PSJD Public Interest News Digest – August 30, 2013

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

Happy Friday!  So, most folks are back to school or about to be.  We here at PSJD have MANY resources to help you navigate public interest and the job search.  Check it out.

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

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Attorney General Holder urges Congress to restore indigent defense funding;
  • Alabama changing fees for private attorneys for indigent defense;
  • NLRB consolidates in-house legal department in DC;
  • $9 million grant in CA for consumer outreach on ACA;
  • New center opening at the University of Denver;
  • New NC law allows students to hire attorneys for college disciplinary actions;
  • Hawaii news outlet creates public interest law clinic;
  • ABA announces 2013 Legal Rebels;
  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness under fire;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: Liz Rogers, federal public defender chief retires after 30 years;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

August 23, 2013– AG Holder went on record supporting the criminal justice system and asking Congress to restore federal funding for federal defenders.  He is backed by a large portion of the judiciary.  But, could more be done?  Here is a good summary of the issue and ways DOJ policy could affect the situation.  (The Atlantic)

August 25, 2013 – In 2011 the State Legislature set up an office of indigent defense under the Finance Department to monitor expenses.  The law also encourages, but does not mandate, that counties use a contract system for private attorneys providing indigent defense. The contract system commits attorneys to multiple cases for a set amount of money.  The system state-wide is having the desired effect – lowering costs to the state for indigent defense.  37 counties now use the contract system and several other counties have set up public defender offices staffed with county employees.  (The Times Daily)

August 26, 2013 – “The National Labor Relations Board has created a new Division of Legal Counsel at its Washington D.C. headquarters.  The board said Thursday the new division consists of three branches created by the consolidation of several of the headquarters’ offices.”  The three offices are The Ethics, Employment and Administrative Law Branch, the Contempt, Compliance and Special Litigation Branch, and the FOIA Branch.  “The new division is headed by Associate General Counsel Margery Lieber.”  (Legal Newsline)

August 26, 2013 – “The California Endowment last week awarded a $9.2 million, three-year grant to a group of legal aid organizations to help expand the effort to educate lower-income Californians about choices under the Affordable Care Act, including coverage in the state’s new health benefit exchange and the expanded version of Medi-Cal, both due to start in January.  Health Consumer Alliance will receive the grant announced Thursday. It’s a consortium of 11 legal aid organizations, including the Western Center on Law and Poverty, the Legal Aid Society of San Diego, Bay Area Legal Aid and the Fresno-based Central California Legal Services.  The $9.2 million grant follows an additional $3.4 million awarded to HCA by Covered California, the state’s new exchange, in June.”  (CaliforniaHealthline)

August 26, 2013 – Opening in early September at the University of Denver, the Center for Separating and Divorcing Families will offer a range of services to families at sliding-scale costs, including mediation, education, therapeutic services, legal drafting and assistance with financial planning.  “Families, who will be referred by the court system and community agencies, will receive advice from teams of students from the University of Denver’s Graduate School of Professional Psychology, the Graduate School of Social Work, and the Sturm College of Law.”  (The Denver Post)

August 26, 2013 – “Public university students facing disciplinary charges may now hire an attorney to help them throughout the process, according to a new state law.”  “The new law would apply in student conduct matters but not in cases of academic misconduct. It would allow students to have an attorney at their own expense, or a non-attorney advocate, “fully participate” during any disciplinary procedure.  One exception would be in student honor courts that are strictly run by students, such as the honor system at UNC Chapel Hill. But it would apply in campus judicial hearings involving sexual assault, for example.”  However, the state is not required to provide counsel.  (Charlotte Observer)

August 26, 2013 – “Last week Civil Beat announced the founding of a nonprofit legal aid organization designed to provide assistance to groups and individuals who are seeking access to government information. The Civil Beat Law Center for the Public Interest will be part law clinic and part advocate, helping both journalists and citizens untangle freedom of information laws and, when necessary, take legal action against government agencies. The center may be the first of its kind: a full-time legal aid project developed as an offshoot from an individual media company.”  (Nieman Journalism Lab)

August 28, 2013 – The ABA announces its 10 recipients of the Legal Rebel Award today.  Among the 10, 7 are involved in legal education.  Each year, the ABA honors change leaders in legal profession.  For a deeper look at our 2013 class of Legal Rebels, click here.  (ABA Journal)

August 28, 2013 – With the current student loan brouhaha, it was inevitable that pundits started criticizing Public Service Loan Forgiveness (some haven’t stopped).  This Forbes article takes a look at the program, and argues it’s a bad idea.  These issues and more will be discussed during the NALP webinar Join fellow NALP Members on Wednesday, September 11 at 1:00 ET for Student Debt News for Career Advisors, a webinar on the latest on the student debt crisis. This webinar is open to NALP members and is presented by NALP’s Educational Debt Consultant, Heather Jarvis.  (Forbes)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:  “Elizabeth ‘Liz’ Rogers, the Alpine-based assistant federal public defender chief for the Western District of Texas, El Paso and Pecos divisions, retires today after 30 years of defense-attorney work for federal defendants in need of legal counsel.”  She took an early retirement buyout (due to sequestration) so that younger defenders could keep their jobs.  She has always wanted to work on the border, and spent most of her career defending the most vulnerable.  She was recognized in 2000 as an outstanding Federal Public Defender by the National Association of Public Defenders, and has served as director of the State Bar of Texas.  Learn more about Ms. Rogers and her planned trip around the world.  Congratulations and thank you.  (Big Bend Now)

Super Music Bonus! Lots of  news about new opportunities and new offices opening.  Here’s a track to celebrate the good news.

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