Archive for Public Interest Law News Bulletin

PSJD Public Interest News Digest – March 24, 2017

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

Happy Friday! We are once again recognizing law students in action. If you’d like your project featured, let us know.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • California Chief Justice asks federal officials to stop making immigration arrests at courthouse;
  • Missouri public defender director won’t extend paid parental leave for employees;
  • Private attorneys pledge to take on some cases from overworked St. Louis public defenders;
  • Legal aid wins funding boost in Alberta budget;
  • Legal Aid of Western Michigan launches online intake interview;
  • Tenants battling bad landlords find help from new app;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants; and
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

March 16, 2017 – “The chief justice of the California Supreme Court asked federal immigration agents to stop making arrests at courthouses, saying ‘stalking undocumented immigrants’ at the facilities thwarts people’s access to justice. Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye wrote in a letter to top federal officials that she is concerned about recent reports of immigration agents going to the courts to track down immigrants for arrest, saying the practice will affect the public’s confidence in the court system. ‘Courthouses should not be used as bait in the necessary enforcement of our country’s immigration laws,’ she wrote in the letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, adding that crime and domestic violence victims and witnesses all go to the courts seeking justice and due process of the law. Immigration and Customs Enforcement had no immediate comment on the letter.” (The Mercury News)

March 17, 2017 – “Michael Barrett, director of the Missouri State Public Defender System, has notified Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens that he cannot and will not expand paid parental leave for his employees. Barrett put the information in a letter he sent to the governor Wednesday. Urging other branches of government to follow suit, Greitens signed an executive order Monday giving roughly 45,000 executive branch employees six weeks of paid parental leave if they are the primary caregiver and three weeks if they are the secondary caregiver. The time off is on top of vacation and sick days. The Office of Administration estimated the executive order’s cost to the state would be about $1.1 million annually.” “Barrett, whose department falls under the judiciary branch, wrote in his letter that while he applauded the governor’s efforts, and said he wanted to do the same for his employees, he added that ‘regrettably’ he wouldn’t. The office has more than 560 employees, 334 of whom are attorneys. ‘I believe that these mission-critical employees would instead prefer that I work to alleviate their impossible caseload burden and deliver them a salary that is worthy of their contribution to the state and its citizens,’ Barrett wrote.” (The Joplin Globe)

March 20, 2017 – “The state’s overburdened public defender system could soon see some relief, as private attorneys in the St. Louis area have committed to taking over some cases on a volunteer basis. A new nonprofit group, the Missouri Coalition for the Right to Counsel, has proposed a system where younger attorneys in the private sector try certain jury cases in the circuit courts of St. Louis and St. Louis County, where they can gain trial experience and reduce the caseloads for public defenders. More than a dozen St. Louis area firms have pledged to provide volunteers, who will undergo training from public defenders in April and then begin assisting with their overwhelming workload.” “Regardless of outside help, lawmakers still have a duty to address the issue statewide, [Missouri Public Defender Michael] Barrett said. ‘In no way is this meant to allow the state to get out of its obligation to provide counsel to poor people in Missouri,’ said Barrett, who also helped create the coalition. And to make that clear, the help has an expiration date; the firms only plan to provide volunteers for two years.” (St. Louis Dispatch)

March 20, 2017 – “Criminal lawyers in Alberta are celebrating a boost in funding to the province’s beleaguered legal aid services. ‘We’re all pleasantly surprised that the government has shown such a commitment,’ Kelly Dawson, president of the Criminal Trial Lawyers Association, said Monday. In last week’s budget the province committed $81 million to legal aid for the upcoming year.” “The funding increase comes after the province dedicated more money towards hiring 50 new Crown prosecutors and 30 support staff earlier this month.” (CBC News)

March 20, 2017 – “Low-income individuals and seniors who are seeking legal services now have another way to make an initial connection with a local nonprofit. Legal Aid of Western Michigan in Grand Rapids has launched an online intake interview, which will help potential clients determine whether they meet eligibility requirements for Legal Aid’s services. The tool can be accessed by computer, tablet and smartphone.” “Legal Aid designed the tool to let those who don’t qualify find out quickly — and provide them with the contact information of other places where they might find help. The guided online intake tool is interactive and should take less than 15 minutes to complete.” (Grand Rapids Business Journal)

March 21, 2017 – “Tenants and advocates fighting evictions can get some much-needed assistance from an award-winning new app launched by a nonprofit startup. JustFix.nyc is piloting a dashboard interface to make it easier for community organizers and legal aid attorneys to keep track of open maintenance cases — like leaks, mold or rodent infestations — and communicate with multiple tenants in one building or across a complex, according to startup co-founder Georges Clement. Clement — who developed the app with Dan Kass and Ashley Treni while they were fellows at Blue Ridge Labs, the Robin Hood Foundation’s tech incubator — saw the need for such a tool after spending many days observing housing court proceedings. They saw how tenants rarely had legal representation, unlike their landlords, and often ended up simply showing judges photos on their smart phones to prove poor apartment conditions — which were inadmissible as evidence unless they wanted to give up their phones. By streamlining the ability to monitor open cases, he said, it will be easier for housing advocates to negotiate with landlords and build strong legal cases against them — especially in rent stabilized buildings where owners may be trying to push out low-income tenants through harassment and neglect.” (dnainfo)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

Law Students in Action:  Students from the University of Connecticut School of Law spent their spring break providing free legal assistance to immigrant detainees at the York County Prison who are seeking asylum.  Congratulations to Anna Cabot, a very dedicated group of law students, and several volunteer alumni attorneys, who have just returned from the second annual spring break service trip to assist detained asylum-seekers.  You can see a TV news segment about the trip at the link. (WGAL)

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

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – March 17, 2017

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

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  The big news is Trump’s budget, which proposes eliminating 19 agencies including the Legal Services Corporation. We have reactions below.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Law firms urge government to continue funding legal services;
  • Flood Proof launches app;
  • Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program and Pro Bono Net launch new website for veterans/volunteer lawyers;
  • Law students’ report says Canada in violation of Charter;
  • Paladin co-founder newest Entrepreneur-in-Residence at 1871;
  • Chicago judge orders access to lawyers at police stations;
  • North Carolina Commission on the Administration of Law and Justice issues recommendations for court improvement;
  • Trump White House releases proposed budget – cuts LSC funding;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants; and
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

March 10, 2017 – “Leaders of more than 150 U.S. law firms with offices in all 50 states sent a letter to the Office of Management and Budget Thursday, urging it to continue funding the Legal Services Corp. President Donald Trump’s proposed budget has reportedly put funding for the bipartisan nonprofit on the chopping block. ‘The pro bono activity facilitated by LSC funding is exactly the kind of public-private partnership the government should encourage, not eliminate,’ the law firm leaders wrote. In the letter, which is addressed to OMB Director John Michael Mulvaney, the law firm chairs and managing partners said that lawyers in their firms provide millions of hours of free pro bono service “to individuals in desperate need of assistance,” noting that they do this by working closely with independent legal aid agencies around the country that are funded by the LSC. ‘Our ability to provide pro bono legal services is directly dependent on partnership with legal aid organizations,’ they wrote.  The LSC, they said, provides essential support for the firms’ pro bono work because those agencies screen cases for merit and eligibility and train and mentor attorneys. In addition, low-income people living in rural areas often can only find free legal assistance through LSC grantees, they said. The firm leaders told Mulvaney that LSC funding is money well-spent, in part because civil legal aid is able to leverage pro bono services provided by private firms. The LSC has asked Congress to appropriate $502.7 million in the 2017 budget.” (The American Lawyer)

March 10, 2017 – “Flood Proof: Free Legal Help for Homeowners with Title Problems launched a new iPhone app to streamline the process for homeowners seeking to obtain a clear title to inherited property. “Homeowners who were affected by the August floods and lack clear title to their home need to gather information and documents to prove title. The Flood Proof App is a tool that will allow flood victims to do exactly that from their home or place of temporary residence, and hopefully minimize the number of times that they have to take off of work or arrange child care in order to make multiple trips to an attorney’s office,” said Judy Perry Martinez, Special Advisor to the newly created American Bar Association Center for Innovation and former chair of the ABA Presidential Commission on the Future of Legal Services.” “The Flood Proof app was developed with support from Southeast Louisiana Legal Services, the American Bar Association’s Center for Innovation, Stanford University Law School and the LSU Law Center. The project is led by Southeast Louisiana Legal Services in collaboration with the Baton Rouge Bar Foundation, Southern University Law Center, LSU Law Center, Louisiana Appleseed, and the American Bar Association’s Center for Innovation. Generous support funding the project is provided through grants from the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Louisiana Bar Foundation, the Equal Justice Works Foundation, and the Greater New Orleans Foundation.” (brproud)

March 10, 2017 – “The Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program and Pro Bono Net are pleased to announce the launch of a new website, www.vetsprobono.org, to support and engage both veterans and volunteer attorneys.  The new site leverages the probono.net technology platform, which is used to support broad-based networks of legal aid, civil rights and pro bono lawyers across the country. The site offers veterans and their families information about appealing unfavorable VA benefits decisions, including informational videos and frequently asked questions. The new web platform delivers a winning ‘trifecta’ solution: making it easier for veterans to file federal court appeals, making it more efficient for attorneys to volunteer and ask for cases to represent veterans in need, and making it more effective for The Veterans Consortium (TVC) staff attorneys to carefully match the right client with the best volunteer. The Consortium’s volunteers will be able to find available pro bono cases, as well as have the ability to indicate their interest in specific cases. To support their representation of veterans, the site also provides volunteers a library of resources on a wide variety of veterans’ issues. In addition, TVC will soon launch an interactive interview to generate an informal brief hosted on Pro Bono Net’s LawHelp Interactive (LHI’s) platform. The brief was designed for veterans who are appealing benefit denials in the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. Through LHI and its Connect feature, appellants respond to questions with an easy-to-use interface and then are able to share their drafts with TVC staff for review before filing them with the Court. ‘This partnership between Pro Bono Net and The Veterans Consortium demonstrates an ideal use of online tools and expertise to support a truly national network of volunteers to serve veterans across the country,’ says Mark O’Brien, Executive Director of Pro Bono Net. The Veterans Consortium and Pro Bono Net also teamed with Neota Logic and Just-Tech, LLC to build and integrate the tools needed to make this technology initiative a reality. Ed Glabus, Executive Director of The Veterans Consortium, summed up the project in these words: ‘This new web platform is a leap ahead for our staff and dedicated volunteers, and helps us live our credo that our veterans in need, our nation’s defenders, deserve the benefits and compensation they were promised, and the best legal services free of charge, to meet their challenges. We couldn’t have accomplished this rapid increase in capability and capacity without our outstanding high tech and mission driven partner Pro Bono Net.'” (probono.net Press Release)

March 13, 2017 – “Law students from across the country issued a report that argues Canada’s continued participation in the Safe Third Country Agreement with the U.S. violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The report, compiled by hundreds of law students on behalf of the Canadian Council for Refugees, calls on the government to suspend the agreement in response to the Trump administration’s immigration policies.” “The report shows how refugees turned back on Canadian borders could face detention, deportation or lack of access to legal representation in the United States. By continuing to be part of the agreement, Canada “is breaching” both its own Charter of Rights and the International Refugee Convention, the report notes. Despite mounting pressure, immigration minister Ahmed Hussen said last month Canada was not considering reviewing the agreement.” (Metro News)

March 13, 2017 – “The co-founder of a startup matching lawyers to pro bono cases will join the push for diversity in tech at 1871. Kristen Sonday was announced Saturday as 1871’s next Entrepreneur in Residence through the Code2040/Google for Entrepreneurs program, where she’ll work to expand opportunities for underrepresented minorities.” (Chicago Tribune)

