Archive for August, 2013

PSJD Public Interest News Digest – August 9, 2013

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

Happy Friday!  I can’t believe it’s already August.  It’s almost time to go back to school.  But before that happens, let’s take a little vacation (even if it’s only a mental vacation) with some good news and some good tunes.

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

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • DC lawyers providing more pro bono work;
  • Gift to Oregon Law’s Environmental Center doubles number of fellowships;
  • Former MD Governor Ehrlich & Catholic University form legal clinic;
  • 50 new public defender positions created in Colorado;
  • Bills proposed to shed light on government payouts under EAJA;
  • Montgomery County, AL to get a public defenders office;
  • Georgia State University Law to provide pro bono bankruptcy assistance;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: Smokey Bear and all the millions of firefighters who protect and prevent;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

August 1, 2013 – A survey by the DC Bar Foundation finds that reported pro bono hours are up in DC .  “The survey results, which included details on how firms managed pro bono programs and how pro bono hours compared with total billable hours, showed more attorneys were not only reporting pro bono work, but were doing more of it.”  Great job DC lawyers –  keep up the good work!  (The Blog of LegalTimes)

August 1, 2013 – The family of Nike pioneer Bill Bowerman gave $1 million to the school’s Environmental and Natural Resources Law Center.  The award will double the number of fellowships for the program.   The gift will also provide a number of other benefits to students and recent graduates.  (sustainable business oregon)

August 2, 2013 – Based on a recent US Supreme Court decision requiring a public defender to be present when those who can’t afford an attorney meet with prosecutors to discuss plea offers, Colorado public defenders expect an increase of cases by 28,000.  “To handle the work load, Colorado legislators increased the number public defenders statewide to handle to added work.”  The bill was recently signed into law.  “The positions won’t be announced until at least Jan.1, 2014 when the funding for the new positions is available.”  (KREX News Channel 5)

August 5, 2013 – “Former Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich has teamed up with the Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law to open a clinic this semester on clemency matters for people with criminal convictions, and the initiative will include a workshop for newly elected governors and their staff.”  “The CUA Law/Ehrlich Partnership on Clemency will be part of the law school’s Innocence Project Clinic. Students will receive clinical experience by preparing pardon applications.”  (boston.com)

August 5, 2013 – “Three bills introduced last week on Capitol Hill intended to curb misuse of federal dollars would reinstate tracking and reporting requirements of payments made through the Judgment Fund and Equal Access to Justice Act.”  The bills stem from accusations of abuse of the fund by anti-agricultural groups, but these bills could have some serious unintended consequences for other non-profits.  “he Judgment Fund is used to pay certain court judgments and settlements against the federal government if those costs are not otherwise covered by appropriated agency budgets.  EAJA was intended to provide individuals, small businesses and small nonprofit groups with financial assistance to sue the federal government or defend themselves from a lawsuit brought by the federal government.”  Each of the three bills intend to make the payments more transparent, but one would also require “‘direct and personal’ relationship to the case to qualify for reimbursement. ”  (Capitol Press)

August 5, 2013 – The State of Alabama has committed $2.2 million to fund a public defenders office in Montgomery County.  The appropriation brings the two-plus-year project closer to fruition.  “The next step is to hire a full-time director who will be responsible for establishing the office and hiring staff, Montgomery County Presiding Circuit Judge Charles Price said.”  The Director and Assistant Director will likely start in October or November.  (Montgomery Advertiser)

August 6, 2013 – Georgia State University in Atlanta, Georgia will launch the Bankruptcy Assistance and Practice Program this fall.  The program is aimed at offering pro bono bankruptcy assistance to underserved communities in Atlanta.  “Third-year students will enroll in a bankruptcy litigation, negotiation and practice course to bolster skills in bankruptcy law and will work under the supervision of mentor-attorneys to offer free assistance for academic credit.”  The program is funded by “the a competitive Teaching Innovation Grant from the College of Law and sponsorships from local law firms, the State Bar of Georgia, the Atlanta Bar Association and other organizations, university officials said.”  (North Jersey.com)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:  On this date in 1944, the first Smokey Bear poster debuted and the rest (at least for those of us older than about 25) is history.  Many of us grew up knowing “Only YOU can prevent forest fires.”  And whether you believe climate change is real or a hoax, there is strong evidence that the number of forest fires are increasing in frequency and intensity.  Even the plain old house fire can put a fire fighter in very real danger. So, if you know a firefighter or just see one in the street, please say thanks!!  (Wikipedia) (National Interagency Fire Center)

Super Music Bonus! From the mind of Christina – I was feeling like I really needed a good beach tune this week.  I hope you agree.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d8rd53WuojE.

And for those of you lucky enough to be on vacation – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1u2G6OyZyCI.

