PSJD Public Interest News Digest – August 16, 2013

by Christina Jackson, NALP Director of Public Service Initiatives & Fellowships

Happy Friday!  For us, the summer is over.  Boo!  The interns finish up this week, and are looking to the start of a new school year.  Thank you so much to our summer interns who contributed in so many ways to the continuing success of PSJD.  Good luck to Blerta, David, Denai, and Charis!!

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: If you know someone we should honor, drop me a line.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • 25 NY counties to share $12 million grant for indigent defense;
  • ABA, VA & LSC launch new pro bono initiative to help vets;
  • Student Hurricane Network revitalized as Student Disaster Network;
  • Free foreclosure services to continue for 2 more years in Gainesville area;
  • Beaufort, SC area legal aid and law education groups receive aid for projects;
  • New DE state court rule regarding attorneys for post-conviction appeals could cost millions;
  • ABA president vows to work on access to justice;
  • CA school law giving transgender students access rights gets mixed response;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: Those who break down barriers;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

August 10, 2013 – In response to the increased push for counsel at arraignment, the State of New York created a grant to help counties fulfill their constitutional duty to provide lawyers for indigent criminal defendants.  “25 counties in the state [will] share a grant of $12 million to help provide indigent defendants with legal representation the first time they make a court appearance.”  “The state is also reviewing what it must do in light of a recent Court of Appeals decision in Hurrell-Harring vs. New York, which recognizes that having counsel is critical at arraignment as a key part of criminal proceedings.”  (Watertown Daily Times)

August 10, 2013– “A new initiative to provide pro bono legal assistance to military veterans was announced Saturday by the ABA, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Legal Services Corp.  The initiative, which will launch as a pilot program in Chicago and St. Petersburg, Fla., will recruit lawyers to help veterans prepare their claims with the VA for disability pay. Currently, many veterans go unrepresented while trying to prepare their claims. Under the program, veterans with claims pending may choose whether to accept pro bono assistance from a lawyer.”  (ABA Journal)

August 12, 2013 – All summer long the newly revitalized Student Disaster Network (originally conceived as the Student Hurricane Network, implemented to help Hurricane Katrina victims) has been working to continue to help victims of Hurricane Sandy.  Last week, six students from Baton Rouge, LA (some effected by Hurricane Katrina) volunteered along with several law students from New York law schools in the Touro Law Center’s Disaster Assistance Clinic.  Of course, the legal issues are ongoing, and if you’d like to help, you contact the Clinic through its Director, Professor Benjamin Rajotte. (New York Law Journal) (WNBC 4)

August 12, 2013 – New state court rule in Delaware could cost millions and gridlock the state’s criminal justice system.  “[The] state’s courts adopted a new rule in May, following the 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Martinez v. Ryan, requiring that nearly all indigent inmates in Delaware get a taxpayer-funded attorney for at least one round of post-conviction appeals to argue their trial attorney was ineffective, if they ask.”  So far, the rule has meant requests for attorneys are running at least three times higher than what officials estimated.  And, as of now, state legislators have refused to appropriate any funds to support the increased workload.  (delawareonline)

August 13, 2013 – Under a settlement agreement with the country’s largest mortgage companies, Three River Legal Services will continue to provide free foreclosure assistance to its 17-county service area.  Three Rivers has already assisted 300 homeowners since the program began in March.  The program was set to expire on July 31.  (The Gainesville Sun)

August 13, 2013– “Four Lowcountry legal aid and law education groups received almost $300,000 this month combined from the South Carolina Bar Foundation to support their projects.”  “The grants were part of $1.88 million given to groups statewide that provide services to help low-income people that need representation or educate them on specific legal issues like domestic violence.”  (Beaufort Gazette)

August 14, 2013– Newly installed ABA president James Silkenat said “he plans to help develop a Legal Access Job Corps, which will seek to address the country’s growing unmet legal needs and the underemployment of recent law graduates.  ‘Instead of looking at the dearth of jobs and the large number of unmet legal needs as two separate silos, we will find ways to match young lawyers who need practical job experience with disadvantaged clients who need legal assistance,’ the new president said.”  This is good news for both those who need and those who can provide legal services.  We’ll keep you posted as plans develop.  (Legal Newsline)

August 15, 2013 – “California’s law to give transgender K-12 students rights such as access to the restrooms and locker rooms that they choose has received mixed response from school officials.”  The first of its kind in the nation, it’s drawing both praise and criticism.  “Opponents, who have promised to sue, said the bill infringes on the privacy of public school students.”  “But proponents hailed the law as advancing long-sought rights of transgender students.”  This will certainly be a growing area of litigation in the very near future.  (Contra Costa Times)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:  Fifty-two years ago this week, Berliners awoke to find a wall dividing their city.  For the next 28 years many would defect from East to West and many, many individuals would work to bring down the wall.  This is a concrete example, but just one of many in which individuals can make a difference to so many be breaking down barriers.  (BBC)  On the legal front, many pioneers have broken barriers so that others may follow.  “Arabella Mansfield (May 23, 1846 – August 1, 1911), became the first female lawyer in the United States when she was admitted to the Iowa bar in 1869.”  (Wikipedia)  “Macon Bolling Allen (August 4, 1816 – June 11, 1894) was the first African American licensed to practice law in the United States, (Maine, 1844), and is believed to be the first African American to hold a judicial position, (Massachusetts, 1848).”  (Wikipedia)   And as we here in DC are getting ready to remember the 1961 March on Washington, let’s remember all those who have broken down barriers large and small.  Thank you!!

Super Music Bonus! From the mind of Christina – For all those going back to school:

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