Archive for November, 2016

PSJD Public Interest News Digest – November 23, 2016

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

Happy Thanksgiving!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Report documents criminalization of homelessness;
  • State courts get grant to expand access to justice;
  • University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law opens new legal clinic;
  • British Columbia’s indigenous child welfare system gets overhaul;
  • Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma partners with Cherokee Nation;
  • Thompson Rivers University Faculty of Law offers legal technology course unique in Canada;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

November 17, 2016 – “The Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic at Yale Law School has released a new report titled ‘Forced into Breaking the Law’: The Criminalization of Homelessness in Connecticut. The report examines how Connecticut’s homeless residents face the threat of criminal sanctions for simply existing. The report also documents how Connecticut city ordinances, such as those prohibiting loitering, panhandling, and sleeping in public, punish people for performing necessary, life-sustaining functions, which effectively criminalizes homelessness itself. It further outlines how the criminalization of homelessness violates state, federal, and international law. The release of the report coincides with National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week and the launch of the national ‘Housing Not Handcuffs’ campaign, organized by the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, which aims to end the criminalization of homelessness.” (Yale Law School Today)

November 18, 2016 – “The New York state court system has received a $100,000 grant from the National Center for State Courts and the Public Welfare Foundation to develop plans to improve the access to the courts for unrepresented or under-represented New Yorkers. Under the ‘Justice for All’ grant, the state Office of Court Administration said Thursday it will work with judges, the business community, private firms, bar associations, civil legal services groups and others to devise a strategy for better access to justice. OCA officials said Wednesday the plan will be developed by the state Permanent Commission on Access to Justice, which is chaired by Helaine Barnett, the former president of the Legal Services Corporation, and will use a day-long convocation and other events to gather input from stakeholders.” “The Public Welfare Foundation said $100,000 grants also went to Alaska, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Massachusetts and Minnesota.” (New York Law Journal)(subscription required)

November 18, 2016 – “A new free legal clinic sponsored by the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law in partnership with LDS Charities will provide legal services to underserved communities. The new Community Legal Clinic: Sugarhouse is part of the law school’s pro bono initiative program, a noncredit volunteer program that allows students to build real world problem-solving skills to serve their community. The program has a three-part mission: to provide skill building legal opportunities under the direct supervision of attorneys; to develop placements where alumni can volunteer, network and serve as mentors to law students; and to demonstrate the professional responsibility of those in the legal profession to provide pro bono legal services to the underserved in the community who otherwise would not have access to the justice system.” (The University of Utah News)

November 21, 2016 – “The Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) is making 85 recommendations to change BC’s indigenous child welfare system. It’ll now focus on improving family life by bettering family support services, legal help, early intervention services, and funding. Grand Chief Edward John has been a special adviser with Minister of Children and Family Development Stephanie Cadieux on indigenous children in care, permanency and early years since September 2015. He says one of the report’s main priorities is returning child welfare responsibilities to indigenous communities. ‘To me, a major part of the solution is right there. The children are never the problem. It’s everything else that’s around them and how do we do that and how do we bring them home? The essence of the report is to do that.’ Other central focuses from the report include reducing the need for indigenous children and youth going into care, bettering support services, legal aid, equitable funding formulas between the provincial and the federal government, and easier access to early intervention services. There will also be more Ministry of Children and Family Development staff with First Nations communities. 40 recommendations are already in the works or are being included in future plans. These include a commitment to regular regional meetings with Metis and First Nations leaders, a stronger indigenous voice within the Youth Advisory Council, more indigenous social workers within MCFD, and more education on services. Putting the remaining recommendations into effect will take a little bit more work. The ministry says addressing the remaining ones will require a ‘significant injection of funding – often in co-ordination with the federal government. Alterations will also need to be made to existing legislation.'” (MYPRINCEGEORGENOW)

November 21, 2016 – “Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma (LASO) received a grant from the federal AmeriCorps program as part of the President Barack Obama administration’s investment in tribally-sponsored AmeriCorps programming. Through this project, LASO AmeriCorps members will deliver civil legal assistance to improve health, according to a media release. ‘A person’s health can be significantly impacted by social problems like domestic violence, denial of public benefits, or unsafe or substandard housing, just to name a few; these are issues that may have a civil legal solution,’ said Michael Figgins, executive director of LASO. ‘By partnering with the Cherokee Nation, LASO attorneys can identify issues impacting health that might have a civil legal solution. Working together, caregivers and attorneys can holistically address problems and help ensure better overall health outcomes for patients.’ The three-year grant will fund four attorneys who will work with Cherokee Nation to identify and treat Social Security Disability and aging-related problems.” (Muskogee Phoenix)

November 21, 2016 – “A Thompson Rivers University Faculty of Law professor passionate about innovation and access to justice is blazing a trail on the Canadian legal education landscape. Assistant Professor Katie Sykes has developed a new and unique law course—one of the first of its kind offered in Canada—that teaches students to use technology to automate the application of legal knowledge by developing apps that can be easily used by anyone. The course is called Designing Legal Expert Systems: Apps for Access to Justice. ‘It’s about taking legal knowledge and rules as a series of decision-making trees and translating that onto a tech platform that creates an app,’ explained Sykes. Using a software the law school has licensed from US-based legal technology firm Neota Logic, the students will work with non-profit ‘client’ organizations to develop the type of app, problem it will solve, and types of users. ‘Students will make a tangible, meaningful impact by developing a platform that allows quick and convenient access to legal information in language that is easy to understand,’ said Sykes.” (infonews.ca)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

Everyone has a favorite Thanksgiving tradition.  But where do our traditions come from?  Here is an interesting history of Thanksgiving with all the trimmings.  History.com

Music Bonus!  Happy Thanksgiving!

