PSJD Public Interest News Digest – November 21, 2014

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

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  The Digest will take a holiday next week to celebrate Thanksgiving with the family.  We will return in December with news to prepare you for the winter break.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • New certificate program at Loyola University New Orleans College of Law prepares students to work in the public interest;
  • Former MS Volunteer Lawyers official pleads guilty to stealing federal funds;
  • National Center for Access to Justice revises Justice Index;
  • ABA launches site to aid unaccompanied minors;
  • USAJobs is getting another makeover;
  • Kings County (WA) Council delays PD layoffs;
  • TN CLE Commission supports access to justice;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: Maureen Alger;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

November 12, 2014 -“The Loyola University New Orleans College of Law now offers a new Social Justice Certificate Program, which assists students who want to effectively advocate for the poor and the marginalized.  Through hands-on experience and focused academic study in this certificate program, students will not only be able to advance public interest causes for the needy and disadvantaged, but also provide a strong signal of their commitment to social justice to fellowship programs and future employers.  Students must maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher in the certificate courses and an overall GPA of 2.5 or higher to receive the certificate, while completing four to eight hours of doctrinal coursework, seven to 10 hours of experiential hours, as well as 50 hours of public service work.  (Loyola University New Orleans)

November 13, 2014 – “The former executive director of the Mississippi Volunteer Lawyers Project faces up to one year in prison and a $100,000 fine for stealing less than $1,000 in federal Legal Services funds. Shirley Mae Williams, 47, of Jackson pleaded guilty Wednesday to theft of less than $1,000 in federal funds, which is misdemeanor. Federal prosecutors say from January 2009 through December 2012, Williams, while employed as MVLP executive director, converted the federal funds to pay for a portion of her family’s cellular phone expenses and health club membership. MVLP received Legal Services Corp. grant funds as a sub-grantee of both North Mississippi Rural Legal Services and Mississippi Center for Legal Services.”  (The Clarion-Ledger)

November 13, 2014 – “The National Center for Access to Justice revised The Justice Index on November 13, 2014 to reflect comments and corrections received from 21 states following publication of The Justice Index on February 25, 2014.”  A notice will be published on the Index when the updates are finalized.  (National Center for Access to Justice)

November 14, 2014 – “Child advocates have for months voiced concerns about unaccompanied minors not having an attorney by their side in immigration court, and now the American Bar Association is stepping in to help. The group launched a website this week as a resource for attorneys who want to volunteer their time to help unaccompanied minors navigate through the immigration system. The goal is to get more attorneys to provided unaccompanied minors with legal representation on a pro bono basis. The website is dubbed the Immigrant Child Advocacy Network. It was put together by the American Bar Association’s working group on unaccompanied minors in collaboration with partner organizations, like Kids in Need of Defense and the American Immigration Lawyers Association.” (VOXXI)

November 17, 2014 – “The Office of Personnel Management once again is revamping USAJobs, the website most people use to apply for jobs in the federal government. The agency wants to streamline and clarify its job descriptions and make sure job postings don’t ask applicants redundant questions, said OPM Director Katherine Archuleta on Friday during a virtual town hall where she took questions on topics including recruitment, diversity and the role of veterans’ preference in the hiring process. She did not say when a new site might debut.”  (Government Executive)

November 17, 2014 – “The King County department that helps defendants who can’t afford an attorney will lose 40 employees, including about 20 attorneys, under the two-year county budget adopted Monday by the Metropolitan King County Council. But the controversial staff reduction won’t happen immediately and could potentially be reversed next spring, because of a last-minute amendment by the council. County Executive Dow Constantine had proposed the reduction, saying the Department of Public Defense, at nearly 400 employees, had more staff than required. But the council tweaked the proposal after hearing one attorney after another testify Monday that the reduction would harm poor people and fail to save money.”  “Lisa Daugaard, deputy director of the Department of Public Defense, said the council’s amendment was in line with the board’s recommendations. ‘This is an important and welcome shift,’ said Daugaard. ‘It gives everyone involved a chance to get on the same page about what the real staffing requirements of the department are and then to make budget decisions in light of that information.'”  (Seattle Times)

November 19, 2014 – “The Tennessee Commission on Continuing Legal Education and Specialization has awarded more than $100,000 in grants to support Access to Justice initiatives in the state. The grants will extend by one year each the pro bono coordinator position and the aLEGALz project. ‘Encouraging lawyers to give back to their communities is a priority for the Court,’ said Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Sharon Lee. ‘These programs play a significant role in identifying opportunities and aligning the appropriate resources and we are grateful that the funding to continue them was possible.'”  (The Chattanoogan.com)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: On November 14, 2014, at its annual conference of the National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA), Cooley pro bono partner, Maureen Alger, was awarded the 2014 Arthur von Briesen Award for her work on behalf of equal justice. The von Briesen Award honors outstanding service in advancing the cause of equal access to justice, and recognizes the contributions of individuals and programs from a cross-section of the legal aid, public defense, and corporate law communities.  Congratulations!  (Market Wired)

Super Music Bonus!  Happy Thanksgiving!

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