Archive for Public Interest Law News Bulletin

PSJD Public Interest News Digest – July 31, 2015

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

Happy Friday! Can you believe it’s the end of July already?  It’s time to get ready for Fall recruiting, Honors programs, and fellowships among other things.  Check out the PSJD Resource Center for guidance on these programs and more.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Professors work with Pro Bono Students Canada on study of family law litigants;
  • William & Mary Law’s Revive My Vote gets grant;
  • Maryland law schools collaborate on Baltimore Legal Practice Incubator;
  • New York announces $7 million to help disabled get federal benefits;
  • Legal Aid Ontario boosts funding to clinics;
  • Boston University Law and alumni boost public interest fellowships;
  • One way cuts to Public Service Loan Forgiveness will harm Americans;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

July 24, 2015 – “King’s University College Professor Dr. Rachel Birnbaum is partnering with Professor Nick Bala of Queen’s University to work with Pro Bono Students Canada on an inventive study. The study will look to survey both represented and self-represented family law litigants to better understand their experiences in the courts. Starting in the fall of 2015, The Family Law Litigant Survey Project will collect and analyze empirical data to understand the challenges faced by family litigants. The hope is that this survey will result in greater understanding of issues related to the family justice system in Ontario, and will assist in making improvements to the system overall. Dr. Birnbaum explains; ‘our research will also be the first evidence-based study on access to justice and will include results on the effects of different court-related services and address the efficiency and effectiveness of these interventions.’ The study will run during the 2015-2016 and the 2016-17 academic year. ” (King’s University College Media)

July 24, 2015 – “William & Mary Law School’s Revive My Vote is pleased to announce it has received a grant of $230,000 through the Knight News Challenge, a grant program aimed at better informing voters and increasing civic participation before, during, and after elections. Created in conjunction with the Williamsburg Bar Association and launched in April 2014, Revive My Vote helps Virginians with prior felony convictions who have served their time and are eligible for voting rights restoration to navigate the process of regaining their right to vote.” (William & Mary News & Events)

July 27, 2015 – “The University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law and the University of Baltimore School of Law are launching an incubator to help recent graduates launch solo practices while serving low-income clients. The schools developed the project with the help of the Maryland State Bar Association, which is providing $50,000. Administrators hope to have the incubator running by November. In Baltimore, each school will contribute three graduates who have passed the Maryland bar exam for the inaugural cohort. The participants will spend 12 to 18 months getting their practices off the ground. Participants must donate at least 10 percent of their billable hours to low-income clients and take a least one pro bono case.” (National Law Journal)(free subscription required)

July 27, 2015 -” The state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance announced Monday that more than $7 million has been awarded to help provide legal assistance to people who have been denied federal disability benefits. Locally, the Legal Aid Society of Mid-York, which serves Oneida and Herkimer counties, among others, is receiving $546,541 through the Disability Advocacy Program. These services will be provided by not-for-profit legal services corporations, not-for-profit agencies serving the disabled and local departments of social services, with the goal of reversing the initial decision and acquiring approval for these federally-funded benefits for the applicants. Without this assistance, these individuals would otherwise be dependent on State- and locally-funded programs for support and care.”  (Utica Observer-Dispatch)

July 29, 2015 – “Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) is investing an additional $1.5 million in community legal aid clinics with the fewest resources per low-income person in the 2015/16 fiscal year. This annual funding will be added to the clinics’ base funding. This support is on top of the additional $2.4 million in funding LAO provided for the 2014/15 fiscal year, as announced in March 2015. This injection of $3.9 million will allow community legal clinics to hire more staff, expand existing services, or launch new services that support clients. This new investment is part of LAO’s strategy to expand financial eligibility and clinic law services for low-income Ontarians. It also meets the provincial government’s multi-year commitment to increase access to legal aid.”  (CNW)

July 29, 2015 – “Boston University School of Law is bolstering its graduate public-interest fellowship program with a $2 million influx of funding. The university provided half that amount and a group of alumni donated the rest, according to law dean Maureen O’Rourke. The law school has already selected fellows from the class of 2015, who will work in fields including reproductive rights, Internet freedom, legal aid and international human rights. The selection committee looks for placements likely to have a large influence on the communities involved and to enhance the fellows’ development, said Fiona Hornblower, assistant dean for career development and public service.” (National Law Journal)(free subscription required)

July 30, 2015 – Here’s a good article by our friends Isaac Bowers and Sarah Corcoran at Equal Justice Works about the harm that would be done to the public interest if PSLF is cut.  (Huffington Post)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: Marsha Weissman, Roger Brazill, and Luke Nebush

Honoring three people who devote great skill, huge effort, and much time to making justice happen, the New York State Defenders Association (NYSDA) hosted its annual awards celebration during a statewide training conference.

Marsha Weissman, Executive Director of the Syracuse-based Center for Community Alternatives (CCA), received NYSDA’s Service of Justice Award for effectively promoting alternatives to incarceration and sentencing advocacy as key components of justice. Roger Brazill, First Assistant Public Defender in Monroe County (Rochester) received the 2015 Wilfred R. O’Connor Award for exemplifying a client-centered approach in his work with clients and for sharing his legal expertise throughout his career of over 35 years. Luke Nebush, a First Assistant Public Defender in Oneida County (Utica), was chosen to receive the Kevin M. Andersen Memorial Award for his zeal and devotion in practicing effective, client-centered representation, his diligence in honing his skills, and his collegial approach.

Read more about the awards and their great work here.

Super Music Bonus!  This week our pick comes from Member Services Coordinator, Meaghan Hagner:

 

 

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – July 24, 2015

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

Happy Friday!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Minnesota legislature increases public defender budget;
  • Kentucky area clinics receive grant;
  • Attorneys ask Florida Justices to reconsider dues fee hike;
  • Goodwin Procter announces recipients of 2015 Public Interest Fellowships for law students of color;
  • Vermont Law School library offering services to public;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

July 17, 2015 – “The Minnesota legislature this year decided to add $6,480,000 to their chief public defender budget for next year. That’s about an 8 percent increase. Part of the reason for the new funding was the government’s projected budget surplus. But also important was the legislature’s realization that public defenders are good for Minnesota. The new appropriation by the legislature will provide funds to give public defenders their first pay raise in a long time, hire additional attorneys and support staff, and improve the overall standard of representation. The new law also includes an additional $879,000 for legal aid agencies to help victims of domestic violence and prevent improper evictions and foreclosures.” (Lake County News Chronicle)

July 18, 2015 – “The Kentucky Bar Foundation recently awarded $30,000 to legal clinics to benefit impoverished families in three Kentucky communities: Warren, Daviess and McCracken counties. One-third of the grant will be devoted to clinics hosted in Warren County Family Court. The family law clinics will be designed to help impoverished families gain access to the courts to resolve their family law legal issues.” (Bowling Green Daily News)

July 20, 2015 -“A group of 522 attorneys has asked the Florida Supreme Court to reconsider allowing the Florida Bar to raise its annual dues to help fund legal aid. The high court ruled 4-3 this month to deny a petition that would have allowed the Florida Bar board of governors to increase annual dues by up to $100. Dues have held steady at $265 since 2001. The petitioners asked the court Friday to consider tweaking the proposed amendment to Bar rules, rather than denying it outright. The group seeks to avoid the ‘time-consuming and onerous’ process of starting from scratch in its effort to help the poor afford legal representation.”  (Daily Business Review)

July 21, 2015 – “Goodwin Procter, a national Am Law 50 firm, today announced the recipients of its 2015 Public Interest Fellowships for Law Students of Color. The fellowships support first-year students from law schools across the country who spend the summer working in community service legal positions. This year’s fellows are: Sonam Bhagat, Boston University School of Law;Rachel Clark, The George Washington University Law School; Cindy Guan, Harvard Law School; and Amari Lynn Hammonds, Stanford Law School.”  (Business Wire)

