PSJD Public Interest News Digest – March 18, 2016

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

Happy Friday! Spring Break is right around the corner.  Do you have a spring break service project planned?  Let us know. We’d love to feature your project on the Blog.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Osgoode Hall Law School’s Community and Legal Aid Services Programme is taking action to support Ontario’s vulnerable workers;
  • Access to Justice B.C. to help people access civil legal services;
  • Connecticut law students may be enlisted to help abused animals;
  • Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad College of Law receives grant to open innovative legal clinic;
  • Montana court commission examines legal help for poor in non-criminal cases;
  • Maryland Legal Services and The Kentucky Bar Foundation receive grant to assist in foreclosure prevention and community redevelopment;
  • Ontario launches pilot program to give legal assistance to sexual violence survivors;
  • Panel studying Delaware’s juvenile justice system;
  • Judge launches domestic relations clinic at The University of Akron School of Law;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

March 10, 2016 – “On March 10, CLASP opened an employment law division to help meet what has been identified as a serious need in a neighbourhood near the law school. Phanath Im, review counsel for the new division — as well as a former CLASP division leader and 2010 Osgoode graduate — says that while part of legal work is representing the individual, at a clinic such as theirs, it’s also a ‘very human endeavour.’ ‘We aim to look at our clients more holistically — not just as a legal case. We want to look at all issues.'” “Last fall, Legal Aid Ontario announced a $100,000 annual increase in funding for each of the province’s seven student legal aid clinics. While LAO didn’t specify where the funds should be allocated, ’employment law and housing were the main areas of law’ where the money was used, says Im. The boost in funding gave CLASP the means to fill the gap in its employment law services. The employment law division is a one-year pilot project, starting off taking a limited number of cases and ramping up to full capacity by the summer.” (Canadian Lawyer)

March 10, 2016 – “B.C.’s top judge is teaming up with ordinary citizens to improve the province’s civil justice system, after numerous reports have shed light on how difficult it is for people without legal training to access justice. The justice system is not doing a good enough job of helping Canadians access the legal services they need when faced with a civil court case, says Access to Justice B.C., a group made up of advocates from both inside and outside the justice system. “We’re failing the users of our system and that’s who should be our partners in this reform process,” said Robert Bauman, Chief Justice of B.C., and the group’s chair. ‘We’ve got to figure out how to ease the access issue for … the middle class in this country, where litigation is simply beyond the means of ordinary people.’ Bauman says he intends to start by reforming family law services first.” (CBC News)

March 10, 2016 – “If state Rep. Diane Urban’s bill is approved, abused animals in the state will have access to some unlikely allies: Connecticut law students. The so-called Desmond’s Law would allow students at the University of Connecticut School of Law, and potentially other law schools in the state, to act as courtroom advocates in cases of animal neglect, abuse and cruelty. They would apparently function in a similar manner as guardians ad litem who represent the best interest of children involved in custody battles. The bill would create a ‘win-win’ situation, said Jessica Rubin, an animal law professor at UConn. ‘Law students would benefit from having an opportunity for experiential learning by being advocates in the court and the courts would be provided with volunteer assistance,’ Rubin said. ‘So that courts that are lacking in a resource would have those additional resources.’ The way the statute is written, a judge would be able to select a volunteer, which can either be an interested law student or a pro bono attorney, to act as an advocate on behalf of the animals. The list of volunteers would be maintained by the state Department of Agriculture.” (Connecticut Law Tribune)

March 11, 2016 – ” Nova Southeastern University’s (NSU) Shepard Broad College of Law received a $1 million grant from The Taft Foundation to establish an innovative clinical program to address the legal needs of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (AIDD) and their families. The NSU AIDD Law Clinic will be launched in the fall of 2016 and will begin enrolling third-year students to staff it by January 2017.” “While the particular fields of representation will vary depending on client needs, the most likely focus areas will be public benefits, housing, and educational rights. NSU’s College of Law will be working closely with the Brooklyn Law School which introduced a similar clinic last spring, also funded by a grant from The Taft Foundation. In addition, the AIDD clinic will provide community outreach through workshops, events, and community training to educate and encourage these adults, their families, service providers, and the general public regarding issues facing the affected population.” (Market Wired)

March 11, 2016 – “Every day in Montana, someone faces a crisis that may need legal assistance – and many Montanans have no way to pay for that help. ‘Thousands of Montanans who are at or below the poverty line have legal needs,’ says Supreme Court Justice Beth Baker. ‘They have housing problems, health-care issues that they can’t resolve because they don’t have the wherewithal to do so.’ ‘And when they have these issues, it has a cascading or snowballing effect and they end up in crisis.’ But Baker and others hope to put a dent in this problem in the coming year – and say the effort could help ease Montana’s clogged court system as well. Baker chairs the Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Commission, which is holding public forums across the state on how best to provide civil legal assistance for low-income Montanans. There are programs to help poor Montanans get legal help on civil matters, but they fall well short of the need, Baker says. She says the commission is assessing the need and current resources in Montana, and likely will ask the 2017 Legislature to approve some form of state funding to help.” (KPAX)

