Archive for Public Interest Law News Bulletin

PSJD Public Interest News Digest – October 21, 2016

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

Happy Friday! Registration is closing soon for the 2016 NALP/PSJD Public Service Mini-Conference. Register now! And as we will be sharing our news with you in person next week, the Digest will return on November 4th.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • PACER fees face major legal test;
  • D.C. Council to consider free legal help for poor residents in housing cases;
  • USC Gould launches new public interest law certificate;
  • Check in with Washington’s Limited-License Legal Technician program;
  • The Utah Indigent Defense Commission hires executive director;
  • Florida Access to Civil Justice Commission re-established;
  • The U.S. should have a Defender General;
  • Fordham University School of Law launches new access to justice initiative;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

October 14, 2016 – “The paywall that surrounds Pacer (Public Access to Court Electronic Records), an online database of papers filed by litigants in the US federal courts, is facing what may be its most serious test since the service emerged 28 years ago. Judge Ellen Huvelle of the US district court in Washington DC is expected to decide in the coming days whether a lawsuit accusing the government of setting Pacer fees at unlawfully high rates can proceed. The case, which is seeking class-action certification, is being led by three nonprofits: the National Veterans Legal Service Program, the National Consumer Law Center, and the Alliance for Justice. Each group says it has downloaded documents from Pacer and incurred charges alleged to exceed the cost of providing the records. All say the setup violates the E-Government Act of 2002, which authorizes the judiciary to ‘prescribe reasonable fees’—and which the plaintiffs argue should limit the government to charge users ‘only to the extent necessary’ to make the information available.” “The Appropriations Committee has not commented on the lawsuit. Nor has the Administrative Office or the US Department of Justice (DOJ), which is defending the case. But in court papers asking Huvelle to dismiss the lawsuit, the DOJ contends that the policies governing use of Pacer obligate users who think they have been billed in error to first request a refund from Pacer’s service center, an assertion that at least one federal court has rejected. The plaintiffs counter that the lawsuit has nothing to do with billing errors, but rather that the fees themselves are too high.” (Quart)

October 14, 2016 – “The D.C. Council is considering legislation that would provide free legal counsel to low-income tenants in certain housing cases, including evictions, housing code violations and rental subsidy program issues. The bill, written by council member Kenyan R. McDuffie (D-Ward 5), would create a funding stream for the D.C. Bar Foundation, the nonprofit group that provides most legal aid to D.C. residents involved in civil cases. Under McDuffie’s plan, the D.C. Bar Foundation would administer grants for lawyers to represent tenants with incomes at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty line. The council’s Judiciary Committee, chaired by McDuffie, will hold a hearing on the bill Wednesday.” “The legislation is part of McDuffie’s ultimate goal of establishing a ‘right to counsel’ in all civil cases in the District. Just as indigent criminal defendants are entitled to free legal help, low-income residents should be provided no-cost lawyers for a range of legal disputes, McDuffie said.” (Washington Post)

October 17, 2016 – “USC Gould School of Law is offering a new Public Interest Law certificate for students with social justice aspirations and interest in working in the non-profit or government sectors after graduating. Gould students will hone their skills by choosing an organized set of courses exposing them to important areas of nonprofit and government law, taking on an in-depth writing project, and working on real-world problems through clinics, practicum courses or externships.” (PR Newswire)

October 17, 2016 – “Those who cannot afford a lawyer have a new resource in Clallam County in the form of Vanessa Ridgway, the first limited-license legal technician to practice on the North Olympic Peninsula. She is only the 17th such technician in the state. Ridgway was sworn in to the Washington State Bar Association as an LLLT last Wednesday. ‘It is very exciting for me to be a pioneer in this field, and it’s also very rewarding,’ Ridgway said Friday. ‘I have always had a desire to help others find justice.’ Washington is the first state in the country to offer the services of LLLTs — intended as an affordable legal support option to help meet the needs of those unable to afford the services of an attorney, according to the state bar association. The state Supreme Court, with help from the state bar association, created the category of limited-license legal technician in 2015. LLLTs are trained and licensed to advise and assist people going through divorce, child custody and other family law matters in Washington.” (Peninsula Daily News)

October 17, 2016 – “The Utah Indigent Defense Commission announces that Joanna E. Landau has been hired as its Executive Director. Ms. Landau is highly qualified, and brings her experience as a public defender with the Salt Lake Legal Defenders Association, where she worked for several years representing indigent criminal defendants on appeal to the Utah Supreme Court and Utah Court of Appeals. She also assisted many trial court judges while working as an attorney in the Third District Court. Pursuant to legislation sponsored by Utah State Senator Todd Weiler and passed in the 2016 General Session, Ms. Landau will work with the Commission and local governments to assist the state in meeting its obligations to provide assistance of counsel to indigent defendants, consistent with the state and federal Constitutions and the Utah Code. To fulfill that obligation, the legislation tasks the Commission with many duties, including the development of guiding principles to assess and oversee indigent criminal defense services in the state, and using legislatively-appropriated funds to make grants to local governments to assist them in providing constitutional indigent defense services. Creation of the Commission was recommended after a multi-year study of indigent defense services in Utah, conducted by a Task Force of prosecutors, defense lawyers, judges, local government representatives and legislators. The 11 voting members of the Commission were appointed by Governor Herbert and confirmed by the Senate over the summer. With Ms. Landau on board, the Commission can begin its work.” (

October 17, 2016 – “On Tuesday, Chief Justice Jorge Labarga signed an eight-page administrative order that re-established the Florida Commission on Access to Civil Justice as one of the court’s standing committees. Formed in November 2014, the commission expired June 30. Thousands of Floridians struggling to make ends meet, including many residents with moderate incomes, still face barriers when they seek access to civil justice, Labarga said when he signed the order. So the work to bring down those barriers must continue, he added. The permanent commission will ‘study the remaining unmet civil legal needs of disadvantaged, low income and moderate income Floridians,’ the order states. The order directs the commission to examine the issue from all perspectives and consider the viewpoints of all entities involved in civil justice, including staffed legal aid programs, pro bono services, resources provided to help people who choose to — or must — represent themselves, technology solutions and ‘other models and potential innovations.’ Labarga will chair the 23-member commission through mid-2018. West Palm Beach attorney Gregory Coleman, a past president of The Florida Bar, will serve as chair of the commission’s executive committee.” (Daily Record)

October 19, 2016 – Dean Andrea D. Lyon of Valparaiso University Law School makes an excellent case for a Defender General, along the lines of the U.S. Attorney General and Solicitor General. “There has been no voice at the policy table for the accused, incarcerated and paroled. We have an attorney general of the United States. We have a solicitor general of the United States. The only lawyer that is enshrined in the United States Constitution is referenced in the Sixth Amendment: ‘In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to … the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.’ Yet, the defense is not, and has not been a part of policy decisions regarding criminal justice matters. There is currently no office to represent criminal justice interests at the executive level the way that the attorney general does.” (Indiana Lawyer)

October 19, 2016 – “Judges from along the Eastern seaboard convene at Fordham University School of Law Wednesday night for a discussion on the intersection between civil and criminal access to justice and how to better handle the overlapping deficiencies in both systems. The panel marked the launch of the law school’s new access to justice initiative and the relocation of the National Center for Access to Justice—an independent nonprofit that utilizes data to improve the justice system—to Fordham from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. The center had been housed at Cardozo for the past five years.” (New York Law Journal)(subscription required)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

Foley Hoag LLP pro bono managing attorney Rebecca Cazabon is the recipient of the 2016 MAHA Leadership Award, given by the Massachusetts Association of Hispanic Attorneys (MAHA). Cazabon is being recognized for her longstanding advocacy in promoting social justice for victims of domestic and sexual violence, as well as her dedication and commitment on behalf of the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable. As managing attorney for Foley Hoag’s pro bono program, Cazabon coordinates and oversees all pro bono work for the firm and facilitates pro bono training initiatives. She also represents low-income domestic violence and sexual assault survivors in abuse prevention, immigration, privacy, housing, criminal advocacy and appellate matters. Congratulations! (Foley Hoag News)

Music Bonus!  Music pick from the PSJD Fellow Delisa Morris.


PSJD Public Interest News Digest – October 14, 2016

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

Happy Friday! It’s October, and we’re looking forward to welcoming Deborah Vagins, Chief of Staff and Principal Attorney Advisor for the Office of Commissioner Charlotte Burrows at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) as the keynote speaker of the 2016 NALP/PSJD Public Service Mini-Conference. NALP member public interest career counselors, pro bono program managers, and other public-service career professionals from the law school and employer communities – join us for some great programming. Register now!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma launches state-wide expungement project;
  • Six Alaska tribal health facilities to add legal aid;
  • Legal Services, Part 2: technology’s part in closing the justice gap;
  • DLA Piper’s Krantz Fellowship recipients spend a year doing pro bono;
  • Squire Patton Boggs Public Interest Fellowship goes abroad;
  • Six million in federal grants awarded to Michigan criminal justice agencies;
  • University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s law school launches business law clinic;
  • Northeast New Jersey Legal Services received $460,000 grant to aid domestic violence survivors;
  • Virginia State Bar won’t back pro bono reporting;
  • Behind the redesigned;
  • New Mexico public defenders office files a notice of unavailability of lawyers to represent adult criminal defendants;
  • A look at legal tech and access to justice in Canada;
  • Ensure eligibility for Public Service Loan Forgiveness;
  • Ontario celebrates inaugural Access to Justice Week;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

October 6, 2016 – “Numbers used to describe Oklahomans who are or have been incarcerated are staggering. As of 2014, the National Institute of Corrections reported that the state has an estimated 79 percent higher rate of adults in prison per 100,000 people than the national average. In addition, one in 12 Oklahomans are estimated to have a felony conviction on his or her record. Due to this, Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma (LASO) ‘has observed that many Oklahomans with criminal records have trouble finding or maintaining a job, experience difficultly obtaining housing, and find their records to be a barrier to accessing education.’ In an effort to combat this trend, LASO has partnered with Pro Bono Net, with funding from Legal Services Corporation, to create an online program targeted at helping people expunge their criminal records and have a smoother transition to a normal way of life.” “The program partners with pro bono attorneys who can connect with people eligible for the program through a secured online portal. Those using it will be able to prepare legal documents and converse with the attorneys and give them easier access to starting the process of expungement, especially for Oklahomans living in rural areas.” (Stillwater News Press)

October 6, 2016 – “Hospitals typically are not in the business of providing legal aid to patients, but several tribal health facilities in Alaska are going to start doing just that. The pilot project is being funded through a multi-state grant that’s placing AmeriCorps volunteers in tribal facilities in six states. Nicole Nelson is executive director of the nonprofit Alaska Legal Services, which serves low income and disadvantaged people. She said the new partnerships with tribal health organizations will help Alaskans enjoy the same rights and privileges as other Americans.” “Nelson said Alaska Legal Services has fewer than 30 attorneys statewide so the addition of six AmeriCorps members is a significant expansion. She said it will help address unmet needs, and take legal services to where the people are.” (KNBA)

