Archive for December, 2016

Job’o’th’Week (Fellowship Edition)

Help Wanted

Photo: Brenda Gottesman – CC License

Legal Clinic FellowshipsThe Organization

UDC-DCSL is the USA’s most clinically-oriented law school, one of the nation’s most diverse law schools, and is devoted to recruiting and training students who are committed to public service. Its legislatively mandated mission is to to recruit and train as lawyers students from racial, ethnic and other groups traditionally underrepresented in the legal profession and to do so, to the degree feasible, through the representation of low-income people and the public interest in a clinical setting.

The Position

The UDC David A. Clarke School of Law is pleased to announce fellowship opportunities in the following legal clinics:

Community Development and Housing

Immigration

Juvenile and Special Education Law

Tax

LL.M. Program Description

The UDC David A. Clarke School of Law has an excellent, nationally ranked clinical education program where each J.D. candidate must complete two seven-credit clinics to graduate. LL.M. candidates work closely with experienced faculty members to teach and supervise clinic students learning substantive law and practice skills. In addition, over the course of the two- year program, fellows in the LL.M. program must complete a scholarly work of publishable quality, or a project designed to stimulate systems change.

The two-year LL.M. program includes coursework in clinical pedagogy, legal scholarship, public interest law, and systems change. The focus of the program is to provide fellows with a foundation in clinical education practices and to strengthen their lawyering and advocacy skills.

Is this the fellowship that you’ve been waiting for? See the full post on PSJD.

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Job’o’th’Week (Internship Edition)

Help Wanted

Photo: Brenda Gottesman – CC License

Legal Intern

The Organization

The National Institute for Reproductive Health works across the country to increase access to reproductive health care by changing public policy, galvanizing public support, and normalizing women’s decisions to have abortions and use contraception. Believing that a bottom-up strategy is necessary to create lasting change, we work through a partnership model, providing support in the form of funding, capacity building, strategic guidance, and technical assistance and building connections between and among partner organizations at the local, state, and national levels.

The Position

The law clerk/legal intern should expect to engage in policy analysis of key pieces of state legislation across the country; perform legal research and draft legal memoranda to advance our policy priorities; and gain experience working in state and national coalitions working to advance reproductive rights.

Primary Responsibilities:

  • Policy analysis of bills affecting reproductive rights on the state level;
  • Legislative tracking of related bills in key states;
  • Legal research and writing.

Qualifications:

  • Second- or third-year law student;
  • A commitment to and knowledge of reproductive health and rights is preferred but not required;
  • Excellent legal research and writing skills;
  • Knowledge of and/or interest in the legislative process
  • Excellent organizational and interpersonal skills, including exceptional attention to detail; and
  • Ability to work independently and as part of a team.

Is this the perfect internship to kick off your legal career? See the full post on PSJD.

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – December 22, 2016

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

Happy Holidays! Big news this week – the ABA has filed suit against the Department of Education regarding the retroactive denials of some previously qualified employers under Public Service Loan Forgiveness.  Coverage is below.

We here at PSJD thank you for your support and wish you the happiest of holiday seasons.  The Digest will take a holiday next week and return in the new year.  Happy New Year!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Deficit forcing Legal Aid Ontario to scale back services;
  • LA Justice Fund will offer legal help to potential deportees;
  • ABA sues government over retroactive denials to lawyers under Public Service Loan Forgiveness;
  • Indigent defense bill finally goes to New York governor’s desk;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

December 16, 2016 – “Potentially thousands of Ontarians who can’t afford a criminal lawyer will have to represent themselves at trial, as a deficit at the provincial agency that funds legal aid means it has to cut back dramatically on services. While Legal Aid Ontario will still issue legal aid certificates — which cover a person’s legal fees — for criminal defence lawyers in cases where there is a ‘substantial likelihood of incarceration,’ it will generally no longer do so in other matters. That means that impoverished individuals who may not be facing jail time but could be deported, fired or slapped with a hefty fine if they are convicted — and get a criminal record in the process — will be left to fend for themselves in courtrooms across the province. The news was announced in a memo from LAO president and CEO David Field, issued Friday afternoon and obtained by the Star. ‘Despite our best efforts to predict client demand for expanded services, our forecasts were well below actual demand,’ he said in the memo. ‘The end result was that we provided more services for clients than we had available funding for. We now need to take steps to bring client services in line with our funding.'” (The Star)

December 19, 2016 – “A new fund will provide $10 million dollars to provide legal help for immigrants in Los Angeles County who face deportation proceedings without a lawyer. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the creation of  the L.A. Justice Fund, which he said is a direct response to President-elect Donald Trump’s threat to increase deportations of undocumented immigrants and other ‘dangerous rhetoric.’ The fund is a joint effort between the City and County of Los Angeles, the California Community Foundation, the Weingart Foundation and the California Endowment.” “The fund will focus on helping immigrants in the county under temporary status such as the Deferred Access for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, military families, refugees and unaccompanied minors. It will not provide aid to immigrants with a serious criminal history, Garcetti said. A press release from the Mayor’s office said the fund will begin serving immigrants early in 2017, after the funding partners decide how the funds will be best allocated.” (KCET)

