Archive for January, 2016

PSJD Public Interest News Digest – January 29, 2015

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

Happy Friday! I feel like we’ll never dig out of this snow. But, it reminded me that not everyone is as fortunate to have a warm place to sleep. Check out resources in your area for folks who may be out in the cold so that you know how to help if an opportunity arises.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • 2016 National Law Journal Pro Bono Hot List;
  • West Virginia Public Defender Services to no longer cut court-appointed attorneys’ fees;
  • Bloomberg BNA announces support of the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia;
  • Texas Civil Rights Project announces Veterans’ Rights Program;
  • Case Western Reserve University School of Law to create a human trafficking law clinic;
  • Idaho judge dismisses ACLU lawsuit over public defense;
  • State of Utah and Washington County sued over public defender system;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

January 18, 2016 – The 2016 National Law Journal Pro Bono Hot List is out.  The work was varied and far-reaching and required thousands of hours and teams of attorneys working to solve complex problems. Check out their amazing work. (National Law Journal)

January 21, 2016 – “[West Virginia] Public Defender Services rescinded its emergency guidelines that were set to go into effect this week. Dana Eddy, the Executive Director of Public Defender Services, said the budget office was able to scrape together enough money to be able to withdraw the emergency guidelines. ‘I give full credit to the budget office,’ Eddy said. ‘They were able to scrape together $15.7 million, which made it possible to remove the emergency guidelines.’ Eddy said even if the emergency guidelines had gone into effect, they would’ve only lasted until the next fiscal year.” (West Virginia Record)

January 21, 2016 –  “Bloomberg BNA today announced it will provide Bloomberg Law, a leading all-in-one technology platform for the legal industry, at no cost to the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia (D.C. Legal Aid). Washington, D.C.’s oldest and largest civil legal services organization, D.C. Legal Aid provides pro bono representation to clients living in poverty on matters involving domestic violence/family, housing, public benefits, and consumer law.” (PR Newswire)

January 21, 2016 – “The Texas Civil Rights Project recently announced a new Veterans’ Rights Program aimed at assisting the 40,000 or so veterans living in the Rio Grande Valley. ‘Veterans not only have the challenge of re-acclimating to civilian life – seeking health, education and other benefits to which they are entitled – but also often have the added challenge of navigating that process with physical or mental disabilities that they acquired during service,’ said Emma Hilbert, the program’s attorney, in a statement to Equal Voice.” “Any veterans or family members of veterans having trouble gaining access to public resources or residences will find themselves heard and represented at TCRP.” (AFBA)

January 22, 2016 – “Case Western Reserve University School of Law recently received $131,169 to create a human trafficking law clinic. The money came from the Crime Victims’ Fund, which was established by the Victims of Crime Act and provides a base amount of $500,000 to each state. In Ohio, the Attorney General’s Office distributes this money to Crime Victims Assistance Grant applicants who will support victim assistance and/or compensation programs. The focus of the human trafficking law clinic will be on providing advocacy and educating people on the issue of human trafficking. Students in the law school will be involved in the representation of human trafficking victims when they face criminal charges related to their victimization and will work with the courts to identify victims of human trafficking. Although they will not be involved in the prosecution of any human traffickers, students will also help victims who act as witnesses in such trials by providing information and support. The educational component will involve preparing educational materials for the community. All of this will be done with the oversight of Co-Directors and Professors Maureen Kenny and Judith P. Lipton, and students who become involved will be focusing on criminal law.” (The Observer)

January 22, 2016 – “An Idaho judge has dismissed a lawsuit against the state seeking to improve the public defense system in Idaho, saying the case did not merit judicial action because it is not up to the courts to legislate standards. ‘The court is sympathetic with plaintiff’s plight. However, the case invites the court to make speculative assumptions regarding the outcomes of individual cases,’ 4th District Judge Samuel Hoagland said in his ruling. He said the lawsuit asks him to presume ‘that all indigent criminal defendants in all counties are receiving the same ineffective assistance of counsel, and then issue blanket orders halting all criminal prosecutions until the issues are resolved.’ The American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho sued the state in June contending that state officials have known for years that Idaho’s public defense system was broken and prevented defendants from receiving adequate legal representation guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. Though the ACLU has brought similar cases over public defense systems in parts of Michigan, Washington state and other regions, attorneys on the Idaho lawsuit say it’s the first such case against an entire state. ACLU-Idaho Executive Director Leo Morales said the organization would appeal the ruling.” (Idaho Statesman)

