PSJD Public Interest News Digest – September 8, 2017

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

Happy Friday! This week is more storm damage and the (potential) end of DACA. We’re keeping Florida and the I95 corridor in our thoughts and prayers. Stay tuned to PSJD and the PSJD Blog for opportunities to help in those areas as well as the ongoing efforts in Texas and Louisiana and immigration efforts across the country.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • University of Denver Sturm College of Law offers new Public Good Distinction capstone;
  • Center for Access to Justice launches Access to Justice Map of Georgia;
  • University of Denver Sturm College of Law provides funding for student externships;
  • Gonzaga University School of Law launches new Center for Civil and Human Rights;
  • University of Georgia School of Law announces plans to establish a Veterans Legal Services clinic;
  • Trump rescinds DACA;
  • First Public Service Loan Forgiveness application now available;
  • Latham & Watkins takes up fight against transgender military ban;
  • 15 states, D.C. sue Trump Administration over plan to end DACA;
  • 47 conservative nonprofit leaders denounce Southern Poverty Law Center’s ‘Hate List’ in open letter to media;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants; and
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

August 31, 2017 – “The new school year at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law will bring a fresh crop of students and along with them, new classes and projects to stretch their legal wings. One new class is the Public Good Distinction capstone, headed by Alexi Freeman, an associate professor of the practice and the school’s director of externships and public interest initiatives. She said her desire to do social justice legal work and her background in nonprofit practice motivated her to spearhead the capstone. Freeman said the goal of the course is to build a sense of community that is key for those in public-interest legal practices, as well as to provide guidance on issues relevant to the practice. Some specific issues include financial mentorship, since public-sector attorneys typically do not make as much as those at private firms, as well as managing the emotional stress that can come with the work. Freeman said she believes law schools historically have not done the best job of encouraging students to go into public-sector work, whether through available classes or job-placement assistance, and her goal is to make entering the sector easier and more accessible.” (Law Week Colorado)

August 31, 2017 – “As part of its goal to help identify and better understand the difficulties people face in navigating the justice system, the Center for Access to Justice has produced an online Access to Justice map of Georgia. The map provides insight into attorney representation and other factors that affect how, and if, Georgia residents are able to gain access to the justice system. ‘This map provides a data-driven picture of how the ability to access justice varies dramatically across the state, and particularly between the metropolitan areas and more rural counties,’ said Lauren Sudeall Lucas, center director and associate professor of law. For each Georgia county, the interactive map shows its population and its number of active lawyers, as well as which Atlanta Legal Aid Society or Georgia Legal Services office serves the area. The map also shows percentages of: households that live near public transit, households that do not have access to a vehicle, households with home Internet access, the population that does not speak English at home and population at or below the poverty level.” (Georgia State University News Hub)

August 31, 2017 – “Beginning this year, the [University of Denver Sturm College of Law] endeavored to help students follow the path toward the public sector by providing summer funding for externships to 26 of them. ‘I want every student who envisions themselves as a public sector lawyer to have the opportunity to do so, and public sector externships are a perfect avenue to be reminded of one’s passions and purpose in the midst of the challenging atmosphere of law school,’ [Alexi Freeman, associate professor of the practice of law and director of Externships and Public Interest Initiatives] says.” “As Freeman sees it, the stipend empowers students to make choices that support their dreams and passions. ‘Far too often,’ she says, ‘the public interest legal community loses law students and lawyers to the private sector, not because of a change in interest or motivation, but because of a need to earn more money. While we understand finances are a factor, we definitely want to push back against that trend and allow students to make choices that are not solely based on funds.'” (University of Denver Newsroom)

September 1, 2017 – “The Gonzaga University School of Law is launching a new Center for Civil and Human Rights this fall to further its mission-based commitment to public service and social justice, and to advance understanding of the law surrounding civil rights and civil liberties. Directed by Gonzaga Law Professor Jason Gillmer, the John J. Hemmingson Chair for Civil Liberties, the Center is made possible by a generous gift by John Hemmingson, a member of Gonzaga’s Board of Trustees. The Center will provide students and scholars with opportunities to explore and address issues relating to civil rights and civil liberties, social and criminal justice, public interest law, immigration, Native American law, and international human rights.” “To advance students’ career development, the Center will coordinate efforts with career placement to foster relationships with potential employers, especially career tracks in civil rights and civil liberties, social and criminal justice, public interest law, immigration, Indian law, and international human rights. The Center will offer significant new scholarship and professional development opportunities for faculty as well, and will sponsor an annual lecture from a nationally known scholar of civil rights and civil liberties.” (newswise)

