PSJD Public Interest News Digest – June 27, 2014

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

Happy Friday everyone!

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

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • FL attorneys file petition to increase fees to help legal aid;
  • Legal Aid Foundation launches Thunderdome Tallahassee;
  • Anonymous donor gives $4 mil to SMU for legal clinic;
  • New federal agencies sign up for virtual interns;
  • B.C. lawyers to withhold legal aid in protest;
  • “And Justice for All” welcomes first legal fellow;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: “Clerical Queen” Cindy Jensen;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

June 19, 2014 – “A coalition of attorneys, including former Supreme Court Justice Raoul Cantero, filed a petition Monday with the state’s top court seeking to hike fees on lawyers to help fund legal services for the poor.  The Florida Bar wasted no time reaffirming its opposition to the effort to increase Bar fees by $100, noting there are lawyers struggling to make ends meet.  Bar President Eugene Pettis said the Bar doesn’t oppose the intent of the petition, rather how the funding ‘crisis’ and the continued delivery of legal aid is addressed.”  (Florida Courier)

June 23, 2014 – “The Legal Aid Foundation has announced a new program: Thunderdome Tallahassee, a hands-on legal group training program to provide education, camaraderie, networking, leadership and recognition to a new generation of lawyers serving the community.  For 45 years, the Legal Aid Foundation has matched volunteer lawyers to low-income families needing legal solutions to desperate situations. Though many lawyers in our area volunteer free representation to those who need it, finding a family law volunteer is particularly difficult.”  “Thunderdome Tallahassee addresses this gaping need for equal access to the law, while supporting volunteer lawyers with the best in legal education and leadership development. This summer, 15 to 20 diverse young lawyers will apply or be nominated for LAF’s inaugural class. Each will commit to volunteer representation for a family law case more than 9 months of training, mentorship and leadership development.  Upon completion of the program, participants will be invited to return as mentors and presenters to future Thunderdome Tallahassee classes. This supportive environment will foster new and continued volunteerism, benefiting local families and children.”  (Tallahassee Democrat)

June 23, 2014 – “An anonymous donor has given $4 million to SMU’s Dedman School of Law to endow the new VanSickle Family Law Clinic to provide free legal help for Dallas residents and skills training for law students.  The clinic, expected to open in fall 2015, will help low-income North Texas residents with divorces, annulments, paternity actions, custody and visitation issues, and child support.”  (Dallas News)

June 23, 2014 – “A dozen federal agencies have signed on to a virtual internship program run through the State Department that fields out special agency projects to American college students.”  The Virtual Student Foreign Service eInternship program “received 315 requests from federal agencies for e-interns this year, a record number compared to the 276 requests in 2013.”  “The 315 projects available this year include work in research, computer programming, graphic design, journalism, data analysis, social media, finance, blogging, STEM, food security, public diplomacy and law. If selected, e-interns will commit to volunteering 10 hours per week starting in September 2014 through April 2014.”  Students can apply to their top three projects on between July 2 and 22. The 320 projects will be posted on the VSFS website at the end of June.  (Nextgov)

June 23, 2014 – “B.C. lawyers are being urged not to work on legal aid cases next month to protest what some legal advocates are calling a chronic underfunding of the system, possibly leading to empty courtrooms. ‘The idea is that we’re going to keep judges very unbusy for the month of July,’ Birgit Eder, a member of the Trial Lawyers Association of B.C.’s legal aid action committee, said in an interview.”  “Ms. Eder said lawyers in Vancouver, Victoria and Kamloops have been asked not to schedule any legal aid matters for next month. The committee says the amount of money put into legal aid by government lags far behind other court spending, and that 40 per cent of people accused in criminal court must now represent themselves. It says 90 per cent of people in small-claims court represent themselves, while in family court, it’s 95 per cent.”  “Justice Minister Suzanne Anton, in a written statement, said government recognizes the important role legal aid plays in providing services. She said that’s why the province increased the Legal Services Society’s budget by $2-million this year, to $74.5-million.  She expressed confidence the protest would not bog down the court system.” (The Globe and Mail)

June 24, 2014 – “‘And Justice for All,’ a Utah nonprofit organization that supports three legal service agencies and provides grants to five others, has launched a legal fellowship program thanks to a $10,000 grant from CIT Bank.  Mary Anne Davies, a recent graduate of Loyola Law School, has joined the Disability Law Center as the first ‘And Justice for All’ legal fellow. The center is a protection and advocacy organization for people with disabilities.  As a fellow, Davies joins a staff of about 30 in assisting people with disabilities who have experienced discrimination at work, school or in the community. The agency also advocates for people who are abused or neglected in institutional settings or in the community.”  (Deseret News)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:  This happens all over the federal government, but no one talks about it.  A great person with experience sees a problem and does something about it.  Enter “Clerical Queen” Cindy Jensen. Thinking there had to be a better way than the cumbersome manual payment process formerly used, which was based on hard-copy billing, Ms. Jensen began brainstorming a computerized billing program six years ago.  “Six months later, with the help of two technicians, a prototype had been developed. Today her CJA eVoucher (the CJA stands for Criminal Justice Act) is used in 18 federal courthouses in western states and, earlier this year, the director of federal courthouses announced that it would become the standard system throughout the country.”  The system is expected to speed up payment to indigent defense attorneys at more than 100 federal courthouses across the country.  Outstanding work Ms. Jensen!! (Las Vegas Sun)

Super Music Bonus! 

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