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*Special Edition* Job’o’th’Week (N. Dakota Water Protection Attorney Positions)

Help Wanted

Photo: Brenda Gottesman – CC License

Criminal Ground Coordinator

An attorney based on site at Oceti Sakowin who will work with experienced mass defense lawyers and local lawyers to implement and coordinate criminal representation and an effective mass defense strategy. Compensation is available and will be commensurate with both experience and need.

  • Assign tasks to on-site attorneys including jail advisements, meet with Public Defender’s (PD’s) office, jail visits
  • Work with Court Support Coordinator to maintain arrestee database, evidence database, arrestee listserv, and assist with arrestee meetings
  • Work with the Remote Volunteer Coordinator to assign criminal cases to attorneys, to assign research and drafting tasks and oversee motions/a brief bank
  • Coordination with local lawyers, PD
  • Coordination/negotiation with law enforcement
  • Coordination with Tribal entities
  • Coordinate with Oceti Sakowin, Red Warrior, Sacred Stone and other camps and organizations on-site such as Honor the Earth and the Indigenous Environmental Network
  • Work with communications coordinator to keep remote legal team updated and on public messaging
  • Supervise Legal Observers as appropriate
  • Report to Water Protector Legal Collective (WPLC) Criminal Liaison on WPLC Board

Apply by November 26, 2016 to:

Water Protector Legal Collective at waterprotectorlegalhiring@gmail.com

Please include “Criminal Ground Coordinator” in the subject line of your email.

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*Guest Blog Post* Colleen Gibbons Tells a Heartwarming Story About Defending Animal Rights

The holidays are quickly approaching and Colleen Gibbons wanted to share a wonderful story about a case that she worked on with an animal advocacy program. Read her post below.
“In the summer of my 1L year, I attended a special CLE on a new planned Legal Animal Advocacy Program organized through my local bar association.  The program assigned attorneys to animals removed from owners charged with animal cruelty.  The assigned attorney visits the animal and provides affidavits as to its health and well-being throughout the ongoing investigation and court process.  I was the only student in attendance, but I wanted to participate, so I approached one of the presenters after the meeting.  He hadn’t considered student involvement, but he thought it made sense.  With that, we organized the Animal Advocacy group of student volunteers.
Photo courtesy of Colleen Gibbons

Photo courtesy of Colleen Gibbons

The program officially began the following spring, and I was the first student assigned to work with an attorney.  Our dog was an emaciated pitbull named Bully, who had lived the first two years of his life confined in a crate.  He was starved by his owner, and kept in his own filth, which initially left him unsocialized and very sad.  The attorney and I did the initial evaluation, which involved talking to the technicians and spending some time with the dog.  As Bully’s case continued, he stayed at the local shelter, and he began to heal.  The attorney and I knew he needed us, so we went to visit him almost daily.

Bully’s owner had signed surrender papers, but because of his history of starvation, Bully wasn’t  ready to be adopted.  He had to get healthy, and be trained to learn that he didn’t have to be possessive of his food and treats.  Bully needed someone willing to care for a scared and sad (but very smart) pitbull.

We found a trainer who specializes in dogs that need this kind of help, and then started a GoFundMe.  We raised over $1500 in under 24 hours!  And just over two months after he arrived in the shelter, Bully left with the trainer.  Bully was renamed Teddy, and spent the next 60 days learning appropriate dog behaviors.

But Teddy still didn’t know how to live in a house.  We found a local dog rescue organization willing to sponsor him as a foster dog, so long as we could provide the foster home, so Teddy came to live with me, my two dogs, and my cat.  When Teddy first arrived, pretty much everything was new and an adventure.  Eventually he became accustomed to a routine that included daily long walks, romps in the backyard, and nightly snores on the couch while I did my school work.

After two months in my home, the perfect family applied for Teddy: a mom and a dad, with another young dog to play with. The family  knew Teddy’s history, and was willing to work with him to allow him to get settled and become a member of the family.  Teddy finally got his forever home.

Teddy with his forever parents. Image courtesy of Colleen Gibbons.

Teddy with his forever parents. Image courtesy of Colleen Gibbons.

Teddy’s legal case was ongoing through all of this; at each court appointment the attorney and I would prepare a report on Teddy’s progress, which we submitted to the judge and attorneys.  The judge would read each report as he considered the facts presented to him.  To date, Teddy’s case has not been closed.

The attorney animal advocate program is ongoing, and students continue to be paired with attorneys.  Each case is different, but each dog entering the program has attorney advocates to follow up and make sure the pet’s story is told.  Teddy is alive and well thanks to the attorney advocate program, and thanks to this program, I get to tell his story.”