December 20, 2016 – “The American Bar Association and a group of individual public interest lawyers sued the U.S. Department of Education on Tuesday claiming that the agency illegally walked back a loan-forgiveness program meant to encourage attorneys to take low-paying public-sector positions. The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in federal court in Washington, claims that the department has arbitrarily tightened its definition of what sorts of organizations qualify as providers of “public interest law services” under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. The moves, the lawsuit contends, have illegally trimmed the ranks of lawyers who qualify for the program enacted in 2007 by President George W. Bush, which forgives student loan debt for full-time public interest lawyers. To be eligible, attorneys must work in the public sector for 10 years and pay down their loans. According to the suit, some lawyers have gotten word recently that their work doesn’t qualify for the program years after being told the exact opposite by representatives of the Education Department. The department’s eligibility decisions apply retroactively, meaning that years of work that lawyers assumed would apply toward loan forgiveness may not be recognized.” (National Law Journal)(subscription required)(ABA)

December 21, 2016 – “A decades-long movement to the make the state responsible for the cost of providing counsel to indigent criminal defendants has reached a critical point with the transmission to Gov. Andrew Cuomo of a bill providing for a state takeover of all defense costs.After a seven-year phase-in period, the bill (A10706/S8114) would provide for the state to relieve New York City and the 57 upstate counties of the entire financial burden for the adequate defense of individuals charged with a crime that the U.S. Supreme Court deemed a constitutional right in its 1963 ruling in Gideon v. Wainwright. A full takeover would take effect on April 1, 2023, under the bill. Currently, the state provides about $80 million for indigent criminal defense services and the counties and New York City provide $360 million. Cuomo has not indicated whether he will sign or veto the bill, which was approved unanimously by each chamber of the state Legislature in June. His spokeswoman, Dani Lever, repeated on Wednesday the response his office has given to inquiries about the bill for months, which is that the governor is continuing to study the measure. Cuomo has until Dec. 30 to decide.” (New York Law Journal)(registration required)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

Happy Holidays!
History of Christmas
History of Hannukkah
History of Kwanzaa
History of Boxing Day

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

 

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – December 16, 2016

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

Happy Friday!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Low bono, online practice comes to Canada;
  • Seattle consulting firm offering pro bono services to nonprofits promoting tolerance and understanding;
  • Family law foundation awards grants to Michigan nonprofits;
  • Twelve legal tech startups selected to participate in the first-ever Startup Alley at ABA’s TECHSHOW conference;
  • ABA Legal Technology Resource Center releases fourth annual ABA TECHREPORT;
  • Ontario provides grant to Innocence Canada;
  • Legal Services of Northern Virginia launches VA Law Help 2 Go;
  • Chicago’s City Council approves $1.3 million legal fund for immigrants;
  • New Victoria Legal Aid Office opens in Shepparton;
  • Attorneys petition Indiana Supreme Court to write public defender rules;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

December 9, 2016 – “A lawyer from Brooks, Alberta, is trying out a unique business model — offering her services online for a fraction of the cost, part of a growing movement of do-it-yourself legal representation. Sarah Bisbee says she got tired of turning away people who couldn’t afford her $300-an-hour fee.” “Bisbee realized most of the hourly fee was going to overhead costs so she decided to launch something she has never seen in Canada — an online law practice. Besides finding a developer who shared her vision for the website, Bisbee had to make sure her approach met the Law Society of Alberta’s rules. Now, she offers potential clients a $79 online consultation and from there, clients can choose what kind of help they want from a lawyer, if any. Bisbee provides consultation, prepares documents, and even coaches people on how to fight their case in court, all by phone and email. She says the approach drops the cost to clients up to 75 per cent.” (CBC News)

December 9, 2016 – “Seattle-based consulting firm The Ostara Group is seeking applications from emerging nonprofits promoting tolerance and understanding to be awarded 25 hours of pro-bono support in fundraising and organizational strategy. ‘The rise of hate-motivated speech and attacks has been dramatic in the wake of the presidential election,’ according to the firm’s news release. “According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there were nearly 900 hate incidents reported across the country in the 10 days following the election.” The grant is open to anyone in Washington wanting to start a nonprofit or to existing nonprofits with budgets that were less than $300,000 in the most recently completed year. Submissions will be accepted until 5 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 31, with decisions announced by March 31. More information and an application can be found at www.ostaragroup.com/blog.” (Capitol Hill Times)

