Archive for July, 2017

PSJD Public Interest News Digest – July 28, 2017

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

Happy Friday! There are a number of new programs in the news this week. And in great news, the process of funding LSC for another year has begun. Keep up the pressure on your representatives!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Legal Services of Eastern Missouri introduces new Education Justice Program;
  • Newfoundland and Labrador Legal Aid Commission closes St. John’s Family and Child Office;
  • The true value of public service loan forgiveness;
  • Additional funding for immigration and refugee services in British Columbia;
  • The Roddenberry Foundation launches $1 million fellowship fund for US-based activists;
  • Florida International University College of Law launches low bono family law initiative;
  • Senate subcommittee approves Legal Services Corporation funding;
  • Seattle launches legal aid program to help prevent evictions;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants; and
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

July 20, 2017 – “According to a national study by the Civil Rights Project at UCLA, Missouri is the second-worst state in racially disproportionate suspension rates, and has the greatest gap between the suspension rate of elementary school aged children of color and that of white children. In response to this staggering statistic, Legal Services of Eastern Missouri (LSEM), a non-profit organization that provides legal assistance and representation to low-income people in eastern Missouri, has created a new unit with a big goal: ending the school-to-prison pipeline and creating an equitable educational system. ‘The education justice program is a new unit, comprised of three people, and we are seeking to achieve education equity and racial justice for all children,’ said Susie Lake, staff attorney for the new project. ‘And we’re going to attempt to do that through impact litigation and other impact advocacy tools.’ ‘We will work to address these inequities, because we know that school suspensions can have a profoundly negative impact on children, families and communities,’ said Education Justice Program Director Luz María Henríquez.” (The St. Louis American)

July 20, 2017 – “A program giving extra attention to child protection issues has been axed from the Legal Aid Commission in St. John’s because resources are needed elsewhere. The Family and Child Office is closing around July 31. There will be no layoffs according to Nick Summers, provincial director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Legal Aid Commission, but there will be less support for clients.  For the past 10 years, the office has given people a lawyer, paralegal and social worker to help them through the legal process — but not anymore. Now the social worker will be available to all lawyers in the commission, not just the Family and Child Office.” “Not all clients dealing with child protection issues used the services of the Family and Child Office. Many were represented by other legal aid lawyers.” “Summers stressed the closure was not made to target a vulnerable sector, but to provide a boost to all areas of legal aid by removing an enhancement to one group.” “He said two other family and child offices elsewhere in the province will remain open.” (CBC News)

July 21, 2017 – Contributing to the Huffington Post, Isaac Bowers, Director for Law School Engagement & Advocacy for Equal Justice Works, responds to Jason Delisle’s most recent article on Public Service Loan Forgiveness. Jason Delisle is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and an outspoken critic of PSLF.  Isaac does a good job of debunking erroneous information and providing a reasonable and balanced argument for the value of PSLF. (Huffington Post)

July 25, 2017 – “The Legal Services Society has received confirmation that the federal government will provide additional funding to ensure continued legal aid services for immigrants and refugees. LSS announced last month it would stop taking applications for immigration and refugee services effective August 1, 2017, due to a lack of funding to keep up with increased demand. The new funding allows LSS to maintain services until November 2017 and federal-provincial discussions regarding immigration and refugee legal aid in BC are concluded. “Refugees are an extremely vulnerable group. Many have faced persecution and torture and they need help to navigate our complex legal system,” said Mark Benton, QC, Chief Executive Officer of the Legal Services Society. ‘This new funding demonstrates the federal government’s commitment to helping those who need our support and assistance.’ The need for increased funding is the result of the global refugee crisis, which resulted in a 145 percent increase in legal aid refugee cases at LSS over the past three years. The new funding is necessary at this time because LSS, unlike other legal aid plans, cannot reallocate funding from other services to cover a deficit in immigration services.” (Cision)

July 25, 2017 – “The Roddenberry Foundation is pledging $1 million towards activism through its inaugural Roddenberry Fellowship—a year-long program for 20 individuals from across the United States —who will each receive $50,000 to pursue a project or initiative in one of four fields:

  • Civil Rights
  • Climate Change and Environmental Justice
  • Immigration and Refugee Rights
  • LGBTQIA and Women’s Rights

The Fellowship includes tailored support for each activist as they launch a new initiative or amplify an existing early-stage project. ‘It became clear to us that we wanted to support the increase in civic engagement and activism we’ve been seeing across the country,’ says Lior Ipp, CEO of the Roddenberry Foundation. ‘In an era in which more and more people are fighting for what they believe in, we don’t have the luxury to be bystanders. In fact, we have an obligation to help.’ Five fellows will be selected in each of the issue areas, and together they will form a year-long cohort who will receive tailored support to build and scale their initiatives.” (Cision)

