Archive for March, 2017

Pro Bono Publico Award Merit Distinction Honoree Lilah Thompson

2016-17 Merit Distinction Honoree, Lilah Thompson

Every year, we honor law student pro bono with the PSJD Pro Bono Publico Award. Any 2L or 3L who attends a PSJD subscriber school and has significant pro bono contributions to underserved populations, the public interest community and legal education is eligible for nomination.  This week, one of the 2016-17 PSJD Pro Bono Publico Award Merit Distinction honorees will be guest blogging about law student pro bono and her public interest commitments.  (Check out last week’s guest blog by Merit Distinction honoree Derek Mergele, and next week award winner Gabrielle “Gabs” Lucero will be guest blogging on PSJD.)  Today, we’re featuring Merit Distinction honoree and Temple University School of Law student Lilah Thompson, who co-created a workshop that simulated the life of a refugee.


Looking Between Borders to Understand the Refugee Experience

by Lilah Thompson, PSJD Pro Bono Publico Merit Distinction Honoree, 2016-2017 (Temple University School of Law)

A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence. Of the 65.3 million people displaced worldwide 21.3 million are refugees. Over half of the world’s refugees are children. The number of refugees in the world is currently at the highest level ever recorded in human history. To fully understand the stories behind these staggering numbers, I worked with Professor Jaya Ramji Nogales to create Between Borders: A Refugee Simulation Experience. Between Borders is a participatory workshop that simulates the life of a refugee throughout all stages of the refugee process. This simulation is an awareness-building activity that places participants in the “shoes of a refugee” in order to conceptualize the experiences that they face. The simulation focuses on four important aspects: (1) why refugees flee; (2) how they are deemed refugees; (3) how refugees are screened and vetted; and (4) how they are welcomed to a new country.

 

Why do refugees flee?

Currently, 53% of refugees worldwide come from Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia. Every country’s conflict is different, which makes the reasons why refugees flee and each refugee’s journey different. For example, an estimated 11 million Syrians have fled their homes since the outbreak of the violent civil war in 2011. This includes over 4.8 million who have escaped to neighboring countries, thousands who have attempted to seek asylum in European countries, and over 6 million who remain internally displaced within Syria. While situations in countries facing mass displacement and flight are different, they share important commonalities, including violence, instability, and persecution.

 

How are individuals desginated as “refugees”?

In designing Between Borders, one important aspect for me was to define refugees accurately, by also making clear what they are not: terrorists or illegal immigrants. In order to be deemed a refugee, an individual must prove that they have a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. Without falling into one of those groups, the individual is not provided protection as a refugee. Once registered and approved as a refugee, individuals reside in refugee camps where they wait until they can be firmly resettled in a third country, like the U.S. These temporary camps are typically situated in neighboring countries. The situation in refugee camps is dire; health care, food, employment opportunities and education are extremely limted.

 

How are refugees screened, vetted, and processed to come to the United States?

Under the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP), an interagency process that includes three primary U.S. Government agencies—Department of State, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)—refugees are vetted based on specific requirements. These requirements cannot be waived, and include an in-person DHS interview, security checks, and a medical exam. Due to these strict requirements, the process currently takes anywhere from 18 to 24 months, or even longer.Additionally, many refugees have to wait long periods of time to even be processed, and some wait in refugee camps for up to 20 years before being resettled in a third country.

 

How are refugees welcomed to a new country?

After being granted a visa and going through all security background checks, refugees finally arrive to the U.S. They are greeted at the airport by a caseworker who works for one of the U.S. private agencies that have cooperative agreements with the State Department to provide reception and placement services for arriving refugees. At this stage, a new struggle begins. Refugees have only 90 days of assistance from these agencies. In that time, they must sign up for English classes, get jobs, enroll children in school, go to health visits, set up their new homes, and obtain government-approved benefits. As the clock ticks, many refugees struggle to become self-sufficient within this three month time-frame.

 

Why is it important to understand the refugee journey? 