Colleen Gibbons is a 3L at Syracuse University College of Law and is the College’s Pro Bono Fellow.  She is a self-proclaimed Dog Lady.  You can reach her at cmgibbon@syr.edu

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – November 18, 2016

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

Happy Friday!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Give lawyers tax incentives to represent the indigent;
  • The National Law School Veterans Clinic Consortium launched;
  • Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office announces Legal Assistance for Our Veterans grant opportunity;
  • Why a federal hiring freeze is not such a good idea;
  • OPM to launch CyberCareers.gov;
  • Non-profit launches pro bono expungement program;
  • Student loan forgiveness under a Trump presidency;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

November 10, 2016 – An opinion piece by Chandra Bozelko and Jaime Lathrop makes an interesting proposal – provide tax breaks on pro bono work to incentivize attorneys to take on criminal defense cases. The indigent defense crisis is particularly acute in Louisiana, where public defenders are each handling more than 1,000 felony cases a year.  “Congress often uses the tax code to promote social welfare, such as a tax break for low-income housing construction or hiring people with criminal records. Congress also alters the tax code to stimulate economic growth, perhaps by making it easier to take business deductions. It makes sense to use the tax code to protect people’s constitutional rights and their personal security by amending it in a way that delivers legal representation to those who need it.” (The Times-Picayune)

November 11, 2016 – “The National Law School Veterans Clinic Consortium (NLSVCC) announced that it has formally launched operations to foster best practices to pro bono veteran advocacy programs at law school legal clinics nationwide. The Consortium aims to establish a long-term collaborative relationship among member institutions to help advance positive systemic change for veteran legal advocacy services such as applying for disability benefits, addressing civil legal needs and assisting in Veteran Treatment Courts.” “NLSVCC is a collaborative effort of the nation’s law school legal clinics dedicated to addressing the unique legal needs of U.S. military veterans on a pro bono basis. The Consortium’s mission is, working with like-minded stakeholders, to gain support and advance common interests with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, U.S. Congress, state and local veterans service organizations, court systems, educators and all other entities for the benefit of veterans throughout the country. For more information, visit http://www.nlsvcc.org.” (Business Wire)

November 11, 2016 – “Utilizing $355,000 funds received by the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office (AGO) from a settlement with Sprint and Verizon, the AGO is pleased to announce the Legal Assistance for Our Veterans grant opportunity.  The Legal Assistance for Our Veterans grant is designed to fund legal aid groups, legal clinics, or nonprofit organizations who will focus on helping Massachusetts veterans, including those with a less than honorable discharge status, gain access to veterans’ services, including, but not limited to: discharge status upgrades, health benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare system, housing & education assistance, general legal representation, and veteran-specific employment.” (Mass.gov)

November 15, 2016 – President-elect Trump has called for a federal hiring freeze in his first 100 days.  Here’s a good look at why that might not accomplish his goals and create additional problems.  Columnist Joe Davidson suggests that Trump read “Recent Government-Wide Hiring Freezes Prove Ineffective in Managing Federal Employment” prior to imposing any freeze. “Published by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in 1982, this report examines hiring freezes imposed by former presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. In addition to having ‘little effect on Federal employment levels,’ the GAO said, those freezes ‘disrupted agency operations, and in some cases, increased costs to the Government.'” He also makes good points about the long recovery for the federal government after a freeze. (Washington Post)

November 15, 2016 – “Several new tools from the Office of Personnel Management are coming soon to help agencies better recruit and hire new talent, particularly top cybersecurity professionals. The administration is in the process of creating CyberCareers.gov, a new website aimed at reaching federal managers, current employees, job seekers and academic organizations and students.” The new site will include privacy positions, which will be directly relevant for law students. The site will launch in the December to January time frame.

And USAJobs.gov updates will continue in 2017. “After a year of iterative updates designed to improve the user experience, OPM’s next major update to the federal jobs portal will focus on new tools for agency hiring managers and human resources specialists. The next iteration will be ready by February 2017, said Michelle Earley, program manager for USAJobs.gov.” These updates will help agencies better mine USAJobs for candidates and make better recruitment decisions. (Federal News Radio)

November 15, 2016 – “PPG Foundation, a freshly launched national non-profit group based in New York, announces the launch of its pro bono criminal record expungement program specifically targeted at those with non-violent marijuana offenses called: Clean Slate. Created to provide much needed assistance for those seeking re-entry into the workforce, the Clean Slate Program will work directly with persons often faced with limited opportunity, or quick dismissal, once their criminal history has been revealed. Currently partnered with Portland, Oregon-based law firm Green Light Law Group, a pioneering firm focused on the expanding field of Cannabis Law, PPG Foundation is aligning other leading Cannabis Law Firms across the country to further expand the program outside of its Oregon launch. To complete the restoration process, PPG Foundation will continue to work with businesses – inside and outside of the Cannabis industry – to sponsor applicants in need of expungements. The program, whose applicants’ convictions must meet specific state criteria, will provide pro bono expungements on both a first come first served basis, as well as via a monthly lottery where winners are chosen at random.” (PRNewswire)

November 16, 2016 – While we are firmly in wait-and-see mode regarding loan forgiveness and the new administration, this National Law Journal article is a good summary of where we are and what we might expect. (The National Law Journal)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

The Legal Aid Society (New York City) recently honored Goodwin Procter LLP and firm client IBM with its Pro Bono Publico Award for an innovative corporate pro bono project – the Citizenship Clinic held in April 2016. For this initiative, 10 IBM lawyers joined forces with 10 lawyers from Goodwin to assist eligible, legal permanent residents with becoming U.S. citizens. Citizenship is important because it encourages civic participation and enables people to become more active members of their communities and society at-large. It also enables residents to vote, and to apply for federal jobs, grants and scholarships. During the citizenship clinic, the lawyers helped 20 clients fill out their naturalization applications. For Goodwin, the initiative was championed  by litigation partner Calvin Wingfield.