July 25, 2017 – “ FIU LAW Practice, an initiative of the FIU College of Law, dedicated to helping local families, will offer affordable legal services to low- and moderate-income families who do not qualify for free legal services. The practice, first-of-its-kind in Florida, will assist families that fall within 125 and 200 percent of the poverty guidelines. That means that a family of four in Miami-Dade county making between $30,376 and $48,600 may be good candidates for the services, which specialize in family law legal matters such as divorce, child support and domestic violence cases. ‘Our mission is to increase access to justice for those who seek it while building relationships within the local community,’ said Michelle Mason, senior associate dean who serves as the community liaison for the FIU LAW Practice. ‘In a recent study by the Justice Index Project, nearly 50 percent of Florida litigants appearing in court on a range of civil legal matters do so without legal representation, which may not be in their best interest.’ The practice will charge clients based on a sliding scale, with service prices ranging from $75 – $125 per hour. FIU LAW Practice will utilize the legal clinic’s current screening process to confirm eligibility based upon federal poverty guidelines and levels. FIU LAW Practice will also serve as a legal incubator for recent law graduates, admitted to the Florida Bar.  The incubator combines approaches used in medical residency programs with those used in a business incubator setting.  The goal of this hybrid, apprentice-style approach is to assist new lawyers through both practical training and mentorship as they launch their careers. FIU LAW Practice will hire two fellows in the first year.” (FIU Law)

July 26, 2017 – “As part of a $53.4 billion spending bill, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies voted Tuesday to sustain funding for legal aid. The subcommittee, chaired by Alabama Republican Richard Shelby, approved an appropriation to the Legal Services Corp. for $385 million. This is equal to what the agency is currently receiving for fiscal year 2017 and $85 million more than what the U.S. House of Representatives provided in its proposed budget.” “The measure now advances to the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations where it is scheduled for consideration Thursday.” (The Indiana Lawyer)

July 26, 2017 – “On Monday, Seattle City Council member Lisa Herbold announced the launch of a pilot program to provide legal aid for incarcerated people accused of crimes, with the goal of helping them avoid eviction and homelessness. Some people who wind up in jail and can’t make bail miss rent payments and risk losing their homes, said Anita Khandenwal, director of the county public defense office. But the repercussions don’t stop there. ‘The consequences of a criminal eviction can really snowball,’ Khandenwal said. ‘There’s the intended consequence of serving jail time, but there’s also loss of housing, [employment] license, employment opportunity, or job you already have.’ Herbold secured funding in the city’s annual budget last year to hire three attorneys for the program. The legal aid pilot is modeled after existing ‘holistic defense’ efforts in Washington, DC and New York, a philosophy of legal work that says lawyers should look beyond their cases and help tackle the roots of a client’s crime, from poverty to mental health issues to addiction. The program’s civil lawyers, employees of the public defense office, will assist public defenders during a client’s court case. One example of where the new attorneys may come in handy, Herbold said, is during the plea bargaining process. A civil lawyer may think of housing issues that could arise from a guilty plea that a criminal defense lawyer might not have considered. Having civil attorneys assist public defenders to understand the impacts of jail time on individuals’ housing and employment will help ‘[improve] the quality of representation’ in the Seattle Municipal Court system and make it easier for formerly jailed people to reintegrate into their communities, Khandelwal said. Over the two-year pilot, attorneys will collect data to better understand how involvement in the legal system impacts housing instability, homelessness, and other ‘civil consequences.'” (SLOG)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants!

Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia honored Kristen Lejnieks, a partner at Jones Day, with their Making Justice Real Pro Bono Award. Legal Aid’s Making Justice Real Pro Bono Award recognizes attorneys who have provided outstanding pro bono service through individual representation and/or leadership in facilitating such representation by their colleagues. This past year, Kristen has set herself apart through her effective leadership as Jones Day’s coordinator for the Housing Right to Counsel Project. Under Kristen’s leadership, Jones Day’s participation in the Project has soared. A number of Jones Day attorneys are now involved with the Project, helping many tenants avoid eviction and the terrible repercussions that follow. Read more at the link. (Making Justice Real)

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

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Job’o’th’Week (Fellowship Edition)

Help Wanted

Photo: Brenda Gottesman – CC License

2018 – 2019 Law Fellow 

The Organization

The American Constitution Society for Law and Policy (ACS) is one of the nation’s leading progressive legal organizations. Founded in 2001, ACS is comprised of law students, lawyers, scholars, judges, policymakers, activists and other concerned individuals who are working to ensure that the fundamental principles of human dignity, individual rights and liberties, genuine equality, and access to justice are in their rightful, central place in American law.

The Position

The American Constitution Society for Law and Policy (ACS) seeks a talented graduating 3L or recent law school graduate to fill a position in ACS’s national headquarters. The Fellowship will begin in September 2018 and end in August 2019. The Fellow will serve as part of ACS’s Department of Policy Development and Programming staff, which is led by a group of experienced attorneys who coordinate and facilitate ACS’s rapidly expanding output of innovative, highly relevant legal and public policy work. He or she will work with the Department staff to engage scholars, practitioners, public officials, and law students in the articulation and dissemination of a progressive vision of the Constitution, law, and public policy.

Is this your dream opportunity?  See the full-post on PSJD.