March 14, 2017 – “In a city where fewer than 1 percent of people in police custody are visited by an attorney, a judge’s order will help the poor access a free lawyer while at the police station. Chief Judge Timothy Evans of the Circuit Court of Cook County signed an order Tuesday that would make a county public defender or a designated private attorney available to anyone who is in custody at one of the Chicago Police Department’s 22 stations with lockup facilities.” “Under Evans’ order, arrestees will now have access to legal aid during normal weekday business hours. [24-hour First Defense Legal Aid’s] group of volunteer attorneys will be on call after hours, on weekends and on holidays.” (Huffington Post)

March 15, 2017 – “Electronic filing of documents in criminal cases and civil lawsuits, data analytics to improve case flow and increased funding for indigent defense and public interest lawyers are among the recommendations a statewide panel has made to improve the North Carolina court system. The North Carolina Commission on the Administration of Law and Justice presented its final report to Chief Justice Mark Martin on Wednesday. Martin appointed the 65-member commission almost two years ago and tasked members with the first comprehensive evaluation of the state court system in two decades. ‘The commission’s recommendations create a framework for dramatic, systemic improvement in the administration of justice in North Carolina,’ Martin said in a statement. ‘The work of this blue-ribbon commission will help ensure that North Carolina’s Judicial Branch meets the needs and expectations that the people of North Carolina have for fair, modern and impartial courts.’ Recommendations were made in five areas: criminal investigation and adjudication, civil justice, technology, legal professionalism and public trust and confidence.” (WRAL)

March 16, 2017 – “On Thursday, the Trump administration released a preliminary 2018 budget proposal, which details many of the changes the president wants to make to the federal government’s spending. The proposal covers only discretionary, not mandatory, spending. To pay for an increase in defense spending, a down payment on the border wall and school voucher programs, among other things, funding was cut from the discretionary budgets of other executive departments and agencies. The Environmental Protection Agency, the State Department and the Agriculture Department took the hardest hits. The proposal also eliminates funding for these 19 agencies.” One of the proposed eliminations is funding for the Legal Services Corporation. (Washington Post)

LSC Statement: “President Trump’s budget proposal released today calls for defunding the Legal Services Corporation, but LSC leaders expressed confidence that Congress would continue to support the vital mission of the nation’s single largest funder of civil legal aid for low-income people. ‘I look forward to working with Congress to continue LSC’s work,’ said James Sandman, President of LSC. ‘I am optimistic that the bipartisan support we have enjoyed in Congress for more than four decades will continue for years to come.'” (LSC Press Release)

ABA Statement: “The American Bar Association is outraged that the administration  proposes to eliminate funding for the Legal Services Corporation in its budget and calls on every member of Congress to restore full funding. LSC provides civil legal aid to people who desperately need help to navigate the legal process. Without this assistance, court house doors will slam in the faces of millions of Americans, denying them equal access to justice. Some of the worthy services the LSC provides include securing housing for veterans, protecting seniors from scams, delivering legal services to rural areas, protecting victims of domestic abuse and helping disaster survivors. Their offices are in every congressional district and they help almost 1.9 million people annually. More than 30 cost-benefit studies all show that legal aid delivers far more in benefits than it costs. If veterans become homeless, or disaster victims cannot rebuild, their costs to society are significantly more.” (ABA News)

NLADA Statement: “Today the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released a framework for the FY18 federal budget that recommends the elimination of the Legal Services Corporation (LSC). The OMB proposal would further clog courts with individuals who would be forced to represent themselves without the assistance of an attorney, and deny equal access to justice for millions of people in our country.  NLADA, the nation’s judiciary, the legal profession, and a host of other organizations are joined in our resolve to educate Congress about the critical role LSC plays in guaranteeing our nation’s promise of justice and fairness for all. Civil legal aid is integral to the effective functioning of our justice system, and to the principle that the quality of justice you receive should not depend on how much money you have.” (NLADA Statement)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

Law Students in Action: Students in Boston University School of Law’s Immigrants’ Rights Clinic (IRC) have been working to help those caught in the confusion following President Trump’s executive orders on immigration enforcement and deportation. Supervised by Clinical Instructor Sarah Sherman-Stokes, IRC students recently worked in conjunction with the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to ensure compliance with the Massachusetts Federal Court Order that put a seven-day hold on the enforcement of President Trump’s executive order of January 27, 2017, which blocked travelers coming to the US from seven majority Muslim countries. Students, on a volunteer-basis, went to Logan Airport and provided legal support for travelers who were having issues or were simply curious about their rights. (Boston University School of Law News)

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

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – March 10, 2017

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

Happy Friday! This week was a big news week for new projects. And with the release of the revised immigration executive order, a lot of pro bono news. If your school is doing a spring break project (doesn’t have to be immigration), let us know.  We’d like to celebrate your efforts.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Tennessee legal aid society receives grant for foreclosure prevention, community redevelopment;
  • Western Michigan University Cooley Law School receives grants for elder law clinic;
  • ABA Center for Innovation will hold design event to create app for hate crime victims;
  • Employer certification process under PSLF;
  • Mexico opens immigrant defense centers in US consulates;
  • University of New Mexico School of Law program that helps overturn wrongful convictions facing defunding;
  • Facebook Chatbot, ‘DoNotPay,’ provides legal aid for refugees;
  • Judge’s report urges Ontario to let paralegals appear in family court;
  • Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP and Goldman Sachs launch pro bono Immigration Clinic;
  • USC Gould School of Law establishes first named clinical law professorship;
  • Southern Poverty Law Center launches immigration pro bono project;
  • Legal Services Corporation launches data collection for 2017 Justice Gap Study;
  • Concerts for Indigent Defense;
  • Charles Koch Foundation gives $2.2m to the University of Pennsylvania Law School for criminal justice system research;
  • ACLU files suit over Missouri indigent defense;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants; and
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

March 2, 2017 – “Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands, which is Tennessee’s largest nonprofit law firm and has an office in Oak Ridge, has received a two-year grant from the Tennessee Bar Foundation to increase foreclosure prevention and community redevelopment legal assistance.” “With these funds, Legal Aid Society is hiring a new attorney and a new paralegal to provide legal assistance in its Murfreesboro and Tullahoma service areas and expand its foreclosure and consumer work in its Oak Ridge, Gallatin, and Nashville service areas.” (Oak Ridge Today)

March 3, 2017 – “A local school has been awarded funds by three organizations to prevent the financial exploitation of senior citizens. Western Michigan University Cooley Law School said this winter its Sixty Plus Inc. Elderlaw Clinic was awarded $53,950 total for its programs for seniors in Ingham County and the surrounding area. The clinic received $33,000 from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Aging and Adult Services Agency PREVNT Initiative. The Capital Region Community Foundation awarded $10,950, and the Lansing Area Community Trust granted $10,000 toward the initiative.” (Grand Rapids Business Journal)

March 3, 2017 – “The ABA Center for Innovation will hold a design event in Boston to produce an app that assists victims of hate crimes. ‘Legal Design Sprint: Responding to Hate Crimes Through Technology’ will be held at Suffolk University Law School on March 20 and is sponsored by the Center for Innovation and Suffolk Law, along with CuroLegal and Stanford Law School’s Legal Design Lab. The all-day event will bring together participants in the legal, technology and design spheres with the goal of creating a mobile app that will allow users to determine whether they are victims of a hate crime and provide them with resources and information to report it. According to Center for Innovation director Janet Jackson, the project was the brainchild of Nicole Bradick, chief strategy officer at CuroLegal. It is being funded by a $25,000 grant from Cisco.” (ABA Journal)

March 3, 2017 – Here is a good basic article on employer certification for Public Service Loan Forgiveness and a summary of the ABA lawsuit from our friends at Equal Justice Works. (Huffington Post)

March 5, 2017 – “Mexico on Saturday formally began operating centers for the defense of Mexican immigrants in its 50 consulates and embassies in the United States. The centers ‘are specifically designed to provide consular assistance as well as legal representation to all Mexican migrants who require support in America,’ the Mexican Foreign Ministry said in a statement. ‘This significant progress in terms of protection answers to the instruction of the president of the republic to strengthen support for our nationals in that country.'” “The ministry’s statement adds that ‘through these (centers), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs provides an exclusive space for Mexicans in need of consular assistance to receive information, guidance and direct legal advice, with the support of a strong network of local allies, including lawyers and organizations specialized in the defense of the rights of the migrants.'” (CNN)

March 6, 2017 – “A UNM School of Law program that works to overturn wrongful convictions could be losing its funding soon. Since 2009, the New Mexico Innocence and Justice Project (NMIJP) has helped UNM law students investigate claims of innocence in legal cases after the accused has already been convicted.” “But now the program is losing funding, and needs a savior of its own. Grant funds, approximately $200,000 per year, are relied upon to keep NMIJP afloat by providing a means for pursuing investigative and operational costs, including the ability to test DNA, Gordon Rahn, NMIJP project director and research professor, said. However, that grant expires this May, and the funding stream may be discontinued. ‘Due to the state’s budget crisis and its impact on UNM and the Law School, there are no funds available through the law school’s budget for us,’ he said. ‘Without funding from other sources, it is likely the program cannot continue beyond the end date of the grant.'” (Daily Lobo)

March 6, 2017 – “A chatbot which helped people to appeal parking fines is now providing refugees in the US, Canada and the UK with free legal aid. The chatbot, created by 20-year-old Stanford student Joshua Browder, is called DoNotPay, and was originally used to help people in London and New York with legal matters such as appealing parking tickets and receiving compensation for late flights. After the success of the app, lawyers and non-profit organisations approached Browder with the idea of extending the technology to help refugees seek asylum. DoNotPay asks users questions in plain English to assess their eligibility for asylum. The chatbot can also record a user’s details, provides instructions on how to submit applications, and has the ability to automatically fill in immigration applications for the relevant country. In a statement to Mashable, Browder stated his hope that DoNotPay will ‘allow anyone to have a right to safety, regardless of the ability to afford a lawyer.’ DoNotPay uses Facebook Messenger, which does not use automatic end-to-end encryption. Browder stated that he chose to use the the messaging platform as it was ‘the most accessible platform and the most appropriate to launch with.’ Browder also states that data from any interaction with the chatbot is deleted from his servers after ten minutes, and it is also possible to erase the data from Facebook Messenger. DoNotPay can be reached through a search on Facebook, and represents the many possible uses of chatbots.” (Neowin)

March 6, 2017 – “In what could prove to be a huge shakeup of the family court system in Ontario, the former chief justice of the provincial court is recommending that paralegals be allowed to provide some family law services unsupervised, including appearing in court. The recommendations from former Ontario court chief justice Annemarie Bonkalo in a report released Monday were hailed by paralegals and condemned by lawyers, leaving the provincial government and the legal regulator to work out how to implement what are clearly divisive ideas.” “At the same time, the judge dismissed the idea of more funding for family lawyers through Legal Aid Ontario, although she said it was ‘proposed repeatedly’ throughout consultations for her report. ‘Recommendations like expanding legal aid to cover existing gaps are not practicable,’ she said. ‘Moreover, I do not agree that the solution to any crisis in access to legal services lies solely with (legal aid) or the government.’ The report, commissioned by the Ministry of the Attorney General and the law society, comes as the family court system is facing a crisis. According to the province, over 57 per cent of people did not have a lawyer in family court in 2014-15, or about 21,000 people. Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi said in a statement Monday that the government and the law society will work on an ‘action plan’ to address the recommendations by fall 2017. The government is also seeking public feedback on the recommendations until May 15.” (The Star)