July 21, 2015 – “The Vermont Law School library is providing legal reference services to the public, seeking to fill the gap created with the closure of the state library’s law program in Montpelier. The Julien and Virginia Cornell Library at the South Royalton school is offering a new ‘Ask a Law Librarian Line’ at 802-831-1313 for reference requests by phone. It’s also offering a new Community Legal Information Corner with two public-access computers with Westlaw, an online legal research service, and a legal self-help collection. The library submitted a proposal to the state last spring, and the Legislature subsequently approved a $67,000 grant to offset the costs associated with the school opening its library doors to the public.” (WCAX)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: NASA Astronauts

At 12:51 EDT on July 24, 1969, Apollo 11, the U.S. spacecraft that had taken the first astronauts to the surface of the moon, safely returns to Earth. The American effort to send astronauts to the moon had its origins in a famous appeal President John F. Kennedy made to a special joint session of Congress on May 25, 1961: “I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth.” Eight years later, on July 16, 1969, the world watched as Apollo 11 took off from Kennedy Space Center with astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin Jr., and Michael Collins aboard. After traveling 240,000 miles in 76 hours, Apollo 11 entered into a lunar orbit on July 19. The next day, at 1:46 p.m., the lunar module Eagle, manned by astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, separated from the command module, where a third astronaut, Michael Collins, remained. Two hours later, the Eagle began its descent to the lunar surface, and at 4:18 p.m. the craft touched down on the southwestern edge of the Sea of Tranquility.  Read more about this historic flight at History.com.

Super Music Bonus!  This week our pick comes from Mary Beal, NALP’s Director of Member Professional Development

 

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – July 17, 2015

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

Happy Friday!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • American Lawyer’s 2015 Pro Bono Report;
  • South Carolina Bar Foundation awards $1.9 million in grants;
  • Florida Supreme Court rejects push to increase bar dues to support legal aid;
  • Bank settlement means millions for Florida non-profits;
  • Mississippi Center for Legal Services receives grant;
  • ACLU sues Fresno County, California over public defender system;
  • Boston law schools launch joint practice incubator;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

July 9, 2015 – Since the Digest was so big last week, I didn’t want this to get lost.  Hours dip slightly at AmLaw 200 firms.  The Report details where firms are putting their hours and links to the Special Report: Justice Gap. (The American Lawyer)

July 9, 2015 – “The South Carolina Bar Foundation has awarded $1.9 million in grant funds to support civil legal aid, law related education and other law related projects for Fiscal Year 2016.”  Check out the article to see the list of grantees. (Moultrie News)

July 9, 2015 -“While pointing to a ‘crisis’ in funding for legal-aid programs, the state Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a proposal that could have led to attorneys paying higher Florida Bar membership fees to help cover the costs of legal services for the poor. Justices split 4-3 on a proposal that would have allowed the Bar to increase dues by as much as $100 a year, with the increased money going to legal-aid programs. The Bar opposed the proposal, which was spearheaded by former Supreme Court Justice Raoul Cantero and backed by more than 500 lawyers. The court’s majority wrote that ‘there is an urgent need to develop new solutions and sustainable sources of funding for legal aid’ but said a more-comprehensive approach is needed than the possible increase in Bar dues. A commission formed by Chief Justice Jorge Labarga began meeting in January to come up with recommendations for addressing the issue.” (Tampa Bay Times)

July 9, 2015 – “A big payout from a credit card debt collection settlement with Chase Bank will mean millions of dollars for Florida non-profit agencies. Florida was awarded $16.9 million from the settlement, the largest chunk out of the $136 million awarded to a total of 47 states, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said in a press conference. ‘We were hit the hardest, so we’re very pleased,’ Bondi said. About $1.6 million of the state’s payout will go to Florida’s general revenue fund; the remaining $15.3 million will go to charities that offer financial literacy and debt management services, as well as legal help to those who can’t afford it, Bondi said.”  (The Tampa Tribune)

July 14, 2015 – “Mississippi Center for Legal Services has been awarded a $54,350 grant by the Mississippi Bar Foundation through its Interest on Lawyers Trust Account program. The grant awarded to Mississippi Center for Legal Services will be used to fund resource development efforts and to provide direct legal assistance through its call center.”  (Hattiesburg American)

July 15, 2015 – “The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project, and the law firm Paul Hastings LLP filed a lawsuit against Fresno County and the state of California, seeking an overhaul of the county’s deficient public defense system. Because public defenders do not receive the resources necessary to represent their clients, thousands of Fresno County residents are forced to navigate the criminal justice system without the adequate legal representation that is guaranteed by the Constitution.”  (ACLUNC News)

July 15, 2015 – “New York University School of Law is launching a yearlong pro bono law office that will help federal prisoners seek clemency. Seven full-time attorneys—primarily recent law school graduates—will begin handling prisoners’ applications in August. ‘There seems to be an increased focus on clemency and the use of that constitutional tool,’ said Deborah Gramiccioni, executive director of NYU Law’s Center on the Administration of Criminal Law, which is housing the new Clemency Resource Center. ‘We need to push these cases to the president’s desk, to maximize the chances of prisoners to get clemency.’ NYU’s new clemency center is funded with a grant from the Open Society Foundations, founded by George Soros. It will work closely with the Clemency Project 2014, a nationwide consortium of legal organizations that reviews clemency requests and connects eligible prisoners with pro bono attorneys. The organization will refer prisoners to NYU’s pop-up law office, Gramiccioni said.”  (National Law Journal)(free subscription required)

July 16, 2015 – “Three Boston law schools are teaming up to launch a practice incubator that will serve low- and modest-income clients. Lawyers for Affordable Justice, as the program is called, will employ approximately 12 recent graduates from Boston College Law School, Boston University College of Law and Northeastern University School of Law. Those selected will spend two years handling immigrant rights, employment and housing cases, as well as small-business and transactional matters. Most clients will pay below-market rates. The schools plan to open the incubator in January.” (National Law Journal)(free subscription required)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: 

Five Minnesota attorneys will receive national honors for their pro bono work from the Legal Services Corporation (LSC).  LSC is bestowing its Pro Bono Service Awards on the five for their “extraordinary commitment to equal justice.”

The awards go to:

  • Frank Bibeau, a tribal attorney who has volunteered with Anishinabe Legal Services for 10 years. He has donated hundreds of hours of pro bono legal service, advocating for tribal members’ rights.
  • Steven Kirsch, a shareholder with HKM Professional Association (formerly Murnane Brandt) who has served as the chair of the Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services Campaign for Legal Aid for 21 years.
  • Larry McDowell, a private attorney with Wurst & McDowell Limited, who has volunteered for Legal Services of Northwest Minnesota since its doors opened in 1976. He has contributed thousands of pro bono hours working on hundreds of family law cases.
  • Tom Kramer, a private attorney with Kramer Law Office in west central Minnesota, who has done pro bono work with Central Minnesota Legal Services for more than 20 years. He has donated more than 1,000 pro bono hours to assisting low-income clients.
  • Nora Sandstad, an assistant county attorney in St. Louis, who has spent five years providing pro bono legal assistance on a variety of family law cases at Legal Aid of Northeastern Minnesota. In 2013, she donated 300 hours of pro bono service.