December 9, 2016 – “Two local nonprofits have received grants from a national family law foundation. The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) Foundation awarded $5,000 each to the Children’s Assessment Center in Grand Rapids and Legal Assistance Center in Grand Rapids. The AAML Foundation awards grants each fall to nonprofits involved in issues pertinent to family law. This is the first time the national foundation has selected Michigan nonprofits as recipients.” (Grand Rapids Business Journal)

December 12, 2016 – “A competition has been underway to select 12 legal technology startups to participate in the first-ever Startup Alley at the American Bar Association’s TECHSHOW conference in March. For the first time ever this year, ABA TECHSHOW is reserving a portion of its exhibition hall to showcase 12 innovative legal startups. In addition, on TECHSHOW’s opening night, the 12 startups will face off in a bracketed pitch competition judged by TECHSHOW attendees to pick the most innovative startup. This is a cooperative effort of ABA TECHSHOW, Above the Law, Evolve Law and Lawsitesblog.com, spearheaded by the chair of this year’s TECHSHOW planning board, Adriana Linares.” One of the 12 winners “helps law firms, companies and law schools manage their pro bono with streamlined sourcing, tracking and outcome reporting on a modern, tech-forward platform.” Check out the full list of winners and their innovative ideas. (Above the Law)

December 13, 2016 – “The ABA Legal Technology Resource Center has released the fourth annual ABA TECHREPORT, a comprehensive publication exploring how attorneys are using technology in their practices. ABA TECHREPORT examines data from the LTRC’s new six-volume 2016 Legal Technology Survey Report to highlight key trends — and the practical takeaways — for today’s lawyers.” (ABA News)

December 13, 2016 – “Ontario is helping to provide access to justice for people who may have been wrongfully convicted of a crime and cannot afford legal representation. Over the next three years, the province is providing Innocence Canada with $275,000 annually to help them sustain operations. The Law Society of Upper Canada is providing an additional $25,000 annually ― a total of $900,000 over three years. The non-profit organization is dedicated to identifying and advocating for individuals who may have been convicted of a crime they did not commit and to preventing wrongful convictions through legal education and reform. Improving access to justice is part of the government’s plan to keep communities safe and help people in their everyday lives.” (Ontario Newsroom)

December 14, 2016 – “Legal Services of Northern Virginia (LSNV) is proud to announce the launch today of VA Law Help 2 Go, a program that will enable those who use smartphones and other mobile devices to access brief informational videos about common civil legal issues in Virginia. The program was spearheaded by LSNV in partnership with the Virginia Legal Aid Society and Blue Ridge Legal Services and funded by the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) Technology Innovative Initiative Grant program. This technology initiative advances LSC’s goal of enabling users to access important legal information when and where it’s convenient for them.” (Business Wire)

December 14, 2016 – “Chicago’s City Council has approved a $1.3 million fund to help immigrants with legal services, including those facing deportation. There was widespread support for the fund, which will use money set aside from a little-used property tax relief program. Three aldermen voted against it Wednesday. Aldermen in support say the fund is a response to the election of Donald Trump, who has promised to taken an aggressive approach to immigration, including deporting millions. Two Chicago groups will help the city run the fund for immigrant legal services, including initial screenings. Experts estimate 150,000 Chicago area residents don’t have permanent legal status. Mayor Rahm Emanuel told the Council Wednesday that Chicago needs to stand by people who are fearful. He’s also seeking private donations for the fund.” (Washington Times)

December 15, 2016 – “Victorians in the state’s north will have improved access to legal support after the Andrews Labor Government  unveiled a new Victoria Legal Aid office in Shepparton. Attorney-General Martin Pakula officially opened the new office which has modern, custom-designed spaces with an open-plan layout, discreet well being areas, and two conference rooms for private consultations with clients. The office accommodates 11 staff, including seven lawyers and four support staff with specialist skills in criminal and family law, including family violence and child protection matters.” (Premier of Victoria)

December 15, 2016 – “Two Indianapolis attorneys are determined to change the way public defense operates in Indiana — and now they’re taking their fight to the Indiana Supreme Court. Mike Sutherlin and David W. Frank filed a petition to the court on Thursday, to compel the court to address issues plaguing the state’s public defender system. They say the system is woefully underfunded, and the Sixth Amendment right to a fair and speedy trial is routinely violated in Indiana. The 16-page document, filed on behalf of Allen, Johnson and Vigo county residents Jauston Huerta, Calvin Wilson and Kenneth Alford, requests that the court author a series of rules, procedures and standards which would ensure, at a minimum, constitutional representation under the Sixth Amendment to individuals who rely upon the public defender system. The three men, the petition states, all received inadequate representation from their assigned public defenders when they were moved through the criminal court system. They are also plaintiffs in separate lawsuits against their respective counties.” “The petition comes after the Sixth Amendment Center, a public defense advocacy firm in Boston, issued a 212-page report in October 2016, that shows how some of Indiana’s biggest public defense problems stem from how the system is funded.” (Indy Star)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

