PSJD Public Interest News Digest – August 18, 2017

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

Happy Friday! With all that has happened this week, you may be looking for ways to combat the hate. PSJD has many resources to help you find and connect with pro bono opportunities in your area.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Duke Law School emphasizes public interest with new certificate program;
  • DC lawyers support record-breaking legal aid fundraising campaign;
  • Pennsylvania county launches domestic violence court;
  • Broadway performers vocalize support for Legal Service Corporation at ABA rally;
  • ABA launches second site to assist veterans;
  • SOAR for Justice announces inaugural scholarship;
  • ABA Center for Innovation announces eight inagural fellows;
  • Akin Gump announces new pro bono counsel;
  • Stanford Law School clinic announces website for nonprofit pro bono support;
  • Missouri sued over lack of attorneys for parole violators;
  • New York University School of Law launches new center to support state attorneys general in environmental litigation;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants; and
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

August 11, 2017 – “Duke Law School recently announced its first certificate for Juris Doctor students. The new program—the Public Interest and Public Service Law Certificate—is specifically designed for students who have an interest in public service. Stella Boswell, assistant dean of public interest and career development, said public service jobs have become more competitive in recent years.  As a result, law students have to clearly demonstrate a strong interest in public work—something they can accomplish with the new certificate.” “Students in the program must perform at least 75 hours of community service and work full-time in the public sector during a summer while pursuing their degree. ” (The Chronicle)

August 11, 2017 – “The Generous Associates Campaign is a fundraising drive run by associates at Washington, D.C. law firms each summer. This year’s campaign kicked off on June 1. Although contributors to the campaign include associates, partners, non-lawyers, and the firms themselves, it is a campaign that allows the true generosity of the associates in our legal community to come through in spectacular fashion.” This year, the campaign raised $1.79 million, beating the goal by almost $300,000. (Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia)

August 11, 2017 – “Lancaster County [Pennsylvania] launched a Domestic Violence court Thursday with the goal of providing a safe avenue for victims and immediate treatment for offenders, while more efficiently handling domestic violence cases. A group of specialized prosecutors familiar with the intricacies of domestic-violence cases will handle the court’s caseload. Attorneys from the Public Defender’s Office will be on hand for defendants without private counsel. Twelve defendants appeared before the court during its first session. The court will be held every other Thursday at the Lancaster County Courthouse.” (Penn Live)

August 11, 2017 – “Broadway performers from War PaintHello Dolly and other productions voiced their support for the Legal Services Corp. on Friday by performing at a rally at the ABA Annual Meeting in New York City. The event, titled ‘It’s Only Fair! An ABA Concert and Rally for the Legal Services Corp.,’ was staged in an uncertain budget year for the LSC. President Donald Trump has proposed eliminating all funding for the agency, while House and Senate committees have recommended budget amounts below the LSC’s $527.8 million funding request for fiscal 2018. The LSC is the single largest funder of civil legal aid programs in the United States. ‘This is no time to eliminate or even cut funding to the Legal Services Corp.,’ ABA President Linda A. Klein said between the performers’ songs and speeches by LSC supporters.” “An ABA grassroots campaign has garnered more than 20,000 supporters whose message has been delivered to Congress, Klein said. It’s not too late for others to send their message through www.DefendLegalAid.org. The ABA was there for the birth of the LSC, and it was there in the 1980s and 1990s when policymakers threatened to eliminate funding. The ABA is making the case once again, Klein said, and this time it is armed with better information. Talking points for those who are sending a message to their representatives include the following: Every year, the LSC provides legal aid for 1.9 million individuals and their families. Funding for LSC only accounts for 0.0001 percent of the total federal budget.” (ABA Journal)

August 14, 2017 – “At its annual meeting in New York Saturday, the American Bar Association announced the launch of VetLex.org, a website, developed in partnership with the law firm Jones Day, that matches veterans in need of pro bono legal services with attorneys willing to provide such services. For now, the new site is only accepting registrations from attorneys, law firms and legal organizations interesting in providing services. By Veterans Day, the site will open on a pilot basis in a limited number of cities and states to accept veterans’ cases. The site will become fully operational nationally in 2018, the ABA’s announcement said. Once the site opens to veterans, it will provide an online tool for them to obtain pro bono counsel for their specific legal needs, including civil, criminal or administrative matters. It will also provide educational information on basic legal concepts, and serve as a repository for paperwork, such as DD 214s, that is required by various service providers. The ABA expects that the site will also be used by organizations that serve veterans in helping them find lawyers to assist their clients.” (Law Sites)

August 14, 2017 – “In furtherance of the goal of supporting survivors of abuse with the costs of obtaining a legal education and increasing the number of future lawyers committed to careers in domestic violence advocacy and law reform, the inaugural SOAR for Justice Scholarship awards $500 – $1000 to qualified California law students with proven track records in social justice. Individuals of all races, ethnicities, national origins, religions, ages, sexes, sexual orientations and gender identities, as well as differently abled persons, survivors of domestic violence, candidates from traditionally underrepresented communities and historically oppressed groups, bilingual and bicultural candidates, and those who are the first in their family to complete college or graduate school, are encouraged to apply.” “The deadline to apply is September 29, 2017 and awards will be announced during National Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October 2017.” (SOAR for Justice)

