PSJD Public Interest News Digest – June 13, 2014

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

Happy Friday the 13th everyone!  This week there is a lot going on.  The big news is the extension of PAYE.  Here’s hoping it means more folks can follow their passions.

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

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • The 2014 Public Sector & Public Interest Attorney Salary Report now available;
  • Ontario justice groups launch access to justice collaborative;
  • Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service receives grant;
  • DOJ starts legal aid program for immigrant children;
  • The Capital Assistance Project of Louisiana seeks to withdraw from multiple capital cases citing budget problems;
  • FL firm launches veterans scholarship;
  • CA pioneers court-aided one-day divorce;
  • President Obama extends PAYE;
  • ABA Council says no to paid student externships;
  • Senator Warren’s student loan bill stalls;
  • FL Gov. Scott vetoes legal services funding & Board of Governors rejects proposed bar fee increase;
  • DC Bar Foundation awards $600,000 for legal services;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: NYC Bar Association honors public service;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

The Public Sector & Public Interest Attorney Salary Report is now available in the NALP bookstore.  It is THE definitive source for public sector salaries.  You can search by employer type and region.  There is also great information LRAP programs and federal government salaries and benefits.

June 5, 2014 – The Law Society of Upper Canada’s access to justice initiative, known as TAG, creates a forum for the legal and justice sectors to foster teamwork on the access to justice front.  “LSUC Treasurer Thomas Conway, who created the initiative, says this is ‘without a doubt’ one of his biggest accomplishments.”  “Two years ago, when I was first elected, the goal I set was to define a new role for the law society in improving access to justice,” says Conway.  “At the meeting, participants discussed what they are already doing to share their knowledge with other justice groups, and brainstormed innovative ideas to make justice more accessible. Their suggestions included creating a sort of “incubator” for lawyers building a practice to help underserved clients, coaching self-represented litigants, and setting up a ‘legal brokerage’ to assist family law litigants at a reduced fee.”  Collaborators will use the information they have to press government and other agencies to work together to provide better access to justice.  (Canadian Lawyer Magazine)

June 5, 2014 – “The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) has recently granted $100,000 to Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service to support three key program areas. $50,000 will be designated to support the LIRS Access to Justice Program, which engages congregations to help provide holistic services to immigrants and migrants released from detention on the journey to integration. The grant will expand educational resources for local congregations, increase staff capacity, and cover travel to support local partners.”  “As the second largest refugee resettlement agency in the U.S., LIRS is nationally recognized for its leadership advocating with refugees, asylum seekers, unaccompanied children, immigrants in detention, families fractured by migration and other vulnerable populations, and for providing services to migrants through over 60 grassroots legal and social service partners across the United States. Celebrating 75 years of service and advocacy this year, LIRS has helped more than 500,000 migrants and refugees rebuild their lives in America.”  (

June 6, 2014 – “The Department of Justice said on Friday it will help provide lawyers for the growing number of children coming to the United States illegally, without parents or relatives accompanying them.  The new program, established in conjunction with the agency that administers the AmeriCorps volunteer program, will seek out around 100 lawyers and paralegals to provide legal services to the children, the department said.”  The new justice AmeriCorps members will also “help identify unaccompanied immigrant children who have been victims of human trafficking or abuse to assist in the investigation and prosecution of those who perpetrate such crimes on those children.” (Reuters) (DOJ)

June 6, 2014 – The Capital Assistance Project of Louisiana (CAPOLA) has filed motions to withdraw as council in multiple capital cases, citing budget issues.  “Court records document the issue:  ‘In recent years the contractual arrangements and awarding of the annual contracts have been handled by the Louisiana Public Defender Board (LPDB)… The Executive Director of CAPOLA has been informed by the LPDB that LPDB has made no provision to fund CAPOLA for the upcoming fiscal year.’  CAPOLA received almost $1.4 million funding in 2013from the state board’s $33m dollar budget.”  “Louisiana State public defender Jay Dixon says they’re reviewing CAPOLA’s operations and calls the motions to withdraw ‘premature.’  Prosecutors say allowing CAPOLA attorneys to drop cases could affect their ability to try for the death penalty, a claim Dixon denies.”  The state board meets with CAPOLA board members this week to examine their performance review.  (KTBS)

