Archive for July, 2015

PSJD Public Interest News Digest – July 31, 2015

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

Happy Friday! Can you believe it’s the end of July already?  It’s time to get ready for Fall recruiting, Honors programs, and fellowships among other things.  Check out the PSJD Resource Center for guidance on these programs and more.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Professors work with Pro Bono Students Canada on study of family law litigants;
  • William & Mary Law’s Revive My Vote gets grant;
  • Maryland law schools collaborate on Baltimore Legal Practice Incubator;
  • New York announces $7 million to help disabled get federal benefits;
  • Legal Aid Ontario boosts funding to clinics;
  • Boston University Law and alumni boost public interest fellowships;
  • One way cuts to Public Service Loan Forgiveness will harm Americans;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

July 24, 2015 – “King’s University College Professor Dr. Rachel Birnbaum is partnering with Professor Nick Bala of Queen’s University to work with Pro Bono Students Canada on an inventive study. The study will look to survey both represented and self-represented family law litigants to better understand their experiences in the courts. Starting in the fall of 2015, The Family Law Litigant Survey Project will collect and analyze empirical data to understand the challenges faced by family litigants. The hope is that this survey will result in greater understanding of issues related to the family justice system in Ontario, and will assist in making improvements to the system overall. Dr. Birnbaum explains; ‘our research will also be the first evidence-based study on access to justice and will include results on the effects of different court-related services and address the efficiency and effectiveness of these interventions.’ The study will run during the 2015-2016 and the 2016-17 academic year. ” (King’s University College Media)

July 24, 2015 – “William & Mary Law School’s Revive My Vote is pleased to announce it has received a grant of $230,000 through the Knight News Challenge, a grant program aimed at better informing voters and increasing civic participation before, during, and after elections. Created in conjunction with the Williamsburg Bar Association and launched in April 2014, Revive My Vote helps Virginians with prior felony convictions who have served their time and are eligible for voting rights restoration to navigate the process of regaining their right to vote.” (William & Mary News & Events)

July 27, 2015 – “The University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law and the University of Baltimore School of Law are launching an incubator to help recent graduates launch solo practices while serving low-income clients. The schools developed the project with the help of the Maryland State Bar Association, which is providing $50,000. Administrators hope to have the incubator running by November. In Baltimore, each school will contribute three graduates who have passed the Maryland bar exam for the inaugural cohort. The participants will spend 12 to 18 months getting their practices off the ground. Participants must donate at least 10 percent of their billable hours to low-income clients and take a least one pro bono case.” (National Law Journal)(free subscription required)

July 27, 2015 -” The state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance announced Monday that more than $7 million has been awarded to help provide legal assistance to people who have been denied federal disability benefits. Locally, the Legal Aid Society of Mid-York, which serves Oneida and Herkimer counties, among others, is receiving $546,541 through the Disability Advocacy Program. These services will be provided by not-for-profit legal services corporations, not-for-profit agencies serving the disabled and local departments of social services, with the goal of reversing the initial decision and acquiring approval for these federally-funded benefits for the applicants. Without this assistance, these individuals would otherwise be dependent on State- and locally-funded programs for support and care.”  (Utica Observer-Dispatch)

July 29, 2015 – “Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) is investing an additional $1.5 million in community legal aid clinics with the fewest resources per low-income person in the 2015/16 fiscal year. This annual funding will be added to the clinics’ base funding. This support is on top of the additional $2.4 million in funding LAO provided for the 2014/15 fiscal year, as announced in March 2015. This injection of $3.9 million will allow community legal clinics to hire more staff, expand existing services, or launch new services that support clients. This new investment is part of LAO’s strategy to expand financial eligibility and clinic law services for low-income Ontarians. It also meets the provincial government’s multi-year commitment to increase access to legal aid.”  (CNW)

July 29, 2015 – “Boston University School of Law is bolstering its graduate public-interest fellowship program with a $2 million influx of funding. The university provided half that amount and a group of alumni donated the rest, according to law dean Maureen O’Rourke. The law school has already selected fellows from the class of 2015, who will work in fields including reproductive rights, Internet freedom, legal aid and international human rights. The selection committee looks for placements likely to have a large influence on the communities involved and to enhance the fellows’ development, said Fiona Hornblower, assistant dean for career development and public service.” (National Law Journal)(free subscription required)