(MinnPost)

Super Music Bonus!  from our Street Law Fellow Emily Peeler:

 

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – July 10, 2015

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

Happy Friday!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • New York City approves $750,000 for legal services program at Rikers Island jail;
  • Baylor Law School’s Veterans’ Assistance Clinic receives grant;
  • Montana Legal Services Association develops online child support calculator;
  • CIA establishes new diversity procedures;
  • Massachusetts public defenders attempt unionization again;
  • Atlanta non-profit offers legal assistance and citizenship classes to Asian immigrants;
  • Clinic changes in Canada still possible despite merger collapse;
  • Housing Families (of Malden, Massachusetts) now offering pro bono legal services;
  • Law clinics answer the call to help veterans;
  • Salt Lake County rethinking indigent defense;
  • Lakehead University opens Ontario’s seventh Student Legal Aid Services Society;
  • Legal aid in Connecticut to close lobbying arm at State Capitol;
  • Legal Aid of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands receives grant for SNAP advocacy;
  • Funding to help lighten Minnesota public defender caseloads;
  • $1 million gift to Rutgers Law School enhances statewide public interest efforts;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

July 1, 2015 – “The New York City Council has approved $750,000 in funding for a legal services program at Rikers Island jail, the Legal Aid Society announced in a statement. ‘The funds will allow Legal Aid to support the current staff in the Prisoners Rights Project, whose staff was cut in half over the last two decades,’ Legal Aid Society Attorney-in-Chief Seymour James said on Wednesday. ‘The funding will also allow the program to hire a paralegal case handler, who will be available to directly assist clients.'” (Sputnik)

July 1, 2015 – “For the first time in Baylor Law School history, the State Bar of Texas has awarded a grant to support and foster the ongoing effort of the Baylor Law School Veterans’ Assistance Clinic to provide Texas military veterans free legal counsel. With more than 19,000 veterans residing in McLennan County – adjacent to Fort Hood, the largest U.S. Army installation in the world – there is a great need to provide pro bono legal services to a well-deserving segment of the Central Texas community. (Baylor Media Communications)

July 1, 2015 -“Montana Legal Services Association, with input from the State of Montana Child Support Enforcement Division, has developed an online child support calculator for self-represented litigants. The calculator is intended specifically for cases in which self-represented litigants need to establish original or modified child support orders in parenting plan or dissolution with children cases. The calculator can be found through a link at the www.MontanaLawHelp.org website under the Families and Kids/Child Support topic area or on the www.LawHelpInteractive.org website. Calculator users can compute child support by answering questions about their incomes, parenting schedules and other information in an online interview. Once finished, users can print or email court-ready financial affidavits and/or child support worksheets. Users who create accounts on the Law Help Interactive website can save their answers for later use. Funding for the Montana Online Child Support Calculator was provided through a Legal Services Corporation Technology Initiative Grant.”  (State Bar of Montana)

July 2, 2015 – “The CIA is implementing new diversity practices following a report released this week that concluded the agency ‘does not sufficiently prioritize the development of its officers, hold itself accountable for maintaining a diverse and inclusive workplace, or consistently promote an inclusive culture.’ Director John Brennan ordered a set of remedies to be implemented during the next 12 months.” (Government Executive)

July 3, 2015 – “In an attempt to improve working conditions and salaries, [public defender Rachel] Scotch and her fellow employees are attempting to unionize. But it’s no simple undertaking. Public defenders have tried to organize twice before, in 1979 and in 1993, but were rejected by the state labor relations department because of what they say is an oversight in the collective bargaining statute that gives public employees the right to unionize. They are also trying, for the second time, to get a bill passed that would fix the problem. The difficulty in forming a union stems from the fact that the Committee for Public Counsel Services, or CPCS, is not considered a public employer in the executive or judicial branches, whose workers are covered by the state’s collective bargaining statute for public employees. The statute also does not specifically name CPCS as a public employer. For this reason, the state labor relations department has twice ruled that the committee’s employees are not eligible to organize. While they wait in hopes of a legislative change, the public defenders are trying a different tactic, petitioning to organize under a private-sector collective bargaining statute that also covers state employees that are not subject to the jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Board, including MBTA employees and those who work for the Steamship Authority.”  (The Boston Globe)

July 5, 2015 – “For the first time, an Atlanta non-profit will offer free legal help and low cost legal immigration services for Asian people. Asian Americans Advancing Justice—Atlanta offers a legal hotline in five languages, legal help, and ESL citizenship classes, according to AAAJA Executive Director Helen Kim Ho. She has wanted to do this for a long time, and is taking a risk. Ho left her corporate legal career and started the non-profit, then called Asian American Legal Advocacy Center, in 2010. It was ‘the first non-profit law center dedicated to promoting the civil, social and economic rights of Asian immigrants and refugees in the South,’ according to its website. At first she drew no salary and worked from her home. Now she has a staff, an office, and a boatload of awards. The risk is this: costs for the hotline, citizenship classes, and immigration help come from AAAJAs’ existing operating budget. There is no big grant and no big revenue stream to support it, so far.” (Epoch Times)

July 6, 2015 – “After allocating more than $1.1 million to efforts to reform the legal clinic system in the Greater Toronto Area, Legal Aid Ontario has confirmed it’s withdrawing financial support for the project but remains open to changes on a piecemeal basis. ‘We’ve indicated to the project that it is our intention to look at those transformational projects and initiatives that are currently being developed by GTA clinics and if we see a project or initiative that is transformative, that will advance client service and expand client service, then we will use the unspent funds from the GTA transformation project to support that endeavor,’ says Vicki Moretti, LAO’s vice president for the greater Toronto region. The comments follow news that a high-profile effort to merge Toronto-area clinics into a handful of organizations had fallen apart. Last week, Moretti confirmed LAO had withdrawn the funding to support those efforts. ‘In its current form, we will not be [continuing to fund the project],’ she says.”  (Law Times)

July 6, 2015 – “Housing Families, a Malden-based agency which aims to end family homelessness in Massachusetts, has recently acquired the Pro Bono Legal Services Program from Tri-City Community Action Program (Tri-CAP), an anti-poverty agency which recently closed. ‘Hosting the program at Housing Families provides families at risk of homelessness with much more than just legal representation — these families now also have the potential to work one-on-one with a case manager to help them get supports in place to minimize the risk of future instability, and the children also have the potential to access our children’s program,’ said Laura Rosi, Housing Families’ director of housing and advocacy. ‘I couldn’t be more proud of the work we’re doing!’ The Pro Bono Legal Services Program will augment Housing Families’ Eviction Prevention Program, which serves to help families keep their housing and avoid becoming homeless in the first place.”  (Melrose Free Press)

July 6, 2015 – The National Law Journal has done a nice job summarizing the law school clinics helping veterans.  “Today, approximately 50 schools operate clinics or pro bono programs for veterans. Syracuse University College of Law; the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law; the State University of New York at Buffalo Law School; and Pennsylvania State University Dickinson School of Law added clinics this spring. The University of Michigan Law School; Indiana University Maurer School of Law – Bloomington and the University of Denver Sturm College of Law will launch clinics this fall.”  Read the full article for more.  (National Law Journal)(free subscription required)

July 6, 2015 – “Salt Lake County officials are rethinking how best to provide legal counsel for indigent offenders — a $17 million bill each year. Having a right to counsel is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution’s Sixth Amendment, so for 30 years, the county has fulfilled that responsibility through a contract with the Salt Lake Legal Defender Association. But there’s been some problems with that contract in recent years, driven largely by a growing disparity between the pay and benefits earned by defense attorneys compared to what prosecutors make in the district attorney’s office. And with the nonprofit Sixth Amendment Center coming out with a study this fall for the Utah Judicial Council on the statewide delivery of indigent defense services, the county is considering three approaches to create more equity in the pay packages of opposing attorneys. One option would be to make the attorneys and staff of the Legal Defender Association employees of the county. Another would be to scrap the contract with the Legal Defender Association and to put the job out for bid. A third choice would be to have the Legal Defender Association contract come up for renewal every year or two, providing a recurring time frame for raising the legal defenders’ pay to match that of district attorneys.”  (The Salt Lake Tribune)

July 6, 2015 – “Low-income people living in either Thunder Bay or Fort William First Nation now have access to additional legal services as Lakehead University opens Ontario’s seventh Student Legal Aid Service Society (SLASS). Today, Lakehead Legal Services (LLS) opened its doors to clients.” (Legal Aid Ontario)