March 6, 2017 – “Cadwalader is collaborating with Goldman Sachs on the launch of a pro bono Immigration Clinic. The joint effort brings together Cadwalader and Goldman Sachs attorneys and staff to provide eligible undocumented immigrants with the opportunity to apply for lawful permanent residency. ‘We’re excited about establishing this important program with a valued and long-standing client like Goldman Sachs,’ said Cadwalader’s Managing Partner Pat Quinn. ‘We are committed to working with like-minded clients on pro bono initiatives that provide communities in need with access to legal assistance and representation.'” (Cadwalader News)

March 6, 2017 – “USC Gould School of Law is establishing its first named clinical law professorship at USC with a generous $1.5 million gift from longtime supporter Audrey M. Irmas, whose philanthropic commitment to women and children is well-known throughout California. Professor Niels Frenzen, founding director of the USC Gould Immigration Clinic, will be installed as the first Sydney M. and Audrey M. Irmas Endowed Clinical Professor. The gift will expand the Immigration Clinic’s work and student participation in advocacy and representation of immigration clients. ‘Audrey Irmas has been a steadfast supporter of USC and the Gould School of Law for many decades,’ said Dean Andrew Guzman. ‘We are deeply grateful to have such a committed member of the Trojan Family supporting a critical need for our clinics at the law school.'” (USC Gould News)

March 7, 2017 – “The Southern Poverty Law Center today announced a new project that will enlist and train lawyers to provide free legal representation to immigrants who have been detained in the Southeast and are facing deportation proceedings. When fully implemented, it will be the largest detention center-based deportation defense project in the country.” “The Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative (SIFI) will begin at the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia, in collaboration with the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the American Immigration Council, the Innovation Law Lab and the American Immigration Representation Project. It will then be expanded to other detention centers throughout the Southeast.” Attorneys can sign up for SIFI here. (Southern Poverty Law Center)

March 7, 2017 – “With support from two funders, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Kresge Foundation, LSC is conducting a national report that documents the ‘justice gap’ – the difference between the need for civil legal services and the resources available to meet that need. LSC is updating its 2005 and 2009 justice gap studies. As with LSC’s two prior justice gap studies, LSC is asking grantees to collect data about individuals who come to their offices with a legal problem that they are unable to serve or unable to fully serve. The data collection will last for six weeks – from Monday, March 6, 2017 to Friday, April 14, 2017. Grantees should submit their completed data collection matrix by email to JusticeGapStudy@lsc.gov by the close of business on Friday, April 28, 2017.” (LSC News)

March 8, 2017 – “Concerts for Indigent Defense is musicians and their communities standing together in support of the Constitutional right of all Americans to be represented by a lawyer when accused of a crime – even if one is too poor to hire one. Concerts for Indigent Defense are not fundraisers; they are awareness-raisers, about a cherished Constitutional right that is badly neglected every day across America. New Orleans will kick off this annual effort on Saturday, March 18, 2017, to celebrate the 54th anniversary of the United States Supreme Court decision in Gideon v. Wainwright, which established the fundamental constitutional right to counsel. This year’s featured Concert for Indigent Defense will be simulcast across the country on www.ConcertsforIndigentDefense.org at 5p.m. central time. Musicians, national legal organizations, and a range of supporters have already pledged their support for the nationwide effort, which will be presented in 2018 as a follow-up to Concerts for Indigent Defense: New Orleans.” (Concerts for Indigent Defense)

March 8, 2017 – “The foundation of libertarian Charles Koch has given a grant of up to $2.2 million to the University of Pennsylvania Law School for research on ways to improve fairness in the criminal justice system. The funding, from the Charles Koch Foundation, will go to the Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice at the law school. The center focuses on whether the rights of disadvantaged populations are adequately protected when they interact with the criminal justice system.” (Philly.com)

March 9, 2017 – “A new lawsuit alleges the state of Missouri routinely violates the rights of people who need public defenders because of those attorneys’ large caseloads. The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri filed a class-action lawsuit Thursday alleging that public defenders cannot pay enough attention to their clients, who have been charged with crimes ranging from stealing to murder. That, the ACLU claims, violates the state and federal constitutions. ‘Every year in Missouri, tens of thousands of people are pushed through the system without having an attorney who has the time and resources to be able to provide them a defense,’ ACLU of Missouri legal director Tony Rothert said. ‘The American Bar Association puts out standards on how long should be spend on a criminal defense case, and the public defender system fails to meet that standards 97 percent of the time. It’s not just a case here and there.'” (St. Louis Public Radio)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

Exelon announced today that its legal department has been honored by Pro Bono Institute (PBI) with the 2017 Laurie D. Zelon Pro Bono Award in recognition of its efforts and leadership to provide legal assistance to those who could otherwise not afford it. The Laurie D. Zelon Pro Bono Award is presented annually to an organization that has provided exemplary pro bono service and leadership and reflects Exelon’s commitment to giving back in the communities where its people work and live. Fortune recently named Exelon to its 2017 list of the World’s Most Admired Companies, which, in part, recognized the company for social responsibility efforts such as those praised by PBI. In 2016, Exelon employees served more than 170,000 hours of community service, and Exelon companies and the Exelon Foundation donated more than $46 million to nonprofits – the largest amount ever. (Yahoo Finance)

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

Comments

PSJD Public Interest News Digest – March 3, 3017

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

Happy Friday!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • St. Charles Parish Public Defender’s Office may cut lawyers/lawyer pay;
  • Proposal would bar North Carolina public law schools from providing legal representation;
  • Indiana University Maurer School of Law and Southern Poverty Law Center partner on scholar program;
  • Yale Law School launches six new clinics;
  • Alberta’s justice system has reached breaking point says prosecutors;
  • Montana governor signs bills addressing criminal justice costs;
  • Legal Aid Ontario offers coverage for second judicial pre-trials across Ontario;
  • Eviction Defense Project launches in Milwaukee;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants; and
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

February 24, 2017 – “Dealing with a budget crunch, the St. Charles Parish Public Defender’s Office has put its 11 attorneys on notice of possible layoffs and salary cuts. District Public Defender Vic Bradley Jr. said the move comes with a $138,000 deficit. Without cuts, Bradley projected the figure could easily surpass last fiscal year’s $392,596 budget shortfall. ‘We can’t keep going that way,’ he said. ‘We have to cut costs. We’re spending twice what we were taking in for the last couple of months.’ Bradley said it’s possible one lawyer will be cut and the others will take a pay cut. He recently notified them by letter that their contracts have been ended and pay will be renegotiated. ‘The money is not just coming in,’ he said. ‘The court costs are not there.'” (St. Charles Herald Guide)

February 24, 2017 – “A proposal headed to the UNC system’s Board of Governors would bar public university centers and institutes in North Carolina from providing legal representation to clients in any sort of litigation. The broadly worded measure, submitted to the board’s education policy committee in a memo credited to member Joe Knott, would almost certainly affect organizations like the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Law’s Center for Civil Rights. The Center for Civil Rights has provided support, counsel or other aid in a variety of cases involving school desegregation, voting rights and compensation for victims of the state’s former forced-sterilization program. System policy currently allows that, but Knott’s cover memo said the board should decide that ‘filing legal actions against the state or city and county governments does not come within the primary purpose of centers and institutes.’ But the attached proposal, drafted in the style of the ones already included in the system policy manual, goes much farther than barring participation in the sort of civil matters that have drawn criticism from some board members previously. It forbids centers and institutes from filing ‘a complaint, motion, lawsuit or other legal claim,’ in its own name or for others, ‘against any individual, entity or government.’ Moreover, they wouldn’t be able to ‘act as legal counsel to any third party,’ employ people who do, or arrange for someone’s representation. As worded, it would apparently forbid the system’s law schools, at UNC-Chapel Hill and N.C. Central University, from setting up or operating centers or institutes to help out with such things as the Innocence Project.” (The Herald-Sun)

February 24, 2017 – “The Indiana University Maurer School of Law is partnering with the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center on a program aimed at attracting law students interested in social justice and equality issues. The Julian Bond Law Scholars program includes scholarship, mentoring and summer externship opportunities. The program is named after the civil rights leader, who also founded the SPLC. The university says the program will give law students an ‘affordable  pathway to a professional career; eliminate the stress and anxiety that some students feel when trying to find employment after their first year of law school; and provide unparalleled hands-on legal experience, while allowing students to make a difference in advancing social justice issues.’ IU says the program will provide one scholarship worth 50 to 100 percent of tuition each year. Julian Bond Law Scholars will also be able to take part in a formal mentoring program and will be offered summer externships after completing their first year of law school. The externships will include a $4,000 stipend to cover living expenses and a research assistantship during the scholars’ second or third years.” (Inside Indiana Business)

February 27, 2017 – “This semester six new clinics launched as part of a growing experiential learning program at Yale Law School. The clinics provide students with hands-on experience in a number of fields, including immigration, reproductive rights, environmental law, consumer protection, domestic violence, and human rights.” The new clinics are the Arbitration Project, Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP), the Environmental Justice Clinic, the Reproductive Rights and Justice Project, and the Rule of Law Clinic. (Yale Law School)

March 1, 2017 – “The justice system in Alberta is facing a crisis, according to Crown prosecutors. The Alberta Crown Attorneys’ Association took the unusual step of calling a news conference Wednesday after Edmonton’s chief Crown prosecutor stayed 15 separate criminal prosecutions on Feb. 28 because of a lack of resources. Those charges included impaired driving, assaulting a police officer, and weapons charges. The choice to stay charges because of a shortage of prosecutors is affecting the whole province, said James Pickard, assistant executive director of Specialized Prosecutions with Alberta Justice. ‘Since January 2017, all across Alberta, we are confident in stating that approximately 200 significant charges have been stayed due to a lack of resources,’ he said. In Edmonton in December 2016 alone, 20 charges were abandoned because there were too few Crown prosecutors to see them through, he said. Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley acknowledged the short staffing to be a problem. ‘We’re concerned as well,’ she said.” “Criminal defence lawyer Kelly Dawson said although the situation appears politically charged with the provincial budget coming down this month, the Crown prosecutors raise real issues. ‘The government has been receptive to meeting with us, consulting with us,’ he said. ‘But at some point you wonder if they’re really listening to anything other than public pressure.'” (CBC News)

March 1, 2017 – “Gov. Steve Bullock has signed a package of bills that seeks to cut costs for the state public defender’s office and help reduce recidivism. One bill calls for the Office of Public Defender to establish a pilot project in up to four regions that would put clients in touch with social workers and other services that might help address the reasons they got in trouble with the law.” “Bullock held a ceremonial signing for the pilot project bill on Wednesday while also signing a bill that would allow jail inmates free phone calls to their attorneys. The law is expected to save the public defender’s office about $35,000 a year in collect calls as well as time public defenders spend visiting clients in jail.” “Another bill signed Wednesday eliminates the requirement to appoint a public defender for an unknown parent in child abuse and neglect cases, which could save the state about $100,000 annually, said sponsor Rep. Kim Dudik, D-Missoula.” “A fourth bill, requested by the Department of Corrections, allows criminal records for juvenile offenders to be shared electronically, rather than on paper, and calls for sealing most formal and informal youth court records when the youth involved turns 18. That bill takes effect immediately.” (Missoulian)