July 30, 2015 – Here’s a good article by our friends Isaac Bowers and Sarah Corcoran at Equal Justice Works about the harm that would be done to the public interest if PSLF is cut.  (Huffington Post)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: Marsha Weissman, Roger Brazill, and Luke Nebush

Honoring three people who devote great skill, huge effort, and much time to making justice happen, the New York State Defenders Association (NYSDA) hosted its annual awards celebration during a statewide training conference.

Marsha Weissman, Executive Director of the Syracuse-based Center for Community Alternatives (CCA), received NYSDA’s Service of Justice Award for effectively promoting alternatives to incarceration and sentencing advocacy as key components of justice. Roger Brazill, First Assistant Public Defender in Monroe County (Rochester) received the 2015 Wilfred R. O’Connor Award for exemplifying a client-centered approach in his work with clients and for sharing his legal expertise throughout his career of over 35 years. Luke Nebush, a First Assistant Public Defender in Oneida County (Utica), was chosen to receive the Kevin M. Andersen Memorial Award for his zeal and devotion in practicing effective, client-centered representation, his diligence in honing his skills, and his collegial approach.

Read more about the awards and their great work here.

Super Music Bonus!  This week our pick comes from Member Services Coordinator, Meaghan Hagner:

 

 

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – July 24, 2015

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

Happy Friday!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Minnesota legislature increases public defender budget;
  • Kentucky area clinics receive grant;
  • Attorneys ask Florida Justices to reconsider dues fee hike;
  • Goodwin Procter announces recipients of 2015 Public Interest Fellowships for law students of color;
  • Vermont Law School library offering services to public;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

July 17, 2015 – “The Minnesota legislature this year decided to add $6,480,000 to their chief public defender budget for next year. That’s about an 8 percent increase. Part of the reason for the new funding was the government’s projected budget surplus. But also important was the legislature’s realization that public defenders are good for Minnesota. The new appropriation by the legislature will provide funds to give public defenders their first pay raise in a long time, hire additional attorneys and support staff, and improve the overall standard of representation. The new law also includes an additional $879,000 for legal aid agencies to help victims of domestic violence and prevent improper evictions and foreclosures.” (Lake County News Chronicle)

July 18, 2015 – “The Kentucky Bar Foundation recently awarded $30,000 to legal clinics to benefit impoverished families in three Kentucky communities: Warren, Daviess and McCracken counties. One-third of the grant will be devoted to clinics hosted in Warren County Family Court. The family law clinics will be designed to help impoverished families gain access to the courts to resolve their family law legal issues.” (Bowling Green Daily News)

July 20, 2015 -“A group of 522 attorneys has asked the Florida Supreme Court to reconsider allowing the Florida Bar to raise its annual dues to help fund legal aid. The high court ruled 4-3 this month to deny a petition that would have allowed the Florida Bar board of governors to increase annual dues by up to $100. Dues have held steady at $265 since 2001. The petitioners asked the court Friday to consider tweaking the proposed amendment to Bar rules, rather than denying it outright. The group seeks to avoid the ‘time-consuming and onerous’ process of starting from scratch in its effort to help the poor afford legal representation.”  (Daily Business Review)

July 21, 2015 – “Goodwin Procter, a national Am Law 50 firm, today announced the recipients of its 2015 Public Interest Fellowships for Law Students of Color. The fellowships support first-year students from law schools across the country who spend the summer working in community service legal positions. This year’s fellows are: Sonam Bhagat, Boston University School of Law;Rachel Clark, The George Washington University Law School; Cindy Guan, Harvard Law School; and Amari Lynn Hammonds, Stanford Law School.”  (Business Wire)

