Archive for Public Interest Law News Bulletin

PSJD Public Interest News Digest – October 31, 2014

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

Happy Halloween everyone!  What great week we had celebrating National Pro Bono Week!  Thank you to all those who worked so hard to make it happen.  It is a great reminder of what we can do when we come together as a community.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • 6 NY Counties take part in study of state funding;
  • South Carolina Legal Services receives its first EJW AmeriCorps Fellow;
  • DOJ names new head of Access to Justice Initiative;
  • No deal on legal aid funding at justice ministers’ meeting;
  • Panel finds MD poor deserve free counsel for family law cases;
  • LSC awards nearly $3.5 Mil in technology grants;
  • Southwestern Pennsylvania Legal Services received HUD grant;
  • Legal Aid of East TN gets DOJ grant;
  • NYCLU reaches public defender agreement;
  • 13 MD organizations receive funds to combat violence against women;
  • Ontario raises eligibility threshold for legal aid;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants:  Quakers, Abigail Adams, Sarah Grimke, Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, Sojourner Truth;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

October 17, 2014 – Six counties have been chosen to be part of a two-year study to determine whether state funding is solving the problem of underrepresentation of the poor and underserved in court.  “The University at Albany announced Oct. 2 that it will continue its partnership with the state Office of Indigent Legal Services to research the state of legal counsel for the underserved upstate, evaluating the impact of $12 million in state funding spent on tackling the issue. The study is fueled by a $381,402 grant from the National Institute of Justice.  The study is based on ‘counsel at first appearance,’ a concept that guarantees a person can speak with an attorney after being arrested, and before appearing in court.  ILS Director of Research Andrew Davies, a co-investigator on the study, said having no access to an attorney before court can mean jail time without discussion of bail.”  (Watertown Daily Times)

October 17, 2014 – “South Carolina Legal Services (SCLS) is excited to announce that it has been selected by Equal Justice Works to host its first-ever AmeriCorps Equal Justice Works Fellow. Lonnie R. Doles, a 2014 graduate of the University of South Carolina School of Law, will be serving as an Employment Opportunity Fellow to provide legal assistance to remove barriers to employment for unemployed or underemployed people who are actively seeking to join the labor market. This assistance will include expungement of minor criminal records, correcting errors in criminal records, restoring driver’s licenses and occupational licenses, and providing other legal assistance aimed at helping individuals get to work. The fellowship will last for one year with the possibility of renewal for second year.”  (SCLS)

October 17, 2014 – “A former California judge who had been the head of California Common Cause, Lisa Foster, has been named the director of the Justice Department’s ‘Access to Justice”’Initiative, officials familiar with the appointment told BuzzFeed News.  The initiative, started by Attorney General Eric Holder in March 2010, aims ‘to address the access-to-justice crisis in the criminal and civil justice system’ by helping to ensure that the justice system is accessible to all people, regardless of income.”  (BuzzFeed News)

October 17, 2014 – “Federal, provincial and territorial justice ministers were unable to reach a deal in meetings this week on increased funding from Ottawa for legal aid. The issue was at the top of the agenda at a two-day meeting in Banff, Alta., that wrapped up Friday. Ottawa used to split the cost of the program 50-50, but now only chips in about 16 per cent. Since 2003, there has been no new federal funding to the program, leaving it to provinces to make up the difference.”  “This is an ongoing issue and discussion with respect to the amount and the support and the distribution of federal funding for legal aid,” said Justice Minister Peter MacKay, who called the discussions constructive and “very frank.”  “I can assure you there have been no doors closed but we’re very encouraged by innovations, by efficiencies that have been identified, these are discussions that are very important and will continue.”  (CP24 News)

October 17, 2014 – “[A] state task force this month recommended assigning free lawyers in certain family-law cases, and spending nearly $8 million over four years to help the poorest Marylanders work through the complex court system.” “The Task Force to Study Implementing a Civil Right to Counsel in Maryland is a group of judges, attorneys, delegates and state senators that has been meeting since December to discuss the benefits of providing legal representation to low-income people involved in civil disputes.”  “A bill, sponsored by Del. Sandy Rosenberg, D-Baltimore, outlining the task force’s recommendations, will be introduced to the legislature at the start of the next session, which begins on Jan. 14, said Dumais, who plans to co-sponsor the bill.”  (Southern Maryland Online)

October 17, 2014 – “The Legal Services Corporation (LSC) today released a list of 38 projects nationwide that will receive Technology Initiative Grant (TIG) funding in 2014. The grants will support a variety of initiatives, including user-friendly online tools for women veterans, mobile delivery of legal services for clients using text messaging, and video-conferencing technology that reaches low-income clients in rural areas. Since its start in 2000, LSC’s TIG program has funded 570 technology projects totaling more than $46 million. With this funding, legal aid organizations have built a network of websites serving both attorneys and clients nationwide, developed easy-to-use online forms, incorporated video technology into service delivery, and enhanced support for pro bono lawyers.”  Click on the article to see which organizations received grants.  (LSC)

October 17, 2014 – “The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on Wednesday awarded $450,000 to Southwestern Pennsylvania Legal Services Inc. for education and outreach under the Fair Housing Act.  The agency, based in Washington, said the goal is to make people aware of illegal acts affecting themselves or others in their community because of their race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status or disability, and the rights available to them.”  (observer-reporter.com)
October 20, 2014 – “The Department of Justice is giving Legal Aid of East Tennessee a $500,000 grant to help serve victims of domestic violence as part of the Violence Against Women Act.  The group typically provides services to individuals whose income is at or below the poverty line and a grant like this helps them serve more victims. ‘This grant allows us to serve people that are above that 125% of poverty level, and I think the Department of Justice realizes that victims of domestic violence often are in financial situations where their hands are tied, and they might not have access to family resources where other people might be able to pay a lawyer. So we have a little bit of leeway when it comes to serving folks who are a little above our normal income guideline,’ said Debra House, director of Legal Aid of East Tennessee. They have gotten this grant before but it previously was not renewed.”  (WBIR)
October 21, 2014 – “The New York Civil Liberties Union and the law firm of Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP today announced a historic settlement that overhauls public defense in five counties and lays the foundation for statewide reform of New York’s broken public defense system. By entering into the agreement, the state is taking responsibility for providing public defense for the first time in the more than 50 years since the Supreme Court held that it is a state obligation.”  “Under the agreement, the state will adopt major reforms focusing on five New York counties – Ontario, Onondaga (Syracuse), Schuyler, Suffolk and Washington – that were chosen because their public defense systems are all different and cover communities large and small, but are all emblems of New York’s flawed approach. The agreement will last 7½ years and is subject to court approval.”  Click on the article for the provisions of the agreement.  (NYCLU)
October 26, 2014 – “U.S. Senators Barbara A. Mikulski and Ben Cardin (both D-Md.) announced that thirteen organizations in Maryland have received a total of $8,286,161 in grants from the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) for efforts around the state that will help protect women and families from domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and other dating violence. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. These funds are authorized by the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), legislation introduced in 1994 by then-Senator Joe Biden which Senator Mikulski cosponsored. Senators Mikulski and Cardin have both fought to reauthorize the legislation, most recently 2013. Senator Mikulski is Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee, which funds VAWA programs administered by DOJ and OVW.”  Click on the article for a list of the organizations.  (TheBayNet.com)
October 30, 2014 – “Ontario is moving forward with a plan that will allow over one million more people to qualify for legal aid services. Ontario will raise the income level — also known as the eligibility threshold — at which people can qualify for legal aid assistance. Once fully implemented, an additional one million low-income people will have access to legal aid services — more than double the number of people eligible for legal aid services today. The 2014 budget includes an initial investment of $95.7 million to increase the eligibility threshold by six per cent for the first three years of the plan. The first increase will take place on Nov. 1, 2014.”  (Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: Society of Friends (the Quakers), Abigail Adams, Sarah Grimke, Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, Sojourner Truth.  What do these and  many more individuals have in common?  They worked tirelessly to ensure that all men and women were free and had the right to vote.  A mid-term election is coming up next week, which generally means lower voter turnout.  Keep in mind the struggles of others to ensure our right to vote, and exercise your rights come Tuesday.

