Archive for August, 2012

The PSLawNet Blog is now the PSJD Blog!

We’ve re-launched the PSLawNet website as PSJD.  We’ll still be blogging daily – including the Job O’ the Day – and will be adding new, recurring blog features this fall.  Thanks for reading!

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Job o’ the Day: 2013 Summer Law Clerk with EarthJustice in Denver, CO!

EarthJustice, an independent non-profit law firm dedicated to serving the environmental movement, is looking for law students with strong academic credentials and a demonstrated commitment to protecting the environment and wildlife to work as summer law clerks in its Rocky Mountain office.

The following is a sample of their current docket:

* Defense of Public Lands: Our office is involved in challenging the Bureau of Land Management’s attempt to eliminate protection for wilderness-quality lands throughout the West; efforts to stop the damage caused by off-road vehicles in Utah’s canyon country and Colorado’s mountain forests; and many other efforts to protect our western public lands.

* Responsible Energy: We are involved in numerous cases, both national and regional in scope, that challenge irresponsible and illegal energy development on public and private lands, including sensitive Wyoming sage grouse habitat, Utah canyon country, and wilderness-quality lands in Colorado.

* Ecosystem Protection: We work to protect the rich riparian corridors and forests throughout the West that are home to abundant native wildlife and many federally listed species. Earthjustice represents citizen groups in efforts to obtain protection for these important areas using the Endangered Species Act, the National Forest Management Act, and other federal statutes.

To check out the full listing, visit PSLawNet.org (log-in required)!

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Immigrant Advocacy Groups Win Small Victory for the Undocumented in Alabama and Georgia

by: Ashley Matthews

On the heels of a California Assembly resolution in favor of granting a law license to an undocumented immigrant who was brought to America as a child, a federal appeals court has blocked several provisions of Alabama and Georgia’s controversial immigration laws. The American Civil Liberties Union, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the National Immigration Law Center all supported the decision. However, police in both states are still allowed to check the citizenship of criminal suspects who they suspect are undocumented immigrants. As reported by CNN:

The U.S. Supreme Court waded into this debate in June, when it ruled by a 5-3 vote to uphold the authority of the federal government to set immigration policies and laws while weighing in on legislation in Arizona that helped kickstart the debate.

The court, however, did allow one of the most controversial provisions of that state’s law to stand: letting local and state police check a person’s immigration status while enforcing other laws.

The rulings Monday resembled that high court ruling in many respects, with the appeals court judges’ Alabama decision even quoting U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority ruling on the Arizona.

“Although (illegal immigration) is a problem that gives rise to unique issues in our nation, we must be mindful that individual states ‘may not pursue policies that undermine federal law,'” the three judges said.

One provision the court assessing the two state’s laws did let stand, as the Supreme Court had in the Arizona case, is to allow law enforcement to check the immigration status of those suspected of a crime.

This was one of only two provisions in the Georgia legislation, known as HB 87, that the federal appeals court considered.

The other would institute three crimes for “interactions with an ‘illegal alien’.” These are knowingly transporting such a person “while committing another criminal offense,” “concealing or harboring” an undocumented person and lastly “inducing an illegal alien to go into” Georgia, according to the appeals court ruling citing the state’s legislation.

The federal court struck down this aspect of Georgia’s law, known as Section 7, on Monday.

“We are … convinced that Section 7 presents an obstacle to the execution of the federal statutory scheme and challenges federal supremacy in the realm of immigration,” the court explained as part of its reasoning.

Four provisions of Alabama’s law were blocked by the appeals court judges on Monday, while three still stand despite the federal government’s arguments.

Local and state authorities in Alabama are not allowed to stop undocumented immigrants from looking for work, and are unable to prohibit employers who hire undocumented workers from taking state tax deductions for wages. In addition, Alabama authorities cannot characterize hiring an undocumented worker as a “discriminatory practice”.