Thirty-seven attorneys were recognized for their volunteer service on December 9, at the Kona Courthouse (Keakealani Building) in Kealakekua. This group of volunteer attorneys provided free legal information to more than 500 West Hawaii residents who visited the Self-Help Desk at the Kona Courthouse in 2016. The number of people who sought and received services at the Kona Self-Help Desk increased by more than 200 from 2015 to 2016. Congratulations and thank you for all your assistance. (Hawaii 24/7)

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

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Job’o’th’Week (Experienced Edition)

Help Wanted

Photo: Brenda Gottesman – CC License

Assistant General Counsel

The Organization

The State Fiscal Accountability Authority was created by Act 121, the Restructuring Act of 2014. The agency is led by the five members of the Authority, and is comprised of the Insurance Reserve Fund and the Division of Procurement Services. An independent auditing function is administered through the Office of the State Auditor.

The Position

Do you enjoy complex, varied, and intellectually challenging legal work? Looking for work/life balance and a collegial environment? This position offers all that and more, including the stability and benefits package associated with state government employment.

The South Carolina State Fiscal Accountability Authority is seeking a dynamic, highly-motivated and experienced lawyer to support the program charged with the development, award, and administration of State government contracts, especially in the areas of information technology services and software licensing. The responsibilities of this position will include: (1) drafting, negotiating and advising program clients relative to complex government contracts; (2) drafting, negotiating and advising program clients relative to information technology, cloud computing, software licensing, consulting services, product support, non-disclosure, and other agreements between State government agencies and private sector vendors; (3) providing strategic advice on legal considerations associated with newly emerging information technology business models; and (4) providing strategic advice and guidance on rapidly changing privacy, security, and other policy issues impacting government procurement of information technology products, services, and software.

Is this the opportunity you’ve been waiting on? See the full post on PSJD.

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Skadden Fellowship: Class of 2017 announced.

The Skadden Foundation has announced its Class of 2017 Fellows. This year there are 30 Fellows, the largest class since 2008. This year’s class hail from 15 law schools and will begin their projects next year. Seven schools had multiple fellowship awardees; Yale (6); Harvard (5); UCLA (3); NYU (2); Stanford (2); CUNY (2); and U Penn (2). Fellows come from the other following schools: University of Michigan, Michigan State, UC Berkeley, Northwestern, Georgetown, George Washington, Duke and Seattle University. For the first time, a Skadden Fellowship has been awarded to a Seattle University School of Law student, who will work on behalf of former justice-involved individuals and is herself formerly incarcerated. The Fellows will work in 11 states, focusing on issues ranging from equitable public education for immigrant youth and their parents in California to direct representation for youth in the delinquency system in Massachusetts.

For comparison’s sake, here’s how previous Skadden Fellowship classes have looked:

2016: 28 Fellows from 15 law schools;
2015: 28 Fellows from 16 law schools;
2014: 28 Fellows from 16 law schools;
2013: 28 Fellows from 16 law schools;
2012: 28 Fellows from 16 law schools;
2011: 29 Fellows from 21 law schools;
2010: 27 Fellows from 20 law schools.

Congratulations to the Class of 2017! We are very excited to welcome you to the ranks of public interest lawyers!

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – December 9, 2016

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

Happy Friday!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Audit: Montana public defender office owed millions, not collecting;
  • Ontario to hire more judges and prosecutors to tackle trial delays;
  • Chicago mayor creates $1 million legal fund to assist immigrants;
  • App helps transgender Canadians access legal info;
  • Acadiana Legal Services Corporation receives $1.5 million grant historically awarded to Legal Services;
  • Maine Justice Foundation launches new LGBT Justice Fund;
  • Texas Commission to Expand Civil Legal Services issues report;
  • Public Counsel launches the Audrey Irmas Project for Women and Girls’ Rights with grant from the Audrey Irmas Foundation for Social Justice;
  • ParDONE wins Ontario Access to Justice Challenge;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

