Archive for Public Interest Law News Bulletin

PSJD Public Interest News Digest – October 2, 2015

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

Happy Friday!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Community Legal Aid (Massachusetts) to receive pro bono grant;
  • Kansas indigent defense system potentially reaching crisis;
  • Western Michigan Cooley Law School Innocence Project receives DOJ grant;
  • New York City Mayor announces expansion of legal aid to low-income tenants;
  • White House establishes Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable;
  • Legal Aid of North Carolina struggling with budget cuts;
  • Legal Aid Society (New York) to sue over cameras in courthouse interview rooms;
  • Advocates of civil legal services point to collateral benefits;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

September 24, 2015 – “The federal Legal Services Corp. has announced that Community Legal Aid in Worcester will receive a 24-month $209,524 pro bono grant to develop a partnership with the University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Center. The model will address legal needs that can impact the health of low-income and minority communities. ”  (Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly)(subscription required)

September 27, 2015 – “In Kansas, where the state pays only $62 per hour, up to a cap of only a few thousand dollars in most cases, officials say they may have to start looking out of state to find attorneys who will take assigned cases because there just aren’t enough qualified, experienced attorneys in some Kansas counties who are willing to work for that rate. Patricia Scalia, executive director of the Kansas Board of Indigents’ Defense Services, told a legislative committee Monday that the problem is especially severe in some of the state’s smaller counties. ‘And because of the lack of qualified attorneys willing to accept appointed cases at the hourly rate that the board pays, we’re having to call in attorneys at a distance,’ Scalia told reporters after the hearing. ‘We have about exhausted the number of attorneys who are licensed in Kansas, and if this continued, it wouldn’t be too much longer before we were having to bring in attorneys from other states, Oklahoma or Missouri,’ she said.” “The Board of Indigents’ Defense Services is proposing to raise the payment rate through a regulatory change. Lawmakers raised no objections Monday to the proposed change. The board estimates the increased rates would cost about $200,000, which Scalia said could be funded through savings the agency realized in a set of resentencing cases earlier this year. A public hearing on that change is scheduled for Nov. 10th in Topeka.” (Lawrence Journal-World)

September 28, 2015 – “A federal grant is helping to boost the efforts of a southwestern Michigan legal clinic that works to exonerate people convicted of serious crimes. Western Michigan University and Thomas M. Cooley Law School announced Monday that their Innocence Project has received a $418,000 Justice Department grant. The money will help pay for case review, evidence location and DNA testing, as well as investigators, experts and a full-time attorney. Officials say in a news release the schools’ Innocence Project is investigating several dozen cases. It recently received roughly 200 more from a similar project in New York that’s no longer handling Michigan cases. The Michigan clinic has screened about 5,300 cases and exonerated three men who spent years in prison.” (Associated Press)

September 28, 2015 – “New York City will spend $12.3 million to expand a program providing legal aid to low-income tenants facing eviction at the hands of ‘unscrupulous landlords,’ Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Monday. He called the initiative an effort to prevent homelessness, saying free legal representation can help families fight harassment and eviction and stay in their homes.” “The city will target 15 neighborhoods where people are most likely to enter the homeless shelter system, including booming real estate markets such as Bedford-Stuyvesant, Bushwick and Crown Heights in Brooklyn and Central and West Harlem in Manhattan.” “Adriene Holder, of the nonprofit Legal Aid Society, said the anti-eviction program and others like it are ‘about stabilizing communities and keeping people in place.'” (News Day)

September 28, 2015 – “What do 20 federal agencies, the United Nations, and civil legal aid have in common?  Plenty, according to President Obama who recently issued a presidential memorandum formally establishing the White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable (LAIR).  The presidential memorandum was announced by Roy Austin Jr., Deputy Assistant to the President for Urban Affairs, Justice and Opportunity as well as Ambassador Samantha Power, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations at an event held on the eve of the UN’s Sustainable Development Summit in New York.  The event highlighted the inclusion of Goal 16 in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  Goal 16 calls for the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, for access to justice for all and for the building of effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.  With Goal 16, the international community has recognized that access to justice is essential to sustainable development and necessary to end poverty.” “The Roundtable brings together 17 participating Federal partners to inspire new collaborations to jointly serve the Nation’s poor and middle class, and to better engage civil legal aid providers as Federal grantees, sub-grantees, and partners. Since the inception of the Roundtable, participating agencies have worked with civil legal aid partners, including non-profit organizations and the private bar, through outreach calls, webinars and other strategies to identify areas in which legal services can advance various Federal program objectives, and have been developing legal services-specific language as appropriate new grants and projects come on-line. They also have been working closely with Federal grantees to educate them about the value of collaborating with civil legal aid partners, and several are encouraging and inviting research proposals about the civil justice system.” The Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable “Toolkit” is an online tool designed to provide a roadmap to the ways in which legal services can enhance Federal strategies for serving vulnerable and underserved populations.  (DOJ Justice Blogs)

September 29, 2015 – “Officials with the Legal Aid of North Carolina say that state and federal budget cuts are crippling the agency, resulting in layoffs statewide.” “George Hausen, executive director of Legal Aid of North Carolina, said the agency is in the process of eliminating 45 positions from out of about 300 statewide. The agency lost about $1.4 million in state and other financing last year, Hausen said. Legal Aid could lose another $2 million from the federal government, based on the proposed U.S. House budget, he said. That would be a total of $3.5 million, he said. If the agency loses the $2 million in federal financing, that could mean that Legal Aid would have to cut another 50 positions, Hausen said.” “Hausen said that Legal Aid does not plan to reduce services.” (Winston-Salem Journal)

September 29, 2015 -“Some lawyers on Monday gave the new Staten Island Courthouse glowing reviews, but don’t count the Legal Aid Society among them. The nonprofit group, which represents those who can’t afford an attorney, will file a lawsuit later this week to remove video cameras from interview rooms for lawyers and criminal defendants awaiting arraignment, contending the cameras trample on their clients’ rights.” “‘It is a blatant violation of the attorney-client privilege and doesn’t happen in any other part in the city,’ Justine Luongo, the society’s attorney-in-charge of the criminal practice told reporters at the new $230-million courthouse just hours after its doors opened to the public for the first time. ‘Potentially, what we have here is an evidence-gathering mechanism that violates our clients’ rights.’ Luongo said the society would seek an injunction asking the court to stop the cameras from recording until a ruling is made on their legality. The brief is expected to be filed Wednesday, in either state or federal court. She said the city Correction Department said the cameras were installed for security reasons – a point Legal Aid vigorously contests.”  Many other groups share Legal Aid’s concerns, and will monitor the situation going forward. (Staten Island Live)

September 30, 2015 – “Providing civil legal services to low-income New Yorkers not only benefits the clients directly but benefits society as a whole by reducing spending on social programs and bringing more federal funding into the state, witnesses said at a hearing Tuesday held by Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman in Manhattan. The hearing at the Appellate Division, First Department, was the first of four—one in each of the state’s four judicial departments, that will be held over the next few weeks. Among the speakers was Mayor Bill de Blasio, who said that by investing in legal services to address evictions, homelessness and domestic violence, the city can save money on shelter costs. Additionally, providing services can reduce the cost of litigation and increase the efficiency of the courts, he said.” “This is the sixth year in which Lippman has held hearings to address the ‘justice gap.’ Funding for civil legal services in the Judiciary budget is $85 million in the current fiscal year, up from about $12.5 million in 2011. Lippman will conduct the hearings alongside Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks, New York State Bar Association President David Miranda and the presiding justice for the judicial department where each of the hearings are being held. On Tuesday, the panel included First Department Presiding Justice Luis Gonzalez.” (New York Law Journal)(free subscription required)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:  

