PSJD Public Interest News Digest – April 17, 2015

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

Happy Friday!  Next week we will be in sunny (I hope) Chicago for the 2015 NALP Annual Education Conference.  We’re looking forward to seeing you all there, and sharing information in person.  Accordingly, the Digest will take the week off, and will return on May 1st.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Illinois Governor cuts funds to immigrant services;
  • New nonprofit law center in Rhode Island to help low income residents;
  • New pilot program in British Columbia to help quickly resolve criminal cases;
  • Georgetown University Law Center partners with two DC firms to open modest means law firm;
  • ABA awards head of Maine legal aid group for innovative self-help website for veterans;
  • Atlanta Legal Aid moves to new building;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

April 9, 2015 – Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner froze $26 million in social service and health grants as part of his plan to plug a $1.6 billion hole in the budget.  Immigrant advocates, who stand to lose more than $3 million in aid, worry this will hurt their efforts to provide legal assistance and language training across the state. These immigrant services grants, originally budgeted at $6.7 million, fund initiatives such as language training and legal services, as well as assistance in applying for citizenship. The Coalition explains the money is from the Immigrant Services Line Item (ISLI), a recurring part of the state budget since 1997. Rauner’s proposed 2016 budget seeks to eliminate ISLI entirely. (Newsweek)

April 9, 2015 – “The Rhode Island Center for Justice and Roger Williams University Law gathered on Thursday, April 9 to launch the Center for Justice at the Roger Williams campus in Providence. The Center for Justice is a new nonprofit public interest law center that will address the growing volume of unmet legal needs among vulnerable individuals, families and communities in Rhode Island.”  “The Rhode Island Center for Justice represents a desperately needed source of legal assistance for low-income Rhode Islanders,” said Melissa Husband, executive director of the Community Action Partnership of Providence. (Go Local Prov)

April 10, 2015 – “A pilot project announced Friday is expanding legal aid services to help resolve criminal cases more quickly. Attorney General and Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton made the announcement Friday for the Expanded Criminal Duty Counsel (ECDC) program. Provided by the Legal Services Society (LSS), this program will serve legal aid clients who are dealing with a criminal case at Port Coquitlam’s courthouse. Before this pilot project, legal aid clients got legal advice from a different lawyer every time they went to court. This new project, however, will focus on continuing with the same lawyer throughout to help achieve early resolution of cases wherever possible.” “The Ministry of Justice is funding the ECDC as the last of five legal aid justice transformation pilot projects to help improve access and outcomes in the criminal and family justice system.”  (Kelowna Now)

April 12, 2015 – “Georgetown University Law Center is working with DLA Piper and Arent Fox to create a small nonprofit law firm in Washington, D.C. The unprecedented collaboration, announced Monday, is aimed at providing legal services at affordable rates to people with modest incomes who don’t qualify for free legal aid because they’re not poor enough. The DC Affordable Law Firm is slated to start taking clients in the fall, and will be staffed by six salaried lawyers from this year’s graduating class of Georgetown students. The law firms will provide a range of services and support.” (The American Lawyer)(free registration required)

April 14, 2015 – “The American Bar Association will present its Grassroots Advocacy Award on Wednesday in Washington, D.C., to Nan Heald, executive director of Pine Tree Legal Assistance for her leadership and initiatives addressing the unmet legal needs of active duty military members, veterans, their families, and caregivers. Heald has been an innovator in making legal services more accessible to underserved rural and native communities in her state, according to a press release issued Tuesday by the ABA. One example is the Pine Tree website,, which was the first legal aid website in the country to offer self-help resources.”  (Bangor Daily News)

April 15, 2015 – “The renovations are complete for Atlanta Legal Aid Society’s new headquarters at 54 Ellis St. N.E., and the downtown branch’s lawyers and staff have just moved in. The historic building, constructed in 1910 as an Elks lodge, almost doubles the group’s space to 35,600 square feet on five floors. There is also a parking lot, so clients and volunteers venturing downtown will no longer have to pay for parking in lots several blocks away.”  “The new building’s layout incorporates features that have become the norm in contemporary law firm design—except on a much lower budget. There is a large event space on the top floor, along with a library and a terrace.” (Daily Report)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:  After 20 years as executive director of Community Legal Services (CLS) and 11 years before that as a staff attorney, Catherine Carr will be leaving the legal aid nonprofit on July 1. In a letter to the community, Carr said it was time for her to move on from what is the biggest regional legal services agency in the state, which provides free legal services in civil cases to low-income families in Philadelphia. “My plan is to create the next stage in my professional career, where I can continue to work on access to justice for all, and social and legal change to address poverty,” Carr said. “I am not yet sure exactly what that will look like, but I am excited about figuring it out. I have learned and grown so much at CLS over the last three decades; I look forward to the next stage of learning and growth in a new role.”  Read more about her great work here.

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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