Although this seems like good news for immigrant advocacy groups, there is still a long way to go. For instance, even if an undocumented immigrant provides police with a valid driver’s license, their citizenship may still be questioned. Fueled by the upcoming presidential election, this debate is sure to continue capturing the attention of local and national media outlets as well as immigrant advocacy groups.

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Public Interest News Bulletin – August 24, 2012

By: Steve Grumm (with an assist from John Kapoor)

Happy Friday, ladies and gents.  An important housekeeping item: the PSLawnet Blog is becoming the PSJD Blog.  We are relaunching our PSLawNet public interest jobs database as PSJD, effective 8/27.  The blog will move from http://pslawnet.wordpress.com to http://blog.psjd.org (link not active yet).  Those of you who receive from me a weekly email message about this bulletin will continue doing so.  Launching PSJD, which will offer an even better jobs database and career center for the public interest community, represents an exciting transition.  We look forward to all that’s new, but just as much look forward to our continued daily blogging.

Some nonprofit news before the public interest news.  This Nonprofit Quarterly post came to my attention this week.  Entitled “A Too-sad Truth about the Nonprofit Sector,” the post laments the culture of martyrdom which many nonprofits take on.  This can manifest itself in unreasonably low salaries and a shortage of office resources to work efficiently.  Many of the best nonprofit law offices, in my experience, tend to emphasize “law office” over “nonprofit” in terms of how they operate and present themselves to the world.  Of course the recession has made funding scarce, and many organizations are struggling just to keep afloat now.  Nevertheless, some executive directors argue that they will only go so far in keeping staff salaries down and skimping on infrastructure expenses because they will not sacrifice quality of service.  It’s a very difficult balance to strike for nonprofits.  And this debate is always worth having because it brings out some terrific ideas and solutions from organizations with starkly different cultures.

On a lighter note, the annual “Mindset List” for this year’s incoming college class is out.  The list looks at how an 18 year-old would view the world in light of what has, and hasn’t, happened during her lifetime. The list, while a little weak this year compared to its predecessors, succeeds at making me feel old if nothing else.  Funny to think that an incoming college freshman might see Bill Clinton only as a grandfatherly, elder statesman as opposed to, well, any of the many other things Bill Clinton’s been.

Okay, the week’s access-to-justice and public interest news, in very brief:

  • Legal Services Corporation board chair on the community’s funding woes and the latest LSC newsletter;
  • law school clinic at Santa Clara U. is sued by law firm for, well, operating;
  • legal services providers in Nevada receive $1.2m from mortgage foreclosure class-action settlement funds;
  • when fiscal woes plague nonprofits in the justice system, local communities suffer;
  • prosecutors moonlight to 1) supplement income and 2) perpetuate Irish-American stereotypes;
  • maybe prosecution work is for the dogs;
  • North Dakota’s economic boom is straining the both the civil and criminal legal-aid camps;
  • Think Progress thinks about LSC cuts;
  • DOJ petitioned to think about how its crime-fighting spending affects all players in justice system;
  • would narrowing the definition of “pro bono” lead to lawyers handling more poverty law cases?
  • the rise of, and importance in, pro bono from Chicago-area in-house counsel;
  • more needed from pro bono lawyers and the justice system is strained by increased numbers of low-income litigants;
  • a Texas County signs on for multi-county capital defense cost-sharing program;
  • Michigan goes online to help pro se litigants;
  • 10 tips for getting hired into a public defender’s office;
  • a NY State county wants to go from paid staff defenders to an assigned-counsel system to save $;
  • Deferred Action participants should be wary of those offering legal services.
  • Music!