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – July 21, 2017

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

Happy Friday! There are a number of expansion of service and opportunities stories this week.  A feel-good week in the news for the most part. In other news, the State Department suspends another fellowship program, which is significant, but only affects people already in certain programs.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Iowa Access to Justice Commission releases report;
  • Georgia state grant bolsters legal aid for domestic violence victims;
  • Another city explores providing legal aid to tenants facing eviction;
  • St. Mary’s University School of Law increases number of Summer Public Interest Fellowships;
  • State Department suspends Diplomacy Fellows Program;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants; and
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

July 13, 2017 – “The Iowa Supreme Court’s ‘Access to Justice Commission’ has released a report that outlines steps to remove barriers to civil justice for low-income and disadvantaged Iowans.” “The report identifies dozens of recommendations and goals. They include recruiting more rural lawyers, creating a veterans legal clinic and developing an app to help people navigate legal issues and resources. The report also suggests ways to encourage the corporate community in volunteering and charitable giving around access-to-justice issues.” (Iowa Public Radio)

July 13, 2017 – “A $2.4 million state grant that funds legal services for domestic violence victims can mean the difference between life and death for some legal aid clients.” “Georgia Legal Services received the lion’s share, $1.6 million, of the $2,425,000 that the state Legislature allocated this fiscal year. The Judicial Council of Georgia, which disburses the annual grant, allocated $700,974 to the Atlanta Legal Aid Society and the remaining $116,674 to five domestic violence shelters to pay private lawyers to represent their residents.” (Daily Report)

July 17, 2017 – “A Baltimore city councilman introduced legislation Monday aimed at establishing a fund that would help low-income tenants facing eviction and other housing problems to hire attorneys, an effort that cities across the nation are exploring or have implemented. If Councilman Robert Stokes’ bill is approved, the city would ask voters to amend the city charter in next year’s election to establish a Tenant Legal Assistance Fund and authorize the mayor and council to dedicate money to it. The fund would help pay for lawyers to represent tenants in Baltimore’s rent court, where most renters arrive without attorneys to face landlords who almost always have some form of representation. It would also ‘provide legal assistance to low-income renters facing eviction,’ assist renters in disputes with landlords and try to make renters more aware of their legal rights. The bill calls for financing the fund with dedicated city revenue — fines and fees — plus grants from private foundations and charities.” (The Baltimore Sun)

July 18, 2017 – “The St. Mary’s University School of Law has increased the number of Summer Public Interest Fellowships available to law students to encourage a future generation of lawyers committed to public interest careers. ‘For the past 90 years, St. Mary’s Law and our students have taken very seriously our obligation to address the justice gap and to serve community members in need,’ said Stephen M. Sheppard, J.S.D., Dean of the School of Law. ‘Expanding our ability to offer Public Interest Fellowships paves a bit more of the pathway for our law students to fulfill our Catholic Marianist mission: To educate lawyers for service, justice and peace.’ With the help of a grant from the University to the School of Law’s Office of Career Services, the number of students participating in Public Interest Fellowships this summer increased from one to five. There is an overwhelming demand for legal aid services and the fellowships aim to help meet that need by encouraging students to pursue public interest legal careers, said Robin Thorner, J.D., Director of Career Services for the School of Law.” (St. Mary’s University News)

July 19, 2017 – “The State Department has suspended a program that fast-tracks top recruits, sparking outrage from students and graduates who planned on joining the diplomatic corps. The Diplomacy Fellows Program (DFP), established as part of then-Secretary of State Colin Powell’s Diplomatic Readiness Initiative in the early 2000’s, allows recipients of several prestigious fellowship programs to fast track their applications to the elite Foreign Service branch — a notoriously long-winded process layered in bureaucratic red tape.” “Over 260 fellows, alumni of U.S. national security internships, and State Department officials signed a hastily-circulated a petition, addressed to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, to reverse the decision. The letter called the move ‘counterproductive’ and ‘an abrogation of commitment and a breach of trust’ to fellows who were promised access to DFP before the program was axed without warning. ‘With the suspension of the DFP, after years of preparation for a career in the Foreign Service, alumni of national security fellowships are no longer recognized for their vigorous academic and language training’ the letter reads. The State Department confirmed the program is on hold.” (Foreign Policy)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

The Legal Services Corporation (LSC) Board of Directors presented Pro Bono Service Awards to two Ohio attorneys, a corporate legal department, and a law firm in recognition of their extraordinary commitment to equal justice. The recipients are:

  • Ann S. Bergen, an attorney based in Willoughby who has volunteered her legal skills and expertise with the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland for 25 years, including serving on the organization’s board.
  • David E. Butz, an attorney with the Canton law firm of Krugliak, Wilkins, Griffiths, & Dougherty Co., L.P.A who has taken on more than 100 pro bono cases with Community Legal Aid Services in Akron.
  • Marathon Petroleum Corporation’s in-house attorneys who have handled numerous pro bono cases during their 10-year partnership with Legal Aid of Western Ohio.
  • Porter Wright Morris & Arthur LLP, a Columbus-based law firm that has worked with Ohio State Legal Services for more than a decade, taking on numerous consumer debt and eviction cases.

