Archive for Public Interest Law News Bulletin

PSJD Public Interest News Digest – July 28, 2017

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

Happy Friday! There are a number of new programs in the news this week. And in great news, the process of funding LSC for another year has begun. Keep up the pressure on your representatives!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Legal Services of Eastern Missouri introduces new Education Justice Program;
  • Newfoundland and Labrador Legal Aid Commission closes St. John’s Family and Child Office;
  • The true value of public service loan forgiveness;
  • Additional funding for immigration and refugee services in British Columbia;
  • The Roddenberry Foundation launches $1 million fellowship fund for US-based activists;
  • Florida International University College of Law launches low bono family law initiative;
  • Senate subcommittee approves Legal Services Corporation funding;
  • Seattle launches legal aid program to help prevent evictions;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants; and
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

July 20, 2017 – “According to a national study by the Civil Rights Project at UCLA, Missouri is the second-worst state in racially disproportionate suspension rates, and has the greatest gap between the suspension rate of elementary school aged children of color and that of white children. In response to this staggering statistic, Legal Services of Eastern Missouri (LSEM), a non-profit organization that provides legal assistance and representation to low-income people in eastern Missouri, has created a new unit with a big goal: ending the school-to-prison pipeline and creating an equitable educational system. ‘The education justice program is a new unit, comprised of three people, and we are seeking to achieve education equity and racial justice for all children,’ said Susie Lake, staff attorney for the new project. ‘And we’re going to attempt to do that through impact litigation and other impact advocacy tools.’ ‘We will work to address these inequities, because we know that school suspensions can have a profoundly negative impact on children, families and communities,’ said Education Justice Program Director Luz María Henríquez.” (The St. Louis American)

July 20, 2017 – “A program giving extra attention to child protection issues has been axed from the Legal Aid Commission in St. John’s because resources are needed elsewhere. The Family and Child Office is closing around July 31. There will be no layoffs according to Nick Summers, provincial director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Legal Aid Commission, but there will be less support for clients.  For the past 10 years, the office has given people a lawyer, paralegal and social worker to help them through the legal process — but not anymore. Now the social worker will be available to all lawyers in the commission, not just the Family and Child Office.” “Not all clients dealing with child protection issues used the services of the Family and Child Office. Many were represented by other legal aid lawyers.” “Summers stressed the closure was not made to target a vulnerable sector, but to provide a boost to all areas of legal aid by removing an enhancement to one group.” “He said two other family and child offices elsewhere in the province will remain open.” (CBC News)

July 21, 2017 – Contributing to the Huffington Post, Isaac Bowers, Director for Law School Engagement & Advocacy for Equal Justice Works, responds to Jason Delisle’s most recent article on Public Service Loan Forgiveness. Jason Delisle is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and an outspoken critic of PSLF.  Isaac does a good job of debunking erroneous information and providing a reasonable and balanced argument for the value of PSLF. (Huffington Post)

July 25, 2017 – “The Legal Services Society has received confirmation that the federal government will provide additional funding to ensure continued legal aid services for immigrants and refugees. LSS announced last month it would stop taking applications for immigration and refugee services effective August 1, 2017, due to a lack of funding to keep up with increased demand. The new funding allows LSS to maintain services until November 2017 and federal-provincial discussions regarding immigration and refugee legal aid in BC are concluded. “Refugees are an extremely vulnerable group. Many have faced persecution and torture and they need help to navigate our complex legal system,” said Mark Benton, QC, Chief Executive Officer of the Legal Services Society. ‘This new funding demonstrates the federal government’s commitment to helping those who need our support and assistance.’ The need for increased funding is the result of the global refugee crisis, which resulted in a 145 percent increase in legal aid refugee cases at LSS over the past three years. The new funding is necessary at this time because LSS, unlike other legal aid plans, cannot reallocate funding from other services to cover a deficit in immigration services.” (Cision)

July 25, 2017 – “The Roddenberry Foundation is pledging $1 million towards activism through its inaugural Roddenberry Fellowship—a year-long program for 20 individuals from across the United States —who will each receive $50,000 to pursue a project or initiative in one of four fields:

  • Civil Rights
  • Climate Change and Environmental Justice
  • Immigration and Refugee Rights
  • LGBTQIA and Women’s Rights

The Fellowship includes tailored support for each activist as they launch a new initiative or amplify an existing early-stage project. ‘It became clear to us that we wanted to support the increase in civic engagement and activism we’ve been seeing across the country,’ says Lior Ipp, CEO of the Roddenberry Foundation. ‘In an era in which more and more people are fighting for what they believe in, we don’t have the luxury to be bystanders. In fact, we have an obligation to help.’ Five fellows will be selected in each of the issue areas, and together they will form a year-long cohort who will receive tailored support to build and scale their initiatives.” (Cision)

July 25, 2017 – “ FIU LAW Practice, an initiative of the FIU College of Law, dedicated to helping local families, will offer affordable legal services to low- and moderate-income families who do not qualify for free legal services. The practice, first-of-its-kind in Florida, will assist families that fall within 125 and 200 percent of the poverty guidelines. That means that a family of four in Miami-Dade county making between $30,376 and $48,600 may be good candidates for the services, which specialize in family law legal matters such as divorce, child support and domestic violence cases. ‘Our mission is to increase access to justice for those who seek it while building relationships within the local community,’ said Michelle Mason, senior associate dean who serves as the community liaison for the FIU LAW Practice. ‘In a recent study by the Justice Index Project, nearly 50 percent of Florida litigants appearing in court on a range of civil legal matters do so without legal representation, which may not be in their best interest.’ The practice will charge clients based on a sliding scale, with service prices ranging from $75 – $125 per hour. FIU LAW Practice will utilize the legal clinic’s current screening process to confirm eligibility based upon federal poverty guidelines and levels. FIU LAW Practice will also serve as a legal incubator for recent law graduates, admitted to the Florida Bar.  The incubator combines approaches used in medical residency programs with those used in a business incubator setting.  The goal of this hybrid, apprentice-style approach is to assist new lawyers through both practical training and mentorship as they launch their careers. FIU LAW Practice will hire two fellows in the first year.” (FIU Law)

July 26, 2017 – “As part of a $53.4 billion spending bill, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies voted Tuesday to sustain funding for legal aid. The subcommittee, chaired by Alabama Republican Richard Shelby, approved an appropriation to the Legal Services Corp. for $385 million. This is equal to what the agency is currently receiving for fiscal year 2017 and $85 million more than what the U.S. House of Representatives provided in its proposed budget.” “The measure now advances to the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations where it is scheduled for consideration Thursday.” (The Indiana Lawyer)

July 26, 2017 – “On Monday, Seattle City Council member Lisa Herbold announced the launch of a pilot program to provide legal aid for incarcerated people accused of crimes, with the goal of helping them avoid eviction and homelessness. Some people who wind up in jail and can’t make bail miss rent payments and risk losing their homes, said Anita Khandenwal, director of the county public defense office. But the repercussions don’t stop there. ‘The consequences of a criminal eviction can really snowball,’ Khandenwal said. ‘There’s the intended consequence of serving jail time, but there’s also loss of housing, [employment] license, employment opportunity, or job you already have.’ Herbold secured funding in the city’s annual budget last year to hire three attorneys for the program. The legal aid pilot is modeled after existing ‘holistic defense’ efforts in Washington, DC and New York, a philosophy of legal work that says lawyers should look beyond their cases and help tackle the roots of a client’s crime, from poverty to mental health issues to addiction. The program’s civil lawyers, employees of the public defense office, will assist public defenders during a client’s court case. One example of where the new attorneys may come in handy, Herbold said, is during the plea bargaining process. A civil lawyer may think of housing issues that could arise from a guilty plea that a criminal defense lawyer might not have considered. Having civil attorneys assist public defenders to understand the impacts of jail time on individuals’ housing and employment will help ‘[improve] the quality of representation’ in the Seattle Municipal Court system and make it easier for formerly jailed people to reintegrate into their communities, Khandelwal said. Over the two-year pilot, attorneys will collect data to better understand how involvement in the legal system impacts housing instability, homelessness, and other ‘civil consequences.'” (SLOG)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants!

Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia honored Kristen Lejnieks, a partner at Jones Day, with their Making Justice Real Pro Bono Award. Legal Aid’s Making Justice Real Pro Bono Award recognizes attorneys who have provided outstanding pro bono service through individual representation and/or leadership in facilitating such representation by their colleagues. This past year, Kristen has set herself apart through her effective leadership as Jones Day’s coordinator for the Housing Right to Counsel Project. Under Kristen’s leadership, Jones Day’s participation in the Project has soared. A number of Jones Day attorneys are now involved with the Project, helping many tenants avoid eviction and the terrible repercussions that follow. Read more at the link. (Making Justice Real)

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

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – July 21, 2017

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

Happy Friday! There are a number of expansion of service and opportunities stories this week.  A feel-good week in the news for the most part. In other news, the State Department suspends another fellowship program, which is significant, but only affects people already in certain programs.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Iowa Access to Justice Commission releases report;
  • Georgia state grant bolsters legal aid for domestic violence victims;
  • Another city explores providing legal aid to tenants facing eviction;
  • St. Mary’s University School of Law increases number of Summer Public Interest Fellowships;
  • State Department suspends Diplomacy Fellows Program;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants; and
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

July 13, 2017 – “The Iowa Supreme Court’s ‘Access to Justice Commission’ has released a report that outlines steps to remove barriers to civil justice for low-income and disadvantaged Iowans.” “The report identifies dozens of recommendations and goals. They include recruiting more rural lawyers, creating a veterans legal clinic and developing an app to help people navigate legal issues and resources. The report also suggests ways to encourage the corporate community in volunteering and charitable giving around access-to-justice issues.” (Iowa Public Radio)

July 13, 2017 – “A $2.4 million state grant that funds legal services for domestic violence victims can mean the difference between life and death for some legal aid clients.” “Georgia Legal Services received the lion’s share, $1.6 million, of the $2,425,000 that the state Legislature allocated this fiscal year. The Judicial Council of Georgia, which disburses the annual grant, allocated $700,974 to the Atlanta Legal Aid Society and the remaining $116,674 to five domestic violence shelters to pay private lawyers to represent their residents.” (Daily Report)

July 17, 2017 – “A Baltimore city councilman introduced legislation Monday aimed at establishing a fund that would help low-income tenants facing eviction and other housing problems to hire attorneys, an effort that cities across the nation are exploring or have implemented. If Councilman Robert Stokes’ bill is approved, the city would ask voters to amend the city charter in next year’s election to establish a Tenant Legal Assistance Fund and authorize the mayor and council to dedicate money to it. The fund would help pay for lawyers to represent tenants in Baltimore’s rent court, where most renters arrive without attorneys to face landlords who almost always have some form of representation. It would also ‘provide legal assistance to low-income renters facing eviction,’ assist renters in disputes with landlords and try to make renters more aware of their legal rights. The bill calls for financing the fund with dedicated city revenue — fines and fees — plus grants from private foundations and charities.” (The Baltimore Sun)

