PSJD Public Interest News Digest – May 12, 2017

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

Happy Friday! Happy Mother’s Day to all the Moms, Grandmoms, Mom figures, female role models, and just plain strong women stepping up every day to help the generations that follow. It seems there are so many forces at work right now trying to take us back, keep us down, make us less. Let’s take this weekend (and every other day) to celebrate and appreciate ALL females!!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Sacramento to provide city-funded legal services to immigrants;
  • Saskatchewan to explore letting non-lawyers provide some legal services;
  • Harvard Law Review establishes public interest fellowship;
  • Texas Access to Justice Foundation establishing endowment to assist veterans;
  • Montana lawyers provided $18 million in pro bono legal services in 2016;
  • Advocacy group sues U.S. after being warned to stop providing legal advice;
  • Columbia Law School receives $15 Mil gift for new scholarships for public interest students and clinical professorship;
  • Governor’s appointment gives Oregon Supreme Court first female majority;
  • ABA launches study of biases encountered by LGBT-plus and disabled lawyers;
  • San Antonio to fund educational and legal aid services for immigrants;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants; and
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

May 5, 2017 – “Undocumented immigrants in Sacramento will have city-funded legal services as soon as next month to fight deportation and ‘prepare for the worst’ as their fears grow about federal immigration enforcement. Sacramento City Council members voted unanimously late Thursday to set aside up to $300,000 for a network of legal, educational and faith-based nonprofit groups that will help residents with immediate immigration problems and advise them how to protect children and assets if parents are deported. The network also would educate them on their rights.” (The Sacramento Bee)

May 5, 2017 – “An 11-person team of law professionals and members of the public has been assembled to look at whether to allow non-lawyers to provide some legal services to Saskatchewan residents, as the provincial government explores expanding legal services. According to a government news release issued Friday, the project is a joint effort between the Ministry of Justice and the Law Society of Saskatchewan. ‘We know there’s interest in exploring new ways to access and provide legal services, and this task team is going to explore potential opportunities around that for us,’ Justice Minister and Attorney General Gordon Wyant said in Friday’s release. The task force is expected to make its recommendation within the next year year.” (CBC News)

May 8, 2017 – “The Harvard Law Review has announced the creation of a public interest fellowship, which will enable one recent Harvard Law graduate to spend a year following law school working in public service. The program’s inaugural fellow, who will be selected in the fall of 2017, will receive funding to support a year of work in a public interest-related role within a nonprofit organization, the government, or another institution. The fellow will have the opportunity to have a short piece relating to his or her work considered for publication in the Law Review’s online Forum at the end of the year. Said Assistant Dean for Public Service Alexa Shabecoff: ‘I’m thrilled that the Law Review will be funding a public interest fellowship. There is such great need for public interest lawyers but most organizations don’t have the budget to hire to meet the need.  At the same time, so many stellar HLS students want to do public interest work but are confronted by a scarcity of entry-level public interest positions. This new fellowship will help an amazing HLS student launch their public interest career while providing badly needed services.’ The fellow will receive a $65,000 stipend and healthcare benefits. A committee of Law School professors independent of the Law Review will select a student or recent graduate with a demonstrated interest in both public interest work and legal scholarship. Any person who will graduate from Harvard Law School at the end of the academic year in which he or she applies, or who has graduated from the Law School in either of the previous two years, will be eligible to apply for the fellowship.” (Harvard Law Today)

May 9, 2017 – “Hoping to help veterans get access to health care, housing and other needs, the Texas Access to Justice Foundation is establishing an endowment to pay for free legal services. The Joe Jamail Endowment for Veteran Legal Services will help Texas veterans ‘successfully integrate back into civilian life and secure the rights and benefits for which they risked their lives,’ the Justice Foundation said in a news release. Texas has 1.67 million veterans, the second-largest veteran population in the country, according to the foundation.” “Last year, the foundation helped about 8,000 veterans, and, with the endowment, foundation leaders are hoping to ‘one day have sufficient funding to be able to serve the legal needs of all veterans.'” (My Statesman)

May 9, 2017 – “The Montana Supreme Court and the State Bar of Montana announced Monday that in 2016 almost $18 million was reported in pro bono legal services for low-income families by attorneys across the state. According to the report, almost 1,600 Montana attorneys provided more than 120,000 hours of service to low-income Montanans.” (KTVQ)

