Archive for September, 2016

PSJD Public Interest News Digest – September 2, 2016

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

Happy Friday and welcome back to school! PSJD has many resources to help you with your internship and pro bono searches. Also check out the PSJD Resource Center for everything from application tips to job search strategies and self-assessment. For those of you interested in public interest in Canada, we have several new resources.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Missouri Governor can’t be appointed as public defender;
  • Legal Aid Ontario agrees to meet with staff lawyers’ union of choice;
  • Mississippi Access to Justice Commission celebrates 10th anniversary;
  • Oklahoma Access to Justice Commission convenes to advance access to justice;
  • Mae C. Quinn named director of new St. Louis office of the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center;
  • Conservation Law Foundation expands legal program for farms and food businesses;
  • Duquesne University School of Law’s new clinic to assist parents in school discipline cases;
  • The U.S. Army and the Indiana University Maurer School of Law launch new scholarship;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

August 25, 2016 – “Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon won’t be returning to the courtroom anytime soon. A Cole County Circuit Court judge ruled Thursday that the state’s top public defender doesn’t have the authority to appoint the governor, or any private counsel, to argue a case. At issue was a decision earlier this month from Michael Barrett, the state’s lead public defender, to order Nixon to represent an indigent defendant, citing a provision of state law allowing him to delegate such a job to ‘any member of the state bar in Missouri’ in extraordinary circumstances. Fed up with an underfunded public defender system, he picked the most high-profile lawyer in Missouri: Nixon, a former Missouri attorney general who has had an active law license since 1981, and the person Barrett said is most responsible for the cuts to his department’s budget. On Thursday, the court denied a motion to withdraw the public defender assigned to the case and replace him with Nixon, on the grounds that only the courts have the power to appoint lawyers. Still, it was a move that made national headlines, shedding light on a funding problem Barrett said has led to backlogs of cases, overworked attorneys and even the violation of constitutional rights.” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

August 25, 2016 – “After years of resistance, Legal Aid Ontario has agreed to come to the bargaining table to negotiate with its staff lawyers’ chosen union, the Society of Energy Professionals. Legal aid lawyers, who mounted an intense campaign on the LAO and the Ontario government in recent months, are calling this move a ‘significant breakthrough.’ In the days ahead, the lawyers say the union and LAO will enter into negotiations they hope will end in the recognition of the Society of Energy Professionals as their bargaining agent. ‘It’s a huge step,’ says legal aid lawyer Dana Fisher. ‘It’s a step that they’ve refused to take until now.’ Legal Aid Ontario says it has agreed to meet with union reps to find out what its employees are looking for. ‘At this point, we have agreed to meet with representatives of the Society of Energy Professionals to discuss arranging a vote to determine LAO’s staff lawyers’ wishes with regard to representation,’ said Graeme Burk, spokesman for LAO. ‘We are taking this step because LAO wants to know conclusively what our staff lawyers want with respect to representation.'” (Canadian Lawyer Magazine)

August 26, 2016 – “A group commissioned to help people who can’t afford an attorney is celebrating its 10 year anniversary by working to help more people. More than 600,000 Mississippians qualify for free legal help but there are not enough legal-aid attorneys. The Mississippi Access to Justice Commission works to provide legal help to Mississippians in civil cases.  It could be child custody, guardianship or changing the name on a birth certificate. Some cases require an attorney, others the judge says can be handled by the individual.  Access to Justice partners with agencies and private lawyers to provide legal advice and offer clinics. They’re hosting a summit to celebrate their 10th anniversary and devise more ways to help residents. They have an interactive website where people can find forms for civil cases, and they’re working on a mobile app.” (Mississippi Public Broadcasting)

August 26, 2016 – “The Oklahoma Access to Justice Commission met on Friday to discuss how to expand access to justice in civil matters across the state. Legal Services Corporation President James J. Sandman attended the meeting and discussed tactics for increasing access to justice in Oklahoma. The Oklahoma Access to Justice Commission was established by the Oklahoma Supreme Court in 2014 to address the problem of the many low-income Oklahomans unable to receive legal representation on crucial civil legal matters. The Commission’s goal is to develop a strategic plan for improving the statewide delivery of civil legal services and reducing barriers to the justice system.” “Friday’s meeting highlighted what the Commission has already achieved and looked ahead to accomplishing new goals. Topics included a newly launched interactive website providing free legal information to low-income Oklahoma citizens and a statewide assessment survey on legal need.” (LSC Media Release)

