PSJD Public Interest News Digest – January 30, 2015

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

Happy Friday everyone!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • B.C. lawyer donates $30 mil to UBC law school;
  • ME’s legal services fund short $1.7 mil;
  • Law incubator welcomes inaugural class;
  • Congressman introduces bill to discharge student loan debt in bankruptcy;
  • Ottawa pilot project offers legal information, but not advice;
  • Proposed legislation in MO would alter prosecutor system;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

January 22, 2015 – “A B.C. lawyer, philanthropist and businessman who has already donated millions to social justice causes has given the law school at the University of British Columbia the biggest gift it has ever received.  Peter Allard, a UBC law school grad, has donated $30-million to help the school promote human rights and social justice, as well as anti-corruption efforts around the world, the university said in a news release on Thursday. The donation is on top of $11.86-million Mr. Allard gave the school in 2011.”  The grant will be used, in part, to expand the school’s legal advice clinic.  (The Globe and Mail)

January 22, 2015 – “The state Commission on Indigent Legal Services told lawmakers the agency is short $1.7 million to meet its expected obligations this budget year.  Executive Director John Pelletier says not only do they need additional funds for this year, they are flat funded in the governor’s proposed two-year budget.  ‘These are requests that we believe are realistic, acknowledges the existence of these increasing costs and put the increases at a number that is based on data,’ Pelletier said.  Pelletier says actual costs are going up by about 8 percent a year and funding has not kept up.”  (MPBN News)

January 22, 2015 – “The Loyola University New Orleans College of Law has announced its inaugural group of participants for the Loyola Incubator Program, an intensive, yearlong mentorship and skills program for recent graduates in their first three years of solo practice. With 25 percent of participants’ time devoted to pro bono legal work, the Incubator Program addresses the unmet legal needs of poor or moderate-income individuals in the Greater New Orleans area. The first year of the two-year pilot program began this month and runs through December 2015.”  (Loyola University New Orleans Newsroom)

January 22, 2015 – “A lawmaker has filed legislation in Congress to allow student loan debt to be treated like other forms of debt that can be discharged in bankruptcy proceedings.  Rep. John K. Delaney, D-Md., introduced the Discharge Student Loans in Bankruptcy Act (H.R. 449).  ‘Student loan debt is dragging down economic growth, keeping the American Dream out of reach for many and is a monthly strain for millions,’ Delaney said in a statement. ‘While student loan debt is a complex problem that will require many solutions—increased support for grant programs, efforts to increase affordability, improved consumer education—we also need to reform our laws to help those with the absolute greatest need. Right now, there is effectively a huge student loan loophole in bankruptcy law that’s hurting real people.'”  (Accounting Today)

January 23, 2015 – “A new centre in Ottawa that provides free bilingual legal information is up and running after receiving $1.5 million from the federal government. The Ottawa Legal Information Centre, which opened its doors last week, offers free legal information and referral services, but not legal advice or representation. ‘We don’t represent in court, we won’t evaluate a case’s chances of success,’ said executive director Andrée-Anne Martel.  Martel says the centre will help Canadians who face legal issues but don’t know what to do or can’t afford to properly deal with their case.”  (CBC News)

January 25, 2015 – “Proposed legislation in the Missouri Senate could significantly alter criminal prosecution with a fundamental change in the structure of prosecuting attorney offices that is tied to structural reforms of the circuit court system.Senate Bill 79, sponsored by Sen. Bob Dixon (R-Greene County), would allow county commissions to abolish the office of county prosecuting attorney to join a state’s attorney system that could potentially have some elected prosecutors covering multiple counties.”  “SB 79 would allow a state’s attorney to be elected every four years beginning with the 2018 general election from counties in a judicial circuit that have elected to join the system.”  (Lake News Online)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: Akerman LLP has been selected as the recipient of the 2015 Chief Justice’s Law Firm Commendation Award by the Florida Supreme Court and The Florida Bar — the highest recognition of pro bono legal service awarded in the state to a law firm.  This is the second consecutive year that the Florida Supreme Court and The Florida Bar have recognized Akerman lawyers for their pro bono work and efforts benefiting at-risk youth.  Thank you for your outstanding work!  (Orlando Business Journal)

Super Music Bonus! In honor of the Super Bowl, here is a great video about game watching stereotypes.  Enjoy!

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