December 1, 2016 – “A financial audit of the Office of the State Public Defender found the agency doesn’t know how much money it is owed by criminal defendants and that the office is not trying to collect the money while facing a $3.5 million budget shortfall. The November audit said the defender’s office estimates it was owed $3.95 million in court-ordered fees as of June 30, but has written off $2.8 million as uncollectible. ‘These unpaid assessments represent money due to the office that could be used to fund a portion of the office’s operations instead of the (state) General Fund,’ auditors found. State agencies should have policies in place to ensure timely billing and should make all reasonable efforts to collect money owed to them, the audit said. Office managers told auditors there are several obstacles to collecting the fees that state law allows if judges determine defendants have the ability to pay. OPD says it’s been unsuccessful in getting complete information from courts about the amount of fees owed and paid by individual defendants. It also notes there is no centralized database allowing the state to track the amounts due by each defendant and the order in which defendants are to pay for fines, restitution and public defender fees. Managers also question whether they have the legal authority to collect the money, and believe that work should fall on the court system. The audit notes the legislature’s Task Force on State Public Defender Operations is supporting legislation to transfer the responsibility for collecting public defender fees to the Department of Revenue. ‘Due to this, we will make no further recommendations at this time,’ the audit said.” (Daily Inter Lake)

December 1, 2016 – “Ontario has announced the biggest expansion of its criminal-justice system in more than two decades, two weeks after a judge scrapped a first-degree-murder charge because the accused had spent four years in jail waiting for his trial to be completed. The expansion is an attempt to meet new Supreme Court deadlines for timely trials. Ontario Attorney-General Yasir Naqvi said on Thursday the province’s criminal courts are “bottle-necked” and there is no “sugar-coating” the challenge facing them. The government will add 13 judges, 32 prosecutors, 16 duty counsel serving accused people and 26 court staff. It also announced several measures aimed at improving its bail system and ensuring low-risk people do not languish behind bars until their trial is completed. The price for the expansion and bail changes is $25-million a year.” (The Globe and Mail)

December 2, 2016 – “The Taxpayer Advocate Service of the IRS recently approved a three-year grant for the Notre Dame Tax Clinic. The IRS awards matching grants through its Low Income Tax Clinic Program to qualifying organizations to develop, expand, or maintain low-income taxpayer clinics. The mission of the LITC program is to represent low-income taxpayers who have controversies with the IRS; educate clients about their rights and responsibilities as taxpayers; and identify and advocate for issues that systemically impact low-income taxpayers. The Notre Dame Tax Clinic opened in the 2016-2017 school year and provides free tax-related legal services to qualified, low-income clients. Second- and third-year law students represent low-income and English-as-a-Second-Language clients in tax disputes with the IRS. It is the Law School’s fifth community-oriented law clinic.” (University of Notre Dame News)

December 2, 2016 – “Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Friday took $1 million earmarked for a widely-ignored property tax rebate and used it to create a “Legal Protection Fund” for immigrants living in “anxiety and uncertainty” and threatened with deportation after the election of Donald Trump. The mayor upped the ante in his immigration war of words with Trump by forging a partnership with the National Immigration Justice Center and challenging the private and philanthropic communities to join the effort and provide legal resources to immigrant families living in fear. The $1 million will allow the NIJC, which is based in Chicago, and its law firms to consult and represent more than 3,000 additional people. According to the center, roughly 150,000 Chicago-area residents are not legally permanent U.S. residents. Thousands more are worried about their immigration status.” (Chicago Sun Times)

December 2, 2016 – “Navigating Canada’s legal system is tricky for most people, but it can be even more challenging if you’re a member of the transgender community. People who are transgender face higher rates of unemployment, discrimination, and violence. And since the median annual income of a transgender Ontarian is only $15,000, seeking legal counsel is often out of reach. That’s where JusticeTrans comes in. Launched in 2015 by Benjamin Vandorpe, a graduate from Osgoode Hall Law School and a trans-identified man, JusticeTrans is an app that provides access to up-to-date legal information about transgender rights. It’s free to download, and has province-based data about issues like housing, arrests, and name changes.” “JusticeTrans has grown quickly in its first year. Vandorpe’s brought on a board of directors, and is working to partner with law firms across the country. In July, he was named one of six finalists competing for $50,000 in seed funding through the Ontario Access to Justice Challenge, a program that recognizes early-stage companies enhancing access to justice and challenging the status quo of legal services.” (THIS)

December 6, 2016 – “A $1.5-million federal grant that had gone to Legal Services of North Louisiana for several years has been awarded, instead, to the Acadiana Legal Services Corporation. LSNL Board Chairman Ben Politz did not respond to a request for comment on whether the loss of federal funding could mean cutbacks in staffing and services at LSNL. But Greg Landry, executive director for ALSC, said he plans to more than double the firm’s staffing to help serve the northern parishes and to cultivate existing expertise in the area to do so.” “LSNL will receive some transitional funding from the grant to ensure continuity of services for current clients.” (The Times)

December 7, 2016 – “The Maine Justice Foundation is launching a new LGBT Justice Fund. Executive Director Diana Scully says six founders have already stepped forward to contribute to the fund, which will provide support for vulnerable LGBT people who need civil legal aid. ‘Or, in some instances, there may be groups who would like to do some systemic work to tackle issues that face LGBT people,’ Scully says.” A launch event is planned for next week. (Maine Public)