“Since 2009 Attorney Richard S. Ravosa has been helping Massachusetts residents who need to file for bankruptcy, but cannot afford the cost. Ravosa, a native of Springfield, recently won the Paul H. Chapman award given to only five recipients a year from a national pool of nominations by the Atlanta based, Foundation For Improvement of Justice. The award recognizes those whose work improves the local, state, and federal systems of justice in the United States. Ravosa was selected due to his pro bono debt relief program, the Massachusetts Debt Relief Foundation, which he founded in order to represent residents free of charge who cannot afford to hire an attorney to file bankruptcy, but without bankruptcy relief, would be living in poverty or dangerously close to it.”  Congratulations! (Mass Live)

Super Music Bonus!  Music pick from the PSJD Fellow Eulen Jang.


Job(s)’o’th’week (Fellowship Edition) – Center for Constitutional Rights

Help Wanted Photo: Brenda Gottsabend – CC License

The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) is looking for four fellows for the Bertha Fellowship, a two year fellowship starting in September 2016. CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization dedicated to protecting and advancing the rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Fellows will be assigned to work alongside lawyers in one of CCR’s three docket areas: the Guantanamo Global Justice Initiative, Government Misconduct/Racial Justice, and International Human Rights.

If this sounds like something for you, check out the full post on PSJD. (Application Deadline: October 16, 2015)


PSJD Public Interest News Digest – September 25, 2015

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

Happy Friday!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • 2015 Trudeau Foundation Fellows announced;
  • Montana task force hears about problems with public defense system;
  • University of Georgia School of Law to launch Atlanta externship program;
  • Legal Services Corporation announces 2015 Pro Bono Innovation Grant recipients;
  • Legal Aid Ontario boosts students’ legal aid clinic funding;
  • Mid-Shore Pro Bono (Maryland) celebrates 10 years;
  • Tennessee attorney pro bono hours increase;
  • Federal funding for domestic abuse programs in New York;
  • ABA committee proposes eliminating ban on academic credit for paid externships for third time;
  • University of Memphis’ Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, Memphis Area Legal Services, and area hospital develop unique partnership;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

September 15, 2015 – “The Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation congratulates this year’s recipients of its prestigious research fellowships. These fellowships recognize public intellectuals in the humanities and social sciences who venture beyond the boundaries of their disciplines to find new solutions to complex issues of major importance to Canadians. The five new fellows appointed this year conduct research on: assisted suicide, Arab-Canadian youth, Canada’s relationship with the Indo-Pacific, justice as applied by armed rebels, and ethnobotany in support of Indigenous land claims. In addition to receiving a total of $225,000 over the next three years, each new fellow will enjoy unique access to the rich intellectual network of researchers and practitioners who have joined the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation community before them.  The Fellows are: Jocelyn Downie, Faculty of Law and Medicine, Dalhousie University (Nova Scotia), Bessma Momani, Department of Political Science, University of Waterloo (Ontario), Cleo Paskal, Visiting Fellow at the Montreal Centre for International Studies, Université de Montréal (Quebec), René Provost, Faculty of Law, McGill University (Quebec), and Nancy Turner, Environmental Studies, University of Victoria (British Columbia).”  (Trudeau Foundation)

September 17, 2015 – “Overworked public attorneys and a civil rights group on Thursday told Montana lawmakers and lawyers that funding problems may be seriously hurting the defense of the accused. Niki Zupanic, the policy director for ACLU of Montana, said a 2005 overhaul of the state’s public defense system has not corrected the problem of inadequate representation for defendants. The issue has persisted since the ACLU’s 2002 lawsuit that led Montana to rethink its approach to providing for the right to legal counsel, Zupinac said. A county-based system was replaced with the Office of the State Public Defender a decade ago, but running the office has been increasingly expensive. ‘Even though that inadequate (county-based) system no longer exists, the issues still persist,’ Zupanic said. Public defenders say they simply need more attorneys to handle a backlog of cases.” (Flathead Beacon)

September 18, 2015 – “The University of Georgia School of Law is opening an Atlanta campus next semester to give students more opportunities to gain real-world legal experience. Starting in January, second- and third-year students can gain practical skills through full-time, unpaid externships with Atlanta courts, government agencies, nonprofits and businesses. Possible placements could be with the offices of the governor or the attorney general, the Georgia Supreme Court or the House Democratic Caucus, according to the law school. The students will also take a clinical seminar, led by UGA Law’s civil clinic director, Alexander Scherr, to discuss their externship experiences and further their professional development. Students earn 10 credits for the externship and clinical seminar. They also have the option of taking up to two doctrinal classes.” (Daily Report)

September 18, 2015 – “15 legal aid organizations will receive grants to support innovations in pro bono legal services for low-income clients. Many of the projects will use technology to connect low-income populations to resources and services, while others aim to increase efficiency and effectiveness through partnerships with law schools, community organizations, and in-house corporate attorneys. Some projects will address issues affecting specific populations such as seniors, veterans, and low-income students. All the projects seek to engage and recruit pro bono lawyers and other volunteers to leverage LSC’s federal funding and increase the resources available to low-income clients.”  See the press release for the list of recipients. (Legal Services Corporation)

September 21, 2015 – “Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) will increase the funding of each Student Legal Aid Services Society by$100,000 annually. As a result, these clinics will provide additional services to low-income Ontarians while helping to train the lawyers of tomorrow. Ontario’s seven Student Legal Aid Service Societies operate out of law schools, allowing students to provide legal services under the supervision of qualified lawyers. The student legal aid clinics plan to use the additional resources in the following ways:

  • Community and Legal Aid Services Program at York University’s Osgoode Hall will begin offering employment law services and increase the hours of existing staff.
  • Community Legal Aid at the University of Windsor will begin offering consumer law services and expand its existing employment law services.
  • Community Legal Services at London’s University of Western Ontario will take on more criminal and housing law cases.
  • Downtown Legal Services at the University of Toronto will expand its housing law services and launch a new employment law division.
  • Queen’s Legal Aid at Kingston’s Queen’s University will hire another lawyer to expand all its services.
  • The Community Legal Clinic at the University of Ottawa will expand its bilingual housing law services.