July 18, 2017 – “The St. Mary’s University School of Law has increased the number of Summer Public Interest Fellowships available to law students to encourage a future generation of lawyers committed to public interest careers. ‘For the past 90 years, St. Mary’s Law and our students have taken very seriously our obligation to address the justice gap and to serve community members in need,’ said Stephen M. Sheppard, J.S.D., Dean of the School of Law. ‘Expanding our ability to offer Public Interest Fellowships paves a bit more of the pathway for our law students to fulfill our Catholic Marianist mission: To educate lawyers for service, justice and peace.’ With the help of a grant from the University to the School of Law’s Office of Career Services, the number of students participating in Public Interest Fellowships this summer increased from one to five. There is an overwhelming demand for legal aid services and the fellowships aim to help meet that need by encouraging students to pursue public interest legal careers, said Robin Thorner, J.D., Director of Career Services for the School of Law.” (St. Mary’s University News)

July 19, 2017 – “The State Department has suspended a program that fast-tracks top recruits, sparking outrage from students and graduates who planned on joining the diplomatic corps. The Diplomacy Fellows Program (DFP), established as part of then-Secretary of State Colin Powell’s Diplomatic Readiness Initiative in the early 2000’s, allows recipients of several prestigious fellowship programs to fast track their applications to the elite Foreign Service branch — a notoriously long-winded process layered in bureaucratic red tape.” “Over 260 fellows, alumni of U.S. national security internships, and State Department officials signed a hastily-circulated a petition, addressed to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, to reverse the decision. The letter called the move ‘counterproductive’ and ‘an abrogation of commitment and a breach of trust’ to fellows who were promised access to DFP before the program was axed without warning. ‘With the suspension of the DFP, after years of preparation for a career in the Foreign Service, alumni of national security fellowships are no longer recognized for their vigorous academic and language training’ the letter reads. The State Department confirmed the program is on hold.” (Foreign Policy)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

The Legal Services Corporation (LSC) Board of Directors presented Pro Bono Service Awards to two Ohio attorneys, a corporate legal department, and a law firm in recognition of their extraordinary commitment to equal justice. The recipients are:

  • Ann S. Bergen, an attorney based in Willoughby who has volunteered her legal skills and expertise with the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland for 25 years, including serving on the organization’s board.
  • David E. Butz, an attorney with the Canton law firm of Krugliak, Wilkins, Griffiths, & Dougherty Co., L.P.A who has taken on more than 100 pro bono cases with Community Legal Aid Services in Akron.
  • Marathon Petroleum Corporation’s in-house attorneys who have handled numerous pro bono cases during their 10-year partnership with Legal Aid of Western Ohio.
  • Porter Wright Morris & Arthur LLP, a Columbus-based law firm that has worked with Ohio State Legal Services for more than a decade, taking on numerous consumer debt and eviction cases.

(Legal Services Corporation News)

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

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – July 14, 2017

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

Happy Friday!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Changes proposed at University of North Carolina School of Law Center for Civil Rights;
  • Hawaii legislature cut funding for free or low-cost legal services;
  • British Columbia legal aid will cease to accept immigration & refugee applications as of August 1;
  • New ABA network increases legal services for homeless youth;
  • Legal chatbot DoNotPay announces massive expansion;
  • Public defender fees waived for those found not guilty in California;
  • New York City immigrants facing deportation denied legal help amid Mayor de Blasio, City Council funding dispute;
  • Esquire launches program to help law firms make the most of pro bono budgets;
  • New Duke University School of Law certificate helps students get head start on public interest careers;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants; and
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

July 6, 2017 – “A UNC committee has presented five alternatives for changes at the UNC Center for Civil Rights, but cautioned that there is no guarantee the center’s mission would survive under significant restructuring. The center has been under the microscope of the UNC Board of Governors for months after a few board members objected to the center representing clients in lawsuits against local governments and agencies. They want to ban the center from litigation, saying legal action should not be taken under the UNC banner. Center supporters have warned that such a prohibition could effectively end the civil rights work and endanger other legal clinics at the UNC and N.C. Central University law schools. The center was founded by the preeminent civil rights lawyer and former NCCU chancellor, Julius Chambers, who was a UNC law school alumnus. A committee appointed by UNC Chancellor Carol Folt issued a supplemental report, dated June 27, that outlines five alternatives for the center.” “‘The UNC-CH Committee wants to emphasize in closing that the availability of these alternatives is not an assurance that any of these alternatives is viable,’ the report said. The board could discuss the issue at a retreat next week but isn’t expected to take any action until September at the earliest. The supplemental report, meant to answer a question by the board about alternative structures, was issued as the legislature adjourned. Other questions submitted by board members had been answered in a previous report. The possibility of ending the center’s legal powers has led hundreds of supporters of the center to write to the board. At a public hearing in May, speakers said the center, and similar legal clinics, provide students with key education and practical experience — a requirement of the American Bar Association.” (The News & Observer)

July 6, 2017 – “Free or low cost legal services for residents in need is in jeopardy as funding for civil legal services has been cut from the Hawaii State Judiciary’s budget for at least the next year. In fiscal year 2016, the Judiciary received $600,000 for civil legal service organizations to help low-income residents, victims of domestic abuse, homeless people, veterans, immigrants and the elderly. In fiscal year 2017, that number was $750,000. For the 2018 fiscal year that started July 1, no money was allocated toward these services in the Judiciary budget.” “Legal Aid Society of Hawaii serves from 8,000 to 10,000 clients each year out of 20,000 calls it receives, said Sergio Alcubilla, director of external relations for the nonprofit. It has its own staff attorneys and is the largest public interest law firm in the state. The lack of state funding will impact the number of clients and cases it can take on, he said. ‘There are a lot of vulnerable people in our communities, and any legal situation can push them over that brink when living paycheck to paycheck,’ Alcubilla said. Aside from Judiciary funding, the nonprofit has been receiving about one fourth of its budget from the national Legal Services Corporation, which the Trump Administration wants to defund. It also receives grants for specific purposes, such as from the state Office of Community Services specifically for helping victims of human trafficking. Alcubilla said the Judiciary money was especially helpful because it wasn’t tied to one specific use.” (Honolulu Civil Beat)

July 6, 2017 – “British Columbia’s Legal Services Society (LSS) has announced that it will no longer accept applications for immigration and refugee cases as of Aug. 1 due to lack of funding. The federal government is responsible for funding immigration and refugee legal aid. According to the Legal Services Society, the federal government gives the B.C. government $900,000 annually for immigration legal aid which the province gives to the LSS, along with an additional $800,000, for a total of $1.7 million each year. Based on current projections, LSS estimates it will need an additional $1.07 million to maintain services until the end of the year.” “LSS issued 350 contracts for refugee services in 2013-2014 with that number jumping to 860 contracts in 2016-2017.” (The Lawyer’s Daily)

July 6, 2017 – “More than 200 criminal cases across the country have been tossed due to unreasonable delays since the Supreme Court of Canada’s landmark Jordan decision one year ago, court data shows. The cases include murders, sexual assaults, drug trafficking and child luring, all stayed by judges because the defendant’s constitutional right to a timely trial was infringed. While provinces and the federal government have taken steps over the past year to speed up Canada’s sluggish courts, legal observers say more drastic and urgent changes are needed. ‘Not nearly enough has been done by the government in order to repair this crumbling system,’ said Rick Woodburn, president of the Canadian Association of Crown Counsel. ‘Until the government views the justice system as a priority, we’ll continue to see murderers set free.’ Advocates say governments must provide more funding for every facet of the system, including judges, Crown attorneys, legal aid and infrastructure. Ottawa is also being urged to reverse decisions made under the previous Conservative government to expand mandatory minimum sentences and to close three of six RCMP forensic labs in the country. The Jordan decision, as it has come to be known, was issued on July 8, 2016, when the high court ruled the drug convictions in British Columbia of Barrett Richard Jordan must be set aside due to unreasonable delay. In a 5-4 ruling, the court said the old means of determining whether proceedings had taken too long were inadequate. Under the new framework, unreasonable delay was to be presumed if proceedings topped 18 months in provincial court or 30 months in superior court.” (CBC News)

July 10, 2017 – “In an effort to increase legal services to [homeless youth], the American Bar Association (ABA) recently launched the Homeless Youth Legal Network (HYLN). The initiative helps homeless youth ages 25 and younger, while also providing opportunities for legal professionals and service providers. ‘The Homeless Youth Legal Network is a fine example of how the American Bar Association can link youth experiencing homelessness with experts in the legal community who can help,’ ABA President Linda A. Klein. ‘This project, made possible with a grant from the ABA Enterprise Fund, shows how we can harness the power and reach of the ABA to improve access to justice by providing much-needed legal assistance to vulnerable populations.'” “To help other programs better serve homeless youth, HYLN identified 12 programs to serve as models during the first phase of this initiative. These 12 pilot sites will provide technical assistance to emerging programs, document best practices, and share data on legal barriers and improved outcomes resulting from legal advocacy. By identifying existing services, as well as unmet needs, the groups leading this initiative—the Commission on Homelessness and Poverty, Commission on Youth at Risk, and Section of Litigation Childrens’ Rights Litigation Committee—hope to create a national directory of legal services available to homeless youth. In addition to helping homeless youth, HYLN benefits attorneys and service providers by offering them technical assistance, training, and learning opportunities. A pro bono initiative is currently being piloted in Florida to recruit and train lawyers and law firms while also matching them with homeless youth shelters and drop-in centers nationwide.” (Associations Now)

July 11, 2017 – “Noted legal aid chatbot DoNotPay just announced a massive expansion, which will help users tackle issues in 1,000 legal areas entirely for free. The new features, which launched on Wednesday, cover consumer and workplace rights, and will be available in all 50 states and the UK. While the bot will still help drivers contest parking tickets and refugees apply for asylum, the service will now also help those who want to report harassment in the workplace or who simply want a refund on a busted toaster.” “Through DoNotPay, a user has a simple, instant message-like conversation with a bot by typing their issue in their own words. Even colorful complaints like, ‘My airline screwed me’ will be registered by the system. Then, a virtual lawyer decides how to best help a user based on their answers to a series of questions. The bot usually crafts a claims letter with the information provided, potentially saving hundreds of dollars in legal fees. DoNotPay can also connect users to outside aid, like a nonprofit that provides pro bono representation or avenues for action in more serious cases. The legal guidance is free, instant, and — in some cases — life-changing.” (Mashable)