August 14, 2017 – “One will work with the Legal Services Corporation to develop web portals to help low-income Americans find appropriate legal aid resources. Another will help innocence projects develop a tool to better communicate with each other. These will be two of the eight first-time Fellows announced Monday who will work under the umbrella of the American Bar Association Center for Innovation. The Center was established in September 2016 at the recommendation of the ABA Commission on the Future of Legal Services to encourage and accelerate innovations that improve the accessibility, affordability and effectiveness of legal services and to transform how the public accesses the law and legal information. The Fellows, who were selected by the ABA Center for Innovation Fellows Committee, will begin work later this summer. Each will spend between three months and one year at the Center, and the group includes five NextGen Fellows, who will spend a year on projects, and three Innovation Fellows, whose fellowships run up to four months. ‘We’re thrilled to welcome these Fellows to the Center for Innovation,’ ABA President Linda A. Klein said. ‘They’re not only helping lawyers and their clients in creative new ways, they’re also giving us a glimpse into what legal services could look like in the decades to come.'” See the list of fellows and their projects at the link. (ABA Center for Innovation) (Legal News)

August 15, 2017 – “Akin Gump has found its new pro bono counsel, announcing recently that an associate at the firm with a history of work with nonprofits and programs aimed at providing service to immigrants fleeing violent situations would be taking over the position. Lauren Connell, previously an associate in the firm’s corporate practice, will succeed Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP’s first pro bono counsel Fiona Brett and step into a role that will have her assisting in the management of the firmwide pro bono practice, both maintaining relationships with the organizations Akin Gump has previously partnered with, and looking in a variety of fields for new pro bono opportunities for the firm’s attorneys.” (Law 360)(subscription required)

August 15, 2017 – “Stanford Law’s Organizations and Transactions Clinic announced today the launch of a website offering free access to hundreds of sample legal documents for attorneys who represent nonprofit organizations. As described on the website, model legal documents for nonprofits are often hard to find. Several organizations make available corporate governance models, though it’s difficult to find examples of other documents, especially materials relating to charitable programs and other activities specific to nonprofits. ‘We wanted to make a contribution toward addressing that gap in the resource base,’ said Jay A. Mitchell, Professor of Law and director of the clinic. The site’s roughly 200 form and precedent legal documents relate to a wide range of matters, including corporate governance, programmatic and earned income activities, and fiscal sponsorship, resource sharing, affiliation, and other relationships unique to nonprofits. The website also contains brief discussions of the clinic’s approach to the design of legal documents and client communications, which centers on accessibility and practical use by clients. ‘We think it’s instructive to try to learn from the design community in how we approach legal documents. We thought the site was a way to share that point of view in a concrete way,’ continued Mitchell, who has published about the intersections of design and legal documents. Mitchell and Michelle Sonu, Lecturer in Law and Clinical Supervising Attorney, led the project with support from the Robert Crown Law Library and Stanford Law’s communication and information technology departments.” (Stanford Law School Press)

August 15, 2017 – “While many states try to reverse incarceration rates, Missouri is held back by thousands of offenders returning to prison each year for not honoring the terms of their early release. The revolving door from parole violations isn’t unique to the Show-Me state. But a new class-action lawsuit filed Monday alleges that the parole revocation process is a ‘sham’ and ‘byzantine’ because hearings are often never held and Missouri Department of Corrections officials don’t provide attorneys. ‘Plaintiffs are constantly rotated in and out of the prison system — often at the result of non-criminal technical parole violations, and often based upon unsubstantiated accusations that the parolee committed a new criminal offense,’ according to a copy of the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri. ‘The vast majority of parolees in the State of Missouri need and are entitled to appointed counsel to help them navigate these arcane proceedings. Yet, as a matter of practice, procedure, and custom, the Defendants systematically deny indigent parolees their right to counsel.’ Instead, the lawsuit claims, parolees often don’t speak on their own behalf, nor present evidence or cross-examine witnesses during parole revocation proceedings ‘to which they are also constitutionally entitled.'” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

August 17, 2017 – “NYU School of Law announced today the creation of the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center (State Impact Center) dedicated to helping state attorneys general fight against regulatory roll-backs and other actions that undermine key clean energy, climate change, and environmental values and protections. The non-partisan State Impact Center will support state attorneys general on clean energy, climate, and environmental initiatives of regional or national importance in a number of ways, including providing legal, analytic, and communications support, as well as facilitating coordination across multiple offices of state attorneys general.” “A primary goal of the State Impact Center is to enable interested state attorneys general to expand their capacity to take on important clean energy, climate, and environmental matters by recruiting and hiring NYU fellows to serve as special assistant attorneys general.” (NYU News)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants!

ABA Medal winner John Feerick called on lawyers to help close the justice gap by volunteering to help those in need and by supporting the Legal Services Corp. “Why not find a place to serve or create a program that can make a difference?” he asked. Feerick, the former dean at Fordham University School of Law, spoke Saturday in New York City at the ABA Annual Meeting’s General Assembly where he received the ABA Medal, the association’s highest honor. (ABA Journal)

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

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