PSJD Public Interest News Digest – July 4, 2014

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

Happy July 4th!  Have a safe and happy holiday!

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

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic conduct needs assessment for trans people;
  • NYC legal aid groups get grant to help low-income tenants fighting eviction;
  • Justice Department of Canada aims to cut $52 mil in legal services;
  • NYC funds public defender system for immigrants;
  • St. Mary’s University School of Law to offer Presidential Scholarships to service-oriented students;
  • Baylor Law receives pro bono award;
  • MO legislature grants public defense money – Governor takes it away;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: Our Founding Fathers;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

June 24, 2014 – “The HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario (HALCO) is leading an innovative Trans Legal Needs Assessment project that will help trans people meet their legal needs and determine the barriers they face in accessing justice. Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) is funding this project as part of its support for the addition of gender identity and gender expression to the Ontario Human Rights Code.”  Ryan Peck, executive director of HALCO, adds, “Our goal for this project is to help a wide range of legal service providers make their vital services more available and accessible to all trans people.”  (Legal Aid Ontario)

June 26, 2014 – “New Yorkers facing eviction will get more help in Housing Court this year.  The City Council’s final budget, approved early Thursday, earmarked $5 million for free legal assistance for low-income tenants who are fighting their landlords in Housing Court, more than double the $2 million that was allocated last year.  The money will go to The Legal Aid Society, Legal Services NYC and other public attorney groups, in an effort to prevent the nearly 30,000 evictions that occurred in New York City last year, advocates said.”  (DNAinfo New York)

June 26, 2014 – “The federal Justice department is taking steps to cut $52.2 million worth of legal services it provides government over the next three years with “two waves” of reforms that will eliminate jobs, change the working relationship with client departments and, it hopes, improve efficiency.”  “In the first wave, the changes will eliminate the positions of 65 lawyers and 15 management jobs by 2017, which the department believes can be done by attrition rather than layoffs.  According to a memo circulated to staff, a key area for reform is ‘re-defining’ Justice’s relationship with client departments ‘to strike the right balance between supply and demand of legal services.'”  (Ottawa Citizen)

June 26, 2014 – “Poor New York City residents who have been detained in the immigration system and are facing deportation will now have legal representation to help them through the complicated proceedings after city lawmakers voted to fund a program advocates say is the first of its kind in the country. Lawmakers approved $4.9 million for the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project as part of the $75 billion budget passed early Thursday covering the next fiscal year, which starts July 1. The funding allows the initiative, which started as a $500,000 pilot program last year, to cover all eligible immigrant city residents appearing in immigration courts in New York City or the New Jersey cities of Elizabeth and Newark.”  (Wall Street Journal)

June 26, 2014 – “The St. Mary’s University School of Law will present as many as five, full-tuition Presidential Scholarships each year to service-oriented law students, starting as early as Fall 2014. The Presidential Scholarship is open to any law school applicant of outstanding academic achievement, commitment to the service to others, and potential for a life of community leadership.  The scholarship will cover 100 percent of the tuition and fees required to complete the Juris Doctor degree at St. Mary’s University, as well as a $5,000 annual stipend. Recipients will be expected to be active in the law school community while a student and to complete all three years of legal study at St. Mary’s.” (St. Mary’s University)

June 26, 2014 – “Baylor Law School was honored today by the State Bar of Texas with an award for exceptional service to the poor during the awards presentation at the organization’s Annual Meeting at the Hilton Austin and Austin Convention Center.  The State Bar presented Baylor Law School with the 2014 W. Frank Newton Award for Pro Bono Excellence. The award, presented by the bar’s Legal Services to the Poor in Civil Matters Committee, recognizes the pro bono contribution of attorney groups whose members have made an outstanding contribution to the provision of, or access to, legal services to the poor.”  (The Gilmore Mirror)

June 29, 2014 – “The Missouri State Public Defender System has once again failed in its quest for more funding.  Backed by new evidence that supports its claims of understaffing, the public defender system received about $4 million in funding increases from the legislature in the budget for fiscal year 2015. But Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed about 80 percent of the increase Tuesday.”  The system will receive “about $36 million in next year’s budget, with some additional money included to help the system contract out cases.”  (Missourian)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:  On July 4, 1776, “[i]n Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Continental Congress adopts the Declaration of Independence, which proclaims the independence of the United States of America from Great Britain and its king.”  From there, a system of government and laws developed that is the bedrock of our society.  Read more about the events leading up to the Declaration here.  Enjoy this uniquely American holiday! 

Super Music Bonus! A track to add to your July 4th playlist.

RSS feed for comments on this post · TrackBack URL

Leave a Comment