September 2, 2017 – “The University of Georgia School of Law has recently announced plans to establish a Veterans Legal Services clinic to provide local veterans with legal assistance. The clinic aims to give veterans care that ‘they might not otherwise have access to or be able to afford,’ according to a press release from the school of law. ‘It’s a win-win situation,’ said Alexander Scherr, associate dean for clinical programs and experiential learning in the UGA School of Law. ‘I am convinced that there is a long-standing, powerful need for veterans to get equal representation for their claims from the Veterans Administration.’ The clinic is expected to be open by fall of 2018.” (The Red & Black)

September 4, 2017 – “The future of the 800,000 so-called DREAMers is in limbo. The Trump administration is rescinding DACA, probably. Congress has six months to replace the program with one of their own. And Trump tweeted last night that he may revisit the issue if they don’t act. DACA stands for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. And it’s the Obama era executive action that helped nearly 800,000 people brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents find a way to live and work here without fear of being deported. The Homeland Security Department says it will begin an orderly phasing out of the program.” (NPR)

September 5, 2017 – “It’s been 10 years since the launch of Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), which means some borrowers can finally have their loans forgiven through the program. For the first time since PSLF’s beginning, the application to have their loans eliminated is now available.” “There are over 600,000 people enrolled in the PSLF program. Although there may be changes to the PSLF program in the future, any changes would only affect new borrowers. Current borrowers are still eligible for PSLF.” (Student Loan Hero)

September 5, 2017 – “Latham & Watkins represents the LGBT civil rights group Equality California and several transgender members of the military in a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of President Donald Trump’s Aug. 25 directive.” (The National Law Journal)(subscription required)

September 6, 2017 – “Fifteen states and the District of Columbia on Wednesday sued to block President Donald Trump’s plan to end a program protecting young immigrants from deportation — an act Washington state’s attorney general called ‘a dark time for our country.’ The lawsuit was filed in the Eastern District of New York. The plaintiffs were New York, Massachusetts, Washington, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia.” (Time)

September 6, 2017 – “On Wednesday, 47 leaders of conservative nonprofits sent an open letter to the media warning against using the notorious ‘hate map’ put out by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). The leaders denounced any news organization that would cite the SPLC’s list of ‘extremists’ and ‘hate groups’ as if it carried moral authority. ‘The SPLC is an attack dog of the political left’ and should be treated as such, the leaders wrote. ‘To associate public interest law firms and think tanks with neo-Nazis and the KKK is unconscionable, and represents the height of irresponsible journalism,’ the leaders declared. ‘All reputable news organizations should immediately stop using the SPLC’s descriptions of individuals and organizations based on its obvious political prejudices.’ The letter addressed ‘Members of the Media’ and strongly warned against the SPLC. The leaders characterized the organization as ‘a discredited, left-wing, political activist organization that seeks to silence its political opponents with a ‘hate group’ label of its own invention and application that is not only false and defamatory, but that also endangers the lives of those targeted with it.'” (PJ Media)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants!

Community Legal Aid (of Central and Northeast Ohio) plans to recognize Justice for All award recipients at its 65th Anniversary Celebration in September. Honorees will include Akron Children’s Hospital, recipient of the Community Partner Award. The hospital will be recognized for its medical-legal partnership with Community Legal Aid through the Locust Pediatric Care Group, which serves infants, children and adolescents, particularly those with special healthcare needs. Through Project HEAL (health, education, advocacy and law), legal volunteers visit the clinic several days a week. The medical team talks to families to identify issues, and the legal team helps them tackle the challenges they face related to housing, neighborhoods, transportation, education, income stability and access to benefits, according to Maria Duvuvuei, Legal Aid director of development and communication. Others to be presented with Justice for All awards include Nancy Yakubek, of Warren, Pro Bono Award honoree; Alicia Williamson, of Warren, Staff Support Award honoree; and Jaime-Lyn Poh, of Broadview Heights, Staff Attorney Award honoree. (

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

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