July 21, 2015 – “The Vermont Law School library is providing legal reference services to the public, seeking to fill the gap created with the closure of the state library’s law program in Montpelier. The Julien and Virginia Cornell Library at the South Royalton school is offering a new ‘Ask a Law Librarian Line’ at 802-831-1313 for reference requests by phone. It’s also offering a new Community Legal Information Corner with two public-access computers with Westlaw, an online legal research service, and a legal self-help collection. The library submitted a proposal to the state last spring, and the Legislature subsequently approved a $67,000 grant to offset the costs associated with the school opening its library doors to the public.” (WCAX)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: NASA Astronauts

At 12:51 EDT on July 24, 1969, Apollo 11, the U.S. spacecraft that had taken the first astronauts to the surface of the moon, safely returns to Earth. The American effort to send astronauts to the moon had its origins in a famous appeal President John F. Kennedy made to a special joint session of Congress on May 25, 1961: “I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth.” Eight years later, on July 16, 1969, the world watched as Apollo 11 took off from Kennedy Space Center with astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin Jr., and Michael Collins aboard. After traveling 240,000 miles in 76 hours, Apollo 11 entered into a lunar orbit on July 19. The next day, at 1:46 p.m., the lunar module Eagle, manned by astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, separated from the command module, where a third astronaut, Michael Collins, remained. Two hours later, the Eagle began its descent to the lunar surface, and at 4:18 p.m. the craft touched down on the southwestern edge of the Sea of Tranquility.  Read more about this historic flight at History.com.

Super Music Bonus!  This week our pick comes from Mary Beal, NALP’s Director of Member Professional Development

 

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – July 17, 2015

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

Happy Friday!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • American Lawyer’s 2015 Pro Bono Report;
  • South Carolina Bar Foundation awards $1.9 million in grants;
  • Florida Supreme Court rejects push to increase bar dues to support legal aid;
  • Bank settlement means millions for Florida non-profits;
  • Mississippi Center for Legal Services receives grant;
  • ACLU sues Fresno County, California over public defender system;
  • Boston law schools launch joint practice incubator;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

July 9, 2015 – Since the Digest was so big last week, I didn’t want this to get lost.  Hours dip slightly at AmLaw 200 firms.  The Report details where firms are putting their hours and links to the Special Report: Justice Gap. (The American Lawyer)

July 9, 2015 – “The South Carolina Bar Foundation has awarded $1.9 million in grant funds to support civil legal aid, law related education and other law related projects for Fiscal Year 2016.”  Check out the article to see the list of grantees. (Moultrie News)

July 9, 2015 -“While pointing to a ‘crisis’ in funding for legal-aid programs, the state Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a proposal that could have led to attorneys paying higher Florida Bar membership fees to help cover the costs of legal services for the poor. Justices split 4-3 on a proposal that would have allowed the Bar to increase dues by as much as $100 a year, with the increased money going to legal-aid programs. The Bar opposed the proposal, which was spearheaded by former Supreme Court Justice Raoul Cantero and backed by more than 500 lawyers. The court’s majority wrote that ‘there is an urgent need to develop new solutions and sustainable sources of funding for legal aid’ but said a more-comprehensive approach is needed than the possible increase in Bar dues. A commission formed by Chief Justice Jorge Labarga began meeting in January to come up with recommendations for addressing the issue.” (Tampa Bay Times)

July 9, 2015 – “A big payout from a credit card debt collection settlement with Chase Bank will mean millions of dollars for Florida non-profit agencies. Florida was awarded $16.9 million from the settlement, the largest chunk out of the $136 million awarded to a total of 47 states, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said in a press conference. ‘We were hit the hardest, so we’re very pleased,’ Bondi said. About $1.6 million of the state’s payout will go to Florida’s general revenue fund; the remaining $15.3 million will go to charities that offer financial literacy and debt management services, as well as legal help to those who can’t afford it, Bondi said.”  (The Tampa Tribune)

July 14, 2015 – “Mississippi Center for Legal Services has been awarded a $54,350 grant by the Mississippi Bar Foundation through its Interest on Lawyers Trust Account program. The grant awarded to Mississippi Center for Legal Services will be used to fund resource development efforts and to provide direct legal assistance through its call center.”  (Hattiesburg American)