October 7, 2016 – In this Legaltech news article, author Ian Lopez recaps the discussion regarding legal tech and access to justice that took place at Thomson Reuters’ annual Law Firm Leaders Forum, titled, ‘The Future of Legal Services in the United States: The ABA Issues a Clarion Call for Change.’ “Judy Perry Martinez, chair of the American Bar Association’s presidential commission on the future of legal services, the organization behind the report, suggested that lawyers need to begin working with technologists and engineers on new solutions for persisting legal problems. She said that the ABA group behind the report currently has a governing council that includes a founder of the MIT Innovation Lab and an angel investor.” (Legaltech news)(subscription required)

October 7, 2016 – “Jennifer Eldridge, a first year associate in DLA Piper’s Chicago office, has big aspirations for the next 12 months: She hopes to assist domestic violence victims, file asylum paperwork for refugees, and help some past offenders clear their juvenile criminal records. It’s a bit different than the standard associate workload because Eldridge is one of two recipients of DLA Piper’s Krantz Fellowship, which gives her an entire year to only work on pro bono projects. ‘I’m really looking to get some litigation experience,’ said Olga Slobodyanyuk, the other recipient of the fellowship. ‘You get to run your own discovery, potentially go to trial, talk to opposing counsel, have your own practice going. That’s a great experience.’ With around 4,000 lawyers and 90 offices around the world, DLA Piper is taking advantage of its vast resources and allowing two associates to spend a year working on pro bono projects. There’s no contract that requires the associates to stay at the firm at the end of the year, but DLA Piper believes the investment will help groom the associates and claims it’s the only firm offering associates a full year of pro bono work at the same salary. Overall, it placed 28th on The American Lawyer’s 2016 national pro bono ranking, with its lawyers clocking an average of 73.3 hours per week — the firm has said the average for associates is actually higher. It’s not alone in its pro bono efforts: other firms including Arnold & Porter, Paul Hastings and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, offer programs that allow summer associates to split their time between firm and public interest. Hogan Lovells offers first-year associates four-month pro bono rotations, and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom offers externships with the Legal Aid Society’s Community Law Office and Lawyers Alliance for New York. DLA Piper founded its fellowship in 2011, which it named after retired DLA Piper partner Sheldon Krantz, a former director of New Perimeter, a nonprofit firm affiliate that develops pro bono projects in under-served regions around the world.” (Bloomberg Law)

October 7, 2016 – “A foundation funded by Squire Patton Boggs is broadening its scope by providing fellowships to students at law schools in Qatar and Belgium. For more than a decade, the nonprofit, now called the Squire Patton Boggs Foundation, has funded fellowships for American law school students who wish to do public interest work in the summer. This fall the firm’s Brussels office will establish a similar fellowship at the College D’Europe in Bruges. The firm will also fund a fellowship for a Russian student doing graduate work in human rights law at the George Washington University Law School. “We are exploring fellowships with other of the firms European office locations,” said the foundation’s president, John Oberdorfer, a retired partner at legacy firm Patton Boggs. ‘The hope is to be able to expand in that direction.'” (The American Lawyer)

October 7, 2016 – “Criminal justice agencies across Michigan will receive more than $6 million in federal grants to strengthen anti-drug and crime fighting efforts, Gov. Rick Snyder announced today. Funding comes from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne JAG) Program and the Residential Substance Abuse Treatment for State Prisoners (RSAT) Program. Grants include $2.32 million to multijurisdictional task forces that investigate drug crimes and other categories of crime in regions of the state.” (mLive)

October 7, 2016 – “The University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s law school has received a $1 million grant to create the state’s first business innovation clinic. The grant from the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office was announced Friday for UALR’s William H. Bowen School of Law. The new clinic will focus on providing business law advice and services to small businesses, nonprofit organizations and others. Law students, under the supervision of a business law attorney, will work with entrepreneurs to launch and build their businesses, negotiate contracts and protect ideas and innovations. The clinic will also offer educational programs.” (THV11)

October 10, 2016 – “A Hackensack-based not-for-profit law firm has been awarded nearly half a million dollars to help provide legal services to victims of domestic violence and sexual assaults in Hudson County. Northeast New Jersey Legal Services received the $460,000 grant from the Department of Justice to fund its ‘Hudson Legal Assistance for Victims Project,’ a program targeted to help victims — particularly recent immigrants — obtain free legal services in domestic or sexual assault cases. John H. Fitzgerald, executive director of the firm, said in a statement the three-year grant will help victims who already face a number of legal costs, including restraining orders, to protect them from their attacker.” (

October 10, 2016 – ” A proposal to require lawyers to report their pro bono contributions each year will go to the Supreme Court of Virginia without the blessing of the Virginia State Bar. Members of the VSB Council voted 29-25 Friday not to endorse mandatory reporting of pro bono hours and donations.” (Virginia Lawyers Weekly)(subscription required)

October 11, 2016 – In a follow up to last week’s articles criticizing federal hiring, here’s a good review of the changes to USAJobs launched in August and where OPM hopes to take the system with the upcoming October changes. “The Office of Personnel Management delivered perhaps the most sweeping update to its federal employment website in August since first moving the hiring process online about 20 years ago. While the website in the last two decades has seen scattered progress as the digitized hub for government hiring — one which many have bemoaned as largely ineffective and too complicated — OPM now has its sights set on transforming USAJobs ‘from a job board to a career portal,’ Michelle Earley, the site’s program manager, told FedScoop.” (FedScoop)

October 11, 2016 – “Felony cases have spiked amid a struggling economy in the oil patch of Southeastern New Mexico, and now the Hobbs Public Defender says it won’t accept any more clients because it does not have the resources to adequately represent them. The decision to deny public representation to criminal defendants in Hobbs may just be the beginning of a trend in courthouses where strained budgets have become a way of life because of the state’s budget crisis. Other areas of the state could face the same problem of not having the means to provide lawyers to indigent defendants, said Ben Baur, New Mexico’s chief public defender. ‘What we’re saying right now is that ethically we cannot represent people on new cases,’ he said Monday. ‘Right now we’re struggling to handle the ones we have.’ The Hobbs News-Sun reported that the public defender’s office in Hobbs has filed a notice of unavailability of lawyers to represent adult criminal defendants appearing in Magistrate Court. Baur on Monday told The New Mexican he made the decision from Santa Fe ‘because of the high caseloads and the lack of staff to handle the increased caseloads in Hobbs right now.'” (

October 11, 2016 – There is a vibrant discussion going on in Canada about the role legal technology could and should play in closing the access to justice gap.  Here is a look at access and legal tech that posits that perhaps taken as a whole, it appears we’ve made more progress than we actually have. “While increasing efficiency has the potential to reduce costs, there are a number of arguments to suggest that this will not have a real impact on access to justice.” (Slaw)

October 12, 2016 – U.S. News & World Reports contributor Betsy Mayotte for Student Loan Ranger wrote a good article you can share with your alumni about to seek loan forgiveness and those just starting with qualifying employers. (U.S. News & World Report)

October 13, 2016 – “Five exceptional events will mark Ontario’s inaugural Access to Justice Week (A2J), which will be held in Toronto from October 17-21, 2016. This week will include a range of engagement and learning opportunities for the public, legal professionals, community workers, students and other access to justice advocates — including remarks from The Honourable Yasir Naqvi, Attorney General of Ontario. Organized by TAG, The Action Group on Access to Justice, along with the Law Society of Upper Canada and other partners, the week will feature key access to justice issues including technology, child welfare and public legal information.” (CNW)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

Casa Cornelia, a nonprofit that provides free legal services for immigration cases, has named Jae Park as its attorney of the year. Park, a litigator for the global law firm Dentons, spends most of his professional hours handling business-related disputes. For the past 10 years, he has also volunteered his time to take on cases for Casa Cornelia’s clients, work he said is especially meaningful to him because he is also an immigrant. His family moved to the United States from Korea when he was 12. ‘I know how challenging it is to move to another country where you don’t know anyone, you don’t know the language, you don’t know the system and have to adjust to that,’ Park said. ‘Being able to help these refugees who have come with nothing in their pockets and risk their lives to save their lives, I really connected with that feeling.’ Casa Cornelia has been part of San Diego’s immigration law community for more than 20 years. It started by dealing with asylum cases and today represents three main groups of immigrants: asylum seekers, immigrants who have been victims of serious crimes and children. The organization also works to educate the community about immigration law and policies. (The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Music Bonus!  Music pick from the PSJD Fellow Delisa Morris.


PSJD Public Interest News Digest – October 7, 2016

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

Happy Friday! Welcome to October and the official start of pumpkin spice everything.  We are also looking forward to the 2016 NALP/PSJD Public Service Mini-Conference for NALP member public interest career counselors, pro bono program managers, and other public-service career professionals from the law school and employer communities. Register now!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • University of Oregon School of Law receives grant to expand domestic violence clinic;
  • Legal Services Corporation announces 11 Pro Bono Innovation Grant recipients;
  • Pennsylvania Supreme Court orders adequate funding for public defense;
  • Gulfcoast Legal Services Executive Director retires after federal audit finding deficient record-keeping;
  • University of Hawai’i Mānoa law school breaks ground on new clinical building;
  • Senate subcommittee holds hearing on hiring in federal government;
  • Indiana Legal Services receives grant to aid seniors;
  • Federal funding for fair housing initiatives in Massachusetts;
  • Georgia State University College of Law establishes Center for Access to Justice;
  • University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law opens new tax clinic;
  • Office of Personnel Management’s Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey detailed results are out;
  • Technology CLE’s now required in Florida;
  • University of Michigan Law School receives grant to examine shaken-baby cases;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

September 28, 2016 – “The Domestic Violence Clinic at the University of Oregon School of Law has been awarded $300,000 by the Oregon Department of Justice to continue and expand its office of Student Survivor Legal Services.” “The new grant will permit the office to offer legal services to students at Lane Community College and Northwest Christian University, in addition to the UO.  Professor Merle Weiner, faculty director of the Domestic Violence Clinic and writer of the grant from the Department of Justice, said, ‘Legal services are vitally important to student survivors on all types of campuses. It is incumbent upon us all to think of creative ways to offer such services when they are not available. This grant will allow the Domestic Violence Clinic to offer a post-graduate fellowship to a graduate of the law school while also serving survivors on other campuses.'” (University of Oregon School of Law News)