Super Music Bonus!  

 

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EJW’s NEW Immigrant Children’s Defense Corps Seeks Fellows to Begin Dec. 1st

From our friends at EJW:

Last month, we announced some very exciting news about a new justice AmeriCorps program that will fund legal assistance to unaccompanied immigrant children facing deportation. The new Immigrant Children’s Defense Corps is an initiative of that program, and we are now recruiting fellows to begin by Dec. 1!

About Immigrant Children’s Defense Corps

The Immigrant Children’s Defense Corps is an initiative of the new justice AmeriCorps program. Through this initiative, Equal Justice Works is partnering with Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC), Kids In Need of Defense (KIND), and the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) to place 55 legal professionals – lawyers and paralegals – in 14 cities across the United States.

We have created a separate website, joinjusticeamericorps.org, with more details on this new initiative, including how to apply and how you can help support the Immigrant Children’s Defense Corps.

Applications are now being accepted

Interested individuals should apply as soon as possible and must be ready to start Dec. 1! Applicants should submit materials directly to the host organization(s) of interest. A list of host organizations and their contact information is available at joinjusticeamericorps.org.

Special opportunity to meet our host organizations

We have set aside a special room at our Conference and Career Fair Oct. 24-25 for host organizations to interview and network with any recent graduates interested in applying for positions this fall. Law school professionals and current students also are invited to stop by and learn more about the program and our host organizations. You can learn more about Conference and Career Fair on our website.

Recent graduates do not have to register for the entire event to take advantage of this opportunity. Fill out this form to sign up for updates, and let us know if you’ll be attending.

NEXT STEPS

Additional information about this new initiative is available at joinjusticeamericorps.org. Feel free to email us at justiceamericorps@equaljusticeworks.org with any questions about the program.

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – October 17, 2014

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

Happy Friday everyone!  Next week is National Pro Bono Week!   There are great events happening all over the country.  Now is the time to recommit to serving your community.  One of the events next week is the NALP/PSJD Public Service Mini-Conference.  I’m looking forward to seeing all of you there.  As such, our next Digest will be on October 31st.  Enjoy next week celebrating all the wonderful law students and lawyers who give back to their community so selflessly.  And thank you!!!

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: If you know someone we should honor, drop me a line.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • There is still time to register for the PSJD Public Service Mini-Conference;
  • NLADA launches LegalAidResearch.org;
  • San Francisco court workers hold one-day strike
  • UT Law receives gift for Pro Bono Program;
  • HUD awards $325,000 to combat MN housing discrimination;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants:  Celebrate National Pro Bono Week;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

October 13, 2014 - Public interest career counselors, pro bono program managers, and other public-service career professionals from the law school and employer communities are invited to attend the 2014 NALP/PSJD Public Service Mini-Conference on Thursday, October 23rd at the Washington, DC office of O’Melveny & Myers LLP with additional programming for newcomers and a welcome reception on Wednesday, October 22nd.  Register here!

October 13, 2014 – The National Legal Aid and Defender Association (NLADA) has launched a new website called LegalAidResearch.org.  “Thanks to a generous grant from the Public Welfare Foundation, the National Legal Aid & Defender Association has developed this research database providing free access to research reports and other documents about evidence-based practices and research results on civil legal aid. The site provides access to over 250 different studies, which are now ready to browse.” (MassLegal Services)

October 14, 2014 – “A one-day strike held by San Francisco Superior Court workers with Service Employees International Union Local 1021 at courthouses across the city Tuesday slowed down the city’s justice system, court officials said.  SEIU Local 1021 workers set up picket lines at the city’s three courthouses, alleging that court management is bargaining over their labor contracts in bad faith.”  “The union filed charges with the state’s Public Employment Relations Board alleging that the court has refused to bargain over mandatory issues, withheld information from the union so it can bargain properly and has threatened the jobs of union members at the bargaining table.  Michael Yuen, the court executive officer for the San Francisco Superior Court, has been bargaining with the union since March and said the alleged unfair labor practices charge is ‘bogus.’”  (NBC Bay Area)

October 15, 2014 – “A recent $1 million gift to The University of Texas School of Law from Richard and Virginia “Ginni” Mithoff of Houston will support the school’s Pro Bono Program. The gift brings the Mithoffs’ total contributions to the program to $2 million.  By participating in the Pro Bono Program, students increase access to justice and build their professional skills by assisting individuals and communities in need.  The program will be renamed the Richard and Ginni Mithoff Pro Bono Program to acknowledge the donors who first supported it with an initial $1 million gift at its founding five years ago. The Mithoffs’ recent donation will increase the endowment for the program.” (UTexas News)

October 15, 2014 – “The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced Wednesday that it is awarding $325,000 in grants to a Minneapolis group working to combat housing discrimination.  ‘These funds support community-based organizations that do great work every day on the front lines in the fight for fairness and equality in our nation’s housing market,’ HUD Secretary Julián Castro said in a news release.  Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid, which serves the working poor through several offices in 20 counties, was awarded the grant through the housing agency’s Fair Housing Initiatives Program. The money is to be used to help educate ‘housing providers, local governments and potential victims of housing discrimination about their rights and responsibilities under the Fair Housing Act.’”  (StarTribune Minneapolis)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: 

The National Pro Bono Celebration focuses the nation’s attention on the increased need for pro bono services during these challenging economic times and celebrates the outstanding work of lawyers who volunteer their services throughout the year. It is essential that the entire legal community engage in conversation and action that results in equal access to justice for all. The energy generated by the National Pro Bono Celebration is a powerful force that helps us build a just legal system.   The ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service chose to launch this important initiative because of the increasing need for pro bono services during these harsh economic times and the unprecedented response of attorneys to meet this demand.  Find an event in your area and celebrate!!

Super Music Bonus!  

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – October 10, 2014

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

Happy Friday everyone!  Today is World Mental Health Day.  Take a little time to assess your own mental health today, and perhaps reach out to someone you suspect is struggling.

