PSJD Public Interest News Digest – August 14, 2015

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

Happy Friday! This week we welcome the 2015-2016 PSJD Fellow Eulen Jang.  We are very excited to have her, and are looking forward to a great year!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Gift helps Loyola University New Orleans College of Law Incubator expand;
  • Defender Association of Philadelphia gets new Chief;
  • Law library and Recorder join forces to answer property questions;
  • Missouri Public Defender asks Governor for $10 million;
  • Boston University President gives $1 million for public interest fellowships;
  • Vermont’s new NAACP chapter receives housing complaints;
  • Northwestern University School of Law receives $5 million bequest to assist public interest students;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

August 7, 2015 – “A new $118,500 gift to the Loyola University New Orleans College of Law from Ed and Kathy Womac of the Womac Law Firm will support the recently launched Loyola Incubator Program—an intensive mentorship and skills program for recent College of Law graduates who are engaged in solo law practice. ‘This major gift will support enterprising new lawyers who want to use their Loyola law degrees to pursue social justice work and make a difference in the world,’ said outgoing College of Law Dean María Pabón López.” (Loyola University New Orleans Newsroom)

August 10, 2015 –  Keir Bradford-Grey says a recent case is illustrative of the approach she will take as she moves on to become chief of the Defender Association of Philadelphia. “We’re not going to just kind of shuffle people through,” she said. “Our mission is to understand our clients’ needs, advocate for them on behalf of their cases and then find creative ways to . . . suggest alternatives for them.”  “In September, Bradford-Grey will become leader of the office where she began her legal career, and replace Ellen Greenlee – the woman who hired her. Greenlee retired in March after 25 years as chief defender.”  (Philly.com)

August 10, 2015 – “Residents of Madison County [Illinois] who have legal questions about property matters can now speak with an attorney at no cost in a trial program presented jointly by Recorder Amy M. Meyer, and the Madison County Law Library Pro Bono Program. The Law Library, which is operated under the direction of the Circuit Court and located in the Madison County Courthouse, provides free access to legal research and pro bono services. The Law Library and Recorder Meyer have worked together previously to provide property related self-help legal forms to the public. They are now expanding their efforts to help people understand the land recording process, answer legal questions about property, and prepare accurate and appropriate land recording documents.” (The Telegraph)

August 10, 2015 -“The director of Missouri’s public defender system is asking Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon for an additional $10 million. Director Michael Barrett said Monday that the money is needed to help the agency adequately represent the state’s poorest individuals charged with crimes. Nixon’s office did not have an immediate comment Monday about the request for more money. Barrett cited a federal report released in July on the St. Louis County Family Court, which said young people accused of crimes often lack adequate legal representation. Barrett says the agency’s most pressing need is to hire more public defenders. Nixon cannot give the department $10 million without first asking permission from lawmakers during the legislative session beginning in January.”  (FOX 2 Now)

August 11, 2015 – “BU President Robert Brown issued a challenge to the law school in 2014: If you can raise $1 million by the end of June 2015 to fund public interest fellowships for BU Law grads, I’ll match it dollar for dollar. What ensued was a fundraising effort that brought in $1 million from alumni by Brown’s deadline, said Terry McManus, BU School of Law’s assistant dean for development and alumni relations. And Brown lived up to his promise, too. With the match from Brown, the law school has a total of $2 million, enough funding for 10 public-interest fellowships each year for five years, starting this fall. The positions will be in a range of settings, from a U.S. governmental organization to a non-governmental organization overseas.”  (Boston Business Journal)

August 11, 2015 – “Mary Brown-Guillory, president of the Champlain area NAACP, told a statewide civil rights panel Monday that her organization has received an ‘avalanche’ of discrimination complaints. In the month since they’ve been ‘open for business,’ Vermont’s first NAACP chapter has received at least 50 complaints. Most involve discrimination, she said, including housing discrimination. Vermont Legal Aid, a civil rights nonprofit law firm, recently released data from a study conducted by its fair housing program. The study shows preferential treatment toward white residents without children and without an apparent disability, said Marsha Curtis, of Vermont Legal Aid.” “Further outreach and education was recommended by most of the panelists as a possible solution to continued housing discrimination.” (VT Digger)

August 12, 2015 – “Northwestern University School of Law has received a $5 million bequest from the Estate of Dawn Clark Netsch to endow the Walter and Dawn Clark Netsch Scholarship Fund, which will provide financial aid for law students who are interested in pursuing careers in public interest law. The gift also will fund loan repayment assistance to graduates working in the public interest law field. Netsch, who died in 2013, was a beloved Northwestern alumna and long-serving professor who had a storied career in Illinois politics. The gift in Netsch’s honor will fittingly provide support for the next generation of public servants.” (Northwestern University News)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:  Darleen Gondola Bonislawski

Darleen Gondola Bonislawski’s first job out of high school was working as a maid at Harvard, and her time as a union leader in the Harvard University Employees Representative Association led her to first become a paralegal and later a lawyer who advocated for workers’ rights.

“It really gets to me when Harvard says workers are a dime a dozen,” she said in 1979 while she was a vice president of the union, according to The Crimson, Harvard’s student newspaper. “We should have the benefits of the wealth we help produce.”

She also spent 24 years as a Cambridge election commissioner, working to improve the city’s voting process and register scores of disenfranchised voters. “We have to fight against voter suppression,” she wrote at the end of her term in a letter to the Cambridge Democratic City Committee. “Even in so-called liberal Massachusetts, there is still so much to do.”

At 47, she realized a lifelong dream and became a lawyer. Most of her clients couldn’t afford representation, and she often worked pro-bono.

Read more about her amazing life here in the Boston Globe.

Super Music Bonus!  Starting next week, our PSJD Fellow Eulen Jang will be bringing you the music.  So, this is my last pick for a while.  Enjoy!

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