January 22, 2016 – “A proposed class-action lawsuit was filed Friday against the state of Utah and Washington County on behalf of thousands of criminal defendants who are represented in court by public defenders. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court on Friday, claims the county’s current public defender system is broken, and that the attorneys who work those contracts are overworked, underpaid and are not given the proper support to defend their clients. The lawsuit claims this is violating the accused’s constitutional rights — which requires states to provide an attorney for those who can’t afford them. ‘[The county] enters into fixed-price contracts with local attorneys to provide indigent defense services to those charged with criminal wrongdoing in the district court,’ the lawsuit reads. ‘The contracts are structured and administered in a manner that impede the ability of the attorneys to provide constitutionally adequate legal representation to their clients.'” (The Salt Lake Tribune)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

The ABA Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services has given its 2016 Louis M Brown Award for Legal Access to Suffolk University Law School in Boston for its program uniquely combining course work and clinical opportunities.

Suffolk’s Accelerator-to-Practice Program enables graduates to effectively and creatively provide personal legal services within the law firm setting. Courses include “Legal Problems in Everyday Life” and “Lawyering in the Age of Smart Machines,” along with an array of substantive law topics. Students spend their final year representing clients in fee-shifting cases in a law firm within the school in which they learn practice skills, client retention and service, risk management, and other skills necessary for efficient delivery of legal services.

The committee also recognized the Lawyer Entrepreneur Assistance Program, an incubator consortium of law schools in Orange County, California, with Meritorious Recognition. The program trains new lawyers to create solo or small firm practices that serve people who do not qualify for free legal services but are unable to pay prevailing market rates. Law schools in the partnership are the University of California, Irvine School of Law, Chapman University School of Law, Whittier School of Law, Western State College of Law and the Legal Aid Society of Orange County.  (ABA News)

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

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Job’o’th’week (JD Advantage Position) – Human Rights Watch

Help Wanted Photo: Brenda Gottsabend – CC License

The Disability Rights Division of the Human Rights Watch is seeking highly qualified applications for the position of Disability Rights Researcher/Advocate. This position will be responsible for developing and implementing research and advocacy strategies on the human rights of persons with disabilities. The position will ideally be based in HRW’s New York Office and will report to the Director of the Disability Rights Division.

If this sounds like something for you, check out the full post here. (Application Deadline: February 22, 2016)

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – January 22, 2015

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

Happy Friday!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • San Diego County Bar Foundation awards $110,00 in grants;
  • Veterans Legal Assistance Foundation established to provide Canadian veterans better access to justice;
  • ACLU files suit against Orleans Public Defenders Office;
  • North Mississippi Legal Services celebrates 50 years;
  • Fort Bend County (Texas) to open public defenders office;
  • Grant provides legal aid to Indiana residents facing foreclosure;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

January 14, 2016 – “The San Diego County Bar Foundation (SDCBF) has awarded a total of $110,000 to 13 local nonprofit organizations, including Jewish Family Service, that offer legal services and promote understanding of the legal system to San Diego County residents.” “”Through these grants, we further our mission to ensure that legal aid is accessible to those who would otherwise be underserved by the legal system,’ said Brian Funk, president of the SDCBF board of directors. ‘We hope to raise even more funds in the coming year and continue to promote public understanding of the law.'” (San Diego Jewish World)

January 15, 2016 –  “Peter Stoffer announced this morning at the House of Commons a new charitable organization that supports access to justice for Canadian veterans. Funding for the initiative was announced in 2013 in conjunction with the Manuge SISIP Clawback class action settlement, but was made official in Ottawa today with the establishment of the Veterans Legal Assistance Foundation (‘the Veterans Legal Fund’). The$1-million donation was made by firms that received fees in the settlement – McInnes Cooper and Branch MacMaster – to fund a private foundation for the benefit of disabled veterans who apply and qualify for support.” “The mandate of the Veterans Legal Fund is to assist veterans with access to justice by providing funding assistance enabling them to retain qualified legal counsel. The framework for the funding assistance program would be similar to that of legal aid.” (Canadian News Wire)

