PSJD Public Interest News Digest – February 17, 2017

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

Happy Friday! With all the pro bono activity, you may be wondering how you can volunteer.  PSJD has lawyer and law student pro bono opportunities and resources for exploring pro bono in your area.  And while you’re there, check out the many useful resources in the Resource Center!  Not sure where to start? In our PSJD Blog Series Resource Round-Up career counselors talk about their favorites.  What are you using?  Let us know, and you might be featured in our next Resource Round-Up.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • University of North Dakota School of Law puts student law clinic on hiatus;
  • Nova Southeastern University opens new legal clinic;
  • New website provides convenient option for pro bono service in Massachusetts;
  • Crowdfunding for litigation – new site launches in US;
  • New York City guarantees legal aid to low-income residents facing eviction;
  • New Indiana program gives resources to elder victims;
  • Hofstra University’s Maurice A. Deane School of Law launches new deportation defense clinic;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants; and
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

February 9, 2017 – “The University of North Dakota School of Law will put its student law clinic on hiatus for at least two years and is beginning to discuss tuition increases because of higher education budget cuts proposed by North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum. In a meeting with about 80 law students Thursday afternoon, UND School of Law Dean Kathryn Rand told students the program would need to begin making hard cuts. Those cuts will include no longer operating the law clinic, which provides pro bono legal service primarily in immigration and employment law fields. The clinic allows law students to get some of the hands-on credits they need to earn their juris doctorates.” “The two-year hold on the law clinic will force law students down other routes to get the six experiential courses required for their degree. UND law students also can get such credits via moot court courses, field placement assignments and estate planning courses. Rand said they would have to get creative in how students get experiential credits.” (Bismarck Tribune)

February 9, 2017 – “Nova Southeastern University will open a legal clinic in the fall that will provide legal services to nonprofits, students, researchers, educators and entrepreneurs. The enterprise is made possible thanks to a donation by Berger Singerman founder Mitchell W. Berger and his wife—fellow attorney Sharon Kegerreis. The Sharon and Mitchell W. Berger Entrepreneur Law Clinic at Nova’s Shepard Broad College of Law will provide legal services to researchers associated with Nova Southeastern’s Center for Collaborative Research and to low- to medium-income inventors in technology, life sciences and creative communities. The clinic will serve students who are inventing, as well as law students working in fields such as intellectual property, data security and technology.” (Daily Business Review)

February 9, 2017 – “Want to do your part in filling the legal aid gap but don’t have the time to provide a needy client full representation on a pro bono basis? A legal advice website launched by the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute may be the answer to your public service aspirations.” Details at the link. (Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly)(subscription required)

February 11, 2017 – “When online crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and GoFundMe debuted, people hoping to invent and sell a better bottle opener, those in need of help with medical bills and all sorts of personal would-be fundraisers talked about the concept in grand, world-changing ways. This, they said, was a disruptive, potentially transformative financial development. A new website aims to mash up that kind of popular Internet fundraising with legal work, hoping to turn legal cases into publicly funded — and backed — social causes. CrowdJustice.org, went live with its first U.S. fundraising appeals in recent weeks with a tag­line meant to promote equal access to the courts, regardless of one’s economic standing: ‘The law should be available to everyone.’ The site’s founder, a British transplant, says CrowdJustice is a politically neutral portal where people and organizations pursuing litigation can solicit and win public help with the costs.” “Also, despite its “dot.org” URL, CrowdJustice is not a nonprofit organization. It collects 5 percent of all donations made to legal cases and another 3.5 percent goes to the website’s payment processor. The remaining 91.5 percent of donations goes to trust accounts set up to fund the individual cases to which donors contribute. CrowdJustice does some due diligence to ensure none of the parties to the lawsuit are subject to any kind of national or international sanctions (such as Securities and Exchange Commission violations, federal or international court matters) and verifies that the case in question is under active litigation by a licensed attorney. Then, it posts a campaign.” (The Washington Post)

February 12, 2017 – “Funding just doubled for the city’s well-supported ‘right to counsel’ initiative, turning the free legal aid pilot program into a full-fledged city service, Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Councilmembers announced Sunday. Low-income tenants who earn up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level are now entitled to city-sponsored intervention in New York City Housing Court, where the vast majority of those tenants have had no legal counsel. The program will drastically reduce the excessive rate of homelessness and the cost to taxpayers on homeless shelters and other services, officials say.” (metro)

February 13, 2017 – “Because of an aging baby boomer generation, Indiana is seeing a swift increase in the number of elder abuse and exploitation cases throughout the state.” “But now, thanks to a new program from Indiana Legal Services, elders and endangered adults have more resources if they fall victim to these crimes. The Legal Assistance for Victimized Adults project was established at the beginning of the year with a grant from the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute. LAVA provides legal representation to seniors and endangered adults who have suffered abuse, neglect or exploitation. Among many of the services, the program can provide legal representation, file civil actions on behalf of a victim, file protective orders and fight to recoup financial loss from scams or from the exploitation by a guardian or someone with power of attorney. The program also works with county prosecutors when pursuing criminal charges. An endangered adult is defined as a victim at least 18 years old that has some physical or mental incapacity, and a senior is anyone 60 or older. There are income guidelines to qualify for services, but for those who are eligible, LAVA is completely free.” (South Bend Tribune)

February 15, 2017 – “Hofstra University’s Maurice A. Deane School of Law launched a new legal clinic on Wednesday to represent Long Island immigrants facing deportation. The law school also will lead education and advocacy programs for immigrant rights. Hofstra’s Deportation Defense Clinic, is the first clinic of its kind on Long Island. It aims to protect immigrants vulnerable to the consequences of increased deportation enforcement. It will concentrate on two high risk populations: those immigrants with removal orders against them and DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients – undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children and have spent most of their lives here.” (Long Island Business News)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

We have lost a great champion – E. Clinton Bamberger. Our colleague Jonathan Smith, Executive Director of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs had this remembrance – “Clinton was one of the founders of the original War on Poverty program that later became the Legal Services Corporation. He argued Brady v. Maryland in the United States Supreme Court and was a leader in the clinical legal education movement. Clinton served on my Board of Directors when I was at the Public Justice Center in the late 90’s. He helped push us to begin the work on civil Gideon and other critical projects. Clinton was kind, supportive and always up for the struggle to create greater equity, fairness and justice. This is a tremendous loss at a time when every progressive voice, especially those as wise as his, is needed.”

Read more about Mr. Bamberger’s fight on behalf of disadvantaged people and his great legacy at the link. He will be sorely missed in our community. (The Baltimore Sun)

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

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