September 29, 2016 – “The Legal Services Corporation announced today that 11 legal aid organizations will receive grants to support innovations in pro bono legal services for low-income clients. The grants from LSC’s Pro Bono Innovation Fund are intended to encourage new and robust pro bono efforts and partnerships to serve more low-income people.” The full list of grantees is available here. (Legal Services Corporation)

September 30, 2016 – “The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, in a precedent-setting ruling, found Friday that county governments have a constitutional responsibility to provide counsel to poor criminal defendants and ensure that their defense is adequately funded. The ruling came in a lawsuit by the former head of the Office of the Public Defender in Luzerne County and several criminal defendants, who alleged that funding cuts by the county commissioners had severely hampered the ability of the office to provide adequate representation in criminal cases.” “Typically, criminal defendants who assert that they have been represented by ineffective counsel do so after a conviction and on a case-by-case basis. Friday’s decision permits lawsuits alleging inadequate criminal defense when a local government fails to adequately fund its public defender’s office, effectively creating a new cause of action. The ruling did not provide financial guidelines to local governments. But it said public defender’s offices should be able to engage in timely consultation with clients, adequately investigate matters, and take other steps to test the prosecution’s case.” (The Inquirer Daily News)

September 30, 2016 – “The executive director, John Dubrule, of Gulfcoast Legal Services has retired in the wake of a critical federal audit report that said the agency failed to properly document how it spent $753,158 in federal grants.” “In its report, the inspector general for the U.S. Department of Justice rapped Gulfcoast for failing to conduct a required audit of how it spent money from two grants it received to help victims of human trafficking and domestic violence. ‘While we found no evidence of fraudulent reporting involving grant funds,’ the report said, ‘in our judgment Gulfcoast’s records provide no assurance that grant funds are being paid only for grant-related activities.’ Among other problems, the report said, Gulfcoast did not require its staff members to track their time. It also submitted ‘inaccurate financial reports’ to the Justice Department offices that awarded the grants, and was slow to respond to the inspector general’s ‘repeated requests’ for information. In his response to the report, Dubrule blamed Gulfcoast’s failure to comply with grant requirements on ‘significant turnover,’ the temporary outsourcing of bookkeeping and financial reporting, and accounting software that ‘was not as robust as needed for efficient grant reporting.’ ‘While we cannot undo past transgressions,’ he wrote, ‘we have put protocols in place to prevent future issues. Gulfcoast also conducted the required audit.'” Dubrule served as executive director since 2014. (Tampa Bay Times)

September 30, 2016 – “The groundbreaking ceremony was held for the new Clinical Building at the William S. Richardson School of Law at UH Mānoa. The new building will serve as space for the growing clinical care offered by law school students and faculty as part of course work for graduation. This clinical service provides thousands of hours of free legal help to some of Hawai’i’s most vulnerable people, including the elderly, troubled and incarcerated youth, veterans, and families living at or near poverty levels. It will also provide much-needed space to develop practical trial and advocacy skills.  Students are required to serve a minimum of 60 hours of pro bono work in order to graduate.” (University of Hawai’i News)

September 30, 2016 – “The New Jersey State Bar Association is launching a Pro Bono Month e-campaign with the aim of getting attorneys to volunteer to help your clients. Lawyers Helping New Jersey will run Oct. 1-31. It will allow attorneys to volunteer to handle a matter for one of the state’s many pro bono providers. Attorneys can browse the categories of cases each provider handles to volunteer for one that best suits their interests or practice areas. All of the providers are on the Madden exemption list.” Visit to learn more. (New Jersey Law Journal)

September 30, 2016 – While the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management’s hearing focused on bringing in new, millennial talent to replace the retiring federal workforce, the hearing did paint a bleak picture of overall federal hiring.  There have been several new initiatives in the past few years designed to make the time for hiring window smaller.  The exact opposite has been the result, with an increase from an average of 90 days in 2013 to 99.6 days in 2015.  While most attorney positions are excepted service (and thus not representative of most of the hiring discussed) the articles provide a good overview of hiring authorities and demonstrate how government is going in the wrong direction with the hiring reform efforts. The bottom line is there may now be too many ways into the federal government, and hiring managers are having trouble using them.

“And this year, OPM began the Hiring Excellence Campaign to better educate hiring managers and human resources specialists about the existing authorities they have to bring in new talent. But persistent, repeat challenges are preventing agency chief human capital officers from hiring new talent — particularly candidates under age 40— more quickly. And removing those barriers will likely take many debate-filled proposals to shift the status quo. ‘It seems like every year or two there’s a new initiative,’ Subcommittee Chairman James Lankford (R-Okla.) said. ‘I understand some of those are for different people groups as well, and those are all strategic areas. My challenge is … when we come back to the data … in 2013, it took about 90 days to do a hiring. In 2014, it took 94.4 days to do a federal hire. In 2015, it now takes 99.6 days. Our length of time to actually get there is getting longer.'” (Federal News Radio)

“Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) read a list of government projects that once promised to bring new life to the federal hiring process, only to then show it in steadily declining health.” “Mark Reinhold, OPM’s chief human capital officer and associate director for employee services, defended the latest endeavor, saying the Hiring Excellence Campaign is designed to bring all the others together. ‘We’re attempting to take a more holistic approach,” he said, ‘so that we don’t over-emphasize any of those important aspects of hiring.'” (Washington Post)

And in related news: “President Barack Obama is directing America’s national security agencies to promote more diversity in their ranks, arguing that inclusiveness is an ‘imperative’ in a still-dangerous but increasingly interconnected world. Obama lays out his instructions in a Presidential Memorandum released Wednesday.” Read more about the directive here and the companion blog post here. (Politico)

October 2, 2016 – “A nonprofit law firm that aids low-income Indiana residents has won a $400,000 federal grant to help seniors who’ve fallen victim to neglect, battery or financial scams. Indiana Legal Services says the two-year grant will allow it to help about 400 seniors age 60 or older who’ve been victimized by helping them avoid eviction, seek protective orders against abusers and arrange other assistance for them. The grant was awarded through the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute to the nonprofit legal firm that provides free civil legal assistance to eligible low-income people through eight regional offices. Executive Director Jon Laramore says senior abuse has risen along with Indiana’s growing senior population. He says more safeguards are needed to protect seniors, particularly those who are ill or live on small, fixed incomes.” (San Francisco Chronicle)

October 3, 2016 – “Worcester’s Community Legal Aid has received $300,000 out of $1.9 million in federal funding to bankroll fair housing initiatives in Massachusetts. The grant is through the Fair Housing Initiatives Program (FHIP) to assist victims of housing discrimination. ‘Community Legal Aid in Worcester and fair housing organizations across Massachusetts play a vital role in our communities by working to prevent discrimination in housing,’ Congressman Jim McGovern said in a statement. ‘This new federal funding will help so many families by supporting the great work local organizations are doing to protect equal access to housing for everyone in Massachusetts.’ Other organizations in Massachusetts receiving awards were:

  • Fair Housing Center of Greater Boston (Boston) – $300,000
  • HAP, Inc. (Springfield) – $125,000
  • Massachusetts Fair Housing Center, Inc. (Holyoke) – $300,000
  • SouthCoast Fair Housing, Inc. (New Bedford) – $425,000
  • Suffolk University (Boston) – $423,778″


October 3, 2016 – “Georgia State University College of Law has established the Center for Access to Justice, a regional and national base for the study of issues relating to access to criminal and civil justice for those with limited financial means. Similar centers exist across the United States, but there are none in the Southeast region. ‘There is a critical need in this area to ensure that the justice system functions fairly and effectively,’ said Lauren Sudeall Lucas, assistant professor of law and the center’s faculty director. ‘The experience of lower-income civil and criminal litigants is often fundamentally different from those with financial means. There are a lot of problems endemic to that system and not a lot of information available to understand the full scope of the problem or to find effective solutions.'” “Lucas will work with Darcy Meals, the center’s assistant director, and student fellows to generate, highlight and disseminate research that helps identify and better understand the problems people have in gaining access to justice, as well as inform potential solutions.” (Newswise)

October 3, 2016 – “A new tax clinic at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law aims to provide legal services to low-income families in need of tax law help while providing law students a unique educational opportunity to gain on-the-job experience before graduation. The Low Income Taxpayer Clinic program is a matching grant program from the Internal Revenue Service that provides federal funds to organizations so they in turn can provide services to taxpayers who are low income or who speak English as a second language. The University of Utah this month joins the list of several clinics across the country who help clients in need.” (University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law News)

October 3, 2016 – “The agency-by-agency results from the Office of Personnel Management’s Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey are out, and most agencies improved on their scores from last year. In 2016, overall satisfaction among federal employees improved one percentage point government-wide for the second consecutive year. The two major indices measure ’employee engagement’ (employees’ feelings about their job, organization and pay) and ‘global satisfaction’ (how satisfied they are with their leaders and the work experience). The average employee engagement score was 65 percent, and the average global satisfaction score was 61 percent. Just 6 of 37 large agencies experienced declines in their engagement scores, and 7 of the 37 saw dips in their satisfaction scores. Generally, small agencies performed better than large ones.” (FCW)

October 4, 2016 – While the technology CLE requirement has implications for more than just public interest attorneys, legal technology is a particularly important tool in bridging the justice gap. “[L]ast week Florida adopted new language into its Bar Rules which requires lawyers to stay abreast of legal technology advancements while also mandating that lawyers complete 3 credits of legal technology CLE per biennial cycle. In an opinion issued on September 29th, the Supreme Court of Florida changed the number of bennienial CLE credits required from 30 to 33 and mandated that 3 of those credits must be ‘in an approved technology program.'” (mycase)

October 5, 2016 – “The law school at the University of Michigan is receiving a $250,000 federal grant to develop expertise to challenge certain child-abuse convictions. The school’s Innocence Clinic will use the money to work on convictions in so-called shaken-baby cases. In 2015, the Michigan Supreme Court unanimously overturned a murder conviction in Calhoun County. The court said Leo Ackley’s rights were violated by a defense attorney who did a poor job in failing to vigorously challenge the evidence. The death involved a young girl. The court said the prosecutor produced no witnesses who said Ackley was abusive. The Innocence Clinic believes there are other people who have been wrongly convicted on flawed shaken-baby evidence.” (The Washington Times)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:
Shearman & Sterling LLP partner Linda Rappaport was selected by The Legal Aid Society of New York as one of the recipients of the 2016 Pro Bono Publico Awards for outstanding service to the Society and its clients. Every year, the Society recognizes the outstanding work of volunteer lawyers, law firms, corporations and other professionals who participate in the Society’s pro bono program by providing exceptional legal services to low-income New Yorkers. (Shearman News)

Music Bonus!“>  Music pick from the PSJD Fellow Delisa Morris.