The summaries:

  • 8.23.12 – LSC board chair John Levi writes about the legal services funding shortages in Michigan and throughout the U.S.: In Michigan, LSC funds six programs with 29 offices across the state. These offices, both in Michigan and nationwide, are increasingly overwhelmed with requests for help. Nearly one in five Americans — 63 million people — now qualify for LSC-funded civil legal assistance because they live at or below 125% of the federal poverty guideline. That is an all-time high. As demand has been rising, the combined funding for LSC programs from federal, state, local and all other sources has dropped from $960 million in 2010 to $878 million in 2012.  As a result, legal service programs are turning away more and more people who seek help — 50% or more according to recent studies.  More than 21% of the state’s population now qualifies for LSC-funded civil legal assistance. Resources from LSC and other funders, however, have dropped dramatically. Projected overall funding for the six LSC grantees in Michigan for 2012 is $19.6 million — a decrease of nearly 24% from 2010 funding levels.”  (Op-ed in the Detroit Free Press.)
    • On a related note, LSC’s 8/21 edition of “LSC Upates” covers likely job cuts at grantee organizations, a recent board meeting, promoting access to justice through technology, LSC’s receipt of grant funding to improve data collection(!), and other odds/ends
  • 8.23.12 – “A Los Angeles law firm claims in court that Santa Clara University’s pro bono law center is practicing law for poor people illegally.  The Brachfeld Law Group sued Santa Clara University and Scott Maurer, supervising attorney for the university’s Katharine and George Alexander Community Law Center, in Superior Court.  Brachfeld claims that the Community Law Center improperly uses Maurer’s law license to collect attorneys’ fees, which Maurer shares with the university.  (Story from the Courthouse News Service.)
  • 8.23.12 – some of Nevada’s share of national mortgage foreclosure class-action settlement funds will go to legal services.  Legislators approved a one-year, $11 million plan.  (There is more for appropriation in future budget cycles.) Of this $11 million, “…nearly $1.2 million will go to Nevada Legal Services and the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada to provide assistance to homeowners.” (Article from the Nevada News Bureau.)
  • 8.22.12 – when fiscal woes plague nonprofits like Jacksonville Area Legal Aid and the Jacksonville Justice Coalition, which offers support services to crime victims, the entire Jacksonville community suffers.  (Story from the Florida Times Union.)
  • 8.21.12 – having grown up in northeast Philadelphia, I can say with certainty that there’s nothing unusual about a guy named Colin working behind a local bar. What is unusual is when he’s an assistant district attorney.  The Philadelphia Inquirer looks at the ends local prosecutors go to when they struggle financially on civil-servant salaries.
    • It’s noteworthy that their public defender counterparts have it worse.  From an Inquirer story in June: “An experienced assistant [DA] in Philadelphia, one with seven years on the job, can make $65,000 yearly.  A public defender with exactly the same experience makes a lot less: $51,500.”
  • 8.21.12 – I’m a sucker for a story about a pooch in a law office.  “A new four legged volunteer is working at the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s office. It’s part of an innovative pilot program, to provide emotional support to crime victims and witnesses.
    Malvern is a two-year-old, highly trained service dog.  District Attorney, Joyce Dudley, has been working to get a dog…into her office as…to provide a calming presence and create a more compassionate environment for victims and witnesses of crimes within Santa Barbara.  Over the next few months he will work in the D.A.’s office.”   (Story from KEYT.)
  • 8.21.12 – unforeseen consequences. North Dakota’s economic boom is straining both the civil and criminal legal aid camps. On the civil side, stakeholders are dealing with “an increase in demand for Legal Services lawyers— …requests for help have shot up at least 50 percent in the last year—that coincides with a series of budget cuts. Federal funding, which accounts for about 60 percent of the organization’s annual spending plan, shrank by 5 percent in 2011 and 14 percent in 2012, leaving the agency with a budget of about $1.6 million this year.”  On the criminal side, a state bar task force’s “final report, which the bar association’s board of governors adopted on August 16, draws the bleak conclusion that the widening gap between the indigent defense commission’s resources and the demand for its services has put the agency on the verge of a ‘constitutional crisis’.”   (Story from the American Lawyer.  Ho-hum; the PSJD Blog noted this back in July.)
