PSJD Public Interest News Digest – August 5, 2016

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

Happy Friday!  Can you believe it’s August already?  For many, including us, the summer is over.  This week we bid a sad goodbye to our 2016 Publications Coordinator Mary Boothe.  She was a wonderful addition to our team, and her hard work and diligence made the 2016 Comprehensive Fellowship Guide and Federal Legal Employment Guide possible.  A big thank you to Mary!!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • New public interest law office opens in British Columbia;
  • Legal Services of Eastern Missouri receives $300,000 grant to help kids;
  • Morgan & Morgan announces new public interest scholarship;
  • Jenner & Block and the University of Chicago Law School open Supreme Court clinic;
  • John Marshall Law School’s Pro Bono Clinic receives $100,000 gift;
  • Missouri Public Defender assigns case to Governor;
  • Idaho counties apply for state money for indigent defense;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

July 28, 2016 – “There just aren’t enough lawyers in B.C. to fight all the environmental battles First Nations, individuals and groups face on a regular basis in the province, according to University of Victoria lawyer Chris Tollefson. As a solution, Tollefson, the founder of the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre, and a handful of legal experts and litigators recently launched a new public interest environmental law outfit that will take on some of the most powerful forces in B.C., from Malaysian-owned Petronas to government ministries to BC Hydro.The new legal non-profit, the Pacific Centre for Environmental Law and Litigation (CELL), will focus on environmental litigation, legislative reform and, as Tollefson describes it, ‘training up the next generation of young public interest environmental lawyers.'” (Desmog Canada)

August 1, 2016 – “Legal Services of Eastern Missouri (LSEM) will continue its program, ‘Connecting Kids to Coverage,’ after receiving a two-year, $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In 2013, LSEM became the only individual legal services organization nationwide to receive this grant funding and in this recent 2016 round, LSEM is one of three legal aid programs nationwide to receive funding. Connecting Kids to Coverage is designed to build on historic progress already made increasing the number of children who have health coverage. A National Health Interview Survey shows only 4.5 percent of children remain uninsured in 2015.” (Hannibal Courier-Post)

August 2, 2016 – “National plaintiffs-only law firm Morgan & Morgan has announced that a new scholarship is available to first year law students who have worked to better their communities. The firm is offering a $2,000 award to be put towards tuition or other education expenses. Scholarship applicants will be evaluated on the quality of their answers and demonstrated commitment to community service. The essay questions ask applicants to describe their involvement in the community and how being involved has shaped their character and who they want to be as an attorney. Applicants must be currently accepted or enrolled in their first year of an accredited law school in order to be eligible. The deadline for applications is December 1, 2016. The winner will be announced on December 31, 2016. Full details are available on the firm’s website.” (PRWeb)

August 2, 2016 – “Jenner & Block and the University of Chicago Law School are pleased to announce the opening of the Jenner & Block University of Chicago Law School Supreme Court and Appellate Clinic, a rigorous education and training program for University of Chicago law students to help litigate cases before the United States’ highest court. The Clinic represents parties and amici curiae in cases before the US Supreme Court and other appellate courts. Students participate in the researching and drafting of merits briefs, amicus briefs, and cert petitions, conduct research on cases that may be suitable to bring to the Court, and help prepare and participate in oral arguments.  Assistance is provided pro bono.  Although the Clinic’s focus is the US Supreme Court, the Clinic may also handle cases at the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and the Illinois Supreme Court.”  (PRNewswire)

August 2, 2016 – “John Marshall Law School alumnus Antonio Romanucci has given $100,000 to the law school’s Pro Bono Program & Clinic. This first-of-its-kind gift will help fund the clinic for the next two years, John Marshall Dean John E. Corkery announced today. Romanucci, a leading Chicago plaintiff’s attorney, hopes his gift will make the Clinic’s work more impactful. ‘I would like to see the Clinic not only help the individual client, but also help insure the right policies are put in place moving forward so society is affected positively by the work we do,’ said Romanucci, a 1985 graduate of the law school. ‘This gift will help fund our clinic and help provide real life, practical experience for our students to help them become more practice ready,’ Dean Corkery said in thanking Romanucci for his generosity.” (GlobeNewswire)

August 3, 2016 – “Fed up with what he says is the governor’s failure to properly fund his overwhelmed office, the state’s lead public defender ordered Gov. Jay Nixon this week to represent a poor person in Cole County this month. Michael Barrett said he was using a provision of state law that allows him in extraordinary circumstances to delegate legal representation ‘to any member of the state bar of Missouri.’ He’s starting with the state’s highest-profile lawyer: Nixon.” “Barrett never exercised this power before because he thought it was wrong to place the burden of public cases on private attorneys ‘who have in no way contributed to the current crisis,’ he wrote in a letter to the governor dated Tuesday.” “Just this June, the legislature granted the public defender system a $4.5 million increase, which would’ve helped in hiring 10 more employees and some private attorneys on a contractual basis.” “Last month, Barrett and the Missouri State Public Defender Commission filed a lawsuit claiming that Nixon withheld $3.5 million of that $4.5 million increase. Barrett claims Nixon is targeting the public defender system for budget cuts while leaving more money for other programs he likes.” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

August 4, 2016 – “All but one county in Idaho has applied for additional state money to help pay public defenders. The Idaho Public Defense Commission on Tuesday met to discuss how to split the $5.4 million in new funding made available by the Legislature for public defenders. Previously public defense offices have only been funded by county commissions.” “Idaho lawmakers designated the funds earlier this year to improve how the state provides legal representation to those who can’t afford their own attorney.” (The Washington Times)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

A longtime advocate for the disadvantaged, Robert Spangenberg led a study showing that Boston’s poorest residents don’t get the legal help they need, even when it’s available for free. Fewer than half who qualified knew legal help was available to them at no cost. And the number of those who miss out skyrocketed among the homebound elderly and residents who didn’t speak English fluently. Those findings might sound like they’re from a current news report, but Mr. Spangenberg conducted this particular study in 1976, fresh off his stint launching and establishing the Boston Legal Assistance Project.

“Many poor people are unaware of their legal rights. Even when poor people are aware of their legal rights, they are often reluctant to enforce them because they fear retaliation,” he told the Globe that December, adding that among the most vulnerable there is “a distrust of the legal system and a pervasive feeling that all efforts will be futile.” As a lawyer, consultant, and leader in the field of providing legal assistance to the indigent, Mr. Spangenberg helped design and launch programs across the country, and his studies shaped the debate from state courts and legislatures to the US Supreme Court. “I think he can truly be called the father of the modern indigent defense reform movement,” said Steve Hanlon, general counsel for the National Association for Public Defense. Mr. Spangenberg, who was diagnosed more than three years ago with Alzheimer’s disease, died June 22 in hospice care at Newton-Wellesley Hospital from an infection that was a complication of the illness. He was 83 and had lived in Brookline after many years in Newton. Read more about his amazing contributions here – Boston Globe.

Music Bonus!  Music pick from the 2016 Publications Coordinator, Mary Boothe.

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