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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