PSJD Public Interest News Digest – April 29, 2016

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

Happy Friday!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Connecticut Senate approves bills providing greater legal access to the poor;
  • Saskatchewan seeks public feedback on legal services;
  • University of California-Irvine School of Law launches Civil Justice Research Institute;
  • San Francisco Mayor grants $1.8 million for legal aid for unaccompanied minors;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

April 21, 2016 – “The state Senate on Thursday approved a bill that would study ways to provide legal help to poor people involved in civil cases.” “The measure, which passed by a vote of 23-12, now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration. The Senate also passed a related bill that bolsters funding for Legal Aid offices. The measure, which cleared the chamber on a unanimous vote, adds more than a million dollars of yearly funding to an interest-generating account of legal fees that funds legal aid. Second, the bill for the first time adds delivery of legal services to the poor to the permissible uses of the Superior Court’s Client Security Fund. Together, these two funding streams will provide more than 2 million dollars a year of additional funding to the Legal Aid programs, supporters of the bill said.” (Hartford Courant)

April 21, 2016 – “The Ministry of Justice  and Law Society of Saskatchewan have launched a quick, online survey to find out what people think about the way legal services are provided, and if some changes could help. It’s part of a consultation focused on improving public access by possibly expanding the services that can be provided by legal professionals other than lawyers.” “‘It’s important to have the (public’s) perspective on what their needs really are,’ said senior Crown counsel Mary Ellen Wellsch, the project lead.” “Access to justice is a growing concern across the country as more people try to puzzle out legal conundrums on their own because they can’t find or afford a lawyer or don’t qualify for free legal services. Supreme Court of Canada Justice Thomas Cromwell issued a call to action on the ‘accessibility gap’ while speaking in Regina at the annual Law Day luncheon earlier this month. Wellsch said it’s too early to say what legal services, if any, might be done by non-lawyers. ‘There’s a whole range of possibilities.’ Some ideas being explored include expanding the scope of paralegals working under supervision of lawyers; relaxing restrictions on other professionals who provide similar legal work; and creating a new class of ‘legal service technicians’ who could provide some services with training and assessment.” “All the information gathered will be used to make recommendations. As to how quickly any changes may come, Wellsch said it really depends on the proposals, since some may require legislative change. At present, the Legal Profession Act prohibits people from practising law without a licence.” (Regina Leader-Post)

April 27, 2016 – “The University of California-Irvine School of Law has launched a Civil Justice Research Institute to explore how to make the U.S. civil justice system more accessible. UCI Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky is the founding chair of the institute, which will be governed by a national board of advisers made up of attorneys and chaired by Roman Silberfeld, executive board member of Minneapolis, Minn.-based Robins Kaplan LLP. UCI Law has received approximately $1 million for the institute from donors across the country, led by a $250,000 gift from Richard Bridgford, founding partner of Newport Beach-based Bridgford, Gleason & Artinian.” (Orange County Business Journal)

April 28, 2016 – “In response to the growing number of unaccompanied minors who come to San Francisco seeking asylum, Mayor Ed Lee announced Wednesday that The City will extend funding by an additional $1.8 million for the legal defense of immigrant families and particularly children who enter the country on their own. The money will go to the San Francisco Immigrant Legal Defense Collaborative, a congregation of 13 nonprofit organizations that represent children and families facing deportation in The City’s immigration courts.” (San Francisco Examiner)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

L. David Shear, one of the founders of Bay Area Legal Services, the Tampa Bay area’s legal aid organization for the poor, died Tuesday morning. He was 79. Throughout his career as a lawyer specializing in corporate and real estate law, Mr. Shear devoted countless volunteer hours to Bay Area Legal Services, an organization he helped found along with several other members of the Hillsborough Bar Association. He became known for championing the interests of children, ultimately lending his name to a center that provides free legal representation for children in Hillsborough County’s foster care system. (Tampa Bay Times)

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

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