Lakehead University in Thunder Bay is in the process of establishing Lakehead Legal Services. The clinic will receive its additional$100,000 during the 2016/17 fiscal year.” (CNW)

September 21, 2015 – “Mid-Shore Pro Bono will celebrate 10 years of service to the community and honor individuals and organizations that have contributed to a decade of achievements at an awards reception Thursday, Oct. 15. Receiving the Retired Pro Bono Volunteer Award will be Marianne Dise, and Andie Ross will be the recipient of the Distinguished Pro Bono Volunteer Award. Talbot Senior Center will receive the Non-Legal or Organizational Involvement Award for its support of the delivery of pro bono legal services to low-income clients. The Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented to Judge Karen Murphy Jensen for her continued efforts in furthering Mid-Shore Pro Bono’s mission. ‘We welcome everyone to come out and help us recognize these extraordinary individuals and organizations that contribute so much to our community,’ said Sandy Brown, Mid-Shore Pro Bono executive director. ‘We could not have served our clients so successfully for the past ten years without them and countless other volunteers and groups.'” (The Star Democrat)

September 21, 2015 -“The Tennessee Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Commission has released its annual report showing that attorneys in Tennessee have increased the number of hours of free and reduced-rate legal services they are providing to those in need. The report shows that the number of hours of pro bono service volunteered by attorneys in Tennessee went up by nearly 3,000 hours in the last reporting year. ‘Tennessee attorneys continue to respond to the need for free legal assistance, but the Commission believes that there is more work being done than is being reported,’ said Doug Blaze, chairman of the Commission. The report relies on data collected in 2014 for work done in 2013.” (The Chattanoogan)

September 21, 2015 – “U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand today announced $750,000 in federal funding for the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York and the Unity House of Troy. Specifically, Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York will receive $400,000 to strengthen civil and criminal legal assistance programs for adult and youth victims of domestic violence and the Unity House of Troy will receive $350,000 for a broad range of holistic, victim-centered transitional housing options and supportive services. The funding was allocated through the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Office on Violence Against Women.” (Press Release)

September 22, 2015 – “For the third time in less than two years, an ABA committee has proposed lifting the ban in the law school accreditation standards on students receiving academic credit for paid externships. But the Standards Review Committee, which met Friday and Saturday in Atlanta, also agreed to forward such a proposal to the governing council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar in case the council decides to keep the ban. ‘We’re just trying to be fair,’ said committee chair Scott Pagel, a professor and associate dean for information services at George Washington University Law School. ‘They’re the ones who have to decide, based on their reading of our proposed changes and the comments they receive from the community, if such a prohibition is still necessary.’ The ban on paid externships has been one of the most contentious issues to come before the council in recent years. The Law Student Division has lobbied hard to eliminate the prohibition, saying it limits the amount of field placement opportunities available to students. But many clinicians believe that eliminating the ban would undermine the academic purposes of the placements.” (ABA Journal)

September 22, 2015 – “In what officials called the first local partnership of its kind, Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital will collaborate with Memphis Area Legal Services and the University of Memphis’ Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law to address the legal and social issues affecting patient health, representatives of the three institutions announced Tuesday. Called Memphis CHiLD (Children’s Health Law Directive), the partnership will provide legal services, education and advocacy for children and their families. It will feature a variety of training and educational programs and a legal clinic at Le Bonheur where U of M law students have devoted space to work on cases and referrals and meet with patients and medical professionals. The initial focus of the collaboration will be assisting families with children suffering from severe asthma. Memphis CHiLD will try to get help for the families in dealing with issues such as mold in rental housing.” (The Commercial Appeal)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:  

Corporate Pro Bono (CPBO) announced today that it has selected BNY Mellon, a signatory to the CPBO Challenge® initiative, White & Case, and the National LGBT Bar Association (LGBT Bar) to receive the 2015 CPBO Pro Bono Partner Award in the Large Law category. The awardees were selected for their collaborative development of the Online LGBT Tax Resource, an innovative tool that leverages technology to provide pro bono legal assistance to same-sex married couples in the United States. CPBO, the global partnership project of Pro Bono Institute (PBI) and the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC), will present the award at the 2015 PBI Annual Dinner on November 5 in New York. (CSR Wire)

Super Music Bonus!  Music pick from the PSJD Fellow Eulen Jang.


PSJD Public Interest News Digest – September 18, 2015

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

Happy Friday!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • University of Pittsburgh School of Law announces incubator;
  • Hawaii State Judiciary self-help centers hit big milestone;
  • HBO comedy host John Oliver helps raise money for New Orleans public defenders;
  • Penn Law receives over $12 million for student scholarships, public interest and legal practice skills programming;
  • Florida considers automation to keep legal aid costs down;
  • Maryland public defender investigating every juvenile life-without-parole case;
  • ABA, DOJ weighs in on constructive denial of right to counsel case;
  • Pro bono in the park in British Columbia;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

September 14, 2015 – “The University of Pittsburgh announced plans to open the Pitt Legal Services Incubator in January 2016. The idea of assistance for young lawyers might leave some puzzled, but these aren’t your typical graduates. The Legal Services Incubator is looking for recent graduates who are interested in starting their firms to help underserved client communities. ‘There’s so much legal need out there. People say there are so many lawyers, and that’s not true,’ says Professor Thomas Ross, Professor of Law at Pitt and the Faculty Director of the Legal Services Incubator. ‘The problem is there are too many lawyers chasing the same client base.’ ‘The job market is pretty tough for young lawyers. A lot of them would like to start solo or small law firms, but they feel uncertain about their capacity to do it,’ says Ross. The incubator will assist young lawyers to get a head start by providing workspace, connections and resources to help each lawyer start a firm. Applications will open in late October after the Bar Exam results are published. For its first year, the incubator is aiming to accept a group of six to eight recent graduates to start their practices in the space.” (Next Pittsburgh)

September 14, 2015 – “The Hawaii State Judiciary’s Self-Help Centers have helped their 10,000th person. These are centers, located statewide, that are set up to provide legal consultation to people representing themselves in court. According to the judiciary, these centers are free to litigants and cost the state ‘virtually’ nothing. ‘This milestone is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the hundreds of volunteer attorneys who have donated their time and professionalism to helping those who otherwise might not be able to afford a lawyer,’ said Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald in a Sept. 10 Hawaii State Judiciary news release. ‘I’d also like to extend a special thanks to the Hawaii Access to Justice Commission, the Hawaii State Bar Association, all county bar associations, Legal Aid Society of Hawaii and its AmeriCorps program, and our partners in the community who have helped us make significant strides in providing greater access to justice.’ There are currently six of these centers located in courthouses across Hawaii.” (mauitime)

September 14, 2015 – “An unusual crowdfunding campaign launched by the Orleans Parish Public Defender’s Office got a boost overnight Monday from a TV diatribe launched by former ‘Daily Show’ commentator John Oliver on his HBO comedy show,’Last Week Tonight.’ New Orleans served as one of the poster children for the British comedian as he waxed indignant for 15 minutes about the thinly stretched state of public defense nationwide. Lamenting a ‘meet ’em and plead ’em system’ for indigent defense, Oliver cited a somewhat dated 2009 study by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers that found bloated caseloads for some public defenders in New Orleans left them with just seven minutes per case, on average.” “The impact was seen immediately on a crowdfunding campaign that Chief Public Defender Derwyn Bunton’s office launched last week to try to offset a projected $1 million drop in revenue. The total amount raised jumped from $7,000 to about $14,500 overnight, with donations rolling in from as far away as Hong Kong and the Netherlands, said spokeswoman Lindsey Hortenstine.” “In an interview Monday, Bunton said Oliver’s on-air critique rang true. ‘When you’re watching it being presented in a national program, you really are struck by how absurd it is that we would depend on this kind of system to secure one of the original amendments to the Constitution,’ Bunton said. ‘We’re the only state that is so dependent on fines and fees that traffic tickets literally control their Sixth Amendment rights to counsel.’ Bunton recently announced a hiring freeze and four weeks of unpaid furlough for his staff, among other measures aimed at coping with the million-dollar budget slide.”  Due to the language in the original John Oliver piece, I will not link to it. However, it is a very insightful and intelligent piece highlighting the ridiculous state of public defense.  (The New Orleans Advocate)