It is essential to understand that refugees are just like anyone living in the U.S., except their lives have been torn apart by persecution and violence. The only difference between U.S. residents and refugees is chance. Imagine switching places with a Syrian child. She is sitting at her desk in school, and suddenly a bomb explodes two classrooms away. She scrambles through hallways trying to find her brother to see if he is okay. Together, they run home through the streets, hoping their parents are there. Her parents won’t allow her to go to school the next day, or the day after. Her fafther, a taxi driver, can no longer work, because no one is taking taxis. Instead, the taxis have been replaced with tanks. She wakes up, day after day, hearing bombs going off, and witnessing the loss of life in the streets. If we put ourselves in the shoes of this child, it is easy to comprehend why her and her family would flee. Why they would do anything in their power to seek safety and stability in the face of violence and uncertainty. As one participant in Between Borders commented: “There are unprecedented amounts of refugees and migrants in today’s world, but here in the U.S. they are ‘invisible’ to us … we need to appreciate the problems that cause refugees and migrants to take this journey and the challenges they faced along the way.”

 

What does it say about the United States when we turn our back on refugees?

It says that we do not understand. We cannot tell the difference between a refugee, who is fleeing terror, from a terrorist, who is the oppressor. It says that, even with all of the facts about what refugees face, and that they are screened and vetted more than any other individual who sets foot on U.S. soil, we do not care to help. It says that U.S. citizens deserve peace of mind over a refugee child’s safety from violence or death. My goal throughout law school has been to educate individuals about refugees and asylum seekers. Not simply about their legal claims, but about our moral obligation to understand.

 

The most recent executive order that targets refugees is immoral and a violation of our human rights obligations. But, most importantly, it is misinformed. The goal of Between Borders is to broaden awareness and understanding, and allow that to influence how we treat and understand other human beings. In the face of misinformation, if we can come together as a community to better understand the refugee journey and learn about the refugee process then surely we can change the hearts and minds of others.

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – March 10, 2017

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

Happy Friday! This week was a big news week for new projects. And with the release of the revised immigration executive order, a lot of pro bono news. If your school is doing a spring break project (doesn’t have to be immigration), let us know.  We’d like to celebrate your efforts.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Tennessee legal aid society receives grant for foreclosure prevention, community redevelopment;
  • Western Michigan University Cooley Law School receives grants for elder law clinic;
  • ABA Center for Innovation will hold design event to create app for hate crime victims;
  • Employer certification process under PSLF;
  • Mexico opens immigrant defense centers in US consulates;
  • University of New Mexico School of Law program that helps overturn wrongful convictions facing defunding;
  • Facebook Chatbot, ‘DoNotPay,’ provides legal aid for refugees;
  • Judge’s report urges Ontario to let paralegals appear in family court;
  • Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP and Goldman Sachs launch pro bono Immigration Clinic;
  • USC Gould School of Law establishes first named clinical law professorship;
  • Southern Poverty Law Center launches immigration pro bono project;
  • Legal Services Corporation launches data collection for 2017 Justice Gap Study;
  • Concerts for Indigent Defense;
  • Charles Koch Foundation gives $2.2m to the University of Pennsylvania Law School for criminal justice system research;
  • ACLU files suit over Missouri indigent defense;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants; and
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

March 2, 2017 – “Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands, which is Tennessee’s largest nonprofit law firm and has an office in Oak Ridge, has received a two-year grant from the Tennessee Bar Foundation to increase foreclosure prevention and community redevelopment legal assistance.” “With these funds, Legal Aid Society is hiring a new attorney and a new paralegal to provide legal assistance in its Murfreesboro and Tullahoma service areas and expand its foreclosure and consumer work in its Oak Ridge, Gallatin, and Nashville service areas.” (Oak Ridge Today)

March 3, 2017 – “A local school has been awarded funds by three organizations to prevent the financial exploitation of senior citizens. Western Michigan University Cooley Law School said this winter its Sixty Plus Inc. Elderlaw Clinic was awarded $53,950 total for its programs for seniors in Ingham County and the surrounding area. The clinic received $33,000 from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Aging and Adult Services Agency PREVNT Initiative. The Capital Region Community Foundation awarded $10,950, and the Lansing Area Community Trust granted $10,000 toward the initiative.” (Grand Rapids Business Journal)

March 3, 2017 – “The ABA Center for Innovation will hold a design event in Boston to produce an app that assists victims of hate crimes. ‘Legal Design Sprint: Responding to Hate Crimes Through Technology’ will be held at Suffolk University Law School on March 20 and is sponsored by the Center for Innovation and Suffolk Law, along with CuroLegal and Stanford Law School’s Legal Design Lab. The all-day event will bring together participants in the legal, technology and design spheres with the goal of creating a mobile app that will allow users to determine whether they are victims of a hate crime and provide them with resources and information to report it. According to Center for Innovation director Janet Jackson, the project was the brainchild of Nicole Bradick, chief strategy officer at CuroLegal. It is being funded by a $25,000 grant from Cisco.” (ABA Journal)