(Legal Services Corporation News)

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 Attorney General 

The Organization

The Attorney General of the State of Wyoming is appointed by the Governor, pursuant to Wyo.Stat. § 9-1-601 . The primary duties of the Attorney General are outlined in Wyo.Stat. § 9-1-603. The Attorney General’s office, by law, provides legal opinions only to elected and appointed state officials and represents the state agencies in actions in courts of law. The Attorney General’s office is prohibited from offering legal advice to private citizens or organizations.

The Position

The Wyoming Attorney General’s office seeks an attorney to represent the State of Wyoming in natural resources litigation in the Water & Natural Resources Division. The natural resources cases handled by this position are brought at the direction of the Governor, and the majority of these cases involve litigation either challenging or supporting actions taken by federal agencies on a diverse array of resource, energy, and environmental issues. Relevant statutes include the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Water Act, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, the National Forest Management Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act.

Ready to protect the planet in Wyoming?  See the post on PSJD.

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*Guest Post* – The Benefits of Working in Public Service by: Brittany Hamner

Brittany Hamner is a Project Assistant at NALP and rising 2L at Howard University School of Law. She is interested in a career in public service, and is currently interning with the D.C. Housing Authority.  

Benefits of Working in Public Service

It’s the time of year where law students entering their second year (2L) participate in what is known as “On Campus Interview” or OCI process.  During this time, employers largely from the biggest private sector law firms in the nation come to the top law schools and interview certain students from the incoming 2L class.  Students at the top of their class in these top law schools will receive offers from these big law firms and go on to make six figure salaries right out of law school.  For those students who do not make the cut, or are not at top tier schools where OCI may not even exist, all hope is not lost.  Although there is a huge gap between private sector and public interest salaries, public interest jobs offer several key advantages over private practice.  Below are some advantages to public service work.

Furthering the Public Good

Most importantly, the primary reason to undertake public interest work is to further the public good.  The opportunity to help underserved people, effect societal change, or provide equal access to justice for individuals is work that a dollar amount cannot be placed on. In fact, the lowest paid lawyers (typically those doing public interest work) report the highest levels of happiness. (NY Times).  There is the opportunity to do pro bono work at most firms; however, this work will comprise of a fraction of the number of hours spent defending large corporations, which may not provide as much personal satisfaction.

Better Work-Life Balance

Public service offers a more relaxed culture because the focus is on service rather than profit.  Unlike the private sector, there isn’t the pressure to meet billable hour quotas, gain face-time with partners, or spend free time on client development activities and thus allows for more flexible schedules, and 9-to-5 work days.

Valuable Work Experience

In a recent article posted by the ABA Journal, dissatisfaction with work quality was cited as the top reason associates leave their firm. (ABA Journal).  Law students, new lawyers, and paralegals work on urgent issues all the time in the public interest sector.  “That’s the very nature of public interest work: it is law reforming, a challenge to the status quo.” (Equal Justice Works).  Where some law firms assign new attorneys to a specific practice group, public service allows new attorneys to explore a variety of practice areas while performing substantive work.

Job Security

The public sector offers job security that the private sector simply cannot match.  After the recession in 2008, many students who had accepted offers into big firms were deferred and instead went into careers in public service.  Upon the end of the deferral, many chose to stay with their public interest organization citing job security, as well as the other reasons listed here, as their reasons.  (NY Times).

Money

Finally, as mentioned, there is a huge gap between private sector and public interest salaries; however, senior lawyers at nonprofit organizations tend to earn a comfortable living.  Among public sector jobs, there are also government jobs, both state and federal, which tend to pay more than nonprofit organizations.   Further, legislation such as the College Cost Reduction & Access Act provides public service loan forgiveness and income-based repayment options, which can make entering public service quite easy.  (Equal Justice Works).

 

Opportunities in the public sector are both plentiful and diverse and the skills and training you receive are easily transferable no matter where your legal career takes you.  For information on Public Sector Career Paths, visit the PSJD Resource Center or search Public Service Jobs with the PSJD search tool.

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – July 14, 2017

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

Happy Friday!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Changes proposed at University of North Carolina School of Law Center for Civil Rights;
  • Hawaii legislature cut funding for free or low-cost legal services;
  • British Columbia legal aid will cease to accept immigration & refugee applications as of August 1;
  • New ABA network increases legal services for homeless youth;
  • Legal chatbot DoNotPay announces massive expansion;
  • Public defender fees waived for those found not guilty in California;
  • New York City immigrants facing deportation denied legal help amid Mayor de Blasio, City Council funding dispute;
  • Esquire launches program to help law firms make the most of pro bono budgets;
  • New Duke University School of Law certificate helps students get head start on public interest careers;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants; and
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