September 15, 2015 – “The University of Pennsylvania Law School has received three major gifts totaling $12.1 million that will fund new scholarships and other forms of financial aid, public interest programming, and the teaching of legal practice skills.” “Robert Toll and Jane Toll, 1966 graduates of Penn Law and Penn’s Graduate School of Education, respectively, have given $2.5 million to further support public interest programs at Penn Law, through the Toll Public Interest Center. Toll, the Executive Chairman of the Board of Toll Brothers, Inc., the nation’s leading building of luxury homes, and his wife, Jane, have been longtime supporters of the Law School and its public interest programming.” (UPenn News)

September 15, 2015 – “The Florida legal system is taking inspiration from an unlikely source: eBay. The online auction website sends disputes through an automated process that doesn’t involve employees until it’s absolutely necessary, solving 90 percent of 60 million annual disputes without using manpower. The Florida Commission on Access to Civil Justice is considering recommending a similar process for the first steps of common legal actions such as divorces and wills, said Florida Bar past president and commission member Greg Coleman. The goal is to reduce the financial burden of legal services for low- to moderate-income Floridians. ‘The folks that work paycheck to paycheck … if they need to get divorced, they can’t hire a lawyer at $25 an hour, much less $250 an hour,’ the West Palm Beach attorney said. ‘They don’t get legal aid. They don’t qualify. They wander into a system that’s not designed for them.'” “Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Jorge Labarga created the commission last November to come up with ways to reduce inefficiencies and the costs of civil litigation. They must submit their first report by Oct. 1.” (Daily Business Review)

September 15, 2015 -“Maryland’s Office of the Public Defender’s post-conviction division has launched an effort to investigate all cases of inmates who, as juveniles, were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, following through on the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in 2012 that such sentences violate the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and illegal punishment. The Youth-Resentencing Project will look for cases it can take to court seeking resentencing based on Miller v. Alabama, in which Justice Elena Kagan’s majority opinion in the 5-4 decision noted that such sentences for juveniles preclude consideration of ‘chronological age and its hallmark features—among them, immaturity, impetuosity, and failure to appreciate risks and consequences. It prevents taking into account the family and home environment that surrounds’ defendants. Resentencing of juveniles in such cases has been permitted in at least 12 states, and the decision will affect about 1,500 people now behind bars.” (ABA Journal)

September 15, 2015 – “The government and several national legal organizations have thrown their support behind two indigent defendants who are arguing before the state Supreme Court that the low funding levels of the Luzerne County Public Defender’s Office constituted a deprivation of their right to effective counsel. The U.S. Department of Justice and the American Bar Association recently filed amicus briefs in support of Adam Kuren and Steven Allabaugh, two men who have a case pending before the Supreme Court on the first-impression issue of whether they can seek prospective civil relief on constructive denial of counsel claims under the Sixth and 14th amendments ‘based on chronic and systemic deficiencies’ in Luzerne County’s Office of the Public Defender. Along with the ABA and the DOJ, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Pennsylvania Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers filed an amicus, as did the Innocence Network and the Pennsylvania Innocence Project. Briefs for the indigent defendants, who are plaintiffs in Kuren v. Luzerne County, were filed Sept. 10, and briefs for the county defendants are expected to be filed within the next 30 days. The suit was launched by former Luzerne County chief public defender Al Flora Jr. when he sued the county and the county manager, Robert Lawton, in 2012, alleging indigent defendants were deprived of their right to counsel.”  (The Legal Intelligencer)

September 15, 2015 – “The Access Pro Bono Society of BC [British Columbia, Canada] held their seventh annual Pro Bono Going Public event in Kelowna, where legal advice of all varieties was provided to people of all incomes and backgrounds. ‘Primarily our client base is people with poverty-law issues who are dealing with important and serious legal matters that affect their livelihood and quality of life,’ said Jamie Maclaren, executive director of Access Pro Bono. ‘We also have a good number of people who find themselves in some kind of legal dispute or legal situation and just can’t afford to hire a lawyer to sort it out.’ Access Pro Bono has been operating since 2010, but is a product of two existing organizations that go back to 2002. The society has more than 1,000 lawyers who volunteer their time in clinics throughout the province.” (

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:  

A State Bar of Texas representative honored Judge Mary Lou Robinson at an induction ceremony for the Texas Legal Legends program Friday. Texas Legal Legends is a program through the State Bar of Texas that honors lawyers who have practiced within the state. Darby Dickerson, dean of the TTU School of Law, said in a statement: “Judge Robinson is truly unique. She entered the legal field at a time when very few women did so, and she has both excelled and has given back.” Robinson is currently a U.S. district judge for the Northern District of Texas.  Read more about her career and contributions here.

Super Music Bonus!  Music pick from the PSJD Fellow Eulen Jang.


PSJD Public Interest News Digest – September 11, 2015

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

Happy Friday and welcome to September! My favorite season has started – football season.  It’s also service project season.  Fantastic work out there folks. Keep those updates coming!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • ABA launches its first social media lobbying campaign to save Public Service Loan Forgiveness;
  • New pro bono rule in New York allows remote supervision;
  • ABA’s Blog the New Normal guest columnist posits current access to justice initiatives are ineffective;
  • Free legal clinics to be held for low-income families in Kentucky;
  • North Carolina consortium receives $2.6 million grant for health care navigation;
  • Nest and New Mexico Legal Aid form legal partnership;
  • First Arkansas transgender clinic assists more than 2 dozen;
  • For criminal justice reform, look to civil legal aid;
  • The Law Clinic at Valparaiso University Law School is accepting new clients;
  • National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers report – Judges have too much control in federal public defense system;
  • New Orleans judge calls hearing to discuss public defender funding;
  • Boston University Law School and MIT create legal clinic;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

August 27, 2015 – “For the first time, the ABA is incorporating social media into a major advocacy initiative as it seeks to protect the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness program from possible elimination by Congress.” “In developing a strategy to preserve the PSLF program, Thomas M. Susman, director of the ABA’s Governmental Affairs Office, and other members of the GAO working on the issue determined that the usual methods of trying to get the attention of federal legislators wouldn’t be enough. They decided that the loan forgiveness issue would be a good fit for a social media campaign, especially since the issue is crucial to so many recent law school graduates. ‘This isn’t replacing our retail lobbying, but it is supplementing it,’ says Susman. ‘It’s an effort to step up a notch our ability to cut through the noise level on Capitol Hill.'”  (ABA Journal)

September 2, 2015 – “The New York Court of Appeals has broadened the rule requiring 50 hours of pro bono service for those seeking admission to the bar, allowing for remote supervision of pro bono work.” “On Friday, the Court of Appeals announced it had amended the rule, effective Sept. 16, eliminating the requirement that supervising attorneys be admitted in the same jurisdiction where the pro bono work is being performed. Bar groups and law school officials sent the court a letter in June, noting several scenarios that would be excluded under the initial rule. The letter said the global practice of law now may involve teams of lawyers worldwide using shared secured documents and video conferencing. ‘Close physical proximity is no longer the mark of supervision in law firms or law schools,’ said the letter from the Association of Pro Bono Counsel, the New York City Bar Association’s Committee on Pro Bono and Legal Services and law school officials from Columbia, New York University and Fordham. Margaret Wood, court attorney for professional matters at the Court of Appeals, said several applicants also contacted the court with questions about whether their pro bono work would count toward the rule, since their supervising attorneys were in other jurisdictions. The change ‘will allow for more opportunities for pro bono work,’ Wood said.” Here is a link to the Court’s Order. (New York Law Journal)