PSJD Public Interest News Digest – September 30, 2016

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

Happy Friday! Can you believe October is right around the corner?  And with it comes the 2016 NALP/PSJD Public Service Mini-Conference for NALP members and the Equal Justice Works Conference and Career Fair for employers, law students and law school professionals. Registration is now open for both events. Mini-Conference registration. Equal Justice Works registration.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • University of Maine School of Law Apps for Justice Project uses technology to bridge justice gap;
  • Campbell University Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law launches community legal clinic;
  • Maryland Judiciary opens third district court walk-in center;
  • Pennsylvania Innocence Project opens Pittsburgh office;
  • Law schools work on access to justice;
  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness costs as first eligible class approaches forgiveness;
  • Joint working group of the Canadian Bar Association and the Association of Legal Aid Plans of Canada release report and proposed national benchmarks for legal aid;
  • Texas A&M University School of Law receives grant for new tax clinic;
  • Mitchell Hamline School of Law rolls out “Wheels of Justice”;
  • Call to end articling alternative LPP;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

September 22, 2016 – “Most individuals and small businesses don’t have access to affordable legal assistance. The problem is not that we don’t have enough lawyers; rather, there is a gap between what lawyers must charge and what clients can pay. This gap and the resulting tension is not sustainable – either for society or for the legal profession.” “The mission of the University of Maine School of Law Apps for Justice Project is to model how technology can be used to bridge this gap. Launched early this year and funded with a grant from the Maine Economic Improvement Fund, the Apps for Justice Project uses the powerful Neota Logic platform – the same platform that is used by multinational firms to routinize complex regulatory compliance issues – to develop and create practical, technology-based legal expert systems in the form of applications, or apps. These apps provide guidance, information and action plans that enable low- and moderate-income Mainers to effectively address their specific civil legal problems, either alone or with the help of affordable counsel. In designing these apps, we endeavored to mirror the problem-solving process lawyers follow: the application of abstract principles to specific cases, beginning with diagnosis, proceeding to inference, and then to treatment.” “The positive response our apps have received during our testing phase attests that designed well, legal expert systems can offer a new paradigm for both law practice and self-help assistance. Expert legal systems can offer business lawyers and those who represent individuals the opportunity for increased efficiencies, allowing the provision of legal services to a greater number of clients at a lower-cost, without sacrificing quality or attention.” (Portland Press Herald)

September 22, 2016 – “Campbell University’s law school will officially cut the ribbon of a new clinic in downtown Raleigh on Friday to give free legal help to disadvantaged residents. The school’s new Community Law Clinic is housed at the historic Horton-Beckham-Bretsch House. Eight Campbell law students, overseen by the clinic’s director, will work in the clinic, which will take referrals from area nonprofit agencies – Raleigh Rescue Mission, Urban Ministries of Wake County and StepUp Ministry. Campbell Law Dean Rich Leonard said the clinic should give students valuable practical experience while helping low-income residents who face legal hurdles. ‘I think it’s one of the most exciting initiatives the law school has ever undertaken,’ said Leonard, who won a grant for $150,000 from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation to launch the effort.” (The News & Observer)

September 23, 2016 – “On Friday, the Maryland Judiciary held a grand opening for a new walk-in center in Wicomico District Court. The center is open 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and is designed to help people who are representing themselves in civil legal matters. The center is staffed by attorneys who work for Maryland Legal Aid. While they do not provide representation, they can advise people, explain complicated court processes, or help with necessary paperwork.” “According to the Maryland Judiciary, this is the third District Court walk-in center in the state, with the other two in Anne Arundel County and Prince George’s County. Chief Judge of the District Court of Maryland John Morrisey says these centers benefit all parties involved. ” (WBOC)

September 25, 2016 – “The Pennsylvania Innocence Project, headquartered in Philadelphia, has opened a Pittsburgh office, making it the first among such programs nationally to have multiple locations in a state. Just as the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, founded in 2009, is located at Temple University Beasley School of Law, its Pittsburgh office is located at Duquesne University School of Law. As in Philadelphia, the Pittsburgh office is operating a student clinic in which law students from Duquesne and the University of Pittsburgh law schools will earn college credit by examining vetted cases, seeking a way to prove actual innocence. The project does not accept cases in which incarcerated people claim they were put behind bars due to technical violations.” “The new office, housed in the law school’s Tribone Center for Clinical Legal Education, Uptown, is headed by Liz DeLosa, who manages all litigation case development and oversees all investigations.” (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

September 26, 2016 – The National Law Journal examines what some law schools are doing to focus on access to justice. “We have arrived at a critical moment where our most fundamental legal ideals are threatened by a profound justice gap. Millions of people — evicted tenants, indigent defendants and immigrant mothers — find themselves buffeted by legal processes that do not assure a meaningful right to be heard, much less representation by competent counsel. Teaching the next generation of lawyers the values, knowledge and skills needed to deliver on the promise of access to justice is paramount. To do this, Fordham University School of Law and other leading law schools are placing the issue of access to justice at the center of legal education.” The article details these great initiatives. (National Law Journal)(subscription required)

September 26, 2016 – As the time for the first eligible class to seek loan forgiveness approaches, CNBC summarizes the current state of the program and the costs and considerations to taxpayers. The article is a decent summary if you’re new to the issue. (CNBC)

September 28, 2016 – “In 2014, a joint working group of the Canadian Bar Association and the Association of Legal Aid Plans of Canada (ALAP) collaborated to formulate and propose national legal aid benchmarks for Canada. After much consultation and discussion, we have now completed that work. The national benchmarks are guiding principles to achieve the shared goal of a national, integrated system of public legal assistance focused on improving access to justice and meeting the needs of disadvantaged people across Canada. These 6 national legal aid benchmarks, under headings of an overall vision, scope of services, priorities for service, spectrum of service, quality of service and an integrated service delivery sector, capture current evidence about legal aid and define pathways for the future, are intended to provide a foundation for national indicators with common data measurement. To explain these concepts further, the CBA has authored a separate report further elaborating on the rationale and potential of national benchmarks for Canada.” (Canadian Bar Association)

September 28, 2016 – “Today, the American Immigration Council released Access to Counsel in Immigration Court by Ingrid Eagly and Steven Shafer. The authors conducted the first national study of access to counsel in immigration courts and analyzed 1.2 million individual removal cases in immigration court between fiscal years 2007 and 2012. They found that access to legal counsel was uneven across geographic locations and nationalities. They also found that having a lawyer results in better outcomes for immigrants and that represented immigrants were more likely to be released from detention, more likely to apply for relief, and to obtain the relief they sought. These important findings highlight some of the disparities in the immigration court system. Whether or not immigrants obtain a lawyer varies widely depending on whether they are detained, where their court proceeding takes place, and what nationality they are. These inequalities and barriers to obtaining legal counsel need to be addressed because having an attorney is also strongly associated with positive outcomes. Overall, the study found that only two percent of those who applied for relief from deportation succeeded without an attorney.” (American Immigration Council)

September 29, 2016 – “The School of Law has received a grant from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to start a Low Income Taxpayer Clinic. The grant is part of the Low Income Taxpayer Clinics (LITC) program, administered by the Office of the Taxpayer Advocate at the IRS to make the services of these clinics more widely available, particularly in underserved areas. This will help the school assist low income taxpayers on tax controversies, which include audits, assessments, collections and disputes before the IRS and U.S. Tax Court. The clinic also gives students an opportunity to work directly on federal tax controversy cases by receiving provisional admission to represent taxpayers before the IRS.” (Texas A&M Today)

September 29, 2016 – “Mitchell Hamline School of Law on Thursday unveiled its latest public service initiative, the Mobile Law Network, which will dispatch students across Minnesota in a revamped R.V. to perform pro bono legal services for those in need.” ( (subscription required)

September 29, 2016 – “The controversy over a pilot project to address a shortage of articling positions has been reignited with an Ontario law society committee’s call to end the program because it has been stigmatized by law school graduates and some in the legal profession. The Law Society of Upper Canada’s Law Practice Program (LLP) began in 2014 as a response to the increasing number of new graduates who were not able to find positions articling – the supervised, 10-month apprenticeship with a law firm that is required to become a lawyer. Students in the LPP spend four months in a ‘virtual’ law office where they take on a variety of cases, and then participate in a four-month work placement.” “While the report says the quality of the program is not in question, ‘there is a perception among candidates and some Articling Principals that the LPP is viewed as second-tier transitional experiential training with stigma attached to those who complete it.’ (Articling principals are the lawyers who supervise articling students.)” Some supporters of the program see the LPP as a path to the bar for minority candidates and/or those who disproportionately seek public interest positions and call for its continuation. A vote on this and other proposals will take place in early November. (The Globe and Mail)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

The Wyoming State Bar award recipients.

John B. “Jack” Speight, an attorney from Cheyenne, received the 2016 Community Service Award for his volunteer work as the Director of the Wyoming Lawyer Assistance Program since its inception in 2014. He also has been a generous donor to the WyLAP Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides grants to lawyers in need of assistance but unable to afford it.

Angie Dorsch, executive director of Equal Justice Wyoming, received the Bar’s Champion of Justice for Legal Services Award. As director of Equal Justice Wyoming since 2012, Dorsch has helped grow statewide legal services and pro bono work in Wyoming. She also works with the Wyoming Access to Justice Commission and the Equal Justice Wyoming Foundation.

Billie Ruth Edwards, an attorney from Cheyenne who died in January, posthumously received one of three Pro Bono Awards for legal services provided to indigent clients. He accepted five pro bono cases through Equal Justice Wyoming in 2015. Edwards also volunteered at monthly advice clinics, offering free legal advice and, to help ensure access to the legal system, would also provide full volunteer representation after meeting with clients at an advice clinic.

The Cheyenne law firm of Woodhouse Roden Nethercott also received one of the 2016 Pro Bono Awards for legal services provided to indigent clients. The firm regularly sponsors and participates in monthly Equal Justice Wyoming/Wyoming State Bar law clinics, and its attorneys are frequent volunteers for clinic nights in Laramie County. The volunteer attorneys also have taken on cases of clients they meet through those clinics, and pro bono work is a significant part of the firm’s culture according to the bar. (Wyoming News)

Music Bonus!  Music pick from the PSJD Fellow Delisa Morris.


