PSJD Public Interest News Digest – September 25, 2015

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

Happy Friday!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • 2015 Trudeau Foundation Fellows announced;
  • Montana task force hears about problems with public defense system;
  • University of Georgia School of Law to launch Atlanta externship program;
  • Legal Services Corporation announces 2015 Pro Bono Innovation Grant recipients;
  • Legal Aid Ontario boosts students’ legal aid clinic funding;
  • Mid-Shore Pro Bono (Maryland) celebrates 10 years;
  • Tennessee attorney pro bono hours increase;
  • Federal funding for domestic abuse programs in New York;
  • ABA committee proposes eliminating ban on academic credit for paid externships for third time;
  • University of Memphis’ Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, Memphis Area Legal Services, and area hospital develop unique partnership;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

September 15, 2015 – “The Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation congratulates this year’s recipients of its prestigious research fellowships. These fellowships recognize public intellectuals in the humanities and social sciences who venture beyond the boundaries of their disciplines to find new solutions to complex issues of major importance to Canadians. The five new fellows appointed this year conduct research on: assisted suicide, Arab-Canadian youth, Canada’s relationship with the Indo-Pacific, justice as applied by armed rebels, and ethnobotany in support of Indigenous land claims. In addition to receiving a total of $225,000 over the next three years, each new fellow will enjoy unique access to the rich intellectual network of researchers and practitioners who have joined the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation community before them.  The Fellows are: Jocelyn Downie, Faculty of Law and Medicine, Dalhousie University (Nova Scotia), Bessma Momani, Department of Political Science, University of Waterloo (Ontario), Cleo Paskal, Visiting Fellow at the Montreal Centre for International Studies, Université de Montréal (Quebec), René Provost, Faculty of Law, McGill University (Quebec), and Nancy Turner, Environmental Studies, University of Victoria (British Columbia).”  (Trudeau Foundation)

September 17, 2015 – “Overworked public attorneys and a civil rights group on Thursday told Montana lawmakers and lawyers that funding problems may be seriously hurting the defense of the accused. Niki Zupanic, the policy director for ACLU of Montana, said a 2005 overhaul of the state’s public defense system has not corrected the problem of inadequate representation for defendants. The issue has persisted since the ACLU’s 2002 lawsuit that led Montana to rethink its approach to providing for the right to legal counsel, Zupinac said. A county-based system was replaced with the Office of the State Public Defender a decade ago, but running the office has been increasingly expensive. ‘Even though that inadequate (county-based) system no longer exists, the issues still persist,’ Zupanic said. Public defenders say they simply need more attorneys to handle a backlog of cases.” (Flathead Beacon)

September 18, 2015 – “The University of Georgia School of Law is opening an Atlanta campus next semester to give students more opportunities to gain real-world legal experience. Starting in January, second- and third-year students can gain practical skills through full-time, unpaid externships with Atlanta courts, government agencies, nonprofits and businesses. Possible placements could be with the offices of the governor or the attorney general, the Georgia Supreme Court or the House Democratic Caucus, according to the law school. The students will also take a clinical seminar, led by UGA Law’s civil clinic director, Alexander Scherr, to discuss their externship experiences and further their professional development. Students earn 10 credits for the externship and clinical seminar. They also have the option of taking up to two doctrinal classes.” (Daily Report)

September 18, 2015 – “15 legal aid organizations will receive grants to support innovations in pro bono legal services for low-income clients. Many of the projects will use technology to connect low-income populations to resources and services, while others aim to increase efficiency and effectiveness through partnerships with law schools, community organizations, and in-house corporate attorneys. Some projects will address issues affecting specific populations such as seniors, veterans, and low-income students. All the projects seek to engage and recruit pro bono lawyers and other volunteers to leverage LSC’s federal funding and increase the resources available to low-income clients.”  See the press release for the list of recipients. (Legal Services Corporation)

September 21, 2015 – “Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) will increase the funding of each Student Legal Aid Services Society by$100,000 annually. As a result, these clinics will provide additional services to low-income Ontarians while helping to train the lawyers of tomorrow. Ontario’s seven Student Legal Aid Service Societies operate out of law schools, allowing students to provide legal services under the supervision of qualified lawyers. The student legal aid clinics plan to use the additional resources in the following ways:

  • Community and Legal Aid Services Program at York University’s Osgoode Hall will begin offering employment law services and increase the hours of existing staff.
  • Community Legal Aid at the University of Windsor will begin offering consumer law services and expand its existing employment law services.
  • Community Legal Services at London’s University of Western Ontario will take on more criminal and housing law cases.
  • Downtown Legal Services at the University of Toronto will expand its housing law services and launch a new employment law division.
  • Queen’s Legal Aid at Kingston’s Queen’s University will hire another lawyer to expand all its services.
  • The Community Legal Clinic at the University of Ottawa will expand its bilingual housing law services.