July 15, 2015 – “The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project, and the law firm Paul Hastings LLP filed a lawsuit against Fresno County and the state of California, seeking an overhaul of the county’s deficient public defense system. Because public defenders do not receive the resources necessary to represent their clients, thousands of Fresno County residents are forced to navigate the criminal justice system without the adequate legal representation that is guaranteed by the Constitution.”  (ACLUNC News)

July 15, 2015 – “New York University School of Law is launching a yearlong pro bono law office that will help federal prisoners seek clemency. Seven full-time attorneys—primarily recent law school graduates—will begin handling prisoners’ applications in August. ‘There seems to be an increased focus on clemency and the use of that constitutional tool,’ said Deborah Gramiccioni, executive director of NYU Law’s Center on the Administration of Criminal Law, which is housing the new Clemency Resource Center. ‘We need to push these cases to the president’s desk, to maximize the chances of prisoners to get clemency.’ NYU’s new clemency center is funded with a grant from the Open Society Foundations, founded by George Soros. It will work closely with the Clemency Project 2014, a nationwide consortium of legal organizations that reviews clemency requests and connects eligible prisoners with pro bono attorneys. The organization will refer prisoners to NYU’s pop-up law office, Gramiccioni said.”  (National Law Journal)(free subscription required)

July 16, 2015 – “Three Boston law schools are teaming up to launch a practice incubator that will serve low- and modest-income clients. Lawyers for Affordable Justice, as the program is called, will employ approximately 12 recent graduates from Boston College Law School, Boston University College of Law and Northeastern University School of Law. Those selected will spend two years handling immigrant rights, employment and housing cases, as well as small-business and transactional matters. Most clients will pay below-market rates. The schools plan to open the incubator in January.” (National Law Journal)(free subscription required)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: 

Five Minnesota attorneys will receive national honors for their pro bono work from the Legal Services Corporation (LSC).  LSC is bestowing its Pro Bono Service Awards on the five for their “extraordinary commitment to equal justice.”

The awards go to:

  • Frank Bibeau, a tribal attorney who has volunteered with Anishinabe Legal Services for 10 years. He has donated hundreds of hours of pro bono legal service, advocating for tribal members’ rights.
  • Steven Kirsch, a shareholder with HKM Professional Association (formerly Murnane Brandt) who has served as the chair of the Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services Campaign for Legal Aid for 21 years.
  • Larry McDowell, a private attorney with Wurst & McDowell Limited, who has volunteered for Legal Services of Northwest Minnesota since its doors opened in 1976. He has contributed thousands of pro bono hours working on hundreds of family law cases.
  • Tom Kramer, a private attorney with Kramer Law Office in west central Minnesota, who has done pro bono work with Central Minnesota Legal Services for more than 20 years. He has donated more than 1,000 pro bono hours to assisting low-income clients.
  • Nora Sandstad, an assistant county attorney in St. Louis, who has spent five years providing pro bono legal assistance on a variety of family law cases at Legal Aid of Northeastern Minnesota. In 2013, she donated 300 hours of pro bono service.

(MinnPost)

Super Music Bonus!  from our Street Law Fellow Emily Peeler:

 

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – July 10, 2015

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

Happy Friday!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • New York City approves $750,000 for legal services program at Rikers Island jail;
  • Baylor Law School’s Veterans’ Assistance Clinic receives grant;
  • Montana Legal Services Association develops online child support calculator;
  • CIA establishes new diversity procedures;
  • Massachusetts public defenders attempt unionization again;
  • Atlanta non-profit offers legal assistance and citizenship classes to Asian immigrants;
  • Clinic changes in Canada still possible despite merger collapse;
  • Housing Families (of Malden, Massachusetts) now offering pro bono legal services;
  • Law clinics answer the call to help veterans;
  • Salt Lake County rethinking indigent defense;
  • Lakehead University opens Ontario’s seventh Student Legal Aid Services Society;
  • Legal aid in Connecticut to close lobbying arm at State Capitol;
  • Legal Aid of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands receives grant for SNAP advocacy;
  • Funding to help lighten Minnesota public defender caseloads;
  • $1 million gift to Rutgers Law School enhances statewide public interest efforts;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