March 1, 2017 – “Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) is working to decrease criminal court delays and better support its clients by providing coverage for mandatory second judicial pre-trials to courts across Ontario. A second judicial pre-trial is a substantial meeting between Crown and defence with a judge to determine options for resolving a case, or to examine the evidence and outstanding issues before a case goes to trial. This proceeding is often effective in either settling many criminal matters or reducing delays help to spare the expense of time and money on a needless trial. For eligible matters legal aid clients receive additional coverage on their legal aid certificates for the second judicial pre-trial. Over the last ten months LAO has worked with the Ontario Court of Justice, criminal defence bar and the Ministry of the Attorney General on a project to fund second judicial pre-trials or substantially similar events in several Ontario Court of Justice locations as a pilot project. This pilot has been successful in increasing the number of early resolutions to criminal cases, while also improving how cases are managed if they need to come to trial. LAO will now provide coverage for lawyers representing eligible clients to participate in these second case management events across the province as of March 1, 2017. The roll-out of coverage for second judicial pre-trials across the province follows from an initiative by both the Ontario Court of Justice and the Ministry of the Attorney General to decrease criminal court delays.” (CNW)

March 1, 2017 – “Legal Action of Wisconsin has successfully launched its new Eviction Defense Project (EDP), which seeks to reduce housing instability for low-income Milwaukee County families, especially those with children. Housed at the Milwaukee County Courthouse, EDP provides tenants facing eviction with access to free civil legal aid and on-site, limited scope, representation.” “A close collaboration between Legal Action and others made the EDP possible:  The Legal Services Corporation, the Milwaukee Justice Center, Marquette Volunteer Legal Clinic, Marquette University, the Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee, Community Advocates, Quarles & Brady LLP, and many volunteer attorneys.  The support of the Milwaukee County Circuit Court was also critical in allowing Legal Action to launch the project.” (Urban Milwaukee)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

A lesson from the past that is relevant today.  On this day in 1865, President Abraham Lincoln signs a bill creating the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands. Known as the Freedmen’s Bureau, this federal agency oversaw the difficult transition of African Americans from slavery to freedom. The Freedmen’s Bureau, born out of abolitionist concern for freed slaves, was headed by Union General Oliver O. Howard for the entire seven years of its existence. The bureau was given power to dispense relief to both white and black refugees in the South, provide medical care and education, and redistribute “abandoned” lands to former slaves. The latter task was probably the most effective measure to ensure the prosperity and security of the freedmen, but it was also extremely difficult to enact. Many factors stymied the bureau’s work. White Southerners were very hostile to the Yankee bureau members, and even more hostile to the freed slaves. Terror organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan targeted both blacks and whites and intimidated those trying to help them. The bureau lacked the necessary funds and personnel to carry out its programs, and the lenient policies of President Andrew Johnson’s administration encouraged resistance. Most of the land confiscated from Confederates was eventually restored to the original owners, so there was little opportunity for black land ownership. Although the Freedmen’s Bureau was not able to provide long-term protection for blacks, nor did it ensure any real measure of equality, it did signal the introduction of the federal government into issues of social welfare and labor relations. (History.com)

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

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – February 24, 2017

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

Happy Friday! I was thrilled to be at Duke University School of Law this week to present the 2016 Pro Bono Publico Award to Gabrielle Lucero. Read more about her exemplary contribution to pro bono in her community on PSJD and stay tuned to the PSJD Blog for her guest post. Thank you to Stella Boswell and her team at Duke for an amazing celebration of pro bono.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Austin City Council approves emergency funds for immigrant legal services;
  • DC District Court certifies class in Pacer fee lawsuit;
  • Hunton & Williams LLP receives Coast Guard Meritorious Public Service Medal for pro bono work;
  • Judges and lawyers push for better access to British Columbia justice system;
  • Immigrant Justice Corps announces 2017 Justice Fellows;
  • ABA study finds Louisiana’s public defender system understaffed by about 1,400 lawyers;
  • New Mexico judge rules against underfunding public defenders;
  • Law Foundation of Ontario issues grants to examine technology and access to justice;
  • Grant from Massachusetts Attorney General will help veterans;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants; and
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

February 16, 2017 – “Austin City Council approved $200,000 in emergency funding for immigration legal services Thursday, while immigrants and advocates took to the steps of City Hall outside to protest ICE raids and national anti-immigrant policies. The grant expands a preexisting contract the city holds with Catholic Charities of Central Texas, which provides pro bono legal service to help immigrants understand their rights and legal statuses. Justin Estep, the director of legal services for Catholic Charities, says the money is much needed.” (KUT)

February 16, 2017 – “The United States District Court for the District of Columbia certified a class of all individuals and entities who paid fees to obtain court records though the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system. The proposed class representatives, three nonprofit legal advocacy organizations, overcame the government’s primary challenge to class certification, which was that they were not adequate class representatives. The National Veterans Legal Services Program, the National Consumer Law Center and the Alliance for Justice, all nonprofit entities that paid fees to obtain court records from PACER, filed suit to recover the allegedly excessive fees charged by the government for PACER access. Plaintiffs claim that the PACER fee schedule violated the E-Government Act of 2002, 28 U.S.C. § 1913) and seek reimbursement of the excess fee pursuant to the Little Tucker Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1346, on behalf of all individuals and entities, excluding class counsel and federal governmental agencies, who paid PACER fees from April 2010 through April 2016. Plaintiffs assert that the PACER fees result in a profit that violates the E-Government Act, inhibits “public understanding of the courts” and thwarts “equal access to justice.” For example, although the 2012 cost to the judiciary for providing technology and access to PACER was approximately $41 million, the judiciary collected more than $145 million in PACER fees that year. Plaintiffs seek a refund of the excess fee for themselves and the class members.” (JD Supra Business Advisor)

February 16, 2017 – “Hunton & Williams LLP today received the U.S. Coast Guard Meritorious Public Service Medal for the firm’s pro bono legal work on behalf of Coast Guard members.” “‘While we are honored to receive this prestigious award, it truly has been our privilege to serve the Coast Guard and its families, and we look forward to continuing and expanding our partnership,’ said Managing Partner Wally Martinez, a member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary, who helped start the pro bono legal assistance program and is among the program’s most active participants. Martinez also received a Meritorious Public Service award for his personal contributions. Begun in 2012, the Coast Guard partnership has involved about 30 of the firm’s lawyers who have contributed nearly 1,800 volunteer hours in five states. The firm assists Coast Guard members and their families with legal issues involving real estate, estate planning, bankruptcy, immigration and other matters. Lawyers from the firm’s New York, Miami, Norfolk, Richmond, Atlanta and Washington offices have all been involved in the partnership. The Meritorious Public Service Medal is given to recognize substantial contribution to the Coast Guard that produced tangible results and specific individual accomplishments that provide unique benefits to the public.” (Business Wire)

February 16, 2017 – “As the old saying goes, ‘justice delayed is justice denied.’ Those words are being invoked by many of BC’s judges and lawyers who are demanding the provincial government fix a troubled legal system. In a report entitled ‘An Agenda for Justice,’ the Canadian Bar Association’s BC branch is making wide-ranging recommendations it would like to see made provincial election issues ahead of the May vote. The association is concerned about access to the justice system, pointing to struggles with long case delays and an overstretched legal aid system. ‘Legal aid funding is so limited that in Provincial Court, approximately 40 percent of British Columbians are unrepresented by a lawyer in family court cases and 20 percent are unrepresented in criminal cases,’ states the report. ‘The impact is that, through no fault of their own, people who are unrepresented take up more court time and more taxpayer-funded resources to go through the system.’ Among other recommendations, the Bar Association suggests increasing funding for legal aid lawyers from $84 an hour to $135.” The report concludes, ‘the Government of British Columbia and Members of the Legislative Assembly have the opportunity — every day — to improve the lives of British Columbians by taking steps to ensure they have access to justice that is delivered in a timely manner, by courts supported by up-to-date legislation and technology, and with a studied interest in their needs and challenges.'” (News 1130)

February 16, 2017 – “Immigrant Justice Corps (IJC), the country’s first fellowship program wholly dedicated to meeting immigrants’ need for high-quality legal assistance, announced today its 2017 fellowship class, a select group of talented and promising new lawyers who will represent immigrants fighting deportation and seeking lawful status and citizenship.  Twenty-five graduates from top law schools from around the country were chosen for the prestigious fellowship at IJC, which was conceived of by Robert A. Katzmann, Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and incubated by Robin Hood in 2013.” Click the link for the complete list.  Congratulations Fellows! (Immigrant Justice Corps)

February 17, 2017 – “The state public defender system in Louisiana is understaffed by 1,406 lawyers, according to an ABA study of their workloads.The study (PDF) found that 1,769 full-time public defenders are needed to provide reasonably effective assistance of counsel in Louisiana, but the state only employs 363 full-time equivalent PDs. An ABA press release summarizes the findings. Currently, the state has the capacity to handle 21 percent of the workload to provide indigent defense that complies with prevailing professional norms, the study concludes. The study was conducted by the ABA Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants and the consulting firm Postlethwaite & Netterville.” (ABA Journal)

February 17, 2017 – “A state district court judge in southeastern New Mexico has rejected arguments by public defense attorneys that they are too overloaded with work to provide adequate representation to poor defendants facing jail time. District Judge William Shoobridge of Lea County said in an order released Friday that attorneys with the Law Offices of the Public Defender have been providing reasonably competent representation to indigent defendants in the area despite financial pressures. The order is a setback for the Office of the Public Defender as it seeks to suspend work on some indigent cases while seeking more state funding. Chief Public Defender Bennett Baur says his office is weighing an appeal to the state Supreme Court and that he would continue to raise issues of high caseloads and lack of resources.” (Artesia Daily Press)

February 21, 2017 – “The Law Foundation of Ontario has issued grants to the Winkler Institute at Osgoode Hall Law School and Ryerson University’s Legal Innovation Zone so they can examine how technology and innovation can improve access to justice for young people. ‘Together, these projects will give the Foundation insight into how technology can be harnessed to help young people facing legal problems,’ said Linda Rothstein, chair of the foundation’s board. ‘The projects will enable youth to explore creative solutions while allowing them to create tangible prototypes that use technology to improve access to justice.’
The effort to improve youth access to justice was inspired by Elizabeth Goldberg, who was the foundation’s chief executive from 2007 to 2015 and who previously served on the foundation’s board of trustees.” (Financial Post)

February 22, 2017 – “The state is helping hundreds of veterans by awarding $350,000 in grants to four Massachusetts organizations. The grant funding will go to Community Legal Aid, Inc., in Worcester; Montachusett Veterans Outreach Center in Gardner; The Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School in Boston; and Veterans Legal Services in Boston, Attorney General Maura Healey’s office announced Wednesday. Veterans seeking health services benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs healthcare system, housing and education assistance, discharge status upgrades, general legal representation, and veteran-specific employment will benefit from the funding, Healy’s office said in a statement.” (Mass Live)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

Legal Aid Ontario will honour HIV/AIDS legal activist Ryan Peck with the Sidney B. Linden Award at a ceremony Feb. 23 at Osgoode Hall, in recognition of his commitment to helping low-income Ontarians in the pursuit of access to justice. The award is named in honour of Legal Aid Ontario’s first board chair, Justice Sidney B. Linden, who has been involved with legal aid for over 35 years. Since its inception, the award has been presented to eight deserving recipients. The Toronto lawyer and the executive director of HIV & Aids Legal Clinic Ontario (HALCO) told The CJN he was surprised to be chosen for the award. “I went to law school because I was interested in issues surrounding social and economic justice, and I have devoted my career to those issues,” he said. (CJN)

