PSJD Public Interest News Digest – May 23, 2014

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

Happy Friday!  School’s out and it’s time to prepare for the summer, especially internships.  Are you interning in a new city?  Check out PSJD’s Having Fun on the Cheap series to find great stuff to do in your internship city.

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

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Leslie Caldwell confirmed to head DOJ criminal division;
  • FL lawyers argue over proposed $100 dues increase to help fund legal aid;
  • Stetson Law seeks volunteer lawyers for its new veterans clinic;
  • IA Supreme Courts awards grants for legal aid;
  • DOJ Office of Inspector General releases report of audit of John R. Justice Grant Program;
  • Environmental residency/incubator debuts in Pittsburgh;
  • LSAC settles ADA suit with a consent decree;
  • Grant to UNM Law to encourage public interest lawyers;
  • AILA announces Michael Maggio Immigrants’ Rights Summer Fellow;
  • MA must pay public defenders more;
  • Youths guaranteed representation at detention hearings in CO;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: NLADA Beacon of Justice Award winners;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

May 15, 2014 –  “White-collar defender Leslie Caldwell was confirmed Thursday to lead the Criminal Division at the U.S. Department of Justice.  Caldwell, co-chairwoman of the corporate-investigations and white-collar practice at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, sailed through her confirmation hearing in February. The Senate approved Caldwell on a voice vote.  “I’m confident that her extensive experience on both sides of the courtroom will serve her well as she assumes leadership of the Criminal Division,” Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. said in a written statement.”  (National Law Journal)(subscription)

May 15, 2014 – “Joined by a former state Supreme Court justice, attorneys for the poor are trying to raise annual Florida Bar dues by up to $100 to address what they call a fiscal crisis.  The attempt to hike the annual dues, which have not increased since 2001, from the current $265 has sparked an outcry in the legal community and created a rift over how much of the onus lawyers should bear to fund legal-services groups throughout the state.”  The proposed dues hike is also creating a larger conversation on the delivery of legal services to the poor in Florida.  (The Florida Times-Union)

May 16, 2014 – Stetson University College of Law is seeking attorneys to volunteer civil legal services to military members, veterans and their families as part of its Veterans Pro Bono Initiative Team.  Stetson’s new Veterans Pro Bono Initiative Team will serve Tampa Bay area veterans through its Veterans Law Institute.  “We are looking for volunteer attorneys with a passion to serve the veterans, members of our military and their families,” said Trista Miller, assistant director of clinical education and Veterans Law Institute pro bono supervisor at Stetson.  “Attorneys interested in volunteering may apply with no obligation at stetson.edu/veteransprobono. For more information about volunteering with Stetson’s Veterans Pro Bono Initiative Team, contact vetprobono(at)law.stetson(dot)edu or call 727-562-7333.” (Digital Journal)

May 16, 2014 – “The Iowa Supreme Court has approved more than $282,000 in grants to non-profit programs that provide legal assistance to low-income residents with civil legal problems, including those in North Iowa.  The Second Judicial District, whose 22-county area includes Cerro Gordo, Worth, Winnebago, Franklin, Mitchell, Floyd, Hancock, Wright and Butler counties, is receiving $5,900 for its Civil Legal Assistance Fund. This fund is for legal assistance to low-income residents involved in dissolution of marriage or modification of child support/custody cases in which other legal assistance is not available.  Fourteen other programs throughout the state also received grant funding, including statewide programs such as Iowa Legal Aid, which has a regional office in Mason City. Iowa Legal Aid provides civil case assistance to low-income residents.  The grant funds are generated entirely from interest earned on certain pooled trust accounts held by Iowa’s lawyers.”  (globegazette.com)

May 20, 2014 – On Tuesday Department of Justice Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz released a report examining the John R. Justice (JRJ) grant program, which provides student loan assistance to attorneys serving as state and local prosecutors or federal, state, and local public defenders.  JRJ program grants are provided to U.S. states and territories, which are responsible for selecting eligible attorney applicants for JRJ awards.  The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) audit found that the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) needs to improve its record-keeping, oversight, and communication with state administering agencies and beneficiaries to ensure responsible tracking of the $28 million that has been appropriated to fund the JRJ program since 2010.  The audit found many issues with the program and the way the funds are being handled, including funds going to states that weren’t distributed.  The OIG made 12 recommendations addressing the administration of JRJ program funds, the tracking of JRJ participants and their owed repayments, and factors that may detract from the financial benefit of the program.  OJP agreed with all 12 recommendations.  I highly recommend reading the report. (DOJ OIG)

May 20, 2014 – “Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services, a foundation-supported justice incubator and residency program, has debuted in Pittsburgh and in Akron, Ohio, to serve clients of modest means — individuals, groups and small businesses. Emily Collins is the executive director; she previously was at the University of Pittsburgh’s Environmental Law Clinic.”  Resident attorneys will spend two years in residence at Fair Shake serving modest means clients.  Fair Shake also employs full-time, permanent staff.  (Pittsburgh Business Times)