July 1, 2015 – “The New York City Council has approved $750,000 in funding for a legal services program at Rikers Island jail, the Legal Aid Society announced in a statement. ‘The funds will allow Legal Aid to support the current staff in the Prisoners Rights Project, whose staff was cut in half over the last two decades,’ Legal Aid Society Attorney-in-Chief Seymour James said on Wednesday. ‘The funding will also allow the program to hire a paralegal case handler, who will be available to directly assist clients.'” (Sputnik)

July 1, 2015 – “For the first time in Baylor Law School history, the State Bar of Texas has awarded a grant to support and foster the ongoing effort of the Baylor Law School Veterans’ Assistance Clinic to provide Texas military veterans free legal counsel. With more than 19,000 veterans residing in McLennan County – adjacent to Fort Hood, the largest U.S. Army installation in the world – there is a great need to provide pro bono legal services to a well-deserving segment of the Central Texas community. (Baylor Media Communications)

July 1, 2015 -“Montana Legal Services Association, with input from the State of Montana Child Support Enforcement Division, has developed an online child support calculator for self-represented litigants. The calculator is intended specifically for cases in which self-represented litigants need to establish original or modified child support orders in parenting plan or dissolution with children cases. The calculator can be found through a link at the www.MontanaLawHelp.org website under the Families and Kids/Child Support topic area or on the www.LawHelpInteractive.org website. Calculator users can compute child support by answering questions about their incomes, parenting schedules and other information in an online interview. Once finished, users can print or email court-ready financial affidavits and/or child support worksheets. Users who create accounts on the Law Help Interactive website can save their answers for later use. Funding for the Montana Online Child Support Calculator was provided through a Legal Services Corporation Technology Initiative Grant.”  (State Bar of Montana)

July 2, 2015 – “The CIA is implementing new diversity practices following a report released this week that concluded the agency ‘does not sufficiently prioritize the development of its officers, hold itself accountable for maintaining a diverse and inclusive workplace, or consistently promote an inclusive culture.’ Director John Brennan ordered a set of remedies to be implemented during the next 12 months.” (Government Executive)

July 3, 2015 – “In an attempt to improve working conditions and salaries, [public defender Rachel] Scotch and her fellow employees are attempting to unionize. But it’s no simple undertaking. Public defenders have tried to organize twice before, in 1979 and in 1993, but were rejected by the state labor relations department because of what they say is an oversight in the collective bargaining statute that gives public employees the right to unionize. They are also trying, for the second time, to get a bill passed that would fix the problem. The difficulty in forming a union stems from the fact that the Committee for Public Counsel Services, or CPCS, is not considered a public employer in the executive or judicial branches, whose workers are covered by the state’s collective bargaining statute for public employees. The statute also does not specifically name CPCS as a public employer. For this reason, the state labor relations department has twice ruled that the committee’s employees are not eligible to organize. While they wait in hopes of a legislative change, the public defenders are trying a different tactic, petitioning to organize under a private-sector collective bargaining statute that also covers state employees that are not subject to the jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Board, including MBTA employees and those who work for the Steamship Authority.”  (The Boston Globe)

July 5, 2015 – “For the first time, an Atlanta non-profit will offer free legal help and low cost legal immigration services for Asian people. Asian Americans Advancing Justice—Atlanta offers a legal hotline in five languages, legal help, and ESL citizenship classes, according to AAAJA Executive Director Helen Kim Ho. She has wanted to do this for a long time, and is taking a risk. Ho left her corporate legal career and started the non-profit, then called Asian American Legal Advocacy Center, in 2010. It was ‘the first non-profit law center dedicated to promoting the civil, social and economic rights of Asian immigrants and refugees in the South,’ according to its website. At first she drew no salary and worked from her home. Now she has a staff, an office, and a boatload of awards. The risk is this: costs for the hotline, citizenship classes, and immigration help come from AAAJAs’ existing operating budget. There is no big grant and no big revenue stream to support it, so far.” (Epoch Times)