January 15, 2016 – “The Orleans Parish Public Defenders office will have to defend itself against a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana. The office is refusing cases because it said it does not have the money or people for the caseload. The ACLU said it is a constitutional issue because the defenders’ office is denying people their Sixth Amendment right to an attorney. Since Tuesday, the office has refused six cases.” “The ACLU filed suit on behalf of three men who have been wait-listed, saying they are ‘helpless’ and losing invaluable opportunities to build a defense. The state relies on fines and fees collected from traffic tickets and other convictions to pay for public defense. [Chief District Defender Derwyn] Bunton said that means his office is dependent on inadequate and unreliable revenue. ‘This lawsuit is really an illustration of that, and so when we don’t have the resources we can’t provide the service and ethically we can’t take on cases that we can’t handle in accordance with the constitution and our ethical and state performance standards,’ Bunton said.” (WDSU)

January 15, 2016 – “In the past 50 years Mississippi has seen the civil rights movement, advances in employment opportunities for people of all lifestyles, an economic downturn and a society that has become more litigious. Through it all North Mississippi Legal Services has been on top of the game, helping poor and low-income Mississippians who need legal representation and offering more and more services as the years go by.” Through their work, northern Mississippians have seen great change and progress.  Congratulations, and here’s to many more years! (Oxford Eagle)

January 16, 2016 – “Fort Bend County’s new public defender’s office is getting ready to open for business, making preparations to handle about 10 percent of the county’s felony and misdemeanor indigent cases. Following last spring’s debate over whether the office was needed, state grant funding was approved by August and went into effect in October for the new county agency, which will provide criminal defense for those who cannot afford it. The public defender’s office will take its first case Feb. 1.” (Houston Chronicle)

January 19, 2016 – “Indiana Legal Services, or ILS, provides legal aid for Hoosiers in all 92 counties. On Tuesday, Attorney General Greg Zoeller announced that a new grant will help support their foreclosure prevention services for low-income residents. The grant will also be used to fund a partnership between Indiana Tech Law School and ILS. Attorney General Greg Zoeller says this grant will help residents who need legal aid during the foreclosure process.” “The grant comes from money received in a multi-state settlement with Chase Bank over alleged unlawful debt collection practices. The judge ruled the funds be used for consumer protection.” (WBOI)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others? – Martin Luther King, Jr.  I am asking myself this question often.  I hope you are too. Together we make a difference for those who don’t have the skills or experience to help themselves.  Thank you for your pro bono efforts of behalf of those individuals!

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

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Job’o’th’week (Fellowship Edition) – Higher Education Law Fellow

Help Wanted Photo: Brenda Gottsabend – CC License

Penn State University’s Office of the Vice President and General Counsel is seeking to hire a recent law school graduate as a Higher Education Law Fellow for a one-year period to begin in the summer or early fall of 2016. No prior legal experience is required. The Law Fellow may be assigned research and other projects in any of the subject matter areas handled by the Office, including those related to employment, faculty, students, research, governance, contracts, compliance, intellectual property, constitutional law, health care, litigation, government relations, regulatory matters and others.

If this sounds like something for you, check out the full post on PSJD. (Application Deadline: Rolling)

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2016 Equal Justice Works Public Interest Awards

Equal Justice Works is presenting awards to law students at EJW member schools in eight regions who have a demonstrated commitment to public interest law and pro bono workCheck out their message below:

The 2016 Equal Justice Works Public Interest Awards seek to identify and honor law students who have provided extraordinary service through clinics, volunteer work, internships, extracurricular projects, and more.

The deadline to apply for an Equal Justice Works Public Interest Award is March 1, 2016. Click here to access the 2016 Equal Justice Works Public Interest Award application, and click here to view a list of all Equal Justice Works member schools by region. For all questions, please email our Law School Engagement & Advocacy Unit at lsea@equaljusticeworks.org.

Good luck!