December 7, 2016 – “To expand civil legal services for Texans of modest means: Bolster resources at law libraries, collect more information about pro se litigants, and promote technologies that will help make it easier for more people to identify affordable legal counsel. Those are some of the conclusions reached in a report issued Dec. 6 by a Texas Supreme Court-appointed 19-member commission. The court established the commission slightly more than one year ago and assigned it the task of gathering information about how to make available more civil legal services for low- and middle-income Texans.” Click the link for the Commission’s specific recommendations. (Texas Lawyer)

December 7, 2016 – “Public Counsel is excited to announce the establishment of the Audrey Irmas Project for Women and Girls’ Rights. This project is the result of a four-year, $1 million grant from the Audrey Irmas Foundation for Social Justice. During its 46-year existence, Public Counsel has provided a wide range of legal services for low-income women and girls. Audrey Irmas’ generous contribution will allow us to make our delivery of direct legal services to women and girls more holistic and effective, and permit us to greatly expand our systems change efforts on their behalf.” (Public Counsel)

December 8, 2016 – “In July, Ryerson’s Legal Innovation Zone, in partnership with the Ministry of the Attorney General announced that six legaltech startups would work out of the LIZ’s workspaces for four months before competing for $50,000 in prizes through the Ontario Access to Justice Challenge. Yesterday, ParDONE was announced as the winner of the Challenge’s $25,000 top prize. ParDONE’s platform is meant to help people with criminal records reduce the cost and time of the record suspension application. ParDONE automates the record suspension process, while keeping clients up-to-date on the process.” “Legally Inc., at second place, took $15,000 in seed money, while Law Scout took home $10,000. Included in the three prizes is the opportunity to work out of the Legal Innovation Zone for an additional four months.” (betakit)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

Troutman Sanders announced today the recipients of its annual Pro Bono Awards. Partners Andrew Perel, William Hurd, Stephen Piepgrass and associates Chris Davis and Jasmine Hites were recognized for their outstanding pro bono performance. Read about their outstanding work here – Troutman Sanders News & Knowledge.

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

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Job’o’th’Week (Entry-Level Edition)

Help Wanted

Photo: Brenda Gottesman – CC License

Attorney 2

The Organization

The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission enforces commonwealth laws that prohibit discrimination: the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, which encompasses employment, housing, commercial property, education and public accommodations; and the Pennsylvania Fair Educational Opportunities Act, which is specific to postsecondary education and secondary vocational and trade schools.

The Position

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Human Relations Commission, has an immediate need to staff an Attorney 2 vacancy in their Philadelphia Regional Office.

The successful candidate serves as Assistant Chief Counsel assigned to a PHRC Regional Office and provides all necessary legal support to the Commission as it carries out its non-discretionary investigative function and its discretionary prosecutorial and adjudicative function.

An experienced Attorney 2 should be able to perform routine work with minimum supervision. Greater supervision is given as needed, especially for work involving novel or complex issues.

Is this the opportunity you’ve been waiting on? See the full post on PSJD.

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – December 2, 2016

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

Happy Friday and welcome to December! Access to justice is on everyone’s mind this week with multiple articles on grants, reports, and the use of legal tech to bridge the justice gap.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Massachusetts receives access to justice grant;
  • UK Labour Party commissions access to justice commission – interim report published;
  • Real-world examples of tech bridging the access to justice gap;
  • Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division and the Jacksonville Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Section launch Youth on Solid Ground Pro Bono Project;
  • USC Gould School of Law offers new public interest law certificate;
  • An interview with Upsolve’s founders;
  • New Mexico judge finds public defender in contempt amid funding crisis;
  • White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable issues first annual report;
  • Articling students at Legal Aid Ontario vote to unionize;
  • Michigan program allows people to resolve some legal issues online;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

November 24, 2016 – “Massachusetts has been awarded a $100,000 grant to develop a strategic plan for improving access to justice for people who cannot afford attorneys.  The grant will be used to identify gaps in services currently offered and to design programs to address the unmet civil legal needs of indigent people on housing, consumer debt and family law issues. The grant is being provided through the Justice for All project of the National Center for State Courts. Massachusetts is one of seven states to receive a Justice for All grant. Earlier this year, the National Center for Access to Justice ranked the Massachusetts court system second in the nation for services provided to people without lawyers.” (Boston Herald)