July 6, 2015 – “After allocating more than $1.1 million to efforts to reform the legal clinic system in the Greater Toronto Area, Legal Aid Ontario has confirmed it’s withdrawing financial support for the project but remains open to changes on a piecemeal basis. ‘We’ve indicated to the project that it is our intention to look at those transformational projects and initiatives that are currently being developed by GTA clinics and if we see a project or initiative that is transformative, that will advance client service and expand client service, then we will use the unspent funds from the GTA transformation project to support that endeavor,’ says Vicki Moretti, LAO’s vice president for the greater Toronto region. The comments follow news that a high-profile effort to merge Toronto-area clinics into a handful of organizations had fallen apart. Last week, Moretti confirmed LAO had withdrawn the funding to support those efforts. ‘In its current form, we will not be [continuing to fund the project],’ she says.”  (Law Times)

July 6, 2015 – “Housing Families, a Malden-based agency which aims to end family homelessness in Massachusetts, has recently acquired the Pro Bono Legal Services Program from Tri-City Community Action Program (Tri-CAP), an anti-poverty agency which recently closed. ‘Hosting the program at Housing Families provides families at risk of homelessness with much more than just legal representation — these families now also have the potential to work one-on-one with a case manager to help them get supports in place to minimize the risk of future instability, and the children also have the potential to access our children’s program,’ said Laura Rosi, Housing Families’ director of housing and advocacy. ‘I couldn’t be more proud of the work we’re doing!’ The Pro Bono Legal Services Program will augment Housing Families’ Eviction Prevention Program, which serves to help families keep their housing and avoid becoming homeless in the first place.”  (Melrose Free Press)

July 6, 2015 – The National Law Journal has done a nice job summarizing the law school clinics helping veterans.  “Today, approximately 50 schools operate clinics or pro bono programs for veterans. Syracuse University College of Law; the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law; the State University of New York at Buffalo Law School; and Pennsylvania State University Dickinson School of Law added clinics this spring. The University of Michigan Law School; Indiana University Maurer School of Law – Bloomington and the University of Denver Sturm College of Law will launch clinics this fall.”  Read the full article for more.  (National Law Journal)(free subscription required)

July 6, 2015 – “Salt Lake County officials are rethinking how best to provide legal counsel for indigent offenders — a $17 million bill each year. Having a right to counsel is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution’s Sixth Amendment, so for 30 years, the county has fulfilled that responsibility through a contract with the Salt Lake Legal Defender Association. But there’s been some problems with that contract in recent years, driven largely by a growing disparity between the pay and benefits earned by defense attorneys compared to what prosecutors make in the district attorney’s office. And with the nonprofit Sixth Amendment Center coming out with a study this fall for the Utah Judicial Council on the statewide delivery of indigent defense services, the county is considering three approaches to create more equity in the pay packages of opposing attorneys. One option would be to make the attorneys and staff of the Legal Defender Association employees of the county. Another would be to scrap the contract with the Legal Defender Association and to put the job out for bid. A third choice would be to have the Legal Defender Association contract come up for renewal every year or two, providing a recurring time frame for raising the legal defenders’ pay to match that of district attorneys.”  (The Salt Lake Tribune)

July 6, 2015 – “Low-income people living in either Thunder Bay or Fort William First Nation now have access to additional legal services as Lakehead University opens Ontario’s seventh Student Legal Aid Service Society (SLASS). Today, Lakehead Legal Services (LLS) opened its doors to clients.” (Legal Aid Ontario)

July 7, 2015 – “The longest sustained funding crunch in the history of legal aid is about to cost Connecticut’s poor their long-serving lobbyist at the General Assembly: Raphael L. “Rafie” Podolsky, a Yale-educated lawyer who took them as a client 40 years ago, is getting a pink slip. The state’s three major legal-aid groups are closing the Legal Assistance Resource Center of Connecticut, the agency they jointly fund for lobbying and a wide range of education and community outreach on behalf of the poor.” (The CT Mirror)

July 7, 2015 – “Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands announced today that MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger has awarded Legal Aid Society a $13,000 partnership grant to support MAZON’s anti-hunger efforts. This is the second year Legal Aid Society has received the grant funding, which will be used to continue its Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP – formerly known as food stamps) benefits advocacy.” (Clarksville Online)

