PSJD Public Interest News Digest – October 25, 2013

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

Happy Friday everyone!  Hopefully all of you enjoyed the NALP/PSJD Mini-Conference and are currently enjoying the EJW Conference & Career Fair.  I hope to see you there today.  And send me your Pro Bono Week stories.  I’d love to feature good people helping their communities.

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

Here are the week’s headlines:

  •  Southern University Law Center students find new way to help community;
  • Legal Aid Ontario lawyers stage rally as requests are ignored;
  • Students, lawyers protest proposed private law school in Canada;
  • Legal Services of Eastern Missouri receives HHS grant;
  • Volunteer public defender program under fire in San Francisco;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: Anthony Graves and Nicole Casarez;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

October 18, 2013– Southern University Law Center “has worked out an agreement with the Lafayette City-Parish Consolidated Government to help with the city’s blight problem.  Under the agreement, Southern law students, working with faculty, track down property records, find out who owns a particular piece of property, discern whether any taxes are owed and determine whether the property has been condemned.  Once they’ve collected the information, they write what’s called a ‘title letter’ explaining the property’s legal status before taking it to a licensed attorney.”  “Southern law students have also been a part of similar projects in south Baton Rouge and in the Brookstown neighborhood.”  (The Advocate)

October 18, 2013Ontario’s Legal Aid lawyers are staging a rally at Legal Aid Ontario’s Head Office on the day of their board meeting to express their frustration at their repeated requests for collective bargaining go ignored.  “We believe [Legal Aid Ontario CEO Bob] Ward’s inaction is discriminatory,” said Jillian Rogin, a Legal Aid Lawyer. “More than two-thirds of Legal Aid lawyers are women, and we are the most racially diverse group of public sector lawyers in the province. All other provincial government lawyers, such as those working for the Ministry of the Attorney General and those employed as crown attorneys, enjoy the right to collective bargaining. They are primarily male.”  The lawyers will be joined by several other labor organizations in support of their cause.  (Digital Journal)

October 18, 2013 – “A group of lawyers and law students gathered outside Osgoode Hall today to protest Trinity Western University’s proposal for a law school, arguing the school discriminates against queer students.  The Federation of Law Societies of Canada is reviewing the private Christian university’s application for a three-year JD program, which it hopes to offer to students starting September 2015.”  (Legal Feeds)

October 18, 2013 – “Legal Services of Eastern Missouri (LSEM) has received a two-year, $379,589 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for a new Connecting Kids to Coverage program.  LSEM is the only individual Legal services organization nationwide to receive this grant funding.   Under the grant, LSEM attorneys and staff will provide outreach and enrollment assistance for children eligible for free or low-cost health insurance from Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).”  (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

October 20, 2013 – A volunteer public defender program that has been in place for 30 years has recently come under fire for bringing too many cases to trial.  The superior court is proposing a higher level of supervision for these volunteer, licensed attorneys.  The proposed rule would require a PD staff member to be right there with the volunteer at every stage of every single criminal proceeding.  If the rule were to be enacted, it might dismantle the volunteer program.  Public Defender Jeff Adachi sums up the situation, “The thing that is most troubling is the court is proposing this rule not because there is any problem with these lawyers but because they are unhappy that these lawyers are trying cases.”  (

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:  Former death row inmate Anthony Graves has honored the lawyer who believed in his innocence and fought to save his life by creating a scholarship in her name. According to Texas Monthly, Graves surprised Houston attorney Nicole Casarez  by endowing a scholarship at the University of Texas Law School Foundation in her name.  Mr. Graves used the money he received from the state in his wrongful conviction suite to honor the attorney and journalism professor who, along with her journalism students, fought for eight years to save his life.  (Dallas Morning News) (

Super Music Bonus! Thank you all for a great Mini-Conference.  Now I’m going to. . .

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