July 6, 2017 – “A UNC committee has presented five alternatives for changes at the UNC Center for Civil Rights, but cautioned that there is no guarantee the center’s mission would survive under significant restructuring. The center has been under the microscope of the UNC Board of Governors for months after a few board members objected to the center representing clients in lawsuits against local governments and agencies. They want to ban the center from litigation, saying legal action should not be taken under the UNC banner. Center supporters have warned that such a prohibition could effectively end the civil rights work and endanger other legal clinics at the UNC and N.C. Central University law schools. The center was founded by the preeminent civil rights lawyer and former NCCU chancellor, Julius Chambers, who was a UNC law school alumnus. A committee appointed by UNC Chancellor Carol Folt issued a supplemental report, dated June 27, that outlines five alternatives for the center.” “‘The UNC-CH Committee wants to emphasize in closing that the availability of these alternatives is not an assurance that any of these alternatives is viable,’ the report said. The board could discuss the issue at a retreat next week but isn’t expected to take any action until September at the earliest. The supplemental report, meant to answer a question by the board about alternative structures, was issued as the legislature adjourned. Other questions submitted by board members had been answered in a previous report. The possibility of ending the center’s legal powers has led hundreds of supporters of the center to write to the board. At a public hearing in May, speakers said the center, and similar legal clinics, provide students with key education and practical experience — a requirement of the American Bar Association.” (The News & Observer)

July 6, 2017 – “Free or low cost legal services for residents in need is in jeopardy as funding for civil legal services has been cut from the Hawaii State Judiciary’s budget for at least the next year. In fiscal year 2016, the Judiciary received $600,000 for civil legal service organizations to help low-income residents, victims of domestic abuse, homeless people, veterans, immigrants and the elderly. In fiscal year 2017, that number was $750,000. For the 2018 fiscal year that started July 1, no money was allocated toward these services in the Judiciary budget.” “Legal Aid Society of Hawaii serves from 8,000 to 10,000 clients each year out of 20,000 calls it receives, said Sergio Alcubilla, director of external relations for the nonprofit. It has its own staff attorneys and is the largest public interest law firm in the state. The lack of state funding will impact the number of clients and cases it can take on, he said. ‘There are a lot of vulnerable people in our communities, and any legal situation can push them over that brink when living paycheck to paycheck,’ Alcubilla said. Aside from Judiciary funding, the nonprofit has been receiving about one fourth of its budget from the national Legal Services Corporation, which the Trump Administration wants to defund. It also receives grants for specific purposes, such as from the state Office of Community Services specifically for helping victims of human trafficking. Alcubilla said the Judiciary money was especially helpful because it wasn’t tied to one specific use.” (Honolulu Civil Beat)

July 6, 2017 – “British Columbia’s Legal Services Society (LSS) has announced that it will no longer accept applications for immigration and refugee cases as of Aug. 1 due to lack of funding. The federal government is responsible for funding immigration and refugee legal aid. According to the Legal Services Society, the federal government gives the B.C. government $900,000 annually for immigration legal aid which the province gives to the LSS, along with an additional $800,000, for a total of $1.7 million each year. Based on current projections, LSS estimates it will need an additional $1.07 million to maintain services until the end of the year.” “LSS issued 350 contracts for refugee services in 2013-2014 with that number jumping to 860 contracts in 2016-2017.” (The Lawyer’s Daily)

July 6, 2017 – “More than 200 criminal cases across the country have been tossed due to unreasonable delays since the Supreme Court of Canada’s landmark Jordan decision one year ago, court data shows. The cases include murders, sexual assaults, drug trafficking and child luring, all stayed by judges because the defendant’s constitutional right to a timely trial was infringed. While provinces and the federal government have taken steps over the past year to speed up Canada’s sluggish courts, legal observers say more drastic and urgent changes are needed. ‘Not nearly enough has been done by the government in order to repair this crumbling system,’ said Rick Woodburn, president of the Canadian Association of Crown Counsel. ‘Until the government views the justice system as a priority, we’ll continue to see murderers set free.’ Advocates say governments must provide more funding for every facet of the system, including judges, Crown attorneys, legal aid and infrastructure. Ottawa is also being urged to reverse decisions made under the previous Conservative government to expand mandatory minimum sentences and to close three of six RCMP forensic labs in the country. The Jordan decision, as it has come to be known, was issued on July 8, 2016, when the high court ruled the drug convictions in British Columbia of Barrett Richard Jordan must be set aside due to unreasonable delay. In a 5-4 ruling, the court said the old means of determining whether proceedings had taken too long were inadequate. Under the new framework, unreasonable delay was to be presumed if proceedings topped 18 months in provincial court or 30 months in superior court.” (CBC News)

July 10, 2017 – “In an effort to increase legal services to [homeless youth], the American Bar Association (ABA) recently launched the Homeless Youth Legal Network (HYLN). The initiative helps homeless youth ages 25 and younger, while also providing opportunities for legal professionals and service providers. ‘The Homeless Youth Legal Network is a fine example of how the American Bar Association can link youth experiencing homelessness with experts in the legal community who can help,’ ABA President Linda A. Klein. ‘This project, made possible with a grant from the ABA Enterprise Fund, shows how we can harness the power and reach of the ABA to improve access to justice by providing much-needed legal assistance to vulnerable populations.'” “To help other programs better serve homeless youth, HYLN identified 12 programs to serve as models during the first phase of this initiative. These 12 pilot sites will provide technical assistance to emerging programs, document best practices, and share data on legal barriers and improved outcomes resulting from legal advocacy. By identifying existing services, as well as unmet needs, the groups leading this initiative—the Commission on Homelessness and Poverty, Commission on Youth at Risk, and Section of Litigation Childrens’ Rights Litigation Committee—hope to create a national directory of legal services available to homeless youth. In addition to helping homeless youth, HYLN benefits attorneys and service providers by offering them technical assistance, training, and learning opportunities. A pro bono initiative is currently being piloted in Florida to recruit and train lawyers and law firms while also matching them with homeless youth shelters and drop-in centers nationwide.” (Associations Now)