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

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – February 17, 2017

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

Happy Friday! With all the pro bono activity, you may be wondering how you can volunteer.  PSJD has lawyer and law student pro bono opportunities and resources for exploring pro bono in your area.  And while you’re there, check out the many useful resources in the Resource Center!  Not sure where to start? In our PSJD Blog Series Resource Round-Up career counselors talk about their favorites.  What are you using?  Let us know, and you might be featured in our next Resource Round-Up.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • University of North Dakota School of Law puts student law clinic on hiatus;
  • Nova Southeastern University opens new legal clinic;
  • New website provides convenient option for pro bono service in Massachusetts;
  • Crowdfunding for litigation – new site launches in US;
  • New York City guarantees legal aid to low-income residents facing eviction;
  • New Indiana program gives resources to elder victims;
  • Hofstra University’s Maurice A. Deane School of Law launches new deportation defense clinic;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants; and
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

February 9, 2017 – “The University of North Dakota School of Law will put its student law clinic on hiatus for at least two years and is beginning to discuss tuition increases because of higher education budget cuts proposed by North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum. In a meeting with about 80 law students Thursday afternoon, UND School of Law Dean Kathryn Rand told students the program would need to begin making hard cuts. Those cuts will include no longer operating the law clinic, which provides pro bono legal service primarily in immigration and employment law fields. The clinic allows law students to get some of the hands-on credits they need to earn their juris doctorates.” “The two-year hold on the law clinic will force law students down other routes to get the six experiential courses required for their degree. UND law students also can get such credits via moot court courses, field placement assignments and estate planning courses. Rand said they would have to get creative in how students get experiential credits.” (Bismarck Tribune)

February 9, 2017 – “Nova Southeastern University will open a legal clinic in the fall that will provide legal services to nonprofits, students, researchers, educators and entrepreneurs. The enterprise is made possible thanks to a donation by Berger Singerman founder Mitchell W. Berger and his wife—fellow attorney Sharon Kegerreis. The Sharon and Mitchell W. Berger Entrepreneur Law Clinic at Nova’s Shepard Broad College of Law will provide legal services to researchers associated with Nova Southeastern’s Center for Collaborative Research and to low- to medium-income inventors in technology, life sciences and creative communities. The clinic will serve students who are inventing, as well as law students working in fields such as intellectual property, data security and technology.” (Daily Business Review)

February 9, 2017 – “Want to do your part in filling the legal aid gap but don’t have the time to provide a needy client full representation on a pro bono basis? A legal advice website launched by the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute may be the answer to your public service aspirations.” Details at the link. (Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly)(subscription required)

February 11, 2017 – “When online crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and GoFundMe debuted, people hoping to invent and sell a better bottle opener, those in need of help with medical bills and all sorts of personal would-be fundraisers talked about the concept in grand, world-changing ways. This, they said, was a disruptive, potentially transformative financial development. A new website aims to mash up that kind of popular Internet fundraising with legal work, hoping to turn legal cases into publicly funded — and backed — social causes. CrowdJustice.org, went live with its first U.S. fundraising appeals in recent weeks with a tag­line meant to promote equal access to the courts, regardless of one’s economic standing: ‘The law should be available to everyone.’ The site’s founder, a British transplant, says CrowdJustice is a politically neutral portal where people and organizations pursuing litigation can solicit and win public help with the costs.” “Also, despite its “dot.org” URL, CrowdJustice is not a nonprofit organization. It collects 5 percent of all donations made to legal cases and another 3.5 percent goes to the website’s payment processor. The remaining 91.5 percent of donations goes to trust accounts set up to fund the individual cases to which donors contribute. CrowdJustice does some due diligence to ensure none of the parties to the lawsuit are subject to any kind of national or international sanctions (such as Securities and Exchange Commission violations, federal or international court matters) and verifies that the case in question is under active litigation by a licensed attorney. Then, it posts a campaign.” (The Washington Post)

February 12, 2017 – “Funding just doubled for the city’s well-supported ‘right to counsel’ initiative, turning the free legal aid pilot program into a full-fledged city service, Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Councilmembers announced Sunday. Low-income tenants who earn up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level are now entitled to city-sponsored intervention in New York City Housing Court, where the vast majority of those tenants have had no legal counsel. The program will drastically reduce the excessive rate of homelessness and the cost to taxpayers on homeless shelters and other services, officials say.” (metro)

February 13, 2017 – “Because of an aging baby boomer generation, Indiana is seeing a swift increase in the number of elder abuse and exploitation cases throughout the state.” “But now, thanks to a new program from Indiana Legal Services, elders and endangered adults have more resources if they fall victim to these crimes. The Legal Assistance for Victimized Adults project was established at the beginning of the year with a grant from the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute. LAVA provides legal representation to seniors and endangered adults who have suffered abuse, neglect or exploitation. Among many of the services, the program can provide legal representation, file civil actions on behalf of a victim, file protective orders and fight to recoup financial loss from scams or from the exploitation by a guardian or someone with power of attorney. The program also works with county prosecutors when pursuing criminal charges. An endangered adult is defined as a victim at least 18 years old that has some physical or mental incapacity, and a senior is anyone 60 or older. There are income guidelines to qualify for services, but for those who are eligible, LAVA is completely free.” (South Bend Tribune)

February 15, 2017 – “Hofstra University’s Maurice A. Deane School of Law launched a new legal clinic on Wednesday to represent Long Island immigrants facing deportation. The law school also will lead education and advocacy programs for immigrant rights. Hofstra’s Deportation Defense Clinic, is the first clinic of its kind on Long Island. It aims to protect immigrants vulnerable to the consequences of increased deportation enforcement. It will concentrate on two high risk populations: those immigrants with removal orders against them and DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients – undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children and have spent most of their lives here.” (Long Island Business News)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

We have lost a great champion – E. Clinton Bamberger. Our colleague Jonathan Smith, Executive Director of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs had this remembrance – “Clinton was one of the founders of the original War on Poverty program that later became the Legal Services Corporation. He argued Brady v. Maryland in the United States Supreme Court and was a leader in the clinical legal education movement. Clinton served on my Board of Directors when I was at the Public Justice Center in the late 90’s. He helped push us to begin the work on civil Gideon and other critical projects. Clinton was kind, supportive and always up for the struggle to create greater equity, fairness and justice. This is a tremendous loss at a time when every progressive voice, especially those as wise as his, is needed.”

Read more about Mr. Bamberger’s fight on behalf of disadvantaged people and his great legacy at the link. He will be sorely missed in our community. (The Baltimore Sun)

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

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – February 10, 2017

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

Happy Friday! More pro bono efforts in the news this week. We’re also seeing a rise in contributions to organizations that provide legal assistance. Did you see the ACLU Amazon Dash button? Let’s keep the money (and assistance) flowing.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Canadian law students take part in a research-a-thon to help people affected by the U.S. refugee ban;
  • Applications open for The Massachusetts Bar Foundation’s Legal Intern Fellowship Program;
  • Virginia Legal Aid Society receives $20,000 grant;
  • Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee awards Serving Tennessee’s Seniors grants;
  • New Arizona website gives court information and more;
  • New indigent defense lawsuit filed in Louisiana;
  • Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice seeks critical funding;
  • Atlanta office of public defender receives grant;
  • University of Virginia School of Law launches new pro bono clinic;
  • Lawyers help create website to coordinate legal aid to immigrants at airports;
  • $25 million donation boosts University of Minnesota Law School’s legal services for immigrants and refugees;
  • Community Legal Services receives $3.1 million Chan Zuckerberg Initiative grant;
  • Sen. Booker, Rep. Maloney renew effort to fix America’s strained public defender system;
  • Montana officials may take novel approach to overhaul of indigent defense system;
  • Coder turns Amazon Dash button into ACLU donation tool;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

February 3, 2017 – “Students from 22 Canadian law schools from coast to coast joined a ‘research-a-thon’ Saturday to help with possible legal challenges stemming from U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent travel ban and suspension of the country’s refugee program. The focus of the research was on what is known as the Safe Third Country Agreement between Canada and U.S., which mandates that a person seeking refugee status must make the claim in the first country in which they arrive — the understanding being that both countries are considered ‘safe.’ But in the wake of Trump’s executive order banning travellers from seven Muslim-majority countries, advocates have been calling on Ottawa to immediately suspend the pact, arguing the U.S. is no longer safe for refugees.” “Kim Veller, a second-year student at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School and chair of the local chapter of the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, said each school had been given a different question to work on by the Canadian Council for Refugees, which she said is building a proposal to suspend the bilateral agreement.” (The Star)

February 3, 2017 – “The Massachusetts Bar Foundation’s (MBF) Legal Intern Fellowship Program was established in 1996 to give talented law students the experience and encouragement they need to pursue careers in the public interest law sector while providing legal aid organizations with much-needed additional staff capacity for the summer. The MBF awards at least three (3) stipends of $6,000 each to law students who intern during the summer months at nonprofit organizations providing civil legal services to low-income clients in Massachusetts. These awards are supported by generous contributions to the MBF from lawyers and judges statewide and by the Smith Family Fund.” Application materials available at the link. (MBF)

February 3, 2017 – “The Virginia Legal Aid Society has received a $20,000 grant to help support low-income families in Suffolk and Isle of Wight County. The money comes from the Beazley Foundation Inc., a supporter of many organizations serving South Hampton Roads for nearly seven decades. The grant will support VLAS’s Strengthening Families with Children program to help low-income families increase and preserve financial resources, obtain and maintain safe and affordable housing, increase access to healthcare and education and increase stability for families in transition.” (Virginia Lawyers Weekly)

February 3, 2017 – “The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, a charitable organization dedicated to enriching our quality of life, is pleased to announce that Legal Aid of East Tennessee (LAET) is one of 121 Tennessee nonprofits and governmental organizations receiving funding as part of a one-time Serving Tennessee’s Seniors grant opportunity. Funding of Serving Tennessee’s Seniors was provided by the Chancery Court and administered by The Community Foundation through the settlement of a lawsuit initiated by Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper against both SeniorTrust and ElderTrust.” “Legal Aid of East Tennessee (LAET) has received a $25,000 grant to provide legal education to seniors in Upper East Tennessee, and give them tools to assess their individual legal problems.” “Outcomes achieved by each grantee will be reported to the Court and available to the public on an interim basis. Final results will be available in July 2017.” (The Newport Plain Talk)

February 5, 2017 – “A new website has recently launched to offer basic assistance to people of all walks of life who have legal questions or need assistance in resolving disputes in court. AzCourtHelp.org is organized by topic and geographical location to help people find the court locations, forms, and other information they may need. Geographical information includes court locations, maps, hours, payment terms, parking, and accessibility information.  The site also features live chat forums to assist with legal information, legal talk clinics on popular topics, and other information helpful to self-represented individuals.  Frequently asked questions are arranged by topic so users can quickly find the information that is most helpful to their situation.  The site will also include video tutorials, webinars, and a calendar of free legal workshops around Arizona.” (The Daily Courier)

February 6, 2017 – “Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards and the board that oversees the state’s indigent defense services were named in a class-action lawsuit filed Monday (Feb. 6) by a group of 13 inmates who contend their constitutional rights to counsel have been denied because of an insufficient public defense system. The suit, filed in the 19th Judicial District Court in East Baton Rouge Parish, asks for a court declaration that Louisiana’s system for indigent representation is ‘significantly compromised,’ and for a court-appointed monitor with the power to oversee fixes to the system. ‘This suit seeks to bring long-overdue relief to communities that have literally been left defenseless for far too long,’ said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, one of the groups representing the plaintiffs. The suit names Edwards, Chief Public Defender Jay Dixon, and all members of the Louisiana Public Defender Board, the agency responsible for the oversight of statewide legal services for the poor in criminal cases.” (The Times-Picayune)

