PSJD Public Interest News Digest – August 29, 2014

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

Happy Friday everyone!  See below for more great Orientation Service Projects!

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

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • New commission to make recommendations on access to justice in AZ;
  • Young immigrants could benefit from proposed bill in CA;
  • Legal Aid Alberta welcomes new funds;
  • Jacksonville (FL) to cut legal aid for thousands;
  • Legal Aid groups to get $30 million from bank settlement;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: Professional Development and Pro Bono staff of Boston University School of Law, Wayne State University, The University of Iowa College of Law, DePaul University College of Law, and George Washington University Law School;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

August 22, 2014 – “A new commission will make recommendations on ways to improve access to justice, including use of Arizona’s legal system and obtaining legal representation.  Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Scott Bales ordered the formation of the Commission on Access to Justice, naming Court of Appeals Judge Lawrence Winthrop as its chairman.  Other members include lower court judges, court officials and legal aid providers.  Bales set initial priorities that include helping people representing themselves in legal matters to get access and fair processing of family court and eviction cases. Another is encouraging law firms to provide free legal services or financial support for legal aid.  Winthrop says he also hopes to encourage more business involvement. He says a business can suffer when an employee is burdened by dealing with a legal matter.”  (

August 22, 2014 – “Young immigrants poised to flood California’s courts could get extra legal help under a bill offering $3 million to bolster legal services.”  “The newly announced bill would set aside $3 million that would be distributed to nonprofit organizations that offer legal services. Many of the immigrants pressing their cases could be seeking refugee status.”  (The Sacramento Bee)

August 22, 2014 – “Legal Aid Alberta welcomed the news Friday that the province will cover some unexpected costs that have taxed the already overburdened agency.  Alberta Justice and the Solicitor General confirmed it will provide funding over and above Legal Aid’s 2014/15 budget to cover costs when a judge orders the province to pay for a client’s defence lawyer.  Legal Aid used to get one or two such orders a year, but they have had more than 40 so far in 2014 and expect more.”  Deputy Minister Tim Grant said “his department would cover all orders for state-funded counsel until March 2015 and revisit the issue during next year’s budget discussions.” (Global News)

August 25, 2014 – “Thousands of working poor in Jacksonville could soon be out of luck when looking for a lawyer in a civil case.  The Executive Director of Jacksonville Area Legal Aid says he’ll need to make big cuts if more than $400,000 in funding taken out of the budget isn’t restored.”  “In Mayor Brown’s budget for next year, the agency was set to receive $433,000 to help them continue to provide those services. The Finance Committee looked at the budget, and slashed those funds completely.  JALA also didn’t get any funding last year.”  (First Coast News)

August 27, 2014 – “The $17 billion settlement that Bank of America reached with the Justice Department last week will result in at least $30 million for a program that raises funds for the nation’s providers of civil legal services to the poor.  The settlement — which resolved claims that the bank and its subsidiaries sold billions of dollars of mortgage-backed securities without fully disclosing to investors the quality of the loans — requires Bank of America to allocate $7 billion to consumer relief efforts. Of that portion, at least $30 million will go to the Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts program, known as IOLTA.  The program, which is run independently in all 50 states, D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands, pools interest generated from client funds being held by lawyers in each state, and distributes the proceeds to civil legal services providers in that state.”  (Washington Post)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: 

The Boston University School of Law Pre-Orientation Service Day saw more than 80 1Ls serve six locations.  Participating in service day is great way to get to know Boston, while volunteering for local non-profit organizations and making friends with your new classmates at the same time.

Incoming students at Wayne State University Law School, as well as returning students, faculty and staff, volunteered at the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative site near campus in Detroit, MI on Thursday, August 21, 2014.  Tasks ranged from planting and harvesting produce to demolition and construction of structures located on the farm.

Over 160 new JD, LLM, and exchange students at The University of Iowa College of Law participated in Tuesday’s orientation service event coordinated by the Citizen Lawyer Program.  These newest members of the Iowa Law community were joined by a dozen upper-class leaders and worked with six organizations at locations around Johnson County.

Iowa Law’s orientation service event is an annual tradition and introduces students to the importance of service in the legal profession and the work of the Citizen Lawyer Program.

DePaul University College of Law hosted its third annual 1L Service Day the day after 1L orientation.  The College of Law’s Pro Bono & Community Service Initiative coordinates the service day with the assistance of University Ministry and the Center for Public Interest Law. Law staff and faculty, as well as 2Ls and 3Ls, serve as site leaders.  This year, volunteers headed out to six different sites throughout Chicago and packed food boxes, read to children, served meals and made beds at a homeless shelter, organized classroom libraries, visited with seniors, and sorted clothing donations.   DePaul’s service day includes time for reflection about the University’s Vincentian mission and the impact and meaning of service and social justice.

George Washington University Law School’s Public Interest & Pro Bono Pre-Orientation was held on Wednesday, August 13 (the day before the general orientation for all 1Ls).  Approximately 90 new 1L students took part in the Community Service Program. This year’s project involved painting benches, lamps, and fences near the Smithsonian with the National Park Service.

Super Music Bonus!  This week is the battle of the Big 10 with myself and Meghan.

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