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: If you know someone we should honor, drop me a line.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Neighborhood Legal Services celebrates 50 years;
  • Social Security seeks MD attorneys for pro bono pilot project;
  • Ohio agencies awarded $19 mil in grants for crime victim services;
  • Canada pledges 9.76 mil CAD to Ukranian Legal Aid Project;
  • New pro bono clinic at UVA Law investigates claims of false conviction;
  • STAR awarded $1 mil in grants to expand services;
  • Legal Aid Ontario invests $600,000 to support domestic violence survivors;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants:  Former President Jimmy Carter;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

October 3, 2014 – Celebrating the 50th anniversary of Washington’s Neighborhood Legal Services Program, Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. praised the program’s lawyers for carrying on their work ‘with remarkable tenacity’ despite budget cuts and other obstacles in recent years.  “The program, which began in 1964, put lawyers in some of the District’s poorest communities. At one time the program had 10 offices across the city, but budget cuts forced it to scale back its operations. Today, the program has three offices in Wards 5, 7 and 8.”  “A grantee of the federal Legal Services Corp., the organization has struggled in recent years to cope with more cuts in funding. But Executive Director Hannah Lieberman said in her remarks Thursday that the program had ‘rebounded’ from those losses and that its ‘future is bright.’  ‘We continue to strive to eradicate many of the same inequities that existed when we started,’ Lieberman said.”  (National Law Journal Legal Times)

October 3, 2014 – “Implementation of a pro bono pilot in Maryland for attorneys interested in being a representative payee for a Social Security beneficiary was announced today by Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security. Representative payees, she said, provide crucial help to the most vulnerable individuals in our community with their Social Security and Supplemental Security Income payments.  ‘The Maryland Representative Payee Pro Bono Pilot offers attorneys a chance to fulfill the Court of Appeals’ aspirational goal of providing pro bono services – by assisting the young, elderly, and disabled with their Social Security benefits,’ Colvin said. ‘Attorneys are held to high ethical standards and will serve this at-risk population with the compassion and integrity they deserve.’”  “Payees receive monthly payments on behalf of the beneficiary and use the funds to meet the individual’s basic needs such as food, clothing, and shelter. They also keep records and ensure that Social Security funds are used to care for the recipient. Once the pilot is successful in Maryland, the agency will consider expanding to states nationwide.” (SeniorJournal.com)

October 3, 2014 – “Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced this week that he has awarded 282 Ohio crime victim services agencies with a total of nearly 19 million in grant funds. The programs receiving funding include: domestic violence shelters; human trafficking outreach centers; aged-out foster youth initiatives; sexual, elder, and child abuse programs; legal aid initiatives; and court appointed special advocate programs.  The funding was awarded as Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) and/or State Victims Assistance Act (SVAA) grant funding for 2014-2015.” (portsmouth-dailytimes.com)

October 3, 2014 – “The authorities of Canada have pledged 9.76 million Canadian dollars ($8.6 million) to Ukraine within the Quality and Accessible Legal Aid program, Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development stated.  ‘Today, I am pleased to announce that we are contributing $9.76 million towards the Quality and Accessible Legal Aid project,’ James Bezan from the Canadian House of Commons said in a statement published on the ministry’s website Friday.  According to the statement, the project will enable the vulnerable stratum of the Ukrainian population to protect their rights.”  (RIANovosti)

October 3, 2014 – “A new extracurricular pro bono effort at the University of Virginia School of Law is giving students hands-on experience investigating potential false convictions in the state’s criminal justice system and supporting the work of the school’s Innocence Project Clinic.  The Virginia Innocence Project Pro Bono Clinic recently transitioned from being a student-run organization (the former Virginia Innocence Project Student Group, or VIPS) to an independent clinic, but still operates with the same mission. Students vet claims of innocence from Virginia convicts who have exhausted all other avenues for appeal. The pro bono clinic exists separately from the Law School’s for-credit Innocence Project Clinic, and the work is done under the supervision of Innocence Project Clinic interim director Deirdre Enright.”  (University of Virginia School of Law)

October 6, 2014 – “Sexual Trauma Awareness and Response (STAR) was awarded two competitive funding grants totaling $1 million to refine and expand its services, the center announced on Monday.  ‘We are thrilled to receive this much-needed funding to expand our services to sexual assault survivors,’ Racheal Hebert, executive director of STAR said in the release. ‘These projects will allow STAR to strengthen our direct advocacy services to survivors, create new services to address the legal needs of survivors, enhance collaboration with our medical and criminal justice partners, and develop regional protocols to address sexual assault in the Capital Region.’ The first $500,000 grant comes courtesy of The Legal Assistance for Victims Program. It is a three-year grant aimed at providing legal services for sexual assault survivors.”  “The second grant, totaling $650,000 over a three-year period, comes via The Grants to Encourage Arrest Programs, which awarded the Louisiana Department of Justice and Attorney General the money.  According to the release, the Attorney General has subcontracted with STAR to rectify a lack of coordinated community response to sexual assault.”  (The Daily Reveille)

October 8, 2014 – “Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) is investing $600,000 over three years in a partnership with Luke’s Place, a centre devoted solely to improving the safety and experience of abused women and their children as they proceed through the family law process. This investment is to help improve access to justice for women who have experienced domestic violence.  Luke’s Place will work with the new family law service centre in Oshawa to provide a safe, supportive site for low-income abused women.”  (CNW)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: 

On this day in 2002, former President Jimmy Carter wins the Nobel Peace Prize “for his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development.”  After he left office in 1981, Carter and his wife Rosalynn created the Atlanta-based Carter Center in 1982 to advance human rights and alleviate human suffering. Since 1984, they have worked with Habitat for Humanity to build homes and raise awareness of homelessness. Among his many accomplishments, Carter has helped to fight disease and improve economic growth in developing nations and has served as an observer at numerous political elections around the world.  You can read more about the Carter Center and Mr. Carter’s great work.

Super Music Bonus!  On this date in 1935, the first American opera Porgy and Bess opens.

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – October 3, 2014

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

Happy Friday everyone!

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: If you know someone we should honor, drop me a line.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Holder files statement backing public defender suit;
  • Commission looks at Public Defense system in ID;
  • MO Public Defender funding restricted despite deficiencies found in report;
  • CA sets $3mil legal aid for unaccompanied minors;
  • Atlanta Legal Aid celebrates 90 years of service;
  • Federal government to provide $9 mil for direct representation of unaccompanied minors;
  • B.C. lawyers set to resume protest of lack of legal aid funds;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: Duncan Marsden;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

September 25, 2014 – “Attorney General Eric Holder filed a statement of interest in state court in Albany on Thursday, supporting a class-action lawsuit that alleges New York’s public-defender service fails to meet its constitutional obligations.”  “The lawsuit, Hurrell-Harring v. New York State, was brought by the New York Civil Liberties Union, arguing the state’s county-based system for providing legal defense is so uneven and underfunded that it deprives poor New Yorkers of their right to counsel.”  “The statement of interest from the justice department does not specifically detail problems with New York’s system, saying its interest is in ‘ensuring that all jurisdiction—federal, state, and local—are fulfilling their obligation under the Constitution to provide effective assistance of counsel to individuals facing criminal charges who cannot afford an attorney.’”  (capitalnewyork.com)

September 25, 2014 – “A new commission tasked with overseeing improvements to Idaho’s broken public defense system is asking lawmakers to prioritize where the work should begin.  Third District Judge Molly Huskey, who sits on the Public Defense Commission, asked a group of lawmakers Thursday whether they wanted the commission to first come up with recommendations on the minimum qualifications for public defenders or to focus on the contract terms that counties should use in working with them.”  The Commission is concerned that the problem is too complex to evaluate in a couple of months, and that their recommendations won’t be well-vetted.  “Some of the standards the commission will examine include limits on the number of cases a public defender can take on at one time and what resources a public defender should have available. But before recommendations can be made, the commission needs a solid picture of practices across the state — a process that is incomplete, Huskey said”  (Idaho Statesman)