February 6, 2017 – “The Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice is seeking $1.5 million in one-time funding to support legal defense for Utahns who can’t afford it. Joanna Landau, executive director of the Indigent Defense Commission, said that funding would build on last year’s support to fund more defense attorneys, training and oversight to local governments throughout the state. Support from the Indigent Defense Commission is done through cost sharing with local governments, and grants awarded by the commission are carefully administered, Landau told the Executive Offices and Criminal Justice Appropriations Subcommittee on Monday. In response to questions from the committee, Landau agreed that while the commission is currently seeking one-time funding, eventually a long-term solution will need to be addressed.” (Deseret News)

February 6, 2017 – “The City of Atlanta’s office of the public defender has been chosen to join the Safety and Justice Challenge, a grant program awarded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to create a more fair and effective local justice system and model reforms for the nation, the city announced. The chosen sites taking part in the grant program’s Innovation Fund will get technical assistance and financial support of $50,000 each, and are eligible for future funding opportunities, the city said. The challenge is a national $100 million initiative whose aim is to reduce over-incarceration by changing the way America thinks about and uses jails, according to the city’s announcement. Atlanta and the other selected jurisdictions will design and test innovative local justice reforms with the purpose of safely bringing down jail usage and reducing racial and ethnic disparities in their local justice systems.” (Atlanta Journal Constitution)

February 6, 2017 – “Over winter break, nine law students from the University’s School of Law volunteered at the Legal Aid Justice Center, which will be launching a new pro bono clinic this coming semester. The Civil Rights Litigation Pro Bono Clinic is a partnership between the Law School and Charlottesville’s Legal Aid Justice Center. ‘We’re always looking to elevate our cases to make a big impact that will help as many people as we can,’ said Mario Salas, an attorney at the Legal Aid Justice Center who is working with the Civil Rights Pro Bono Clinic. Volunteers will work on civil rights and racial justice cases pro bono, which means they don’t receive academic credit for their work, but can receive volunteer hours. Many of the topics involved in the cases can be seen in today’s headlines, such as policing and race, the criminalization of poverty and mental health.” (The Cavalier Daily)

February 6, 2017 – “A group of lawyers has tapped into technology to make sure that immigrants and families waiting for them at airports around the country have access to free legal help when they need it. A website launched Monday, called airportlawyer.org, collects information about travelers and sends it securely to volunteer lawyers near airports, who can then help clients on the ground. The site, created by Seattle-area lawyers and New York legal software company Neota Logic, was spurred by President Trump’s recent executive order, said Tacoma immigration lawyer Greg McLawsen, who was involved in creation of the website.” “The site takes in simple information from travelers’ friends or family members such as flight time and the type of visa the traveler holds. It then passes that information, with identifying details removed, on to a coordinating lawyer. Once a volunteer is assigned, that attorney can log in to a secure site to review the entire case.” “Airportlawyer.org currently has coordinating lawyers working near Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Denver International Airport, Baltimore-Washington International Airport and Dulles International Airport.” (The Seattle Times)

February 6, 2017 – “A $25 million donation to the University of Minnesota Law School will solidify a unique partnership between lawyers and students to provide free legal services to immigrants and refugees.” “The center is a partnership between University law students and lawyers from the Dorsey & Whitney, Faegre Baker Daniels, and Robins Kaplan law firms, as well as the nonprofit Immigration Law Center of Minnesota, Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid and The Advocates for Human Rights. In 2015, the students and lawyers won a U.S. Supreme Court case after arguing that a Tunisian noncitizen’s conviction for hiding unspecified pills in his sock should not trigger deportation. Last year, 50 law students worked on cases.” (TwinCities.com)

February 6, 2017 – “An East Palo Alto nonprofit group that helps thousands of low-income residents with housing and immigration issues will receive a three-year, $3.1 million grant from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the Initiative announced on Monday. David Plouffe, president of policy and advocacy, announced in a Facebook post that the philanthropic Initiative would begin supporting Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto and the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at University of California, Berkeley. Both organizations help affordable housing challenges. The Initiative was founded by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan.” (Palo Alto Online)

February 7, 2017 – “U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18) are renewing a bicameral effort to fix America’s strained public defender system from local courts all the way to the Supreme Court. Today, Booker and Maloney are re-introducing two legislative initiatives that seek to ensure America’s judicial institutions are living up to the Constitution’s guarantee of a right to counsel. The Equal Justice Under Law Act would empower indigent criminal defendants to take action against states and localities that systematically fail to provide effective assistance of counsel in felony cases. The Gideon Act would establish a federal corporation dedicated to delivering independent, uniform, and quality defense representation in criminal cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and, at times, in the highest courts in the states.” (Sen. Booker Press Release)

February 8, 2017 – “Montana officials moved forward Wednesday with an effort to overhaul the state’s public defender system, which has been long beset with sinking morale and a growing caseload that puts pressure on what officials say is an overburdened staff. The state Senate, without debate, gave preliminary support to a pilot project that is to develop a more comprehensive approach to helping repeat offenders stay out of the criminal justice system. The program, if approved, would connect defendants with social workers and services to help offenders get their lives back on track. The Senate also gave final approval to a bill stripping a requirement that automatically assigned a public defender to a parent of a child, even if that parent had not been identified or was not involved in the case. The latter change is expected to save the system at least $100,000 annually. Earlier, a legislative committee approved a plan to transfer oversight of the public defender’s office to the Department of Administration from a state commission.” “To help reduce the caseload, the state is exploring a variety of approaches, including a novel method called a ‘holistic defense pilot project’ already used by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. It is among the growing number of jurisdictions nationwide experimenting with a holistic approach that draws human support services into the criminal justice system. The project would be established for up to four public defender’s offices. The approach could eventually save millions of dollars, according to the pilot program’s lead sponsor, Rep. Kimberly Dudik, a Democrat from Missoula, who is sponsoring several bills as part of the overhaul.” (Bozeman Daily Chronicle)

February 9, 2017 – “Nathan Pryor was getting frustrated by news of Trump administration policies that he disagrees with. So he did what any a self-described designer, programmer and ‘tinkerer’ would do: He hacked into an Amazon gizmo designed to instantly order consumer goods for the home and made it donate $5 to the American Civil Liberties Union with every press, instead. OK, so maybe that’s not something anyone would do. Pryor credits his friend Katherine with the idea, but his follow-through on the execution has made donating to the ACLU as easy as, well, pressing a button.” “Amazon introduced the Dash Button in 2015 to allow frazzled consumers to reorder essential home supplies by literally pressing a button that sticks to a surface at home. The Dash Button quickly became a favorite hobby project for hackers and ‘maker’ types, who invented hacks that allowed users to control lights, build a silent doorbell and track work hours all with a single push. Amazon responded by releasing a developer kit and a customizeable ‘Internet of Things’ button called the AWS IoT. Pryor’s version looks to be one of the first Dash Buttons that donates to a charitable cause.” “He’s got a lot of ideas about how to implement a nonprofit donation button on a large scale, too. Pryor told NBC News that use of the buttons among supporters could provide ‘great feedback’ to an organization. “If 10,000 people pushed to donate within 10 minutes of a policy announcement, while another announcement brought only a trickle through the day, the organization would have a new perspective on what mattered to its donors,” Pryor said.” (NBC News)

 

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

“Joe Meux has been a volunteer attorney with Jacksonville Area Legal Aid since 1994 and has since served more than 300 low-income clients. He has worked with Elder Source and SHINE and also has served as a volunteer mediator. For the past 10-plus years, nearly weekly, he has been the attorney on-site at the Mary Singleton Senior Center. On Jan. 24, Joe shared with us that he is retiring from pro bono work to concentrate his time on his family and his church.” What a wonderful legacy.  Thank you Mr. Meux for your long service. (Jacksonville Daily Record)

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

Comments

PSJD Public Interest News Digest – February 3, 2017

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

Happy Friday! This week’s news is dominated by the recent executive actions of President Trump and the legal community’s response. Law school clinics and local legal aid organizations are mobilizing, and can use the help.  If you wish to get involved, PSJD has attorney and law student pro bono opportunities.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Two New York immigration legal services merge;
  • New York State Bar opposes Cuomo proposal to raise lawyer fees to pay for indigent defense;
  • Employers extend legal aid to employees caught in President’s aggressive immigration reform;
  • New York governor offers legal aid to airport detainees;
  • Hundreds of lawyers offer free legal aid at airports;
  • Law school clinics stepping up to provide immigration legal aid;
  • Big Law responds with immigration legal assistance;
  • Federal judge dismissed ACLU suit over indigent defense funding in Louisiana;
  • Protesters seeking money for indigent defense block Governor Cuomo’s office;
  • Greater Waco Legal Services opens;
  • Study finds civil legal aid yields seven fold return on investment in Florida;
  • Legal clinic pilot launched in the Supreme Court of Prince Edward Island;
  • Bill seeks to include juvenile defendants under Utah’s Indigent Defense Commission;
  • HackJustice brings together multiple disciplines for access to justice solutions;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

January 26, 2017 – “At a time of uncertainty and anxiety in immigrant communities here and across the nation, a merger between Neighbors Link in Mount Kisco and the Pace Community Law Practice in White Plains will formalize a partnership between two nonprofit service organizations with overlapping missions. Neighbors Link focuses on helping immigrants integrate into communities in Westchester County through efforts that include educational and employment programs. Pace Community Law Practice, founded in 2012, employs a staff of two lead attorneys, student fellows and volunteers to provide low-cost legal services. The two organizations began working together in 2014 on immigrant legal services, including naturalization and deferred action on cases involving undocumented juvenile immigrants to exempt them from deportation. By merging the Pace practice into the operations of the immigrant community center in Mount Kisco, Neighbors Link Executive Director Carola Bracco said the organization can add an additional component to its offerings. ‘We have a very holistic approach to the services we offer and legal services was the last thing missing,’ she said. The legal service has been renamed the Neighbors Link Community Law Practice, though its office will remain at 33 Crane Ave. near the Pace law school campus in White Plains. The practice will also continue to work on cases taken outside of the Neighbors Link partnership.” (Westchester County Business Journal)

January 27, 2017 – “The president of the New York State Bar Association said Jan. 27 her group will ‘vehemently oppose’ Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to raise biennial lawyer registration fees in New York by $50. Claire Gutekunst, speaking at the state bar’s annual meeting in Manhattan, told the group’s policy-setting House of Delegates Jan. 27 that the 74,000-member organization’s executive committee will oppose the governor’s proposal. Lawyers currently pay a $375 fee to re-register as attorneys with the state every two years. The fee was last increased in 2010, when it rose to $375 from $350 under a proposal by then-Gov. David Paterson to help boost state aid for civil legal services. Cuomo’s proposal calls for the new $50 charge on lawyers to go directly toward paying for legal representation of indigent criminal defendants, as required under the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 1963 ruling in Gideon v. Wainwright.” (New York Law Journal)

January 28, 2017 – “On Friday President Donald Trump signed an executive order that is temporarily halting the admission of refugees, indefinitely banned the admission of refugees from Syria, and stopping citizens of several Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. The order also includes any green card and visa holders from Iran, Iraq, Syria and Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia, meaning if you were a citizen of these countries and you are outside of the U.S. at the time the order went into effect, you’re now barred from entering the country for at least the next 90 days. Employees from many tech companies who are visiting or on holiday in their home country have been affected by the ban, with an estimated 500,000 legal employees of foreign nationality affected. Microsoft is providing legal assistance to its employees affected by the issue, saying in a statement, ‘We share the concerns about the impact of the executive order on our employees from the listed countries, all of whom have been in the United States lawfully, and we’re actively working with them to provide legal advice and assistance.'” (MSPowerUser Blog)