March 3, 2017 – Here is a good basic article on employer certification for Public Service Loan Forgiveness and a summary of the ABA lawsuit from our friends at Equal Justice Works. (Huffington Post)

March 5, 2017 – “Mexico on Saturday formally began operating centers for the defense of Mexican immigrants in its 50 consulates and embassies in the United States. The centers ‘are specifically designed to provide consular assistance as well as legal representation to all Mexican migrants who require support in America,’ the Mexican Foreign Ministry said in a statement. ‘This significant progress in terms of protection answers to the instruction of the president of the republic to strengthen support for our nationals in that country.'” “The ministry’s statement adds that ‘through these (centers), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs provides an exclusive space for Mexicans in need of consular assistance to receive information, guidance and direct legal advice, with the support of a strong network of local allies, including lawyers and organizations specialized in the defense of the rights of the migrants.'” (CNN)

March 6, 2017 – “A UNM School of Law program that works to overturn wrongful convictions could be losing its funding soon. Since 2009, the New Mexico Innocence and Justice Project (NMIJP) has helped UNM law students investigate claims of innocence in legal cases after the accused has already been convicted.” “But now the program is losing funding, and needs a savior of its own. Grant funds, approximately $200,000 per year, are relied upon to keep NMIJP afloat by providing a means for pursuing investigative and operational costs, including the ability to test DNA, Gordon Rahn, NMIJP project director and research professor, said. However, that grant expires this May, and the funding stream may be discontinued. ‘Due to the state’s budget crisis and its impact on UNM and the Law School, there are no funds available through the law school’s budget for us,’ he said. ‘Without funding from other sources, it is likely the program cannot continue beyond the end date of the grant.'” (Daily Lobo)

March 6, 2017 – “A chatbot which helped people to appeal parking fines is now providing refugees in the US, Canada and the UK with free legal aid. The chatbot, created by 20-year-old Stanford student Joshua Browder, is called DoNotPay, and was originally used to help people in London and New York with legal matters such as appealing parking tickets and receiving compensation for late flights. After the success of the app, lawyers and non-profit organisations approached Browder with the idea of extending the technology to help refugees seek asylum. DoNotPay asks users questions in plain English to assess their eligibility for asylum. The chatbot can also record a user’s details, provides instructions on how to submit applications, and has the ability to automatically fill in immigration applications for the relevant country. In a statement to Mashable, Browder stated his hope that DoNotPay will ‘allow anyone to have a right to safety, regardless of the ability to afford a lawyer.’ DoNotPay uses Facebook Messenger, which does not use automatic end-to-end encryption. Browder stated that he chose to use the the messaging platform as it was ‘the most accessible platform and the most appropriate to launch with.’ Browder also states that data from any interaction with the chatbot is deleted from his servers after ten minutes, and it is also possible to erase the data from Facebook Messenger. DoNotPay can be reached through a search on Facebook, and represents the many possible uses of chatbots.” (Neowin)

March 6, 2017 – “In what could prove to be a huge shakeup of the family court system in Ontario, the former chief justice of the provincial court is recommending that paralegals be allowed to provide some family law services unsupervised, including appearing in court. The recommendations from former Ontario court chief justice Annemarie Bonkalo in a report released Monday were hailed by paralegals and condemned by lawyers, leaving the provincial government and the legal regulator to work out how to implement what are clearly divisive ideas.” “At the same time, the judge dismissed the idea of more funding for family lawyers through Legal Aid Ontario, although she said it was ‘proposed repeatedly’ throughout consultations for her report. ‘Recommendations like expanding legal aid to cover existing gaps are not practicable,’ she said. ‘Moreover, I do not agree that the solution to any crisis in access to legal services lies solely with (legal aid) or the government.’ The report, commissioned by the Ministry of the Attorney General and the law society, comes as the family court system is facing a crisis. According to the province, over 57 per cent of people did not have a lawyer in family court in 2014-15, or about 21,000 people. Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi said in a statement Monday that the government and the law society will work on an ‘action plan’ to address the recommendations by fall 2017. The government is also seeking public feedback on the recommendations until May 15.” (The Star)

