PSJD Public Interest News Digest – July 11, 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:

  • Legal Aid Ontario to fund more Gladue services in Thunder Bay;
  • LA court opens self-help website;
  • Denver (CO) County Court judges seek new defender office;
  • BC lawyers back to job action;
  • ND pilot program exposes law students to rural careers;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: Scopes Trial litigants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

July 4, 2014 – “Legal Aid Ontario plans to address the ‘acute need’ for Gladue services in Northwestern Ontario in the coming months.  ‘When all this is finished we’ll have the best Gladue program across the country,’ director general Nye Thomas said. ‘There’ll still be more work to do after that, but it’s addressing a long standing need.’  Gladue reports allow the court to consider the life circumstances of Aboriginal people accused of crimes. It’s a method of addressing the over-representation of Aboriginal peoples in the criminal justice system.”  “Nishnawbe Aski Legal Services submitted a proposal for Legal Aid Ontario to fund three Gladue report writers. One based in Thunder Bay, one in Sioux Lookout and one in Timmins.”  “The Lakehead Law school has also asked for funding for Gladue services from Legal Aid Ontario.”  The details haven’t been finalized, but Thomas is optimistic that they will be able to provide funding to both those programs within a year.  (cbcnews)

July 5, 2014 – “A state district judge has introduced a new self-help website designed to provide easier and wider access to legal services.
Fourth Judicial District Judge Wendell Manning says the website — — is the result of a collaboration between the court, its bar association, the Louisiana Bar Association, the Ouachita Parish Clerk of Court’s Office and Access to Justice.”  “Manning says he hopes the site’s services will help to close the gap between those who qualify for legal aid and those who have an income source but can’t afford an attorney.”  (

July 5, 2014 – “Denver County Court is seeking creation of a public defender’s office for municipal offenses, replacing contracted attorneys with in-house lawyers to represent needy defendants.  Similar to an office in Aurora, the new public defender would represent those accused of violating municipal ordinances — not state criminal offenses — if they face jail time.  Presiding Judge John Marcucci made the case for the change to a City Council committee, which signed off 4-0.”  If approved, the office will begin operation January 1, 2015. (The Denver Post)

July 5, 2014 – “The Trial Lawyers Association of BC is starting a new wave of job action today. Kamloops lawyer Michelle Stanford, who sits on the Legal Aid Action Committee, says a blackout period starts today and runs until August 8th. That means participating lawyers will refuse to perform duty counsel services, attend trials or bail or sentencing hearings. The next stage will involve one week of blackouts per month. That begins in October and will go on indefinitely.  Stanford says the lawyers have long been pressing the government for desperately needed Legal Aid funding, money to help those who can’t afford their own legal representation. She says the unfortunate part of this job action, is it will hurt those they want to serve. That includes people needing help with family matters or dealing with mental health issues.  The lawyers’ job action was halted after the last provincial election to allow talks to continue with the new Attorney General, but now they’re putting the heat back on.”  (CFJC TV)

July 5, 2014 – “Opportunities abound to practice law in rural North Dakota. The challenge has been persuading young law students to seize those opportunities.  The State Bar Association of North Dakota, University of North Dakota School of Law and North Dakota court system have responded with a pilot project that this summer has two law students working for pay as clerks for rural district judges. The program is designed to expose students to the law and lifestyle in communities of fewer than 15,000 people.” Currently, two students are participating, but there are hopes to expand the program to allow students to clerk with rural attorneys.  (The Bismark Tribune)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:  On July 10, 1925, in Dayton, Tennessee, the so-called “Monkey Trial” begins with John Thomas Scopes, a young high school science teacher, accused of teaching evolution in violation of a Tennessee state law.  The law, which had been passed in March, made it a misdemeanor punishable by fine to “teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals.” With local businessman George Rappalyea, Scopes had conspired to get charged with this violation, and after his arrest the pair enlisted the aid of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to organize a defense. Hearing of this coordinated attack on Christian fundamentalism, William Jennings Bryan, the three-time Democratic presidential candidate and a fundamentalist hero, volunteered to assist the prosecution. Soon after, the great attorney Clarence Darrow agreed to join the ACLU in the defense, and the stage was set for one of the most famous trials in U.S. history.  Reviewing the details now provides a fascinating look at where we’ve been and perhaps a preview of where we’re going as a society. Read more here.

Super Music Bonus!

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