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Job o’ the Day: Sponsored Post-Grad Fellowship with Legal Action Center’s Criminal Justice Reform Project in New York City

From the PSJD job posting:

LAC seeks to sponsor an individual for a fellowship in the following project:

Challenging the Criminal Justice System’s Discriminatory Denial of Access to Medications to Treat Opiate Addiction.  Scientific research has firmly established that treatment of opiate dependence with medications, such as methadone and buprenorphine (“Medication Assisted Treatment” or “MAT”), saves lives and reduces addiction and related criminal activity more effectively and at far less cost than incarceration.  Yet many prisons, courts, probation and parole agencies require individuals who are successfully receiving MAT to withdraw from their medications, contrary to the recommendations of treating physicians and all other objective medical evidence.  The bias against MAT generally results from misconceptions about opiate addiction and outdated stereotypes that the use of medications is “substituting one addiction for another.”  Tragically, the denial of access to MAT often leads to relapse, overdose, death, increased crime, and unnecessary incarceration.

LAC issued a report, Legality of Denying Access to Medications in the Criminal Justice System, that explains why such denial of access to MAT can violate laws prohibiting disability-based discrimination.  The fellow would help develop a multi-faceted campaign to end the forced withdrawal from MAT.  The campaign would include fact investigation, advocacy for individuals denied access to MAT (e.g., through litigation, informal advocacy, and serving as a back-up resource for criminal defense counsel), education of the relevant stakeholders, and/or policy advocacy.

If this job sounds interesting to you, act fast – the deadline is August 12, 2013! For application instructions, view the full job listing at PSJD.org.

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Hot Off the Press: PSJD’s 2013-14 Federal Legal Employment Opportunities Guide

PSJD’s Federal Legal Employment Opportunities Guide (unfortunately, the acronym is FLEOG) offers a broad-based review of different career opportunities and paths to employment for law students and graduates interested in federal legal careers.

The Guide is a distillation of the key content from PSJD’s more extensive Careers in Federal Government page. If you’re still hungry for more information, browse through our entire Government Careers section – we have everything from State & Local Government Career Resources to a guide on the U.S. Federal Government’s Pathways Program.

We hope you find these resources useful!

PSJD would like to give a special shout-out to Emory Law 2L Kristian Smith, who served as our wonderful Summer Projects and Publications Coordinator and contributed to this year’s FLEOG!

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What is the true value of a J.D.? For one lawyer, it has nothing to do with money…

by Ashley Matthews, PSJD Fellow

In today’s National Law Journal Opinion section, attorney and Albany Law professor Ray Brescia makes the argument that the true value of a law degree is held in its ability to change the world – a sentiment the PSJD staff agrees with whole-heartedly:

…Thousands of lawyers across the United States are not in it for the money and never have been. What’s more, many of these lawyers find their jobs incredibly rewarding and find that their law degree actually helps them change the world.

It’s hard to put a monetary value on such power.

Lawyers across the country defend the accused, prosecute perpetrators of crime and counsel nonprofit organizations that are helping survivors of domestic violence and offering job training and other assistance to veterans. They can be found in national organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union and in hundreds of local legal aid organizations offering free legal assistance to those who cannot afford it.

Read the rest of this entry »

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – August 2, 2013

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

Happy Friday!  It is with a sad heart that we have to say goodbye to Kristian Smith, our Publications Coordinator.  She is an amazing person, and her work on the Federal Legal Employment Opportunities Guide and the Comprehensive Fellowship Guide are invaluable.  She will return to Emory University School of Law for her second year, and will continue in her dedication to serving the public.  A big thank you to Kristian!!

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

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Access to justice in Aboriginal Communities in Canada;
  • Canadian Government reverses legal clinics funding cut;
  • Efforts to help Hurricane Sandy victims continues;
  • New York looks to law firm retirees for pro bono;
  • Ontario invests in legal services;
  • Texas Access to Justice Foundation continues support of Baylor clinic;
  • Colorado examining juvenile legal aid;
  • Student loan bill passes House goes to President;
  • Even pre-law students think a pro bono requirement is a good idea;
  • ABA weighs in on sequestration effects on public defenders;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: Esther Lardent, Pro Bono Institute;
  • Super Music Bonus featuring Kristian Smith, PSJD Publications Coordinator!