March 6, 2017 – “Cadwalader is collaborating with Goldman Sachs on the launch of a pro bono Immigration Clinic. The joint effort brings together Cadwalader and Goldman Sachs attorneys and staff to provide eligible undocumented immigrants with the opportunity to apply for lawful permanent residency. ‘We’re excited about establishing this important program with a valued and long-standing client like Goldman Sachs,’ said Cadwalader’s Managing Partner Pat Quinn. ‘We are committed to working with like-minded clients on pro bono initiatives that provide communities in need with access to legal assistance and representation.'” (Cadwalader News)

March 6, 2017 – “USC Gould School of Law is establishing its first named clinical law professorship at USC with a generous $1.5 million gift from longtime supporter Audrey M. Irmas, whose philanthropic commitment to women and children is well-known throughout California. Professor Niels Frenzen, founding director of the USC Gould Immigration Clinic, will be installed as the first Sydney M. and Audrey M. Irmas Endowed Clinical Professor. The gift will expand the Immigration Clinic’s work and student participation in advocacy and representation of immigration clients. ‘Audrey Irmas has been a steadfast supporter of USC and the Gould School of Law for many decades,’ said Dean Andrew Guzman. ‘We are deeply grateful to have such a committed member of the Trojan Family supporting a critical need for our clinics at the law school.'” (USC Gould News)

March 7, 2017 – “The Southern Poverty Law Center today announced a new project that will enlist and train lawyers to provide free legal representation to immigrants who have been detained in the Southeast and are facing deportation proceedings. When fully implemented, it will be the largest detention center-based deportation defense project in the country.” “The Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative (SIFI) will begin at the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia, in collaboration with the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the American Immigration Council, the Innovation Law Lab and the American Immigration Representation Project. It will then be expanded to other detention centers throughout the Southeast.” Attorneys can sign up for SIFI here. (Southern Poverty Law Center)

March 7, 2017 – “With support from two funders, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Kresge Foundation, LSC is conducting a national report that documents the ‘justice gap’ – the difference between the need for civil legal services and the resources available to meet that need. LSC is updating its 2005 and 2009 justice gap studies. As with LSC’s two prior justice gap studies, LSC is asking grantees to collect data about individuals who come to their offices with a legal problem that they are unable to serve or unable to fully serve. The data collection will last for six weeks – from Monday, March 6, 2017 to Friday, April 14, 2017. Grantees should submit their completed data collection matrix by email to JusticeGapStudy@lsc.gov by the close of business on Friday, April 28, 2017.” (LSC News)

March 8, 2017 – “Concerts for Indigent Defense is musicians and their communities standing together in support of the Constitutional right of all Americans to be represented by a lawyer when accused of a crime – even if one is too poor to hire one. Concerts for Indigent Defense are not fundraisers; they are awareness-raisers, about a cherished Constitutional right that is badly neglected every day across America. New Orleans will kick off this annual effort on Saturday, March 18, 2017, to celebrate the 54th anniversary of the United States Supreme Court decision in Gideon v. Wainwright, which established the fundamental constitutional right to counsel. This year’s featured Concert for Indigent Defense will be simulcast across the country on www.ConcertsforIndigentDefense.org at 5p.m. central time. Musicians, national legal organizations, and a range of supporters have already pledged their support for the nationwide effort, which will be presented in 2018 as a follow-up to Concerts for Indigent Defense: New Orleans.” (Concerts for Indigent Defense)

March 8, 2017 – “The foundation of libertarian Charles Koch has given a grant of up to $2.2 million to the University of Pennsylvania Law School for research on ways to improve fairness in the criminal justice system. The funding, from the Charles Koch Foundation, will go to the Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice at the law school. The center focuses on whether the rights of disadvantaged populations are adequately protected when they interact with the criminal justice system.” (Philly.com)

March 9, 2017 – “A new lawsuit alleges the state of Missouri routinely violates the rights of people who need public defenders because of those attorneys’ large caseloads. The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri filed a class-action lawsuit Thursday alleging that public defenders cannot pay enough attention to their clients, who have been charged with crimes ranging from stealing to murder. That, the ACLU claims, violates the state and federal constitutions. ‘Every year in Missouri, tens of thousands of people are pushed through the system without having an attorney who has the time and resources to be able to provide them a defense,’ ACLU of Missouri legal director Tony Rothert said. ‘The American Bar Association puts out standards on how long should be spend on a criminal defense case, and the public defender system fails to meet that standards 97 percent of the time. It’s not just a case here and there.'” (St. Louis Public Radio)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

