PSJD Public Interest News Digest – September 15, 2017

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

Happy Friday! The great need for pro bono legal services in areas hit by storms and fires has just begun. For opportunities to help, stay tuned to the PSJD Blog, follow PSJD on Twitter (@PSJDTweets) and Facebook, or contact your local legal service providers. Together we can help our neighbors recover.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Technology, Harvey and the attorney ‘first responder’;
  • Avvo launches free hotline for DACA program recipients;
  • University of British Columbia Peter A. Allard School of Law launches Cultural Competency Certificate;
  • New immigration pro bono website connects New York lawyers with legal services organizations;
  • Department of Education’s edits of forms call for judicial review in loan forgiveness case, ABA says in filing;
  • Civil Rights Center at University of North Carolina School of Law shut down;
  • Utah will pay for public defenders to represent those arrested in Operation Rio Grande;
  • Florida Bar Foundation allocates up to $500K for civil legal aid after hurricane, establishes fund;
  • Elder rights project launches in Wisconsin, offers legal advice;
  • Minister Monsef announces more than $2.2 million for gender equality projects in British Columbia;
  • DC funds legal assistance for immigrants as DACA recipients worry about the future;
  • Representatives voice support for Legal Services Corporation on House floor;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants; and
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

September 7, 2017 – “Technology is increasingly enabling speedier deployment of emergency legal services, but it’s not the most sophisticated, innovative gadgets that help the most. Instead, it’s the simpler, more accessible technology driving speedier coordination and deployment of legal support services. Sometimes, all it takes is a charged laptop. Social media is a key piece of this strategy. Lowell Brown, communications division director for the State Bar of Texas, said that social media is playing a central role in the state bar’s communications efforts. ‘There is a lot of outreach going on by us and by other attorney organizations on social media, particularly Twitter and Facebook. I’ve seen a lot of people offering services and connecting to service opportunities that way,’ Brown said. The state bar used Twitter to direct hurricane victims to its legal hotline and to direct attorneys to its volunteer form.” “‘I think technology can shorten response times. I think that technology can help people get back to equilibrium faster—the same thing that technology does when there isn’t a natural disaster it can do in this situation,’ Hire an Esquire’s [Irena] Kin said.” (National Law Journal)(subscription required)

September 7, 2017 – “Following the Department of Justice’s announced plans to close the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, Avvo, the world’s leading online legal marketplace connecting consumers and lawyers, today announced it has launched a free hotline for DACA program recipients facing legal issues and questions. The toll-free hotline will help individuals and families by answering basic questions about what the announcement means and how it might affect them. Callers will have access to Avvo’s free Q&A forum and fixed-fee, limited scope legal services for immigration, and can be connected to the local immigration attorney of their choice.” “Any DACA program recipients or family members facing legal issues can seek help by calling Avvo’s toll-free hotline at 1-888-380-4056. The hotline will be managed by Avvo, and is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. – 5 p.m. PST. The DACA program closes its renewal application window on October 5, 2017.” (Markets Insider)

September 7, 2017 – “Law school is in, and this year the University of British Columbia is offering students, faculty, staff and alumni the opportunity to see the world through new eyes. It has launched a Cultural Competency Certificate — believed to be the first in the country — to help participants connect with the Indigenous community and reflect on the impact of Canada’s colonial legal system. The certificate is a starting point, said Patricia Barkaskas, an instructor in the Peter A. Allard School of Law and a Métis person from Alberta. ‘[Participants will] understand what systemic ongoing discrimination based on colonialism really means for people and what as legal professionals do we really need to know.’ The one-year program has six modules and a corresponding session to explore what they have learned in a journal. The latter is a critical element. It offers participants the chance to reflect, analyze and discuss.” (The Lawyer’s Daily)