PSJD Public Interest News Digest – September 23, 2016

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

Happy Friday! REGISTRATION is now open for the 2016 NALP/PSJD Public Service Mini-Conference, an annual gathering of NALP members who counsel law students and lawyers on public service careers. We look forward to seeing you in October.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Université de Montréal announces launch of research consortium exploring access to law and justice;
  • Baylor Law School seeks to close access to justice gap with Legal Mapmaker program;
  • University of Virginia School of Law’s VITA program honored by ABA;
  • Alabama governor awards $1.9 million in support of domestic violence victims;
  • Nebraska’s new Rural Law Opportunities Program hopes to bring more lawyers to rural areas;
  • New York oversight board announces civil legal services grants;
  • Nova Scotia’s #TalkJustice Project moves to phase 2;
  • Think tank releases report card on Canada’s justice system;
  • Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center celebrates 100 years of service;
  • Congresswoman introduces Homeless Veterans Legal Services Act;
  • ABA launches free online legal Q&A service to broaden access to justice;
  • A new public interest center to open at the Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

September 15, 2016 – “Université de Montréal proudly announces the launch of an important research consortium set up to explore access to law and to justice. ADAJ groups brought together 42 researchers as well as collaborators from 9 universities and 44 justice partners. ‘The object of this initiative is to engage a series of pilot projects aimed at redirecting the focus of the judicial system on the individual citizen and thereby transforming justice into a community project,’ states Pierre Noreau, scientific director of the project, researcher at the Public Law Research Centre (CRDP) and professor with the Faculty of Law at Université de Montréal. The twenty research thrusts being launched simultaneously extend to the majority of issues currently facing citizens and the judicial system, notably the ever increasing numbers of self-represented litigants, the obscure wording of contracts and laws, the development of mediation and conciliation practices, the development of alternative penal measures, the compensation of class members through class action litigation, paperless justice, and so on. The project website ( details each of these key thrusts. ‘Each thrust draws on a combination of researcher proficiency and justice player knowledge to ensure that the research conducted inures to the benefit of both the people and the justice system as an institution. The object is to seek out tangible solutions to the challenges encountered by individuals accountable under the law,’ Mr Noreau goes on to say. Backed by a $2.5 million grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and another $1.4 million from various project partners, work by the ADAJ consortium will be spread out over a period of six years. ‘The initiative is the most comprehensive research exercise of its kind throughout the country,’ underscores Vincent Gautrais, director of the Public Law Research Centre. ‘We are of course delighted that it is being developed and spearheaded here in Québec. ADAJ represents a model for others to replicate. Indeed, the project provides proof that it is possible to build bridges between legal academics and practitioners. In this instance, the research will clearly focus on the public well-being.’ Originally developed within the framework of the Access to Justice Observatory, ADAJ helps foster the development of emerging professionals in the field of research about justice. ‘Over 150 students will assist project researchers,’ points up Jean-François Gaudreault-Desbiens, dean of the Faculty of Law at Université de Montréal. ‘ADAJ will serve as a veritable laboratory for research, training, action and change.'” (CNW)

September 15, 2016 – “Baylor Law School says 100 million Americans can’t afford legal services, while at the same time many new lawyers are unemployed despite the unmet need. Most of the cases with which the poor need help are related to what are called ‘basic human needs’ defined as being  related to shelter, food, safety, health or child custody. Stephen Rispoli, assistant dean of student affairs and pro bono programs at Baylor Law school noted the biggest problem facing new lawyers is the high cost of setting up a practice, thus keeping the very people who would be available to help the poor being unable to do so. Legal Mapmaker is a new Baylor Law School program designed to prepare young lawyers to open law firms. It provides a model business strategy with two goals: help lawyers succeed, and help the public find affordable legal services by showing lawyers how to provide legal services efficiently and with low overhead.” ” More than 30 young Texas lawyers attended the first Legal Mapmaker conference and learned from experts who spoke on a range of topics from business plans, staffing and financial management to client relations, technology and community involvement.” (

September 16, 2016 – “Students at the University of Virginia School of Law have been recognized by the American Bar Association with the 2016 Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Award for leading University efforts to help taxpayers prepare their own returns. Each year, the Law School’s VITA program collaborates with other students on Grounds to help low- and moderate-income clients, who are a mix of community members, University employees and students.” “UVA’s VITA outreach helped about 800 clients on their 2015 tax returns —about 30 percent of the ABA’s local-coalition efforts, which are coordinated by the United Way Thomas Jefferson Area.” (University of Virginia School of Law News & Events)

September 16, 2016 – “Gov. Robert Bentley has awarded grants totaling $1.9 million in support of nonprofit groups that assist rape and abuse victims in south and central Alabama. The Montgomery Area Family Violence Program, commonly known as the Family Sunshine Center, is using $1.4 million in grant funds to aid domestic violence victims in Autauga, Butler, Chilton, Crenshaw, Dallas, Elmore, Lowndes, Montgomery, Perry and Wilcox counties. Lighthouse Counseling Center is using $290,000 in grants to continue its Standing Together Against Rape program for victims of sexual assault in Autauga, Butler, Crenshaw, Elmore, Lowndes, Montgomery, Perry, and Wilcox counties. Child Protect is using funds of $144,000 to continue providing services for child victims in Autauga, Elmore and Montgomery counties. With a $64,775 grant, Legal Services Alabama will continue offering legal assistance to domestic violence victims in nine counties.” (

September 18, 2016 – “A new program involving three Nebraska colleges and the University of Nebraska College of Law in Lincoln aims to increase the number of lawyers in rural areas. The Rural Law Opportunities Program, or RLOP, guarantees chosen high school students from rural Nebraska — basically anywhere outside Lincoln, Omaha and its suburbs — entrance into law school. In return, it’s hoped that when graduating from law school, the new lawyers will practice in a rural area.” “Wayne State, Chadron State College and Nebraska-Kearney each will select five high school seniors every year, beginning with the class of 2017. Once selected, students are guaranteed a spot in the Nebraska law school if they maintain good grades in college, complete their undergraduate requirements and score well on the Law School Admission Test, or LSAT. [Nebraska College of Law interim dean Richard] Moberly said that 17-20 graduates — about 15 percent — in each of the past three Nebraska law school graduating classes have gone to practice in rural Nebraska. He hopes that RLOP will send an additional 10 new lawyers into those areas.” (Sioux City Journal)

September 19, 2016 – “The state Interest on Lawyer Account (IOLA) Fund and 83 civil legal services providers will divide a record $100 million that is being allocated through the Judiciary’s 2016-17 state budget. State court administrators announced Monday that state grants were approved by a state oversight board. The money was contained in the $1.89 billion Judiciary portion of the 2016-17 state budget approved by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state legislature earlier this year.” “Court administrators said that the largest amounts of aid will be available in areas of the state with the most residents whose incomes are 200 percent or less of the poverty level. The individual grants range from the $9.8 million awarded to both Legal Services NYC and the Legal Aid Society of New York City to the $20,000 for the Advocates for Children of New York.” (New York Law Journal)(subscription required)

September 19, 2016 – “Nova Scotia’s #TalkJustice project is gathering more stories and evidence to feed into a software program that should help identify issues with the justice system in the province. The Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society initiative will use SenseMaker to take stories from citizens about their experiences with the justice system and seek connections between them. It will also provide a look at what the average justice system experience looks like for a person in a particular community, which they hope will help identify problem areas. ‘We want this information to feed into the system ongoing all the time. Hopefully by the fourth phase we’ll have a system in place where that feedback can be entering the justice system ongoing,’ said LaMeia Reddick, a community connector for the barristers’ society’s project. The next step will be looking for ways to challenge the justice system to improve access.” (CBC News)

September 21, 2016 – “The Macdonald-Laurier Institute grades provinces and territories in five categories: public safety, victims support, efficiency, fairness and access to justice, and costs and resources. University of British Columbia law professor Benjamin Perrin is one of the report’s authors. With Canada’s justice system costing roughly $11 billion a year, he felt it was time to look at the numbers. The report card is based on comparable information, much of it from Statistics Canada. And while Perrin and co-author Richard Audas did not seek to explain or justify why some provinces performed better than others, they did highlight how the territories face challenges of isolation, geography and higher costs. Overall, Yukon scored lowest, followed by Manitoba, Northwest Territories and Nunavut.” The full report is available here. (CBC News)

September 22, 2016 – “When the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center opened in San Francisco a century ago, it was the first group west of the Mississippi to provide free legal services to low-income clients. Today it assists 3,000 people a year through free clinics around California, litigates in state and federal courts and advocates for government policies that protect civil and employment rights. President Joan Graff took a break from preparing for Thursday’s 100th anniversary gala to speak with The Recorder about why issues from unemployment to immigration to disability rights all fall under LAS-ELC’s umbrella and what lies ahead for her organization.” Congratulations, and here is to 100 more years!  (The Recorder)

September 22, 2016 – “U.S. Congresswoman Joyce Beatty (OH-03) recently introduced the Homeless Veterans Legal Services Act, H.R. 6046, legislation to allow the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to partner with public and private entities to increase legal services for homeless and at-risk of homelessness veterans. Congressman Steve Stivers (OH-15) and Congressman Pat Tiberi (OH-12) are the lead cosponsors of H.R. 6046.” The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs and is awaiting further consideration. (US House of Representatives News)

September 22, 2016 – “The American Bar Association has rolled out a new web program,, to give income-eligible users the ability to pose civil legal questions to volunteer attorneys. The new service, a virtual legal advice clinic, is now available in eight states — Connecticut, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Virginia and Wyoming — with plans to have service available in the majority of states by the end of this year. Geared to expand legal services for low-income communities, users of the service will have to meet income eligibility guidelines applicable to each state. While expanding access to legal services, the ABA Free Legal Answers program also expands pro bono opportunities for attorneys in a convenient way to match their schedules.” Nationally, attorneys can volunteer their services to existing and future participating state programs by clicking here. (ABA)

September 22, 2016 – “A new center at The Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law will house the growing array of public interest offerings at the school, enhancing Northwestern’s strong commitment to a public service ethic. Northwestern Law’s Public Interest Center will ensure strategic leadership of important public interest activities under a single umbrella. Its formation is made possible in part through the $100 million donation made by J.B. and M.K. Pritzker in 2015. ‘In tandem with the exceptional work of our Bluhm Legal Clinic and our public interest journals, we already have in place the key features befitting a premier public interest program,’ said Daniel B. Rodriguez, dean of Northwestern Law. Among the center’s features are financial support for students doing public interest work during and after law school; a robust menu of course offerings, including a law and social policy concentration; career programming and counseling; a wide range of pro bono and public service opportunities; and passionate student organization participation and leadership. The Law School is committed to promoting the advancement of social justice and preparing students for public interest careers and pro bono work.” (Northwestern News)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

Blank Rome LLP Associate Joseph J. Patry was selected as the recipient of the “Making Justice Real Pro Bono Award” by the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia, in recognition of his legal representation of tenants in the Housing Conditions Calendar in the D.C. Superior Court. Mr. Patry will be presented with the award on Thursday, September 29, 2016, at the Generous Associates Campaign and Pro Bono Volunteer Celebration. (Blank Rome LLP)

Music Bonus!  Music pick from the PSJD Fellow Delisa Morris.