July 11, 2017 – “Noted legal aid chatbot DoNotPay just announced a massive expansion, which will help users tackle issues in 1,000 legal areas entirely for free. The new features, which launched on Wednesday, cover consumer and workplace rights, and will be available in all 50 states and the UK. While the bot will still help drivers contest parking tickets and refugees apply for asylum, the service will now also help those who want to report harassment in the workplace or who simply want a refund on a busted toaster.” “Through DoNotPay, a user has a simple, instant message-like conversation with a bot by typing their issue in their own words. Even colorful complaints like, ‘My airline screwed me’ will be registered by the system. Then, a virtual lawyer decides how to best help a user based on their answers to a series of questions. The bot usually crafts a claims letter with the information provided, potentially saving hundreds of dollars in legal fees. DoNotPay can also connect users to outside aid, like a nonprofit that provides pro bono representation or avenues for action in more serious cases. The legal guidance is free, instant, and — in some cases — life-changing.” (Mashable)

July 11, 2017 – “Californians accused of a crime but found not guilty will no longer have to pay for their public defenders after Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday signed a criminal justice-reform law striking the requirement. Under a bill authored by a pair of Los Angeles-area state senators, people using court-appointed counsel must only repay courts for legal costs if they are convicted. State Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, said the current reimbursement laws are a detriment to low-income Californians and that Senate Bill 355 closes a damaging loophole which punishes individuals who are falsely arrested.” (Courthouse News)

July 11, 2017 – “A program offering free lawyers to immigrants facing deportation has stopped taking clients due to a clash between Mayor de Blasio and the City Council over whether city cash can aid people convicted of serious crimes. The New York Immigrant Family Unity Project has been refusing new clients since June because of the dispute over the legal services money, said Andrea Saenz, the program’s supervising attorney at Brooklyn Defender Services. ‘Right now, we’re not serving our community. And people are scared that they’ll get arrested by ICE, and we want to be able to tell them that New York City has your back and we’ll get you a lawyer,’ she said. ‘I never thought we’d be in this spot for this long.’ The city budget for the fiscal year that started July 1 included $26 million for lawyers for immigrants threatened with deportation — but Mayor de Blasio said the money should not go to people convicted of 170 serious crimes. Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito objected to that rule, and inserted language into the budget passed saying only income — not criminal convictions — could be considered in admitting people to the program. Yet de Blasio wouldn’t agree to go along with that condition, only saying vaguely that the dispute would be resolved in the contracting process. The fight left the legal services groups in limbo, unable to spend any money because they don’t know who they’re allowed to represent. About 100 detained immigrants have missed out on lawyers in the six weeks the program has been out of commission, Saenz said.” (Daily News)

July 11, 2017 – “Esquire Deposition Solutions, LLC, the nation’s leading provider of court reporting, video, and interpreting services, is pleased to announce a new Pro Bono Court Reporting Program that creates partnerships with law firms across the country to offer discounted court reporting services to allow more individuals equal access to justice.” (Esquire)

July 12, 2017 – “Duke Law students can now get a head start on careers in public interest law through a new certificate program, the first the Law School has offered to JDs. The Public Interest and Public Service Law Certificate is open to students who demonstrate through their coursework and service an interest in working in a nonprofit or government setting after graduation. In addition to working with a dedicated law school career counselor, students in the program will be assigned both a peer and a faculty mentor who will assist in planning courses to take and navigating opportunities during law school.” (Duke Law)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

“Texas RioGrande Legal Aid Executive Director David Hall will retire from his position after 42 years at the helm, the organization announced Wednesday. ‘It has been my honor and privilege to work alongside colleagues and friends with such inspiring values, compassion, and dedication for justice,’ Hall said in a statement to staff announcing his decision. ‘Siga la lucha.” Read more about his contributions and career at the link.” (Texas Bar Blog)

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

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Job’o’th’Week (Internship Edition)

Help Wanted

Photo: Brenda Gottesman – CC License

Legal Intern

The Organization

The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) seeks experienced second- or third-year law students or LLM students with a strong commitment to social justice to provide legal research and analysis as part of a semester-long unpaid internship or externship opportunity. CCR is a national not-for-profit legal, educational, and advocacy organization dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.

The Position

Interns will have the opportunity to work with CCR attorneys on a range of projects. Work with the International Human Rights docket is related to corporate accountability, torture, detention, suppression of dissent, anti-militarism, and violations under the Alien Tort Statute, the Torture Victim Protection Act, and universal jurisdiction. Some of our cases include: Challenge to abuse by private military contractors at Abu GhraibATS case in support of LGBTQI Ugandan organizersdefense of activists advocating for Palestinian human rightsadvocacy and litigation in foreign jurisdictions and international bodies in support of accountability and reparations for the Iraq War; FOIA litigation seeking information about the U.S. role in the attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla and the coup in Honduras; and human rights advocacy to challenge Catholic Church cover-up of sexual violence by priests.

