PSJD Public Interest News Digest – May 1, 2015

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

Happy Friday!  We’re back from a great week of learning and connecting in Chicago.  I hope everyone enjoyed their time at the Annual Education Conference – we certainly did!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Settlement reached in Georgia indigent defense system case;
  • Albany Law School opens immigration clinic;
  • Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center receives grant to expand immigration clinic;
  • University of Chicago Law School receives gift for environmental clinic;
  • New York AG partnering with law schools to help technology start-ups;
  • Legal Aid Ontario tightens rules for refugee cases;
  • Wisconsin State Bar supports CLE credit for pro bono work;
  • New student legal aid clinic opening in Thunder Bay;
  • Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County adopts new online arbitration system;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

April 21, 2015 – “A settlement reached this week will improve legal representation for poor children and adults in a south Georgia judicial circuit, lawyers who filed a lawsuit on their behalf said. Lawyers with the Southern Center for Human Rights filed a lawsuit in January 2014 against the four-county Cordele Judicial Circuit and other defendants. Among the problems they cited were juvenile defendants often appearing without a lawyer or represented by lawyers who met with them only briefly, public defenders unable to spend more than a few minutes per adult case, and chronic underfunding and understaffing. The Southern Center says the agreement with the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council, its director, the Cordele Circuit public defender and the circuit’s four county governments was filed Monday. If it is approved by a Fulton County Superior Court judge, it will go into effect July 1 and will run for three years.” (Thomasville Times Enterprise)

April 22, 2015 – “Albany Law School has announced that it will launch a new immigration law clinic to provide free legal help for immigrants in cases of domestic violence, protection of minors, deportation, detention and U-Visa applications. ‘Although we are a nation of immigrants, today’s immigration system is in an unprecedented state of disarray,’ Sarah Rogerson, an Albany law professor who will direct the clinic, said in a news release. ‘This new clinic will give our students the opportunity to provide compassionate legal service to people who really need it.’ The clinic will begin taking cases in the fall.” (New York Law Journal)

April 22, 2015 – “Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center announced that its immigration law clinic has received a grant to take on additional cases involving unaccompanied minors. Touro, which has operated its immigration law clinic since last fall, announced on April 1 that it received $100,000 from the Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program at Shelter Rock, a church congregation that provides funding to outside agencies that address the ‘root of social problems.’ William Brooks, a Touro law professor who directs the school’s program, said the grant would allow the clinic to hire a staff attorney to assist with its growing caseload.”(New York Law Journal)

April 23, 2015 – “A gift made by Jonathan Mills, ’77, as trustee of a charitable trust, will benefit the University of Chicago Law School’s Abrams Environmental Law Clinic. To be expended at the discretion of the clinic’s director, the gift provides funds for activities that support the clinic’s mission, which might include obtaining expert consultation, underwriting student travel for site visits and client interactions, and covering other litigation costs.” (University of Chicago Law School News)

April 24, 2015 – “Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced the formation of  a partnership with local law schools to help start-ups navigate state laws and regulations. By partnering with Brooklyn Law Incubator & Policy Clinic (BLIP), the Fordham University School of Law’s Center on Law and Information Policy and the Tech Startup Clinic (CLIP), operated out of Yeshiva University’s Cardozo School of Law, Schneiderman hopes to promote regular interaction between government and technology start-ups.” (Capitol Playbook)(ABC News)

April 24, 2015 – “Legal Aid Ontario is tightening its rules for lawyers who take on refugee cases following a scathing report that showed thousands of Hungarian Roma were left high and dry by lawyers who made hundreds of thousands of dollars from them. Andrew Brouwer, senior legal counsel with Immigration and Refugee Law at Legal Aid Ontario, said starting this summer, lawyers who want to handle legal aid refugee cases will have to apply to be authorized to handle those kinds of cases, pass a competency test and meet certain standards and best practices.”  (CBC News)

April 24, 2015 – “The State Bar of Wisconsin’s Board of Governors supports a petition that would allow Wisconsin attorneys to obtain continuing legal education (CLE) credit for doing pro bono work to foster practical learning and increase pro bono service. The 52-member board unanimously approved a petition developed by the State Bar’s Legal Assistance Committee – in consultation with the CLE Committee – allowing attorneys to claim one CLE credit for every five hours of qualifying pro bono service, up to a maximum of six credits per reporting period.” (State Bar of Wisconsin)

April 27, 2015 – “Lakehead Legal Services is the first legal aid clinic to open its doors at the law school in Thunder Bay, Ont.  Lakehead University’s Bora Laskin Faculty of Law is just two years old and adding a clinic seems like a natural progression, says Kimberley Gagan, the director of Lakehead Legal Services. This small law school only has 58 students in the 2L stream who have been waiting for the clinic to open since day one. ‘They are very excited and enthusiastic and they are looking forward, I think to the opportunity, for the chance to get their hands on real life files and come to court and represent real people,’ says Gagan.”  (Canadian Lawyer Magazine)

April 28, 2015 – “The Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County, Inc. announces that innovative online arbitration service will soon be made available to its clients. ‘Online arbitration will allow us to streamline our process while at the same time offering a much more cost-effective way to resolve legal issues for the disadvantaged citizens of Palm Beach County,’ said Bob Bertisch, executive director of the Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County, Florida.”  (PR Web)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:  Lam Nguyen Ho, founder and Executive Director of the Community Activism Law Alliance (CALA) in Chicago.  We were pleased to host Lam as the keynote speaker for the NALP Conference Public Interest Luncheon.  He shared his experiences and unique way of lawyering within the community, leaving us uplifted and inspired. As he described to us, he has experienced firsthand the challenges of community lawyering and civil legal services, and was inspired to innovatively confront these challenges through the creation of CALA.

We at NALP were privileged to make a modest donation in recognition of Lam’s contribution to our conference and in support of CALA’s work.  If you’d like to do the same, visit CALA’s website.

Super Music Bonus!


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