PSJD Public Interest News Digest – May 30, 2014

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

Happy Friday!  Summer is in full swing!  Are you looking for additional ways to increase your skills?  New opportunities are being added daily to PSJD.

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

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Ontario County, NY gets conflict defenders office;
  • Additional public defender relief coming to NY counties;
  • BC increases legal aid funding;
  • Legal Aid strike action still looms for summer in BC;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: Student activists;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

May 23, 2014 –  “Ontario County is moving forward in staffing its new conflict defender’s office. The office, which is expected to be fully functional by October, will handle cases for indigent defendants in which a conflict of interest exists within the public defender’s office.” “At its meeting next Thursday, May 29, the Board of Supervisors is due to approve the appointment of Andrea Schoeneman, of Victor, as the new conflict defender.”  (Victor Post)

May 23, 2014 – “Struggling with sometimes unmanageable caseloads, public defenders in the Capital Region may soon get a bit of relief as more than $1 million in state money will soon flow into local offices to hire more attorneys.  The funds come from grants dispersed throughout New York by the Office of Indigent Legal Services (OILS), the state’s first program for guiding the quality of assigned counsel. Now OILS is working to disperse an additional $12 million to counties across New York to reduce caseloads.”  (Times Union)

May 26, 2014 – “The [British Columbia] government is shelling out $2 million to expand legal aid services and launch new pilot projects.  The new funding aims to increase access to justice and resolve disputes more quickly.  Projects include a Parents’ Legal Centre for child protection cases, and expanded duty counsel and family legal advice at the Victoria Justice Access Centre.”  (CKNW)

May 27, 2014 – Despite the $2 million recently added to the British Columbia budget for legal aid, it is not near enough for legal aid lawyers.  “Some B.C. lawyers are once again planning to withdraw legal aid services in a bid to force the provincial government to pour more money into the system.  Bentley Doyle, spokesman for the Trial Lawyers Association of B.C., said participating lawyers will halt work on existing legal aid cases and refuse new ones for the month of July.  Previous legal aid ‘strikes’ split the legal community and there’s no sign the tactic will be embraced by all lawyers this time either.  Doyle said 50 to 75 lawyers in Vancouver are on board, as well as a group in Kamloops and the aim is to recruit more in other areas.”  “The plan is to continue the action in the fall with one-week-a-month stoppages starting in October. Both criminal and family law cases will be affected.”  (BC Local News)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:  Students are a powerful force for change.  As history has born out repeatedly, people who ban together for a common cause often triumph.  That was the case when a group of students in China got together in 1989 to protest against their government.  “Ignoring government warnings of suppression of any mass demonstration, students from more than 40 universities began a march to Tiananmen on April 27. The students were joined by workers, intellectuals, and civil servants, and by mid-May more than a million people filled the square, the site of Mao Zedong’s proclamation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949.

On May 20, the government formally declared martial law in Beijing, and troops and tanks were called in to disperse the dissidents. However, large numbers of students and citizens blocked the army’s advance, and by May 23 government forces had pulled back to the outskirts of Beijing. On June 3, with negotiations to end the protests stalled and calls for democratic reforms escalating, the troops received orders from the Chinese government to seize control of Tiananmen Square and the streets of Beijing. Hundreds were killed and thousands arrested.”  (History Channel)  In the aftermath, the world responded.    Many say this protest was an example for the recent Arab spring and other events that have brought about change.  So, take action.  You may be surprised at the result.

Super Music Bonus! Getting ready for the World Cup?

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