July 11, 2017 – “Californians accused of a crime but found not guilty will no longer have to pay for their public defenders after Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday signed a criminal justice-reform law striking the requirement. Under a bill authored by a pair of Los Angeles-area state senators, people using court-appointed counsel must only repay courts for legal costs if they are convicted. State Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, said the current reimbursement laws are a detriment to low-income Californians and that Senate Bill 355 closes a damaging loophole which punishes individuals who are falsely arrested.” (Courthouse News)

July 11, 2017 – “A program offering free lawyers to immigrants facing deportation has stopped taking clients due to a clash between Mayor de Blasio and the City Council over whether city cash can aid people convicted of serious crimes. The New York Immigrant Family Unity Project has been refusing new clients since June because of the dispute over the legal services money, said Andrea Saenz, the program’s supervising attorney at Brooklyn Defender Services. ‘Right now, we’re not serving our community. And people are scared that they’ll get arrested by ICE, and we want to be able to tell them that New York City has your back and we’ll get you a lawyer,’ she said. ‘I never thought we’d be in this spot for this long.’ The city budget for the fiscal year that started July 1 included $26 million for lawyers for immigrants threatened with deportation — but Mayor de Blasio said the money should not go to people convicted of 170 serious crimes. Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito objected to that rule, and inserted language into the budget passed saying only income — not criminal convictions — could be considered in admitting people to the program. Yet de Blasio wouldn’t agree to go along with that condition, only saying vaguely that the dispute would be resolved in the contracting process. The fight left the legal services groups in limbo, unable to spend any money because they don’t know who they’re allowed to represent. About 100 detained immigrants have missed out on lawyers in the six weeks the program has been out of commission, Saenz said.” (Daily News)

July 11, 2017 – “Esquire Deposition Solutions, LLC, the nation’s leading provider of court reporting, video, and interpreting services, is pleased to announce a new Pro Bono Court Reporting Program that creates partnerships with law firms across the country to offer discounted court reporting services to allow more individuals equal access to justice.” (Esquire)

July 12, 2017 – “Duke Law students can now get a head start on careers in public interest law through a new certificate program, the first the Law School has offered to JDs. The Public Interest and Public Service Law Certificate is open to students who demonstrate through their coursework and service an interest in working in a nonprofit or government setting after graduation. In addition to working with a dedicated law school career counselor, students in the program will be assigned both a peer and a faculty mentor who will assist in planning courses to take and navigating opportunities during law school.” (Duke Law)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

“Texas RioGrande Legal Aid Executive Director David Hall will retire from his position after 42 years at the helm, the organization announced Wednesday. ‘It has been my honor and privilege to work alongside colleagues and friends with such inspiring values, compassion, and dedication for justice,’ Hall said in a statement to staff announcing his decision. ‘Siga la lucha.” Read more about his contributions and career at the link.” (Texas Bar Blog)

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

Comments

PSJD Public Interest News Digest – July 7, 2017

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

Happy Friday! Welcome to July. If this is  your time for reflection, check out PSJD’s new self-assessment tools.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Legal Aid Ontario withdraws threat to suspend immigration and refugee services;
  • Delaware lawmakers restore legal aid funding to state budget;
  • Maryland lawmakers seek legal aid for tenants facing eviction in Baltimore;
  • ABA’s charitable arm gave more than $70M to programs worldwide: annual report;
  • New legal partnerships seek to expand access to justice through churches in Tennessee;
  • ABA unveils free online tool to help veterans identify legal needs;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants; and
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

June 30, 2017 – “Legal Aid Ontario has backed away from its threat to suspend immigration and refugee services, which would have cut the group’s costs by about 40 per cent. It said it needed to pare down the annual cost of the program from $33.6 million to $20.5 million. The group first announced it was considering cutting back those services in May, and then began a province-wide consultation on the idea. At the time, it said the organization couldn’t continue to foot the cost overruns for its refugee program, as it had been doing for the past number of years. On Monday, Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) posted a brief update on its website, that said ‘as a result of intensive stakeholder consultations in May and June, and ongoing discussions with government, LAO has decided to continue immigration and refugee services at the current level at this time.'” (CBC News)

June 30, 2017 – “Lawmakers in Dover have restored crucial state funding for legal aid services in the state’s budget, avoiding what some had feared would have been devastating cuts to three organizations that provide representation for Delaware’s poor. Late Sunday, Democrats and Republicans in the General Assembly agreed on a deal to balance the state’s budget and eliminate a more than $350 million revenue shortfall that had pitted lawmakers against each other and caused them to miss their June 30 deadline. The leadership from both parties finally announced the budget accord after midnight on Monday. The deal restored the bulk of a $600,000 line item for legal aid, which had been removed in earlier negotiations by the General Assembly’s Joint Finance Committee. The agreement also restored about $66 million in cuts, including a $36.4 million grant-in-aid bill, which provides state money for nonprofits like civil legal aid groups. Last week, the JFC said the state couldn’t afford to fund grant-in-aid at all.” (Delaware Law Weekly)

July 3, 2017 – “A state and city lawmaker began drafting separate bills this week to make more publicly funded lawyers available for low-income tenants facing eviction in Baltimore, which spends more money ousting renters than trying to help them remain in their homes. Del. Sandy Rosenberg and Baltimore City Councilman Robert Stokes, both Democrats, hope their efforts can generate momentum for an issue that has stalled in Maryland while gaining traction across the nation. Stokes has drafted a ballot initiative that would ask city voters in next year’s election to approve or reject the establishment of a ‘tenant legal assistance fund.’ And Rosenberg has asked Maryland’s Department of Legislative Services to research how other cities and states are funding, or proposing to pay for, more lawyers for tenants. The Baltimore Sun on Sunday detailed New York City’s $77 million program to provide lawyers to tenants facing evictions and a pending $4.5 million funding increase in Washington, D.C., for the same purpose. Boston and Massachusetts lawmakers are considering a similar proposal, which has been shown in San Francisco to reduce the amount of public funds needed to operate homeless shelters. In response to the story, Rosenberg said Sunday that he had asked Legislative Services Director Warren Deschenaux ‘to research how New York, Washington, San Francisco and Boston are paying for legal counsel for tenants in housing court or proposing to do so.'” (The Baltimore Sun)

July 5, 2017 – “As the charitable arm of the ABA, the ABA Fund for Justice and Education helps support more than 200 law-related public service and educational programs each year. Earlier this month, the FJE released its annual report (PDF) for the period from Sept. 1, 2015 to Aug. 31, 2016. In addition to a list of individual and organizational donors, the report outlines how the FJE spent the $71.67 million budget. Less than 2 percent of the budget went to administrative and fundraising costs, leaving more than $70 million to be spent directly on the charitable programs which accomplish FJE’s goals. These include expanding access to justice, promoting diversity, safeguarding civil liberties and advancing the rule of law internationally. The American Bar Endowment was one of the FJE’s largest donors, providing more than $3 million in 2015-16.” (ABA Journal)

July 5, 2017 – “Legal Aid of East Tennessee, Tennessee Faith and Justice Alliance, Christian Legal Society and Chattanooga Gospel Justice Initiative are among those working together on a new effort to expand Access to Justice in Chattanooga through area places of worship. One such partnership has been created with White Oak United Methodist Church in Red Bank.  A pro bono legal clinic will be hosted at the church on Tuesday.  The partnership will also include legal issue training awareness for church leadership through the TFJA and pro bono legal clinics at the church.  Voluntary pro bono attorneys will be available to counsel on a wide variety of civil legal issues.” (The Chattanoogan)

July 5, 2017 – “Veterans who need help identifying legal needs in their lives can take advantage of a new online tool.
Legal Checkup for Veterans, a free website, is part of a signature initiative by ABA President Linda A. Klein to improve legal services for veterans, according to an ABA press release. Legal technology company CuroLegal developed the website with the help of ARAG legal insurance and volunteer experts. The website currently focuses on family law, housing and employment. Users are asked to provide their ZIP code and are asked a series of questions. They include whether the user has stable housing, needs shelter, is getting divorced, has disputes over child custody and property, has a job, and is being discriminated against based on pay. Underneath each question is a ‘more information’ option. For example, the option underneath a question about unequal pay tells the user that federal law and the laws of most states don’t allow larger employers to pay workers differently because of gender, race, national origin, religion, color, disability, sexual orientation or age. At the end of the survey, users are informed about areas of the law where they may have claims and action they can take. Those who have claims related to property distribution in a divorce, for example, are advised to gather documents to support the value of assets and debt. Users can text or email a copy of the page summarizing their potential legal issues to themselves or others so it can be discussed with an advocate or family member. Users can also click on a button that provides them with resources that can help with their legal issues, such as contact information for a free legal services provider or a lawyer referral service. Those with a potential employment claim are provided contact information for the local office of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Contact information for the local veterans service organization may also be listed, depending on the legal issues identified.” (ABA Journal)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

“Norman Dorsen, a passionate human rights advocate who led the American Civil Liberties Union for 15 years and was involved in some of the biggest civil liberties cases of the second half of the 20th century, died on Saturday at his home in Manhattan. He was 86. Mr. Dorsen’s career-long focus on civil liberties was informed by his involvement in the Army-McCarthy Hearings in 1954. He went on to argue Supreme Court cases that established juveniles’ rights to due process and that acknowledged the rights of children born out of wedlock. He was also one of the first lawyers to argue before the court in favor of abortion rights and gay rights. Mr. Dorsen was a key figure at New York University School of Law, where he joined the faculty and became the director of the civil liberties program in 1961. Partly through Mr. Dorsen’s influence, the school gained a reputation for attracting students and faculty with an interest in public interest law.” Our community has lost a great advocate. Read more about his amazing contributions at the link. (The New York Times)

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

Comments

PSJD Public Interest News Digest – June 23, 2017

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

Happy Friday! The Digest is taking a vacation next week. We hope you have a safe and happy July 4th holiday, and we will return on July 7.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Bay Area legal tech firm announces funding partnership with Bay Area Legal Aid;
  • Legal Aid Manitoba faces increased refugee claims, flat funding;
  • Nearly $50 million in California state budget will go to expanded legal services for immigrants;
  • Two more Legal Aid Ontario offices unionize;
  • Ontario supporting increased access to justice in French;
  • BYU law school launching think tank to make legal system more accessible;
  • New legal hotline a lifeline for Ontario’s low-income Chinese and Southeast Asians;
  • LA County votes to contribute $1 million to LA Justice Fund;
  • Minneapolis legal service will continue to serve those who don’t speak English for free;
  • Consumer watchdog accuses student loan companies of preventing public servants from accessing loan forgiveness;
  • Wisconsin State Supreme Court to hold hearing on court-appointed lawyer rates;
  • Legal Aid Ontario offers funding to Ottawa community organization to support Black youth;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants; and
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