May 9, 2017 – “A nonprofit fighting the Trump administration’s travel ban in court sued the U.S. Justice Department after being warned to stop offering legal aid to undocumented immigrants. The department’s Executive Office of Immigration Review demanded that the immigrants’ advocacy group refrain from advising people facing deportation if it isn’t formally representing them. The Northwest Immigrants Rights Project said the government’s sudden invocation of a 2008 regulation is a bureaucratic maneuver to stymie its assistance to poor people threatened with being returned to their native countries.” “The legal director of the Northwest Immigrants Rights Project said the 2008 regulation that requires it to enter formal notice any time it offers help to an undocumented immigrant creates an unrealistic paperwork burden for his 30-attorney staff. ‘It’s just not possible to talk to all of those people who need aid and file all of that paperwork,’ Matt Adams said. ‘Effectively, they’re trying to make it easier to successfully deport thousands of people a year.’ The group said that while it’s complying with the regulation for now, the Justice Department’s warning letter violates its constitutional right to free speech and Washington state’s Tenth Amendment right to regulate legal services. If upheld in court, the policy would ‘preclude that majority of people in deportation proceedings’ from receiving any legal assistance, according to the filing.” (Bloomberg)

May 9, 2017 – “Columbia Law School has received a $15 million donation from the Jerome L. Greene Foundation—a philanthropy established in 1978 by the late lawyer and real estate investor Jerome L. Greene and his late wife Dawn M. Greene. The funds will establish new scholarships for students interested in public interest, academic, and government careers, and create a new clinical professorship. “This pledge, for which the Columbia community is deeply grateful, significantly enhances access to Columbia Law School for the next generation of leaders and legal professionals through scholarships and critical core support for clinics,” said law dean Gillian Lester in an announcement of the donation Tuesday.” “The largest portion of the gift, $7 million, will establish the Greene Public Service Scholars program, which will furnish full-tuition scholarships to students who pursue government and public interest jobs. Another $5 million will create a matching scholarship fund that aims to prompt others to donate toward named, endowed student scholarships. The remaining $3 million will establish the Greene Clinical Professorship.” (New York Law Journal)

May 10, 2017 – “Governor Kate Brown announced Wednesday she will appoint Rebecca A. Duncan to the Oregon Supreme Court. Judge Duncan will be the seven-person court’s fourth woman member, making the court a majority of women for the first time in state history. Judge Duncan currently sits on the Oregon Court of Appeals and will fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Justice David V. Brewer. The appointment will be effective immediately after Justice Brewer retires on June 30.” (KTVZ)

May 10, 2017 – “The ABA is launching a nationwide study to identify biases encountered by LGBT-plus and disabled lawyers in the legal profession. The study, to be conducted by the Burton Blatt Institute at Syracuse University, will help develop strategies to fight biases, according to an ABA press release that quotes President Linda A. Klein and was released Wednesday. ‘This study is integral to the ABA’s continuing efforts to promote the full and equal participation of all diverse persons, including LGBT-plus lawyers and lawyers with disabilities, in the association and the legal profession as a whole,’ Klein said. The plus after the acronym refers to other gender and sexual minorities. The study is part of the ABA Pathway to the Profession Project. Statistics from the National Association for Law Placement show differences in employment for openly LGBT and disabled lawyers, according to the ABA press release. Openly LGBT lawyers are more likely to work for public interest law organizations than law firms, when compared to other legal professional demographic groups. Law graduates with disabilities were less likely to be employed than other graduates, including minorities and LGBT graduates.” (ABA Journal)

May 11, 2017 – “This week, South Side Councilman Rey Saldaña pushed through a request for the city to help fund educational and legal services for San Antonio’s immigrant and refugee population. At its Thursday meeting, City Council approved pulling some $150,000 from its $1 million emergency fund to pay for a range of services that include know-your-rights workshops, power of attorney legal clinics, and help on citizenship applications. Saldaña says the emergency funds, which are usually tapped for things like natural disasters, are sorely needed in light of immigration crackdowns at both the state and federal levels.” (San Antonio Current)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

“The West Virginia State Bar and Legal Aid awarded the 2016 Distinguished Pro Bono Service Award to professor Marjorie McDiarmid in recognition of her staunch work as a public defender and her support of legal aid. McDiarmid attributes the award to the law students working with her in West Virginia University’s Clinical Law Program, of which she is the director. Founded in 1976, the program has dedicated more than 600,000 hours of pro bono aid to more than 2,000 clients and provided training to more than 1,000 of the university’s law students. It is most notably known for its work in domestic violence cases. ‘I decided in high school I wanted to be a lawyer mainly because I thought that there were people who got the short end of the stick and needed representation,’ said McDiarmid.” And now she is passing that passion and sense of duty to the next generation of public interest lawyers.  Congratulations Professor McDiarmid!  (West Virginia Record)

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

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