PSJD Public Interest News Digest – September 6, 2013

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

Happy Friday!  Here in Virginia, school has started in earnest (darn traffic!), and we’re busier than ever here at NALP.  We’re feverishly updating career fair information and have added a new feature – Public Interest Events.  We will also periodically include these events in the news digest.  There is one included today.  Enjoy!

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

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • 2013-2014 White House Fellows announced;
  • NY Governor announces inaugural class of Excelsior Service Fellows;
  • NLADA announces Beacon of Justice Award winners;
  • Skadden’s Impact Project celebrates it’s first birthday;
  • “Lawyers in the Library” – I love it!;
  • Public defenders office in Guam fights to stay open;
  • Emory Public Interest Committee hosts symposium on sex trafficking;
  • DOJ weighs in on indigent defense;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: BIA Pro Bono Project;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

August 27, 2013 – “[t]he President’s Commission on White House Fellowships announced the appointment of the 2013-2014 Class of White House Fellows. The Fellows come from diverse backgrounds, varied professions, and have all shown a strong commitment to public service and leadership. The 2013-2014 Class of Fellows and their biographies are included in the following pages.”  (White House)

August 30, 2013– NY Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced “80 recent graduates, representing eleven colleges and universities will make up the first class under the Excelsior Service Fellowship Program. The fellowship program established earlier this year is an initiative to bring highly talented graduates of colleges, universities, and graduate, law and professional schools into government service. Fellows will start in early September and will be placed in the Executive Chamber and at 41 state government agencies and authorities.”  (

August 30, 2013 – “The National Legal Aid and Defender Association (NLADA) is delighted to announce the names of the 2013 Beacon of Justice Award winners. The seventeen law firms honored have all devoted considerable time and resources to delivering on the mandate of Gideon v Wainwright, which fifty years ago established the right to counsel for people accused of a crime and facing a loss of liberty.  Each winner has been chosen for their accomplishments in advancing Gideon’s principles through law reform or individual representation.”  (NLADA Press Release)

September 1, 2013 – Twelve months ago, the Washington office of Skadden Arps, local legal aid groups, and three corporate legal departments started the Impact Project.  “The project created three virtual practice groups, each staffed with attorneys from Skadden, the three companies -Northrop Grumman, LivingSocial and Cisco and the three legal aid groups – Children’s Law Center, Legal Aid Society of D.C. and Bread for the City – to work on housing, guardianship and domestic violence issues.” In it’s first year, the Impact Project attorneys have worked on 55 cases.  Congratulations and keep up the good work!  (Washington Post)

September 2, 2013 – Libraries are so much more than a repository for books.  They are often the center of a community providing information, fellowship, and sometimes a place to be dry and warm in a storm.  Now, it’s also a place you can get legal advice.  “The San Joaquin County Bar Association has helped more than 500 individuals receive free legal advice through monthly clinics that are open to the public.  August marked one year since the launch of ‘Lawyers in the Library’ legal clinics, and the service continues.”  Volunteer practicing attorneys conduct brief meetings and assess and advise individuals on legal matters.  There are no income or residency restrictions. Services are on a first-come, first-service basis. (

September 2, 2013– “The federal Public Defender’s Office on Guam is fighting to remain in operation as the effects of sequestration are crippling the office’s ability to provide effective representation of criminal defendants.  Sequestration has had a major impact on the Public Defender’s Office on Guam. ‘We are being inordinately hit. The sequestration should be approximately 4.7% budget cut across the board however this year we’re slated to receive a 23% decrease in funds,’ explained federal public defender John Gorman.  He says this fiscal year the office made do with less – 11% less.”  (KUAM News)

September 4, 2013 – The Emory Public Interest Committee (EPIC) invites you to attend its tenth annual conference, “Neighbors for Sale: Modern Slavery in Atlanta,” on Saturday, September 21, 2013.  Details and registration information can be found here.  Registration will be capped at 250 and the deadline to register is September 17th.

September 4, 2013 – In quite the historic move, the US Department of Justice has intervened in on a case about the quality of indigent defense in two cities north of Seattle.  According to Justice lawyers, this filing is nothing short of historic.  And “if a judge finds those cities should be on the hook, Justice lawyers urged that an independent monitor be appointed for public defender workloads, the first time ever in a federal case like this one.”  “We are absolutely committed to the principle that every indigent person who is accused of a crime is entitled to his or her constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel,” says Jocelyn Samuels, who leads the DOJ civil rights unit.  So, stay tuned for more developments in this case.  (NPR)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:  It’s tough out there, especially for those who don’t speak English and are trying to navigate a complex immigration system.  The government joined with thousands of volunteers to make the process better.  The BIA Pro Bono Appeals Project matches vulnerable immigrants with pro bono counsel to defend their cases before the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA).  One of the nation’s most successful pro bono initiatives, the BIA Project partners with attorneys and law school clinics to provide pro bono legal representation to indigent immigrants. Through a network of committed volunteers, trainers, and mentors, the BIA Project facilitates access to justice.  Since the Project’s inception in 2001, it has reviewed over 7,200 appeals cases.  You can help!  Here is more information, including how you or your clinic can volunteer.

Super Music Bonus!  We’ve highlighted a number of fellowships today, so in honor of that – here you go!

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