  • 8.20.12 – Two national defense attorney groups are asking the Department of Justice to better analyze how proposed criminal laws and crime-fighting strategies might add additional costs to the rest of the justice system [including indigent defense].  The Nat’l. Assoc. of Criminal Defense Lawyers joined the…National Legal Aid and Defender Association in passing a resolution this month that calls for the DOJ to conduct “justice system impact statements” statements on future policy changes. The resolution suggests the DOJ could fund the studies through its criminal justice grant programs.  The American Bar Association adopted a similar resolution more than 20 years ago, but the NACDL and NLADA resolution also asks DOJ for impact statements for the grants it distributes to local police and prosecutors.”  (Story from the Blog of the Legal Times.)
  • 8.20.12 – would narrowing the definition of “pro bono” lead to more volunteer lawyers handling poverty law cases and providing direct representation to low-income clients?  The Pro Bono Institute’s Esther Lardent doesn’t think so: “The reality is that choosing pro bono work is often a matter of blending personal interest with client need. Restricting personal choices will not increase poverty law pro bono. It is, rather, far more likely to reduce the total amount of pro bono and the percentage of lawyers who undertake it.  Our goal should be to educate lawyers about the unparalleled need for legal services to the poor. We should put, as our Pro Bono Challenge and American Bar Association Model Rule 6.1 do, a special emphasis on poverty law pro bono (which led to 58 percent of total Challenge law firm hours devoted to pro bono focused on poverty), and review and revamp the processes for referring, accepting and handling pro bono matters for the poor to make them more appealing and more efficiently undertaken.”  (Full piece in the National Law Journal.)
  • 8.20.12 – the rise in, and importance of, in-house pro bono in Chicago: “As more people have turned to them for help, Cabrini Green, like an increasing number of Chicago nonprofits offering legal services to low-income people, has sought help from new allies. Though legal nonprofits traditionally have recruited volunteers from the hallways of Chicago’s big law firms, they have begun courting lawyers who work in the legal departments of the region’s corporate giants, including McDonald’s Corp., Exelon Corp., Abbott Laboratories, Caterpillar Inc. and Allstate Corp.”  (Full story from Crain’s Chicago Business.)
  • 8.19.12 – with the number and needs of pro se litigants rising, and with the civil legal services community weathering a severe funding storm, much is needed of pro bono advocates throughout the U.S.  (Full story from Associated Press.)
  • 8.19.12 – in Texas, Angelina County is set to participate in the Regional Capital Defender Program.  Participation in the “shared-cost, multi-county” program is expected to save money on providing indigent defense services to those facing capital chartges.  (Story from the Lufkin Daily News.)
  • 8.17.12 – Warren County is seeking to request permission from the New York State Mandate Relief Council to contract with lawyers to perform legal services for the indigent rather than having the work handled by its own county office in which the attorneys are county employees. The county estimates this change, if authorized, will save $200,000 annually.  (Story from the Post Star.)
  • 8.16.12 – After implementation of the Obama Administration’s “Deferred Action” program for unauthorized immigrants who arrived in this country as youth, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., is renewing warnings to those immigrants to guard themselves against scam artists posing as immigration attorneys. He suggests asking questions about the attorney’s background and qualifications and calling the New York State Unified Court System’s Attorney Registration Unit to see if the individual is accredited before hiring them to ensure that they are in fact qualified to perform that kind of work. Many scam artists will take thousands of dollars from immigrants while offering little if anything in return.  (Here’s Mr. Vance’s press release.)

