PSJD Public Interest News Digest – April 10, 2015

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

Happy Friday!  This week we celebrated the Pro Bono Publico Award winner Alex Dutton from Temple University Beasley School of Law.  What a good time and what a deserving individual.  Thank you to the staff at Temple Law, especially Lisa Hurlbutt, Director of Public Interest Programs, for hosting us.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Legal Aid Ontario expands family law services in Scarborough;
  • Harvard startup helps users find lawyers/compare fees;
  • California nonprofit expands immigration legal services
  • Georgia Public Defender Standards Council gets new leader;
  • Tennessee Supreme Court adds way for lawyers to donate to access to justice;
  • William & Mary veterans legal clinic gets $245,000 grant;
  • Medical-Legal Partnership clinic announced at Penn State Dickinson Law;
  • Delaware bill would revamp public defender office;
  • University of Nebraska School of Law breaks ground on expanded clinic space;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

April 3, 2015 – “Scarborough residents now have more access to free family law services as part of a new initiative by Legal Aid Ontario. The new service is provided by family lawyer Ana Rico at three Scarborough locations: West Scarborough Community Legal Services on Mondays, East Scarborough Storefront on Tuesdays and Scarborough Community Legal Services on Wednesdays. ‘We provide legal advice about a variety of family law topics so that would be separation, divorce, custody, access, child support and spousal support,’ Rico said.” (Inside Toronto)

April 3, 2015 – Harvard student Michael Gants developed JustiServ, with the intention of allowing anyone—anywhere—to find legal aid in just a few clicks. By entering the legal problem, the user can peruse the lawyers that fit that realm while also comparing their professional backgrounds and price estimates. Clients can even pay for the legal services they find on JustiServ via Paypal.  “‘The price estimates are what really makes JustiServ revolutionary,’ Gants said.” (BostInno)

April 3, 2015 – “The Catholic Charities of the East Bay, which has offices in Oakland, Richmond and Concord, has expanded its legal immigration services in Alameda and Contra Costa counties in response to an increase in demand for services since President Obama’s executive action on immigration in November. The social services organization has hired an immigration attorney and legal assistant, is looking to fill more positions and has expanded service offerings in order to help meet the demand of about 65,000 East Bay immigrants who are affected by the President’s executive order.”  (Richmond Standard)

April 4, 2015 – “Georgia’s governor has appointed a new leader for the board that oversees the state’s public defender system. Gov. Nathan Deal on Friday named attorney Bryan Tyson executive director of the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council. Tyson is the 2014-2015 section chair of the appellate practice section of the State Bar of Georgia and represented the state as a special assistant attorney general in the 2011 redistricting process. He previously worked as an attorney with Strickland Brockington Lewis LLP.” (Online Athens)

April 6, 2015 – “The Tennessee Supreme Court said that it is adding a way that lawyers can voluntarily donate to access to justice programs to help people who don’t have enough money for an attorney. The state’s highest court also adopted changes this week that would not require lawyers to report all of their pro bono hours.” “The court had considered a change that would require all lawyers to report their pro bono work and be sanctioned if they didn’t, but it declined to mandate the reporting. Nevertheless, the court said it continues to encourage lawyers to report their charity legal work because it raises public awareness of how some Tennessee lawyers are helping those in need.” (WATE)

April 6, 2015 – “A legal clinic at the William & Mary Law School is expanding its efforts with the help of a state grant. The Lewis B. Puller Jr. Veterans Benefit Clinic is slated to receive $245,000 from the commonwealth of Virginia to increase its services to veterans. The grant will fund the addition of a full-time attorney, a full-time legal administrator and a part-time psychologist to the clinic’s staff.”  (Williamsburg Yorktown Daily)

April 7, 2015 – “Penn State’s Dickinson Law today announced the Medical-Legal Partnership Clinic, a collaboration between the Law School and Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. This is the first partnership of its kind to be offered in the Harrisburg-Carlisle region. The clinic will provide low-income patients and patient-families with critical legal assistance under the supervision of Medha D. Makhlouf, the founding director and clinical professor of law. Students participating in the clinic will have the opportunity to work collaboratively with the faculty and staff of both Dickinson Law and Penn State Hershey, as well as participate in joint class sessions with students of medicine and other health-related disciplines.” (Penn State News)

April 7, 2015 – “Senate lawmakers have passed legislation that would rename and restructure the Delaware Public Defender’s Office to be more inclusive of private attorneys who are called on to represent defendants when the office has a conflict of interest. The legislation also would change the term length for the governor-appointed public defender from six years to eight years. The bill passed the Senate with 20 ‘yes’ votes and 1 ‘no’ vote last week. It is now headed to the House.”  (Delaware Online)

April 10, 2015 – “The University of Nebraska College of Law will break ground this week on a 14,000-square-foot addition to house its legal clinics and potential expansions. The $4.5 million, privately funded addition is scheduled to open in fall 2016. A groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. April 10. More than 30 third-year law students work in the civil, criminal, immigration and entrepreneurship clinics. The offices, now front and center in the law college, will be more accessible for clients who need legal assistance, and room will be available for the programs to expand their footprints, Susan Poser, dean of the college of law, said in a press release. The clinics ‘teach students how valuable and gratifying it is to provide critical legal assistance to underserved clients,’ Poser said.” (

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:  The legal system is feeling a void after the death of Jim Fitzsimmons, 62, executive director Legal Services of North Dakota, according to those who worked with him.  “It’s hard to put in words what we lost,” said Richard LeMay, the program’s interim executive director. “It will take a while to figure out where we go from here …. He has left us too soon.” A 38-year advocate of civil cases for the elderly, tribal residents and those with disabilities and low incomes, he will be remembered as the voice for the underdog, according to LeMay. Read more about his legacy here.  Mr. Fitzsimmons, thank you for your service and your unending devotion to your community.

Super Music Bonus!   In honor of the Annual Conference location – Chicago, we bring you music from or about that great city all month.

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