June 15, 2017 – “One Legal, a North Bay based legal technology company, has today announced an extended partnership with Bay Area Legal Aid (BayLegal), the Bay Area’s leading provider of civil legal aid to the most vulnerable members of the community. This joint venture adds a revenue-sharing element to the ongoing donation of the firm’s technology, and has been launched in response to steep budget cuts proposed in the current draft of the federal budget for 2018. Headquartered in Oakland and serving seven Bay Area counties, BayLegal may be faced with losing up to one-fourth of its total funding in the coming year. Next year’s proposal eliminates the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), an independent agency established by Congress, which provides financial support for civil legal aid to low-income Americans. Last year, BayLegal received $4.1 million from LSC, and client services will be severely cut if they cannot supplement the difference moving forward. With the Giving Back program, One Legal is stepping up to fill the gap made by federal budget cuts. In addition to providing no-cost access to its legal services and products to BayLegal, One Legal will invite law firm customers to enroll in a program whereby 5 percent of the net revenue arising from their use of the One Legal platform is donated directly to BayLegal. It is one of the most generous corporate/non-profit partnerships ever announced in the legal sector.” (PRNewswire)

June 15, 2017 – “Legal Aid Manitoba is experiencing a huge spike in applications, which a report out Thursday predicts could eventually lead to a staggering 11-year delay for refugees waiting for a hearing. Without an increase in funding, by the year 2021, refugee claimants could be waiting more than a decade for their cases to be heard, the report obtained by the Canadian Press states. Meanwhile, Legal Aid Manitoba is still waiting to find out how much funding it will get from the province this year. In just over two months — from April 1 to June 11, 2017 — Legal Aid Manitoba processed 243 immigration cases. Last year, 308 cases were processed for the total fiscal year.” (CBC News)

June 15, 2017 – “California state lawmakers approved $45 million in a state budget plan to expand legal services for immigrants, a response to the Trump administration’s call to increase deportations. The funds, greater than what Gov. Jerry Brown earmarked in May and which will be an ongoing allocation through 2020, will go to a coalition of legal services agencies, immigrant rights groups and faith-based organizations called One California. The $30-million legal assistance program, run by the state Department of Social Services, was first assembled to help thousands of immigrants apply for naturalization and former President Obama’s deferred action programs. With the additional money, providers will now also be able to help immigrants fighting deportation or removal proceedings. In a statement, the coalition called it a modest and reasonable investment to bolster much needed relief services.” (Los Angeles Times)

June 15, 2017 – “Workers at two Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) offices voted overwhelmingly in favour of joining the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) this week. Both the Central District office (with offices in Barrie, Peterborough, and Oshawa) and the North Toronto District office (with four offices in Scarborough) will be joining their partners at two other LAO offices already represented by OPSEU.” “Workers at the two LAO offices cited a number of reasons for wanting to unionize, including the security of having terms and conditions of employment that cannot be changed unilaterally, and having a voice to raise and address issues collectively, rather than individually.” (OPSEU)

June 16, 2017 – “Ontario, in partnership with the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law, is improving access to justice in French by establishing the province’s first continuing professional development centre for Francophone legal professionals. The pratiquO pilot project will help Francophone and Francophile justice professionals in Ontario meet the Law Society of Upper Canada requirement to complete 12 hours of professional development every year, and help non-jurists upgrade their legal skills in French.” (Ontario Newsroom)

June 19, 2017 – “A team at Brigham Young University is looking to make the law more accessible to those who can’t afford a lawyer. LawX, a legal design lab starting this fall at the J. Reuben Clark Law School, aims to create products and solutions to make navigating the legal system easier. The students will brainstorm, design a solution, test prototypes and implement a final solution, all in one semester. ‘We won’t just be thinking how to solve problems,’ said Kimball Parker, the founder of the legal education website CO/COUNSEL who will also oversee LawX. ‘We will build the solution.'” “The lab’s first project will be focusing on making sure people without a lawyer can answer complaints on time.” “The lab team will be made up of a handful of second- and third-year law students, along with a fellow who will do extra work such as helping a product continue after the semester ends.” (Daily Herald)

June 19, 2017 – “For some low-income people in Ontario, it could be a lifeline. A new toll-free hotline operated by the Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic (CSALC) went live Sunday, providing free legal consultations in five different languages for non-English speakers. ‘We know how much need there is out there,’ said Avvy Go, director of the CSALC and lawyer specializing in what’s informally called ‘poverty law.’ The clinic has been operating on Dundas Street West in downtown Toronto for nearly 30 years. New funding from Legal Aid Ontario allowed it to open its services to low-income Chinese and Southeast Asian people in every corner of the province.” “The grant of $100,000 helped cover costs of the hotline and two new staff members — one lawyer who speaks Mandarian and Cantonese and one who speaks Vietnamese —  as well as new community outreach. According to Go, most of the clinic’s work is related in some way to immigration or employment. ” (CBC News)

June 20, 2017 – “The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to contribute $1 million to a legal aid fund for people at risk of deportation and confirmed that anyone convicted of a violent felony will not be eligible to benefit from the fund. The eligibility requirements for the county’s share of the L.A. Justice Fund — specifically the prohibition of convicted felons — drew protests from immigration advocates in April and forced the board to cancel a planned vote on the matter.” “The board’s vote Tuesday focused on finalizing an agreement with the California Community Foundation to act as the county’s intermediary in granting aid. That agreement included an exhibit spelling out the eligibility criteria.” “Niels Frenzen, director of USC’s Gould School of Law Immigration Clinic, said the county’s money would free up other funds for immigrants with prior convictions. ‘When there are limited funds, it’s not always possible to provide for the representation of everyone facing removal proceedings,’ Frenzen said. “However, the county’s contribution to the L.A. Justice Fund provides significant new funding for immigrants under the threat of deportation who do not have felony records, which in turn frees providers to use non-L.A. Justice Fund funds to represent other immigrants, including those with criminal histories.’ The L.A. Justice Fund is aiming to raise $10 million. The county intends to contribute an additional $2 million in fiscal year 2018-19 and the city of Los Angeles has tentatively committed $2 million, an amount approved by a council committee Monday.” “Private entities are expected to contribute the remainder of the $10 million and can set their own rules for eligibility.” (mynewsLA.com)

June 21, 2017 – “Minneapolis’ Somali and Spanish speaking residents will continue to receive free rental legal advice services in their languages after the city of Minneapolis renewed funds to a nonprofit. The Minneapolis City Council approved $100,000 and a six-month extension for services from the tenant advocacy organization HOME Line to keep offering confidential service in English, Spanish and Somali to tenants in the state — particularly aiming to help immigrants and low-income households.” (Minnesota Daily)

June 22, 2017 – “Student loan companies are making it difficult for nurses, social workers, firefighters, cops, and other public servants to access the debt forgiveness to which they’re entitled, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau officials said Thursday. That assessment is based on a review of thousands of student loan complaints submitted to the bureau between March 1, 2016 and Feb. 28, 2017. Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) was the fourth most complained about issue among borrowers who submitted complaints about their federal student loans, the report released Thursday by the CFPB found.” “The CFPB’s findings come as the program faces an uncertain future — the Department of Education’s budget request asks Congress to eliminate PSLF for borrowers taking out loans after July 1, 2018. The CFPB’s analysis will also likely add fuel to consumer advocates’ concerns that borrowers who qualify for PSLF and are counting on it may be struggling to access the program, either because they don’t have enough information about it, or they have the wrong facts about its requirements. The Government Accountability Office estimated in 2015 that about 4 million workers are eligible for the program, but just 552,931 borrowers were on track to receive forgiveness as of the end of last year. The program’s first major test will come in October of this year when the first cohort of borrowers are eligible for forgiveness.” “Borrowers planning on using PSLF should make sure they’re submitting their ECF forms and checking to see that their accounting of their eligible payments matches what their servicer has on file, said Seth Frotman, the CFPB’s student loan ombudsman. The CFPB is launching a campaign Thursday, called ‘Certify Your Service’ aimed at helping borrowers who believe they qualify for PSLF know what to do to access it. ‘We know that for many borrowers Public Service Loan Forgiveness is incredibly important for their financial futures,’ Frotman said. ‘What we would strongly encourage borrowers to do is to make sure that they’re on track.'” (Market Watch)

June 22, 2017 – “The state supreme court will hold a public hearing on a petition requesting increased pay for court-appointed lawyers and a declaration of unreasonableness concerning rates paid to attorneys who take public defender cases. At the court’s open rules conference yesterday, the last one of the term, the court unanimously voted to set a public hearing date, likely in December, and solicit comments related to petition 17-06, which would raise the per hour fee paid to court-appointed attorneys, under Supreme Court Rule (SCR) 81.02(1), from $70 to $100. The petition also asks the court to declare, through SCR 81.02(2), that an hourly rate less than $100 for legal services rendered by private attorneys who take appointments from the State Public Defender, under Wis. Stat. § 977.08, is unreasonable.” (State Bar of Wisconsin News)

June 22, 2017 – “Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) is providing $100,000 of funding to a project headed by an Ottawa-based organization to provide services to Black students facing suspension or expulsion hearings. The Somali Centre for Family Services of Ottawa has been given a one-time grant worth $100,000 to provide legal representation, advocacy or legal education to Black students who are in conflict with the education system. The funding for this grant is from an investment begun by the Province of Ontario in 2015 that was earmarked to create new legal aid services. In consultations held as part of LAO’s Racialized Communities Strategy, community partners reported that Black children are among those that are disproportionately punished, suspended and expelled. LAO is offering these grants to help students and their families because expulsion can often lead to the heightened involvement of youths in the criminal justice system.” (Cision)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

The Volunteer Lawyer Program of Northeast Indiana announced 26 area attorneys donated 50 or more hours of pro bono legal assistance in 2016. Although not required, 50 hours of free legal assistance to low-income people is a goal established by the Indiana Supreme Court. Attorneys achieving this benchmark are: Douglas Adelsperger, Laura Boyer, R. David Boyer II, Johanna Campbell, John Cowan, Jonathan Cress, Melanie Farr, Travis Friend, Ronald Felger, Yvette Gaff Kleven, Stephen Griebel, Damian Gosheff, Alan Hofer, Nicholas Hursh, Roy Kiplinger, James McEntarfer, Jerri Mead, Timothy Stucky, Joshua Tourkow, Douglas Ulmer, Konrad Urber, David Van Gilder, Benjamin Williams, Nathan Williams, Sarah Wladecki and Michael Yates. Sarah Sladecki was named new VLP attorney of the year. Steve Rademaker and Timothy Claxton of Allen County, James McEntarfer of Steuben County, Andrew Kruse of DeKalb County and Johanna Campbell of Wells County were named pro bono attorney of distinction. Shambaugh Kast Beck & Williams was named law firm of the year. Adelsperger & Kleven LLP was given the Pro Bono Award for Passion & Excellence. (News-Sentinel)

