. Now that model is changing, with several major corporations such as DuPont pushing to create more structured programs for attorneys and legal staff to do pro bono work by allocating company resources and personnel to handle client calls and paperwork, and setting benchmarks for how much time should be spent doing pro bono projects. (Capital One suggests 20 hours a year; at DuPont, it’s 2 percent of total work time).”
- 5.4.12 -the Washington Council of Lawyers, DC’s public interest bar association (of which I’m a board member), has released a report on the beleaguered state of legal services funding nationwide. (Read the 2012 Legal Services Funding Report.)
- 5.4.12 – the New Orleans Times-Picayune looks at efforts in the Louisiana Senate to boost funding for public defense programs.