PSJD Public Interest News Digest – June 24, 2016

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

Happy Friday!  Are you an intern in a new city looking for fun (and cheap) stuff to do?  Well, we’ve got you covered.  Check out our “Having Fun on the Cheap” in PSJD’s Resource Center. You just might find your next great adventure.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • New York State Senate approves indigent defense bill;
  • Texas Advocacy Project receives Texas Access to Justice Foundation grant;
  • John Marshall Law School Domestic Violence Clinic receives ISBA Excellence in Education Award;
  • ACLU sues Utah for failing indigent defense system;
  • Louisiana governor signs indigent defense funding bill;
  • Rhode Island Center for Law & Public Policy to close;
  • South Dakota lawyer set to launch the Collaborative Legal Incubator Program;
  • AmeriCorps to receive $2.7 million in Hawaii;
  • Texas A&M University School of Law launches incubator program;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

June 17, 2016 – “A long-running push to make the state pay full reimbursement for indigent defense costs passed a major hurdle Thursday afternoon. The state Senate voted 61-0 to approve the indigent defense bill, which came on the heels of the state Assembly’s unanimous approval last Friday. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has to sign the measure before it takes effect. The legislation would be phased in over the next seven years beginning in 2017.” (Watertown Daily Times)

June 17, 2016 – “Kicking off Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the Texas Advocacy Project announces it has received $165,496 in funding as one of eight agencies awarded a LASSA (Legal Aid for Survivors of Sexual Assault) grant from the Texas Access to Justice Foundation. The funding for these grants was obtained through a state tax levied on certain types of sexually-oriented businesses. With this funding The Project will continue delivering legal services to low-income sexual assault survivors including victims of intimate partner violence, acquaintance, and stranger sexual assault referred by collaborative partners. Family law services include advice and counsel through The Project’s legal lines, aid with protective orders including MOEPs, oversight in pro se matters, direct representation, and impact litigation. In addition to family law services, attorneys at The Project will provide holistic legal remedies that are identified as primary needs of survivors, such as safety, privacy, employment, housing, immigration, and education. Finally, funding allows The Project to participate in targeted outreach and trainings to college and university students, faculty, campus law enforcement, and others on the legal rights of victims of sexual assault, leveraging its experience with youth and education law to benefit that especially vulnerable population.”  (The Dallas Weekly)

June 20, 2016 – “The John Marshall Law School’s Domestic Violence Clinic was awarded the Excellence in Legal Education Award by the Illinois State Bar Association. The ISBA award honors law school programs that emphasize real-world skills for students. The award is a wonderful honor, said Domestic Violence Clinic director and John Marshall Law School Professor Debra Pogrund Stark. ‘I’m so proud of the dedicated students and attorneys in our clinic who do such excellent work with adult and child survivors of domestic violence. We all hope the validation this award provides will help us to promote the clinic’s work and to fund the costs to operate the clinic at the highest level of excellence.’ The ISBA’s Standing Committee on Women and the Law nominated the Domestic Violence Clinic for the award calling it ‘truly unique.'” (Globe Newswire)

June 20, 2016 – “The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah is suing the state for failing to provide adequate indigent defense services to the public…a requirement under the 6th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The ACLU issued a report back in 2011 that said Utah was falling short of its obligation to provide attorneys to criminal defendants who can’t afford to hire one. The 6th Amendment Center, based in Boston, Massachusetts, reached the same conclusion last fall when it released a report of its own. Marina Lowe is the legislative and policy council for the ACLU of Utah. ‘People’s rights are being violated today,’ Lowe says. ‘It’s not enough to say, in three years maybe you’ll get what is your due under the constitution. It’s not like your rights can be put on a layaway plan.’ Utah is one of only two states that neither funds, nor oversees indigent defense. That responsibility is left to individual counties. That’s led to inconsistent service across the state, says Salt Lake City Attorney and former public defender Rich Mauro.” “During the 2016 Legislative Session, lawmakers passed a bill to create an indigent defense commission to track cases and develop guidelines for local defenders. It also provided $1.5 million in one-time funding for county governments. The ACLU’s Marina Low says that’s insignificant considering counties across the state spend roughly $24 million per year on indigent defense.” (KUER)