September 25, 2014 – “Despite a recent study that found Missouri public defenders lack adequate time to represent their clients, additional state funding to bolster the overloaded system has been restricted by Gov. Jay Nixon.  The Legislature approved a $3.47 million increase for the Missouri State Public Defender system, but Nixon vetoed that funding.  However, the Legislature then came back this month and overrode that veto.  But despite the Legislature’s override of the veto, Nixon was still able to restrict the extra funding for public defender offices.” (emissourian.com)

September 27, 2014 – “California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill providing $3 million in legal services for unaccompanied minors arriving illegally in the state from Central America.  The bill also eliminated what Brown called ambiguity regarding the jurisdiction of state courts to make findings necessary to enable the federal government to grant the children special immigrant juvenile status.”  (Bloomberg)

September 27, 2014 – “As the primary provider of legal services to low-income people in the metropolitan area, Atlanta Legal Aid works to save children and families, save homes, help people access health care and protect consumers. The society serves clients from Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett counties.  Begun in 1924 by 17 prominent local attorneys and with an operating budget of $600, Atlanta Legal Aid saw only modest increases in funding during its early years.  For nine decades, Atlanta Legal Aid has meant access to justice for countless individuals. Last year, attorneys handled nearly 25,000 cases, primarily involving housing, family, and senior citizens’ issues.”  Read more and wish them a hearty congratulations.  (Neighborhood Newspapers)

September 30, 2014 – “The federal government says it will provide $9 million to two refugee organizations that give legal assistance to unaccompanied children who have streamed across the southern border. The Department of Health and Human Services said the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants will receive the supplemental funds through the  Unaccompanied Alien Children’s program, which it oversees.”  (Wall Street Journal)(subscription required) (New York Daily News)

October 2, 2014 – British Columbia, Canada lawyers “will resume their protest next week of what they call the chronic underfunding of legal aid.  Lawyers in Vancouver and Kamloops refused to schedule legal aid cases for a month during the summer, as they publicly urged the Liberal government to pump more money into the system.  Birgit Eder, a member of the Trial Lawyers Association of B.C.’s legal aid action committee, said the protest will resume next week, and will continue for the first full week of every month. And, Ms. Eder said, the withdrawal of services will expand to courthouses in Victoria, Surrey and Richmond.” (The Globe and Mail)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: Borden Ladner Gervais LLP (BLG) partner Duncan Marsden is the winner of the 2014 Canadian National Pro Bono Distinguished Service Award from Pro Bono Canada.  The award was given at the 5th National Pro Bono Conference taking place in Regina, Saskatchewan Canada last week.  Mr. Duncan was recognized for his outstanding commitment to providing pro bono services throughout his career.  Read more about his great work.  Congratulations!!

Super Music Bonus!  Sometimes you just gotta shake it off.

 

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – September 26, 2014

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

Happy Friday everyone!  As we start planning Pro Bono Week events, we’re thinking about the great student-run public interest events we’ve seen in the past.  If your student group is putting together an event, let us know.  We’ll highlight it on the PSJD site and PSJD Blog.  We love spreading the word!

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: If you know someone we should honor, drop me a line.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • MI Supreme Court merges indigent defense services;
  • NYCLU: New data shows holes in legal aid for poor;
  • ID counties want state to run indigent defense system;
  • Federal funds to bolster domestic violence programs in NY;
  • 2014 Sammies awarded;
  • Atlanta Legal Aid Society expanding services by using retirees;
  • Drexel Law School launches new legal clinic;
  • National pro bono group to aid with access to justice;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: Professional Development and Pro Bono staff of University of Connecticut School of Law, Texas Tech University School of Law, and American University Washington College of Law;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

September 17, 2014 – “The State Appellate Defender Office and the Michigan Appellate Assigned Counsel System have been merged by the Michigan Supreme Court.  The merger, effective immediately, was requested by the Appellate Defender Commission to promote efficiency and hold down costs.”  “Under the court’s merger order, SADO will administer the MAACS.”  (Michigan Lawyers Weekly)

September 17, 2014 – “In a new report examining public defenders in five counties, the New York Civil Liberties Union on Wednesday called state efforts to defend the poor in criminal cases an abject failure.  NYCLU is scheduled to go to trial next month in Albany in a lawsuit arguing that New York systemically provides inadequate staff and money for constitutionally required defense lawyers. The suit first filed in 2007 seeks defense attorneys at all arraignments, smaller caseloads and better funding with the state taking over the county-based system.”  (thedailystar.com)

September 18, 2014 – “County officials in Idaho approved a resolution Wednesday that would give the state the responsibility of managing the system that assigns public defenders to defendants who can’t afford an attorney.  Nearly 200 representatives from the state’s 44 counties voted on the proposal at the annual Idaho County Association conference in northern Idaho. The resolution will now go before state lawmakers for approval when they convene in January for the 2015 Legislature.” (MagicValley.com)

September 22, 2014 – “Two Rochester organizations working to end domestic violence are scheduled to receive money from the Department of Justice, according to Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, D-Fairport.  The Legal Aid Society of Rochester will receive $266,500 and the Rochester Society for the Protection and Care of Children is expected to receive $450,000, according to a news release.”  (Democrat & Chronicle)

September 22, 2014 – “On Monday, September 22, the Partnership for Public Service presented eight outstanding public servants with the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals (Sammies). Having earned the reputation as the “Oscars” of public service, the achievements of the 2014 medal recipients range from improving the lives of paralyzed veterans to arguing 125 cases before the Supreme Court to recovering nearly a billion dollars in stolen Medicare funds. The top medal, Federal Employee of the Year, was presented to Rana Hajjeh and a team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for leading a global vaccination campaign, the Hib Initiative, which will save the lives of millions of children.”  (Partnership for Public Service)

September 22, 2014 – “The Atlanta Legal Aid Society is stepping up its efforts to tap into the retired lawyer community for volunteers to help clients over the phone, thanks to a grant from the federal Legal Services Corp.  The LSC has awarded the group $213,000 over two years to fund a lawyer and a coordinator to organize the effort.  Atlanta Legal Aid is using its Georgia Senior Legal Hotline as the prototype for legal aid by phone. Last year the hotline fielded 8,400 calls and opened cases for 3,500 people 60 and older.”  “The hotline lawyers offer advice, provide necessary forms and undertake limited intervention, calling and emailing government agencies and lawyers for mortgage companies or landlords.”  (Daily Report)(free subscription required)

September 22, 2014 – “This fall, Drexel University’s Thomas R. Kline School of Law launched a new Community Lawyering Clinic at Drexel’s Dana and David Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships, located at 35th and Spring Garden Streets. The clinic provides law students with the opportunity to gain firsthand experience working with real clients, while empowering and serving the neighboring Mantua and Powelton Village communities of West Philadelphia.”  “The clinic offers referrals, legal advice and direct representation in matters involving family, consumer protection, property and other legal areas affecting the community as well as training, pro bono programs and workshops on community-wide legal issues.” (DrexelNOW)

