PSJD Public Interest News Digest – August 11, 2017

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

Happy Friday! This week is bittersweet here at PSJD.  We are thrilled to welcome our 2017-2018 PSJD Fellow Brittany Swett. Brittany comes to us from the University of San Diego School of Law. She is a fantastic addition to the team, and we couldn’t be more excited to start her fellowship year.  But that also means we have to say good-bye to our 2016-2017 PSJD Fellow Delisa Morris. We have had such a great year together, and it is sad that’s it’s coming to an end.  Her contributions to PSJD were invaluable, and we are extremely grateful for her hard work. We also say good-bye to our 2017 Publications Coordinator Allison Katona. She has put together the 2017-2018 Comprehensive Fellowship Guide and contributed in so many other ways.  We are excited to see what she does next.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Big Law’s bid to improve access to justice through pro bono (perspective);
  • Dean Susan Westerberg Prager Endowment Fund to benefit Southwestern Law School public interest students;
  • Virginia attorney general launches new resource guide to help servicemembers;
  • DC Mayor Bowser renews grants that provide legal help to D.C. immigrants;
  • Major new pro bono projects help imprisoned immigrants, struggling students in Atlanta;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants; and
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

August 3, 2017 – Lisa Dewey, Pro Bono Partner at DLA Piper and Director of New Perimeter, Sara Andrews, Senior International Pro Bono Counsel at DLA Piper and Assistant Director for New Perimeter, and Eve Runyon, President and CEO of Pro Bono Institute share an excellent perspective on the expansion of global pro bono as law firms have become more global and government funding cuts have curtailed local response to legal needs. (Bloomberg Law)

August 4, 2017 – “Southwestern Law School announced the establishment of the Dean Susan Westerberg Prager Endowment Fund to benefit the Southwestern Law School Summer Public Interest Law Grant program which is supported through fundraising efforts of the Public Interest Law Committee (PILC). Sterling Franklin, trustee of Morris S. Smith Foundation and a friend of Dean Prager, established the Fund with a $50,000 gift.  The endowment will generate an annual $2,000 Prager Summer Grant to support one student doing public interest law work.  The Fund’s 2017 awardee is Ms. Jeannette Beaudelaire ’18.” (SWLaw Blog)

August 4, 2017 – “ A new online resource to help meet the legal needs of servicemembers, military families and veterans in Virginia has been launched. Attorney General Mark Herring announced the launch of the Virginia Military and Veteran Legal Resources Guide on Friday. The resource will help them with legal protections, rights and resources that are currently available under the law.” “The Virginia Military and Veteran Legal Resource Guide was created by volunteer attorneys from Herring’s office who spent more than a year developing it. It is available online, and it will be distributed in hard copy and digital in conjunction with the Virginia Department of Veterans Services, veteran service organizations and others. Some of the topics covered in the new guide include employment help with the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act and continuing health care. It also covers consumer protections such as the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act limiting interest rates on loans, the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children, tax deductions and exemptions for certain military pay, family law regarding child custody and visitation protections, programs ensuring access to ballots for deployed servicemembers, and access to legal services.” (CBS 19)

August 8, 2017 – “After announcing $500,000 in grants to serve immigrants in D.C. facing or fearing deportation in January, Mayor Muriel Bowser’s administration is bringing the grants back for a second year. ‘It is a clear need for residents in the District, and we’re addressing it,’ says Betsy Cavendish, the mayor’s general counsel. ‘Washington, D.C. is blessed with a very civicly engaged bar and our lawyers are some of the most generous pro bono givers of their time and expertise in the country. And we are also fortunate to have a very diverse population that brings great cultural contributions from around the world to the city. We’re matching up that vibrant sector of our community with the attorneys to hopefully provide more security.'”  (DCist)

August 9, 2017 – “Pro bono leaders from the city’s big firms gathered at Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton on Tuesday for updates from Dan Werner of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and Michael Lucas of Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation (AVLF) on two ambitious new pro bono initiatives that are quickly gaining traction. The SPLC launched an unprecedented deportation defense project at the Stewart Detention Center in April, and AVLF last year started a project at Thomasville Heights Elementary School in southwest Atlanta that provides legal aid to resolve housing problems that cause children to struggle with school and miss days. Both pilot projects embed staff lawyers on-site—at the immigration court and the elementary school, respectively—and recruit volunteer lawyers from the private bar to help with individual cases. Each has gained enough support to start expanding to new locations, Werner and Lucas told the Atlanta Pro Bono Roundtable members.” (Daily Report)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants!

University of Windsor associate professor Reem Bahdi is the 2017 recipient of the Guthrie Award from the Law Foundation of Ontario, in recognition of her contributions to the field of access to justice. Bahdi says it has an intuitive appeal. “Wrapped up in the idea of human dignity is the idea that everybody is equal, everybody is entitled to human rights, everybody has potential.” “And in an ideal world, we would live in a way that allows individuals to live up to their potential and not put social or political or economic barriers in the way.” As a legal scholar, she’s particularly interested in access to justice. Bahdi helped develop the Palestinian justice system, created a model for judicial education to advance human rights in the West Bank by promoting human dignity and worked to form Windsor’s mandatory access to justice course for law students. Dean of law Christopher Waters noted Bahdi’s diverse contributions to legal education have put her at the forefront of access to justice, theoretically and literally. Read more about her amazing work at the link. (Windsor Star)

Music Bonus! Music pick from the PSJD Fellow Brittany Swett.

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