Music!  That Beloit Mindset List has me thinking about the college years.  So let’s travel to the 1990s for Boulder, CO’s own Big Head Todd and the Monsters.  (The man does in fact have a physically big head.  Not sure about his ego.)  “In the Morning” is one of my favorite songs -and it’s a pretty love song, tempo notwithstanding – from the under-appreciated album Stratagem.

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Job o' the Day: (Volunteer) Entry Level Attorney with Human Rights Watch in Senegal!

I know, I know – this position isn’t technically a job. However, it’s an amazing opportunity for law students and recent graduates interested in international human rights to get their foot in the door. And you’ll get to put “prosecuting war criminals” on your resume:

The Legal & Policy Office of Human Rights Watch (“HRW”) is seeking a volunteer to join the team on the case against Hissène Habré. HRW has been working for 13 years with the victims of Chad’s exiled former President, to bring him to trial. Habré, who lives in exile in Senegal, is accused of responsibility for thousands of political killings and systematic torture when he ruled Chad from 1982 to 1990. At the request of the African Union (AU), Senegal agreed to prosecute Habré in July 2006. Senegal stalled on efforts to try Habré for years, but the new government under President Macky Sall appears to be moving quickly to bring Habré to trial.

On July 24, Senegal and the AU announced a landmark agreement to create “Extraordinary African Chambers” with African judges in the Senegalese justice system to begin pre-trial investigations in October. Just days earlier, on July 20, the International Court of Justice ruled that Senegal had violated its legal obligations under the Torture Convention and ordered Senegal to bring Habré to justice “without further delay,” either by prosecuting him in Senegal or extraditing him. Please visit www.hrw.org/en/habre-case (English) or www.hrw.org/fr/habre-case (French) for more information.

The volunteer project includes conducting legal research on international and Senegalese criminal law issues, liaising with the victims’ legal team and HRW’s partners in Senegal and Chad, and supporting advocacy efforts with the Senegalese government and international donors. The volunteer will be supervised by HRW’s Counsel.

This position will be located in Dakar, Senegal. Ideally, it will last for 6 months starting in September or October of 2012. Human Rights Watch is unable to offer relocation assistance, but don’t let that stop you from applying – PSLawNet.org has a whole page of resources for students interested in international law, including how to obtain funding for unpaid opportunities.

For more information, check out the full listing at PSLawNet.org (log-in required).

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Coming Soon: PSLawNet Launches New Website and Name!

PSLawNet is debuting a new look this fall! Next week, on Monday, August 27th, PSLawNet will become PSJD – a revamped site that will retain all of PSLawNet’s content while adding easier navigation, enhanced searching, and new tools for job-seekers and employers. PSJD will be found at http://www.psjd.org (not live yet).

PSLawNet users will be able to log in to PSJD with the same PSLawNet login information they have always used, and our job-seeker “email alerts” will continue uninterrupted. For our faithful blog readers, we’ll be moving to blog.psjd.org (not live yet). The current PSLawNet blog URL will redirect you as well.

We at NALP (who administer the PSLawNet/PSJD site) are very happy to launch this next-generation career center as a free resource for the public interest legal community!

For more information contact me, the PSLawNet PSJD Fellow, at amatthews@nalp.org, or Steven Grumm at sgrumm@nalp.org. You may also reach us at 202.296.0076.

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Job o' the Day: Staff Attorney with the ACLU Center for Justice!

The ACLU’s Center for Justice is looking for a staff attorney to work in either Washington D.C. or New York City on juvenile justice reform.

The ACLU’s Center for Justice seeks to transform the U.S. criminal justice system into one that views incarceration as an option of last – not first – resort. The Center works to ensure that our criminal justice system is effective, fair, and free of racial bias; that conditions of confinement are humane and constitutional; and that the death penalty is rejected as a legitimate form of punishment. The Center comprises the Criminal Law Reform Project, the National Prison Project and the Capital Punishment Project, as well as affiliated staff from our Washington Legislative Office and Advocacy and Communications Departments.

The Center for Justice seeks a Staff Counsel to work closely with other parts of the Center and organization to shape and advance its juvenile justice reform work as part of our Initiative to End Overincarceration. Priority areas of work will include reform of local and state policies that will lead to a reduction of youth incarceration rates in the juvenile justice system; minimizing and making more constructive the contact youth have with the adult criminal justice system; and eliminating the disproportionate contact youth of color have with the juvenile justice system. The Staff Counsel will be part of an integrated team that includes litigators, policy counsel and strategists, federal lobbyists, and communications specialists, and will work closely with ACLU affiliates across the country.

