PSJD Public Interest News Digest – November 7, 2014

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

Happy Friday everyone!  Welcome to November.  Can you believe the holidays are almost upon us?  Now that we’re in the full swing of 1L counseling, any new initiatives out there we should know about?

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Alberta increases legal aid funding/raises eligibility threshold;
  • Vermont Legal Aid receives HUD grant;
  • FL Supreme Court to decide bar dues increase fight;
  • New York Law School starts public interest center and new externship program;
  • NY State Bar seeks broader definition of pro bono;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: Jeannette Rankin;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

October 30, 2014 – “The provincial government on Thursday announced increased Legal Aid funding which will allow lower income Albertans, such as those on AISH, access to justice.  An additional $5.5 million was pledged to the $47.9 million already committed for this fiscal year, meaning the maximum annual eligible income will be increased from $16,176 to $19,056.  The additional funds were ‘necessary to increase the eligibility requirement above AISH levels,’ Justice Minister Jonathan Denis said of those on Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped.”  (Calgary Sun)

October 30, 2014 – “Vermont Legal Aid has received a three-year Fair Housing Initiatives Program Grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to continue the Housing Discrimination Law Project’s work to ensure Vermonters’ access to housing and to challenge both individual and systemic discriminatory practices. The $975,000 grant will be disbursed over three years to fund Vermont Legal Aid’s statewide systemic and complaint-based testing project, fair housing counseling, representation in enforcement actions, education, and land use planning and policy advocacy with state and local officials.”  (vermontbiz)

November 4, 2014 – Legal aid providers in Florida are at the crisis stage.  “A combination of [Governor Rick] Scott’s budget vetoes and the [Florida State] bar’s refusal to add a new $100 fee to its membership dues mean that Florida’s legal-aid budget is about to take a 40 percent whack. Pending a last-minute emergency rescue by the Florida Supreme Court next month, hundreds of attorneys who help the poor will be out of a job.”   A group led by Kent Spuhler, executive director of Florida Legal Services Inc., has challenged the State Bar’s decision.  Oral arguments will be heard by the Florida Supreme Court on December 2.  (Miami New Times Blog)

November 4, 2014 – “New York Law School has launched the Impact Center for Public Interest Law, which will act as an umbrella for seven new and five existing initiatives seeking to advance social justice.  The Unshared Bounty Project, the Health Law and Patient Safety Initiative, the Voting Rights and Civic Participation Project, the Detention and the Struggle Against Terrorism, and the Safe Passage Project will be housed at the Center.”  “Separately, the school has started an externship program that places four fellows within eight business improvement districts (BID) in the city. The three students and one recent graduate in the Neighborhood Legal Fellows Program this fall are researching BID legal issues, such as city administrative law compliance, under the supervision of the city’s Small Business Services legal team. The graduate fellow will receive $3,000 while the students receive course credit.”  (New York Law Journal) (free subscription required)

November 4, 2014 – “The Unified Court System will work with the New York State Bar Association to develop a more expansive definition of pro bono to guide attorneys when they disclose pro bono hours and monetary contributions.  State Bar President Glenn Lau-Kee said drafts of more liberal definitions of pro bono were being exchanged between his group and the court system. On Saturday, the state bar’s House of Delegates adopted his resolution calling on the court to amend §118.1 of the Rules of the Chief Administrative Judge to identify additional activities as ‘reportable hours and financial contributions given by attorneys’ toward pro bono (NYLJ, Nov. 3).  “Lau-Kee said adding new categories of service to §118 of the Rules of the Chief Administrator will effectively formalize new and expanded definitions of pro bono.”  (New York Law Journal) (free subscription required)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: On this day in 1916, Montana suffragist Jeannette Rankin is elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. She is the first woman in the history of the nation to win a seat in the federal Congress.  Today, in the 113th Congress, there are 99 women (20 in the Senate and 79 in the House of Representatives) serving.  That is 18.5% of the elected officials in Congress.  Doesn’t seem like we’ve come that far in 100 years, have we?  One avenue toward change is to motivate our girls to grow up to become women who  seek change in positive ways.  I know we all know someone like that.  Let’s make an extra effort to support and encourage them.  We all benefit from diversity in our electorate.  (History.com)(Rutgers Center for American Women and Politics)

Super Music Bonus!  A little blues from two of my favorites.

 

 

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