PSJD Public Interest News Digest – November 14, 2014

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

Happy Friday everyone!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Georgia State Law School opening clinic to help vets;
  • Lewis & Clark Law School shuts down pro bono legal clinic;
  • SUNY Buffalo Law School launches new veterans clinic;
  • Brooklyn charity fund seeks to help people too poor to afford bail;
  • William & Mary Law receives DOJ grant to expand domestic violence clinic;
  • Immigrant aid expands to western NY;
  • Columbia Law’s Human Rights Clinic launches mentor program;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: The Public Interest Law Society, the Black Law Students Association and the Latin American Law Students Association of Widener Law;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

November 7, 2014 – “Georgia State University officials say the school is opening a law clinic to serve roughly 800 veterans who are enrolled as students. GSU officials say the Law Volunteer Clinic for Veterans will open with a ribbon cutting ceremony Nov. 11 at 4 p.m. GSU dean and law professor Steven Kaminshine said in a statement that the clinic will demonstrate how a law school can provide a valuable community service. Kaminshine says the clinic will allow students to work with experienced volunteer lawyers and receive pro bono credit.”  (The Florida Times-Union)

November 7, 2014 – “The downtown Lewis & Clark Legal Clinic, a source of pro bono legal services for low-income Portlanders since 1971, will close on Jan. 1, 2015.  The Clinic was run by legal clinicians and law students enrolled in externships through the law school. It created a mutually beneficial relationship between LC and the community: students received practical law experience; low-income Portlanders received help with legal issues including child support modifications, domestic violence cases and tax controversies.  The closure will force people to find pro bono services elsewhere.”  “Despite the loss to the local community, the downtown legal clinic is not the only public interest clinic run by the law school. There are six others currently in operation. In addition to services provided through the clinics, externships and internships, [Dean Jennifer] Johnson stated that students provided more than 15,000 hours of pro bono community service last year.” (The PIOLOG)

November 7, 2014 – Beginning in January, 2015, the SUNY Buffalo Law School clinical program will launch a new Veterans’ Economic Security Clinic to help veterans.  “The clinic will provide free civil legal services to western New York veterans facing eviction and consumer debt issues. Law faculty and students will work to prevent veterans’ homelessness and increase their financial security by helping them navigate the legal system, and crafting comprehensive suggestions for needed law reform. The clinic will strive to ensure equity in securing basic necessities required to thrive in civilian life.”  (University at Buffalo)

November 8, 2014 – You can plead guilty and get out of jail right now or fight your case, and stay in jail.  This situation is faced by many of the Brooklyn Defender’s clients who are pleading guilty to charges because they can’t afford to miss work or their family will be turned out of a shelter because they won’t be back for the night.  “To help these indigent defendants fight their cases out of jail and without the pressure to plead guilty, [Josh] Saunders and a fellow public defender, Scott Hechinger, are creating a charity fund, which would be sponsored by their employer, the Brooklyn Defenders Services.”  “The charity, called the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund, is made possible by a 2012 law that allows nonprofit organizations to post bail for defendants with misdemeanor charges, who are facing bail of $2,000 or less.”  This fund will follow the example of the first nonprofit bail fund in the state, the Bronx Freedom Fund works with clients from The Bronx Defenders.  So far, that Fund has “served 149 clients so far, with roughly $100,000 in the fund.”  (The Epoch Times)

November 11, 2014 – “William & Mary Law School has announced that its Domestic Violence Clinic is the recipient of a grant from the Department of Justice Office of Violence Against Women (DOJ OVW). The grant will provide more than $250,000 over two years to expand the services of the existing clinic.”  “The W&M Domestic Violence Clinic provides domestic violence legal education and protective order advocacy. The grant funding will be used to expand the clinic’s services to provide a more holistic approach to assisting clients and enable the clinic to represent more clients.”  (William & Mary Law School)

November 12, 2014 – “The New York Immigrant Family Unity Project, a joint venture between the Vera Institute of Justice and other groups, expanded to the Buffalo area on Monday, with the Erie County Bar Association’s Volunteer Lawyers Project providing free legal services to 55 immigrants facing deportation.”  (New York Law Journal) (free subscription required)

November 12, 2014 – “Students working in Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Clinic have been paired with experienced advocates from leading human rights organizations as part of an exciting new mentoring initiative.  ‘The Mentorship Program is designed to develop a new generation of human rights advocates while increasing practitioner links to new allies and fostering a supportive environment for human rights work,’ said Sarah Knuckey, the Lieff Cabraser Clinical Associate Professor of Human Rights, faculty co-director of the Human Rights Institute, and director of the Human Rights Clinic.  The just-launched Human Rights Clinic Mentorship Program connects students with mentors drawn from the global community of human rights practitioners. Selected to ensure diversity of experiences, the mentors work as advocates at organizations defending everything from the environment to freedom of expression, and from the rights of civilians in armed conflict to indigenous communities harmed by extractives projects. Students have been paired with mentors based on their interests and career goals, and the mentorship will promote the students’ development as strategic, principled, and reflective advocates for social justice.”  (Columbia Law School)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: Law students from the Harrisburg campus will be embarking on a new service project this holiday season that provides a meaningful opportunity to give back to the community.  Signups are now underway for students who will participate in a Thanksgiving Day of service at the Bethesda Mission in Harrisburg. The effort is a joint public service project of the Public Interest Law Society, the Black Law Students Association and the Latin American Law Students Association.  ‘This experience – the interpersonal skills and giving back – that’s what we are founded on,’ said Bri Gaumer, president of the Public Interest Law Society, which formed just last year.  The organizations will volunteer at the mission from 4 to 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving afternoon. Gaumer said they will be serving plates of food but also able to sit with residents and engage and connect with them. The students will also set up a table with access-to-justice information and resources for low-cost community legal services.”  Read more about this outstanding new project here.

Super Music Bonus!  A dance tune that’s been running through my head lately.

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