March 11, 2016 – Eric D. Green, independent Monitor of Bank of America’s August 20, 2014, mortgage settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice and six states, today announced the distribution of $4,396,113 to the Maryland Legal Services Corporation, and the distribution of $6,016,165 to the Kentucky IOLTA Fund of the Kentucky Bar Foundation, Inc., as mandated under the settlement, to provide legal assistance in foreclosure prevention and community redevelopment. Maryland Legal Services, headquartered in Baltimore, and The Kentucky Bar Foundation, headquartered in Frankfort, are two of 56 state-based legal-assistance organizations receiving funds under the settlement, which settled legal claims arising from mortgage-related activities by Bank of America and its subsidiaries. A distribution was made earlier to NeighborWorks America, a national, congressionally-chartered nonprofit organization that provides training and support for community-based redevelopment programs in the United States and Puerto Rico.” (PR Newswire Maryland Legal Services) (PR Newswire Kentucky Bar Foundation)

March 11, 2016 – “Ontario will launch a $2.8 million pilot this spring to give survivors of sexual assault access to free legal advice — a Canadian first. Anyone who has experienced a sexual assault in Toronto, Ottawa and Thunder Bay — the host cities for the pilot — will be offered access to four hours of free legal advice. ‘It’s not representation in court but to help these women to make an informed decision: what are their options, what are the services offered to them,’ Ontario Attorney General Madeleine Meilleur said. ‘At the end they will make their decision: do I go forward, what do I do?’ While some advocates have called for sexual assault complainants to get equal standing in criminal trials to defendants, that’s a federal matter and one that would challenge centuries of common law. This move is meant to empower and inform these individuals of their legal rights and options without upending the justice system.” (National Post)

March 12, 2016 – “At the end of 2016, there should be a strategic plan for the reformation of Delaware’s juvenile justice system. That’s the hope of Lisa Minutola and an advisory committee working with $147,983 in federal grant money. Their task is to study how children are handled and represented in Family Court — and in legal-related proceedings. Ms. Minutola, co-chair of the Smart on Juvenile Justice Access Committee, believes the future of kids in the justice system are crucially impacted by how their issues are resolved. Access to legal counsel for juveniles in the system is not guaranteed and Ms. Minutola said a ‘child at the very least should have the right to consult with an attorney.'” “The Delaware Criminal Justice Council received the grant from the U.S. Department of Justice in September 2015, and the committee includes stakeholders from the state, private and nonprofit sectors. Ms. Minutola, chief of Legal Services at the Office of Defense Services, is heading the committee along with Dawn Williams, director of Training and Development at the Office of Defense Services.” (Delaware State News)

March 16, 2016 – “When Portage County Domestic Relations Court Judge Paula Giulitto was still a student at The University of Akron School of Law, she had the opportunity to find out what being a lawyer is all about through a criminal law clinic. Now, she wants to give back to other students while helping low-income Portage County residents.” The Domestic Relations I clinic officially launched Jan. 19 with four third-year law students.  The clinic’s first full-fledged hearing – an uncontested divorce – is set for April 1. “‘The primary benefit this clinic will yield is to the litigants, who will have free representation,’ the judge said. ‘It also gives students a practical education to apply their schooling in real-life situations, plus get college credit. These students had to pay to take a class to represent people for free, but it’s a good way to start their legal experience.'” (The Akron Legal News)

Featured Spring Break Service Projects:

Recently, a team of nine University of Florida Levin College of Law students — led by third-year student, Ben Silva — donated a large portion of their spring break to help people in need. The students provided assistance at Three Rivers Legal Services, Jacksonville Area Legal Aid and Clara White Mission. Beginning their work at Three Rivers and with coordination from attorney Chardea Murray, the students provided guidance and assistance to people seeking to seal criminal arrest records. Because of their efforts, eight people were able to submit their applications to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. That will mean a barrier to gainful employment will be overcome. It provides hope for family stability and a productive life. Read more about their work — Jacksonville Daily Record.

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

Abigail Beebe has been selected by Florida’s Children First as Pro Bono Attorney of the Year. Beebe operates The Law Office of Abigail Beebe P.A., a marital and family law firm in West Palm Beach. The award highlights her advocacy for children in foster care. Beebe says she gives back to the community to make it a better place, no matter how small the efforts. Congratulations! (Sun Sentinel)

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

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