July 7, 2015 – “The longest sustained funding crunch in the history of legal aid is about to cost Connecticut’s poor their long-serving lobbyist at the General Assembly: Raphael L. “Rafie” Podolsky, a Yale-educated lawyer who took them as a client 40 years ago, is getting a pink slip. The state’s three major legal-aid groups are closing the Legal Assistance Resource Center of Connecticut, the agency they jointly fund for lobbying and a wide range of education and community outreach on behalf of the poor.” (The CT Mirror)

July 7, 2015 – “Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands announced today that MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger has awarded Legal Aid Society a $13,000 partnership grant to support MAZON’s anti-hunger efforts. This is the second year Legal Aid Society has received the grant funding, which will be used to continue its Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP – formerly known as food stamps) benefits advocacy.” (Clarksville Online)

July 8, 2015 – “An extra $6.5 million in funding will help lighten the caseloads of overworked and underpaid public defenders in the state. The funds are enough to cover the salaries of 36 new public defenders, but Minnesota’s Board of Public Defense, which employs the state’s public defenders, is also struggling with heavy caseloads and salaries that aren’t competitive with the private sector. The agency will meet next week to discuss how to spend the additional funds.” (MPR News)

July 8, 2015 – “The pro bono and public interest initiatives underway at Rutgers law schools in Camden and Newark will expand their reach throughout the state with a $1 million investment to support future practitioners and those unable to afford legal services, thanks to Rutgers Law–Camden alumnus James Maida and his wife Sharon. The Maidas have long supported Rutgers students through generous scholarships. Now with their $1 million gift, the Maida Public Interest Scholars Program will establish the law school as one of the nation’s leading public law schools for public interest law. The gift will benefit Rutgers students while helping the most vulnerable residents in the surrounding communities. The Maida Public Interest Summer Fellowships will pay up to 40 students to work for public interest legal organizations in positions that are normally unpaid, imparting valuable professional experience to the students while advancing the public good. The Maida Post–Graduate Public Interest Fellowship will fund the full-time salary of a selected fellow working in the public interest. These extraordinary funding opportunities will also help attract a cohort of high-achieving prospective law students with a demonstrated commitment to social change.” (Rutgers Today)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: Bryant Webster, attorney with Stone and Christy P.A. in Black Mountain, North Carolina.

Bryant Webster had no idea he had donated more than 1,300 pro bono hours when he was honored by the state bar association in June. He just thought he was doing his job. Lawyers have an ethical obligation to give back, said the Black Mountain civil litigator who was awarded the North Carolina Bar Association’s 2015 William L. Thorp Pro Bono Award. Webster, 45, practices law at Stone and Christy P.A. in Black Mountain. He has been volunteering with Pisgah Legal Services’ Mountain Area Volunteer Lawyers Program since 1997.  Thank you for your service! (Citizen-Times)

Super Music Bonus!  https://youtu.be/OAwaNWGLM0c?list=PLFgquLnL59amA7uBKduoqSvYv28x0QexV

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – July 2, 2015

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

Happy Friday!  Happy 4th of July!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • New York State legislature resolution supports civil Gideon;
  • Major law firm giving to legal aid declining;
  • State marijuana laws complicate federal government hiring;
  • Boston Bar Foundation awards $950,000 in grants;
  • Los Angeles County’s top prosecutor creates wrongful conviction unit;
  • Legal Services of North Florida, Inc. receives grant;
  • First federal reentry program underway in Alaska;
  • Legal incubator programs growing;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

June 29, 2015 – “While the Legislature’s just-completed regular session included bills expanding efiling and refining pre- and post-divorce maintenance guidelines, court administrators say a symbolic gesture by the Senate and Assembly will have lasting significance as well. ‘It does establish a statewide policy of providing legal assistance for persons in need of the essentials of life,’ chief administrative judge A. Gail Prudenti said in an interview Friday. ‘While it is aspirational, it allows us to work with our access-to-justice partners knowing that they are as committed as we are to providing this assistance.’ Each house adopted a concurrent resolution (C776/B2995) declaring that the ‘fair administration of justice’ obligates the state to ensure that all New York residents have ‘adequate’ and ‘effective’ legal representation for matters pertaining to the essentials of life. Essential matters are defined as housing, family matters, access to healthcare, education and subsistence income. Legislators also pledged to continue working toward the ‘ideal of equal access to civil justice for all.'” (New York Law Journal)(free subscription required)

June 29, 2015 – “While major law firms are enjoying record revenues — more than $100 billion last year — they are donating only a tenth of 1 percent of their proceeds for legal aid to low-income people, according to a new analysis released by The American Lawyer. Such institutional giving now accounts for only 7 percent of total legal aid funding, which comes from federal, state and private sources, the publication said. Law firm giving is under pressure to give to clients’ charities and to law school alma maters, the analysis found. Five law firms said they had given more than $1 million each last year to organizations that provide legal aid, but most firms were unwilling to disclose the exact amounts.”  The analysis provides interesting reasons for the decline, and points to ways in which more firm pro bono can offset the decline.  (The New York Times)(The American Lawyer)

June 29, 2015 – Marijuana possession is legal is some states, but not under federal law.  This is a recruitment development I’ve been tracking, and one we may touch on at the Public Service Mini-Conference.  This article provides an interesting perspective on the issue.  Suffice it to say, it’s still best to counsel students to steer clear of any drug use if they are considering a career in the federal government.  “For all the aspiring and current spies, diplomats and F.B.I. agents living in states that have liberalized marijuana laws, the federal government has a stern warning: Put down the bong, throw out the vaporizer and lose the rolling papers. It may now be legal in Colorado, in Washington State and elsewhere to possess and smoke marijuana, but federal laws outlawing its use — and rules that make it a firing offense for government workers — have remained rigid. As a result, recruiters for federal agencies are arriving on university campuses in those states with the sobering message that marijuana use will not be tolerated.”  (The New York Times)

June 29, 2015 – “The Boston Bar Foundation has awarded $950,000 in grants to 23 community organizations that work to provide legal services to low-income people. The organizations administer legal aid to the homeless, domestic violence survivors, at-risk children and veterans.”  (Daily Journal)

June 29, 2015 – “Los Angeles County’s top prosecutor has created a unit, headed by three experienced prosecutors, to review credible claims of wrongful convictions by criminal defendants. District Attorney Jackie Lacey said on Monday that the vast majority of the more than 71,000 felony cases filed by her office each year were upheld on appeal but that the unit was designed to catch those instances where the system failed. ‘In a few instances, new evidence is discovered and, on rare occasions, mistakes are found,’ Lacey said in a written statement. ‘Whenever we receive new credible information that may exonerate a person, the responsibility is on us, as prosecutors, to re-examine the facts and, if appropriate, to seek to vacate a wrongful conviction,’ she said.”  (Yahoo! News)

June 29, 2015 – “Sunday’s Child awards a total of $66,250 to two Escambia County nonprofits. Legal Services of North Florida, Inc. and Arc Gateway each won a grant for $33,125. Legal Services of North Florida, Inc. (category of Family & LGBT) will use their grant to hire a staff attorney for one year to develop enhanced advocacy and education tools to support victims of violence and bullying in the community.”  (Pensacola Today)

June 30, 2015 – “Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Bradley and federal public defender Rich Curtner stood inside a courtroom together as part of the team that makes up the Alaska Hope Court. The Hope Court is a project that has been in the works for a few years. Chief Magistrate Judge Deborah Smith and Curtner were advocates for bringing a reentry program to the state. The goal of the program is to reduce recidivism rates for federal offenders, keeping them out of prison once they reenter society. The Hope Court is also designed to help lower the costs associated with having criminals return into the system. Smith says reentry programs can save the judicial system about $2.21 for every $1 they invest in rehabilitating a criminal.”  (KTVA)

June 30, 2015 – “Law schools in California and other states have started up incubator programs. These projects, sort of training law firms, aim to help students prepare for life as lawyers by teaching them about the basics of law practice. At the same time, these programs provide affordable access to legal services for people of modest means. There are now about two dozen of these start-up firms across the country. Next year, five law schools in the San Francisco Bay Area will launch their program. Its objectives will be to provide long-term employment for graduates and increase access to legal services. Tiela Chalmers, CEO of the Alameda County Bar Association, discusses the initiative in this report.”  (Legal Broadcasters Network)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:  Kathleen Moccio, Hennepin County, Minnesota assistant public defender.

