PSJD Public Interest News Digest – October 4, 2013

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

Happy Friday everyone!  Can you believe it’s October already?  Two big events happen this month:  the PSJD/NALP Public Interest Mini-Conference and the Equal Justice Works Conference and Career Fair.  Both are a great opportunity to learn and network for legal career professionals and the EJW CCF is a great opportunity for students to connect with employers.

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

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Court-appointed panel aims to improve civil legal services to low-income individuals in Indiana;
  • Gideon’s Promise creates new Law School Partnership Project;
  • ABA creates task force to connect unemployed young lawyers with unmet legal needs;
  • University of Missouri School of Law opens new clinic to help vets;
  • Seattle University Law School gets grant to improve public defender system;
  • The recipients of this year’s Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals (Sammies) are announced;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: Today in history work on Mt. Rushmore begins;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

September 26, 2013– “The Indiana Supreme Court has created a statewide commission aimed at improving the availability of civil legal services for low-income residents.  The 17 members of the Indiana Commission to Expand Access to Civil Legal Services will include judges, law professors, practicing attorneys, existing civil legal services providers, nonprofit groups and representatives from business, finance and labor, Chief Justice Brent Dickson wrote in an order dated Monday.  The court has given the panel a year to develop a five-year plan to improve civil legal services to low-income “or otherwise disadvantaged Indiana residents.”  The commission’s first report is due June 30.  (The Republic)

October 1, 2013 – Gideon’s Promise (formerly the Southern Public Defender Training Center) has developed an exciting new Project in which it seeks to partner with law schools to ensure adequate defender representation in the neediest of southern offices.  “We are building partnerships between Gideon’s Promise, public defender offices across the South, and law schools committed to justice. We are asking law schools to contribute to the training and support of their graduates for up to one year, or to help us identify sponsors for their graduates. In return, Gideon’s Promise will place the graduate in a southern public defender office and provide three-years of training and mentorship. The office will guarantee that within the first year, the graduate will be moved into a full-time position. Therefore, by providing support up front, law schools can help their graduates secure permanent employment, acquire the training and support they need, and join a transformative movement as important as any in the legal profession.  Set your law school apart, by sponsoring a committed law graduate who wants to be a part of the change we are building, but who otherwise would not be able to join this movement.  Click here to learn how your institution can help fulfill Gideon’s Promise.”  (Gideon’s Promise)

October 1, 2013 – The ABA has created a task force to connect the unmet legal needs of our society and the unmet employment needs of young lawyers.  “The ABA Legal Access Job Corps Task Force is co-chaired by Chief Judge Eric Washington of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, dean Patricia White of the University of Miami School of Law, and Atlanta lawyer Allan Tanenbaum, a longtime bar leader. The task force will propose possibilities for providing legal services to underserved populations while offering work and experience to lawyers who are now entering legal practice. As part of its work, the task force will review existing initiatives that may be adopted as national models.”  It appears the ultimate goal is to great a national Legal Access Job Corps.  (ABA Journal)

October 2, 2013 – MU School of Law is set to open a new clinic in January that will help veterans trying to get disability benefits.  “Six students supervised by an attorney from the Law School will provide legal counsel for veterans appealing decisions made on their original disability benefits claims. Their work will be a part of a new three-credit class offered in spring 2014.  The clinic is not focused on helping veterans apply for disability benefits for the first time, but instead will help those whose claims were denied or were not as much as they expected. The students will help veterans appeal their cases to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals and the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans’ Claims.”  (Missourian)

October 2, 1013 – “An indigent-defense project at Seattle University School of Law and the Sixth Amendment Center in Boston will share a $450,000 grant from the Department of Justice (DOJ) to work on solutions to failings in the public-defense system nationwide.  The two-year grant is part of Attorney General Eric Holder’s focus on addressing systemic problems in local and state-run public-defense systems.”  “The grant was awarded by the DOJ’s program called ‘Answering Gideon’s Call,’ overseen by its Civil Rights Division, and is aimed at improving state-level public-defense to a minimum suggested by the American Bar Association.”  (Seattle Times)

October 3, 2013– As well all know, the government shutdown has already created bleak intended and unintended consequences.  In the midst of all the frustration and anger over the shutdown, here is one thing to celebrate – the recipients of this year’s Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals (Sammies).  The awardees have contributed in a wide array of areas, but all with excellence and dedication to service.   “The winners were chosen from among 31 finalists. An honorary citation is going to Antonio Mendez, a retired CIA operative whose work in spiriting a half-dozen American diplomats out of Iran in 1980 inspired the Oscar-winning film, ‘Argo.’  All will be formally recognized at a black-tie banquet Oct. 3 in downtown Washington, despite the partial government shutdown that began Oct. 1. Four of the winners are on furlough without pay.”  Check out all the winners and be prepared to be inspired.  (Federal Times)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:  Today I might have to get a little political.  Today in history work on Mt. Rushmore began in the Black Hills National Forest of South Dakota. It would take another 12 years for the impressive granite images of four of America’s most revered and beloved presidents—George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt–to be completed.  (  Here’s where it gets political – the national parks are only one of many, many facilities and programs that are shuttered due to the government shutdown.  So, if we could all be sending good (or bad) thoughts to Congress (whichever you think will work) to get us back on track, DC and the 800,000 federal workers around the country who are furloughed would greatly appreciate it!

Super Music Bonus!  I had to do this one.  Empowerment is always a timely message.

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