The summaries:

July 26, 2013– “At the end of June the Attorney General of Ontario announced that Alvin Fiddler, deputy grand chief of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation would co-chair a new panel intended to help rectify the severe underrepresentation of First Nations peoples in Ontario’s justice and jury. The panel will oversee the implementation of seventeen recommendations made by former Chief Justice Frank Iacobucci in his report ‘First Nations Representation on Ontario Juries‘.  The report, which was released to the public last February, was initially intended to examine the narrow issue of First Nations peoples and jury representation.  However, with Iacobucci drawing the conclusion that the justice system as it applies to First Nations peoples is in crisis, the report can be read as much larger comment on the justice system more widely.”  I’m certain these conclusions came as no surprise to those interested in access to justice for everyone.  Hopefully, the panel will make some concrete progress soon.  (Slaw – Canada’s online legal magazine)

July 26, 2013 – In very good news for legal aid in Canada, the government has reversed a proposed additional $1 million cut in funding.  “Legal clinics still face a previously announced cut of $5.5 million for 2014.  But the extra $1 million cut that was recently added without consultation will be eliminated.”  Legal clinics still face other cuts, and there are still potential closures in the long-term, but at least for now, the government is listening.  (The Windsor Star)

July 26, 2013 – Over the weekend, World Renew volunteers set up a Sandy Help Fair to “help folks sign up for rebuilding help, legal aid, mold remediation or a disaster case manager, who could point them in the direction of available government recovery funds.”  The recovery effort will go on for some time, and greatest need for legal assistance often comes later.  Check out the article for ways to help.  (Staten Island Advance)

July 26, 2013 – Baby boomers are retiring from law firms in droves and the need for pro bono assistance has never been greater.  To bring the two together, “[t]hree years ago, New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman named John Feerick (director of the Feerick Center for Social Justice at Fordham Law School) and Fern Schair (chair of the center’s advisory board) cochairs of the Attorney Emeritus Program.”  So far, nine firms have signed the participation agreement.  Replicating this program around the country could go a long way in closing the justice gap and give newer attorneys the opportunity to learn.  So, if you’re starting a pro bono program or looking for new blood, don’t forget about the wonderful lawyers with new time on their hands.  (The American Lawyer)

July 29, 2013 – “Ontario is investing in frontline legal aid services to enhance fairness and improve access to justice for low-income families and vulnerable Ontarians.  The government is investing $30 million over three years to improve delivery of frontline client services through Family Law Service Centres and community and legal clinics across the province.”  “Community legal clinics are an important part of the legal aid system, and this funding will help these clinics better respond to the needs of vulnerable people.”  (Ontario News)

July 30, 2013 – ” Baylor Law School has once again received a grant from the Texas Access to Justice Foundation to fund its Veterans Assistance Clinic.  The monthly clinic provides local veterans with legal advice and counsel from law students, faculty members and local attorneys.”  “Baylor Law’s Veterans Assistance Clinic launched last year with the help of a $22,000 grant from the foundation. The clinic will receive the same grant amount this year.”  (Baylor Media Communications)

July 30, 2013 – “At least half of the indigent juvenile offenders in Colorado don’t get legal representation, experts told state lawmakers who began studying the issue Tuesday for possible legislation next year.”  Lawmakers have put together a committee to examine the issue with the potential for proposed legislation in October.  One of the key issues will be adequate resources to provide specialized representation in rural areas.  (ctpost.com)

August 1, 2013 – So after much wrangling, Congress has finally passed something – the student loan bill.  What does that mean for your students?  Check out the updates on NALPconnect in the Public Service Section.  Here are a few articles with different takes on what it all means.  (Politico) (Wall Street Journal Market Watch) (The New York Times)

August 1, 2013 – In what is hopefully a sign of more people doing more pro bono, 68% of the pre-law students surveyed in June by Kaplan Test Prep “said they support a rule requiring law students to complete a certain amount of pro bono work before being admitted to the bar.”   With the NY requirements and the more states hot on it’s heels, we will see potentially an exponential increase in the number of students wanting and needing to do some pro bono work.  Good news for the justice gap.  But, we want to make sure it is smartly done.  Law schools can help by partnering with organizations to provide capable law students and help in the vetting process.  (New York Law Journal)

August 1, 2013 – “The ABA warns in a letter to a U.S. senator that budget cuts to public defender offices imposed by sequestration are ‘creating a marked imbalance in our justice system.’  The letter is intended to supplement the record of a July 23 hearing on the impact of sequestration on federal courts. The letter warns that inadequate funding of any particular justice system function ‘will have a negative ripple effect on the rest of the judicial system, a phenomenon amply demonstrated by the effect that funding cuts to defender services has had on the operation of the courts.’  The sequestration is having differing effects on prosecutor and defender’s offices, creating a marked imbalance in the justice system at the federal level.  (ABA Journal)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:  Esther Lardent at the Pro Bono Institute is raising the bar for pro bono.  “Her impact has been unparalleled,” says Christopher Herrling, pro bono counsel at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr. “She, more than any individual I can think of, has brought law firm pro bono into the mainstream and made it so that every major law firm in the U.S. [has established a] pro bono program supported by firm leadership.”  Thank you to Esther for standardizing and publicizing all the good work done by law firms and encouraging them to do more.  (The American Lawyer)

Super Music Bonus! Kristian Smith, PSJD Publications Coordinator gives her last musical contribution.  It’s so hard to say goodbye.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=18uuczwHp78

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