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.

The comment form is closed.

RSS feed for comments on this post · TrackBack URL