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

Comments

PSJD Public Interest News Digest – June 16, 2017

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

Happy Friday! This week has been a tough one. Thank you to all of those who have rendered aid and worked to bring people together.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Boston Bar Foundation awards grants;
  • Report says Tennessee’s public defender system needs more money;
  • Legal Services Corporation presents new justice gap report to Congress;
  • Endowment fund for veterans honors memory of Texas lawyer;
  • Over $900,000 awarded to prevent foreclosures and redevelop DC communities;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants; and
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

June 11, 2017 – “Nearly $1 million in grants will be given to 20 community organizations that provide legal services to domestic violence survivors, veterans, at-risk children and others. Last year, groups that received the grants helped more than 38,000 people who needed legal assistance. The grant recipients this year include Casa Myrna Vasquez, Boston’s largest provider of shelter to domestic violence victims. Other groups to receive the grants include the Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts, the Irish International Immigration Center, Prisoners’ Legal Services and Veterans Legal Services. The Boston Bar Foundation and the Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts will provide the grants.” (Lowell Sun)

June 12, 2017 – “A new report says Tennessee is not meeting its constitutional obligation to provide an adequate legal defense to residents who can’t afford an attorney. The report was compiled over an 18 month period at the request of the Tennessee Supreme Court. The task force report concludes that Tennessee is failing to provide the state’s system of public defenders with adequate resources to represent indigent residents in court. The final report makes seven recommendations. Among them: Increase the pay private attorneys receive from the state when they are asked by the courts to defend a poor client.” (WMOT)

June 14, 2017 – “Today Legal Services Corporation (LSC) will issue a new report, The Justice Gap: Measuring the Unmet Civil Legal Needs of Low-Income Americans. The report is a study of the ‘justice gap’ in the U.S.—the difference between the civil legal needs of low-income Americans and the resources available to meet them. Last year, 86% of the civil legal problems reported by low-income Americans received inadequate or no legal help at all.” The full report is available here. (Legal Services Corporation)(ABA Journal)

June 14, 2017 – “A legal aid endowment fund for Texas veterans has been established to honor the legacy of Texas trial lawyer Joe Jamail. The Joe Jamail Endowment for Veteran Legal Services was established by Jamail’s longtime friend and one-time employee Richard Mithoff. Mithoff contributed $100,000 to launch the fund which has grown to $400,000. The money will be used to help veterans avoid homelessness, promote stability in their family relationships and help them with employment problems. Jamail, who died in 2015, was a Marine before he was a lawyer. The endowment is managed by the Texas Access to Justice Foundation which was created in 1984 to provide funding for civil legal aid in Texas.” (Houston Chronicle)

June 15, 2017 – “The DC Bar Foundation announced the recipients of the third distribution of the Foreclosure Prevention and Community Redevelopment Legal Assistance Grants Program. A total of $939,000 was awarded to projects that will increase access to justice by:

  • Representing low-income and elderly residents in foreclosure cases at DC Superior Court;
  • Ensuring that affordable housing properties in DC transition to market rate in a way that avoids displacement of low-income DC tenants;
  • Combatting the causes of affordable housing loss due to significant rent increases, sale of properties, termination of government subsidies, and unsafe conditions; and,
  • Assisting tenant groups with the establishment and maintenance of their affordable housing limited equity cooperatives to prevent them from converting to market rate housing.”

Click on the link for a full list of grantees and projects. (DC Bar Foundation)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

Law students in action: Duke University School of Law students Eleni Bakst ’17, Suzie Jing ’18, and Blair Mason ’18 share their experiences working with families detained while seeking asylum at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas. Their project was one of many organized by the Duke Law Office of Public Interest and Pro Bono as part of its annual Southern Justice Spring Break Trip. (YouTube)

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

Comments

PSJD Public Interest News Digest – June 9, 2017

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

Happy Friday! Lots going on this week — especially here in DC. And it’s also summer intern time. Check out PSJD’s Having Fun on the Cheap for tips for exploring and enjoying your internship city.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Connecticut experiments with legal advocates for abused animals in court;
  • New grant helps Ohio’s Community Legal Aid take community lawyering approach;
  • Maine appointed counsel working without pay as legislators debate;
  • Georgetown Law program offers fellowship for young DC police officers;
  • Opinion: the legal profession is failing low-income and middle-class people, proposes solution;
  • LA County drops $50 public defender fee for criminal defendants;
  • Opinion: why student loan forgiveness is a social justice issue;
  • New Mexico’s top court should acknowledge excessive PD workloads and craft remedy, ABA says;
  • DOJ ends settlement practice that funded community organizations;
  • Virginia State Bar proposal would encourage pro bono by retired lawyers;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants; and
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

June 2, 2017 – “Many states have victim’s advocates or child advocates, people in the judicial system who represent those affected by crime or abuse. Now, one state has created legal advocates for abused animals, an experiment being watched across the nation for signs of success. There are eight approved volunteer advocates across Connecticut — seven lawyers and a UConn law professor, working with her students. It’s up to a judge to decide whether to appoint one, but they can be requested by prosecutors or defense attorneys. In the first six months of the law, advocates have been appointed in five cases.” (Fox News)

June 2, 2017 – “Community Legal Aid Executive Director Steven McGarrity has big plans for a new Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation neighborhood stabilization grant. The grant, which is for up to $1.3 million over four years, will support community redevelopment legal assistance. ‘I’m beyond thrilled,’ McGarrity said. ‘The money is going to allow us to put in place a team of attorneys who focus specifically on community redevelopment efforts, working within neighborhoods and with collaborative partners to make real and lasting change.’ OLAF board members voted in March to approve the grant, with $350,000 to be released this spring. ‘Future funding will depend on the success of the first year,’ said McGarrity. ‘Most of the money will go to Youngstown to improve the educational system there. We will also be doing some work in Akron, using leverage of banks to invest in low-income communities.’ McGarrity said the grant will allow Legal Aid to do more ‘community lawyering’ work that will give people access to other support including education, job training and financial help, rather than simply addressing one legal problem.” (Akron Legal News)

June 4, 2017 – “But a system welcomed by the state’s poor has found itself in the midst of a political spat as lawmakers debate a $6.8 billion, two-year budget proposal from Republican Gov. Paul LePage, who now only wants to fund the commission through January without back pay for lawyers. As a result of shortfall that lawmakers created in the last budget deal, court-appointed attorneys who provide indigent legal services throughout the state are working without pay. Funding ran out last month, and several attorneys say it’s causing stress and uncertainty.” “LePage is calling for an overhaul of a system that he says doesn’t fully meet American Bar Association standards such as caseload limits, training, expertise and oversight over attorney quality. Lawmakers and lawyers have rebuffed his efforts to create a contract-based system, and the governor says he’s fighting back against an ‘inefficient status quo.’ ‘The right to counsel exists to ensure they receive a fair trial, it is not a ‘make work’ program for lawyers,’ his original budget proposal reads. But skeptics of LePage’s effort say funding is the issue. Maine Indigent Defense Center founder Robert Ruffner is calling for a state public defender representing indigent defense lawyers, and more resources for oversight, training and guidance. ‘There aren’t any improvements to the system that will have any effect, any meaningful effect, that are free,’ he said. At least one attorney is declining to volunteer as a lawyer of the day to send a message to lawmakers.” (McClatchy DC Bureau)

June 5, 2017 – “A select group of rookie D.C. police officers and some civilian employees are embarking on a two-year fellowship program through the Georgetown University Law Center aimed at identifying and training the next generation of police leaders. The program launched Monday. The 19 participants will join monthly workshops and community activities and will be expected to develop a special project. They also will have one-on-one mentoring with some top police officials.” “Workshops and other activities will center on various policing strategies, including changes being made in light of police shootings and other incidents that have angered neighborhoods.” “‘This is a unique opportunity for fellows to build critical connections and thoughtfully explore some of the toughest issues confronting both the police and the community,’ William H. Treanor, the dean of Georgetown Law, said in a statement. D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham, also in a statement, said the program is to ‘not only to strengthen our officers’ credentials and experience, but also the bond we have with the communities we serve.'” (The Washington Post)

June 5, 2017 – ” We do not expect charities and generous doctors to provide 80 percent of the medical needs for low-income patients, so why do we think this is possible for our legal needs? As law schools become increasingly unaffordable — resulting in plummeting enrollment and debt levels that make it impossible for graduates to offer legal services at affordable prices — the legal profession needs some major changes. Professionals must first acknowledge that not every legal task must be performed by a licensed lawyer. Instead, we need to adopt a tiered system of legal-services delivery that allows for lower barriers to entry. Just as a pharmacist can administer vaccines and a nurse practitioner can be on the front line of diagnosing and treating ailments, we should have legal practitioners who can also exercise independent judgment within the scope of their training. Such a change would expand the preparation and independence of the existing network of paralegals, secretaries and investigators already assisting lawyers.” (The Washington Post)

June 6, 2017 – “In response to growing concerns about fees that can burden poor people accused of crimes, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Tuesday voted to eliminate the $50 registration fee charged to people who need a public defender because they can’t afford to hire their own lawyer. Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Mark Ridley-Thomas spearheaded the effort to eliminate the fee, which was created to bolster the county budget. ‘Though this isn’t the biggest move ever, this is important’ to remove what can be a barrier to justice, Kuehl said before the 4-1 vote. San Francisco and Santa Barbara counties also have stopped charging the fee.” “The county has charged the fee since 1996, despite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that states must provide criminal defendants legal counsel free of charge if they cannot afford an attorney themselves. The fee is supposed to be waived for people who can’t afford it. But that often doesn’t happen, according to officials with the public defender’s office.” (KPCC)

June 6, 2017 – “The budget proposal recently released by the Trump administration should greatly concern anyone who believes that higher education should be widely accessible, equitable, and premised on actualizing the American Dream.  Two components pertaining to student loan repayment and forgiveness are particularly troubling: the first would lengthen to 30 years the mandatory repayment window before graduate school loan debt can be forgiven; the second would eliminate the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.” “For disadvantaged students, higher education is the surest path to socioeconomic advancement; but the path is fraught with risks.  These students must essentially gamble on themselves and on the chances that they will be able to repay their loans and reap worthwhile payoffs beyond their obligations.  Student loan forgiveness provisions are intended to spread some of these risks across society, given the reams of data confirming the broad public benefits of an educated citizenry. Some people argue that disadvantaged students should simply forego law school in favor of other pursuits.  This is where the notion of social justice becomes particularly important.  Lawyers from disadvantaged groups are more likely to represent other disadvantaged people and interests, thereby, broadening access to justice.   The salaries for these lawyers tend to be lower than others.  Without income-based repayment options and loan forgiveness, it would be very difficult for many people to justify taking on the risks of legal education.  The result would be a legal profession that remains aloof and unresponsive to the needs of large swathes of the population – namely, the poor and most of the middle-class.  These issues are transcendent, impacting most any profession for which its societal value is not fully reflected in the typical salaries – teaching and social work, for example.  Therefore, in order to ensure the preservation of our democracy, we should remain true to the social welfare origins of the federal student aid system.  Loan forgiveness options must be fortified as a matter of social justice and equity, not restricted.” (The National Jurist)