Senior Pro Bono Manager Carolyn Rosenthal and Business Development Specialist Carrie Gilman were also honored for their commitment to pro bono with individual Pro Bono Publico Awards. (Goodwin Updates)

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

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Job’o’th’Week (Internship Edition)

Help Wanted

Photo: Brenda Gottesman – CC License

Summer 2017 Legal Internship

The Organization: 

The Georgia Resource Center is a 501(c)(3) non-profit law office in Atlanta dedicated to providing free, high-quality representation to death-sentenced men and women in their state and federal habeas and clemency proceedings. The Georgia Resource Center is responsible for ensuring that all of Georgia’s death sentenced prisoners have meaningful and vigorous representation at this critical stage of death penalty case review.

The Position: 

Interns directly assist in all aspects of GRC’s work, including interviewing witnesses, compiling life histories, visiting clients, conducting legal research, and drafting memos and briefs. Interns often have the opportunity to attend court proceedings, such as state-court evidentiary hearings and oral arguments before the Georgia Supreme Court and Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. We seek highly-motivated, public-interest-oriented law students with a passion for indigent defense and human rights to be our summer interns. Previous experience working with prisoners or individuals with mental health issues is a plus, as is professional experience prior to law school. The candidates we hire must have excellent legal writing and research skills, be at ease around all types of people, and ready for any task.

Ready to apply? Find the full post on PSJD.

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – November 11, 2016

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

Happy Veteran’s Day! We honor those who have served our nation in war and peace.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Montana’s public defender’s office hires 62 attorneys;
  • New York Legal Assistance Group’s pro se clinic opens in Southern District of New York;
  • Grant funds to help crime victims in Kentucky more than doubling;
  • Judge dismisses suit against Missouri governor over funding public defenders;
  • Connecticut public defenders join a union;
  • Judge dismisses one of two suits against Utah indigent defense system;
  • University of New Mexico School of Law launches new Natural Resources and Environmental Law Clinic;
  • Legal Services Corporation announces Technology Initiative Grants;
  • Jones Day and ABA to launch VetLex;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

November 2, 2016 – “To accommodate a budget shortfall of $3.5 million, the State Office of the Public Defender will no longer be contracting cases with local attorneys. Instead, the office will hire a total of 62 attorneys in offices across the state to handle cases previously assigned to outside counsel, OPD Chief Administrator Scott Cruse said Monday. This plan was projected to save the office $2.2 million in fiscal year 2017, according to the OPD’s mitigation plan. On Wednesday, Interim Director of the Billings’ office Doug Day said the office would no longer contract out cases to local lawyers.” “The new attorneys will handle certain cases that were previously assigned to local attorneys because of conflicts of interest or high caseloads. Day says the public defender typically paid contracted attorneys about $62 per hour. The new attorneys will be part-time and will be paid between $37 and $48 hourly. Some contract attorneys worried they may not be able to support their practices without the public defender’s cases. But Public Defender Commission member Mark Parker says the move is the best way to reduce costs while upholding the office’s mission.” (Billings Gazette)(Great Falls Tribune)

November 3, 2016 – “Pro se litigants and the docket of the Southern District will get a boost with the launch of a new clinic in Lower Manhattan that will provide free advice to litigants who can’t afford a lawyer. ‘We are very likely to see a significant impact on our pro se docket,’ Southern District Chief Judge Colleen McMahon said at a ribbon cutting ceremony Thursday. ‘So it’s not only good for the litigants, but good for the courts.’ The new clinic is staffed by the nonprofit New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG) and is run by Robyn Tarnofsky, a former litigation partner at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.” “NYLAG’s own legal clinic is used to working in conjunction with the district’s Pro Se Intake Unit and its Office of Pro Se Litigation, but the pro se clinic will operate independently from the court. The district is providing office space for the clinic on the ground floor of the Thurgood Marshall U.S. Courthouse, including a conference room, a PACER terminal, a computer for the client and office space for Tarnofsky, a second attorney from NYLAG and a paralegal. That staff will be supplemented by a pool of volunteer law firm associates “who are looking to get some client contact, which can be difficult at large firms,” Tarnofsky said in an interview.” (New York Law Journal)(subscription required)

November 4, 2016 – “Gov. Matt Bevin and Kentucky Justice Secretary John Tilley announced Thursday that grant money to help victims of violent crime is more than doubling this year – all thanks to an aggressive effort to capture federal funding and pair grants with Kentucky organizations. In total, the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet is awarding more than $14 million in grants to programs that aid crime victims, including rape crisis centers, domestic violence shelters and child advocacy centers. That’s a 127 percent increase over the $6.2 million given out last year.” (Kentucky New Era)

November 4, 2016 – “A judge tossed out the state public defender agency’s lawsuit over Gov. Jay Nixon’s budgeting authority. The lawsuit challenged the governor’s decision to withhold millions of dollars in funds from the agency that defends poor people. A Cole County judge, in a ruling made public on Friday, sided with Nixon in the lawsuit that the Missouri State Public Defender system and the state’s Public Defender Commission filed in July. The plaintiffs alleged Nixon cut their budget while no general revenue was restricted from Nixon’s own budget. The system’s director, Michael Barrett, called the move political. In August, Barrett appointed Nixon, the state’s former attorney general, to defend one of his agency’s clients in protest of the budget cut. A judge later blocked that move.” (KY3)