May 20, 2014 – “The Law School Admission Council agreed to an overhaul Tuesday that, combined with $7.73 million in penalties and damages, will settle disability-discrimination claims.  The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing brought the original suit on behalf of California test takers, and the United States soon intervened in the case to ensure comprehensive and nationwide relief.  They alleged that 17 disabled students taking the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), administered by LSAC, were forced to submit to ‘psychoeducational and neuropsychological testing after requesting extra time or other accommodations.’  LSAC also allegedly required disabled test-takers to disclose whether they took prescription medications during evaluations of their condition, and it allegedly ‘flagged’ the exam scores of those who received accommodations for extra time.  U.S. District Judge Edward Chen had refused in 2012 to dismiss the action, which alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the California Fair Housing and Employment Act, and the Unruh Act.  All parties filed a joint motion Tuesday for entry of a consent decree that requires the LSAC to pay $7.73 million in penalties and damages, compensating more than 6,000 individuals nationwide who applied for testing accommodations on the LSAT over the past five years.”  More about the other terms of the decree are here.  (Courthouse News Service)

May 21, 2014 – “Combining direct legal services, policy advocacy, and impact litigation strategies, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area advances the rights of immigrants, refugees and communities of color, with a specific focus on low income communities and a long-standing commitment to African Americans. We provide leadership and expertise in identifying legal issues and cases that are critical to the advancement of minority and immigrant communities, and we marshal the resources of the private bar to help effect structural change.”  “[T]he law school will seek input from legal services providers, minority communities and tribes to ‘develop a plan to create a pipeline of excellent lawyers who reflect New Mexico’s diverse communities and who will serve low-income children and families.'”  (Albuquerque Journal)

May 21, 2014 – “The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), joined by its project partners the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law (CHRCL), and the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild (NIP/NLG), are delighted to announce Danielle Alvarado has been named the recipient of the Michael Maggio Immigrants’ Rights Summer Fellowship for 2014. Ms. Alvarado, a second-year law student at Northeastern University will use her time as a fellow to clerk at the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice.”  (AILA InfoNet)

May 22, 2014 – Earlier the Boston Globe did a great article on the study by the Massachusetts Bar Association on salaries paid to public defenders and prosecutors.  Basically, the Bar said the State must do better or criminal justice lawyers will become the working poor.  “The report said that Massachusetts ranks dead last in annual salaries paid to public defenders through the Committee for Public Counsel Services and that county prosecutors often are the lowest-paid person in a courtroom, finishing behind custodial workers.  The study was conducted by the MBA’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Criminal Justice Attorney Compensation, which included a current and former judge, bar association officials, defense attorneys, and former district attorneys.”

This week we have an excellent follow up, including interviews from defenders and prosecutors who are the heart and soul of the criminal justice system and are paid less than $40,000 a year.  (Boston Globe)

May 22, 2014 – “Gov. John Hickenlooper signed legislation to guarantee legal representation for juveniles facing charges in Colorado.  The bill Hickenlooper signed Wednesday will require that minors have either a court-appointed attorney or a private lawyer at detention hearings. That’s where a judge determines whether a defendant should be released while their case is pending.  The legislation comes in response to data from youth advocates showing that nearly half of juveniles with cases in state courts don’t get legal representation.  Supporters of the legislation argue that juveniles sometimes resolve their cases without understanding the long-term consequences of the proceedings.”  (Daily Journal)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:  Law firms are an important component of the provision of legal services to those most in need.  The National Legal Aid and Defender Association (NLADA) honors those firms with the 2014 Beacon of Justice Award. The exceptional law firms listed below have all devoted significant time and resources to creating and implementing innovative strategies to improve life outcomes for low income individuals.  Congratulations and thank you for your contributions to access to justice!  (NLADA)

The full list of 2014 Beacon of Justice winners is as follows:

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP
Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC
Briggs and Morgan, P.A.
Callister Nebeker & McCullough
Cook, Yancey, King & Galloway 
Dechert LLP
DLA Piper
Fenwick & West LLP
Friday, Eldredge & Clark, LLP
Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP
Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP
Kaye Scholer LLP
Kirkland & Ellis LLP
Locke Lord LLP
Lowenstein Sandler LLP
Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo P.C.
O’Melveny & Myers LLP
Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP
Polsinelli LLP
Quarles & Brady LLP
Robins, Kaplan, Miller, Ciresi L.L.P.
Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP
Stinson Leonard Street LLP
Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP
Sullivan & Cromwell LLP

Super Music Bonus! In a bit of a summer mood this Memorial Day weekend.  Enjoy!

http://youtu.be/Kr0tTbTbmVA

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