September 24, 2014 – “As legal aid budgets are squeezed, more members of the public are looking for pro bono services to help with their legal needs. Into that gap comes the recently formed Pro Bono Canada.  Incorporated last fall, Pro Bono Canada is an initiative born out of the five provincial pro bono organizations in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, and Quebec. It will be having it’s coming-out party at the National Pro Bono Conference in Regina this week, which will be for many lawyers their first exposure to the organization.”  “The idea of Pro Bono Canada is that we will not be direct program deliverers, but we’ll be helping support the expansion of pro bono,” says Dennis O’Connor, former associate chief justice of Ontario and chairman of organization.  (Canadian Lawyer)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: 

University of Connecticut School of Law’s Dash for a Difference allows participants to get to know Hartford while engaging in service throughout the city. Teams venture into the various neighborhoods of Hartford to take part in service projects benefiting social service and community development agencies. This allows for exposure to a variety of service events including cleaning shelters, feeding the homeless, gardening alongside residents of transitional housing and cleaning up parks and community spaces. In addition, participants learn about the rich cultural aspects of the city.   The service project with Hands on Hartford was a voluntary component of the orientation program and was held on Friday, August 22nd.

On August 15, new Texas Tech University School of Law students participated in the final project of New Student Orientation: Community Service/Pro Bono Action. This was the second year new Tech Law students have partnered with various organizations around the city to serve their new neighborhoods and communities.  More than 175 students participated at 5 different service locations including food and clothing collections, the arboretum, and local children’s groups.  This service comes at the end of a long week of Orientation classes and transition and serves as a hands-on reminder to the new law students that no matter how long or stressful a work week might be, we all have a responsibility to become involved and serve our local communities.

American University Washington College of Law’s IMBY (“In My Back Yard”) Public Service Day is a celebration of everything good in the WCL community and a chance to be part of positive work being done at various organizations all over the District. IMBY sets the tone for the spirit of public service and community involvement that pervades at WCL.  For 1Ls, IMBY is a fun way to kick off orientation week, get out and see the city, and meet new classmates in a relaxed environment. For 2Ls, 3Ls, faculty and staff, IMBY is a chance to reconnect with the community and to welcome incoming 1Ls in the spirit of public service.

Super Music Bonus!  

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gs069dndIYk

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – September 19, 2014

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

Happy Friday everyone!  I’m writing to you this week from Happy Valley.  So excited to see a game at my alma mater.  I know the semester is starting (starting?) to get hectic, but remember to take a minute or two to touch base with what recharges you.  You can’t help others if you’ve got nothing in the tank.

And thank you all for sending in your 1L Orientation Service Projects.  There are some great ideas out there to replicate at your school, and a wonderful pick me up when you see all the hard work being done!

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: If you know someone we should honor, drop me a line.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Widener Law Veterans Law Clinic honored;
  • Nova Scotia Legal Aid expands services for Halifax-area youths;
  • Public Council expands litigation and lobbying efforts;
  • TX veterans to receive funds for legal services;
  • New program helps NM vets with legal assistance;
  • Legal Aid of Western Missouri marks 50 years;
  • Boston VLP receives grant for bankruptcy help;
  • San Francisco Supervisors ok $2.1 mil in legal services funding for immigrant children;
  • NYC agencies to provide legal services to migrant children;
  • 3 lawyers win MacArthur Genius Award;
  • 2014 recipients of Skirnick, Kaufman and One Day’s Work Fellowships for public service announced;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: Professional Development and Pro Bono staff of Georgetown University Law Center, Columbia University School of Law, and Rutgers Law School;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

September 10, 2014 – “The Widener University School of Law and its Veterans Law Clinic are being honored with a 2014 Delaware Governor’s Outstanding Volunteer Award for community service”  “The Veterans Law Clinic, based at Widener Law Delaware, provides free legal aid to disabled veterans and their dependents with claims pending before the Department of Veterans Affairs.”  Congratulations!!!  (delawareonline)

September 10, 2014 – “Young people who are not even in trouble with the law will soon be able to get help with issues involving school, housing and income assistance, police complaints, licence suspensions and Protection of Property Act matters through the Nova Scotia Legal Aid Commission in Halifax.  ‘We know that when people turn to us for criminal or family law assistance there are often many other stressors contributing to those issues, which are sometimes just symptoms rather than problems that exist in a vacuum,’ Megan Longley, managing lawyer of Nova Scotia Legal Aid’s youth justice office, said in an email.”  “No new money is going into the expanded services. The commission’s staff lawyers, who have already been informally providing these services to existing clients, will handle these cases on top of their regular workloads.”  (Herald News)

September 10, 2014 – “The former legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California will lead an expansion of Public Counsel’s litigation and lobbying efforts across the country.  Mark Rosenbaum, most recently chief counsel of the ACLU of Southern California, is now director of Public Counsel Opportunity Under Law, a new initiative at Los Angeles-based Public Counsel, the nation’s largest pro bono organization.”  “Hernán Vera, president and chief executive officer of Public Counsel, said the initiative expands on a program launched in 2009 to broaden the nonprofit’s reach.” (National Law Journal)(subscription required)

September 12, 2014 – “Legal aid services for indigent defendants in Texas are receiving a boost from the Texas Access to Justice Foundation.  The nonprofit has announced grants of $426,000 to 11 organizations, including one in San Antonio, to help fund services specifically for Texas veterans.”  Organizations receiving funds are Baylor University School of Law, Waco; Cathedral Justice Project, Houston; Community Justice Program, San Antonio; Fort Bend Lawyers Care, Richmond; Houston Bar Foundation, Houston and surrounding area; Jefferson County Bar Foundation, Beaumont; Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas, Fort Worth (also includes Dallas, North Texas, Panhandle, and West Texas); Lone Star Legal Aid, Houston (includes Gulf Coast and East Texas); Oficina Legal del Pueblo Unido, Inc. (Texas Civil Rights Project), statewide; Tarrant County Bar Foundation, Fort Worth; Texas Legal Services Center, Austin (statewide).  (San Antonio Business Journal)

September 14, 2014 – “Nonprofit legal services organization New Mexico Legal Aid recently partnered with the New Mexico Department of Veterans Services, the New Mexico Veterans Integration Center and the State Bar Young Lawyers Division to create the Veterans Justice Project. This program provides free legal assistance to low-income veterans and helps them navigate the application process to receive benefits.”  “With funding from the [Legal Services Corporation] and other sources, New Mexico Legal Aid is able to provide assistance and create programs that address pressing needs. Programs like the Veterans Justice Project get other leaders in the community to take notice.”  (Albuquerque Journal)

September 14, 2014 – “Working for Kansas City’s eighth-largest law firm is kind of a low-glamour affair.  Its downtown offices are respectable, but not like the palatial digs that some others sport. And most of the firm’s 56 lawyers spend their time doing legal work that seldom comes in the door at the pricier addresses.  Such as helping poor people get health care when they are denied coverage. Keeping indigent clients in their homes while a landlord-tenant dispute plays out. Standing up for a domestic abuse victim as she fights for custody or child support.  That is what Legal Aid of Western Missouri has done for a half-century now: Provide legal services at no cost to the region’s neediest residents.”  Congratulations and here’s to 50 more! (The Kansas City Star)

