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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