November 7, 2016 – “Nearly 200 attorneys who work for the Judicial Branch’s division of Public Defender Services voted to join Council 4 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). Rank-and-file public defenders voted 100-18 in favor of unionization and the supervisors’ group voted 15-3. The election took place via mail between Oct. 14 and Oct. 28. ‘We joined Council 4 to strengthen our voice on the job and to protect the vital services we provide to citizens in need of legal representation,’ Assistant Public Defender Jeffrey LaPierre said. ‘Unionizing is our path to a more secure and stable future, for ourselves and our clients.'” (CT News Junkie)

November 8, 2016 – “A federal judge has tossed a proposed class-action lawsuit challenging Washington County’s public defender system. The lawsuit — filed in January against the state of Utah, Washington County and several public officials — claimed the county’s current public defender system is broken, and that the attorneys who handle those contracts are overworked, underpaid and are not given the proper support to defend their clients. The two named plaintiffs, William Cox and Edward Paulus, are two Washington County men who have been assigned public defenders for their pending criminal cases. But in an order dismissing the case filed on Monday, U.S. District Judge Dee Benson ruled that because the plaintiffs’ criminal cases are not resolved, they cannot yet claim they have been harmed or that they have had ineffective counsel. The judge wrote that their claims were ‘sweeping, yet unsupported.'” “The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah filed its own lawsuit against the state in June, asking that a judge find that the current system is not constitutional. The ACLU argues in its lawsuit that the system is inadequate, underfunded and unfair to Utahns accused of crimes who rely on public defenders. That lawsuit is still pending in federal court as the plaintiffs seek class-action status.” (The Salt Lake Tribune)

November 9, 2016 – “The University of New Mexico (UNM) School of Law will open a new Natural Resources and Environmental Law Clinic (NREL) in January 2017. NREL joins the UNM Law School’s 40 year history of providing legal services to New Mexico’s communities.  It will be the fifth section of the UNM Law School’s mandatory Clinic Program, in which law students represent actual clients with supervision by faculty. NREL will provide a wide variety of legal services to underrepresented individuals, community groups, nonprofit organizations, and Indian tribes to protect, preserve, and use lands and natural resources, and improve public health and the environment of communities. The clinic provides an opportunity for law students to work on a mix of litigation, drafting laws and policy, and advising clients.  Clinic students may appear before all levels of tribal, state and federal courts, administrative agencies and the legislature.” (UNM News)

November 9, 2016 – “The Legal Services Corporation (LSC) today announced 34 Technology Initiative Grants (TIG) to 27 legal services organizations in 20 states and one territory. TIG funding supports a variety of initiatives, from building more efficient intake systems for clients seeking legal services to creating automated forms to support legal aid staff, pro bono attorneys, and self-represented litigants. The program was established in 2000. Since that time, LSC has made more than 600 grants totaling more than $57 million to civil legal aid organizations across the country.” See the full list of grantees here. (LSC)

November 10, 2016 – “Jones Day law firm has joined forces with the American Bar Association to launch a national veterans assistance program called VetLex, to match U.S. veterans and military families who need legal help with veteran service organizations and attorneys willing to offer their expertise pro bono. VetLex (VetLex.org), a combination of the words ‘veteran’ and the Latin word for ‘law,’ will be the first national network of its kind devoted to providing veterans with referrals to social service providers and pro bono or ‘low bono’ (low-cost) lawyers qualified and willing to provide those services. The program will start in a handful of pilot cities — including Cleveland — in the spring of 2017, before expanding nationally.” The initial target of the program is low-income veterans. (cleveland.com)

 

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

Janet Reno, who rose from a rustic life on the edge of the Everglades to become attorney general of the United States — the first woman to hold the job — and whose eight years in that office placed her in the middle of some of the most divisive episodes of the Clinton presidency, died on Monday at her home in Miami-Dade County, Fla. She was 78. Her sister, Margaret Hurchalla, said the cause was complications of Parkinson’s disease, which was diagnosed in November 1995.  Click on the link to read more about her amazing life and career. (The New York Times)

Music Bonus!  A special video in honor of Veteran’s Day.

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Job’o’th’Week (Fellowship Edition)

Help Wanted

Photo: Brenda Gottesman – CC License

Elder Law Fellow.

The Organziation:

For many years, Columbia Legal Services has represented some of the most marginalized people in our community. We use every legal tool available on their behalf. Our role to serve people and use advocacy that might otherwise not be available makes our work an integral part of the Washington Alliance for Equal Justice. As a proud member of the Alliance, our vision of justice is when people have the necessary tools and opportunity to achieve social and economic justice, a more equitable and inclusive society is possible. Through large-scale litigation, policy reform, and innovative partnerships, our lawyers and staff work in furtherance of our mission. The ideal candidate for any position at Columbia Legal Services will be able to articulate their role in the achievement of that vision.

The Position:

Columbia Legal Services seeks a one-year Elder Law Fellow to support its practice on behalf of low-income clients and to advance systemic reform. Areas of practice on behalf of seniors will include public benefits, guardianship, housing, and access to medical or mental health services. A willingness and ability to learn these areas is critical to success.

Interested in this fellowship? Find the full post on PSJD.

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*Guest Blog* Liz Schultz Debriefs on the EJW Conference & Career Fair

Liz Schultz

Liz Schultz

Last Friday, I attended the Equal Justice Works (EJW) Conference & Career Fair for the first time. To be honest, I primarily went to hear Justice Kagan speak. As Co-Chairs of the EJW National Advisory Committee, Jojo Choi and I also helped out with some behind-the-scenes work. However, I was so blown away by all the amazing experiences I had while I was there, I will definitely return next year! 