As public defenders nationwide scrambled to deal with the aftermath of a major court ruling on immigration in 2010, Kathleen Moccio was ready to help Hennepin County take it head-on. That year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that noncitizens have the right to legal advice on immigration consequences. Moccio immediately developed a plan for her office to ensure that her clients would get help in holding onto the American dream. Now, with five years under her belt as a Hennepin County assistant public defender, Moccio has been honored for her efforts by the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, which chooses one lawyer a year for the award.  Congratulations!  (Star Tribune)

Super Music Bonus!  https://youtu.be/KSrvulzNb4k?list=PL3QK-FeOu2ceTmYVjx45NQmr2minjaNqG

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – June 26, 2015

by Christina Jackson, NALP Director of Public Service Initiatives & Fellowships Happy Friday! Here are the week’s headlines:

  • State Bar of Georgia approves funding for incubator program;
  • Orleans Public Defender announces austerity plan;
  • New Hampshire Legal assistance receives grant from New Hampshire Bar Foundation;
  • Vermont launches patent pro bono program;
  • North Carolina State Senate proposes stripping another $3 million from UNC Law School;
  • Equal Justice Wyoming announces grants to legal service providers;
  • Need for access for  francophone legal services in Manitoba on the rise;
  • Legal Services of the Hudson Valley (of New York) launches project to provide LGBTQ services;
  • Rhode Island Supreme Court ruling expands legal services;
  • San Mateo County California approves budget for private defender system;
  • Boston Bar Foundation awards $950,000 in grants;
  • First class of New York Pro Bono Scholars are sworn in;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

June 19, 2015 – “The State Bar of Georgia’s Board of Governors on Friday narrowly approved funding for a new lawyer incubator program through which up to 30 new graduates from Georgia law schools will receive mentoring, office space and other help to start small practices.” The project will be run by a nonprofit group with an initial startup donation of $25,000 from each of the state’s law schools. (Daily Report)(free subscription required)

June 21, 2015 – “Three years after purging nearly a third of his lawyers amid a steep budget shortfall, Orleans Parish Chief Public Defender Derwyn Bunton has told his staff that a new round of stiff cuts — lengthy furloughs, possibly layoffs or some combination — is coming. Bunton put his austerity plan on paper last week, alerting the City Council, the mayor, judges and Sheriff Marlin Gusman that it ‘will likely cause serious delays in the courts and potential constitutional crises for our criminal justice system in New Orleans if no solution is reached timely.’ Bunton said he would institute a hiring freeze beginning July 1, the start of a new fiscal year in which he says he’s facing a $1 million shortfall from the current year’s budget of about $6 million. Barring a bailout before then, furloughs will come in October, Bunton said. His letter did not say how long the furloughs would run, but Bunton has told his staff they can expect to lose several weeks of pay.”  (The New Orleans Advocate)

June 21, 2015 – “New Hampshire Legal Assistance was recently awarded $488,000 from the New Hampshire Bar Foundation’s IOLTA Grants Program to provide civil legal aid services to New Hampshire residents in the coming fiscal year, according to a press statement.”  (Concord Patch)

June 22, 2015 – “Vermont is launching a program to help qualified inventors and small businesses get donated legal services from patent attorneys and agents. The program is made possible by the Leahy -Smith America Invents Act, which requires the US Patent and Trademark Office to work with law associations to create donated programs for under-resourced small businesses and independent inventors. Vermont’s program is part of a regional New England effort.”  (Washington Times)

June 22, 2015 – “State Sen. Tom Apodaca, a Republican, introduced a late amendment to the state budget last week that would cut $3 million from the law school in Chapel Hill—more than 10 percent of its proposed $27.2 budget for next fiscal year. The Senate passed the amendment by a 30-19 vote, and the proposed budget is now before the state House of Representatives. In February, the UNC Board of Governors voted to strip money from the law school’s Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity. The center is now supported through private donations.”  (The National Law Journal)

June 22, 2015 – “Equal Justice Wyoming, formerly the Wyoming Center for Legal Aid, recently announced the award of grants to five, nonprofit, legal service providers totaling $852,777 to provide civil legal aid to the low-income population of Wyoming, the maximum amount available in the budget approved by the legislature. Equal Justice received 12 grant proposals requesting more than $1.5 million. The grants awarded are one-year grants.”  (Casper Journal)

June 22, 2015 – “Manitoba’s growing francophone population is putting pressure on the province’s judicial system to provide legal services in French. And that’s got some influential players doing what they can to try to ensure people are equally able to have a trial or preliminary hearing in either of Canada’s official languages. ‘Because you have a more significant French-speaking population in Manitoba (than in previous years) that isn’t always comfortable with English, the requirement for French legal services and trials is going up,’ said Renald Remillard, executive director of the Centre Canadien de Francais Juridique Inc., a training centre for judges, police officers, lawyers and private sector jurists to hone their French language skills. Another new development is lawyers now have a professional obligation to inform their clients of the right to have a trial in French or English, said Lorna Turnbull, dean of the law school at the University of Manitoba, an obligation that they didn’t have in previous years. The right to have a French-speaking lawyer and judge only applies to criminal matters, she said.”  (The Carillon)

June 22, 2015 – “Westchester County now has an attorney dedicated to providing civil legal services to low-income lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning individuals. The Legal Services of the Hudson Valley (LSHV) has launched a project aimed at helping members of the LGBTQ community with issues such as changing their legal name and fighting discrimination. ‘We are extremely excited to start work on this new project,’ CEO Barbara Finkelstein said. ‘While civil rights for the LGBTQ community have expanded in recent years, there is still important work to be done.’ Deputy Executive Director Cynthia Knox said Legal Services of Hudson Valley is supporting the project with increased state funding for general civil legal services.”  (New York Law Journal)

June 22, 2015 – “A recent state Supreme Court decision is widening the menu of legal services Rhode Islanders can choose from when they represent themselves in court — a move advocates praise as improving access to justice for people who can’t afford the “Cadillac” of legal help. The high court earlier this month cleared the way for lawyers to provide a limited scope of representation — including writing briefs — for people representing themselves, as long as those services are reasonable and the litigant gives informed consent.  Lawyers must sign any pleadings that they help a client prepare and disclose extent of their role in the case.”  (Providence Journal)

June 22, 2015 – “The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved a $17.5 million budget for the Private Defender program, which provides private attorneys for defendants who can’t afford to pay for a lawyer. The Chief Defender John Digiacinto says the program, which replaces a Public Defender’s office, is run by the San Mateo Bar Association and is the only one of its kind in California. The Private Defender program has been in place for more than 40 years and was instituted to lower costs.”  There have been critics in recent years, particularly regarding case outcomes. “The Private Defender Program did receive an award for excellence from the American Bar Association. Chief Defender John Digiacinto said he would like to keep improving the program, hire more minorities, and get more community feedback.” (KTVU)

June 24, 2015 – “The Boston Bar Foundation – the charitable affiliate of the Boston Bar Association – announced today that it will provide $950,000 in grants to 23 community organizations that work to provide legal services to those in need. Approximately 40% of the funding is comprised of proceeds from the BBF’s annual John & Abigail Adams Benefit and BBF reserves, with the remainder derived from Interest on Lawyer Trust Account (IOLTA) funds. The grantee organizations administer legal aid to the most vulnerable and underprivileged members of the population, such as the homeless, domestic violence survivors, at-risk children, and veterans.” (Real Estate Rama)