September 14, 2014 – “The Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association has received a $158,000 grant to develop new legal aid clinics and technology to help low-income clients with bankruptcy.  The project will test ‘pop-up’ bankruptcy clinics, a customized virtual law firm platform and videoconferencing to train pro bono attorneys in parts of the state where no volunteer bankruptcy attorneys are available.  The project is one of 11 inaugural recipients of Legal Services Corp.’s $2.5 million Pro Bono Innovation Fund, a competitive grant that invests in projects to identify and promote innovations in pro bono for low-income legal aid clients.”  (News Observer)

September 17, 2014 – “San Francisco [California] approved $2.1 million in spending Tuesday on legal services for immigrant youths who fled Central America and face deportation after crossing the border illegally to seek refuge in the United States.  The funding comes as U.S. Customs and Border Protection is apprehending a larger number of undocumented youths entering the country and a so-called rocket docket is in effect fast-tracking these cases through the courts in response to a directive from the Obama administration.”  (The Examiner)

September 17, 2014 – “Child migrants who have recently arrived in New York City and are going through deportation hearings will now have access to services from multiple agencies, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Commissioner of Immigrant Affairs Nisha Agarwal said Tuesday. According to the mayor’s office, some 1,350 unaccompanied children have been placed with their families or sponsors in the city between January and July of this year. The services, which will be provided at New York City Immigration Court, will help the children enroll in school, state-funded health insurance through Child Health Plus and medical and mental health treatment. Legal services will be made available as well, and this is the first time direct services have been made available at the court, according to the mayor’s office.”  (Metro)

September 17, 2014 – In the Class of 2014 MacArthur Fellows, there are three wonderful advocates for change.  Mary L. Bonauto, Director of the Civil Rights Project for the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders; Sarah Deer,Professor of Law at the William Mitchell College of Law; and Jonathan Rapping,President and Founder of Gideon’s Promise.  Read more about their wonderful work, and perhaps you too will be inspired along these lines.  (MacArthur Foundation)

September 18, 2014 – “Twenty-three public service visionaries and social entrepreneurs from Harvard Law School have been selected as recipients of grants from the Public Service Venture Fund, a unique program that awards up to $1 million each year to help graduating Harvard Law students and recent graduates obtain their ideal jobs in public service.”  Check these outstanding recipients and their amazing work.  (Harvard Law Today)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: 

One of the highlights of Georgetown University Law Center’s Orientation Week is the opportunity for students to spend a morning or afternoon giving back to the DC community by participating in a 1L Orientation Service Project. For many 1Ls, this event also serves as a way to meet classmates, staff and faculty, explore Washington DC, and learn about the wealth of service and pro bono opportunities available at Georgetown Law.  This year approximately 300 students went to 7 volunteer sites over two days. The projects took place the first two days of orientation, and current students as well as staff and faculty members serve as “project leads” to help oversee the projects and welcome the students. Projects vary from year to year, but usually include work at food banks, soup kitchens, shelters, national parks, and other social service organizations.

Columbia University School of Law holds a Community Service Day immediately prior to the formal orientation.  A large portion of the entering class participates, and this year hosted ten projects, including volunteering at a clothing pantry for battered women and their families, work at a large food bank, gardening, cleaning and painting at various local parks, projects with the elderly, a project for veterans, cooking in a soup kitchen and stocking a food pantry, and various projects at local public schools.  Each group is led by a staff member or upper year student and we invite faculty to participate as well.

Rutgers Law School incoming students volunteer to paint, clean, organize or do whatever else the local libraries in Camden need on the Saturday before classes start. Likewise, incoming students at Rutgers-Newark have served a variety of sites in the city over the years.

Super Music Bonus!  This week we celebrate Chris Brown’s alma mater.

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – September 12, 2014

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

Happy Friday everyone!  We continue our focus on 1L Orientation Service Projects through this month.

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: If you know someone we should honor, drop me a line.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Duke Law clinic helps exonerate man imprisoned for 22 years;
  • Report questions billings to IA state public defender;
  • Iowa Supreme Court declines to adopt diploma privilege;
  • BC lawyers holding advice-a-thons;
  • Bay Area Legal Services receives grant;
  • Legal Aid Ontario launches Durham family law centre;
  • Foundation launches website to connect volunteers & immigrants;
  • Case Western Reserve receives gift to endow Intellectual Property Center;
  • LSC awards 11 Pro Bono Innovation Grants;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: Professional Development and Pro Bono staff of University of Wisconsin Law School, University of Houston Law Center, Baylor University Law School;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

September 5, 2014 – “Michael Parker spent 22 years in jail for crimes he did not commit—and now, thanks to work by Duke’s Wrongful Convictions Clinic, he is finally free.”  Parker had sought out the clinic’s help after hearing about their success in a similar case.  “Parker’s case is the fifth since 2010 to be overturned through work by the clinic. Two convictions were overturned both in 2010 and in 2012, and a sixth client’s release is pending for later in 2014.”  (Duke Chronicle)

September 5, 2014 – “Private attorneys working as public defenders overbilled the state by $311,182 during a four-year period, according to a report released Thursday by Iowa’s state auditor.  Auditor Mary Mosiman reviewed data from July 1, 2009, through Aug. 31, 2013. Her report says 13 attorneys filed improper mileage claims, and 11 billed for work days that were longer than 12 hours — in some cases, claiming to work more than 24 hours in a day.”  “The investigation was conducted at the request of the State Public Defender’s Office after concerns with reimbursement claims. A previous internal investigation led to criminal charges for one attorney last year and prompted the office to cancel contracts with some attorneys.”  (Daily Reporter)

September 5, 2014 – The Iowa Supreme Court declined to establish a diploma privilege and “will take no further action on a recommendation from the Iowa State Bar Association in December, which suggested changes in admission procedures, including eliminating the bar exam requirement for graduates of the state’s two law schools who want to practice in Iowa.  The Uniform Bar Exam, a test accepted in 14 states, would have been available for those who wanted to take it.”  However, the Iowa Board of Bar Examiners will look at alternatives to address the Bar’s concerns about the delay in graduates beginning their careers while they await exam results.  One of the proposed options is to allow third year law students to take the February bar exam.  (The Des Moines Register)

September 8, 2014 – “On a Friday afternoon in Vancouver’s Victory Square park, a dozen or so tents, tables and booths are filled with lawyers in suits and ties listening to clients of many backgrounds, binders of documents at the handy.”  “Organizers of the Pro Bono Going Public events say the services are intended for low-income people who face barriers in dealing with their legal troubles. The events started in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside last week and will soon be available in four other B.C. cities: Surrey, Victoria, Kelowna and Kamloops.”  Organizer Jamie Maclaren (who is also Executive Director of the Access Pro Bono Society of B.C.)  said “the ‘advice-a-thon’ is a chance for lawyers to do their part in helping those without means access an often opaque and complex justice system.”  Maclaren is also trying to exert pressure on the provincial government to fund legal aid more properly.  (The Tyee)

September 9, 2014 – “Bay Area Legal Services will receive a nearly $500,000 grant to bolster civil and criminal legal assistance for adult and minor victims of domestic violence, dating violence and sexual assault. The money is made available under a grants initiative funded by the federal Violence Against Women Act.  Last year, Bay Area Legal Services, a nonprofit, helped about 1,200 victims receive protective injunctions, child custody and alimony.”  (Tampa Bay Business Journal)