As a 2L, hearing Justice Kagan speak was truly moving. I teared up hearing her talk about Justice Thurgood Marshall. She recounted that being Solicitor General was his favorite job because he loved to say “I’m Thurgood Marshall and I represent the United States of America.” (I even teared up typing that—law school has fanned an unexpected patriotic wildfire in me!) She kept the whole room laughing for the entire hour. After explaining that one of her duties as the junior justice is to serve on the cafeteria committee, she admitted that her successful advocacy for the clerks’ desired dessert earned her the nickname “the frozen yogurt Justice.”

justice-kagan-and-interviewer

I also had the opportunity to see Ralph Nader speak about access to justice. Afterward, he stayed for over an hour to sign books and meet people. As he wrapped up I got to chat with him for 10 minutes or so along with a few other nearby law students. (Just a typical Friday, right? I wish!) I told him about the “unreasonably nerdy law student field trip” my fellow interns and I undertook this summer from Philadelphia to multiple sites of famous cases we studied during 1L, which culminated in a trip to Mr. Nader’s American Museum of Tort Law. I also found out he not only knows of the small plaintiff firm I will work for this upcoming summer but thinks one of them is “a legend.” He even asked for my business card!

liz-and-nader

I got to hang with some other amazing folks as well, who are not quite as far along in their careers. I met Zaire Selden, a 1L evening student in DC. We bonded over our shared passions for racial justice, got lunch, and then ran into Mr. Nader for that 10-minute chat (after which he gave Zaire a signed copy of his book). At the Student Networking Reception I met Shana Emile, a 3L in LA. We bonded over our shared passion about the School-to-Prison Pipeline. I also had the chance to hear about her summer internship with the Southern Poverty Law Center and tell her about my work advocating for Philadelphia children in school disciplinary hearings with our law student volunteer group, School Discipline Advocacy Service.

 

It was so restorative to connect with Zaire, Shana, and other law students who are trying to forge new public interest opportunities at their law schools. I encouraged them to apply to be EJW law student reps, and maybe even to be on the National Advisory Committee. (Okay you caught me in a shameless plug…but seriously, these are two great opportunities for law students that also help connect people to EJW resources and supports, so, why not!) I got to chat with law school professionals too, like Ray English from Arizona State University Law and Norma D’Apolito from Yale. I met a Temple Law alum, Qudsiya Naqui, and we got to gush about shared professors and all things Temple. And I met Christina Jackson and Delisa Morris, who encouraged me to write this blog post! Networking with other social justice minded law students and professionals was truly empowering and encouraging. I even have a phone call scheduled for next week with another law student to discuss how to create new public interest opportunities at her law school across the country.

 

I was also able to lay more concrete groundwork for job opportunities at table talks. Though I did not have any prescheduled interviews, I got to sit down with attorneys from the DOJ, Defender Association, and Capital Habeas Unit. I also scoped out the ACLU, Southern Poverty Law Center, and Brennan Center. There truly are opportunities for everyone with any inclination toward social justice; I left with many business cards and new contacts.

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There were great panels about social entrepreneurship, incubators, immigration, racial justice, debt, and more. We got to hear from successful attorneys like Lam Nguyen Ho about how they crafted opportunities to do their work. Listening to their stories enabled me to envision myself in their shoes one day soon.

 

My experience at the Equal Justice Works Career & Conference Fair is best summed up in this email I sent to someone the following day:

“Seriously, that was amazing. I’m in awe of how many awesome people I got to speak with doing such incredible work, and I am proud to just share the same space (or as Jojo said about Justice Kagan, breathe the same air!) as them.”

 

Justice Kagan said she is “a huge believer in serendipity…especially in legal careers.” Trust me when I say there are plenty of serendipitous moments at the CCF. With over 1000 students and 160 employers, how can there not be?

 

I hope to see you there next year!

 

Liz Schultz is a 2L at Temple Law. She can be reached at elizabeth.schultz@temple.edu

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Community Activism-Law Alliance (CALA) Celebrates Two Years of Community Impact in Chicago

Community Activism Law Alliance (CALA) – Uniting Lawyers and Community Activists to Bring Free Legal Services Back to Underserved Populations…

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CALA recently celebrated its two-year anniversary with the “Two Years of Community Impact” event. The organization, located in Chicago, has collaborated with individuals to help their families stay together, fight violence, reunite across borders, and be empowered to help others. Within two-years CALA has impacted over 3500 people directly, and thousands more due to its support of community activism.

The organization’s staff of 10 has worked to unite lawyers and activists in the pursuit for justice. CALA leverages legal services to benefit marginalized individuals and communities. CALA takes a unique approach to legal services by operating within its target communities with partner organizations at free existing neighborhood spaces. CALA attorneys consistently balance individual cases and projects supporting CALA’s partners’ activism work .

Congratulations CALA on an excellent two years and many more to come.

Find out more about CALA’s work.

Check out CALA’s two-year anniversary E-Book.