Another company story: “Uber says it will create a $3 million defense fund to help cover legal, immigration and translation costs for drivers affected by Trump’s immigration and travel ban, which Uber CEO and founder Travis Kalanick calls ‘wrong and unjust’ in a new note shared to Facebook and Uber’s newsroom. The post outlines in more detail Uber’s commitment to assist drivers impacted by the executive order, which Kalanick made Saturday in a prior post.” “Meanwhile, rival Lyft has committed $1 million to the ACLU, and its founders came out strongly in opposition to the measures by Trump’s White House.” (techcrunch)

And another company: “Amazon chief executive, Jeff Bezos, has pledged the full legal resources of his company to fight the travel ban instituted by Donald Trump against seven Muslim-majority nations. In an email to employees sent on Monday afternoon, Bezos said that Amazon would be putting its legal and lobbying efforts behind the fight against the ban. A key avenue of opposition involves supporting the attorney general for Washington state, where Amazon is headquartered, in his lawsuit against Trump – the first confirmed legal action from a state against one of the new administration’s policies.” (The Guardian)

January 29, 2017 – “Gov. Andrew Cuomo is dispatching lawyers from his office and the Port of Authority to aid persons detained at airports by federal authorities enforcing President Donald Trump’s executive morder on immigration. In addition to providing legal counsel to detainees, the governor announced during a news conference Sunday that he is proposing legislation to protect transportation workers against physical assault perpetrated by anyone on the basis of race or religion. The proposed bill was sparked by an attack against Rabeeya Khan, a Muslim airline employee in her office in the Delta Sky Lounge. A Massachusetts businessman, 57-year-old Robin A. Rhodes, is accused of mocking her religion and kicking her in the leg. He is being charged with hate crimes, prosecutors said. Anyone convicted of assaulting an airport worker or other state transit employee would be guilty of a class D felony and subject to a maximum sentence of seven years in prison under the new law, dubbed the Transportation Worker Protection Act.” (metro)

January 29, 2017 – “Hundreds of attorneys descended on U.S. airports all over the country this weekend to offer free legal help to the travelers and family members of loved ones detained under President Trump’s executive order. By Saturday afternoon, arrival terminals in airports from Dulles, Va., to Chicago to San Francisco were being turned into makeshift hubs for legal aid. Lawyers assembled conference-style tables in restaurants and gathered around electrical outlets with their laptops awaiting work. Some held signs near arrivals gates introducing themselves to families in need.” (Washington Post)

January 30, 2017 – “New York University is among the growing number of universities looking to their law schools to help protect and guide fellow students, faculty and staff in the wake of Trump’s executive order banning citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. The order led to chaos and protests at airports around the country and sparked concern and confusion at colleges and universities that draw faculty and students from around the globe. The Institute of International Education, a nonprofit organization that promotes international educational opportunities, estimates that 17,000 students from the seven banned countries were studying in the United States in 2015. The majority of those are from Iran. Harvard Law School; Cornell Law School; Yale Law School; and Stanford Law School are also pitching in to assist affected students and university employees.” (Law.com)

January 30, 2017 – “It’s a busy time to be a pro bono lawyer. After President Donald Trump issued an executive order Friday to severely limit immigration from seven Muslim-majority nations, lawyers across Big Law jumped in to help travelers, visa and green card holders, who faced uncertainty and deportation in the wake of the order that was soon followed by federal rulings staying parts of the action. Akin Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, Davis, Polk, Hogan Lovells, and Mayer Brown represent just a sliver of the firms that had lawyers on the ground at John F. Kennedy International, Dulles and other airports assisting clients. To find clients, they have partnered with non-profits such as IRAP [International Refugee Assistance Project], which organizes law students and lawyers to offer legal aid for refugees, while tapping their existing client networks, and resorted to holding signs in airports.” Click on the link for more information about the firm programs. (Bloomberg Law)

January 31, 2017 – “A federal judge in Baton Rouge on Tuesday threw out a lawsuit seeking court enforcement of poor criminal defendants’ right to counsel in Orleans Parish, ending a bid by the American Civil Liberties Union to force the state to address what even U.S. District Judge James Brady agreed is a crisis in public defense funding in Louisiana. ‘It is clear that the Louisiana Legislature is failing miserably at upholding its obligations’ under the 1963 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Gideon v. Wainwright, which required states to provide lawyers for defendants unable to hire their own, Brady wrote. ‘Budget shortages are no excuse to violate the United States Constitution.’ But in a 13-page ruling, Brady raised concerns over federalism, writing that ruling in the ACLU’s favor ‘would inevitably lead (the court) to become the overseer of the Orleans Parish criminal court system’ in a way that would fly in the face of prior U.S. Supreme Court rulings. The court ‘sees no way to enter this funding fray without intermeddling in state criminal prosecutions,’ Brady wrote. The ruling puts an end to an unusual lawsuit in which the ACLU sued Orleans Parish Chief Public Defender Derwyn Bunton’s office, while also targeting the state Public Defender Board, in an effort to force the state to fund both agencies better.” (The New Orleans Advocate)

January 31, 2017 – “Eight protesters were arrested outside Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office Tuesday, as they demonstrated for more money for legal aid services for New York’s poorest. Protesters chanted “What do we want? Lawyers,” and blockaded an entrance to Governor Cuomo’s suite of offices at the Capitol. After years of what critics say was under-funding legal aid for New York’s lowest income people, the Senate and Assembly passed a bill in 2016 to create a state funded system to ensure that indigent criminal defendants receive legal representation, as is their right under the U.S. Constitution. Currently, most  individual counties pay the costs of legal defense. Governor Cuomo held the legislation until New Year’s Eve, then vetoed it, saying it would be an $800 million cost shift to state taxpayers and that reform is needed first to bring the price down. Cuomo has proposed a new plan in his budget that he says will offer more accountability. Terrell Jones, with VOCAL New York,  says he’s tired of waiting, and accused Cuomo of favoring the wealthy over the poor. Demonstrators blocked the entrance to the governor’s offices, and eight were arrested.” (WAMC)

January 31, 2017 – “A legal service for low-income residents that incubated under the wings of Mission Waco is striking out on its own. Greater Waco Legal Services kicks off this week as an independent nonprofit organization, headed by attorney Kent McKeever, who started Mission Waco Legal Services in 2012. ‘I think it opens new doors for us to really strategically structure ourselves for growth,’ McKeever said. ‘Our mission is the same: to provide compassionate, affordable legal services for our community.'” (Waco Tribune-Herald)

January 31, 2017 – “With funding for civil legal aid in Florida at its lowest point in 10 years, a new study shows that every dollar spent on civil legal services for the state’s low-income residents yields more than $7 in economic impacts. With total funding of $83 million from all sources, 33 Florida civil legal aid organizations made $600 million of economic impact in 2015, according to the study commissioned by The Florida Bar Foundation. The detailed results and implications of the study will be the topic of three press conferences Feb. 2 and 3.” (citybizlist)

January 31, 2017 – “Starting next week, the Supreme Court of Prince Edward Island will launch a pilot project to provide free legal advice. It’s a response to a trend seen in courtrooms around the Island and across the county, where many people try to represent themselves in court without the help of a lawyer. According to P.E.I. Supreme Court Justice David Jenkins, it’s part of ‘crisis’ in access to justice across the country. ‘In a majority of family law matters we see in our courts, there’s at least one participant who is self-represented,’ he said. The pilot project will allow people to meet privately with a qualified lawyer. The 45-minute sessions, by appointment only, are free of charge. The clinics are for family law and civil matters only.” “The volunteer lawyers who will be providing the free advice are all qualified members of Law Society of Prince Edward Island. The Community Legal Information Association (CLIA), based in Charlottetown, will help people arrange appointments for the weekly sessions.” (CBC News)

February 1, 2017 – “Juvenile defendants may soon benefit from a state-funded commission created last year to tackle problems with Utah’s public-defender system. A bill introduced this week would amend a legislation enacted last year that created the Indigent Defense Commission, which distributes state funds and oversees indigent defense services statewide. But bill sponsor Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, said the bill he passed a year ago did not include juvenile defendants. This meant the commission could only grant money to counties for use in providing attorneys to those charged in adult court, who can’t afford their own attorneys and face the possibility of jail time. SB134 proposes that the commission be expanded to include juvenile defense, and also proposes an additional $150,000 a year to hire a staffer who has experience in juvenile crimes.” (The Salt Lake Tribune)

February 1, 2017 – “Students, legal professionals, computer programmers, computer scientists, software developers, members of the public and professionals of various disciplines will come together Feb. 3 and 4 for a two-day ‘hackathon’ designed to create technology applications that will improve access to justice. HackJustice, which is organized by the Winkler Institute for Dispute Resolution at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School and the Cyberjustice Laboratory at Université de Montréal – will run simultaneously at MaRS Discovery District in Toronto and the Cyberjustice Laboratory in Montréal. Over the course of the two days, participants will compete for prizes as they work in teams to create and code either a mobile phone or software app, a website, or other technological solution that will make justice more accessible. Each team will then present their tech solution to a panel of judges who will choose the hackathon winners based on the originality and usefulness of the tech developed. ‘HackJustice is a great competition for anyone who is interested in technology and improving access to justice,’ said Nicole Aylwin, Assistant Director of the Winkler Institute. ‘The challenges that the teams will be taking on reflect a desire to help build public engagement and participation in the justice system and policy-making.'” (York University Media Relations)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

Lawyers – for those of us with the training and expertise to make a difference, it is more important than ever that we do so.  We have seen a incredible response to the call to action by our profession.  Lawyers on both sides of the issues will be asked to do extraordinary things.  Please support them as you can, and thank you to those who have already stepped up.

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

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – January 27, 2017

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

Happy Friday! We continue to see an increase in interest and participation in pro bono since the inauguration.  If you’re looking to volunteer, PSJD has you covered.  Check out PSJD for law student and attorney pro bono opportunities nationwide.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Indiana nonprofit legal aid celebrates 1 year anniversary;
  • Trump’s election sparks new interest in pro bono;
  • Proposed bill to raise Montana civil court fees to help fund legal aid;
  • New online tool helps immigrants know their rights and access legal aid;
  • Miami legal services receives $1 million gift;
  • Louisiana public interest attorneys launch new social justice initiative;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

January 19, 2017 – “In the original business plan for the legal clinic, Justice Unlocked, the staff expected 15 to 20 cases in its first year, executive director Jamie Sutton said. However, since the nonprofit opened in December 2015, Justice Unlocked said it has opened 88 cases.The organization’s legal services have helped get clients out of jail, regain custody of their children and have a place to live after being evicted, Sutton said. Justice Unlocked is a local nonprofit that provides low-cost legal services for people unable to afford attorneys. It provides services in areas like criminal law, family law, landlord and tenant law, small claims court, and a victim’s justice clinic. The nonprofit is a sliding scale legal clinic, Sutton said, which means it provides low fees based on income and household size.” (Indiana Daily Student)

January 19, 2017 – “Since Donald Trump was elected president on a platform that many fear would curb protections for society’s most disadvantaged, donations have flooded into public interest groups. And at many large law firms, pro bono coordinators are seeing a spike in offers to volunteer. ‘The interest level is extremely high,’ says David Lash, the managing counsel for pro bono and public interest services at O’Melveny & Myers. ‘People involved in all things pro bono have largely reacted to the election by framing it as a call to action. They are responding with a renewed commitment to helping vulnerable groups of people.'” “But the uncertainty over what a Trump administration would do has made other pro bono planning difficult. ‘Most groups are urging caution,’ says Steven Schulman, a partner at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld who leads the firm’s worldwide pro bono practice. ‘We don’t want to overplan.’ Kevin Curnin, a partner at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan and the new president of the Association of Pro Bono Counsel, says that his members are talking daily among themselves. ‘It’s not too soon to start thinking,’ says Curnin, who is the founding director of Stroock’s public service project. ‘We can collaborate and strategize to come up with reasonable and practical responses.’ There is one area where advocates feel pressure to move quickly. ‘The most urgent discussions are around immigration,’ says Schulman. ‘That’s an area where it’s more predictable than others where individuals might be affected.’ Ellyn Josef, pro bono counsel at Vinson & Elkins, recalls that the day after the election, five lawyers contacted her asking for immigration assignments. ‘I probably don’t get five calls in a typical month,’ says Josef.” “Josef, who also sits on the board of the Association of Pro Bono Counsel, urges firms to advocate for more funding for legal services groups, as well as dig deeper into their own pockets.” (National Law Journal)