June 6, 2017 – “An amicus brief filed by the ABA says the New Mexico Supreme Court should acknowledge public defenders have excessive caseloads in Lea County and craft a remedy that considers lawyers’ ethical obligations. The ABA brief (PDF), filed on Monday, says excessive workloads can force public defenders to choose among the interests of their clients. ‘The public defenders are in a classic Catch-22: competent work for one client inevitably results in unreasonable delay or lack of work for other clients,’ the brief says. If the state supreme court decides to impose caseload limits, the number should be determined using methodology that relies on the expertise of defense lawyers to establish the time needed to provided effective assistance of counsel, the brief says. The brief also says the state supreme court should order lower courts to allow the public defender to decline cases in the county until a workload study can be completed to determine the appropriate workload. If a study isn’t undertaken, courts should rely on the public defender to determine when workloads are manageable, the brief says. The ABA filed the brief in a petition filed with the court by the state public defender’s office. The PD is asking the court to order private lawyers to represent indigent defendants for free or to order court clerks to stop accepting new cases for minor crimes after a certain number has been reached, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported in March. The office also suggests the court appoint a special master to find long-term solutions.” (ABA Journal)

June 7, 2017 – “The Trump Justice Department is banning federal attorneys from reaching settlements in criminal and civil cases that direct defendants to give money to third-party organizations, a practice that Republicans criticized during the Obama administration. A June 5 memo from Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the DOJ would no longer reach settlements requiring payouts to ‘third-party organizations’ that were ‘neither victims nor parties’ to the lawsuits. In a statement, Sessions said funds ‘should go first to the victims and then to the American people ― not to bankroll third-party special interest groups or the political friends’ of the party in power. ‘Unfortunately, in recent years the Department of Justice has sometimes required or encouraged defendants to make these payments to third parties as a condition of settlement,’ Sessions said. ‘With this directive, we are ending this practice and ensuring that settlement funds are only used to compensate victims, redress harm, and punish and deter unlawful conduct.’ The memo will hurt nonprofit groups that provide services to communities hurt by corporate wrongdoing like mortgage fraud and environmental abuses. Republicans have called out groups like La Raza, a Latino advocacy group; the Urban League, a civil rights group; and the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, which works to expand access to financial services in poor neighborhoods. Habitat for Humanity has also benefited, although that organization hasn’t come under criticism.” (Huffington Post)

June 7, 2017 – “A Virginia State Bar panel is hoping to boost the number of retired lawyers who qualify for special status to provide pro bono services for needy clients. Bar rules allow for so-called ’emeritus members’ to provide no-cost legal service under specified conditions, even though they pay no bar dues and may not otherwise practice law. Participation has lagged. In fact, there is only one such member in the state, according to VSB records. Members of the VSB Special Committee on Access to Legal Services hope to remove an impediment by dropping a requirement that the work of an emeritus lawyer be under the ‘direct supervision of a supervising attorney.’ Under the revised rules, the chief requirement remains that an emeritus member must provide services only through ‘Qualified Legal Services Providers,’ which include legal aid offices and law school clinics. Qualified providers also would include the online service virginia.freelegalanswers.org, according to Karl A. Doss, the VSB director of access to legal services.” “The proposed amendment provides that to receive emeritus status, retired attorneys must submit to a competency review and provide the VSB Executive Committee with a letter from their physician certifying the applicant’s competency. Retired and associate attorneys applying for emeritus status must also fulfill any outstanding MCLE obligations, Doss said. The VSB Access Committee unanimously approved the proposed amendments May 9. The proposed changes are up for comment through June 30.” (Virginia Lawyers Weekly)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

Law students in action: “On the dusty outskirts of small-town Dilley, Texas, out of the sight of drivers traversing I-35, lies the South Texas Family Residential Center and the 2,400 beds it maintains for its temporary inhabitants: immigrant mothers and their children escaping desperate situations in their home countries. Many of these families come from Central America’s Northern Triangle— El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala—fleeing widespread gang violence and aggressive domestic situations. They arrive at the U.S. border seeking safety for their children and themselves. In January, a group of Fordham Law students traveled to the center to help the women prepare for their meeting with an asylum officer, an interview that could potentially save their lives.” Hear their inspiring stories at the link. (Fordham Law News)

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

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – June 2, 2017

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

Happy Friday!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Lawyers groups seek pay increase for lawyers taking public defender cases in Wisconsin;
  • New York health system forges new partnership to offer free legal services to patients;
  • Iowa Supreme Court approves grants for nonprofit legal assistance programs;
  • Gift creates Robert B. Kent Public Interest Fund at Cornell Law School;
  • Southwestern Law School establishes a public interest postgraduate fellowship program;
  • Prairie State Legal Services celebrates 40 years of service to community;
  • A high-tech helping hand: the marriage of pro bono and technology;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants; and
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

May 25, 2017 – “A group of Wisconsin lawyers filed a petition Thursday asking that the state Supreme Court increase the pay rate for private lawyers representing indigent clients through state Public Defender appointments, because a crisis is looming that could find criminal defendants deprived of their constitutionally guaranteed right to counsel. The petition is another attempt to raise the $40-per-hour rate — the lowest in the nation — which the Office of the State Public Defender has sought in each of its biennial budget requests since 1995. The petition, which seeks to increase the rate to $100 per hour, also asks that the Supreme Court ban flat fee arrangements to private attorneys on public defender cases, which are currently allowed, arguing that they pit a lawyer’s financial interests against a client’s right to effective counsel. But even if the state Supreme Court agrees to amend its rule that governs pay for private attorneys accepting public defender cases, the Legislature would have to agree to the funding increase, which supporters concede could be difficult, given the lack of success of past attempts to raise the pay rate for appointed lawyers.” (Wisconsin State Journal)

May 25, 2017 – “Mount Sinai Health System, an integrated health system with seven hospital campuses in the New York metropolitan area, recently launched the Mount Sinai Medical-Legal Partnership (MSMLP), an independent nonprofit organization, to address unmet needs of their patients who live well below the poverty line. It was created to enhance legal services already provided by lawyers from LegalHealth of New York Legal Assistance Group, Legal Aid and Youth Represent. Although these patients receive high-quality medical care at the hospitals, in many cases they have legal issues that actually are barriers to good health, explained Beth Essig, executive vice president and general counsel, Mount Sinai Health System, in an interview with FierceHealthcare. Unless these legal issues are tackled, the patients will continue to have health problems, she said. Essig said the partnership harnesses the support of legal talent in New York City to integrate it into the health delivery system. The population health management initiative aims to prevent and remedy the social and environmental conditions that are rooted in legal issues, such as housing, education, personal safety and access to healthcare.” (Fierce Healthcare)

May 30, 2017 – “The Iowa Supreme Court has approved $240,101 in grants to nonprofit programs that provide legal assistance to low-income Iowans with civil legal problems. The court awarded grants to 14 organizations throughout Iowa. The grants are funded by the Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Account (IOLTA) program. With this year’s grants, the Supreme Court has awarded more than $24.6 million in IOLTA grants since the program began on July 1, 1985. The grants include $145,657 for legal staff in Iowa Legal Aid regional offices, $31,656 for staff for a volunteer lawyer referral service in Polk County serving the low-income community, and $8,876 for Drake University Law School and the University of Iowa College of Law for a clinical law program in which upper-level law students intern with legal assistance providers throughout the state.” (Business Record)

May 30, 2017 – “The Robert B. Kent Public Interest Fund will be established through a $1 million gift made possible by Robert D. Ziff, J.D. ’92. The fund is named in honor of Kent, a professor at Cornell Law School from 1981 until his retirement in 1992. The fund will support a distinguished post-graduate public interest fellowship to be known as the Robert B. Kent Public Interest Fellowship. The fellowship will be competitively awarded to a new or recent Cornell Law School graduate who demonstrates exceptional commitment to the field of public interest law. It will provide an opportunity for new attorneys to gain experience in work that will improve the quality and delivery of legal services to the poor, the elderly, the homeless and those deprived of their civil rights. The new fund will also support other public interest priorities, such as summer Public Interest Fellowships and the Law School’s loan forgiveness program, both of which enable Cornell Law School students to consider employment opportunities with nonprofit and government employers.” (Cornell Chronicle)

May 31, 2017 – “Southwestern has established a Public Interest Postgraduate Fellowship program. It will offer recent graduates committed to pursuing a public interest law career exposure to direct legal services under the mentorship and supervision of staff attorneys at designated non-profit, public interest firms and legal aid agencies serving underrepresented, low-income client populations in the Los Angeles community. The first two fellowship recipients, Natasha Roland ’16 and Damaris Santamaria ’16, are continuing to uphold the legacy of Southwestern’s dedication to public service through their continued work in providing legal access to underserved communities as yearlong postgraduate fellows hosted by Inner City Law Center and the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice.”(SWLaw Blog)

May 31, 2017 – “An agency that provides legal aid to the region’s neediest clients is turning 40 amid a challenging time to continue its mission. Prairie State Legal Services begins its fifth decade under the looming threat of losing 60 percent of its annual $12.3 million in funding. The potential loss, Executive Director Michael O’Connor said, is the result of President Donald Trump’s proposed budget, which would eliminate the agency’s federal funds. ‘We never dreamed that when this year came we would be facing a threat to our very existence,’ O’Connor said. ‘What that would mean would be devastating reductions in services and legal aid, not only here in Rockford but across the nation. While we celebrate, we also prepare to look for a future where we are going to need the support of not only the legal community, but the entire community to make sure that our services are available to those in need,’ O’Connor said.” (Rockford Register Star)

May 31, 2017 – “Bar associations across the country are seeking technology platforms to help mobilize attorneys and create a more resilient legal assistance community.” (Legaltech News)(subscription required)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

Law Students in Action: “The University of South Carolina School of Law is pleased to announce that the 2017 Konduros Public Service Fellows have been selected and are already engaged in pursuing creative solutions to some of SC’s most challenging legal issues.  The six students will be working as law clerks at: SC Legal Services, the SC Centers for Fathers and Families, the SC Center for Heirs Property, SC Appleseed Legal Justice Center, Protection and Advocacy for People with Disabilities and Richland County Court Appointment Advocates.