Exelon announced today that its legal department has been honored by Pro Bono Institute (PBI) with the 2017 Laurie D. Zelon Pro Bono Award in recognition of its efforts and leadership to provide legal assistance to those who could otherwise not afford it. The Laurie D. Zelon Pro Bono Award is presented annually to an organization that has provided exemplary pro bono service and leadership and reflects Exelon’s commitment to giving back in the communities where its people work and live. Fortune recently named Exelon to its 2017 list of the World’s Most Admired Companies, which, in part, recognized the company for social responsibility efforts such as those praised by PBI. In 2016, Exelon employees served more than 170,000 hours of community service, and Exelon companies and the Exelon Foundation donated more than $46 million to nonprofits – the largest amount ever. (Yahoo Finance)

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

District General Counsel

The Organization

To inspire and prepare all students with the confidence, courage, and competence to achieve their dreams; contribute to community; and engage in a lifetime of learning by serving as a member of the collaborative executive leadership team which plans, directs, and coordinates action to achieve the organizational mission and strategic goals. Contribute to strategic and tactical organizational leadership by providing legal services and advice to the Superintendent, School Board and School District administrators; managing all legal matters and services; representing the school system in litigation and administrative proceedings; coordinating litigation efforts with outside legal counsel; leading policy development and revision; conducting legal research; and providing guidance on legal issues regarding state and federal regulations and laws.

The Position

Contribute to strategic and tactical organizational leadership:
  • Participate on the superintendent’s cabinet to coordinate action to achieve the district’s mission and strategic goals
  • Provide leadership and coordination of school system committees and/or task force initiatives as assigned; participate in long-range and strategic planning initiatives
  • Serve as general legal counsel to the superintendent and School Board
  • Consult with the director of labor relations in the negotiation and drafting/review of collective bargaining agreements Interpret the Minnesota Public Employee Labor Relations Act (PELRA) and collective bargaining agreements; recommend proposed modifications to existing collective bargaining agreements
  • Attend all school board meetings, including policy committee meetings, school board work sessions, negotiations strategy sessions, special meetings, and regular school board meetings
  • Coordinate defenses and responses to legal and administrative complaints
  • Plan and execute continuous improvement processes for area of responsibility; invite input and feedback
  • Demonstrate commitment to professional growth
  • Represent the school district in a positive manner at various district and community functions, at state and local organizations, and as a liaison to various partners
  • Monitor trends in education law, regulations and legislative issues, and recommend operational, procedural and policy improvements

Are you ready to head to school?  See the full-post on PSJD.

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A word of caution from our friends at Ayuda regarding ICE impersonators.

The notice below applies to the DC metro area, but please be aware, it could be happening in your areas as well.  Please be cautious and know your rights.  If you have a concern, there are pro bono attorneys available to assist you. You can find them through your state bar volunteer lawyers program, local legal aid, OneJustice’s Immigration Pro Bono Response Network, probono.net, and others.

Message from Ayuda:

Good afternoon,

We’re very concerned about a potential uptick in ICE impersonators in the DC metro area.

Advocates have reported several fake search/arrest warrants distributed to at least three DC residences. The victims were not extorted, and we’re unclear of the motives behind these fake warrants. You can refer any additional victims of ICE impostors to Maya Del Pilar Zegarra and me at Ayuda at 202-552-3604 or to end@ayuda.com. We are in touch with local law enforcement in DC to encourage them to investigate this matter.

In addition, as you may have seen, a Maryland resident was arrested in February for posing as an ICE officer. Law enforcement reportedly seized ten weapons, a police badge, body armor, etc. from his Gaithersburg home and allege that he impersonated ICE while “patrolling” Falls Church, VA.
http://wjla.com/news/local/sources-wash-post-employee-allegedly-impersonated-ice-agent-guns-found-at-his-md-home

We encourage you to spread these warnings to your clients and community.
1. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will never ask for payment over the phone nor in person as a bribe, or to expedite your application, or to extract special favors from the government.
2. ICE agents are prohibited from entering a home without a warrant signed by a judge. If they have an order, you can ask them to pass it under the door.