September 2, 2015 –  Guest blogger Dan Lear says the problem with current access to justice initiatives is that “[e]xpanding legal services access beyond the poorest and most disadvantaged is a significant challenge. Attempts to bring similar types of services and resources to large numbers of people—from infrastructure to transportation to medical care—have been tremendously expensive and time-consuming. Doing the same for legal services will certainly be a unique challenge.” He suggests part of the solution is changing the focus of the conversation. “One good initial, but admittedly small, step for legal services is semantics. Specifically, instead of talking about an ‘access to justice’ gap let’s switch the rhetoric and consider the ‘access to legal services’ gap instead.” He goes on to point out “[m]odest-means clients are also different than the access-to-justice clients. For one, while they may not be able to afford traditional full representation legal services but they can pay something. Further, many modest means clients are middle-income individuals, so they’re more likely better educated with better access to technology or other resources that would help them self-educate, receive unbundled legal services delivered partially or fully though technology or online, or navigate the legal system with only limited guidance from an attorney.” “There are pervasive legal access issues throughout the economy—from pro se litigants, to entrepreneurs who need business help, to families without wills or simple estate plans. This access gap is a significant problem for the legal profession and it won’t be solved overnight. It might not even be solved in our lifetime. But greater precision in how we talk about access challenges is an easy first step in the right direction.”  What do you think? (The New Normal)

September 3, 2015 – “A $30,000 grant from the Kentucky Bar Foundation will help low-income families get legal advice regarding family court. Those who qualify can talk one-on-one with local lawyers, for free, on issues regarding divorce, child custody and other family [matters] at an upcoming domestic relations clinic. Advanced registration is required to attend the clinic, because only those who are eligible can attend. You must be at or below the poverty line and have children to qualify.” (WPSD Local 6)

September 3, 2015 -“A group of 14 health care, social service and legal aid organizations has received more than $2.6 million in federal funding to help North Carolina residents sign up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. Officials with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said Wednesday that the N.C. Navigator Consortium will receive the grant to help consumers sign up during the open enrollment period for 2015-2016. Legal Aid of North Carolina will administer the grant. Officials say the grant will fund about 250 navigators who will help consumers determine which plan works best for them, apply for financial help and complete their enrollment.” (WNCT)

September 4, 2015 – “After years of limited access to legal representation for their residents, The Nest domestic violence shelter is entering into a new partnership with New Mexico Legal Aid. The organization, that gives assistance in civil legal cases to people who otherwise are not able to afford a private attorney, has new funding that will allow an attorney from their Roswell field office to visit Lincoln County and Mescalero residents at the shelter on a consistent basis. ‘We have used New Mexico Legal Aid in the past, but with fewer attorneys and the nearest field office being in Roswell, there was either a very long wait for representation or transportation problems,’ Nest Executive Director Coleen Widell said. Widell went on to explain survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking encounter a variety of legal problems for which they require assistance, including Orders of Protection, child custody issues, child support, divorce or separation, landlord tenant problems, credit repair and access to benefits. Not only residents at The Nest will benefit from the new partnership. ‘In addition, survivors who do not want or need to come into shelter for safety or services can still meet with a NMLA attorney here,’ Widell said. ‘HEAL will coordinate the screening and referral of everyone in Lincoln County, regardless of whether they are current clients at The Nest, to ensure they meet criteria for free legal services.’ The program in Lincoln County will begin Oct. 1.” (Ruidoso News)

September 4, 2015 – “Earlier this summer, 27 people converged on the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s William H. Bowen School of Law to meet with attorneys at Arkansas’s first transgender legal clinic. In the end, 11 attorneys wrote up 43 notarized documents ready to file, including 25 name changes and 10 gender changes. Human Rights Campaign Arkansas was a primary supporter of these clinics and is co-sponsoring additional clinics planned in Arkansas as well. In addition Transgender Equality Coalition (ArTEC), the Center for Arkansas Legal Services and VOCALS worked together to create the clinic, which provided free legal advice and fee waivers. ArTEC has also pledged to continue assisting those who attended the clinic, should they encounter any difficulties when filing their documents in their respective counties.” (Human Rights Campaign)

September 5, 2015 – Our colleague David Udell, Executive Director of the National Center for Access to Justice at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, has an opinion piece this week linking the benefits of utilizing civil legal aid in combating the cycle of criminal justice abuses, particularly in the areas of fees. “Millions of evictions and foreclosures, domestic violence cases and accusations of neglect, debt collections and denials of benefits, civil asset forfeitures, civil court fees, suspensions of driver’s licenses and more churn through local courtrooms. When neglected, the problems fester, and lives go awry. The result is a spinning cycle of poverty and correctional control as hunger, isolation, stress and violence inevitably draw people into the system and burden our society.”  Check out his thoughts.  (Aljazeera America)

September 5, 2015 – “The Law Clinic at Valparaiso University Law School, which provides free legal representation to individuals with limited income, is accepting new cases. The Law Clinic represents low-income residents of the region in matters such as debt collection defense, consumer issues, landlord/tenant disputes, guardianships, adoptions and tax concerns involving the Internal Revenue Service. Potential clients must meet income eligibility guidelines, officials said. The Law Clinic’s legal services are provided by Valparaiso University law students, who receive firsthand legal experience by representing financially disadvantaged clients. Students work under the supervision of law school faculty.” (

September 9, 2015 – “A tough new report has concluded that the federal government’s system for defending poor people needs to change. The nearly two-year study by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers said judges who are supposed to be neutral arbiters too often put their fingers on the scales. The report said defense lawyers for the poor who work in the federal court system need more resources to do their jobs. That means money, not just for themselves, but to pay for experts and investigators. In an adversary system, lawyers for poor defendants say they need to operate on equal footing with prosecutors. But the study, the first of its kind in more than 20 years, found the source of most concern rests with judges who exercise too much control over the process. In many cases, judges cut fees without explanation. And there’s no way to appeal. ‘It’s just not a good situation to have the judge that you’re appearing before have that much control over your practice, over ultimately how you represent your client,’ said Gerry Morris, a longtime defense attorney in Texas and president of NACDL. The new report doesn’t offer a clear solution to the independence problem. But Morris pointed out that the chief administrative body of the U.S. courts has launched its own study of the system for representing poor defendants.” (NPR)

September 10, 2015 – “A New Orleans judge has ordered the parish’s chief public defender Derwyn Bunton to appear in court Friday (Sept. 11), to explain whether his office can meet the constitutional mandate of providing legal representation to poor people charged with crimes. Criminal District Court Judge Arthur Hunter called for the hearing on his own motion on Wednesday, after reading an op-ed piece in The Washington Post by New Orleans public defender Tina Peng. She opines on the fiscal crisis faced by her employer that hurts the office’s ability to provide an adequate criminal defense to indigent people. ‘I asked Derwyn to provide an answer to a simple question: Whether his office can provide constitutionally effective assistance of counsel to indigent defendants,’ Hunter said Thursday morning.” (The Times-Picayune)