January 20, 2017 – “On a split vote Friday, the Montana House approved raising some civil court filing fees for the first time in several decades, with added money going to help fund legal assistance for the poor. House Bill 46, by Rep. Kimberly Dudik, D-Missoula, passed on a preliminary vote 54-46 and must clear a final vote in the House before moving to the Senate. Dudik said the bill is the product of a four-year study by the Montana Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission and is supported by Gov. Steve Bullock, Attorney General Tim Fox, AARP, the Montana Chamber of Commerce, Montana Trial Lawyers Association and some other groups. She said some of these civil filing fees haven’t been raised in 20 or 30 years.” (Bozeman Daily Chronicle)

January 25, 2017 – “In response to President Trump’s threat to deport up to 3 million immigrants, the Immigration Advocates Network and Pro Bono Net have launched immi – a free online tool to help immigrants know their rights, understand their legal options, and access civil legal aid to avoid risk of deportation.” “Immi was created by the Immigration Advocates Network and Pro Bono Net, who are dedicated to increasing access to justice for low-income immigrants and other vulnerable populations through innovative and effective technology, with support from Open Society Foundations, the MacArthur Foundation, and other donors.” (Sampan)

January 25, 2017 – “Legal Services of Greater Miami has received a $1 million gift from commercial real estate broker Edie Laquer to endow the nonprofit organization’s first attorney chair focused on women and children’s rights. The donation established the Edie Laquer Foundation women and children’s rights endowed attorney chair. Rebecca Schram of the legal services group has been named to the post. The gift will ensure ‘our most vulnerable neighbors — women and children — will always have an attorney dedicated to providing them with representation in our civil justice system,’ the nonprofit said in a news release.” (Daily Business Review)

January 26, 2017 – “Today, a group of Louisiana public interest attorneys announce the launch of a new social justice initiative – Green Justice Legal.  Green Justice will provide key services for individuals, communities and organizations that might otherwise not have access to important legal representation due to cost, the nature of the issue or other challenges. An independent non-profit organization, Green Justice will strategically align its work with the Center for Environmental Law at Loyola University New Orleans.” “Green Justice is a ‘low bono’ law group, meaning that it will charge some fees for services, but those are significantly less than a typical firm. The organization is meant to fill the gap for those unable to pay regular legal costs, but for whatever reason, also cannot access pro bono assistance.  By working with solo practitioners who supervise senior law students to collectively provide critical legal services, Green Justice can keep costs low. Students will learn important skills and clients are well served for far less expense.”  (PRNewswire)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

The Legal Services Corporation (LSC) Board of Directors will present Pro Bono Service Awards on January 26 to five attorneys, a law firm, and a corporate legal department in recognition of their extraordinary commitment to equal justice.

Recipients of the Pro Bono Service Awards are:

  • Alston & Bird LLP and United Parcel Services Inc. (UPS) Legal Department, a law firm and a corporate legal department that have partnered for years to assist relatives and caregivers to obtain guardianships for impaired adults and minor children.
  • Randall L. Hughes, an attorney who has been a supporter of pro bono efforts for nearly four decades, dedicating countless hours to helping low-income Georgians receive the legal help they need.
  • Anne Seward Myers, an attorney who has handled 36 family law cases for Georgia Legal Services.
  • Jeffrey J. Nix, an attorney who has volunteered with Atlanta Legal Aid Society for more than a decade, helping veterans and cancer patients with estate planning and other important legal issues.
  • Huey W. Spearman, an attorney and longtime supporter of Georgia Legal Services Program who has accepted 53 pro bono cases over the years.
  • Juli A. Wilkes Wisotsky, an attorney who has taken on 13 pro bono cases, many involving complex litigation.

(Legal Services Corporation)

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

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – January 20, 2017

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

Happy Friday! It’s Inauguration Day here in DC. That means long lines, lots of traffic, and hopefully a renewed commitment to what truly makes America great right now. As the public interest community, we play a vital role. This week in the news are a number of initiatives designed to increase access to justice. That is a great place to start! But, there is also an indication of what cuts to government President Trump plans to make – and that news isn’t good.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • New program aims to increase pro bono service in southern Virginia;
  • Attorney General orders probe of Legal Aid Ontario;
  • Idaho legal aid launches new communication service;
  • Pilot project in Ottawa helping homeless overcome huge barrier — lost id;
  • ABA Center for Innovation accepting applications for inaugural fellowships;
  • Ontario justice partners launch new Steps to Justice website;
  • Trump team prepares dramatic government cuts;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

January 12, 2017 – “A new program is trying to increase the amount of lawyers across the state offering pro bono services. Virginia Legal Aid Society is putting together teams of local judges, lawyers, and members of the legal aid society to recruit lawyers to participate in Virginia Legal Aid’s Pro Bono volunteer program. Teams will also be formed in Farmville and Suffolk to recruit lawyers to service those areas. ‘Danville, Martinsville, Henry County these are all areas where we don’t have a lot of big firms with the resources to devote a lot of attention. We have a lot of solo practitioners,’ explained David Weilnau, a staff attorney in the VLAS’s Danville office. Specifically, VLAS hopes to, within two years, double the number of attorneys and cases in its pro bono volunteer program. The program is being funded by a $327,899 grant from Legal Services Corporation’s Pro Bono Innovation Fund. The new program will also allow Liberty University law students to do supervised pro bono work in Danville, Farmville, and Suffolk.” (WSLS)

January 14, 2017 – “The attorney general has ordered a third-party review of Legal Aid Ontario, after the agency announced last month that it was dramatically cutting back on services due to a $26-million deficit. Yasir Naqvi will be bringing in an external firm to review the arm’s-length government agency’s budget forecasting methodology, decision-making procedures related to budget management, and Legal Aid’s plan to balance its budget. The firm’s report must be delivered to Naqvi and John McCamus, chair of the Legal Aid board, by March 31, and will be made public ‘shortly after,’ Naqvi said in a statement.” “The agency’s president and CEO, David Field, told the Star in an interview in December that he would welcome an external audit, saying he was ‘very confident’ in Legal Aid’s financial situation. He reiterated that position to the Star in a statement Friday.” (thestar.com)

January 15, 2017 – “Need legal advice, but can’t afford a lawyer? Idaho Legal Aid Services can help with its new interactive communication system. Are you being evicted? Text the keyword ‘eviction’ to 208-718-1502 on your cellphone and within seconds Legal Aid will text back a link to its website containing eviction information.” “The new service focuses on basic information and doesn’t overwhelm a client with too much information. Even people who are familiar with the legal system can get overwhelmed and can use this messaging system for help.” “The information is written by Idaho attorneys and tailored for Idaho laws. The 13 topics available through the system are based on the most common areas ‘where self-representing people get stuck,’ said Steve Rapp, Idaho Legal Aid technology project developer in Boise. He expects the service to eventually expand into a more comprehensive and interactive tool. The service is free and there is no cellphone application to purchase or download.” (magicvalley.com)

January 17, 2017 – “A new pilot project is helping people from one of Ottawa’s most vulnerable populations replace lost or stolen identification — a process organizers say is simple for most, but ‘a big mountain to climb’ for those living on the street. Pro Bono Students Canada, the Ottawa Mission, Borden Ladner Gervais and Lawyers Feed the Hungry are working together on The ID Project, where volunteers help clients fill out forms twice a month. ‘I think a lot of us take it for granted that you would have identification,’ said Emily Cumbaa, a 28-year-old law student from the University of Ottawa. ‘It’s a huge barrier for people who are homeless or precariously housed.'” “The ID Project runs every third and fourth Thursday from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Ottawa Mission.” (CBC News)

January 18, 2017 – “The ABA Center for Innovation is accepting applications for its inaugural fellowship program. Open to both newly minted lawyers and mid-career professionals outside the law, the program seeks applications and proposals to create or develop projects to improve the legal industry. Those who wish to apply should have an idea that bridges the access-to-justice gap in the U.S.; utilizes technology to deal with a vital legal need; designs or builds a more effective way of delivering legal services; provides the public with easier access to legal information; reduces the backlog of cases in various courts throughout the country; creates tools that allow lawyers to better represent their clients; or helps pro se litigants represent themselves more effectively. The deadline for applicants is Jan. 31.” (ABA Journal)

January 18, 2017 – “Problems with landlords, unfair treatment at a job, and getting separated or divorced: these are some of the issues that Ontarians face every day. However, many cannot access the information they need to understand the legal implications of their problems and respond. Now they can go to Steps to Justice – a new website that empowers people in Ontario to understand and take action to deal with their legal problems. A first of its kind, Steps to Justice presents easy-to-understand, step-by-step information on common issues that people experience in family, housing, employment and other areas of law.” “Steps to Justice is led by Community Legal Education Ontario (CLEO) and brings together key justice sector players such as the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General, the Superior Court of Justice and the Ontario Court of Justice, the Social Justice Tribunals of Ontario, Legal Aid Ontario, the Law Society of Upper Canada, and the Association of Community Legal Clinics of Ontario.” “Numerous justice sector partners are collaborating on content development to ensure the information is accurate and practical; the website will be updated regularly based on their input. Justice sector and community organizations will also be able to embed or present this automatically-updated Steps to Justice content on their own websites to share with their users.” (Newswire

January 19, 2017 – “Donald Trump is ready to take an ax to government spending. Staffers for the Trump transition team have been meeting with career staff at the White House ahead of Friday’s presidential inauguration to outline their plans for shrinking the federal bureaucracy, The Hill has learned.” “The proposed cuts hew closely to a blueprint published last year by the conservative Heritage Foundation, a think tank that has helped staff the Trump transition.” “The administration’s full budget, including appropriations language, supplementary materials and long-term analysis, is expected to be released toward the end of Trump’s first 100 days in office, or by mid- to late April.” “The Heritage blueprint used as a basis for Trump’s proposed cuts calls for eliminating several programs that conservatives label corporate welfare programs. At the Department of Justice, the blueprint calls for eliminating the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, Violence Against Women Grants and the Legal Services Corporation and for reducing funding for its Civil Rights and its Environment and Natural Resources divisions.”  (The Hill)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

Kristen Sonday is the co-founder of Paladin, a platform dedicated to increasing pro bono engagement across the nation. Their goal is to make sure that lawyers are abiding by their professional responsibility and helping those with legal needs that have historically not been met. “I bonded with my co-founder, Felicity Conrad, in the summer of 2015 over a late night conversation about this access to justice gap,” explains Sonday. “She told me a story about her recent pro bono work to gain asylum for a Latin American client, and we brainstormed ways to utilize technology to solve the access problem.” In 2017, the Paladin team, is committed to moving the platform out of beta, rolling out nationwide and expanding both internationally and across industries. Click on the link for the rest of the interview. (Forbes)

Music Bonus! Music pick from the PSJD Fellow Delisa Morris.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6LSarhZpnMs&feature=youtu.be

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