Thanks,
Anne

Anne Schaufele
Ayuda Project END Coordinator & Immigration Staff Attorney
202.552.3604 office
www.ayuda.com | annes@ayuda.com

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Pro Bono Publico Award Merit Distinction Honoree Derek Mergele

2016-17 Merit Distinction Honoree, Derek Mergele-Rust

Every year, we honor law student pro bono with the PSJD Pro Bono Publico Award. Any 2L or 3L who attends a PSJD subscriber school and has significant pro bono contributions to underserved populations, the public interest community and legal education is eligible for nomination.This week, one of the 2016-17 PSJD Pro Bono Publico Award Merit Distinction honorees will be guest blogging about law student pro bono and their public interest commitments. (This year’s Pro Bono Publico Award recipient and the other Merit Distinction recipient, will also publish blogs in the consecutive weeks.) Today, we’re featuring Merit Distinction honoree and Texas Tech University School of Law student Derek Mergele-Rust, who helped launch the Texas Tech School of Law Gender Marker and Name Change Pro Bono Project.


Changing Gender Markers in West Texas

by Derek Mergele-Rust, PSJD Pro Bono Publico Merit Distinction Honoree, 2016-2017 (Texas Tech University School of Law)

West Texas is the embodiment of every stereotype that people around the country have of Texas: wind sweeping across flat dusty plains dotted with oil wells as tumbleweeds blow between cattle grazing on the prairie grasses. Not included in this stereotypical vision are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals and families. Lubbock, Texas promotes itself as the friendliest city in the United States, even though the Human Rights Campaign has awarded Lubbock a 0 score on its Municipal Equality Index—an index that measures how welcoming and friendly a municipality is towards LGBT individuals.

The Texas Legislature is currently wrestling with a “bathroom bill,” similar to HB2 in North Carolina, that requires transgender individuals to use the bathroom that matches the gender marker on their birth certificate. However, in Texas, a court can order that the gender marker of a person’s birth certificate be amended to reflect the gender identity of the person. There are no set requirements for the court order, the court simply grants the petition at the judge’s discretion. To run for an elected judge position, Texas requires candidates to identify as a member of a political party. In Lubbock, all judges identify as Republicans. Of the six district court judges, three have granted petitions to amend the gender marker on birth certificates.

In May 2016, the Texas Tech School of Law launched the Gender Marker and Name Change Pro Bono Project to assist transgender people in West Texas obtain the court order to amend the gender marker on the individual’s birth certificate. This Pro Bono Project is the first of its kind outside of one of Texas’s major metropolitan areas, and Texas Tech is the second law school in Texas to have such a project. Since the launch last May, the Pro Bono Project has helped several transgender individuals obtain the necessary court order. The Pro Bono Project has received requests for help from students, residents of Lubbock, and residents of various West Texas communities, some of which are over 100 miles from Lubbock.

When this project started, I thought that simply helping one person would amount to a huge success for Tech Law. The reality is that there is a transgender community in west Texas that needs support. Regardless of age, race, or economic background the west Texas transgender community now has a place to turn to when they need help amending a birth certificate.

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – March 3, 3017

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

Happy Friday!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • St. Charles Parish Public Defender’s Office may cut lawyers/lawyer pay;
  • Proposal would bar North Carolina public law schools from providing legal representation;
  • Indiana University Maurer School of Law and Southern Poverty Law Center partner on scholar program;
  • Yale Law School launches six new clinics;
  • Alberta’s justice system has reached breaking point says prosecutors;
  • Montana governor signs bills addressing criminal justice costs;
  • Legal Aid Ontario offers coverage for second judicial pre-trials across Ontario;
  • Eviction Defense Project launches in Milwaukee;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants; and
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

February 24, 2017 – “Dealing with a budget crunch, the St. Charles Parish Public Defender’s Office has put its 11 attorneys on notice of possible layoffs and salary cuts. District Public Defender Vic Bradley Jr. said the move comes with a $138,000 deficit. Without cuts, Bradley projected the figure could easily surpass last fiscal year’s $392,596 budget shortfall. ‘We can’t keep going that way,’ he said. ‘We have to cut costs. We’re spending twice what we were taking in for the last couple of months.’ Bradley said it’s possible one lawyer will be cut and the others will take a pay cut. He recently notified them by letter that their contracts have been ended and pay will be renegotiated. ‘The money is not just coming in,’ he said. ‘The court costs are not there.'” (St. Charles Herald Guide)

