PSJD Public Interest News Digest – November 25, 2015

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

Happy Thanksgiving!  We are thankful that you enjoy the Digest.  Have a great Turkey Day, and we’ll see you next week.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Wyoming State Bar’s Modest Means program sees many volunteers;
  • New Orleans judge defers decision on public defender plea for no new cases;
  • ABA Journal announces nominees for the 9th annual Law Blawg 100;
  • Widener University Delaware Law School offers free legal aid to state inventors;
  • Texas Supreme Court establishes justice gap commission;
  • Thomas Jefferson School of Law announces endowment to fund Social Justice Award;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

November 21, 2015 – “Some attorneys in Wyoming are volunteering to represent residents who make too much money to qualify for legal aid but not enough to hire counsel. The Wyoming State Bar launched its Modest Means Program two weeks ago and has recruited at least 50 lawyers across the state. ‘The Wyoming State Bar has been involved in access-to-justice efforts for many years,’ said executive director Sharon Wilkinson. ‘We all really felt strongly that there is still a gap that we needed to fill.’ Participating attorneys agree to charge clients no more than $75 per hour and $500 for a retainer, if necessary. The program is available to families whose household incomes are between 200 and 250 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. That would be an annual income of between $48,500 and $60,625 for a family of four. Attorneys will help with issues involving divorce, child support, custody, bankruptcy, tenant issues, minor criminal matters and more.” (Billings Gazette)

November 23, 2015 – “A New Orleans judge has deferred until at least mid-December a decision on whether to stop assigning new criminal cases to the Orleans Public Defenders office. The office has said it can’t handle more cases without putting at risk defendants’ constitutional rights. Following two days of testimony in a hearing he convened, Criminal District Court Judge Arthur Hunter issued a ruling Monday afternoon (Nov. 23) giving the office until Dec. 11 to convince him it has taken ‘all reasonable steps’ to prevent the suspension of duties. The parish’s public defenders asked Friday that no new cases be appointed to their office until their existing workload was reduced sufficiently to ensure constitutional and ethically sound defense efforts for their clients.” (

November 23, 2015 –  “For this year’s annual Blawg 100 feature—our ninth—we’re going beyond announcing our list of 100 excellent legal blogs and the promotion of 10 more blogs to our Hall of Fame. We explore how the legal blogosphere has changed since we first started publishing this list. Do legal blogs have a waning or a thriving readership? And how has the emergence of new bloggers from BigLaw and elsewhere and other social media platforms in recent years changed blogging for the better—or worse? As in years past, we looked to readers and bloggers to help us compile our list. But this year, no blogs are being forced into categories, and there will be no online voting.” “Read more here to find out about the blogs on our list, and click here to find our Blawg 100 Twitter list, which includes both the handles of our Hall of Famers and this year’s nominees. Visit the Blawg 100 landing page to read about the eight prior lists, and check out the thousands of other legal blogs in the ABA Journal Blawg Directory.” (ABA Journal)

November 23, 2015 – “Widener University Delaware Law School launched a new, free public service Monday that will give legal advice to potential inventors.” “A new website provides information for prospective inventors, as well as attorneys, agents and law students who want to volunteer with the program. Successful applicants must meet three conditions to be eligible for the free legal advice. Their income must be less than three times the federal poverty level, they must have knowledge of the patent system and a truly inventive idea.” (Delaware Public Media)

November 23, 2015 – “By an order Monday the Texas Supreme Court has created an 18-member Texas Commission to Expand Civil Legal Services charged to explore means to bring more affordable legal services to small businesses and people who cannot qualify for legal aid. The commission will seek a comprehensive answer to a growing number of potential clients with legal problems who believe they cannot afford lawyers to solve them. Former Chief Justice Wallace B. Jefferson will lead the commission.” “The commission, composed of lawyers, law school deans and professors and judges, will assess efforts and proposals in Texas and other states, as well as by the American Bar Association, to find what may work to broaden legal services available to low- and middle-income Texans. Commissioners will issue a first report to the Court on Nov. 1, 2016.” (Texas Lawyer)

November 24, 2015 – “Thomas Jefferson School of Law’s Center for Law and Social Justice has created an award to recognize student efforts in social justice after receiving an endowment in memory of alumnus Samuel Kossack. Kossack’s family and friends have donated generously to fund an award to recognize a currently enrolled Thomas Jefferson School of Law student who, through his or her own actions, promotes social justice either on an individual basis or by transforming systems that perpetuate injustice. Recipients must demonstrate contributions to social justice through participation in activities such as volunteer work, relevant scholarship, advocacy of social justice, the law school’s pro bono program, clinical courses, self-help clinics, or other work that directly serves the needs of marginalized or disadvantaged populations. One cash award will be given annually.” (Business Wire)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

On this day in history: The United Nations General Assembly passes a resolution designating November 25 the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The resolution, which was introduced by the Dominican Republic, marked the anniversary of the death of three sisters, Maria, Teresa, and Minerva Mirabel, who were brutally murdered there in 1960. While women in Latin America and the Caribbean had honored the day since 1981, all UN countries did not formally recognize it until 1999. Many organizations, including the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), had been pushing for international recognition of the date for some time. ( 

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

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