Ready to conquer constitutional cases?  Check out the full-post on PSJD.

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A message from NLADA regarding LSC funding.

As many of you know, the Trump administration’s proposed budget called for completely eliminating funding for LSC. Congress has the final say on appropriations, and it appears that at least some in Congress are in favor of a reduction in LSC funding. Below is a message from the National Legal Aid & Defender Association regarding Legal Services Corporation (LSC) funding for FY’18, and how you can act to tell Congress any reduction in LSC funding is a mistake.

From the National Legal Aid & Defender Association:

As you may know, the U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies last week approved a spending package that would cut funding for Legal Services Corporation (LSC) grantees by 24 percent. This would impose unacceptable budget cuts that would force grantees to severely curtail services and potentially even close offices. At the same time, the White House and some in Congress appear to remain committed to eliminating LSC.

That is why I wanted to let you know about www.ActOnJustice.org, which provides information, fact sheets, and talking points about LSC and civil legal aid, which you may find useful for your own advocacy. The key purpose of the site however, is to give individuals a quick and simple way to contact their own elected officials to advocate for LSC.

With so many competing spending priorities facing Congress, it is vital that we demonstrate the depth of support for LSC that exists within members’ own constituencies. I would like to ask that you help achieve this by using the site and sharing it broadly throughout your networks. This effort will be most effective if it includes a cross section of stakeholder groups, particularly: (1) clients and former clients, (2) public interest advocates who work with populations that routinely experience civil legal needs, (3) private and corporate lawyers, particularly those that have experience working with legal services programs pro bono, and (4) law students and law school faculty.

Please note: if you receive LSC funds, you are prohibited from using this site for grassroots lobbying. However, the site does include other resources and updates you might find useful.

The national response to the White House recommendation to eliminate LSC has been deeply impactful, and with appropriations bills currently being drafted and considered in Congress, now is the time to elevate the voice of communities and constituents in a more coordinated way. Where permitted, please link to the site in your upcoming communications, and start a conversation using #ActOnJustice on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for helping to make sure that LSC continues to be protected, and that the clients of its grantees continue to receive access to justice.

David

DAVID MILLERManager, Policy Initiatives

www.nlada.org  |  D.Miller@nlada.org  |  (202) 452-0620 ext: 244

1901 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Suite 500, Washington DC 20006

 

 

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – July 7, 2017

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

Happy Friday! Welcome to July. If this is  your time for reflection, check out PSJD’s new self-assessment tools.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Legal Aid Ontario withdraws threat to suspend immigration and refugee services;
  • Delaware lawmakers restore legal aid funding to state budget;
  • Maryland lawmakers seek legal aid for tenants facing eviction in Baltimore;
  • ABA’s charitable arm gave more than $70M to programs worldwide: annual report;
  • New legal partnerships seek to expand access to justice through churches in Tennessee;
  • ABA unveils free online tool to help veterans identify legal needs;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants; and
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

June 30, 2017 – “Legal Aid Ontario has backed away from its threat to suspend immigration and refugee services, which would have cut the group’s costs by about 40 per cent. It said it needed to pare down the annual cost of the program from $33.6 million to $20.5 million. The group first announced it was considering cutting back those services in May, and then began a province-wide consultation on the idea. At the time, it said the organization couldn’t continue to foot the cost overruns for its refugee program, as it had been doing for the past number of years. On Monday, Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) posted a brief update on its website, that said ‘as a result of intensive stakeholder consultations in May and June, and ongoing discussions with government, LAO has decided to continue immigration and refugee services at the current level at this time.'” (CBC News)

June 30, 2017 – “Lawmakers in Dover have restored crucial state funding for legal aid services in the state’s budget, avoiding what some had feared would have been devastating cuts to three organizations that provide representation for Delaware’s poor. Late Sunday, Democrats and Republicans in the General Assembly agreed on a deal to balance the state’s budget and eliminate a more than $350 million revenue shortfall that had pitted lawmakers against each other and caused them to miss their June 30 deadline. The leadership from both parties finally announced the budget accord after midnight on Monday. The deal restored the bulk of a $600,000 line item for legal aid, which had been removed in earlier negotiations by the General Assembly’s Joint Finance Committee. The agreement also restored about $66 million in cuts, including a $36.4 million grant-in-aid bill, which provides state money for nonprofits like civil legal aid groups. Last week, the JFC said the state couldn’t afford to fund grant-in-aid at all.” (Delaware Law Weekly)