July 8, 2015 – “An extra $6.5 million in funding will help lighten the caseloads of overworked and underpaid public defenders in the state. The funds are enough to cover the salaries of 36 new public defenders, but Minnesota’s Board of Public Defense, which employs the state’s public defenders, is also struggling with heavy caseloads and salaries that aren’t competitive with the private sector. The agency will meet next week to discuss how to spend the additional funds.” (MPR News)

July 8, 2015 – “The pro bono and public interest initiatives underway at Rutgers law schools in Camden and Newark will expand their reach throughout the state with a $1 million investment to support future practitioners and those unable to afford legal services, thanks to Rutgers Law–Camden alumnus James Maida and his wife Sharon. The Maidas have long supported Rutgers students through generous scholarships. Now with their $1 million gift, the Maida Public Interest Scholars Program will establish the law school as one of the nation’s leading public law schools for public interest law. The gift will benefit Rutgers students while helping the most vulnerable residents in the surrounding communities. The Maida Public Interest Summer Fellowships will pay up to 40 students to work for public interest legal organizations in positions that are normally unpaid, imparting valuable professional experience to the students while advancing the public good. The Maida Post–Graduate Public Interest Fellowship will fund the full-time salary of a selected fellow working in the public interest. These extraordinary funding opportunities will also help attract a cohort of high-achieving prospective law students with a demonstrated commitment to social change.” (Rutgers Today)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: Bryant Webster, attorney with Stone and Christy P.A. in Black Mountain, North Carolina.

Bryant Webster had no idea he had donated more than 1,300 pro bono hours when he was honored by the state bar association in June. He just thought he was doing his job. Lawyers have an ethical obligation to give back, said the Black Mountain civil litigator who was awarded the North Carolina Bar Association’s 2015 William L. Thorp Pro Bono Award. Webster, 45, practices law at Stone and Christy P.A. in Black Mountain. He has been volunteering with Pisgah Legal Services’ Mountain Area Volunteer Lawyers Program since 1997.  Thank you for your service! (Citizen-Times)

Super Music Bonus!  https://youtu.be/OAwaNWGLM0c?list=PLFgquLnL59amA7uBKduoqSvYv28x0QexV

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – July 2, 2015

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

Happy Friday!  Happy 4th of July!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • New York State legislature resolution supports civil Gideon;
  • Major law firm giving to legal aid declining;
  • State marijuana laws complicate federal government hiring;
  • Boston Bar Foundation awards $950,000 in grants;
  • Los Angeles County’s top prosecutor creates wrongful conviction unit;
  • Legal Services of North Florida, Inc. receives grant;
  • First federal reentry program underway in Alaska;
  • Legal incubator programs growing;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

June 29, 2015 – “While the Legislature’s just-completed regular session included bills expanding efiling and refining pre- and post-divorce maintenance guidelines, court administrators say a symbolic gesture by the Senate and Assembly will have lasting significance as well. ‘It does establish a statewide policy of providing legal assistance for persons in need of the essentials of life,’ chief administrative judge A. Gail Prudenti said in an interview Friday. ‘While it is aspirational, it allows us to work with our access-to-justice partners knowing that they are as committed as we are to providing this assistance.’ Each house adopted a concurrent resolution (C776/B2995) declaring that the ‘fair administration of justice’ obligates the state to ensure that all New York residents have ‘adequate’ and ‘effective’ legal representation for matters pertaining to the essentials of life. Essential matters are defined as housing, family matters, access to healthcare, education and subsistence income. Legislators also pledged to continue working toward the ‘ideal of equal access to civil justice for all.'” (New York Law Journal)(free subscription required)

June 29, 2015 – “While major law firms are enjoying record revenues — more than $100 billion last year — they are donating only a tenth of 1 percent of their proceeds for legal aid to low-income people, according to a new analysis released by The American Lawyer. Such institutional giving now accounts for only 7 percent of total legal aid funding, which comes from federal, state and private sources, the publication said. Law firm giving is under pressure to give to clients’ charities and to law school alma maters, the analysis found. Five law firms said they had given more than $1 million each last year to organizations that provide legal aid, but most firms were unwilling to disclose the exact amounts.”  The analysis provides interesting reasons for the decline, and points to ways in which more firm pro bono can offset the decline.  (The New York Times)(The American Lawyer)