September 10, 2015 – The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Boston University School of Law “have partnered to launch a new clinic in which law students offer legal help to MIT and other Boston University students launching start ups or technology projects. As part of the new Entrepreneurship and Intellectual Property Clinic, law students will spend Fridays on the MIT campus, advising student entrepreneurs on everything from how to set up and finance their fledgling ventures to negotiating contracts and registering trademarks and copyrights. The clinic will also help the student entrepreneurs evaluate any regulatory matters their ideas or startups might encounter. ‘The students get the chance to put the doctrine they’ve learned in the classroom into practice, and they get a better idea of how clients look at the world,’ said Boston University law dean Maureen O’Rourke. ‘They learn client counseling skills and negotiation skills.'”  (National Law Journal)(free subscription required)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:  

“At 8:46 a.m. on a clear Tuesday morning, an American Airlines Boeing 767 loaded with 20,000 gallons of jet fuel crashes into the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York City.”  This was the first of three incidents that would have a profound change on America and the world. Please take a moment to remember all those who sacrificed on this day and since in an effort to respond to this attack.  (

Super Music Bonus!  Music pick from the PSJD Fellow Eulen Jang.


PSJD Public Interest News Digest – August 28, 2015

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

Happy Friday! Did your school have a day of service as part of your Orientation? Tell us about it, and we’ll feature it during the month of September. The Digest will take a vacation next week, and will return on September 11th.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Young lawyers in  South Korea launch online legal help service;
  • Ava Maria School of Law gives back with day of service;
  • New York provides grant for legal services for HIV families;
  • Texas Tech’s School of Law announces public service requirement;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

August 21, 2015 – Here is an interesting take on direct legal services.  “You can book a movie ticket, order food or call a taxi via online and mobile tools. So, what about legal services? That idea had led three lawyers ― Park Hyo-yeon, 33, Lee Sang-min, 35, and Nam Ki-ryong, 36 ― to launch a ‘Help Me,’ website for instant messaging to better and more easily provide legal help. The three started the service in response to the growing needs of people who seek immediate help with cases not high-profile enough to warrant the services of large law firms, Park said. ‘People usually do not know where to find lawyers, and the idea of hiring a lawyer itself is a lot of stress amid the lack of credible information about who are the good ones,’ she said. ‘We hope to provide easier access to those who need legal help. We hope they will find out answers to any questions they may have regarding their current situation.’ Reservation is required with 10,000 [$8.52] won on deposit, and the service areas include finance, criminal cases, defamation, property disputes, school violence and start-up businesses. Not only instant messaging, but also counseling ― either face-to-face or via phone ― is available. The hourly fee for counseling is 110,000 won [$93.71]. Drafting legal documents costs 440,000 [$374.84] won for the first two hours, and 165,000 [$140.57] won is added for every hour after that. Since its launch on July 30, almost 3,000 people have visited the website.” (Korea Times)

August 21, 2015 –  “Ave Maria School of Law welcomed their newest class of students last week. As part of their annual volunteer commitment these 120 new students spent Saturday volunteering at different locations in Naples. Although the event was mainly for the first year law students Student Bar Association officers, alumni, faculty, and staff came out to volunteer as well. Monsignor Frank McGrath, Dean of Student Affairs Kaye Castro, Director of Admissions Claire O’Keefe, and the President and Dean Kevin Cieply were all in attendance.” (Naples Herald)

August 22, 2015 – “State officials are offering support and protections for HIV-positive individuals and their families through $2.5 million in grants awarded to 11 organizations across the state which provide these individuals with access to various legal services.” “‘Individuals living with HIV often have to deal with a long list of legal issues resulting from their illness and are unable to find or afford the proper assistance,’ said New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker. ‘This funding helps ensure that HIV-positive individuals and their families have access to the services and supports that can sometimes be difficult to obtain.'” (Nyack-Piermont Patch)

August 26, 2015 -“Texas Tech’s School of Law announces new public service graduation requirements beginning with the fall 2015 semester. New students entering the Tech School of Law in or after fall 2015 must complete at least 30 hours of public service before graduation. At least 15 of those hours must be in the form of pro bono legal services, with the remaining hours consisting of either pro bono or non-legal community service. All full-time faculty will be required to perform at least 10 hours of public service each year.” (Lubbock Avalanche-Journal)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:  

The law firm Bodman PLC has been named to the 2015 State Bar of Michigan’s Circle of Excellence for its commitment to pro bono and community service.

The State Bar recognized Bodman at the “Leadership Level,” a designation given to firms that contribute more than 30 hours of pro bono work per attorney or give at least $500 per attorney in financial donations to approved organizations.

In 2014, Bodman attorneys devoted more than 5,400 hours of pro bono work to dozens of organizations and individuals. Highlights of the firm’s recent efforts include founding and coordinating a legal clinic at Detroit’s Capuchin Soup Kitchen and helping launch the Wayne County PPO Assistance Project, which assists victims of domestic violence obtain and defend their personal protection orders.

Bodman is one of only two firms in Michigan to employ a dedicated to pro bono counsel. Kimberley Paulson. Paulson joined Bodman in 2012 to focus on the firm’s pro bono efforts and works directly with individuals and organizations to coordinate these activities. (Oakland Press)

Super Music Bonus!  Music pick from the PSJD Fellow Eulen Jang.


PSJD Public Interest News Digest – August 21, 2015

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

Happy Friday!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Legal aid failing in Alberta says Justice Minister;
  • California moves to provide interpreters in all court cases;
  • St. Tammany Louisiana Public Defender’s Office gets new office and new management strategy;
  • St. Lawrence County, New York District Attorney cuts services;
  • Washington Attorney General cracks down on unauthorized legal assistance to immigrants;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

August 14, 2015 – “Legal experts, politicians and Canada’s top judge are saying it’s increasingly difficult for low- and middle-income Canadians to get access to the courts. Alberta Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley, who was attending a Canadian Bar Association convention on Friday, told reporters there needs to be a review of the province’s legal aid since it appears to barely be getting the job done. ‘We’re sort of rapidly moving toward a crisis point and we need to start considering what it is we can do to solve that,’ Ganley said. Ganley said a review is to be done, but it’s still too early to say when it will be conducted and what the parameters will be.” (CBC News)

August 16, 2015 –  “Legal advocates say throughout [California], litigants in divorce, child custody, eviction and other civil cases who have difficulty with English are going into court without qualified interpreters. Instead, many are forced to turn to friends or family members — or worse yet, the opposing party — for translation. That’s because California only guarantees access to an interpreter in criminal cases, not civil cases. But the state is looking to change that. Under pressure from the U.S. Department of Justice, California’s Judicial Council this year approved a plan to extend free interpretation services to all cases by 2017. ‘You can’t have a court hearing without having your client understand it correctly,’ said Protima Pandey, a staff attorney with Bay Area Legal Aid.” “Some courts have been extending the provision of interpreters. Los Angeles County, which was part of the Justice Department’s probe, has been among the most aggressive in expanding access to interpreters, legal advocates say. In addition to domestic violence restraining orders, the court now provides interpreters to anyone who needs them in other family cases, as well as eviction, child guardianship, conservatorship, civil harassment and small claims cases. The rollout has faced challenges. The court has found it difficult to find certified interpreters in some languages with origins in South America, said Carolyn Kuhl, the court’s presiding judge. And travel times for interpreters needed in more than one courthouse on the same day can be a challenge. But so far, the court has been able to meet the needs, and judges are pleased, according to Kuhl.” (ABC News)