June 25, 2015 – “The first class of Pro Bono Scholars, a program that allows 3L students to spend their final semesters of law school working in the field, was sworn in this week to each of the state’s four appellate division departments. The program has 106 participants statewide. This week, 72 of those were admitted to the bar. Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman proposed the program in his 2014 State of the Judiciary address. Law students who qualify are allowed to take the bar examination in February of their third year of law school and then work for 500 hours over 12 weeks for groups providing legal services to the indigent. Provided they pass the bar exam and complete the program’s requirements, the participants can be sworn in just after graduation—up to one year earlier than classmates who take the July bar exam after graduation.” (New York Law Journal)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:  The Pueblo County Bar Association and the local office of Colorado Legal Services honored former Municipal Judge Joe Ulibarri at its annual awards ceremony Friday night. Each year, legal services and the local bar association honors attorneys and firms that have devoted several hours to pro bono work in the community. Ulibarri was given a lifetime achievement award for his leadership and commitment to pro bono work. Read more about Judge Ulibarri’s commitment to his community here.

Super Music Bonus!  https://youtu.be/IPeo_X7hVe8

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – June 19, 2015

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

Happy Friday!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • 2015-2016 White House Fellowship finalists announced;
  • OPM announces then pulls back contract award for social media screening for applicants;
  • New collaboration in Victoria, British Columbia brings new help for child protection issues;
  • Changes in leadership in public interest organizations demonstrate a national trend;
  • Washington state study shows many low-income households don’t seek legal aid;
  • ACLU sues Idaho for lack of action to fix public defender system;
  • Office created to coordinate civil legal services in New York City;
  • Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law establishes Veterans Disability Law Clinic;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

June 11, 2015 – “The President’s Commission on White House Fellowships announced the National Finalists for the 2015-2016 White House Fellowship. This year’s class of Finalists represents an accomplished and diverse cross-section of professionals from the private sector, academia, medicine, and our armed services. National Finalists have advanced through a highly competitive selection process, including a comprehensive written application and regional interviews with civic leaders at eight different cities across the country. The National Finalists were evaluated by the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships in Washington, DC over the weekend.”  (The White House)

June 15, 2015 – “The Office of Personnel Management began taking a few first steps last week toward incorporating social media and other publicly available information about prospective hires into the traditional background check process. But less than a week a later, the agency has backtracked without explanation. OPM, still dealing with a massive data breach that potentially compromised personal information from every federal employee, last week posted a notice stating its intent to award a sole-source contract to California-based tech company Social Intelligence. The company, which also has offices in Washington and Western Pennsylvania, claims to be able to use social media and other publicly available information to compile reports detailing ‘whether an individual’s publicly available online data contains information that may be relevant for the security clearance or employment suitability process,’ according to its website. Social Intelligence relies on proprietary algorithms and analysts, the site said. But on Monday, the solicitation was canceled, according to a notice on FedBizOpps.gov.”  (NextGov)

June 15, 2015 – “A new collaboration between Victoria Legal Aid and two community legal centres aims to achieve better outcomes for local families with child protection problems. Under the two-year pilot announced this week, lawyers with Women’s Legal Service Victoria and Loddon Campaspe Community Legal Centre will for the first time help people in the Family Division of the Children’s Court in Bendigo and Moorabbin, and at the pilot Family Drug Treatment Court. The community legal centre lawyers will provide eligible clients with advice, representation and referrals on the day they first come to court with a child protection legal problem, then continue to work with them on related ongoing casework.”  (Victoria Legal Aid News)

June 15, 2015 – “The Philadelphia public interest community is in the midst of a flurry of leadership changes, and as longtime pillars of the community pass on their organizations’ torches, the same appears to be happening nationwide as a generational shift occurs. ‘It’s a national phenomenon,’ said Catherine Carr, who is leaving Community Legal Services after serving as its executive director for 20 years. ‘Just in the last few days, I’ve seen probably three ads around the country.’ Carr attributed the increase in national turnover to the aging of the baby-boom generation. Many public interest organizations were founded 40 or 50 years ago, she said, and their leaders are reaching the ends of their careers.” This is an interesting article about the national trend.  (The Legal Intelligencer)

June 17, 2015 – “Despite an overwhelming percentage of low-income households in Washington facing civil legal problems, very few actually seek legal aid, according to information gathered in a study by the Washington State University Social and Economic Sciences Research Center. According to the report, more than 70 percent of low-income households in Washington had a civil legal problem within the past year, but three-fourths of those people did not seek or obtain legal aid, said Arina Gertseva, co-principal investigator with the SESRC. Those surveyed most commonly said they were unable to receive legal assistance because it was too expensive, they didn’t know where to go or their phone calls were never returned, she said.”  Many of the conclusions may already be known anecdotally, but the results are an interesting read.  (Moscow-Pullman Daily News)(subscription required)

June 17, 2015 – “Citing Idaho’s persistent failure to fix a broken public defense system, the ACLU followed through Wednesday on a threatened lawsuit to force the state to create a centralized public defense system and take other steps to insure compliance with federal and state laws on right to counsel and due process. The class-action lawsuit on behalf of five Idaho residents names Gov. Butch Otter and members of a legislative commission created in 2014 to address deficiencies in the state’s patchwork network of county public defender offices and practices. That commission was itself an outgrowth of an earlier governor-appointed panel. Commission after commission ‘passed the buck,’ the lawsuit charges. The group said it would file the suit Wednesday.”  (Idaho Statesman)

June 17, 2015 – “Mayor Bill de Blasio signed legislation this week to create an Office of Civil Justice, which will be responsible for coordinating civil legal services for low-income New Yorkers. The office will fall under the auspices of the city’s Human Resources Administration and mirror the Office of Criminal Justice, which was established last year. It will issue regular reports on the need for civil legal services by low-income residents and the availability of free and low-cost services to meet that need, as well as review budget requests from city agencies that provide such services.”  (New York Law Journal)

June 18, 2015 – “Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law has established a Veterans Disability Law Clinic. The school says the clinic, which it calls the first of its kind in the state, will represent veterans whose disability benefits applications have been denied. Income-eligible veterans in Monroe, Greene, Lawrence, Brown, Owen and Morgan counties will be eligible for services. The clinic plans to begin accepting clients next month.”  (Inside Indiana Business)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: 

Theodore Howard of Wiley Rein has long defended the rights of prisoners and fought against prison overcrowding across the country. John Relman of Relman, Dane & Colfax has championed the development of integrated communities in the fight for racial and economic justice. Howard and Relman received the Washington Lawyers’ Committee’s 2015 Wiley A. Branton Award, named for civil rights advocate Wiley A. Branton Sr. Nearly 1,000 attorneys and business leaders gathered at the Grand Hyatt Washington Hotel for the awards ceremony.  Read more about their great work here.