PSJD Public Interest News Digest – September 16, 2016

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

Happy Friday!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • FAIR Canada and Osgoode Hall Law School launch investor protection clinic;
  • Kansas becomes newest state to allow military spouses to practice law without taking bar exam;
  • Legal Aid Nebraska launches online service for low-income Nebraskans;
  • Montana task force recommends cabinet level position for head of public defense;
  • Maryland legal aid develops app for record expungement;
  • New York bar associations announce joint initiative to assist domestic violence survivors;
  • California governor vetoes bill to help military members find legal aid;
  • K&L Gates’ Fourth Annual Global Day of Service focuses on investing across generations;
  • Albany Law School launches small business clinic;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

September 9, 2016 – “Investor rights group FAIR Canada and Professor Poonam Puri of Osgoode Hall Law School are founding an investor protection clinic. It will provide legal assistance to those who believe they have been cheated by their financial advisors or institutions. On August 8, FAIR Canada and Puri revealed that they had received start-up funding from the Law Foundation of Ontario’s Access to Justice Fund and are now preparing to launch Canada’s first investor protection clinic. Staffed by law students, it will help investors who think they have been harmed or wronged.” (Insurance & Investment Journal)

September 10, 2016 – “A rule adopted by the Kansas Supreme Court on Friday will allow attorneys living in the state who are spouses of military members stationed here to temporarily practice law without taking the state-administered uniform bar exam. Rule 712A allows an attorney who has been admitted to practice law in another state or the District of Columbia, and who is married to a military service member stationed in Kansas, to be admitted to practice law in Kansas without a written examination. The rule takes effect Thursday.” “Eighteen states have already passed similar rules, and 13 more have proposed or are investigating admission of military spouses, according to a press release from the Kansas Office of Judicial Administration.” (The Hays Daily News)

September 11, 2016 – “Legal Aid of Nebraska has officially launched an online service for low-income Nebraskans, addressing questions about collections faced by debtors, and housing issues faced by tenants. The website/program, Law Help Nebraska, is available in all 93 counties. It provides a user-friendly virtual self-help system for quick assistance, organizers said. ‘Law Help Nebraska addresses a major gap in rural areas lacking physical lawyer presence. It also helps to unclog court systems and simplifies the process of answering questions and generating legal forms for low-income Nebraskans,’ said spokesperson Paige Piper. Law Help Nebraska serves as a virtual attorney that will ask a series of questions to address legal concerns, help generate forms that may be filed, or direct users to next steps, including applying for an attorney.” “Law Help Nebraska is available at public access computers in county courts statewide, though it may also be accessed from home. This program was made possible by generous funding from the Legal Services Corporation.” (North Platte Bulletin)

September 12, 2016 – “A panel of lawmakers and lawyers forwarded to the Montana Legislature a set of bills on Monday that would reorganize the Office of the State Public Defender by creating a cabinet-level director to oversee the agency. The Task Force on State Public Defender Operations, created by the state Legislature to review the agency that represents poor criminal defendants, recommended removing agency oversight from the Public Defender Commission and giving it to the governor. The change, if approved by the Montana Legislature when it meets in January, would amount to creating the 17th department of state government.” “State lawmakers created the task force to examine how the agency operates and to recommend changes in the form of bills to be introduced in the upcoming legislative session.” “The task force also recommended creating a ‘holistic defense pilot program’ that would look at the underlying causes that bring people into the criminal justice system, and seek to reduce recidivism. The program calls for a team to include a public defender, a social worker, an investigator and support staff to provide defendants with both legal and social support services. In addition, the task force advanced a bill requiring the state Department of Revenue to collect costs imposed by courts for public defender services. It also recommended that the state Department of Public Health and Human Services make the determination now made by the public defenders’ office of whether a defendant is eligible to receive the agency’s services.” (Missoulian)

September 12, 2016 – “Maryland Legal Aid has developed a new app for expunging criminal records. is a free, user-friendly app that enables legal professionals to easily search Maryland criminal records and generate documents to file expungement petitions with the Maryland Courts on behalf of low-income citizens. ” (Southern Maryland Online)

September 13, 2016 – “On Sept. 8, the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) and the Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York (WBASNY) announced a joint initiative to enhance access to legal services by victims of domestic violence.” “The Domestic Violence Initiative will work to raise awareness of domestic violence and offer training to pro bono and legal service attorneys; collaborate with bar associations and others in the legal community to recruit more pro bono attorneys and develop pro bono programs for underserved communities across the state; and consider and make recommendations about possible legislation to strengthen protections for victims of domestic violence. Hon. Judy Harris Kluger, executive director of Sanctuary for Families in New York City, and Amy Schwartz-Wallace of Rochester, leader of Empire Justice Center’s statewide domestic violence practice, are co-chairs of the Initiative and its membership will include representatives of legal services providers, bar associations, law firm pro bono programs, the court system and law schools.” (

September 14, 2016 – “Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin’s bill to help active military members find pro bono legal help in California appeared to be one of the least controversial of the year. Facing no registered opposition, the measure cleared committee hearings and floor votes without dissent. It was supported by officials at the U.S. Department of Defense. But Irwin’s bill would have cost money Gov. Jerry Brown was not inclined to spend. The fourth-term Democrat on Wednesday vetoed Assembly Bill 2085, which would have created a state office to coordinate free legal assistance for military members, saying the measure should instead be considered in budget deliberations. The proposal by Irwin, D-Thousand Oaks, would have cost the state about $800,000 annually to staff a new Office of Military Legal Assistance within the California Military Department, according to a legislative analysis. ‘I believe this type of bill is more properly considered during budget deliberations,’ Brown said in a veto message.” (The Sacramento Bee)

September 14, 2016 – “The New Mexico Public Defender’s Office said in a legislative hearing Tuesday that it may soon have to start declining criminal cases if it doesn’t get properly funded to meet growing caseloads. The Public Defender’s Office has underscored its lack of funding for years, and today it acknowledged that it’s at a tipping point. In budget documents, officials say they’re dealing with a shortage of attorneys and support staff which results in, ‘many indigent clients in the state not receiving effective assistance of counsel.’ They add that in almost every county in New Mexico, ‘defenders cannot represent clients at arraignments and felony first appearances.’ Those officials also said that many indigent defendants are not even represented during grand jury proceedings. The office is working with a $49 million budget according to budget documents, and is asking for nearly $5 million more in emergency funds for the next fiscal year to help fund 125 additional attorneys and 62 additional support staff positions. In budget documents, officials said that if the Public Defender’s Office isn’t adequately funded then the state can expect the office to begin declining requests to represent indigent clients across New Mexico.” (KOAT)

September 15, 2016 – “For the fourth consecutive year, global law firm K&L Gates LLP will carry out its annual Global Day of Service, an immense, week-long volunteer effort by firm lawyers and staff focused on serving charitable organizations in cities and regions across the five continents in which the firm has offices. This year, personnel from each of the firm’s offices worldwide will volunteer with more than 70 community organizations and charities, many focused on elderly or youth services, throughout the week of September 19-23 around the theme of ‘Investing Across Generations.'” “Launched in 2013 based on an idea from the firm’s Global Associate Liaison Committee, the Global Day of Service provides a way for lawyers and staff at the firm to volunteer and make a difference in their local communities around the world”  (Business Wire)

September 16, 2016 – “A new business development clinic at Albany Law School will provide free legal services to current or future small business owners in the region, said Alicia Ouellette, president and dean. It will open in January. Albany Law students will provide free legal services associated with opening a small business. They will help with obtaining business loans, writing contracts, auditing employment policies and protecting intellectual assets.” (Albany Business Review)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

Two years ago, Kay Trapp and Dinetia Newman set out to provide free legal consultations for guests who came for breakfast through All Saints’ Episcopal Church’s Saints’ Brew in Tupelo, Mississippi. Over biscuits and coffee in the parish hall, Trapp, a retired lawyer, and Newman, a lawyer with Bradley Arant Boult Cummings law firm, answered questions from those in need about child custody, divorce, name changes and driver’s licenses. Now, they are being awarded the 2016 Curtis E. Coker Access to Justice Award from the Mississippi Volunteer Lawyers Project. The award, presented annually, recognizes “outstanding pro bono legal services.” With the statewide recognition from the award – which the two said they were honored to receive – and more volunteers, Trapp and Newman want to become more mobile in their services. “We thought, ‘Is there a way to be mobile?’ Because we’re in the parish hall,” Newman said. “We want to take the legal services more where the people are because the lack of transportation is a big issue.” (Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal)

Music Bonus!  Music pick from the PSJD Fellow Delisa Morris.


PSJD Public Interest News Digest – September 9, 2016

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

Happy Friday! A lot of funding news this week, and some interesting observations on pro bono and legal technology and their continued potential to increase access to justice.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • New York City Office of Civil Justice report – more NYC residents facing eviction have access to legal help;
  • Clients getting faster access to legal aid in Manitoba;
  • California governor vetoes bill requiring pro bono service before admittance to the bar;
  • Central New York legal aid receives federal funding for domestic abuse support programs;
  • Using retired lawyers to bridge the justice gap;
  • The Canadian Bar Association in British Columbia lobbies to add law graduates to loan forgiveness program;
  • How AI will transform the delivery of legal services;
  • New funding scheme for public interest litigation;
  • Big Law associates raise funds for legal aid in new funding scheme;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

August 31, 2016 – “If you are a low-income tenant facing eviction, it may be easier than ever to get a lawyer these days, according to a report released by the city Tuesday. Mayor Bill de Blasio touted the findings by the Office of Civil Justice (OCJ), which show that now 27 percent of tenants in housing court for eviction proceedings have legal representation – up from just 1 percent in 2013. ‘As we face one of the most serious affordable housing crises in our city’s history, we have made an unprecedented commitment to provide legal assistance for low-income New Yorkers, and we are beginning to see the results of these efforts,’ said de Blasio. The first annual report from the newly-established office investigates the legal needs of low-income New Yorkers, and the effect of providing free and low-cost legal services to meet those needs, particularly when it comes to tenants facing evictions, harassment, and other housing-related problems. Since taking office, the mayor has invested more than $100 million annually in civil legal services, and as a result, evictions have fallen 24 percent in the last two years, according to the report.” (Fort Greene Focus)

August 31, 2016 – “Justice Minister Heather Stefanson is speeding up access to Legal Aid Manitoba. The change announced Wednesday will help lower-income Manitobans, Stefanson said. ‘Access to justice for all Manitobans is a cornerstone of our legal system and this change will help improve the process for individuals who require legal aid,’ Stefanson said. ‘Technology has made it possible for this process to move more quickly.’ To connect a new client with a lawyer, Legal Aid Manitoba uses an electronic application system that securely shares the individual’s application, court documents and any other relevant materials. Lawyers previously had 30 days to decide whether to accept the case; the province is cutting that period to 14. This change was made following consultations with Legal Aid Manitoba’s advisory committee, which includes representatives from the Criminal Defence Lawyers’ Association, the Legal Aid Lawyers’ Association, the Family Law Bar and the Manitoba Bar Association.” (Winnipeg Free Press)

