Archive for June, 2016

Job’o’th’week (Experienced Edition) – Connecticut Fund for the Environment

Help Wanted Photo: Brenda Gottsabend – CC License

The Connecticut Fund for the Environment is seeking a Climate and Energy Attorney. The Connecticut Fund for the Environment (CFE) is a leading non-profit environmental advocacy organization based in New Haven, Connecticut. CFE’s climate and energy program is dedicated to maintaining and enhancing Connecticut’s leadership role in addressing climate change and air pollution and supporting sustainable communities and economies.

If this sounds like something for you, check out the full post on PSJD. (Application Deadline: June 15, 2016)


PSJD Public Interest News Digest – June 3, 2016

Happy Friday!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Understanding taxable forgiveness on student loans;
  • Wal-Mart Law Stores a reality in Missouri;
  • New York City Bar urges Governor and Legislature to support fully funding indigent defense;
  • Michigan Supreme Court conditionally approves initial standards for indigent defense;
  • Legal aid with a digital twist;
  • Some non-profit employees told they don’t qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness;
  • Bill to guarantee public defender funding sent to Louisiana Governor;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

May 27, 2016 – Here is a great article from Ashley Matthews, former PSJD Fellow and current Program Manager for Law School Engagement & Advocacy for Equal Justice Works, on the taxable forgiveness options besides Public Service Loan Forgiveness.  (Huffington Post)

June 1, 2016 – “According to a 2009 study by the Legal Services Corp., a nonprofit funder of civil legal-aid groups, less than 20 percent of legal problems experienced by low-income Americans are addressed with the help of an attorney. Reasons for not seeking legal representation vary. Studies suggest some people assume they can resolve legal issues themselves, others may not be aware their problem is legally actionable, and some believe they cannot afford the help of a lawyer. Whatever the barrier to legal representation, The Law Store hopes to break it down. A fully functional legal office based in Wal-Mart stores, two Law Store locations will have grand openings today. The stores — one in the Wal-Mart Supercenter at 2623 W. 7th St. in Joplin [Missouri] and the other in the Wal-Mart Supercenter at 3200 Lusk Drive in Neosho [Missouri] — have been operating since early May, handling basic legal services such as traffic offenses, family law and wills and estate planning. ‘The Law Store is a law firm, that’s what it is,’ said Katrina Richards, a Joplin attorney and chief public relations officer for The Law Store. ‘But what we handle are basic, transactional services, smaller things. Things that most every American needs, but a lot of people are not able, or they don’t know a lawyer, or they just, for some reason, they don’t go to a lawyer to get these types of services. Those types of things that can help out everyday Americans, but they otherwise might not get the service.’ The Law Store operates on an upfront, menu-style pricing model instead of the traditional hourly rate, and it doesn’t charge for an initial consultation.” “Five more locations are planned in Missouri by the end of the year, and the company says 11 other states have expressed interest in bringing in The Law Store locations. Hershewe said the business could be in as many as 1,500 Wal-Mart stores.”(The Joplin Globe)

June 1, 2016 – “The City Bar’s Mass Incarceration Task Force sent a report to Albany last week urging the Legislature and Governor Cuomo to support full funding of indigent defense services throughout New York State by backing bill A.6202-C/S.6341-B (the ‘Bill’). The right to counsel in criminal proceedings is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, the New York Constitution and state law; and in Gideon v. Wainwright, the Supreme Court held that states are required to provide counsel to any person charged with a crime who cannot afford a lawyer. However, New York’s County Law 18-B makes the 62 state counties responsible for providing indigent defense services, and has resulted in a ‘patchwork of services’ that falls short of the constitutional mandate. The report encourages the enactment of the Bill this session, which ‘would send the message to New Yorkers and to the country that New York State is committed to a fair criminal justice system where a person’s right to meaningful and effective counsel does not depend on his or her location within the State.’ The Bill also would require the State to reimburse every county the full amount of its expenditures for providing indigent defense services. Additionally, it would require statewide standards and regulations that ensure every person has an attorney at arraignment, that regulate the caseloads of public defense attorneys so as to allow for meaningful and effective representation, and that improve the overall quality of court-appointed representation.” (New York City Bar)

June 1, 2016 – “With Administrative Order No. 2016-2, the Michigan Supreme Court today announced its conditional approval of standards that would regulate the appointment of counsel for indigent defendants in criminal cases. The standards, initially submitted by the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission (MIDC), also impose specific training, experience, and continuing legal education requirements on attorneys who seek appointment as counsel in these cases. The Court took this action to enable the legislatively-approved process, which is intended to promote the goal of providing effective assistance of counsel for indigent defendants in criminal cases, to continue without disruption. Although the Court shares the Legislature’s goal of providing effective assistance of counsel for these defendants, the Court’s approval is subject to and contingent on legislative revision of the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission Act (the Act) to address provisions of uncertain constitutionality.” (Michigan Courts News Release)

June 1, 2016 – Here is another great example of technology making it easier and more efficient to provide legal aid.  The article also takes a look at the ever-growing link between technology and legal services. “Matthew Stubenberg was a law student at the University of Maryland in 2010 when he spent part of a day doing expungements. It was a standard law school clinic where students learn by helping clients — in this case, he helped them to fill out and file petitions to erase parts of their criminal records. Although Maryland has a public database called Case Search, using that data to fill out the forms was tedious. ‘We spent all this time moving data from Case Search onto our forms,’ Stubenberg said. ‘We spent maybe 30 seconds on the legal piece. Why could this not be easier? This was a problem that could be fixed by a computer.’ Stubenberg knew how to code. After law school, he set out to build software that automatically did that tedious work. By September 2014 he had a prototype for MDExpungement, which went live in January 2015. (The website is not pretty — Stubenberg is a programmer, not a designer.) With MDExpungement, entering a case number brings it up on Case Search. The software then determines whether the case is expungeable. If so, the program automatically transfers the information from Case Search to the expungement form. All that’s left is to print, sign and file it with the court.” (New York Times)

June 2, 2016 – “Some nonprofit employees counting on the federal government’s Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program recently received word that they don’t qualify, for reasons that remain unclear. The change might be related to an employer’s tax status. Part of the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007, the PSLF program includes charitable nonprofit employers that under the Internal Revenue Code have 501(c)(3) status. PSLF program guidelines include other nonprofits that provide public service, but some, including the American Bar Association—which has 501(c)(6) status—were told earlier this year that they don’t qualify, although they received employer certification in previous years.” “Some American Civil Liberties Union offices also lost employer certification for the program, while others received various answers from the federal government.” The first forgiveness of loan balances is expected in October 2017. Until then, it appears there will remain uncertainty and conflicting information.  Stay tuned! (ABA Journal)

June 2, 2016 – “The Louisiana House has given final passage to a reshuffling of how the state spends its money on defending the poor. With a 100-0 vote Thursday, the House sent the governor a Senate-backed House Bill 1137 from Rep. Sherman Mack, R-Albany, to require the Louisiana Public Defender Board to dedicate at least 65 percent of its annual financing to local defenders of the indigent. Parishes have reduced and restricted indigent defense services under strained operating budgets. In some recent cases, law enforcement officials have released people charged with serious crimes from prison because public defenders were not available to represent them in criminal cases. Members of the House and Senate have debated a number of ways to fund the cash-strapped system throughout the legislative session. But Mack worked with the Louisiana District Attorneys Association and people opposing the measure to gain support for his proposal and create a workable indigent defense bill that could advance to the governor. Mack said the funding percentage may not be a large change from the amount of money already given to public defenders, but the proposal would guarantee that the offices would receive a threshold amount of funding each year.” (The New Orleans Advocate)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

It is with a very heavy heart that we reflect on the passing of one of our community, Melanie Kushnir.  Many of you will remember her from her time with the ABA Center for Pro Bono.  Most recently, she was the Pro Bono Project Director for the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada.  She was a passionate advocate and a good friend to those who needed access to justice the most.  We will miss her very much!

Here is nice tribute to Melanie – Las Vegas Journal-Review

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


Job’o’th’week (Fellowship Edition) – ACLU of the Nation’s Capital

Help Wanted Photo: Brenda Gottsabend – CC License

Still looking for post-graduate work? The America Civil Liberties Union of the Nation’s Capital (ACLU-DC) is seeking applications for a two year fellowship in civil liberties, beginning this fall. The ACLU is a nationwide, non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to the defense and expansion of civil liberties and civil rights.

If this sounds like something for you, check out the full post on PSJD. (Application Deadline: June 24, 2016).


Upcoming Equal Justice Works Student Loan Debt Webinar – 6/16

Equal Justice Works is hosting another Free Student Debt Webinar! Check out their message below: 

Summer is here! Hopefully all you public interest law superstars get a chance to unwind before kicking off summer plans, whether it’s an internship or continuing your work as an attorney.

Since many of you will be working with legal aid nonprofits or government agencies, this is a great time to brush up on your student debt knowledge. Join our debt relief webinar on Thursday, June 16th at 3pm EDT to gain a better understanding of income-driven repayment plans and Public Service Loan Forgiveness – it’s never too late!

More Americans are Trying to Have Student Debt Canceled

An increasing number of student loan borrowers are trying to get their student debt canceled because they were “deceived by colleges,” The Wall Street Journal reports.

Over 19,000 people have cited the “borrower defense” law, claiming their schools illegally used deceptive advertising and recruiting practices to make false promises about future job prospects. The law gained traction last year when the Department of Education used it to cancel loans taken out by former students of for-profit chain Corinthian Colleges Inc.

FTC Cracks Down on Debt Relief Scams

Last week, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the State of Florida filed a complaint against two companies charged with running debt relief schemes that targeted student loan borrowers.  Both the “Consumer Assistance Project” and the “Student Aid Center” promised to rid borrowers of all debt while charging expensive (and illegal) up-front fees.

“The FTC is not going to stand on the sidelines when it uncovers evidence of fraudsters targeting students,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, in an FTC press release. “Consumers should be wary of any company that claims it can eliminate or greatly reduce debt, especially if they ask for money in advance.”

If you’re looking for help, you can always use one of Equal Justice Works’ debt relief resources. They’re all free – and legal! Join our next webinar, download our student debt e-book Take Control of Your Future, or bookmark our Huffington Post blog to stay up to date on all the latest debt relief news!

Equal Justice Works is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a just society by mobilizing the next generation of lawyers committed to equal justice. Our webinars are tailored to law students and lawyers, but the information is applicable to anyone who needs help managing the burden of student loan debt. To stay up to date, follow us on Twitter (@EJW_org, #studentdebthelp) and on Facebook!