February 24, 2017 – “A proposal headed to the UNC system’s Board of Governors would bar public university centers and institutes in North Carolina from providing legal representation to clients in any sort of litigation. The broadly worded measure, submitted to the board’s education policy committee in a memo credited to member Joe Knott, would almost certainly affect organizations like the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Law’s Center for Civil Rights. The Center for Civil Rights has provided support, counsel or other aid in a variety of cases involving school desegregation, voting rights and compensation for victims of the state’s former forced-sterilization program. System policy currently allows that, but Knott’s cover memo said the board should decide that ‘filing legal actions against the state or city and county governments does not come within the primary purpose of centers and institutes.’ But the attached proposal, drafted in the style of the ones already included in the system policy manual, goes much farther than barring participation in the sort of civil matters that have drawn criticism from some board members previously. It forbids centers and institutes from filing ‘a complaint, motion, lawsuit or other legal claim,’ in its own name or for others, ‘against any individual, entity or government.’ Moreover, they wouldn’t be able to ‘act as legal counsel to any third party,’ employ people who do, or arrange for someone’s representation. As worded, it would apparently forbid the system’s law schools, at UNC-Chapel Hill and N.C. Central University, from setting up or operating centers or institutes to help out with such things as the Innocence Project.” (The Herald-Sun)

February 24, 2017 – “The Indiana University Maurer School of Law is partnering with the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center on a program aimed at attracting law students interested in social justice and equality issues. The Julian Bond Law Scholars program includes scholarship, mentoring and summer externship opportunities. The program is named after the civil rights leader, who also founded the SPLC. The university says the program will give law students an ‘affordable  pathway to a professional career; eliminate the stress and anxiety that some students feel when trying to find employment after their first year of law school; and provide unparalleled hands-on legal experience, while allowing students to make a difference in advancing social justice issues.’ IU says the program will provide one scholarship worth 50 to 100 percent of tuition each year. Julian Bond Law Scholars will also be able to take part in a formal mentoring program and will be offered summer externships after completing their first year of law school. The externships will include a $4,000 stipend to cover living expenses and a research assistantship during the scholars’ second or third years.” (Inside Indiana Business)

February 27, 2017 – “This semester six new clinics launched as part of a growing experiential learning program at Yale Law School. The clinics provide students with hands-on experience in a number of fields, including immigration, reproductive rights, environmental law, consumer protection, domestic violence, and human rights.” The new clinics are the Arbitration Project, Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP), the Environmental Justice Clinic, the Reproductive Rights and Justice Project, and the Rule of Law Clinic. (Yale Law School)

March 1, 2017 – “The justice system in Alberta is facing a crisis, according to Crown prosecutors. The Alberta Crown Attorneys’ Association took the unusual step of calling a news conference Wednesday after Edmonton’s chief Crown prosecutor stayed 15 separate criminal prosecutions on Feb. 28 because of a lack of resources. Those charges included impaired driving, assaulting a police officer, and weapons charges. The choice to stay charges because of a shortage of prosecutors is affecting the whole province, said James Pickard, assistant executive director of Specialized Prosecutions with Alberta Justice. ‘Since January 2017, all across Alberta, we are confident in stating that approximately 200 significant charges have been stayed due to a lack of resources,’ he said. In Edmonton in December 2016 alone, 20 charges were abandoned because there were too few Crown prosecutors to see them through, he said. Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley acknowledged the short staffing to be a problem. ‘We’re concerned as well,’ she said.” “Criminal defence lawyer Kelly Dawson said although the situation appears politically charged with the provincial budget coming down this month, the Crown prosecutors raise real issues. ‘The government has been receptive to meeting with us, consulting with us,’ he said. ‘But at some point you wonder if they’re really listening to anything other than public pressure.'” (CBC News)

March 1, 2017 – “Gov. Steve Bullock has signed a package of bills that seeks to cut costs for the state public defender’s office and help reduce recidivism. One bill calls for the Office of Public Defender to establish a pilot project in up to four regions that would put clients in touch with social workers and other services that might help address the reasons they got in trouble with the law.” “Bullock held a ceremonial signing for the pilot project bill on Wednesday while also signing a bill that would allow jail inmates free phone calls to their attorneys. The law is expected to save the public defender’s office about $35,000 a year in collect calls as well as time public defenders spend visiting clients in jail.” “Another bill signed Wednesday eliminates the requirement to appoint a public defender for an unknown parent in child abuse and neglect cases, which could save the state about $100,000 annually, said sponsor Rep. Kim Dudik, D-Missoula.” “A fourth bill, requested by the Department of Corrections, allows criminal records for juvenile offenders to be shared electronically, rather than on paper, and calls for sealing most formal and informal youth court records when the youth involved turns 18. That bill takes effect immediately.” (Missoulian)

