PSJD Public Interest News Digest – February 20, 2015

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

Happy Friday everyone!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Corporations help pay legal aid costs in Connecticut;
  • No new money for legal aid in British Columbia;
  • Oklahoma Senate panel passes measure to fund civil legal services;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

February 15, 2015 – “Some of the world’s largest companies have chipped in to help provide free legal help to poor people across Connecticut in what’s billed as the first program of its kind in the country.   Connecticut-based mega corporations General Electric, United Technologies and Xerox, along with several other companies, have teamed up with the state’s three legal aid organizations to start LawyerCorps Connecticut. The program will pay the salaries and benefits of young attorneys dubbed ‘fellows’ who will work with the legal aid groups to represent several hundred clients a year in civil and family courts.”  “LawyerCorps was conceived about two years ago by Connecticut Chief Justice Chase T. Rogers and is based on [Teach for America], which recruits and trains teachers to educate students in low-income areas.”  “LawyerCorps is now reviewing applications from dozens of young or future lawyers and plans to hire three — one for each legal aid organization in the state — who will begin working by September.”  (New Haven Register)

February 18, 2015 – “The budget announced this week by the British Columbia government has more money for police, for courthouse renovations, and a new correctional facility. Despite a projected budget surplus of nearly $900 million, there is no new funding for legal aid services in the province.  Legal organizations in B.C. that have been outspoken about what they say is the chronic underfunding of legal aid, expressed disappointment over the budget, which also included a tax cut for people earning over $150,000 annually. ‘This is 25 years with no new funding,’ says Birgit Eder, a defence lawyer and co-chairperson of the Trial Lawyers Association of B.C.’s legal aid action committee.  The Canadian Bar Association-British Columbia chapter also expressed its concerns about the budget.  ‘This is a big part of the access-to-justice problem,’ says Alex Shorten, a Vancouver lawyer and president of the CBA-BC. ‘There needs to be more money for legal services for the most vulnerable in the province.'”  (Canadian Lawyer Magazine)

February 19, 2015 – “A Senate panel passed a measure Wednesday to fund legal services in civil cases for low-income people.  Senate Bill 459, now moves to the full Senate for consideration after passing the Senate Appropriations Committee. The measure diverts 65 cents of a $2 filing fee on civil cases to the Oklahoma Access to Justice Commission from the Council on Judicial Complaints. The remainder would stay with the Council on Judicial Complaints. The diversion is expected to generate $178,000.The Oklahoma Supreme Court created the seven-member Oklahoma Access to Justice Commission last March, said Vice Chief Justice Douglas L. Combs, who appeared before the panel to answer questions. The commission was created to expand access to and enhance the quality of justice in civil legal matters for low-income Oklahomans, Combs said. It coordinates with groups that currently offer legal civil services to low-income individuals, Combs said.”  (Tulsa World)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: 

Jan R. Jurden became the first female president of the Delaware Superior Court when she was sworn in on Monday afternoon.  The oath was administered to Jurden by Susan Del Pesco, the state’s first female Superior Court judge, in front of a packed courtroom in the New Castle County Courthouse.  Jurden, who has been on the bench since May 2001, will fill the vacancy left by Justice James Vaughn Jr.  Congratulations President Judge Jurden!  (Delaware Online)

Super Music Bonus!

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