June 29, 2015 – Marijuana possession is legal is some states, but not under federal law.  This is a recruitment development I’ve been tracking, and one we may touch on at the Public Service Mini-Conference.  This article provides an interesting perspective on the issue.  Suffice it to say, it’s still best to counsel students to steer clear of any drug use if they are considering a career in the federal government.  “For all the aspiring and current spies, diplomats and F.B.I. agents living in states that have liberalized marijuana laws, the federal government has a stern warning: Put down the bong, throw out the vaporizer and lose the rolling papers. It may now be legal in Colorado, in Washington State and elsewhere to possess and smoke marijuana, but federal laws outlawing its use — and rules that make it a firing offense for government workers — have remained rigid. As a result, recruiters for federal agencies are arriving on university campuses in those states with the sobering message that marijuana use will not be tolerated.”  (The New York Times)

June 29, 2015 – “The Boston Bar Foundation has awarded $950,000 in grants to 23 community organizations that work to provide legal services to low-income people. The organizations administer legal aid to the homeless, domestic violence survivors, at-risk children and veterans.”  (Daily Journal)

June 29, 2015 – “Los Angeles County’s top prosecutor has created a unit, headed by three experienced prosecutors, to review credible claims of wrongful convictions by criminal defendants. District Attorney Jackie Lacey said on Monday that the vast majority of the more than 71,000 felony cases filed by her office each year were upheld on appeal but that the unit was designed to catch those instances where the system failed. ‘In a few instances, new evidence is discovered and, on rare occasions, mistakes are found,’ Lacey said in a written statement. ‘Whenever we receive new credible information that may exonerate a person, the responsibility is on us, as prosecutors, to re-examine the facts and, if appropriate, to seek to vacate a wrongful conviction,’ she said.”  (Yahoo! News)

June 29, 2015 – “Sunday’s Child awards a total of $66,250 to two Escambia County nonprofits. Legal Services of North Florida, Inc. and Arc Gateway each won a grant for $33,125. Legal Services of North Florida, Inc. (category of Family & LGBT) will use their grant to hire a staff attorney for one year to develop enhanced advocacy and education tools to support victims of violence and bullying in the community.”  (Pensacola Today)

June 30, 2015 – “Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Bradley and federal public defender Rich Curtner stood inside a courtroom together as part of the team that makes up the Alaska Hope Court. The Hope Court is a project that has been in the works for a few years. Chief Magistrate Judge Deborah Smith and Curtner were advocates for bringing a reentry program to the state. The goal of the program is to reduce recidivism rates for federal offenders, keeping them out of prison once they reenter society. The Hope Court is also designed to help lower the costs associated with having criminals return into the system. Smith says reentry programs can save the judicial system about $2.21 for every $1 they invest in rehabilitating a criminal.”  (KTVA)

June 30, 2015 – “Law schools in California and other states have started up incubator programs. These projects, sort of training law firms, aim to help students prepare for life as lawyers by teaching them about the basics of law practice. At the same time, these programs provide affordable access to legal services for people of modest means. There are now about two dozen of these start-up firms across the country. Next year, five law schools in the San Francisco Bay Area will launch their program. Its objectives will be to provide long-term employment for graduates and increase access to legal services. Tiela Chalmers, CEO of the Alameda County Bar Association, discusses the initiative in this report.”  (Legal Broadcasters Network)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:  Kathleen Moccio, Hennepin County, Minnesota assistant public defender.

As public defenders nationwide scrambled to deal with the aftermath of a major court ruling on immigration in 2010, Kathleen Moccio was ready to help Hennepin County take it head-on. That year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that noncitizens have the right to legal advice on immigration consequences. Moccio immediately developed a plan for her office to ensure that her clients would get help in holding onto the American dream. Now, with five years under her belt as a Hennepin County assistant public defender, Moccio has been honored for her efforts by the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, which chooses one lawyer a year for the award.  Congratulations!  (Star Tribune)

Super Music Bonus!  https://youtu.be/KSrvulzNb4k?list=PL3QK-FeOu2ceTmYVjx45NQmr2minjaNqG

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