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – January 14, 2016

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

Happy Friday!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • California Chief Judge hails proposed budget increase for judiciary;
  • Orleans public defender’s office to begin refusing cases;
  • Idaho Governor proposes $5 million for public defense reform;
  • Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad College of Law launches legal incubator program;
  • Washington State Attorney General announces legislation to provide better legal assistance to veterans;
  • Elon University School of Law launches law practice incubator;
  • Teen builds UK’s first robot lawyer;
  • Maine lawmakers propose state-wide public defender office;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

January 8, 2016 – “California Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye yesterday expressed delight over the allocation in Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed 2016–17 budget of $3.8 billion for the Judicial Branch, including $2.8 billion for trial court operations. The total amount of the state budget is $122.6 billion. Last year, Brown proposed $3.47 billion for the courts, a $180 million boost over the previous fiscal year. The current sum proposed for the courts is a $330 million increase. Cantil-Sakauye declared: ‘We welcome the Governor’s proposed budget for the judicial branch as it would provide $146.3 million in crucial new funding for our courts. Much of the new funding would be focused on innovations to benefit court users at all levels of our court system. The proposed budget reflects a steady but cautious new investment in the judicial branch since fiscal year 2012–2013. The budget contains ‘proposals to support efforts by the Judicial Council to improve court operations and increase access.’ ‘In addition to supporting local as well as branchwide innovations, the Governor’s budget would provide funding for statewide infrastructure needs, language access expansion in civil proceedings, and funding to assist trial courts facing increased workload related to sentencing reforms.’ ‘The Governor’s proposed budget would help make courts more accessible, efficient, and equitable for court users. The Judicial Council looks forward to working with the Administration and Legislature as we seek to address state budget issues affecting access to justice for the people of California.'” (Metropolitan News-Enterprise)

January 11, 2016 –  “The Orleans Public Defenders office announced Monday that it will begin refusing certain felony cases in which defendants face lengthy or life sentences. In addition to murder cases, these can include attempted murder, forcible rape and armed robbery, said Colin Reingold, the office’s litigation director. The action, which Chief Defender Derwyn Bunton first threatened nearly two months ago, presents uncertain options for indigent defendants charged with serious violent crimes. The office either needs more funding or reduced caseloads, Reingold said. ‘Either those defendants will have to hire a lawyer, or the court will find them a lawyer, or they will wait for a lawyer until one of those things happen,’ Reingold said. ‘On a purely practical level, each judge could make their own call.’ Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration has increased direct appropriations to the office from $831,000 in 2014 to more than $1.5 million this year, the administration said in a statement. But these increases have barely kept pace with state funding cuts, the administration said, adding that the state ‘has primary responsibility in this area.’ The additional local funding is enough to stave off mandatory furloughs, but not enough to provide representation in serious felony cases that is constitutional or ethical, Reingold said. Reingold acknowledged the possibility a judge could order the Public Defenders office to proceed with representation, adding this could ultimately harm prosecutions. ‘We would continue to do the best we can with the understanding that we are warning them it is our opinion that the representation we are providing is deficient, and the case will be vulnerable to an appeal,’ Reingold said, adding that the Public Defenders office would likely seek appellate relief if forced to provide deficient representation.” (The Times-Picayune)

January 11, 2016 – “Idaho Gov. Butch Otter says he’s set aside $5 million in his proposed state budget for next year to address public defense reform. After a short pause, lawmakers greeted the news with applause. It followed a strong statement from Otter about the need for the move. ‘Let me say that Idaho historically has been a leader in recognizing and ensuring the right to legal counsel,’ he said. ‘It was part of our territorial law and was put in the Idaho Constitution at statehood.’ A lawsuit now pending in state court in Idaho charges that Idaho’s current public defender system is unconstitutional, its public defenders are overworked and undertrained, and the system provides a disincentive for adequate defense, Otter told lawmakers. ‘It’s not a cheap or easy fix. But I stand with the Idaho Criminal Justice Commission and the State Public Defense Commission in calling on the Legislature to address the issue this year,’ the governor declared.” (The Spokesman-Review)

January 11, 2016 – “The Shepard Broad College of Law will launch a Legal Incubator program, a new opportunity for Nova Southeastern University (NSU) law graduates to start their own solo, small firm or non-profit practices while serving military veterans and lower income individuals. The innovative program, operating in coordination with the college’s existing Veterans Law Clinic, will allow NSU law graduates to attain valuable legal and business experience while launching a practice and provide the new attorneys the affordable infrastructure and basic training to get established. ‘The integration of the NSU Law Incubator with the full-service Veteran’s Clinic provides a truly unique resource for both our graduates and the communities they serve,’ said College of Law Dean Jon M. Garon. ‘This model combines cutting-edge, post-graduate education essential for new lawyers while greatly expanding our service to the Veteran community.'” (PR Newswire)