Super Music Bonus!  https://youtu.be/tqw4LCOdD04

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – Jun 12, 2015

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

Happy Friday!  I hope your summer is going well so far.  We have a lot of new programs and services to report this week.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Legal Aid Ontario lawyers launch constitutional challenge; 
  • Tennessee Legal Aid Society launches elder law program;
  • California Senate passes bill to help public interest lawyers;
  • New legal aid office opens in Saratoga Springs, New York;
  • Six tips for a federal resume;
  • Legal Aid Ontario announces significant expansion;
  • Bexar County, Texas to offer attorneys at initial hearings;
  • Proposal to allow pay and academic credit for externships moves forward in ABA;
  • Pennsylvania raises pro hac vice fees to support loan repayment program;
  • Michigan Indigent Defense Commission works on standards for public defenders;
  • NLADA report shows loan forgiveness critical to access to justice;
  • University of California providing direct legal aid to undocumented UC students;
  • Senate Appropriations Committee approves $385 million for Legal Services Corporation;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

June 4, 2015 – “Lawyers employed at Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) along with The Society of Energy Professionals (The Society) launched a constitutional challenge following two years of resistance by Legal Aid Ontario to recognize their right to collectively bargain as enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. ‘After two years of requests to our employer, LAO, and to the government for help, we have been forced to pursue our rights by filing the application to remedy this injustice,’ said Dana Fisher, LAO Lawyers’ spokesperson. ‘Rights enshrined in the Charter are for everyone, even lawyers.'”  (CNW)

June 4, 2015 – “A $40,000 grant from The Memorial Foundation will be used to support Legal Aid Society’s services to senior citizens. Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands, Tennessee’s largest non-profit law firm, announced today it has received a $40,000 grant from The Memorial Foundation to launch an Elder Law Program in parts of the region. The new Elder Law Program will provide ongoing legal and educational services for seniors residing in Davidson, Cheatham, Sumner and Robertson counties. As part of the program, Legal Aid Society staff will present community seminars to empower seniors and their caretakers by addressing common legal issues faced by the elderly, as well as educating them on their rights and responsibilities. The Elder Law Program will also provide free civil legal services to qualified seniors.”  (South Cheatham Advocate)

June 4, 2015 – “A bill that would allow the California State Bar to collect donations from members to fund a student loan repayment program for public interest attorneys was unanimously approved yesterday by the state Senate. The bill next moves to the Assembly. If the bill becomes law, an option to donate to the Public Interest Attorney Loan  Repayment Program could be added to State Bar dues statements as soon as next year.”  (Metropolitan News-Enterprise)

June 4, 2015 – “Residents of Saratoga, Warren and Washington Counties have a new place to get free legal help. The Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York opened a new office Thursday in Saratoga Springs. The lawyers and paralegals will provide free civil legal services and education to low-income residents. Staff helps clients with issues related to their essential needs such as housing and health care.”   (WNYT)

June 5, 2015 – Federal government resumes will always be their own animal.  Government Executive put together 6 tips that are extremely helpful.  (Government Executive)

June 8, 2015 – “Legal Aid Ontario is embarking on the most significant and rapid expansion of services for low-income residents in a quarter century. The multi-year plan being announced Monday aims to address the growing needs of a range of vulnerable groups that are over-represented in the courts, including members of First Nations, victims of domestic violence and people suffering from mental illness. The array of new services includes everything from coverage for first-time offenders in criminal cases to complex matters in family courts, where more than 50 per cent of litigants do not have lawyers. Monday’s announcement is the latest in a series of legal aid expansions that have followed a commitment by the province last year to inject more than $150 million over four years to raise the income eligibility threshold and increase the range of legal services that qualify for assistance. The new services available to financially eligible adults were chosen in consultation with lawyers, judges and community groups, to provide early intervention and prevent legal matters from escalating.”  (The Star)

June 8, 2015 – “The Bexar County Public Defender’s Office will now provide attorneys to poor, mentally ill offenders at their initial hearing, making Bexar the only county in Texas to do so. The new service is possible because of a grant from the Texas Indigent Defense Commission. The grant will provide about $600,000 worth of support over four years.”  (San Antonio Current)

June 8, 2015 – “A proposed change to law school accreditation standards eliminating the current ban on students receiving academic credit for paid externships has been approved for notice and comment by the governing council of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar. Under the proposal, a law school could decide for itself whether a student should receive academic credit for a paid externship or field placement—but only if the school can demonstrate that it has maintained enough control over the student experience to ensure that the requirements of the standards are being met.”  (ABA Journal)

June 9, 2015 – “In an effort to revitalize a student loan debt program supporting attorneys who provide civil legal work for those who can’t afford representation, the state Supreme Court has nearly doubled the fee for out-of-state attorneys to appear in Pennsylvania courts. The increased revenue from the fee hike will go toward the state’s Loan Repayment Assistance Program, which provides student loan debt assistance to attorneys in Pennsylvania who serve the legal needs of the poor. The program is not funded with tax money, but solely through the revenue from the pro hac vice fee.”  (The Legal Intelligencer)

June 10, 2015 – “The Michigan Indigent Defense Commission on Tuesday hashed out a first draft of its first set of proposed standards for public defenders in Michigan, saying appointed attorneys should be well-educated and continually trained, should meet quickly with their clients, should thoroughly investigate their cases, and more. Jonathan Sacks, MIDC executive director, told commissioners meeting in downtown Lansing that he hoped to publish the standards within a couple of weeks. They will be posted on the commission’s new website, michiganidc.gov, and in trade publications ahead of an Aug. 18 public hearing. The commission hopes to deliver its recommendations to the Michigan Supreme Court by Oct. 1, with final approval from justices by spring 2016.”  (Lansing State Journal)

June 10, 2015 – “The National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA) has just released a 2,000-person survey showing that dramatically reducing student loan forgiveness for lawyers working in the public interest would profoundly diminish access to justice for low-income people. The Obama Administration has proposed capping payments for those participating in the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, and some in Congress have recommended completely eliminating the program. The survey — ‘The Critical Role of Public Service Loan Forgiveness in Access to Counsel and Equal Justice’ — makes it clear that cutting PSLF would force many with substantial loans from law school to take jobs in private practice rather than in public service, and the people who would suffer most are community members with limited incomes who rely on these attorneys.” The full analysis is available at the link.  (NLADA)

June 10, 2015 – “The University of California is the first public university in the country to start a legal center on this level, with full-time attorneys to provide legal aid to undocumented students and their families. The UC Undocumented Legal Services Center is based at the UC Davis School of Law, but the attorneys see students at six other campuses, specifically those that don’t have their own law schools: Santa Cruz, Riverside, Merced, San Diego, Santa Barbara and San Francisco. The attorneys say they’ve helped more than 100 students since the center opened in November.”  (KQED)

June 11, 2015 – “The Senate Appropriations Committee today approved $385 million for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) in FY 2016. This amount represents a $10 million increase over LSC’s current funding and is $85 million more than the House approved last week. The bill now moves to the full Senate for consideration.”  (LSC)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: Retired Maj. General Kenneth D. Gray

Retired Maj. General Kenneth D. Gray, former vice president of student affairs at West Virginia University, is the American Bar Association’s 2015 Nelson Award recipient. The award recognizes outstanding contributions to the ABA by an individual government or public sector lawyer. Winners are chosen by the American Bar Association Government & Public Sector Lawyers Division. Gray joined the ABA in 1972, when he was a captain in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps. He is the first and only African-American general officer in the history of the JAG Corps since its inception in 1775. For more than 20 years, he has worked to ensure the voice of military lawyers is heard and that they are an integral part of the association.  Read more about Maj. Gen. Gray’s contributions to our community here.  (The State Journal)

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – June 5, 2015

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

Happy Friday!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • UnitedLex launches legal residency program;
  • Ontario launches pilot to strengthen access to justice in French;
  • Canadian legal clinics ramp up efforts to get justice for vulnerable workers;
  • NAACP Legal Defense Fund boosts grants to law school scholarship fund;
  • Seven people passed test to become limited license legal technicians in Washington;
  • ABA will revisit paid externships;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

May 28, 2015 – “UnitedLex, a leading global provider of legal services, announced today an innovative ‘legal residency’ program in conjunction with four top U.S. law schools: Emory University School of Law, the University of Miami School of Law, the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law and Vanderbilt Law School. Recent Emory Law graduates who participate in the two-year UnitedLex residency program will learn to use cutting-edge legal technologies and processes to provide high-quality and efficient legal services to corporate legal departments and top law firms. Those selected for the residency program each year will receive rigorous classroom instruction provided by senior attorneys, will serve in a supervisory capacity, and will work directly with clients to deliver legal services in such practice areas as litigation management, e-discovery, cyber security, contract management, patent licensing, IP management and immigration law. At the end of the residency, some residents will remain on UnitedLex’s permanent legal staff, while others will join employers seeking experienced attorneys trained in the technologies and processes of 21st-century law practice.” (Emory News)