August 31, 2016 – “The California Legislature passed a bill that would have required California’s up-and-coming lawyers to do pro bono work before gaining admittance to the State Bar. Gov. Jerry Brown, a lawyer, on Monday vetoed the bill. In a message accompanying his veto of Senate Bill 1257, Brown said that while he supports law students and lawyers providing pro bono legal services, ‘I don’t believe a state mandate can be justified.’ ‘Law students in California are now contending with skyrocketing costs – often more than $200,000 for tuition and room and board – and many struggle to find employment once they are admitted to the Bar,’ Brown wrote. ‘In this context, I believe it would be unfair to burden students with the requirements set forth in this bill.’ Senate Bill 1257, by Sen. Marty Block, D-San Diego, would have required applicants for membership in the State Bar to have completed at least 50 hours of supervised pro bono legal service. Instead, Brown wrote, the state should focus on lowering the cost of legal education. ‘By doing so, we could actually expand the opportunity to serve the public interest,’ he said.” (The Sacramento Bee)

September 2, 2016 – “The Legal Aid Society of Mid-York is receiving $600,000 in federal funding for domestic abuse support programs in central New York. The funding was allocated through the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women and is authorized through the Legal Assistance for Victims Grant Program. ‘This critical federal funding through the Department of Justice will help facilitate a wide range of programs to better assist domestic violence survivors,’ said [Senator Kirsten] Gillibrand. ‘Domestic violence is a serious problem and we need to work towards creating a safe environment for individuals and families. By increasing accessibility to legal services for survivors we can help provide the support and resources they need to be protected and put their lives back together.’ The Utica-based legal aid organization will use the money to provide legal representation, supportive services and outreach to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. The group serves 12 counties in central New York.” (WIBX)

September 2, 2016 – “As the headline to a special report in The American Lawyer this week observes, ‘Baby Boomers are Retiring and Law Firms Aren’t Ready.‘ When we combine the vast numbers of law firm attorneys who are approaching career transition with the enormous systemic unmet legal needs of the poor and disadvantaged, we are in a unique position to leverage these experienced lawyers. If even a small fraction of the retired, semi-retired, and transitioning baby-boom lawyers would engage in some form of meaningful pro bono work, they could have a sizeable impact on economic and social justice. Creating the infrastructure to support and sustain these new roles, however, is a significant and sensitive undertaking.” The American Lawyer examines efforts to bring retired lawyers to pro bono work. (The American Lawyer)

September 6, 2016 – “The Canadian Bar Association’s B.C. branch (CBABC) wants the provincial government to add lawyers with student debt to StudentAid BC’s loan forgiveness program. Michael Welsh, who was appointed bar president on August 15, said rural citizens, including small-business owners in remote communities, are suffering due to increasing attrition within the legal profession. Welsh noted that many rural lawyers are baby boomers and have reached the age of retirement” with no new lawyers coming in to replace them. “A CBABC letter to Premier Christy Clark lobbying to add lawyers to the loan forgiveness program noted that, because the average starting salary for a lawyer usually ranges between $25,000 and $45,000, working in a rural setting or trying to set up a practice is not cost-effective. The letter asks the provincial government to provide an annual 20% debt write-off rate over a five-year minimum – the same amount offered through the loan forgiveness program – to recent law school graduates willing to practice in rural communities.” (Business Vancouver)

September 6, 2016 – Forbes has an interesting if brief look at where legal technology has taken us so far in the delivery of legal services and predicts artificial intelligence will transform legal delivery and have a positive impact on access to justice. (Forbes)

September 7, 2016 – As the idea of “third party litigation funding” seems to be growing, here is a novel funding idea for public interest litigation from Australia. The Public Interest Advocacy Center “is joining with public litigation funders from around the world to establish a new funding scheme that will support PIAC’s public interest litigation. The scheme, which commenced this week, will allow PIAC’s public interest cases to go ahead in circumstances where the risk of an ‘adverse costs order’ would discourage clients from proceeding with their case.  Under the Adverse Costs Order Guarantee Fund, clients will be indemnified so that they can proceed with their cases without having to risk their assets or income. ‘This is a great development for public interest litigation,’ said PIAC CEO, Jonathon Hunyor. ‘Adverse costs orders are a powerful disincentive for clients weighing up whether or not to proceed with litigation. We hope that this scheme will grow to support PIAC’s public interest litigation into the future, facilitating test cases that otherwise could not proceed.’ PIAC is especially grateful to Woodford Litigation Funding Limited, which is the first partner in the ACO Guarantee Fund.” (PIAC News)

September 7, 2016 – “Using a fresh fundraising approach to support legal services for the poor, a group of Big Law associates announced on Wednesday its first grants to four legal services groups. The Associates Committee, which was launched last year by third-year Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom associate Corey Laplante, said the four will receive a total of $200,000 raised from 200 associates. Two groups are each getting $75,000 grants: the Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights in New Orleans and the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services in San Antonio. Two other organizations are receiving $25,000 apiece: the Innocence Project in New York City and the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. In its first year, the Associates Committee limited its recruitment of associates to the five cities with the biggest lawyer populations: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco. Moving forward, the group will be recruiting associates from six other cities: Boston, Philadelphia, Houston, Dallas, Austin and Miami. Associates must contribute $1,000 to be a member. Laplante, who works in Skadden’s Los Angeles office, said in an interview Wednesday that the committee got 84 grant applications. Instead of asking for lots of paperwork, the committee told applicants to submit a 60-second video shot on a smartphone describing how they would use the funds. The Associates Committee’s board selected 15 finalists, and then the entire membership voted for the four winners. The finalists submitted financial statements and other materials, but the videos were the centerpiece of the selection process.” (American Lawyer)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) is proud to present the 2016 Pro Bono Award to John Ting, co-founder and partner of Ting and Tran Law Firm in Dallas, Texas. The NAPABA Pro Bono Award recognizes attorneys for outstanding achievements in pro bono service that: 1) involved impact litigation to advance or protect civil rights, and 2) provided direct legal services to individuals in the furtherance of the administration of justice. In addition to being an accomplished and highly respected attorney, entrepreneur, and mentor in the legal community, John’s tireless efforts and unparalleled service on pro bono legal matters — in conjunction with his service to the community — exemplify the qualities and spirit of the award. (NAPABA)

Music Bonus!  Music pick from the PSJD Fellow Delisa Morris.


PSJD Public Interest News Digest – September 2, 2016

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

Happy Friday and welcome back to school! PSJD has many resources to help you with your internship and pro bono searches. Also check out the PSJD Resource Center for everything from application tips to job search strategies and self-assessment. For those of you interested in public interest in Canada, we have several new resources.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Missouri Governor can’t be appointed as public defender;
  • Legal Aid Ontario agrees to meet with staff lawyers’ union of choice;
  • Mississippi Access to Justice Commission celebrates 10th anniversary;
  • Oklahoma Access to Justice Commission convenes to advance access to justice;
  • Mae C. Quinn named director of new St. Louis office of the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center;
  • Conservation Law Foundation expands legal program for farms and food businesses;
  • Duquesne University School of Law’s new clinic to assist parents in school discipline cases;
  • The U.S. Army and the Indiana University Maurer School of Law launch new scholarship;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

August 25, 2016 – “Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon won’t be returning to the courtroom anytime soon. A Cole County Circuit Court judge ruled Thursday that the state’s top public defender doesn’t have the authority to appoint the governor, or any private counsel, to argue a case. At issue was a decision earlier this month from Michael Barrett, the state’s lead public defender, to order Nixon to represent an indigent defendant, citing a provision of state law allowing him to delegate such a job to ‘any member of the state bar in Missouri’ in extraordinary circumstances. Fed up with an underfunded public defender system, he picked the most high-profile lawyer in Missouri: Nixon, a former Missouri attorney general who has had an active law license since 1981, and the person Barrett said is most responsible for the cuts to his department’s budget. On Thursday, the court denied a motion to withdraw the public defender assigned to the case and replace him with Nixon, on the grounds that only the courts have the power to appoint lawyers. Still, it was a move that made national headlines, shedding light on a funding problem Barrett said has led to backlogs of cases, overworked attorneys and even the violation of constitutional rights.” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

August 25, 2016 – “After years of resistance, Legal Aid Ontario has agreed to come to the bargaining table to negotiate with its staff lawyers’ chosen union, the Society of Energy Professionals. Legal aid lawyers, who mounted an intense campaign on the LAO and the Ontario government in recent months, are calling this move a ‘significant breakthrough.’ In the days ahead, the lawyers say the union and LAO will enter into negotiations they hope will end in the recognition of the Society of Energy Professionals as their bargaining agent. ‘It’s a huge step,’ says legal aid lawyer Dana Fisher. ‘It’s a step that they’ve refused to take until now.’ Legal Aid Ontario says it has agreed to meet with union reps to find out what its employees are looking for. ‘At this point, we have agreed to meet with representatives of the Society of Energy Professionals to discuss arranging a vote to determine LAO’s staff lawyers’ wishes with regard to representation,’ said Graeme Burk, spokesman for LAO. ‘We are taking this step because LAO wants to know conclusively what our staff lawyers want with respect to representation.'” (Canadian Lawyer Magazine)

August 26, 2016 – “A group commissioned to help people who can’t afford an attorney is celebrating its 10 year anniversary by working to help more people. More than 600,000 Mississippians qualify for free legal help but there are not enough legal-aid attorneys. The Mississippi Access to Justice Commission works to provide legal help to Mississippians in civil cases.  It could be child custody, guardianship or changing the name on a birth certificate. Some cases require an attorney, others the judge says can be handled by the individual.  Access to Justice partners with agencies and private lawyers to provide legal advice and offer clinics. They’re hosting a summit to celebrate their 10th anniversary and devise more ways to help residents. They have an interactive website where people can find forms for civil cases, and they’re working on a mobile app.” (Mississippi Public Broadcasting)

August 26, 2016 – “The Oklahoma Access to Justice Commission met on Friday to discuss how to expand access to justice in civil matters across the state. Legal Services Corporation President James J. Sandman attended the meeting and discussed tactics for increasing access to justice in Oklahoma. The Oklahoma Access to Justice Commission was established by the Oklahoma Supreme Court in 2014 to address the problem of the many low-income Oklahomans unable to receive legal representation on crucial civil legal matters. The Commission’s goal is to develop a strategic plan for improving the statewide delivery of civil legal services and reducing barriers to the justice system.” “Friday’s meeting highlighted what the Commission has already achieved and looked ahead to accomplishing new goals. Topics included a newly launched interactive website providing free legal information to low-income Oklahoma citizens and a statewide assessment survey on legal need.” (LSC Media Release)