September 7, 2017 – “The New York State Bar Association and The New York Bar Foundation have sponsored a new website called the Immigration Pro Bono Portal that connects volunteer attorneys with legal service organizations from around the state that serve immigrant communities. ‘The goal is to assist attorneys in finding pro bono volunteer opportunities helping low income immigrant New Yorkers in a way that also benefits the various organizations across the state that are actively working with this population,’ said Kristen Wagner, director of Pro Bono Services at the State Bar. The portal was created in response to a January executive order for a substantial expansion of interior immigration enforcement that left many immigrants in fear of deportation. Without taking political sides on the issue, the State Bar’s Pro Bono Services Department, with guidance from the State Bar’s Committee on Immigration Representation, responded with the creation of the online portal to address the impending legal crisis. Funding for the portal was split evenly between the New York State Bar Association and the New York Bar Foundation. Yuriy Pereyaslavskiy, previously a staff attorney for Legal Services of the Hudson Valley in Kingston, was hired for a one-year fellowship position to staff the online platform. Legal service organizations list their needs on the portal and potential volunteers can search the listings, including by what area of immigration law interests them or may fill out a questionnaire and be provided a potential match by Pereyaslavskiy. Training resources are also available on the portal.” (New York State Bar Association)

September 7, 2017 – “The U.S. Department of Education recently revised two online forms for its Public Service Loan Forgiveness program to say that it applies only to jobs with organizations whose ‘primary purpose’ is either public service or public education. The ABA says in a court filing that this is proof that the change was more than informal and should have been handled through administrative law.” “The Education Department had mentioned ‘primary purpose’ in the past—first in letters to those whose participation in the program was being revoked, then in a response last fall to ABA Executive Director Jack Rives, who questioned the revocations—but argued in a July motion for summary judgment (PDF) that its use of the term was ‘individual, informal, interim, nonprecedential adjudications.’ If the agency were changing its interpretation of its 2008 final rule on the statute, that would open the revocations of program participants to judicial review—a key issue in the litigation. The ABA argues in its lawsuit (PDF) that the agency failed to follow statutory procedures for modifying the regulation in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act and improperly applied the changes retroactively. A spokesman in the Education Department’s press office said Wednesday that the agency does not comment on pending litigation.” (ABA Journal)

September 8, 2017 – “University leaders on Friday voted to strip the Center for Civil Rights at the University of North Carolina School of Law of its ability to litigate cases. The move caps a months-long fight between the predominately Republican board of governors for the University of North Carolina and supporters of the center, who say the board’s push was motivated by politics. Proponents of the litigation ban said that it was inappropriate for a public university entity to sue local governments when taxpayers must foot the bill, and that the scope of its work fell outside the university’s mission. Those who opposed the ban argued that litigation is a key resource in the fight for civil rights, and that the center’s work is a public service and helps educate future lawyers. It’s the second time in two years that the UNC board of governors has taken aim at a law school center. That body in 2015 voted to defund the school’s Center on Poverty, Work, and Opportunity. With Friday’s vote, the board banned all centers within the university system from engaging in litigation, although the law school’s Center for Civil Rights is the only one that currently brings cases in court. Law clinics are exempt from the ban. The center has sued a southeast North Carolina county to stop a landfill being built in a low-income neighborhood, and sued an eastern North Carolina school district alleging segregation, among other matters. The center, which operates exclusively on private money and does not receive state funding, conducts research on civil rights issues, performs community outreach and education, and brings litigation on behalf of clients who are often low-income or minorities. It employs three attorneys but does not house a traditional law clinic. It hires law students as summer interns, who assist in research and on lawsuits. Reconfiguring the center as a law clinic exempt from the ban would be costly, administrators have said. It’s unclear what the new ban means for the future of the center, which was founded in 2011 by the late North Carolina civil rights attorney Julius Chambers. Carol Folt, Chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, wrote in a July letter to the board that the ban would likely force the closure of the center. Both Holt and law dean Martin Brinkley opposed the litigation ban.” (

September 8, 2017 – “Utah’s Indigent Defense Commission will help foot the bill for additional public defenders needed for those arrested in Operation Rio Grande, the commission announced Friday. Salt Lake County was awarded more than $368,000 to hire two new public defenders to represent those who have been charged with crimes as part of local and state officials’ efforts to reduce lawlessness around Salt Lake City’s downtown homeless shelter. The money will be reimbursed to the county quarterly over the next two years. The Indigent Defense Commission (IDC) voted Wednesday to award the grant to the county. It is the second request for funds the commission has approved since it was formed during the 2016 legislative session to oversee public defense services in the state and dole out $1.5 million in state grants to help counties cover costs.” (The Salt Lake Tribune)