September 9, 2014 – “Legal Aid Ontario has opened a new centre in Durham, offering legal help to Durham residents navigating the family court system.”  “The Family Law Service Centre will be staffed by a lawyer, a legal assistant and there will be another legal assistant and duty counsel available at the courthouse.”  (durhamregion.com)

September 9, 2014 – “In anticipation of an eventual federal overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws and a growing immigrant population in Silicon Valley, Mountain View-based Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF) launched last week a new online tool to recruit volunteers for nonprofit organizations that provide legal services to the 200,000 low-income immigrants living in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.  Dubbed CONEC, the tool allows volunteers to search for opportunities via ZIP code, distance or key words and then matches their skills, location and availability with needs of local nonprofit legal-services groups. The website also provides a calendar detailing volunteer opportunities, posts upcoming immigration workshops and offers information about nonprofits who might need volunteer help, from Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto to Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County and the Asian Law Alliance.”  (Palo Alto online)

September 9, 2014 – “The Spangenberg Family Foundation, a Dallas-based philanthropic organization established by the family of Case Western Reserve University School of Law alum Erich Spangenberg, has committed $3 million to endow the university’s Intellectual Property (IP) Center.The newly endowed Spangenberg Center for Law, Technology & the Arts will allow more opportunities for students to gain interdisciplinary, practical experience in the rapidly growing field of IP law. The pledge also provides faculty members and visiting fellows more resources to participate in important IP research.”  (newswise)

September 10, 2014 – The Legal Services Corporation announced today that eleven organizations will receive a Pro Bono Innovation grant to totally more than $2.2 million.  The 11 organizations are Atlanta Legal Aid Society, Colorado Legal Services, Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, Legal Assistance of Western New York (LawNY), Maryland Legal Aid, Montana Legal Services Association, Northwest Justice Project, Philadelphia Legal Assistance, Prairie State Legal Services, Inc., Utah Legal Services, and Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association. Each of their programs are outlines in the LSC press release. (LSC)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: 

 On August 28, incoming University of Wisconsin Law School students participated in Community Service Day, an annual day of volunteering with local nonprofit agencies.  As part of orientation week, the event is designed to connect new students’ educational experience to public service, while giving them a chance to get to know each other.   Students volunteering in this year’s Community Service Day pulled weeds, made blankets for children in need, painted and cleaned, among other activities.

The University of Houston Law Center Community Service Day 2014 saw over 180 1L students, faculty and staff work at the Houston Food Bank and Neighborhood Centers and Own the Dream.  At the Houston Food Bank, the Law Center volunteers assembled 14,232 lbs. of food, which will provide 11,800 meals to economically challenged families in the greater Harris County community. At the Neighborhood Centers and Own the Dream, the Law Center volunteers worked along with attorneys to do intakes of Deferred Action Childhood Arrival (“DACA”) cases. They processed approximately 60 cases on Saturday.

Baylor University Law School 1L Orientation Community Service Project has seen 100% participation since its inception.   During their first-year orientation, every student participates in a community service event. These events have ranged from helping build a house with Habitat for Humanity Waco, working with Meals on Wheels preparing food, and cleaning up Waco’s historic Cameron Park.

Super Music Bonus!  This week the Fellows battle it out.  All in good fun, of course.

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – September 5, 2014

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

Happy Friday everyone!  Welcome to September!  I don’t know about your area, but the late summer heat here is awful!  But, despite the high temps, we have some dedicated students out there helping their communities.  We continue our focus on 1L Orientation Service Projects through this month.

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: If you know someone we should honor, drop me a line.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Alberta legal aid lawyers taking action over funding;
  • Federal grants to aid victims of violence in ND Bakken region;
  • Victoria legal aid restored for family violence victims;
  • ME Volunteer Lawyers Project launches new legal aid program;
  • Court fee hike supports PA legal services;
  • CO Public Defenders want juveniles out of restraints in court;
  • Legal Aid Ontario funding law school clinics;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: Professional Development and Pro Bono staff of Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School, University of Pennsylvania Law School, Brooklyn Law School;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

August 28, 2014 – “Alberta’s legal-aid lawyers are threatening to clog the courts with applications from people denied coverage to draw attention to what the lawyers say is a severely underfunded system.  Ian Savage, president of the Criminal Defence Lawyers Association in Calgary, says the government has raised the bar so high that people living on income support or with major disabilities can’t get a legal-aid lawyer.”  “Justice Minister Jonathan Denis has rejected calls for increased funding and has instead asked the federal government to provide more money to Alberta. He has said he is willing to look at what can be done in next year’s budget for legal aid.”  (Global News)

August 28, 2014 – “The North Dakota Council on Abused Women’s Services has a three-part plan for its share of a $3 million grant from the Department of Justice. It includes counselors, legal services and advocacy.  CAWS North Dakota is one of five recipients sharing the award from the Office on Violence Against Women special initiative.  The grants are to provide services for victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking, and to help local and tribal governments prosecute violence against women in the Bakken Region of North Dakota and Montana.”  (Bismark Tribune)

August 31, 2014 – “Victoria Legal Aid will restore free legal help for family violence victims in child custody battles, reversing cuts that left some to face their attackers in court alone.  The organisation stopped funding legal assistance for people in the Family Court if they were against a person who was also without a lawyer last year, amid drastic cuts to its services to save money.”  “From Monday, Legal Aid will make an exception for family violence victims whose perpetrators had been convicted of breaching an intervention order or other family-violence related offences, or if the police or government department had helped them move due to safety concerns.”  (The Age)

August 31, 2014 – “The Maine Volunteer Lawyers Project, with the cooperation of lawyers in Washington County, is getting ready to launch a new legal aid program to serve needy people.  The Courthouse Assistance Program will provide legal aid to people on a walk-in, first-come, first-served basis. They will receive a free initial consultation with a volunteer lawyer.  People will be screened according to income level using the same guidelines as Pine Tree Legal Assistance and social service agencies.”  (Bangor Daily News)

September 1, 2014 – “A $1 increase in court surcharges that took effect Aug. 8 is generating more revenue to fund legal services for low-income Pennsylvanians, a step in a broader effort to expand access to justice.  The additional surcharge on court costs and filing fees is authorized under legislation sponsored by Rep. Tarah Toohil, R-116, Butler Twp., that was signed into law in July.  The money will support the Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network, which assists the poor in civil cases that often involve domestic violence, eviction and emergency custody issues.  The extra money will help address a problem facing thousands of citizens who qualify for that assistance based on poverty income guidelines but are being turned away because legal aid has insufficient funding, said Ms. Toohil.”  (thetimes-tribune.com)

September 1, 2014 – In all but three [Colorado] courthouses, juveniles as young as 10 are led into courtrooms wearing restraints that can weigh as much as 25 pounds. Defense attorneys and advocates say the long-term effects of shackling juveniles can be devastating for children still developing their self-worth.  Sheriff’s departments — which are in charge of the custody of all offenders and courthouse security — cannot readily recall a recent assault or escape attempt by a juvenile inside a courtroom, but most still say the risks of removing restraints are too great. Judges, who have the ultimate say of whether juveniles wear restraints in their courtroom, have repeatedly deferred to the sheriff’s judgment.”  “Public defenders and child advocates have been working with judges and law enforcement for several years to change the practice. Since the beginning of the year, three districts — Boulder, Jefferson and La Plata counties — have started unshackling juveniles while they are in the courtrooms.”  “Law enforcement and public defenders in each of those counties said there have been no problems inside the courtrooms since they started removing the restraints. Some even reported improved behavior.”  Advocates are fighting to create a state-wide policy.  (The Denver Post)