November 25, 2016 – “Deficient public legal education, high court fees, and the failure to embrace technology have deprived a growing number of people access to justice, a new think tank has said as it unveiled a set of proposals intended to fill the gap left by the near-disappearance of legal aid. In its interim report published this morning, the U.K.’s Lord Bach’s Commission on Access to Justice proposes to enshrine minimum standards in law, along with the introduction of legal education in the school curriculum and a central online portal for claims. Other proposals include the reform of legal aid eligibility criteria, a ‘polluter pays’ scheme to fund court fees, the integration of legal advice across public services and increased funding for legal advice centres.” “While not formally adopted as Labour policy, the report, overseen by the former justice minister Lord Bach, was commissioned by Jeremy Corbyn and the previous shadow justice secretary, Lord Falconer. Aimed at developing future policy for the Labour party, the authors hope to build a broad consensus for improving access to the courts. The report quotes the current lord chief justice, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, as saying: ‘Our justice system has become unaffordable to most.'” The report has some interesting ideas that transcend a particular country. (Solicitors Journal)(The Guardian)

November 28, 2016 – Above the Law has a regular series called “This Week in Legal Tech.” This week, contributor Robert Ambrogi has a nice summary of the ways in which LSC’s Technology Initiative Grants are making a difference in the real world. He also highlights the LSC, Pro Bono Net and Microsoft supported state access to justice portal pilot project. RFPs are being accepted now for the project. (Above the Law)

November 28, 2016 – “The Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division and The Jacksonville Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Section have launched the Youth on Solid Ground Pro Bono Project to assist children and their families. Temporary relative custody and guardian advocacy are the two legal mechanisms that can help ensure Florida children can enjoy the stability of having committed family members authorized to act on their behalf. They provide family stability for children and make a positive difference in their lives and – equally important –  these opportunities provide attorneys who volunteer time and expertise practical training in the courtroom and experience in uncontested matters. Due to limited budget resources, legal services staff attorneys must focus on more critical and complex legal matters, such as cases involving domestic violence, foreclosure defense, bankruptcy, housing and discrimination. The project provides assistance for families that are unrepresented in the areas of guardian advocacy and temporary relative custody.” (Jacksonville Daily Record)

November 28, 2016 – “The USC Gould School of Law offers a new public interest law certificate for students with social justice aspirations and interest in working in the nonprofit or government sectors after graduating. Students can choose courses focusing on key areas of nonprofit and government law, taking on an in-depth writing project and working on real-world problems through clinics, practicum courses or externships. ‘Our students have a long history of commitment to public service, but now they can direct their interests to an organized curriculum and leave law school with a certificate on their transcript that shows that commitment,’ said Professor Clare Pastore, a member of California’s public interest community who oversaw the development of the certificate. Alumni serving as mentors will help students navigate a career path, offering connections to public service opportunities or summer jobs, along with advice about postgraduate fellowships and courses. A speaker series and events focusing on public interest law, nonprofit and government sector jobs, postgraduate fellowships and building community will round out the year.” (USC News)

November 28, 2016 – Forbes has a good piece on Upsolve and an interview with its founders.  Upsolve is a Brooklyn-based nonprofit that improves consumer access to Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection through an online platform that guides users with routine cases through the bankruptcy process.  (Forbes)

November 30, 2016 – “A district attorney in southern New Mexico is petitioning the state Supreme Court to order public defense attorneys back to work on behalf of criminal defendants who cannot afford legal representation. District Attorney Dianna Luce on Wednesday confirmed her request for the Supreme Court to intervene, citing more than 200 instances in which the Law Offices of the Public Defender has sought to withdraw its attorneys in magistrate and district court cases in Lea County. ‘What we’re seeking is for the public defenders to do their statutory duty,’ she said. ‘The public defenders have selected only Lea County to stop accepting new felony cases … claiming a lack of attorneys and a lack of funding.’ Chief Public Defender Ben Baur said his agency’s attorneys previously declined to accept cases and continue to ask to withdraw in some instances because increased caseloads and limited funding are making it impossible to provide effective legal assistance. In October, the agency’s annual budget was reduced by 3 percent amid far reaching state spending cuts. Earlier this week, a New Mexico judge fined Baur and found him in contempt for failing to provide lawyers to defendants who couldn’t afford them. Lea County District Judge Gary Clingman imposed a $1,000 fine in each of five criminal cases in which the public defender’s office failed to make an appearance. Clingman told Baur that he could purge the contempt finding by following his statutory duty to represent defendants.” (The Washington Times)

November 30, 2016 – “The Justice Department today issued the first annual report of the White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable (WH-LAIR) to President Obama.  The report, entitled ‘Expanding Access to Justice, Strengthening Federal Programs,’ documents the significant steps that the 22 federal agency members of WH-LAIR have taken to integrate civil legal aid into programs designed to serve low-income and vulnerable people.  The Attorney General and the Director of   the White House Domestic Policy Council (DPC) co-chair WH-LAIR.” “‘The White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable has become indispensable in helping the federal government establish partnerships with legal aid providers that push federal programming forward and ensure that essential services reach the communities that need them most,’ said Cecilia Muñoz, White House DPC Director and WH-LAIR Co-Chair.” (Justice News)