The Konduros Public Service Fellowships were funded by Jim Konduros, a 1954 law alumnus, who credits the law school for helping him develop the strategic thinking and counseling skills that guided him through a rewarding career that included working with U.S. Senator Olin Johnston and Governor Robert E. McNair, advising major companies and serving as counsel to a hospital system CEO and leading several nonprofit organizations.

One of the goals of the Konduros Public Service Fellowship is to place qualified 1st and 2nd year law students each summer with public interest organizations, government entities or non-profits. The ideal Fellow is one who has the desire to make public service a career.  2017 is the third year students have received funds through the generosity if Mr. Konduros.” (University of South Carolina School of Law)

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

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – May 26, 2017

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

Happy Friday! The big news again is the proposed federal budget and the cuts to key domestic programs, including the Legal Services Corporation (LSC). And the ABA moves for summary judgement in its suit over Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) eligibility.

In lighter news — good luck to Florida attorney Mike Reed, who will run the equivalent of a marathon each day for 6 days to raise money for Jacksonville Area Legal Aid. You read that right – 6 marathons in 6 days! You can read more about this incredible feat below.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Legal Aid Ontario to suspend some refugee services July 1;
  • London Legal Walk raises record amount for legal services;
  • Michigan Indigent Defense Commission minimum standards approved;
  • Florida lawyer to run 6 marathons in 6 days to raise funds for legal aid;
  • Equal Justice Works announces Class of 2017 Fellows;
  • Nebraska Supreme Court appoints an Access to Justice Commission;
  • WWL Pro Bono Survey 2017 analysis released;
  • Thirty-two Attorneys General urge Congress to oppose elimination of Legal Services Corporation funding;
  • Some Republicans oppose defunding LSC;
  • Law firm leaders again urge Congress to fully fund LSC;
  • San Francisco public defender launches new immigration court unit;
  • Measures for Justice launches data analysis of justice system;
  • ABA moves for summary judgment in suit over PSLF;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants; and
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

May 19, 2017 – “A good chunk of the legal aid services for refugees will be suspended starting on July 1 as Legal Aid Ontario struggles to find 40 per cent in budget savings from serving the vulnerable group. It is too early to confirm what services would be cut from the refugee law program as a province-wide consultation is set to begin on Thursday, but three options are under consideration: suspending all refugee and immigration services when funding runs out in August and September; restricting the coverage to the representation of asylum-seekers in their refugee proceedings, such as filing claims and preparation for and attendance at hearings; or limiting coverage for asylum-seekers to the preparation of the claim only, but continuing to represent clients at the refugee appeals tribunal and federal court. ‘LAO has supported over-expenditures in the refugee program for a number of years and cannot do so any longer, given the increase in demand for services and LAO’s budget challenges in other programs,’ the agency said in the consultation paper posted on its website Friday. ‘LAO recognizes that this will have a serious impact on vulnerable clients and that difficult choices will regrettably need to be made to achieve a balanced-budget plan.'” (Toronto Star)

May 22, 2017 – “A record 700 teams took part in the biggest Legal Walk ever last night, before descending on Carey Street and the Law Society HQ in Chancery Lane for a party afterwards. Flanked by Society president Robert Bourns, Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd told walkers enjoying a well-deserved drink in the Reading Room that they had helped to raise £800,000 towards free legal advice services — beating last year’s £740,000. Yesterday’s efforts ‘shows what lawyers can do for those who do not have access to justice,’ the Lord Chief Justice said.” (Law Society Gazette)

May 22, 2017 – “[Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs] Director Shelly Edgerton has approved the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission’s (MIDC) first set of minimum standards for indigent defense delivery systems. The minimum standards involve education and training, the initial client interview, experts and investigators, and counsel at first appearance in front of a judge or magistrate and other critical stages. Edgerton’s approval follows a thorough review and a public comment period. ‘This is an important step towards Michigan meeting constitutional requirements for the right to counsel and implementing an equal system of justice for everyone,’ said MIDC Executive Director Jonathan Sacks. Every court funding unit in Michigan is now required to submit a plan for compliance with the standards and a cost analysis to the MIDC within 180 days. The MIDC has regional managers located throughout the state, who will work with local court funding units to create plans to comply with the minimum standards. A second set of draft standards was recently published for comment. The next set of standards addresses independence from the judiciary, defender workloads, and qualification and review of attorneys accepting assignments in adult criminal cases. A standard on compensation is being developed and will be published for comment later this year.” (UPMatters.com)

May 23, 2017 – “Starting this Sunday, a Florida lawyer will run six marathons in six days to raise funds for legal aid. Mike Freed, a business attorney with the law firm Gunster, will be attempting this feat to support Jacksonville Area Legal Aid (JALA). Though funding legal aid is something Freed feels passionate about, the Freed-to-Run event had its beginnings in a friendly competition between him and his wife. Last year, human rights attorney Crystal Freed raised $40,000 for victims of sex-trafficking in India by holding a Bollywood-themed benefit. Mike Freed started to think about how he could out fund-raise his wife. He’s had a long-term connection to JALA, for whom he does pro bono work. Since the Great Recession, the need for legal aid assistance among lower and middle-income families in the area has risen sharply. JALA estimates that 48 percent of Jacksonville residents qualify for civil legal aid. Meanwhile, Florida is one of three states that provides no state funding for legal services. ‘Frankly I was just overwhelmed by the need that’s there,’ Freed says.” “Every morning for six days, Mike will start at a different courthouse—cheered on by anyone who manages to make it to the courthouse by 7:30 a.m.—and run his 26.2 miles. On Sunday, May 28, he will begin his journey at the Florida Supreme Court Building in Tallahassee. On Friday, June 2, he will finish at the Duval County Courthouse in Jacksonville, with the opportunity for friends, colleagues and well-wishers to donate $100 and run the final 5K with him. On the courthouse lawn from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. will be an event titled ‘The Finish Line—Celebrating Pro Bono Attorneys,’ with free barbecue and beer provided by sponsors.” (National Jurist)

May 23, 2017 – “Equal Justice Works today named its 2017 class of Equal Justice Works Fellows. Seventy-seven recent law school graduates, the largest class of Equal Justice Works Fellows ever, will launch their public interest law careers through this two-year Fellowship. These Fellows were selected from over 450 applications, which marks a 25% increase over the number of applications from the previous year. Each applicant teams up with a host organization, to apply for an Equal Justice Works Fellowship by designing a unique project to address an unmet legal need. Fellows in the class of 2017 will be working across the country to serve communities including veterans, immigrants, refugees, children with special education needs, transgender and gender non-conforming individuals, minorities, and victims of abuse. The Equal Justice Works Fellowship Class of 2017 includes graduates from 41 law schools who will serve at 68 nonprofit legal services organizations thanks to 75 law firm, corporate, and foundation sponsors, as well as hundreds of individual supporters.”(PR Newswire)

May 23, 2017 – “Our judicial system is based upon the principle that all those coming before the courts are entitled to equal justice. The Nebraska Supreme Court’s Strategic Agenda identifies ‘providing access to swift, fair justice’ as the first of six overarching goals of the Nebraska Judicial Branch. To further that goal, the Court has approved creation of the Nebraska Access to Justice Commission. The phrase ‘access to justice’ describes the ability of any person, regardless of income, race, ethnicity, gender, disability, age or language, to access and efficiently navigate our court system. The 24-member Nebraska Access to Justice Commission brings together representatives from all three branches of government, as well as community members, attorneys and legal organizations, educators, and representatives from organizations serving low-income Nebraskans and those with disabilities.” (KRVN)

May 23, 2017 – “Who’s Who Legal is pleased to present the results of its fourth pro bono survey. Once again, the survey was open to firms around the world of any size, and its goal was to provide insight into the efforts firms go to give back to the jurisdictions and communities they work in. Firms were invited to fill in a questionnaire detailing, among other things, the size of their pro bono departments; the overall engagement of partners, non-partners and trainees in the firm; the average number of pro bono hours conducted by fee earners; as well as details of the most significant projects firms took part in during the survey period.” “[W]e received strong participation from Latin America and Asia, but less from international firms, or those in Europe or the USA.” See the link for summary results. An analysis of the 10 top firms in the survey this year is available here. (WWL News)

May 23, 2017 – “Highlighting the need for legal services in low-income communities across the country, Attorney General Lisa Madigan yesterday joined with 31 attorneys general in urging Congress to oppose the Trump Administration’s proposal to eliminate federal funding for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC). The letter, sent to the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committees, notes that for more than 40 years, the LSC has provided critical funding to civil legal aid organizations that help residents across the nation to access vital legal assistance. LSC funding helps veterans and military families secure important benefits, supports survivors of domestic violence seeking safety, and assists families facing foreclosure and victims of natural disasters. LSC funding also fosters longstanding public-private partnerships between legal aid organizations and private firms and attorneys nationwide who donate their time and skills to assist low-income residents.” “Joining in sending today’s letter were the attorneys general of Alaska, American Samoa, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Northern Mariana Islands, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.” (eNews Park Forest)

May 23, 2017 – “As the Trump administration pushes ahead with a proposal to get rid of the Legal Services Corporation — a federal agency that provides millions of dollars in grants each year for legal aid for low-income Americans — the White House faces opposition not only from Democrats, but from Republicans and corporate America as well. The president’s proposed budget released by the White House on Tuesday calls for a complete defunding of the Legal Services Corporation. The agency, which received $385 million this year from Congress, gives grants to 133 legal aid organizations across the country. Trump’s 2018 budget would provide $33 million to wind down its operations. The fate of the agency’s budget ultimately lies with Congress, though, and several Republicans in the House and Senate have already joined Democrats in opposing the cut. In a May 18 letter obtained by BuzzFeed News, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn — the second ranking Republican in the Senate — and two other Senate Republicans joined Democrats in urging the Senate Committee on Appropriations to provide ‘robust funding’ for the agency. ‘Recent research shows that civil legal aid is a good investment of taxpayer dollars, as it reduces clients’ reliance on other types of governmental aid and enhances their ability to participate in the marketplaces,’ the letter says. The other Republicans who signed the letter were Alaska Sen. Daniel Sullivan and South Dakota Sen. Mike Rounds.” (Buzzfeed)

May 23, 2017 – “Heads of more than 165 BigLaw firms — including Dentons, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP and Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLP — urged Congress on Monday to appropriate $450 million to the Legal Services Corp. for fiscal year 2018, even as the Trump administration has said it plans to shutter the organization. The letter came the same day as President Donald Trump’s fiscal year 2018 budget proposal.” (Law360)(subscription required)