September 2, 2014 – “Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) is providing over $2 million over three years to six university-operated legal clinics to provide family law services for low-income Ontarians.  Starting in September (January for the University of Windsor), four student legal aid services societies will begin offering family law services. The University of Toronto’s Downtown Legal Services will be using the funds to expand its existing family law division. All of these societies will use a combination of summer students, in-term students and staff lawyers to broaden access to justice by addressing the unmet legal needs of family litigants.”  (CNW)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: 

Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School Community Service Day took place on August 15, 2014.  Students participated in a variety of projects including visiting a prison, conducting a phone bank to update the re-entry guide for formerly incarcerated citizens, did police ride-alongs, volunteering at a food bank, and helping to collect and ship books for students in Africa.

University of Pennsylvania Law School’s Orientation Service Day connected students, staff and faculty with five sites.  More than half of the incoming class signs up and the sites are set up throughout Philadelphia so that students can get to know the community they’ll be part of for the next three years.  It starts with breakfast and ends with a late lunch.  Students clean neighborhoods, spruce up schools, work in urban farms/gardens, sort food/clothes, etc. Current students, staff and faculty are invited to participate.

On August 17, Brooklyn Law School held its Inaugural Orientation Community Service Day, co-sponsored by Brooklyn Law Students for the Public Interest (BLSPI) and the Environmental Law Society. New and continuing students came together to beautify the area around Gowanus Canal by painting, gardening, and sifting compost. The event was held in partnership with the Gowanus Canal Conservancy, a nonprofit organization that works to maintain and develop the canal for the public.  Each group was led by a team of upper classman as well as one staff member. All faculty and staff were also invited to participate.

Super Music Bonus!  This week we honor Mary’s home state.

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – August 29, 2014

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

Happy Friday everyone!  See below for more great Orientation Service Projects!

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: If you know someone we should honor, drop me a line.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • New commission to make recommendations on access to justice in AZ;
  • Young immigrants could benefit from proposed bill in CA;
  • Legal Aid Alberta welcomes new funds;
  • Jacksonville (FL) to cut legal aid for thousands;
  • Legal Aid groups to get $30 million from bank settlement;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: Professional Development and Pro Bono staff of Boston University School of Law, Wayne State University, The University of Iowa College of Law, DePaul University College of Law, and George Washington University Law School;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

August 22, 2014 – “A new commission will make recommendations on ways to improve access to justice, including use of Arizona’s legal system and obtaining legal representation.  Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Scott Bales ordered the formation of the Commission on Access to Justice, naming Court of Appeals Judge Lawrence Winthrop as its chairman.  Other members include lower court judges, court officials and legal aid providers.  Bales set initial priorities that include helping people representing themselves in legal matters to get access and fair processing of family court and eviction cases. Another is encouraging law firms to provide free legal services or financial support for legal aid.  Winthrop says he also hopes to encourage more business involvement. He says a business can suffer when an employee is burdened by dealing with a legal matter.”  (azdailysun.com)

August 22, 2014 – “Young immigrants poised to flood California’s courts could get extra legal help under a bill offering $3 million to bolster legal services.”  “The newly announced bill would set aside $3 million that would be distributed to nonprofit organizations that offer legal services. Many of the immigrants pressing their cases could be seeking refugee status.”  (The Sacramento Bee)

August 22, 2014 – “Legal Aid Alberta welcomed the news Friday that the province will cover some unexpected costs that have taxed the already overburdened agency.  Alberta Justice and the Solicitor General confirmed it will provide funding over and above Legal Aid’s 2014/15 budget to cover costs when a judge orders the province to pay for a client’s defence lawyer.  Legal Aid used to get one or two such orders a year, but they have had more than 40 so far in 2014 and expect more.”  Deputy Minister Tim Grant said “his department would cover all orders for state-funded counsel until March 2015 and revisit the issue during next year’s budget discussions.” (Global News)

August 25, 2014 – “Thousands of working poor in Jacksonville could soon be out of luck when looking for a lawyer in a civil case.  The Executive Director of Jacksonville Area Legal Aid says he’ll need to make big cuts if more than $400,000 in funding taken out of the budget isn’t restored.”  “In Mayor Brown’s budget for next year, the agency was set to receive $433,000 to help them continue to provide those services. The Finance Committee looked at the budget, and slashed those funds completely.  JALA also didn’t get any funding last year.”  (First Coast News)

August 27, 2014 – “The $17 billion settlement that Bank of America reached with the Justice Department last week will result in at least $30 million for a program that raises funds for the nation’s providers of civil legal services to the poor.  The settlement — which resolved claims that the bank and its subsidiaries sold billions of dollars of mortgage-backed securities without fully disclosing to investors the quality of the loans — requires Bank of America to allocate $7 billion to consumer relief efforts. Of that portion, at least $30 million will go to the Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts program, known as IOLTA.  The program, which is run independently in all 50 states, D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands, pools interest generated from client funds being held by lawyers in each state, and distributes the proceeds to civil legal services providers in that state.”  (Washington Post)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: 

The Boston University School of Law Pre-Orientation Service Day saw more than 80 1Ls serve six locations.  Participating in service day is great way to get to know Boston, while volunteering for local non-profit organizations and making friends with your new classmates at the same time.

Incoming students at Wayne State University Law School, as well as returning students, faculty and staff, volunteered at the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative site near campus in Detroit, MI on Thursday, August 21, 2014.  Tasks ranged from planting and harvesting produce to demolition and construction of structures located on the farm.

Over 160 new JD, LLM, and exchange students at The University of Iowa College of Law participated in Tuesday’s orientation service event coordinated by the Citizen Lawyer Program.  These newest members of the Iowa Law community were joined by a dozen upper-class leaders and worked with six organizations at locations around Johnson County.

Iowa Law’s orientation service event is an annual tradition and introduces students to the importance of service in the legal profession and the work of the Citizen Lawyer Program.

DePaul University College of Law hosted its third annual 1L Service Day the day after 1L orientation.  The College of Law’s Pro Bono & Community Service Initiative coordinates the service day with the assistance of University Ministry and the Center for Public Interest Law. Law staff and faculty, as well as 2Ls and 3Ls, serve as site leaders.  This year, volunteers headed out to six different sites throughout Chicago and packed food boxes, read to children, served meals and made beds at a homeless shelter, organized classroom libraries, visited with seniors, and sorted clothing donations.   DePaul’s service day includes time for reflection about the University’s Vincentian mission and the impact and meaning of service and social justice.

George Washington University Law School’s Public Interest & Pro Bono Pre-Orientation was held on Wednesday, August 13 (the day before the general orientation for all 1Ls).  Approximately 90 new 1L students took part in the Community Service Program. This year’s project involved painting benches, lamps, and fences near the Smithsonian with the National Park Service.

Super Music Bonus!  This week is the battle of the Big 10 with myself and Meghan.

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