July 3, 2017 – “A state and city lawmaker began drafting separate bills this week to make more publicly funded lawyers available for low-income tenants facing eviction in Baltimore, which spends more money ousting renters than trying to help them remain in their homes. Del. Sandy Rosenberg and Baltimore City Councilman Robert Stokes, both Democrats, hope their efforts can generate momentum for an issue that has stalled in Maryland while gaining traction across the nation. Stokes has drafted a ballot initiative that would ask city voters in next year’s election to approve or reject the establishment of a ‘tenant legal assistance fund.’ And Rosenberg has asked Maryland’s Department of Legislative Services to research how other cities and states are funding, or proposing to pay for, more lawyers for tenants. The Baltimore Sun on Sunday detailed New York City’s $77 million program to provide lawyers to tenants facing evictions and a pending $4.5 million funding increase in Washington, D.C., for the same purpose. Boston and Massachusetts lawmakers are considering a similar proposal, which has been shown in San Francisco to reduce the amount of public funds needed to operate homeless shelters. In response to the story, Rosenberg said Sunday that he had asked Legislative Services Director Warren Deschenaux ‘to research how New York, Washington, San Francisco and Boston are paying for legal counsel for tenants in housing court or proposing to do so.'” (The Baltimore Sun)

July 5, 2017 – “As the charitable arm of the ABA, the ABA Fund for Justice and Education helps support more than 200 law-related public service and educational programs each year. Earlier this month, the FJE released its annual report (PDF) for the period from Sept. 1, 2015 to Aug. 31, 2016. In addition to a list of individual and organizational donors, the report outlines how the FJE spent the $71.67 million budget. Less than 2 percent of the budget went to administrative and fundraising costs, leaving more than $70 million to be spent directly on the charitable programs which accomplish FJE’s goals. These include expanding access to justice, promoting diversity, safeguarding civil liberties and advancing the rule of law internationally. The American Bar Endowment was one of the FJE’s largest donors, providing more than $3 million in 2015-16.” (ABA Journal)

July 5, 2017 – “Legal Aid of East Tennessee, Tennessee Faith and Justice Alliance, Christian Legal Society and Chattanooga Gospel Justice Initiative are among those working together on a new effort to expand Access to Justice in Chattanooga through area places of worship. One such partnership has been created with White Oak United Methodist Church in Red Bank.  A pro bono legal clinic will be hosted at the church on Tuesday.  The partnership will also include legal issue training awareness for church leadership through the TFJA and pro bono legal clinics at the church.  Voluntary pro bono attorneys will be available to counsel on a wide variety of civil legal issues.” (The Chattanoogan)

July 5, 2017 – “Veterans who need help identifying legal needs in their lives can take advantage of a new online tool.
Legal Checkup for Veterans, a free website, is part of a signature initiative by ABA President Linda A. Klein to improve legal services for veterans, according to an ABA press release. Legal technology company CuroLegal developed the website with the help of ARAG legal insurance and volunteer experts. The website currently focuses on family law, housing and employment. Users are asked to provide their ZIP code and are asked a series of questions. They include whether the user has stable housing, needs shelter, is getting divorced, has disputes over child custody and property, has a job, and is being discriminated against based on pay. Underneath each question is a ‘more information’ option. For example, the option underneath a question about unequal pay tells the user that federal law and the laws of most states don’t allow larger employers to pay workers differently because of gender, race, national origin, religion, color, disability, sexual orientation or age. At the end of the survey, users are informed about areas of the law where they may have claims and action they can take. Those who have claims related to property distribution in a divorce, for example, are advised to gather documents to support the value of assets and debt. Users can text or email a copy of the page summarizing their potential legal issues to themselves or others so it can be discussed with an advocate or family member. Users can also click on a button that provides them with resources that can help with their legal issues, such as contact information for a free legal services provider or a lawyer referral service. Those with a potential employment claim are provided contact information for the local office of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Contact information for the local veterans service organization may also be listed, depending on the legal issues identified.” (ABA Journal)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

“Norman Dorsen, a passionate human rights advocate who led the American Civil Liberties Union for 15 years and was involved in some of the biggest civil liberties cases of the second half of the 20th century, died on Saturday at his home in Manhattan. He was 86. Mr. Dorsen’s career-long focus on civil liberties was informed by his involvement in the Army-McCarthy Hearings in 1954. He went on to argue Supreme Court cases that established juveniles’ rights to due process and that acknowledged the rights of children born out of wedlock. He was also one of the first lawyers to argue before the court in favor of abortion rights and gay rights. Mr. Dorsen was a key figure at New York University School of Law, where he joined the faculty and became the director of the civil liberties program in 1961. Partly through Mr. Dorsen’s influence, the school gained a reputation for attracting students and faculty with an interest in public interest law.” Our community has lost a great advocate. Read more about his amazing contributions at the link. (The New York Times)

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 City Attorney – Tort Section

The Organization

The City Attorney serves as chief legal counsel for the City of Dallas, providing a full range of legal support as provided by the City Charter, including providing legal opinions and representation on all matters concerning City government; and advising the Mayor, Council, and City Manager on all proposed legislation affecting the City from state and Federal sources.

The Position

Seeking energetic, self-motivated civil litigator with a minimum of three to eight years relevant experience to fill a full-time civil litigation position in the Torts Section of the City Attorney’s Office. Applicants should have experience in federal and Texas state court civil litigation, possess excellent oral and written communication skills, and be willing to work hard as an important member of a team of outstanding lawyers and support staff. The attorney must be licensed to practice law in Texas, and be in good standing with the State Bar of Texas.

Is this the position for you? See the full-post on PSJD.

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