Responsibilities include, but are not limited to, creating strategic work plans and serving as a public spokesperson for the advancement of juvenile justice reform. Sounds perfect for you? Check out the full job post at PSLawNet.org (log-in required).

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Standing Out During the Public Defender Interview

By: Ashley Matthews

Recently, the University of Virginia School of Law blogged a few invaluable tips from this year’s Public Defender Advocacy, Hiring and Training Conference (PATH), sponsored by the Public Defender Service of D.C. In a nutshell, passion pays off – you have to be able to show and explain just how ready you are to enter the field of indigent defense.

In a larger nutshell, here are the offered tips:

1. Know your personal motivation for being a public defender, because this will sustain your career.

2. Be realistic, but passionate, about why you want to be a public defender.

3. Convey that you are a “true believer” in your cover letter.

4. Since candidates start looking the same on paper, your passion and motivation should stand out.

5. If you’ve worked in prosecution or domestic violence, don’t be scared to address it.

6. Speak Spanish! If you don’t speak Spanish, learn Spanish! This increases your chances of employment.

7. Bring out the fact that you are client-centered in your interview.

8. Look at hypothetical questions from multiple angles.

9. When asked a hypothetical question, remember that public defender offices are paying attention to your instincts.

10. When role-playing, listen to your “client” and be mindful of your body language.

Click here to read the whole blog post!

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Managing Student Loan Debt: Getting Started

By: Ashley Matthews

Congratulations, law school grads – you did it! After 3 years of casebooks, study groups, outlines, and hornbooks, it’s finally over.

But now, it’s the moment we’ve all been dreading/ignoring: student loan repayment. As the end of the grace period creeps onto our calendars, now is the best time to prepare. It’s no secret that student loan debt can hurt your economic status in a major way. And on a public interest salary, repaying student loans can be downright crippling. (Just ask a few of the lawyers recently profiled by the Philadelphia Inquirer – one of whom was forced by debt to move back home with parents at the tender age of 49.)

The good news is that you are not alone. Student loan expert Heather Jarvis, a former public interest attorney, is committed to reducing the financial barriers to practicing our favorite kind of law here at PSLawNet.  So before you have a severe panic attack at the thought of being shackled to your loans forever, take a look at these pointers from a recent blog post Jarvis wrote about taking the first baby steps to deal with our giant loans:

1. “Figure out which loans you have.” Sounds simple, right? Maybe for some, but many law students have multiple loans from different lenders. Some loans may even come from private lenders.

2. “Decide which consolidation works for you.” Loan consolidation is key to Public Interest Loan Forgiveness. If you have a FFEL loan, things may get a bit tricky.

3. “Choose a repayment plan.” This sounds simple too, right? Once again, it may be for some people – but for others, crafting the right plan involves weighing multiple options.

For more important information and links, check out the full blog post at Jarvis’ website, www.askheatherjarvis.com. This site is a wealth of information about student loans, so it would be smart to educate yourself well before you walk across the stage at law school graduation. The better prepared we are to handle student loan debt, the more we are able to commit ourselves to what matters most: using our law degree to help others in need.

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Job o' the Day: Legal Intern with Vera Institute of Justice in New York City!

Are you a law student that is committed to advancing prisoners’ rights? Do you stay up to date on the latest news and developments in criminal justice reform and policy? If so, then this position may be perfect for you.

The Vera Institute of Justice is searching for legal interns within its Center on Sentencing and Corrections (CSC), which works with state and local partners to help them develop cost-effective strategies for protecting public safety.

The CSC also provides government officials and criminal justice professionals with technical assistance and research support.

From the Vera Institute of Justice:

This is an extraordinary opportunity for a motivated student to join a dynamic and innovative staff. The intern will work closely with program and research staff on a variety of projects, which may include justice reinvestment projects in several states, a national project aimed at increasing the availability of post-secondary education to correctional populations, a project focusing on bringing American and European policymakers together to discuss successful correctional policies, and reports on sentencing policies.

If you’re interested in apply, view the full listing at PSLawNet.org!

 

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