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – November 4, 2016

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

Happy Friday! Thank you for another great NALP/PSJD Public Service Mini-Conference! I hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Alberta creates 10 new judge positions;
  • North Mississippi Rural Legal Services celebrates 50 years;
  • Report highlights effect of pro bono legal services in Tennessee;
  • New virtual law advice clinic in Connecticut;
  • University of Toronto Faculty of Law legal aid clinic expands services;
  • New law student program could help ease the crushing bail burden on Ottawa’s jail;
  • Report: Indiana fails to provide consistent indigent defense;
  • New York State creates public interest fellowship in honor of staffer;
  • Newest legal chatbot in UK gives free advice to victims of crime;
  • Cornell Law School launches center to help defeat death penalty worldwide;
  • Legal Aid Ontario lawyers join Society of Energy Professionals union;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

October 20, 2016 – “Alberta’s beleaguered justice system got a helping hand on Thursday, with the province announcing it’s creating 10 new judge positions and the federal government filling seven of the existing vacancies. Alberta Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley made the announcement of the 10 new judicial positions in Calgary, saying nine would be at the Court of Queen’s Bench and one at the Court of Appeal. They would be created through amendments to provincial legislation in the fall, she said.” “A recent Supreme Court ruling helped bring matters to a head by imposing hard time limits on how long a person has to wait to have a case heard in court, prompting Alberta’s prosecution service to review an estimated 400 cases for fear that they might be tossed.” “The increase brings the number of justices per capita in Alberta in line with that in other provinces, according to the province. Combined with already existing vacancies, the new positions would mean there were 21 unfilled judicial positions in Alberta, [Alberta Justice Minister Kathleen] Ganley said.” (CBCNews)

October 20, 2016 – “When 86 percent of non-whites lived below the poverty line in Mississippi 50 years ago, a group of University of Mississippi lawyers created the North Mississippi Rural Legal Services to provide legal services to the disadvantaged. This month, the NMRLS celebrated 50 years of legal service. In 2015, NMRLS helped 19,160 residents with adoptions, protective orders, fraud prevention, wills, power of attorney cases, foreclosure prevention, landlord problems, tax assistance and bankruptcy in 39 Mississippi counties. Without the NMRLS, Ben T. Cole, Jr., executive director of NMRLS, said many people would not have their day in court.” “NMRLS, previously known as the Lafayette County Legal Aid, opened its first office in Oxford in 1966.” “Today, NMRLS has 13 staff attorneys in North Mississippi for low-income residents in 39 counties.” (Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal)

October 21, 2016 – “The Tennessee Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Commission’s released annual report shows Tennessee attorneys are donating more than 500,000 hours of their time annually worth more than $100 million. For the calendar year 2014, nearly half of all attorneys reported doing some kind of pro bono work. The report shows 7,615 attorneys practicing in Tennessee provided 568,170 hours of pro bono, an average of over 74 hours per reporting attorney.  The value of these services is estimated to be over $113 million.” “Further, the Commission recently adopted its 2016 Strategic Plan for improving access to justice in Tennessee.” “The plan includes implementing a strategy to have 10 new court kiosks across the state, developing a statewide communications plan with legal aid and access to justice programs and growing the Tennessee Faith and Justice Alliance to include representation from a variety of faiths. The Commission also makes recommendations to the Supreme Court of projects and programs necessary for enhancing access to justice, especially for self-represented litigants.” (The Chattanoogan)

October 21, 2016 – “The power of the internet is being harnessed to make it easier for low-income Connecticut residents to access legal advice, and to make it easier for pro bono attorneys to volunteer to help people who can’t afford to pay for attorneys. Statewide Legal Services of Connecticut is one of the legal aid law firms in eight states which are partnering with the American Bar Association on a virtual law advice clinic that allows low-income clients to ask questions about civil law and for attorneys to answer their questions online whenever convenient for them. Instead of dropping into a legal aid clinic to talk to a lawyer in person, clients can type their questions and submit them on a computer. Judge Elliot N. Solomon, deputy chief court administrator and co-chairman of the Connecticut judiciary’s Access to Justice Commission, said this new program is unique because it makes it more convenient for people with low to moderate incomes to access legal advice and more convenient for lawyers to be able to provide pro bono service to people who need it.” (Connecticut Law Tribune)

October 21, 2016 – “Downtown Legal Services (DLS) has expanded its practice to now offer employment law services. DLS is a legal aid clinic operating out of the University of Toronto Faculty of Law that offers free legal assistance to low income communities. Legal services are provided by U of T law student volunteers who are supervised by staff lawyers. Last year, DLS received an increase in its budget which arose from an increase in their annual funding from Legal Aid Ontario and an increase in levies received from the U of T students’ tuition. With the extra funds, DLS has now created an employment law division and has also expanded their housing law division. DLS recently announced that ‘help is now available for working students who have been terminated, discriminated against, or otherwise denied their employment rights.’ With their expanded services, the legal clinic now offers employment services in the following areas: employment standards complaints, employment insurance appeals, human rights applications, and small claims court.” (The Varsity)

October 21, 2016 – “An innovative new program in Kingston that helps women get released on bail while easing pressure on the local jail could offer a potential solution for overcrowding in other provincial detention centres like Ottawa. The bail program being offered by Queen’s Legal Aid in partnership with the Elizabeth Fry Society has law students stepping in to help impoverished offenders who are behind bars, usually because they lack a plan that includes the housing or bail supervision they need to be released. The students meet with the inmates, then help craft a release plan that usually assists them in finding a place to stay, counselling, or addiction treatment that the inmate’s lawyer can present to court to help secure their release. The students have been able to help secure the release of 11 women from the Quinte Detention Centre since launching the program in June, said lawyer Jodie-Lee Primeau, the program’s supervisor. Ten of the women were released on consent of the Crown prosecutor without a bail hearing.” “Primeau hopes Queen’s can secure additional funding and access to the detention centre (currently they only receive access to female inmates due to their partnership with the Elizabeth Fry Society) so they can expand their program to assist male offenders.” (Ottawa Sun)