August 17, 2015 – The public defenders for the St. Tammany and Washington Parishes move into their new offices with a new outlook. They have spent the better part of a year in cramped, borrowed offices at City Hall while their offices had been modernized.  “The move affords [Chief Public Defender John] Lindner and his roughly three dozen staff members the opportunity to make something of a new start after a year in a poor physical environment and, perhaps more important, a work environment riven with division and strife, problems compounded by poor management. Those problems prompted a raft of complaints from current and former employees to the Louisiana Public Defender Board, which oversees all of the state’s public defenders. An ensuing investigation found an office crippled by the perception of favoritism for some employees and lack of support for others. The situation was exacerbated by Lindner himself, who admitted referring to a black employee as a ‘Negro.'” Intensive training and staff changes have followed. “Louisiana Public Defender James Dixon said things seem to have settled down at the office but that he intends to take inventory again in the coming months.”  (The New Orleans Advocate)

August 20, 2015 -“St. Lawrence County District Attorney Mary E. Rain has announced she will be cutting services due to low staffing levels and the county Legislature’s refusal to fill a vacant position in her office. In a letter to county justice courts dated Aug. 17, Ms. Rain said she is instituting the ’emergency measures’ to continue giving attention to her office’s caseload. That includes prosecutors no longer attending normal court calendars for town, village and city courts, effective Monday, except to conduct scheduled hearings and trials, Ms. Rain wrote. ‘All other physical appearances will be temporarily suspended for a period of six months, at which point the office will re-evaluate its position,’ Ms. Rain wrote.”  (Watertown Daily Times)

August 20, 2015 – “Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced Wednesday that he has taken action against four companies accused of offering fraudulent legal services to immigrants. Ferguson, speaking at a news conference in Seattle, said his office has stepped up enforcement against the companies and owners of companies in Lakewood, Tacoma and Everett. He said that unlicensed immigration consultants who refer to themselves as ‘notarios’ or ‘notarios publicos’ are misrepresenting themselves to consumers as having advanced legal training. Victims face losing their immigration status if a deadline is missed or paperwork is filled out incorrectly, he noted.”  (The Lewiston Tribune Online)(subscription required)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:  

Pro Bono Institute (PBI) announced today that it will present Sidley Austin LLP with its 2015 John H. Pickering Award at its Annual Dinner on November 5 inNew York. The Pickering Award is presented annually to a law firm that has demonstrated outstanding commitment to pro bono service.

Sidley’s longstanding commitment to pro bono and public service is underscored by its robust and innovative pro bono program. A Signatory to PBI’s Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® and a Founding Member of PBI’s Law Firm Pro Bono Project, Sidley continually demonstrates its core values by working on behalf of pro bono clients around the world to enhance their clients’ quality of life and improve their communities.

Super Music Bonus!  Our first pick from the PSJD Fellow Eulen Jang.


PSJD Public Interest News Digest – August 14, 2015

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

Happy Friday! This week we welcome the 2015-2016 PSJD Fellow Eulen Jang.  We are very excited to have her, and are looking forward to a great year!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Gift helps Loyola University New Orleans College of Law Incubator expand;
  • Defender Association of Philadelphia gets new Chief;
  • Law library and Recorder join forces to answer property questions;
  • Missouri Public Defender asks Governor for $10 million;
  • Boston University President gives $1 million for public interest fellowships;
  • Vermont’s new NAACP chapter receives housing complaints;
  • Northwestern University School of Law receives $5 million bequest to assist public interest students;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

August 7, 2015 – “A new $118,500 gift to the Loyola University New Orleans College of Law from Ed and Kathy Womac of the Womac Law Firm will support the recently launched Loyola Incubator Program—an intensive mentorship and skills program for recent College of Law graduates who are engaged in solo law practice. ‘This major gift will support enterprising new lawyers who want to use their Loyola law degrees to pursue social justice work and make a difference in the world,’ said outgoing College of Law Dean María Pabón López.” (Loyola University New Orleans Newsroom)

August 10, 2015 –  Keir Bradford-Grey says a recent case is illustrative of the approach she will take as she moves on to become chief of the Defender Association of Philadelphia. “We’re not going to just kind of shuffle people through,” she said. “Our mission is to understand our clients’ needs, advocate for them on behalf of their cases and then find creative ways to . . . suggest alternatives for them.”  “In September, Bradford-Grey will become leader of the office where she began her legal career, and replace Ellen Greenlee – the woman who hired her. Greenlee retired in March after 25 years as chief defender.”  (

August 10, 2015 – “Residents of Madison County [Illinois] who have legal questions about property matters can now speak with an attorney at no cost in a trial program presented jointly by Recorder Amy M. Meyer, and the Madison County Law Library Pro Bono Program. The Law Library, which is operated under the direction of the Circuit Court and located in the Madison County Courthouse, provides free access to legal research and pro bono services. The Law Library and Recorder Meyer have worked together previously to provide property related self-help legal forms to the public. They are now expanding their efforts to help people understand the land recording process, answer legal questions about property, and prepare accurate and appropriate land recording documents.” (The Telegraph)

August 10, 2015 -“The director of Missouri’s public defender system is asking Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon for an additional $10 million. Director Michael Barrett said Monday that the money is needed to help the agency adequately represent the state’s poorest individuals charged with crimes. Nixon’s office did not have an immediate comment Monday about the request for more money. Barrett cited a federal report released in July on the St. Louis County Family Court, which said young people accused of crimes often lack adequate legal representation. Barrett says the agency’s most pressing need is to hire more public defenders. Nixon cannot give the department $10 million without first asking permission from lawmakers during the legislative session beginning in January.”  (FOX 2 Now)

August 11, 2015 – “BU President Robert Brown issued a challenge to the law school in 2014: If you can raise $1 million by the end of June 2015 to fund public interest fellowships for BU Law grads, I’ll match it dollar for dollar. What ensued was a fundraising effort that brought in $1 million from alumni by Brown’s deadline, said Terry McManus, BU School of Law’s assistant dean for development and alumni relations. And Brown lived up to his promise, too. With the match from Brown, the law school has a total of $2 million, enough funding for 10 public-interest fellowships each year for five years, starting this fall. The positions will be in a range of settings, from a U.S. governmental organization to a non-governmental organization overseas.”  (Boston Business Journal)

August 11, 2015 – “Mary Brown-Guillory, president of the Champlain area NAACP, told a statewide civil rights panel Monday that her organization has received an ‘avalanche’ of discrimination complaints. In the month since they’ve been ‘open for business,’ Vermont’s first NAACP chapter has received at least 50 complaints. Most involve discrimination, she said, including housing discrimination. Vermont Legal Aid, a civil rights nonprofit law firm, recently released data from a study conducted by its fair housing program. The study shows preferential treatment toward white residents without children and without an apparent disability, said Marsha Curtis, of Vermont Legal Aid.” “Further outreach and education was recommended by most of the panelists as a possible solution to continued housing discrimination.” (VT Digger)

August 12, 2015 – “Northwestern University School of Law has received a $5 million bequest from the Estate of Dawn Clark Netsch to endow the Walter and Dawn Clark Netsch Scholarship Fund, which will provide financial aid for law students who are interested in pursuing careers in public interest law. The gift also will fund loan repayment assistance to graduates working in the public interest law field. Netsch, who died in 2013, was a beloved Northwestern alumna and long-serving professor who had a storied career in Illinois politics. The gift in Netsch’s honor will fittingly provide support for the next generation of public servants.” (Northwestern University News)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:  Darleen Gondola Bonislawski

Darleen Gondola Bonislawski’s first job out of high school was working as a maid at Harvard, and her time as a union leader in the Harvard University Employees Representative Association led her to first become a paralegal and later a lawyer who advocated for workers’ rights.