January 13, 2016 – “State Attorney General Bob Ferguson on Wednesday announced legislation to improve the delivery of legal assistance services to current and former military service members. The proposed legislation to create an Office of Military and Veteran Legal Assistance in the Attorney General’s Office authorizes the office to facilitate access to legal assistance programs and pro bono (volunteer) legal representation for military service members, veterans and their families. The proposed legislation will create a one-stop shop for legal assistance and pro bono services provided by community organizations and private attorneys.” (Kent Reporter)

January 13, 2016 – “Elon University School of Law has launched a law practice incubator to help foster the development of attorneys looking to launch a solo practice or seeking to serve low-income residents in the community. Peter Hoffman, an Elon Law professor who focuses on trial and appellate advocacy, has spearheaded the effort and said the goal is to help attorneys leave the program after 18 months ‘with a record of accomplishment, pro bono service and financially viable, freestanding practices.’ The program launches with four Elon Law graduates who were selected through a competitive application process.” (Triad Business Journal)

January 14, 2016 – This one is just interesting.  “A 19-year-old student claims to have built “UK’s first robot lawyer” in an attempt to give the public free legal aid. Joshua Browder, undertaking an Economics and Computer Science degree at Stanford University, came up with the idea after he created a website ‘DoNotPay’ to help people appeal unfair parking tickets. Speaking to Mashable about the inspiration behind his robot lawyer, he said: ‘…users began sending me emails ranging from questions about how to use the site (‘I got a parking ticket — which appeal should I choose?’) to general questions about consumer law (‘What happens if I can’t pay my court fine?’).  Although I tried to respond to every single one, as the site gained popularity, it became harder to respond in detail to thousands of these emails a month.’ He added: ‘To solve this problem, I realised that the best way to help people would be to create a computer program that could talk to users, generate appeals and answer questions like a human.'” (Huffington Post UK)

January 14, 2016 – “A proposal by Gov. Paul LePage to create a state public defenders office to represent criminal defendants who can’t afford a lawyer will be aired in a public hearing Thursday at the State House. The bill, sponsored by a bipartisan group of legislators on LePage’s behalf, would replace the current system, which uses state money to hire private lawyers for indigent defense, with a hybrid system in which approved private attorneys would be under contract with the state. Currently, lawyers hired as public defenders aren’t under contract. But the bill is opposed by many attorneys who currently represent indigent defendants in Maine.” “Maine is now the only state without some form of a public defender’s office to oversee the representation of indigent criminal defendants.” (Portland Press Herald)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

Four outstanding attorneys and law firms and two community partners were recognized and celebrated for their extraordinary work at the Nevada Legal Services Inaugural Elko Champions of Justice Luncheon on Dec. 10, 2015. “Nevada Legal Services created the Champions of Justice Award to give recognition to those who significantly support the cause of access to justice for all Nevadans by providing or promoting pro bono assistance,” Johnson said. “As the needs of our rural communities have increased we have reached out to our rural community volunteers and community agencies for support and assistance in addressing the increased need for legal aid.” The award recipients represent a broad cross-section of Elko and rural Nevada’s legal community and share a commitment to advancing access to justice.

Rural Pro Bono Attorney of the Year 2015: Rendal Miller, Esq.

Rural Pro Bono Firm of the Year 2015: The Gerber Law Firm

Rural Pro Bono Clinic Attorney of the Year 2015: Kriston Hill, Esq.

Andrew J. Puccinelli  Special Recognition of the Year 2015: Julie Cavanaugh-Bill, Esq.

Rural Pro Bono Collaboration Partners of the Year 2015: Elko County Library

Rural Pro Bono Community Partners of the Year 2015: Elko Office of Aging and Disability Services Division

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

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Job’o’th’week (Summer Internship Edition) – DC Office of Human Rights

Help Wanted Photo: Brenda Gottsabend – CC License

The District of Columbia Office of Human Rights (OHR) is seeking skilled law clerks interested in investigating complaints of discrimination for their investigations division. OHR was established to eradicate discrimination, increase equal opportunity and protect human rights for persons who live in or visit the District of Columbia. The agency enforces local and federal human rights laws, including the DC Human Rights Act, by providing a legal process to those who believe they have been discriminated against. Investigations law clerks will be involved in many aspects of the agency’s day-to-day work, participate in the implementation of program activities, and provide critical support to the Division.

If this sounds like you, check out the full post on PSJD.  (Application Deadline: February 19, 2016)

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Spring Break at the 2016 Criminal Defense Trial Practice Institute

Want to spend your spring break brushing up on your lit skills? The Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia has got you covered:

The Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia is pleased to present the 2016 Spring Break Criminal Defense Trial Practice Institute (Institute).  The Institute seeks to help students cultivate effective trial advocacy skills and explore indigent criminal defense work.  The program consists of a week of workshops on how to conduct opening statements, direct examinations, cross examinations, and closing arguments.  In addition, students will learn how to develop theories of defense, master the rules of evidence, and impeach witnesses at trial.  At the end of the program, students will participate in full-length mock trials presided over by District of Columbia Superior Court judges.

The Institute is designed to support law students from traditionally underrepresented minority groups, students from financially disadvantaged backgrounds, and/or students from law schools that lack criminal defense and trial advocacy training opportunities.

The Institute will be held March 13 March 18, 2016.  Each student is expected to commit to participating in the entire program, which also includes daily evening sessions.  The program is free of charge to students, although students are expected to provide their own transportation and lodging.

For more information on how to apply, click here. (Application Deadline: January 30, 2016).

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Public Interest Training: Bergstrom Summer Fellowship

Attention Students! Interested in working in child welfare law? Plan on interning this summer at a child welfare law office? Then you may be interested in Michigan Law’s Summer Fellowship training. For the past twenty years, the University of Michigan Law School has invited students interested in child welfare law to spend three days in Ann Arbor, prior to starting their summer internship at a child welfare office, to participate in a comprehensive training on child welfare law and practice.For fellows accepted into the program, the Bergstrom Foundation will provide travel expenses for the participants, housing during the fellowship, training, and meals.

If this sounds like something for you, check out their website for full details and how to apply. (Application Deadline: March 15, 2016).

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – January 8, 2015

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

Happy New Year!  We hope you had a wonderful holiday season. We start off the new year with a number of new initiatives providing increased access to justice. Let’s keep this going.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Canadian lawyer launches online course for pro se litigants;
  • Bank settlement funds to help West Virginia State Bar provide legal services;
  • North Dakota indigent defense attorneys see caseloads spike;
  • Colorado Lawyers Committee launches young lawyers division with pro bono mission;
  • Appellate pro bono pilot project launched in Hawaii;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

December 31, 2015 – “Human rights lawyer Amer Mushtaq is trying to streamline access to justice for self-representing litigants going through the Ontario small claims court system with an online course he has developed. Individuals hoping to represent themselves in a dispute — whether they are filing or responding to a claim — can take the $199 online course prior to filing or attending trial in order to understand the complex process. The video guide is broken up into steps with PowerPoint slideshow presentation addressing key issues self-representing litigants tend to face. In the past few years, Mushtaq has become more aware of the problems potential clients have with small claims court cases. ‘They want help, but they just can’t afford our firm,’ he says.” (Canadian Lawyer)

January 5, 2016 –  “The West Virginia State Bar received $329,000 from a U.S. Department of Justice settlement with Bank of America that will help legal services organizations in the state provide foreclosure-prevention assistance to indigent citizens and/or support community redevelopment legal services.” “Applicants for the newly announced grants must qualify as a legal services organization but do not have to be current grantees.” (The West Virginia State Bar)