June 21, 2016 – “Louisiana will rework how it spends the money it allocates to defending the poor, to ensure two-thirds of it flows to local indigent defenders, under a new law signed by Gov. John Bel Edwards. That measure was among a package of bill signings released Monday evening by the governor’s office. The bill by Rep. Sherman Mack, R-Albany, requires the Louisiana Public Defender Board to dedicate at least 65 percent of its annual financing to local defenders of the indigent, which have been struggling with financial shortfalls.” (

June 21, 2016 – “Geoffrey A. Schoos, president of the Rhode Island Center for Law and Public Policy, Inc. (RICLAPP), a non-profit legal services organization, recently announced the center will cease operations and close its doors at 3288 Post Road in Warwick effective June 30. ‘As a non-profit legal services organization that provided legal counsel and direct services to thousands of low-income, underserved Rhode Islanders, finances were always a challenge,’ Schoos wrote in an email to the Beacon. Over the past two years, Schoos said the center has attempted to obtain funds through the legislature and the judiciary, as well as from private donors and foundations. For several months, he said the center suspended taking new clients until funds could be found to continue operations. There were even attempts to merge with other organizations in an effort to keep the legal services available to those most in need, but those efforts were unsuccessful.” (Warwick Beacon)

June 21, 2016 – “A Sioux Falls lawyer wants to mobilize her peers to help close a gap that exists for lower-income South Dakotans in need of legal services. Taneeza Islam, a Sioux Falls immigration lawyer, created a free year-long program called the Collaborative Legal Incubator Program, or CLIP, that will train young lawyers on how to run successful firms, and in turn, they will provide free to low cost legal services to low-income clients for at least a year. ‘What it does is provide access to vulnerable community members by training new lawyers on how to build a sustainable practice,’ Islam said. ‘Access to a lawyer is critical for these vulnerable people to help them navigate the legal system.'” (Argus Leader)

June 23, 2016 – “Sen. Brian Schatz was able to secure $2.7 million to help fund AmeriCorps programs across the state, officials confirmed Wednesday. ‘This new funding is great news for Hawaii,’ Schatz said. ‘AmeriCorps members supported by these grants will serve across the state, teaching in high-need schools, improving public parks, and providing legal resources and other services to veterans and their families.’ The funds from the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency for volunteering and service programs, will support three grants. One will go toward supporting 18 AmeriCorps members who work at the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii.” (The Garden Island)

June 23, 2016 – “In response to the need to train recent law graduates for solo practice and to help bridge the state’s justice gap, Texas A&M University School of Law is introducing a new incubator program designed to accelerate recent graduates’ transition from law school to solo and small firm practice. This is the first incubator-type program launched in Texas. The Texas Bar Foundation approved a grant to support the program, formally titled The Texas Apprenticeship Network: Empowering Solo Practitioners to Help Bridge the Justice Gap.” “The Texas Apprenticeship Program will match recent law graduates with practitioners who share the common goal of helping address the state’s growing need for attorneys to assist pro bono and modest means clients. The recent graduates, as apprentices, will work in the offices of solo and small firm attorneys who mentor the apprentices in communities and areas of interest in which the apprentices want to work after admission to law practice. Through this process, the apprentices will obtain experience while learning about practice management. The mentors will also commit to connecting the apprentices in the community. In addition to learning from their mentors, the apprentices will complete a practicum on law practice management. In the practicum, the apprentices will develop their business plans and tools for their solo practices. The practicum also provides a network for the apprentices and opportunities for innovation. For example, the apprentices may collaborate in developing tools and applications for unbundled legal services.” (PRNewswire)


Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

Here at PSJD we love pro bono for so many reasons.  This summer, we are honoring law school faculty and staff who dedicate their time to helping their communities.  Our new blog series – Faculty/Staff Pro Bono Spotlight, is one way we’re recognizing these dedicated public servants.  Check out the honorees every Tuesday.  And if you are someone you know is doing great work, let us know about it at Don’t be shy.  If you don’t get the word out there, who will?

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

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