August 26, 2016 – “Veteran litigator Mae C. Quinn has been named director of the new St. Louis office of the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center, a public interest law firm that advocates for human rights and social justice through litigation. Most recently Quinn was a professor at Washington University School of Law, where she founded and directed the Juvenile Law and Justice Clinic. She is a national expert in criminal and juvenile law and has represented adult and child clients in trial-level and appellate courts across the country over the last two decades. The MacArthur Justice Center is based at the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law in Chicago. In addition to St. Louis and Chicago, the MacArthur Justice Center has offices in New Orleans and Oxford, Mississippi.” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

August 26, 2016 – “Conservation Law Foundation is launching the first national program in its 50-year history, a multistate expansion of Legal Food Hub, an initiative that provides local farmers and food entrepreneurs with pro bono legal services. The Hub started in Massachusetts in 2014, and has since opened in Maine. It will be available in Rhode Island in October and in Connecticut by 2017. The Boston-based environmental advocacy group hopes to bring the program to other states over the next several years.” (Boston Globe)

August 29, 2016 – “Years of working in the Juvenile Division of the Allegheny County public defender’s office inspired Ms. [Tiffany] Sizemore-Thompson to create a pair of law clinics at Duquesne [University School of Law], where she is now an assistant clinical professor. The second, focusing on education law, began last week. Ms. Sizemore-Thompson will serve as the supervising attorney and professor, overseeing eight law students who will maintain a caseload of clients. Doctoral psychology students will work with schools to develop plans for returning students. ‘The school-to-prison pipeline is alive and well in Allegheny County,’ where school discipline issues are ‘critical,’ she said. ‘The clinic seeks to stop the problem by focusing on representing students and parents in school discipline cases.’ It’s one of several efforts underway locally to provide more support to families and lay the groundwork for future lawyers interested in pursuing what some legal experts say is an underrepresented field.” (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

August 30, 2016 – “The Army and the Indiana University Maurer School of Law have signed an agreement creating the U.S. Army Law Scholars Program — believed to be the first partnership between the Army and a major law school — that will allow qualifying officers and enlisted soldiers to pursue a legal education during their time of service. Qualifying soldiers, from both active duty and reserve personnel, will receive an approximately $75,000 nonresident scholarship (amounting to at least 50 percent of tuition) to the law school and be paired with both an alumni and student mentor for the duration of their time in Bloomington.” “Service members interested in becoming a U.S. Army Law Scholar must meet the traditional requirements of any other student admitted into the Maurer School of Law.” (Indiana University Bloomington News)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

The Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service awarded the 2016 Pro Bono Publico Award to the following:

  • Cleary Gottlieb, New York, NY (and other U.S. and international offices)
  • John Goss, Goss and Fentress, Norfolk, VA
  • Katten Muchin, Chicago, IL (and other U.S. and international offices)
  • Renee Schoenberg, DLA Piper, Chicago IL
  • Hillary Gaston Walsh, The Law Office of Hillary Gaston Walsh, South Korea

Their work is outstanding and inspiring.  Watch the award videos here.  Congratulations to all the award recipients!

Music Bonus!  Music pick from the PSJD Fellow Delisa Morris.


PSJD Public Interest News Digest – August 26, 2016

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

Happy Friday!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Illinois governor signs bill expanding legal aid for juveniles in murder or sex offense investigations;
  • Beloit College Mindset List for the Class of 2020;
  • Bloomberg Law contributor’s perspective on ABA’s “Future” Report;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

August 22, 2016 – “Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has signed legislation that requires an attorney to be present when police question juveniles younger than 15 in murder or sex offense investigations. Illinois already mandates legal representation for children younger than 13 in those cases, even if they’re not the targets of the criminal probe. But lawmakers who sponsored the legislation argued 14- and 15-year-olds should receive legal protection, too. Rauner signed the bill Monday. Lawmakers say the new law is meant to eliminate false confessions.” (SFGate)

August 24, 2016 – While not public interest news per se, I always read this list each year before the 1Ls join us on campus. It’s a good reminder that not everyone has had the same experiences, and it’s a fun list to read.  Enjoy! Beloit College Mindset List

August 25, 2016 – Bloomberg Law contributor Stephen Poor, Chair Emeritus, Seyfarth Shaw LLP, writes a response to the ABA’s Report on the Future of Legal Services in the United States. He notes “the Report does not simply focus on access-to-justice issues. Rather, it addresses many of the range of issues facing the entire legal profession, including Big Law — from diversity, to business model innovation, to challenges with the criminal justice system, to the lack of funding for legal services. While the problems it identifies are hardly new, the Report’s power lies in the aggregation of facts and the overall perspective.” He then identifies with the camp that feels the Report is “insufficiently bold.” After a critique of the report, he posits an idea regarding big law support of the development of legal technology to assist in the delivery of legal services.  The article is an interesting read. (Bloomberg Law)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

When Steve Brust and a team from Smith, Gambrell & Russell decided to ramp up their pro bono involvement, it was clear they were ‘all in.’ ‘We’ve long supported Jacksonville Area Legal Aid and the delivery of legal services for the disadvantaged, but we know we can do more,’ Brust said. ‘We want to do the right thing for our community and we also want to do the right thing by training our new associates. Maybe with additional pro bono involvement we can do both.’ A conversation about these goals evolved into a new pro bono initiative: The Landlord/Tenant Pro Bono Project. It will provide legal assistance to low-income clients in housing disputes while giving new associates experience in client representation and court proceedings. Once a month at JALA, attorneys from the firm help interview clients during landlord-tenant intake and then accept pro bono cases. In turn, JALA provides training and expert resource guidance, such as recognizing and defining legal issues in landlord-tenant intake and common causes of action. (Jacksonville Daily Record)

Music Bonus!  Music pick from the PSJD Fellow Delisa Morris.


PSJD Public Interest News Digest – August 19, 2016

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

Happy Friday!  It is with great pleasure that we welcome the 2016-2017 PSJD Fellow Delisa Morris.  She comes to us from Syracuse University College of Law.  We’re so excited to work with her!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • New ABA President Linda Klein announces Veterans Legal Services Initiative;
  • Maine Commission on Indigent Legal Services requests budget supplement;
  • U.K. legal chatbot expanding to help the homeless;
  • ABA announces creation of Center of Innovation to increase access to justice;
  • DC Bar Foundation awards $950,000 in grants for foreclosure prevention and community redevelopment;
  • Free online site will answer legal questions in Mississippi;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

August 10, 2016 – “ABA President Linda Klein has announced an effort to provide legal representation and resources for veterans. Klein says in a video that she became aware of the needs of veterans when members of her law firm volunteered at a homeless shelter. She learned that over half the needs of homeless veterans are legal. The ABA Veterans Legal Services Initiative launched by Klein will be led by a 20-member volunteer commission, according to a press release. The commission is expected to:

• Build a comprehensive website that informs veterans of legal issues and directs them to appropriate resources.

• Encourage law schools and bar associations to promote legal-services incubators that could help veterans while providing training to new and underemployed lawyers.

• Promote partnerships between doctors and lawyers to help solve veterans’ legal problems.

• Extend the National Pro Bono Celebration Week in late October to include Veteran’s Day, and sponsor additional volunteer efforts around Memorial Day.” (ABA Journal)

August 14, 2016 – “The Maine Commission on Indigent Legal Services is asking for a supplemental appropriation in January of over $2.8 million. John Pelletier, executive director of the commission, says lawmakers rejected an attempt earlier this year to get additional money requested in the two-year budget, but not approved. ‘For ’16 they gave us the amount to increase the hourly rate, but they zeroed out the cost increase, saying that is the second year of the biennium,’ he says. Pelletier says the increased need in the commission budget is driven by a number of factors. He says there are more cases being brought against the poor who can’t afford to pay for their own attorney, and the complexity of cases is increasing. He said lawmakers did fund an hourly increase for lawyers from $55 an hour to $60 an hour.” (Maine Public Broadcasting)

August 15, 2016 – Another legal tech update: “The DoNotPay chat bot, created by 19-year-old Joshua Browder from London, gained international attention in recent months for helping citizens overturn more than 160,000 parking tickets in the U.K. Now, the world’s first robot lawyer is expanding its range and offering legal aid to people who are facing homelessness due to evictions. The bot will ask users a series of questions, including why they are facing eviction, and then respond with a document with legal advice to support the user. Its services are currently supporting users in the United Kingdom with plans to offer support to the U.S.” (Forbes)

August 15, 2016 – “The American Bar Association announced today the creation of the Center for Innovation, a venture designed to advance the ABA’s efforts to improve the delivery of legal services to the public through innovative programs and initiatives. The center will drive innovation in the justice system and the legal profession by serving as a resource for ABA members, maintaining an inventory of the ABA’s innovation efforts and the efforts of the domestic and international legal services community, and operating a program of innovative fellowships to work with other professionals, such as technologists, entrepreneurs and design professionals, to create models that improve the justice system.” (ABA News)

August 16, 2016 – “The DC Bar Foundation (DCBF) awarded $950,000 in grants to five two-year projects focused on foreclosure prevention and community redevelopment. Lawyers funded by these grants will provide free civil legal assistance to DC residents living in poverty and who are facing situations including foreclosures, wrongful evictions, poor housing conditions, and expiring housing subsidies.” Follow the link for a complete list of grantees and details about their projects. (DC Bar Foundation)

August 18, 2016 – “Free legal advice to Mississippians who can’t afford an attorney goes online later this month, its sponsors say. ‘It’s a way to bring information to the public with answers to civil legal matters,’ said Tiffany Graves, executive director of the Mississippi Access to Justice Commission, which is partnering with the Mississippi Volunteer Lawyers Project to offer the service. The online service, will provide information about common legal problems, such as divorce, child custody, housing, landlord-tenant disputes, land issues, trust and estate matters, will and probate matters, wage and employment issues, bankruptcy, and consumer disputes, Graves said.” (The Meridian Star)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

Thomas F. Garrett retired this week from the top post of the Legal Services Law Line of Vermont, where he had been the executive director since the Law Line formed in 1996. His last day on the job was Monday. In that post, Garrett managed a staff of attorneys who provide free consultation, advice, intake, referral and education for low-income Vermonters primarily through the Vermont Law Help hotline. The hotline, a joint project of Vermont Legal Aid and Law Line, is funded in part by the Legal Services Corp. Garrett also oversaw the Vermont Volunteer Lawyers Project, a cooperative effort of the Vermont Bar Association and Law Line. It is the only organized pro-bono legal services project in the state. Through Garrett’s efforts, Law Line received and implemented several technology innovation grants from the Legal Services Corp. Congratulations on your retirement and thank you for your service! (Times Argus)

Music Bonus!  Music pick from the PSJD Fellow Delisa Morris.