March 1, 2017 – “Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) is working to decrease criminal court delays and better support its clients by providing coverage for mandatory second judicial pre-trials to courts across Ontario. A second judicial pre-trial is a substantial meeting between Crown and defence with a judge to determine options for resolving a case, or to examine the evidence and outstanding issues before a case goes to trial. This proceeding is often effective in either settling many criminal matters or reducing delays help to spare the expense of time and money on a needless trial. For eligible matters legal aid clients receive additional coverage on their legal aid certificates for the second judicial pre-trial. Over the last ten months LAO has worked with the Ontario Court of Justice, criminal defence bar and the Ministry of the Attorney General on a project to fund second judicial pre-trials or substantially similar events in several Ontario Court of Justice locations as a pilot project. This pilot has been successful in increasing the number of early resolutions to criminal cases, while also improving how cases are managed if they need to come to trial. LAO will now provide coverage for lawyers representing eligible clients to participate in these second case management events across the province as of March 1, 2017. The roll-out of coverage for second judicial pre-trials across the province follows from an initiative by both the Ontario Court of Justice and the Ministry of the Attorney General to decrease criminal court delays.” (CNW)

March 1, 2017 – “Legal Action of Wisconsin has successfully launched its new Eviction Defense Project (EDP), which seeks to reduce housing instability for low-income Milwaukee County families, especially those with children. Housed at the Milwaukee County Courthouse, EDP provides tenants facing eviction with access to free civil legal aid and on-site, limited scope, representation.” “A close collaboration between Legal Action and others made the EDP possible:  The Legal Services Corporation, the Milwaukee Justice Center, Marquette Volunteer Legal Clinic, Marquette University, the Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee, Community Advocates, Quarles & Brady LLP, and many volunteer attorneys.  The support of the Milwaukee County Circuit Court was also critical in allowing Legal Action to launch the project.” (Urban Milwaukee)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

A lesson from the past that is relevant today.  On this day in 1865, President Abraham Lincoln signs a bill creating the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands. Known as the Freedmen’s Bureau, this federal agency oversaw the difficult transition of African Americans from slavery to freedom. The Freedmen’s Bureau, born out of abolitionist concern for freed slaves, was headed by Union General Oliver O. Howard for the entire seven years of its existence. The bureau was given power to dispense relief to both white and black refugees in the South, provide medical care and education, and redistribute “abandoned” lands to former slaves. The latter task was probably the most effective measure to ensure the prosperity and security of the freedmen, but it was also extremely difficult to enact. Many factors stymied the bureau’s work. White Southerners were very hostile to the Yankee bureau members, and even more hostile to the freed slaves. Terror organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan targeted both blacks and whites and intimidated those trying to help them. The bureau lacked the necessary funds and personnel to carry out its programs, and the lenient policies of President Andrew Johnson’s administration encouraged resistance. Most of the land confiscated from Confederates was eventually restored to the original owners, so there was little opportunity for black land ownership. Although the Freedmen’s Bureau was not able to provide long-term protection for blacks, nor did it ensure any real measure of equality, it did signal the introduction of the federal government into issues of social welfare and labor relations. (History.com)

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

Assistant Public Defender

The Organization

The Maryland Office of the Public Defender (OPD) seeks a dynamic, dedicated, and client-centered litigator to serve as an Assistant Public Defender in Cecil County. OPD provides superior representation to indigent defendants throughout the State of Maryland.   The Agency’s vision is for Justice, Fairness, and Dignity for All.  Employees are committed to the core values of a culture of excellence, client-centered representation, tenacious advocacy, and are united as a team in achieving the Agency’s mission.

The Position

An Assistant Public Defender combines his/her demonstrated dedication to the representation of indigent clients with his/her strong and zealous litigation skills to provide exceptional representation on behalf of all his/her clients. The attorney in this position is expected to work independently in managing an active caseload while simultaneously working in a team-oriented environment focused on a client-centered approach to representation.  This position will commence in late spring, 2017 and will be located in the Office of the Public Defender, Elkton District Court/Multi-Service Center in Elkton, Maryland (170 E. Main Street, Elkton, Maryland 21921).

Ready to assist? Find the full-post on PSJD.

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Pro Bono Publico Award Ceremony Photos

Last Thursday, February 24th, Director of Public Service Initiatives and Fellowships, Christina Jackson, visited Duke University School of Law in Durham, North Carolina to award Gabrielle “Gabs” Lucero the 2016-17 Pro Bono Publico Award.  You can see a few pictures from the event below. Don’t forget to check out the Pro Bono Publico award winner and merit distinction recipients blog posts each Friday on PSJD for the next three weeks.

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