September 8, 2017 – “The Florida Bar Foundation’s board of directors has approved allocating up to $500,000 to support legal organizations after Hurricane Irma. The money can be spent to repair building damage, cover equipment losses and help clients with hurricane-related legal issues, according to a press release. The bar foundation has also created the Florida Hurricane Legal Aid Fund to collect donations for civil legal assistance for victims of Hurricane Irma and any hurricanes that follow. In addition, the foundation has created a ‘storm aid’ website providing links to volunteer opportunities for Florida lawyers. The website also provides links to, where Florida residents can find their local legal aid organization, and a link to Florida Free Legal Answers where Floridians can post civil legal questions to be answered by volunteer lawyers.” (ABA Journal)

September 8, 2017 – “As baby boomers continue to age, a renewed effort is launching to keep the elderly safe from abuse and fraud. The Elder Rights Project offers free civil legal assistance to Wisconsin residents 60 years or older who are victims of abuse or crime.” “The Elder Rights Project website, ERP has more information or people can call 1-844-614-5468 to talk with a lawyer. Unlike other services, victims and their families can get Elder Rights Project service regardless of income or assets — it’s not just for low-income. Cases can include physical, sexual and emotional abuse, stalking, harassment, neglect, identity theft and financial exploitation.” (Lodi Enterprise)

September 8, 2017 – “As Canada marks the 150th anniversary of Confederation, it is important to reflect on our legacy for the future. Despite the important milestones witnessed in these 150 years, women, girls, and gender-non-conforming people still face hardships. There is more work remaining for gender equality to become a reality in Canada. By investing in a strong and thriving women’s movement today, we are laying the foundation for gender equality tomorrow. Today, the Honourable Maryam Monsef, Minister of Status of Women, along with the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, announced Government of Canada funding for seven projects that will help advance gender equality in British Columbia.” The list of recipients is at the link. (Markets Insider)

September 12, 2017 – “California leaders took another step to support “Dreamers” on Tuesday by pledging $30 million for legal services and financial aid to help undocumented young people threatened with deportation by the Trump administration. Gov. Jerry Brown, State Sen. President pro Tempore Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) agreed to spend an additional $20 million on immigration legal services and $10 million on college financial aid for young people in California protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.” “The money is part of two identical bills introduced Tuesday in the Assembly and Senate. The governor has until Friday, when the legislative session ends, to sign one of them.” (EdSource)

September 12, 2017 – “Community organizations are launching programs to help immigrants get legal advice as many families worry about the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.” “Mayor Muriel Bowser announced $1 million in grants that will be given to ten different organizations that help immigrant families get legal advice on matters including citizen applications, ‘Know Your Rights’ trainings, and litigation to protect DACA information.” “The mayor’s office also released a guide, Ensuring the Safety and Security of DC’s Immigrant Community, detailing information about resources available to immigrant families.” (NBC4)

September 13, 2017 – “Yesterday, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) introduced an amendment to increase LSC’s funding by $10 million during debate of the FY 2018 Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies appropriations bill. This is the first time a bipartisan amendment to increase LSC funding has ever been offered on the House floor. Although the amendment was withdrawn before a final vote was taken, four members spoke in support of the amendment: Rep. Fitzpatrick (R-PA); Rep. Cohen (D-TN); Rep. Susan Brooks (R-IN); and Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY), the Ranking Member of the CJS appropriations subcommittee. Chairman John Culberson (R-TX) of the subcommittee opposed the amendment, but expressed support for the important work of LSC and his commitment to work to increase the allocation in conference with the Senate.” (Legal Services Corporation)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants!

Ofelia Calderón has been named recipient of the 2017 Lewis F. Powell Pro Bono Award by the Virginia State Bar. Calderón, a founding partner of Calderón Seguin PLC in Fairfax County, will be honored for her work in support of immigrants and others in need of legal support without the resources to afford it. ‘She is the standard-bearer among the private bar for what pro-bono service looks like – [a] model and mentor to countless fellow attorneys,’ said Christine Lockhard Poarch, an attorney who nominated Calderón for the accolade. The award will be presented Oct. 18 during the Virginia State Bar Pro Bono Conference and Celebration, to be held in Charlottesville. (Inside NOVA)

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

The comment form is closed.

RSS feed for comments on this post · TrackBack URL