November 30, 2016 – “Articling students employed by Legal Aid Ontario have voted to unionize with The Society of Energy Professionals. LAO articling students become the second group of legal professionals to join The Society following the October vote of LAO staff lawyers. Articling students are excited to have representation in the workplace that understands their professional obligations and can help them achieve better working conditions.” (CNW)

December 1, 2016 – “If you’ve ever gotten a traffic ticket, you know it’s a hassle if you decide to fight it. Getting to court, waiting for your case to be called and presenting your side can take hours. You may even need to miss a day of work. But if you live in some parts of Michigan, you might be able to go to court without actually going. A growing number of courts have adopted a software program called Matterhorn, which enables individuals to resolve a handful of legal issues online, at any time, even the middle of the night. Ohio has started using the technology, and other states are looking into it as well.” “Courts using Matterhorn determine what types of legal issues will be resolvable online and what types will require an in-court appearance in their jurisdictions. Some Michigan courts have opted for online traffic ticket resolution only, while others have ventured into misdemeanors and warrant resolution.” (ABA Journal)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

Deepa Mattoo is the latest recipient of the Community Leadership in Justice Fellowship from the Law Foundation of Ontario, a non-profit organization that funds other groups to provide education and initiatives on access to justice. Mattoo, the current director of legal services at the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic, says that while she’s very excited for this opportunity to conduct research around the relationships between race, gender and immigration status under this year-long fellowship, she also feels “very humbled.”

During her time as a fellow, Mattoo’s research will specifically focus on racialized women who have precarious immigration status, as they face violence and barriers in accessing supports and legal services. She’ll team up with the University of Toronto’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, academics from the law and sociology faculties and the Rights of Non-Status Women Network for this undertaking. “The goal of this project is to create a network of individuals who would work with me in reviewing the intersectionality, but to also create solid tools for service providers to provide services and assistance to the women who are going through these experiences of violence and going through the experiences of precarious immigration,” she says. (Legal Feeds)

Music Bonus! 

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Administration Change: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

The federal government has changed administrations since the beginning of our nation. However, this change in administration is unique in many ways, and is causing questions and concerns among those who seek a career in government or are currently in federal service. The most prevalent question I’ve been asked in the past month is, given my ideological beliefs or views on certain issues, should I enter federal service, or should I remain if I’m already there?

What should you do if you’re contemplating these questions? First, there is no “right” answer.  What you do is dependent on many personal factors and whether you’re deciding on an internship or a permanent position. In talking with individuals who have made these decisions during a political transition, one thing is clear – no matter what administration is in office, there will always be a need for reasoned and principled attorneys in the federal government. Another point often raised is that the government is like a large ship – it changes course slowly. So, for instance, if you’re considering an internship, you might not see any significant difference in your agency of choice in the short-term. A third item to consider is the difference between ideology and government service at its most basic level. There are frequently ideological differences between administrations, but you will find career federal government attorneys continue to serve across administrations.  One reason is the idea that giving back to the community is the duty of every lawyer, and federal service is a way to fulfill that duty. If you plan to make federal service a career choice, you may decide that you don’t want to wait to begin.  If you’re already a government attorney, you may take the long view, and decide to stay in order to “have a say” in actions this administration takes. It is sometimes the career employee, and not the political appointee, who can have the most affect on policy implementation.

There are resources to help you sort out the factors that will guide your decision. Your best resource is always your Career Development Office. The experts there can help you talk through the factors that will influence your decision-making.  They also have the expertise to counsel and support you throughout the process. Faculty and staff, particularly adjunct faculty, can also have great insight and on the ground experience with political transitions. Alumni who are or have been government attorneys are also a great resource.  They have been there during a political transition, know what to expect, and can illustrate some of the advantages and pitfalls. Your career development or alumni office can put you in touch with an alum who can help you navigate these questions. For example, Harvard Law School Bernard Koteen Office of Public Interest Advising has kindly shared some of their alumni reflections on political transitions.

And seek out opinions from experts from the entirety of the political spectrum. Below are some of the discussions on what it might mean to serve or not to serve in a Trump administration.

Just Security, an online forum for the rigorous analysis of U.S. national security law and policy, has a series of posts on the “ethical and legal dilemmas of serving in the Trump administration.” (Just Security)

“Who Will Serve in the Trump Administration?” by Amy Davidson, November 21, 2016 (The New Yorker)

“The Dilemma of Serving in a Trump Administration” by Daniel W. Drezner, November 14, 2016 (Washington Post)

“The Chess Clock Debates: Is There a Duty to Serve In Trump’s America?” by Clara Hendrickson, November 21, 2016 (Lawfare)

Ultimately, whether you stay or go will depend on your individual moral and ethical compass. Lawyers are critically important at this time, and whether inside or outside the government, public sector lawyers may be the most critical need of all.

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