January 5, 2016 – “The number of court cases involving clients who can’t afford legal services climbed in all areas of North Dakota during the last fiscal year, with large increases seen in northern judicial districts, the head of the state’s Commission on Legal Counsel for Indigents said Tuesday. In the Northwest Judicial District alone, felony cases assigned to indigent defense attorneys jumped by nearly 30 percent from fiscal year 2014 to 2015, from 760 cases to 983 cases, and have skyrocketed by more than 500 percent since 2010’s count of 162 felony cases. Overall, cases assigned to indigent defense attorneys increased by 18 percent in 2015 in the Northwest Judicial District, 24 percent in the North Central Judicial District and 44 percent in the Northeast Judicial District, compared to an 11 percent increase statewide, from 12,180 cases to 13,511 cases. Commission Executive Director H. Jean Delaney told the Legislature’s interim Judiciary Committee that she expects the numbers will increase again in fiscal year 2016. Delaney said more case assignments mean more costs for the agency, which suffered a budget shortfall during the 2013-15 biennium and received additional funding for 2015-17, including seven new full-time positions – three of them attorneys in Bismarck, Williston and Watford City.” (The Dickinson Press)

January 6, 2016 – “The 38-year-old Colorado Lawyers Committee has launched a Young Lawyers Division, with a mission to make a difference in the lives of children and the underserved. Matthew Linton, of counsel at the Holland & Hart Denver office, has been elected chair of the new division. The Colorado Lawyers Committee has volunteer participants from 60 firms with about 900 attorneys available and 30 pro bono projects currently active. The idea of the committee was to carefully choose pro bono work that would make an impact in social issues, said Connie Talmage, Colorado Lawyers Committee executive director. The committee has taken on major issues that affect children and the under-privileged, she said. For example, the group worked a case that helped the state deliver food stamps to applicants in a more timely fashion. The mission of the YLD, which is for attorneys younger than 40 and who have been in practice less than eight years, is to empower passionate young lawyers to make a difference for children and the underserved through education, advocacy and systemic change.” (Denver Business Journal)

January 6, 2016 – “The Hawaii State Judiciary, in partnership with the Hawaii Access to Justice Commission, Volunteer Legal Services of Hawaii, and the Hawaii State Bar Association’s Appellate Section, has launched the Hawaii Appellate Pro Bono Pilot Project. The project provides volunteer appellate counsel to individuals who are representing themselves on appeal. ‘This project is a win-win,’ said Justice Simeon R. Acoba, Jr., Chairman of the Hawaii Access to Justice Commission. ‘In addition to providing legal support to those who need it, the Hawaii Appellate Pro Bono Pilot Project will give our volunteer attorneys a valuable opportunity to participate in the handling of appellate cases. We hope it will also be a chance for our experienced appellate counsel to mentor the next generation of appellate attorneys.’ When an individual files a notice of appeal at the Hawaii State Supreme Court Clerk’s Office and is not represented by an attorney, the pro se litigant will be provided information about the Hawaii Appellate Pro Bono Pilot Project. This pilot project is currently limited to civil cases involving foreclosures, summary possessions, employment discrimination, worker’s compensation, wrongful termination, denial of unemployment benefits, state tax appeals, probate matters, and paternity and non-married custody cases. Participants in the Hawaii Appellate Pro Bono Pilot Project are required to meet certain income-need requirements and, if qualified, to pay an administration fee of $50.00 to Volunteer Legal Services of Hawaii. In addition, litigants will be responsible for any costs associated with the appeal, including filing, transcript, or other costs related to the preparation of the record on appeal and presentation of arguments in the appellate courts.” (Hawai’i State Judiciary)

 

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

The AALS Pro Bono and Public Service Section has selected winners for the 2016 Rhode and Drinan Awards. The Deborah L. Rhode Award is awarded to a full-time faculty member or dean who has made an outstanding contribution to increasing pro bono and public service in the law school setting through scholarship, leadership, or service. The Father Robert Drinan Award is awarded to a professional faculty or staff member at a law school who has forwarded the ethic of pro bono service through personal service, program design or management.

The purpose of these awards is to honor those who have dedicated significant efforts towards increasing access to justice throughout the law school environment and to inspire similar efforts from others. The awards honor those who personally design and manage pro bono programs, those leaders in legal education who promote these programs, and those who personally give of their time and talents in pro bono service.

The 2016 award winners are as follows:
Deborah L. Rhode Award –Jim Rosenblatt, Dean Emeritus and Professor of Law, Mississippi College of Law
Father Robert Drinan Award – Professor Janet Weinstein, California Wester School of Law

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

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