May 29, 2015 – “Ontario is piloting an initiative in Ottawa to give French-speaking Ontarians timely and seamless access to French-language justice services. A pilot project at the Ottawa courthouse, delivered in partnership with Ontario’s chief justices, will help reduce potential challenges faced by French-speaking litigants, lawyers and other users of Ontario’s courts. The project, which responds to a number of recommendations set out by the French Language Services Bench and Bar Advisory committee in its 2012 Access to Justice in French report and the French Language Services Commissioner’s 2013-2014 Annual Report, will help Ontario identify best practices to enhance access to justice in French at court locations throughout the province.”  (Ontario Newsroom)

May 31, 2015 – “For the precariously employed, getting justice for workplace violations is more often than not confusing, daunting and discouraging. Legal Aid Ontario does not provide any direct support for workers’ rights matters. Instead, it funds the province’s 76 clinics, about 40 per cent of which are in the GTA. They are the only source of legal support for the thousands of precariously employed people whose rights are violated at work each year. But for years, many of those clinics have been too overburdened to offer employment law services at all. And for decades, the working poor have not even qualified for their help because of outdated government eligibility criteria. Clinics are leaping on a sliver of opportunity presented by two recent developments: new money for the community clinic system from Legal Aid Ontario, and new guidelines that mean more low-income people are now able to use legal clinics. The new funding, first announced in March, will pump $9.8 million a year over the next two years into community legal clinics. Of that, $2 million will be devoted specifically to improving clinic capacity, including a boost to services such as workers’ rights law. ‘There are plans to expand in this area as there is an unmet client need currently,’ Geneviève Oger, Legal Aid Ontario’s media relations officer, told the Star.”  (The Star)

June 2, 2015 – “The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund is overhauling its law student scholarship program, increasing the amount of grants and providing substantive civil rights training. The changes come as the organization celebrates its 75th anniversary of leveraging the law in pursuit of racial justice and education.  The Earl Warren Scholarship— launched in 1971 and named for the former chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court who presided over the seminal school desegregation case, Brown v. Board of Education—has increased from $9,000 to $30,000, although the organization will limit recipients to five each year, down from about 15.”  (The National Law Journal)

June 2, 2015 – “Seven people have cleared a major hurdle to become the nation’s first limited license legal technicians. Nine people took Washington state’s first exam for limited license legal technicians, and seven of them passed. Washington is the first state with a program to allow limited license legal technicians to help litigants prepare legal documents and provide advice on legal procedures without a lawyer’s supervision. The seven applicants passed a test to work in domestic relations, the first practice area open to technicians in Washington’s program. The seven people will still have to show they have insurance and 3,000 hours of supervised experience. A licensing fee and trust account reporting are also required.”  (ABA Journal)

June 3, 2015 – The the ABA’s Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar will again take up the issue of whether schools can allow paid externships in addition to granting academic credit.  We’ll keep you posted on their conclusions.  (National Law Journal)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: On June 4, 1919, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, guaranteeing women the right to vote, is passed by Congress and sent to the states for ratification.  The women’s suffragist movement was founded in the mid-19th century by women who had become politically active through the abolitionist and temperance movements.  71 years and two wars later, the struggle for female enfranchisment was rewarded with passage of the 19th Amendment.  Thank you to all the brave women and men who fought for a woman’s right to vote.  (History Channel)

Super Music Bonus!  https://youtu.be/xQNqaERUYy4

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – May 29, 2015

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

Happy Friday!  Can you believe it’s the end of May already?  Time to turn our attention to summer plans.  Are you going to a new city?  Check out PSJD’s Having Fun on the Cheap series for fun and inexpensive activities in your area.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • William & Mary’s Puller Veterans Benefits Clinic receives Dominion Foundation grant;
  • Maine Governor proposes public defender system;
  • Layoffs in DA’s office in Massachusetts;
  • Susan M. Finegan named co-chair of Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission;
  • Legal aid, law firms, and lawyers of color;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

May 21, 2015 – “William & Mary Law School’s Lewis B. Puller, Jr. Veterans Benefits Clinic received a $25,000 grant from the Dominion Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Dominion Resources, parent company of Dominion Virginia Power. ‘Dominion Foundation is joining William & Mary Law School in supporting work on behalf of veterans in procuring their disability benefits,’ said Davison M. Douglas, dean of the Law School. ‘We now have a model we want to take to other law schools across the country; this support from Dominion Foundation is going to be of tremendous help.’ Part of the Dominion Foundation’s grant will be used for seed funding for the National Law School Veterans Clinic Coalition, a recently established organization created to provide a unified voice to identify and advance the needs of law school veterans clinics and, more importantly, the veterans they serve. It will serve as an advocate before the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, U.S. Congress and other federal entities. With the seed funding from Dominion, it is hoped that the coalition will double its clinic membership in the coming year, and significantly increase the number of veterans served by law school clinics nationwide.” (W&M Law School press release)

May 26, 2015 – “Gov. Paul LePage has submitted legislation that would create a new system of public defenders to assure that every poor Maine resident charged with a crime receives adequate legal representation. Maine is the only state without public defenders, and has long relied on paying individual lawyers on a case-by-case basis. Sen. David Burns, a Republican from Whiting, co-chairs the Judiciary Committee and is sponsoring the bill for the governor.”  (MPBN News)

May 26, 2015 – “Four Norfolk County prosecutors have been laid off due to statewide budget cuts on district attorneys, and leaders in the legal community are concerned that the firings are an ominous harbinger for the criminal justice system. ‘It’s a bit of a frightening situation because these are the people in the front lines,’ said Marsha V. Kazarosian, president of the Massachusetts Bar Association. ‘They do the lion’s share of the work. It’s of great concern that you have to start laying people off. The end result is, people won’t have access to justice.’ Norfolk District Attorney Michael Morrissey said the layoffs came in response to Gov. Charlie Baker’s unilateral budget cuts in early February. That essentially doubled the impact on Morrissey’s office, he said, because he had only half a fiscal year to make up the difference.”  (Boston Herald)

May 27, 2015 – “Susan M. Finegan, a Member at Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C. and the firm’s first full-time Pro Bono Partner, has been named co-chair of the third Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission, a 24-member body appointed by the Supreme Judicial Court. The Commission is charged with the mission of providing leadership, vision and coordination in the search for equal justice for all persons in the Commonwealth. She will serve alongside Supreme Judicial Court Justice Geraldine S. Hines.”  (Business Wire)

May 28, 2015 – My predecessor Steve Grumm has always been a strong advocate for civil access to justice.  He’s blogging from Idaho on this and other issues.  He took a look at recent data and found legal aid is doing better than the private sector on diversity.  See the numbers and his thoughts on the issue on his blog.  As always, his insights are thought-provoking and right on point.  (That Much Further West)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: Access to Justice advocate Fiona MacCool.

Fiona MacCool is the Project Manager of Your Legal Rights, an online resource produced by Community Legal Education Ontario (CLEO) to provide free legal information for people in Ontario. Fiona was previously the Project Manager of CLEONet, a precursor to Your Legal Rights. For over 10 years, she has worked as an IT project manager, software trainer, and web content developer. Fiona is passionate about helping non-profit organizations take advantage of the cost-efficient and time-saving power of the Internet to support community partnerships, share resources, and make a difference. The Canadian Forum on Civil Justice visited the CLEO offices to speak to Fiona MacCool about her work on Your Legal Rights. You can see the full interview here.

Super Music Bonus!  https://youtu.be/rDL4x23F0kY

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