October 24, 2016 – “Indiana is failing to equally provide constitutionally guaranteed effective counsel to indigent people accused of misdemeanor, felony and juvenile offenses, according to a report released Monday. In some counties, poor people facing criminal charges are encouraged to negotiate directly with prosecutors before being appointed counsel. Those are among the findings of a report on the state of Indiana’s provision of public defenders for the indigent released by the Boston-based Sixth Amendment Center. The report was commissioned by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers as part of its public defense reform program. ‘The state of Indiana fails to consistently ensure that each person facing potential incarceration has the aid of a lawyer with the time, ability, and resources to present an effective defense, as is the state’s constitutional obligation,’ according to the Sixth Amendment Center.” “‘With little to no state oversight, Indiana’s counties do not consistently require indigent defense attorneys to have specific qualifications necessary to handle cases of varying severity or to have the training needed to handle specific types of cases (other than for capital cases),’ the center said in a statement.” (The Indiana Lawyer)

October 24, 2016 – “Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office announced Monday that the state will offer a two-year public service fellowship with the state Department of Labor in honor of Scott Martella, a former Executive Chamber staffer and communications director for Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone who was killed in an August car accident. The Scott Martella Public Service Fellowship will be awarded every two years to a student who will then work for the Department of Labor, where Martella worked for more than a year, and will focus on community outreach. The first fellow will be selected from the 2017-19 class of Excelsior Service Fellows. Cuomo’s office said nominated fellows will be required to submit a personal statement outlining their commitment to community outreach and their desire to exemplify what the administration characterized as ‘Scott Martella’s legacy of serving others.’ The fellow will update the Martella family periodically on his or her work.” (Times Union)

October 26, 2016 – A second legal chatbot has launched in the UK.  “LawBot is an artificial intelligence system designed to help people who need to find out more about their rights and how the justice system can aid them. The LawBot team say it’s the world’s most advanced chatbot lawyer. It launched just two weeks ago, and although it’s still in beta, the team behind LawBot have seen it gather 15,000 interactions. It’s the brainchild of Ludwig Bull, who developed the system after he spent the summer in Japan and after working for a think-tank in Cambridge. He recruited the rest of the team on the Cambridge University Law Society Facebook page. The team is now 10 people strong and say LawBot is a labour of love.” (Cambridge Independent)

October 26, 2016 – “A new center at Cornell Law School aims to help eliminate the death penalty across the globe through research and lawyer training. The school on Tuesday announced the launch of the Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide—an initiative made possible by a $3.2 million grant from the Atlantic Philanthropies, the private foundation of university alum Chuck Feeney, founder of the Duty Free Shoppers Group. The center, led by Cornell professor Sandra Babcock, aspires to help end capital punishment internationally by highlighting the flaws in the application of the death penalty worldwide, and by strengthening the training of defense lawyers who handle such cases. Administrators say it’s the first center of its kind in the United States. A handful of schools have domestic-focused death penalty centers or death penalty clinics, including the University of Texas School of Law; Yale Law School; Harvard Law School; and the University of California, Berkeley School of Law. The new center will elevate the international death penalty research Cornell Law faculty started in 2011.” “The centerpiece of the initiative is a summer institute for capital defense lawyers around the world to convene and share notes on effective defense strategies. The center also will conduct research on the death penalty and maintain a free online database on capital punishment law and practices around the world.” “The center will house law school clinics focused on the international death penalty and human rights.” (New York Law Journal)

October 26, 2016 – “Following their four-year campaign to win collective bargaining rights, Legal Aid Ontario staff lawyers voted to join The Society of Energy Professionals. Voting was open throughout this week for the 358 staff lawyers that make up the newest Society bargaining unit. Of those that cast ballots, 76% voted in favour of being represented by The Society. “I am proud to welcome Legal Aid Ontario lawyers to The Society,” said Society president Scott Travers . ‘Legal Aid lawyers showed great strength in their fight for collective bargaining rights, and I am confident that same strength will continue as we begin working on their first collective agreement. I look forward to working in collaboration with the employer toward a collective agreement that is mutually beneficial to both our members and LAO.’ Travers said that the Legal Aid lawyers’ vote shows that professionals are looking to improve their working lives through collective bargaining.” (Yahoo Finance)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

The Legal Services Corporation (LSC) Board of Directors traveled from all across the United States to present a Pro Bono Service Award to the Ninth Judicial District Court Pro Bono Committee on October 17th at the University of New Mexico School of Law.  In attendance to accept the award were Judge Donna J. Mowrer and Senior Court Attorney Benjamin Cross.
The Ninth Judicial District Court Pro Bono Committee was chosen to receive this prestigious award due to its efforts in providing important legal services to residents of Curry and Roosevelt counties in eastern New Mexico.  Since 2012, the Pro Bono Committee’s Ask-A-Lawyer event has helped nearly 400 low-income people receive free legal consultations.  Court Attorney Benjamin Cross has hosted more than 125 pro se law clinics, assisting more than 800 people.  Other accomplishments include an annual Adoption Day event and school programs that have reached more than 6,000 students. (Myhighplains.com)

Music Bonus!  A VERY SPECIAL MUSIC PICK from the PSJD Fellow Delisa Morris.

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