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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