Lakehead University in Thunder Bay is in the process of establishing Lakehead Legal Services. The clinic will receive its additional$100,000 during the 2016/17 fiscal year.” (CNW)

September 21, 2015 – “Mid-Shore Pro Bono will celebrate 10 years of service to the community and honor individuals and organizations that have contributed to a decade of achievements at an awards reception Thursday, Oct. 15. Receiving the Retired Pro Bono Volunteer Award will be Marianne Dise, and Andie Ross will be the recipient of the Distinguished Pro Bono Volunteer Award. Talbot Senior Center will receive the Non-Legal or Organizational Involvement Award for its support of the delivery of pro bono legal services to low-income clients. The Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented to Judge Karen Murphy Jensen for her continued efforts in furthering Mid-Shore Pro Bono’s mission. ‘We welcome everyone to come out and help us recognize these extraordinary individuals and organizations that contribute so much to our community,’ said Sandy Brown, Mid-Shore Pro Bono executive director. ‘We could not have served our clients so successfully for the past ten years without them and countless other volunteers and groups.'” (The Star Democrat)

September 21, 2015 -“The Tennessee Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Commission has released its annual report showing that attorneys in Tennessee have increased the number of hours of free and reduced-rate legal services they are providing to those in need. The report shows that the number of hours of pro bono service volunteered by attorneys in Tennessee went up by nearly 3,000 hours in the last reporting year. ‘Tennessee attorneys continue to respond to the need for free legal assistance, but the Commission believes that there is more work being done than is being reported,’ said Doug Blaze, chairman of the Commission. The report relies on data collected in 2014 for work done in 2013.” (The Chattanoogan)

September 21, 2015 – “U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand today announced $750,000 in federal funding for the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York and the Unity House of Troy. Specifically, Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York will receive $400,000 to strengthen civil and criminal legal assistance programs for adult and youth victims of domestic violence and the Unity House of Troy will receive $350,000 for a broad range of holistic, victim-centered transitional housing options and supportive services. The funding was allocated through the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Office on Violence Against Women.” (Press Release)

September 22, 2015 – “For the third time in less than two years, an ABA committee has proposed lifting the ban in the law school accreditation standards on students receiving academic credit for paid externships. But the Standards Review Committee, which met Friday and Saturday in Atlanta, also agreed to forward such a proposal to the governing council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar in case the council decides to keep the ban. ‘We’re just trying to be fair,’ said committee chair Scott Pagel, a professor and associate dean for information services at George Washington University Law School. ‘They’re the ones who have to decide, based on their reading of our proposed changes and the comments they receive from the community, if such a prohibition is still necessary.’ The ban on paid externships has been one of the most contentious issues to come before the council in recent years. The Law Student Division has lobbied hard to eliminate the prohibition, saying it limits the amount of field placement opportunities available to students. But many clinicians believe that eliminating the ban would undermine the academic purposes of the placements.” (ABA Journal)

September 22, 2015 – “In what officials called the first local partnership of its kind, Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital will collaborate with Memphis Area Legal Services and the University of Memphis’ Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law to address the legal and social issues affecting patient health, representatives of the three institutions announced Tuesday. Called Memphis CHiLD (Children’s Health Law Directive), the partnership will provide legal services, education and advocacy for children and their families. It will feature a variety of training and educational programs and a legal clinic at Le Bonheur where U of M law students have devoted space to work on cases and referrals and meet with patients and medical professionals. The initial focus of the collaboration will be assisting families with children suffering from severe asthma. Memphis CHiLD will try to get help for the families in dealing with issues such as mold in rental housing.” (The Commercial Appeal)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:  

Corporate Pro Bono (CPBO) announced today that it has selected BNY Mellon, a signatory to the CPBO Challenge® initiative, White & Case, and the National LGBT Bar Association (LGBT Bar) to receive the 2015 CPBO Pro Bono Partner Award in the Large Law category. The awardees were selected for their collaborative development of the Online LGBT Tax Resource, an innovative tool that leverages technology to provide pro bono legal assistance to same-sex married couples in the United States. CPBO, the global partnership project of Pro Bono Institute (PBI) and the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC), will present the award at the 2015 PBI Annual Dinner on November 5 in New York. (CSR Wire)

Super Music Bonus!  Music pick from the PSJD Fellow Eulen Jang.

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