August 26, 2016 – “Veteran litigator Mae C. Quinn has been named director of the new St. Louis office of the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center, a public interest law firm that advocates for human rights and social justice through litigation. Most recently Quinn was a professor at Washington University School of Law, where she founded and directed the Juvenile Law and Justice Clinic. She is a national expert in criminal and juvenile law and has represented adult and child clients in trial-level and appellate courts across the country over the last two decades. The MacArthur Justice Center is based at the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law in Chicago. In addition to St. Louis and Chicago, the MacArthur Justice Center has offices in New Orleans and Oxford, Mississippi.” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

August 26, 2016 – “Conservation Law Foundation is launching the first national program in its 50-year history, a multistate expansion of Legal Food Hub, an initiative that provides local farmers and food entrepreneurs with pro bono legal services. The Hub started in Massachusetts in 2014, and has since opened in Maine. It will be available in Rhode Island in October and in Connecticut by 2017. The Boston-based environmental advocacy group hopes to bring the program to other states over the next several years.” (Boston Globe)

August 29, 2016 – “Years of working in the Juvenile Division of the Allegheny County public defender’s office inspired Ms. [Tiffany] Sizemore-Thompson to create a pair of law clinics at Duquesne [University School of Law], where she is now an assistant clinical professor. The second, focusing on education law, began last week. Ms. Sizemore-Thompson will serve as the supervising attorney and professor, overseeing eight law students who will maintain a caseload of clients. Doctoral psychology students will work with schools to develop plans for returning students. ‘The school-to-prison pipeline is alive and well in Allegheny County,’ where school discipline issues are ‘critical,’ she said. ‘The clinic seeks to stop the problem by focusing on representing students and parents in school discipline cases.’ It’s one of several efforts underway locally to provide more support to families and lay the groundwork for future lawyers interested in pursuing what some legal experts say is an underrepresented field.” (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

August 30, 2016 – “The Army and the Indiana University Maurer School of Law have signed an agreement creating the U.S. Army Law Scholars Program — believed to be the first partnership between the Army and a major law school — that will allow qualifying officers and enlisted soldiers to pursue a legal education during their time of service. Qualifying soldiers, from both active duty and reserve personnel, will receive an approximately $75,000 nonresident scholarship (amounting to at least 50 percent of tuition) to the law school and be paired with both an alumni and student mentor for the duration of their time in Bloomington.” “Service members interested in becoming a U.S. Army Law Scholar must meet the traditional requirements of any other student admitted into the Maurer School of Law.” (Indiana University Bloomington News)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

The Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service awarded the 2016 Pro Bono Publico Award to the following:

  • Cleary Gottlieb, New York, NY (and other U.S. and international offices)
  • John Goss, Goss and Fentress, Norfolk, VA
  • Katten Muchin, Chicago, IL (and other U.S. and international offices)
  • Renee Schoenberg, DLA Piper, Chicago IL
  • Hillary Gaston Walsh, The Law Office of Hillary Gaston Walsh, South Korea

Their work is outstanding and inspiring.  Watch the award videos here.  Congratulations to all the award recipients!

Music Bonus!  Music pick from the PSJD Fellow Delisa Morris.


Job’o’th’week (Entry-Level Edition) – NYC Conflicts of Interest Board

Help Wanted Photo: Brenda Gottsabend – CC License

The New York City Conflicts of Interest Board is seeking an Attorney for its Legal Advice Unit. The Board is an independent City agency and is responsible for administering and enforcing the City’s conflicts of interest and financial disclosure laws. (See the Board’s website at The Board’s legal staff, consisting of eight attorneys, gives advice to the City’s public servants about whether their proposed conduct conforms to the requirements of the conflicts law, and also prosecutes suspected violations of the law. Under the supervision of the Board’s General Counsel, the successful candidate will conduct legal research; draft advisory opinions and staff letters; provide oral advice to City employees; and conduct training sessions. The successful candidate will also give written and oral advice regarding Local Law 16 of 2006, the restriction on gifts from lobbyists. Under the supervision of its Executive Director, the Board’s legal staff functions as a collegial, high quality law firm. The successful candidate must possess the maturity, discretion, and judgment necessary for the handling of a myriad of sensitive, and often confidential matters, and for the advising of public servants at all levels, including senior elected and appointed officials.

If this sounds like the fellowship for you, head to PSJD to check out the full post and apply. (Rolling Deadline)