PSJD Public Interest News Digest – May 29, 2015

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

Happy Friday!  Can you believe it’s the end of May already?  Time to turn our attention to summer plans.  Are you going to a new city?  Check out PSJD’s Having Fun on the Cheap series for fun and inexpensive activities in your area.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • William & Mary’s Puller Veterans Benefits Clinic receives Dominion Foundation grant;
  • Maine Governor proposes public defender system;
  • Layoffs in DA’s office in Massachusetts;
  • Susan M. Finegan named co-chair of Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission;
  • Legal aid, law firms, and lawyers of color;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

May 21, 2015 – “William & Mary Law School’s Lewis B. Puller, Jr. Veterans Benefits Clinic received a $25,000 grant from the Dominion Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Dominion Resources, parent company of Dominion Virginia Power. ‘Dominion Foundation is joining William & Mary Law School in supporting work on behalf of veterans in procuring their disability benefits,’ said Davison M. Douglas, dean of the Law School. ‘We now have a model we want to take to other law schools across the country; this support from Dominion Foundation is going to be of tremendous help.’ Part of the Dominion Foundation’s grant will be used for seed funding for the National Law School Veterans Clinic Coalition, a recently established organization created to provide a unified voice to identify and advance the needs of law school veterans clinics and, more importantly, the veterans they serve. It will serve as an advocate before the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, U.S. Congress and other federal entities. With the seed funding from Dominion, it is hoped that the coalition will double its clinic membership in the coming year, and significantly increase the number of veterans served by law school clinics nationwide.” (W&M Law School press release)

May 26, 2015 – “Gov. Paul LePage has submitted legislation that would create a new system of public defenders to assure that every poor Maine resident charged with a crime receives adequate legal representation. Maine is the only state without public defenders, and has long relied on paying individual lawyers on a case-by-case basis. Sen. David Burns, a Republican from Whiting, co-chairs the Judiciary Committee and is sponsoring the bill for the governor.”  (MPBN News)

May 26, 2015 – “Four Norfolk County prosecutors have been laid off due to statewide budget cuts on district attorneys, and leaders in the legal community are concerned that the firings are an ominous harbinger for the criminal justice system. ‘It’s a bit of a frightening situation because these are the people in the front lines,’ said Marsha V. Kazarosian, president of the Massachusetts Bar Association. ‘They do the lion’s share of the work. It’s of great concern that you have to start laying people off. The end result is, people won’t have access to justice.’ Norfolk District Attorney Michael Morrissey said the layoffs came in response to Gov. Charlie Baker’s unilateral budget cuts in early February. That essentially doubled the impact on Morrissey’s office, he said, because he had only half a fiscal year to make up the difference.”  (Boston Herald)

May 27, 2015 – “Susan M. Finegan, a Member at Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C. and the firm’s first full-time Pro Bono Partner, has been named co-chair of the third Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission, a 24-member body appointed by the Supreme Judicial Court. The Commission is charged with the mission of providing leadership, vision and coordination in the search for equal justice for all persons in the Commonwealth. She will serve alongside Supreme Judicial Court Justice Geraldine S. Hines.”  (Business Wire)

May 28, 2015 – My predecessor Steve Grumm has always been a strong advocate for civil access to justice.  He’s blogging from Idaho on this and other issues.  He took a look at recent data and found legal aid is doing better than the private sector on diversity.  See the numbers and his thoughts on the issue on his blog.  As always, his insights are thought-provoking and right on point.  (That Much Further West)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: Access to Justice advocate Fiona MacCool.

Fiona MacCool is the Project Manager of Your Legal Rights, an online resource produced by Community Legal Education Ontario (CLEO) to provide free legal information for people in Ontario. Fiona was previously the Project Manager of CLEONet, a precursor to Your Legal Rights. For over 10 years, she has worked as an IT project manager, software trainer, and web content developer. Fiona is passionate about helping non-profit organizations take advantage of the cost-efficient and time-saving power of the Internet to support community partnerships, share resources, and make a difference. The Canadian Forum on Civil Justice visited the CLEO offices to speak to Fiona MacCool about her work on Your Legal Rights. You can see the full interview here.

Super Music Bonus!  https://youtu.be/rDL4x23F0kY

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