May 23, 2017 – “A newly created unit of defense attorneys dedicated to representing immigrants faced with deportation began work in San Francisco’s federal immigration courts Tuesday. The new Immigration Unit in the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, one of only three such programs in the country, is the result of a deal negotiated by Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer in March. Mayor Ed Lee agreed to authorize the use of $200,000 in salary savings in the public defender’s budget to hire three deputy public defenders and a paralegal through the end of this year. Unlike in criminal court, immigrants are not automatically entitled to legal representation in deportation proceedings. However, studies have shown that detained immigrants with attorneys are six times more likely to win their cases. While San Francisco also provides funding to nonprofits specializing in legal aid to immigrants, the public defender’s office is intended to serve those already in detention, a demographic the nonprofits generally don’t serve. The unit’s attorneys are each expected to handle around 50 clients per year — a small portion of the estimated 1,500 detained immigrants who currently have court dates in San Francisco, around 85 percent of whom do not have attorneys.” (NBC Bay Area)

May 23, 2017 – “Measures for Justice launches today with deep data dives on more than 300 county court systems in Washington, Utah, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Florida, with plans to expand to 20 states by 2020. It pulls together the data that has traditionally remained hidden in ancient databases and endless Excel spreadsheets. Even with just six states included, the comprehensiveness of the platform surpasses anything similar that currently exists. Measures for Justice compiles granular data for 32 different metrics that indicate how equitable a given county’s justice system might be. The portal shows, for instance, how many people within a county plead guilty without a lawyer present, how many non-violent misdemeanor offenders the courts sentence to jail time, and how many people are in jail because they failed to pay bail of less than $500. It offers insight into re-conviction rates and never-prosecuted cases. Users can compare counties or filter information based on how certain measures impact people of different races or income levels.” (Wired)

May 25, 2017 – “The ABA filed a motion for summary judgment on Wednesday in its lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Education for its decision to drop some lawyers from the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. The federal suit alleges the department failed to follow statutory requirements and violated due process rights of the four individual plaintiffs, including two former ABA employees whose participation in the program was revoked. The summary judgment motion asks a judge to require the department to stop issuing retroactive denials and to restore the individual plaintiffs’ eligibility for the program. ‘The department’s arbitrary and capricious reversal of its prior eligibility approvals must be set aside,’ the motion says.” (ABA Journal)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

Law Students in Action: “The Pro Bono Program & Clinic at The John Marshall Law School filed 245 petitions for expungements of juvenile criminal records over the last two years. The petitions were filed on behalf of 69 youths living in areas of the city of Chicago with the highest crime rates.  All of the petitions were granted, giving these individuals the opportunity to start their lives anew and putting them in a better position to succeed in life.” Congratulations on work very well done! (Econo Times)

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

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – May 19, 2017

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

Happy Friday! The big news is the proposed budget for DOE, which includes eliminating the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, and other deep cuts to financial aid.  Coverage is below.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • New York county public defender’s office receives $750,000 grant;
  • Venable Foundation’s public interest fellowship program celebrates its 9th year;
  • ABA advocates for $450 million budget for Legal Services Corporation;
  • Northeastern University School of Law launches Pro Bono Collaboration;
  • New York state senator allocates funding to Her Justice for immigration legal assistance;
  • PSLF is in danger — but we knew that;
  • Judge blocked nationwide enforcement of rule preventing nonprofits from providing legal assistance to detained immigrants;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants; and
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

May 13, 2017 – “The state Office of Indigent Legal Services has awarded Cattaraugus County another counsel on first appearance grant for $746,125 to keep the program. The goal is to provide an attorney when a police officer arrests someone and brings them before a judge for arraignment. In the past, these defendants were often jailed in lieu of bail. Public Defender Mark Williams, whose office applied for the grants, said the first grant allowed his office to hire an additional attorney, another investigator and clerical staff.” (Olean Times Herald)

May 15, 2017 – “Continuing its commitment to advancing legal support for the public sector, Venable LLP has awarded four public interest fellowships to students from Fordham Law School, New York University Law School, and Columbia University School of Law who are undertaking public service internships this summer with nonprofits or government entities. Launched by the firm’s New York office in 2008, the Venable Foundation Public Interest Fellowship provides financial support to first-year law students in New York who are pursuing public service internships in New York City or in other cities where Venable maintains an office. The Fellowship recipients are chosen on the basis of their academic performance, demonstrated qualities of leadership, and commitment to the use of the law to further the public good. ” (Venable News & Insights)

May 15, 2017 – “ABA President Linda Klein submitted a statement to the U.S. Senate on Friday urging them to set the Legal Services Corp. budget to $450 million for 2018. Klein’s statement is largely similar to her testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives in early May. It echoes the lobbying which the ABA has been doing on the LSC’s behalf since President Donald Trump’s proposed budget was announced, one which would eliminate all LSC funding. The LSC is the largest provider of civil legal aid in the nation. ‘Funding for equal justice under federal law cannot be shouldered by state and local governments as an unfunded mandate,’ Klein wrote in her statement. ‘The federal government should contribute its fair share. That can only be accomplished through funding the Legal Services Corporation.’ Lawmakers struck a budget deal at the end of April which includes funding for the LSC at the current level of $385 million through the end of the fiscal year in September. But there has not yet been an agreement on what level of funding — if any — will be appropriated for the LSC in Fiscal Year 2018.” (ABA Journal)

May 15, 2017 – “Northeastern University School of Law has seen an increased need for volunteers in the legal arena thanks to changing federal priorities — to help defeat recent federal executive orders and proposed changes that would cut back on individual rights and freedoms. That’s why it has recently launched a new Pro Bono Collaboration, so students can fill that need. The new program provides law students with the opportunity to provide pro bono legal research and assistance to organizations such as the ACLU, Political Asylum Immigration Representation Project, Greater Boston Legal Services, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, the National Lawyers Guild and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, among others. ‘The reaction to the election inspired many people to increase their involvement in representing immigrants, refugees and LGBTQ individuals,’ said professor Lucy Williams, faculty director for public interest and pro bono initiatives. ‘The law school wanted to create an outlet for that energy. We hope the Pro Bono Collaboration will provide a permanent benefit to the community.’ Professor Wally Holohan will lead the new collaboration. Student volunteers will handle a wide range of responsibilities, including meeting with immigrants being held in ICE detention facilities, conducting research and discovery, performing intake for hate incidents, harassment and intimidation and organizing trainings. Students in the NUSL Pro Bono Collaboration will spend approximately 10 to 15 hours per week volunteering over an 11-week academic quarter.” (National Jurist)

May 15, 2017 – “State Senator Jose Peralta announced a $50,000 state allocation to Her Justice, an organization that provides legal services to women in need. Her Justice, with the assistance of law firms, helps hundreds of women who have been victims of crime to obtain ‘U’ visas. Peralta and Her Justice are partnering with other nonprofits to assist immigrant families and hold ‘Know your Rights’ forums.” “Her Justice is a non-profit organization that takes a ‘pro bono first’ approach to the provision of legal services to low-income women in crisis in all five boroughs of New York City. The staff of 18 lawyers and legal assistants trains, recruits and supervises volunteer attorneys from over 80 law firms to ensure that more than 3,000 vulnerable women every year receive free legal assistance in family, divorce and immigration matters.”(Queens Gazette)

May 17, 2017 – “Funding for college work-study programs would be cut in half, public-service loan forgiveness would end and hundreds of millions of dollars that public schools could use for mental health, advanced coursework and other services would vanish under a Trump administration plan to cut $10.6 billion from federal education initiatives, according to budget documents obtained by The Washington Post.” “The administration is also seeking to overhaul key elements of federal financial aid. The spending proposal would maintain funding for Pell Grants for students in financial need, but it would eliminate more than $700 million in Perkins loans for disadvantaged students; nearly halve the work-study program that helps students work their way through school, cutting $490 million; take a first step toward ending subsidized loans, for which the government pays interest while the borrower is in school; and end loan forgiveness for public servants. The loan forgiveness program, enacted in 2007, was designed to encourage college graduates to pursue careers as social workers, teachers, public defenders or doctors in rural areas. There are at least 552,931 people on track to receive the benefit, with the first wave of forgiveness set for October. It’s unclear how the proposed elimination would affect those borrowers. The administration also wants to replace five income-driven student loan repayment plans with a single plan. That change would likely benefit many undergraduate borrowers, who currently can have the balance of their loan forgiven after paying 10 percent of their income for 20 years. Trump’s proposal — which makes good on a campaign promise — would raise the maximum payment to 12.5 percent of income, but shorten the payment period to 15 years. The proposal is less sweet for borrowers who take out loans to earn advanced degrees. They currently pay monthly bills capped at 10 percent of income for 25 years. Under the new plan, they’d pay more (12.5 percent of income) for longer (30 years). There were no estimates on how much the government would save by eliminating public-service loan forgiveness, overhauling the income-based repayment plans and ending subsidized loans.” (Washington Post)

Additional coverage and a breakdown of programs with proposed funding cuts or elimination. (Forbes)

And Slate has a good summary article. (Slate)

May 17, 2017 – “A federal judge in Seattle has blocked nationwide enforcement of a rule to prevent nonprofits from providing legal assistance to detained immigrants. U.S. District Judge Richard Jones found the Seattle-based Northwest Immigrant Rights Project and other legal assistance groups would suffer ‘significant harm’ if the Justice Department enforced a 2008 rule designed to prevent victimization of detained immigrants by people who pretend to be attorneys. The group sued May 8, after receiving a cease-and-desist notice from the Justice Department saying it must commit to full legal representation for every immigrant it advises or refrain from giving any legal advice whatsoever. Calling the order ‘a new and novel’ interpretation of the rule, the group says it violates attorneys’ First and 10th Amendment rights and would prevent many immigrants from receiving any legal assistance. At a Wednesday hearing, Jones ordered the Justice Department to stop enforcing the rule against the Seattle-based group and nationwide, saying the government had threatened to send similar cease-and-desist notices to other nonprofits providing legal aid to immigrants.” (Courthouse News Service)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

“This month the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) celebrates its first 40 years of life. NCLR is a non-profit, public interest law firm in the United States that advocates for equitable public policies affecting the LGBT community, provides free legal assistance to LGBT clients and their legal advocates, and conducts community education on LGBT legal issues. Headquartered in San Francisco with an office in Washington, D.C., it is the only organization in the U.S. dedicated to lesbian legal issues, and the largest national lesbian organization in terms of members. Each year, NCLR shapes the legal landscape for all LGBT people and families across the nation through its precedent-setting litigation, legislation, policy, and public education. For 40 years NCLR has led historic cases, and is still blazing trails in pursuit of justice, fairness, and legal protections for all LGBT people.” Congratulations!! (People’s World)

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

Comments