“It really gets to me when Harvard says workers are a dime a dozen,” she said in 1979 while she was a vice president of the union, according to The Crimson, Harvard’s student newspaper. “We should have the benefits of the wealth we help produce.”

She also spent 24 years as a Cambridge election commissioner, working to improve the city’s voting process and register scores of disenfranchised voters. “We have to fight against voter suppression,” she wrote at the end of her term in a letter to the Cambridge Democratic City Committee. “Even in so-called liberal Massachusetts, there is still so much to do.”

At 47, she realized a lifelong dream and became a lawyer. Most of her clients couldn’t afford representation, and she often worked pro-bono.

Read more about her amazing life here in the Boston Globe.

Super Music Bonus!  Starting next week, our PSJD Fellow Eulen Jang will be bringing you the music.  So, this is my last pick for a while.  Enjoy!


PSJD Public Interest News Digest – August 7, 2015

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

Happy Friday! We are very sad this week to have to say good bye to Sam Halpert, our 2014-2015 PSJD Fellow and Sarah Mandehzadeh, our 2015 Publications Coordinator.  Both contributed so much to PSJD this year, and we will miss them greatly!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Bay Area Legal Incubator to launch in 2016;
  • Canadian federal government provides $130,000 for Victorian child advocacy centre;
  • The need for pro bono programs at law firms;
  • New York lawyer receives 2015 ABA Pro Bono Publico Award;
  • ABA delegates endorse transparency in law school loans;
  • Minneapolis NAACP chapter opens legal aid hotline;
  • Texas Access to Justice Foundation awards more than $63 million for legal aid services;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

July 29, 2015 – The Bay Area Legal Incubator (BALI), a two-year training program being launched by Berkeley Law and four other Bay Area law schools, seeks to fill the justice gap in California. BALI is the brainchild of Berkley Law’s Associate Director for Public Interest Programs Melanie Rowen and Tiela Chalmers, CEO of the Alameda County Bar Association. It is “a fulltime, two-year training program in which recent admittees to the California Bar will receive education, support, and professional mentoring to learn how to successfully operate a solo or small-firm law practice that serves the modest-means community. The project’s goal is two-fold: to close the justice gap and to provide sustainable, socially conscious employment for recent law school graduates. The five participating law schools are Berkeley Law, Golden Gate University School of Law, Santa Clara Law, UC Hastings, and the University of San Francisco School of Law. BALI will officially launch in January 2016, accepting 15 students (three from each school) from the class of 2015.” (Berkeley Law News)

July 31, 2015 – “The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada’s office announced funding of $130,000 over two years for the Victoria Child Abuse Prevention and Counselling Centre to support the opening of a new child advocacy centre that will serve Victoria and southern Vancouver Island. Child advocacy centres (CACs) and child and youth advocacy centres (CYACs) help child and youth victims and their families navigate the criminal justice system. They provide a safe child- and youth-friendly environment where a coordinated team of professionals works to meet the specific needs of each person. The work of a multidisciplinary team in a CAC or a CYAC can greatly reduce the emotional and mental harm to child and youth victims involved in the criminal justice system. In Economic Action Plan 2015, the Government of Canada committed to provide additional funding to CACs and CYACs. Starting in 2016-17, the Government will provide $5.25 million over four years, and $2.1 million on an annual basis thereafter, to make the support and services provided by CACs and CYACs more accessible in communities across the country.” (Market Wired)

July 31, 2015 – Our friend Lisa Dewey, Partner and Pro Bono Counsel at DLA Piper, has written a very good article on the need for robust pro bono programs at law firms.  She is a great champion of pro bono, and this is a fantastic read. (Legal Solutions Blog)

August 4, 2015 -“The American Bar Association has awarded New York attorney Daniel L. Brown its Pro Bono Publico Award for his outstanding commitment to volunteer legal services for the poor and disadvantaged. Brown, of New York City (Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton), received the award at a luncheon during the ABA’s annual meeting in Chicago on August 1. Brown, a New York State Bar Association member, performs extensive pro bono work in the areas of disability rights and human rights.”  (Read Media)

August 4, 2015 – “The American Bar Association’s House of Delegates on Tuesday adopted a resolution urging law schools to better inform students about their educational loans and how to repay that debt. The ABA’s Task Force on the Financing of Legal Education sponsored the resolution. That group—an outgrowth of an earlier task force that examined the future of legal education—spent nearly a year looking at tuition, student debt, student diversity and graduate employment.”  (National Law Journal)(free subscription required)

August 4, 2015 – “The Minneapolis chapter of the NAACP is launching a legal aid service in the wake of a controversial confrontation between Metro Transit police and a Minneapolis man on July 8. Draon Armstrong, who is black, was stopped by police for not paying a light rail fare and forcefully arrested. NAACP Minneapolis chapter president Nekima Levy-Pounds said her organization thinks existing measures to protect civil rights — like internal police investigations — don’t adequately address concerns of minority communities. The NAACP service will include a telephone and email hotline, a Facebook page and monthly office hours. The organization is still looking for attorneys to volunteer their time to help staff the service, Levy-Pounds said. The hotline is for general legal concerns.” (MPR News)

August 6, 2015 – “The Texas Access to Justice Foundation will distribute more than $63 million over the next two years to 30 nonprofit organizations across Texas to provide civil legal aid to disadvantaged residents.The foundation recently announced its grant recipients, noting that each year more than 100,000 disadvantaged Texas families receive legal aid as a result of the program.Public interest and pro bono lawyers, with the help of the foundation grants, provide civil legal representation to low-income Texans in matters such as obtaining benefits for veterans and addressing foreclosures.” (Texas Bar Blog)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

The American Bar Association Commission on Women in the Profession gave five women lawyers its 2015 Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award. The recipients are: Mari Carmen Aponte, ambassador of the United States to El Salvador; Flora D. Darpino, lieutenant general, United States Army, Judge Advocate General; Fernande R.V. (Nan) Duffly, associate justice, Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court; Mary Ann Hynes, senior counsel, Dentons US LLP; and Emma Coleman Jordan, professor of law, Georgetown University Law Center.  Read more about their outstanding accomplishments here.  They are an amazing group of advocates!

Super Music Bonus!  This week we have 2 picks — Director of Technology and Electronic Information Resources Lisa Quirk and PSJD Fellow Sam Halpert.  Can you guess which is which?



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: