PSJD Public Interest News Digest – July 22, 2016

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

Happy Friday!  Mandatory pro bono service in Indiana starts in October and more funding news.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • $2.4 million in Georgia state grants will provide legal aid to domestic violence victims;
  • The John Marshall Law School launches gender marker program;
  • Southern District of Indiana mandatory pro bono service to start in October;
  • Social entrepreneurship, public service and student debt;
  • United Way grants $25,000 to Iowa Legal Aid;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

July 13, 2016 – “The Judicial Council of Georgia has awarded about $2.43 million in grants to eight Georgia nonprofits to provide civil legal services to domestic violence victims. The Georgia Legal Services Program received the largest grant, for $1.57 million, followed by the Atlanta Legal Aid Society, with $676,500.” “The bulk of the funding is used for lawyers to represent domestic violence victims in judicial hearings for 12-month temporary protective orders from their abusers, said Zan Patorgis, legal compliance officer for the state Administrative Office of the Courts, which administers the grants. Victims do not need a lawyer to get an initial one-month protective order, he added, so the funds can’t be used for that.” “The grant money, which comes from the state legislature, is distributed in proportion with the state’s population of poor people. Georgia Legal Services, which has an annual budget of $14 million, serves the 154 counties outside the five-county metro Atlanta area, which are mostly rural and poor. The group’s 50 lawyers, who operate out of 10 offices around the state, are spread so thinly that they are poverty law generalists, handling matters for domestic violence victims as part of their caseloads, said Vicky Kimbrell, who directs Georgia Legal Services’ family violence project. A special-needs portion of the grant funds an extra lawyer in the group’s Macon and Albany offices, she added, ‘because the need is so high and there are no resources down there.'” (

July 18, 2016 – “The Pro Bono Clinic at The John Marshall Law School has launched a new program to help transgender individuals navigate the legal hurdles that come with changing one’s name and gender. The Name and Gender Marker Change Project aims to help transgender individuals reach an essential step in claiming their identity — to ensure their official documents match their declared identities. Under the auspices of the program, law students will assist individuals by filling out the forms needed to change these documents, getting fees waived if necessary and even going to court with them, said Kelly A. Burden, an adjunct professor who will oversee the project.” (Chicago Daily Law Bulletin)

July 18, 2016 – “Attorneys could be tapped to handle cases under the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana’s new mandatory pro bono rule before the end of this year. The District Court has adopted Local Rule 87, which is designed to bolster the number of lawyers available to represent pro se litigants at no charge. Two pools of attorneys will be created — the volunteer panel will consist of lawyers who offer their services to the court, and the obligatory panel will be filled with lawyers who are required to provide representation. Unrepresented litigants who have shown the court they cannot afford legal assistance and whose cases have cleared substantial hurdles, like surviving summary judgment, will be provided pro bono attorneys. If none of the volunteer attorneys take the case, the court will pull a lawyer from the obligatory pool. Attorneys who have appeared before the court at least 10 times in civil cases during 2015 will be placed in the obligatory panel and assigned cases. The calculation is based on the number of court appearances filed, not on the length of time representing a particular client. If a lawyer files an appearance in 2015 and the case continues through 2016 and into 2017, the court will only count that as one appearance. The new rule will take effect Sept. 1, 2016, but the first obligatory panel will not become active until Oct. 1. Lawyers chosen to be in the first round will be notified of their selection about a month in advance.” (The Indiana Lawyer)

July 18, 2016 – Ashley Matthews, Program Manager for Law School Engagement & Advocacy for Equal Justice Works has a great article on the impact of student debt on social entrepreneurship, and provides concrete guidance for those who want to follow that path.  (The Huffington Post)

July 20, 2016 – “The United Way of Siouxland has donated grants totaling $100,000 to three nonprofit organizations as part of its new Funding Opportunity to Connect and Uplift Siouxland (FOCUS) initiative. The program’s purpose is to offer one-time grants, between $20,000 and $50,000, to eligible nonprofit organizations in Siouxland to provide support for their programs and initiatives.” “Iowa Legal Aid addresses the complex challenges low-income families face. The project involves a medical-legal partnership, where patients receive legal assistance to alleviate conditions affecting their health.” (Sioux City Journal)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

The Legal Services Corporation (LSC) Board of Directors presented Pro Bono Service Awards to the law office of Downs Rachlin Martin PLLC and three Vermont attorneys in recognition of their extraordinary commitment to equal justice.

Recipients of the Pro Bono Service Awards are:

  • Sandra Baird, an attorney who has volunteered with the Legal Services Law Line of Vermont since 1987 and been an important supporter of the Satur­day Free Walk-In Legal Clinic.
  • P. Scott McGee, an attorney with Hershenson, Carter, Scott and McGee, PC. He has closed approximately 25 pro bono cases, many involving complex legal matters related to family law, contracts, or homeownership.
  • Rebecca Rice, an attorney practicing law in Rutland with Cohen & Rice. She has been a volunteer with Legal Services Law Line of Vermont since 1987, handing complex and emergency bankruptcy cases for low-income clients.
  • Downs Rachlin Martin PLLC, Vermont’s largest law firm and a long-time supporter of pro bono efforts in the state. It provides financial support for trainings, offers office space to other pro bono attorneys, and is a strong supporter of the Chittenden County Small Claims Clinic.

(Legal Services Corporation)

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

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