PSJD Public Interest News Digest – August 22, 2014

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

Happy Friday everyone!  This week the 2014-2015 PSJD Fellow Sam Halpert and the 2014-2016 Street Law Fellow Emily Peeler joined our team.  We are thrilled to have them!  We have also gotten a great response from our request to schools to share their Orientation Service Projects.  So, for the next few weeks, we will be featuring information about those projects.  There is some amazing work going on out there, and we’re thrilled to see the dedication these students and law school professionals have to their communities.

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

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Legal Aid Alberta ordered to take on more clients;
  • Mississippi Center for Legal Services celebrates 40 years;
  • Columbia Law given $3.5 mil for climate change center;
  • Suffolk University closes Rappoport Center;
  • University of Ottawa Law School launches Business Law Clinic;
  • Duke Law launches Civil Justice Clinic;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: Professional Development and Pro Bono staff of IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, Fordham Law School, USC School of Law, Georgetown University Law Center, and Penn Law;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

August 14, 2014 – “Legal Aid Alberta’s already-dire finances worsened this week when a provincial court judge decided the group should fund three more clients previously rejected based on eligibility requirements.  Assistant Chief Judge Larry Anderson called Legal Aid’s budget ‘clearly’ inadequate and concluded that the right to a fair trial for three separate accused was in jeopardy without a government-funded defence. All three receive Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped that puts their monthly income roughly $40 too high to qualify for a discounted lawyer.  Anderson ordered all three should be provided with Legal Aid counsel within a week. Failing that, he wrote, their charges should be stayed.  ‘Providing access to justice is the obligation of the government,’ he wrote.  Such court-ordered funding is an unbudgeted expense for Legal Aid. Since February, when Legal Aid began to strictly enforce financial eligibility because of stagnant government funding, it has been ordered to provide counsel 40 times. In all of 2013, that only happened twice.  ‘The explosion of these orders will bring Legal Aid Alberta to the precipice of our impending financial difficulties much sooner,’ said Suzanne Polkosnik, Legal Aid’s president and CEO. ‘It could cause us very quickly to be in a negative-cash position this year.'”  (Edmonton Journal)

August 14, 2014 – “The Mississippi Center for Legal Services will celebrate its 40th anniversary.”  “On July 24, 1974, Congress passed the Legal Services Act. The Mississippi Center for Legal Services (MCLS) believes it is essential that the 40th anniversary of the passage of this important legislation be celebrated.”  “The Mississippi Center for Legal Services represents low-income people in 43 central and south Mississippi counties in civil legal matters including family law, housing and foreclosure, consumer issues and income maintenance. Legal Services also assists military families and provides civil legal assistance to victims of disasters.”  (Mississippi Business Journal)

August 18, 2014 – “Columbia Law School has received a $3.5 million gift from the Andrew Sabin Family Foundation to bolster its Center for Climate Change Law.  That center, which develops legal avenues to fight climate change and trains lawyers in those techniques, has been renamed the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law. The money will allow the center to hire a full-time executive director and help pay for an annual Sabin Colloquium on Environmental Law Scholarship.”  (National Law Journal) (subscription required)

August 18, 2014 – Suffolk University Law School has closed the Rappaport Center for Law and Public Service, and this summer graduated the center’s last class of Rappaport public service fellows.  “With the closure of the Rappaport Center, Suffolk will transfer the remaining money from the original endowment to the law school that continues on with the Rappport programs, said [Phyllis] Rappaport. The foundation now is talking with other law schools in the area to find a new home for the program, she said, and the plan is to have a new Rapport center program up-and-running at another law school by the end of September.”(Boston Business Journal)

August 19, 2014 – “The University of Ottawa has announced it will launch its Business Law Clinic in September, a program it says will benefit both the university and the business community.  The clinic will offer pro bono legal services to entrepreneurs, small businesses and non-profit organizations in both official languages.”  (Ottawa Business Journal)

August 19, 2014 – “Low-income Durham residents who need a lawyer but can’t afford one will get a boost from Duke Law School as it launches a Civil Justice Clinic.  The clinic will partner with Legal Aid of North Carolina, a nonprofit law firm with an office in Durham, that provides free legal services to those in poverty in civil matters such as housing and employment.  The clinic will welcome its first class of students next week. It will provide them real-world experience as they work directly with clients and enhance their litigation skills, according to Duke law professor Charles Holton, who directs the new clinic.”  “Housing matters involving tenant-landlord disputes will be a top priority at the clinic, Holton said.”  (The Herald-Sun)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: 

Chicago-Kent College of Law’s Public Service Day.  Incoming first year students have the option to volunteer at three locations, mainly helping out some schools with set-up for the start of the year. Students can also volunteer with the Center for Disability and Elder Law, with one of the school’s alumni. There students prepare Illinois Statutory Powers of Attorney for Health Care and Property, as well as Illinois Living Will Declarations for residents at several facilities.

Fordham Law School’s Public Service Day is in its 9th year.  The event is coordinated by our Public Interest Resource Center, the home of student initiated public service.  Each project is organized by student groups, in partnership with community partners—some of which are legal services providers.   Faculty, administrators and staff are invited to attend (via school wide email) and each year between 2 and 5 members of that community join us.

During USC School of Law’s 6th Annual Incoming Law Student Community Service Project, the Class of 2017 will be joined by members of the faculty and staff and lead by their peer mentors as they strive to make a difference in 14 locations around the Midlands.  During the afternoon the teams will paint apartments, sort food and clothes, landscape, move furniture, reshelf books and a variety of other tasks. Law students volunteer throughout the year with a number of these organizations to help address legal issues, but for this one afternoon they will not be relying on their professional skills. Instead they will be making a difference with a totally different set of skills- strong backs and a willingness to get dirty!  The Incoming Law Student Community Service Project is a joint effort sponsored by the Office of Student Affairs, the Pro Bono Program and the SBA.

Georgetown University Law Center’s Orientation Community Service Project will visit six sites this year.  One of the highlights of Orientation Week is the opportunity for students to spend a morning or afternoon giving back to the DC community by participating in a 1L Orientation Service Project. For many 1Ls, this event also serves as a way to meet classmates, staff and faculty, explore Washington DC, and learn about the wealth of service and pro bono opportunities available at Georgetown Law.

Each year the University of Pennsylvania Law School’s Toll Public Interest Center sponsors a half day of hands-on service in Philadelphia for Penn Law students, faculty, and staff.  This year, five sites will benefit from their work.  More than half of the incoming class signs up a to get to know the community they’ll be part of for the next three years.  Students will clean neighborhoods, spruce up schools, work in urban farms/gardens, and sort food/clothes among other projects. Current students, staff and faculty are also invited.

Super Music Bonus!  We start our tribute to staff alma maters this week with one of Fred’s picks – the USC Fight Song.


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