June 6, 2014 – “Florida traffic attorneys Katz & Phillips, PA announced a new scholarship this week for veterans of the armed forces pursuing a law degree.  The $1,000 Law Scholarship for Veterans is the first of its kind offered by Katz & Phillips, which issues a number of law school scholarships every year. It’s aimed at high-achieving, passionate law students who are either current or retired members of the military.”  “The scholarship is open to veterans of any branch of service, who served at home or overseas, who are attending or have been accepted to law school. Details and an application can be found online.”  (Digital Journal)
June 6, 2014 – With budgets being slashed and more and more litigants doing their own cases, the new reality of access to justice has to include helping individuals “do it themselves.”  The California Courts have taken up the charge with a new program for those seeking a divorce.  “In California, roughly three-fourths of family law litigants lack lawyers, said Maureen F. Hallahan, supervising judge in the family law division at San Diego Superior Court.”  “So now some courts in California offer one-day divorce programs for people who either can’t afford or don’t want to hire a lawyer. ‘The reality is, people are going to do it without lawyers, and we had to accommodate that,’ said Judge Hallahan.  The program doesn’t mean a divorce is truly started and completed in a single day — residency and notification requirements have to be met first. You must, for example, already have filed a divorce petition and served your spouse with divorce papers to participate. But the program does allow you to wrap things up in a single day, or even a matter of hours, once you meet the initial criteria.”  Currently, San Diego and Sacramento have programs.  I suspect we will see more soon.  (New York Times)

June 9, 2014 – President Barack Obama signed a presidential memorandum Monday expanding Pay As You Earn (PAYE) to  an additional 5 million borrowers.  The program “let borrowers pay no more than 10 percent of their monthly income in payments, but was only available for those who started borrowing after October 2007.  Obama’s memo expands that program by making opening it to those who borrowed anytime in the past.”  “Obama also announced he is directing the government to renegotiate contracts with federal student loan servicers to encourage them to make it easier for borrowers to avoid defaulting on their loans.”  The President also to endorsed Sentate legislation that would let college graduates with heavy debts refinance their loans.  The Senate is expected to debate the legislation next week.  (PBS NewsHour)

June 10, 2014 – “It appears the American Bar Association’s ban on allowing law students to receive both pay and academic credit for externships will remain in force.”  “The council on June 6 took up a multitude of revisions to the accreditation standards and sent them for review by the ABA’s House of Delegates during its next annual meeting in August in Boston. The council could revise the standards depending on the delgates’ feedback, but it has the final say.”  (National Law Journal)

June 11, 2014 – “The Senate on Wednesday voted not to move forward on a bill from Sen. Elizabeth Warren that would have allowed an estimated 25 million people with older student loans to refinance that debt at current, lower interest rates.  President Barack Obama and second lady Jill Biden had thrown their support behind the bill in recent days, and Obama on Monday rolled out new executive actions to help address student loan debt alongside the action in the Senate.”  (Politico)

June 11, 2014 – “For the fourth year running, Gov. Rick Scott has vetoed funding earmarked to provide legal service for low-income Florida residents.  According to the News Service of Florida, the June 2 veto eliminated $2 million that the 2014-15 state budget of $77.1 billion described as ‘civil legal assistance.'”  “Scott’s veto comes as the legal community debates a proposal by some to raise Florida Bar annual dues 27 percent, from $265 to $365, to fund legal services for low-income residents.”  The Florida Bar board of governors recently voted against the proposal, while proponents plan to petition the Florida Supreme Court on June 16 “to request The Florida Bar take up the issue” again.  (KeysInfoNet)

June 12, 2014 – “The DC Bar Foundation announces the FY14 DC Legal Services Grants awards to 20 organizations totaling $600,000 to support civil legal services providers, based in the District of Columbia, that serve low-income, underrepresented DC residents.”  “The Board of the Bar Foundation is pleased that we could add $600,000 to the ability of civil legal service providers to undertake their important work. This is an important supplement to the $3.4 million that we disbursed earlier this year for the Access to Justice Grants program. We will continue to work hard so this support can continue to expand in the years ahead,” said Marc L. Fleischaker, President of the Foundation’s Board of Directors.  (DC Bar Foundation)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:  The New York City Bar Association last night honored the recipients of the 25th Annual Legal Services Awards, which give recognition to attorneys and non-attorneys who provide outstanding civil legal assistance to New York’s poor. Among the honorees was Margaret Becker, Director of LSNYC’s Staten Island Disaster Recovery Unit.  This year’s other recipients were: Alan Canner, The Legal Aid Society, Harlem Community Law Office; Bernadette Jentsch, MFY Legal Services; Liz Markuci, Immigration Project, Volunteers of Legal Service; and Leander McRae, Preserving Affordable Housing Program, Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A . The Awards were presented by Hon. Jenny Rivera, Associate Judge of the New York Court of Appeals.  Congratulations and thank you for your great work!  (Legal Services NYC)

Super Music Bonus! Worst summer jobs with Jimmy Fallon of The Tonight Show.

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