Archive for Public Interest Law News Bulletin

PSJD Public Interest News Digest – April 18, 2014

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

Happy Friday!  We are back!  I hope you learned as much as we did at the Conference.  Now it’s time to put that knowledge and energy to good use.

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

Here are the week’s headlines:

  •  Idaho’s new Public Defense Act not going to fix the problems?;
  • Endowment funds Touro law students working with veterans;
  • Greenberg Traurig launches nationwide pro bono effort with KIND;
  • GA Government signs Executive Order to establish conflict defender;
  • Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid receives grant funds to assist seniors;
  • CT examines way to provide low-cost legal aid;
  • Legal Aid Society of Louisville gets grant to help clients in IRS disputes;
  • Legal Aid Alberta faces funding crunch;
  • Group wants TX High Court to review court fee rules for the poor;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: Emily Ward;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

April 5, 2014 - “Idaho’s public defender system has been called a deficient, unconstitutional patchwork and a magnet for lawsuits, and a new law addressing the problems won’t accomplish much, critics say.”  “The Public Defense Act, signed into law last week by Gov. C.L. ‘Butch’ Otter, is intended to to solve some of these problems. But critics say the law will burden counties with higher costs and doesn’t go far enough to fix the flawed system.  The law bans fixed-fee contracts that pay attorneys a lump sum to tackle all of a county’s cases. That could increase costs in counties that will need to hire more lawyers.”  “The new law will replace the Public Defense Subcommittee with a state Public Defense Commission consisting of one member each from the state House and Senate; four gubernatorial appointments from the Idaho Association of Counties, state Appellate Public Defenders Office, the Idaho Juvenile Justice Commission and an experienced defense attorney; as well as a representative appointed by the Idaho Supreme Court chief justice.  That Public Defense Act sets aside $300,000 to establish the commission, pay members’ travel and provide training for public defenders statewide.”  This is not enough say critics, and many groups are watching closely to see if the Act provides any reforms to the system.  (MagicValley.com)

April 6, 2014 – A $200,000 endowment will fund students at Long Island’s Touro Law Center who are studying legal challenges facing veterans.  The program is sponsored by the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System.  The endowment, announced last week, includes $90,000 for an annual scholarship awarded to a Touro student focusing on veterans’ mental health, disabilities and other issues. A separate $90,000 fund will sponsor an annual summer fellowship. And $20,000 will pay for a conference on veterans’ mental health as related to their legal problems.  That includes keeping veterans who commit nonviolent crimes from ending up behind bars, instead providing them with behavioral evaluations and treatment.” (Daily Journal)

April 7, 2014 – “International law firm Greenberg Traurig, LLP has announced a new pro bono initiative involving 150 of its attorneys in seven offices as well as the creation of a full-time fellowship position. Greenberg Traurig is partnering with Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), an organization founded by the Microsoft Corporation and Angelina Jolie, to provide pro bono legal services to unaccompanied children in immigration proceedings.”  “In addition to devoting significant pro bono work to this project, Greenberg Traurig is funding a full-time fellowship position at KIND through Equal Justice Works, a non-profit organization that facilitates two-year fellowships for recent law school graduates pursuing careers in public service. This position is part of a broader fellowship program.”  (Digital Journal)

April 8, 2014 -  “Georgia’s governor signed an executive order Tuesday to provide $4 million to cover costs associated with providing lawyers without conflicting interests for poor defendants.  The order signed by Gov. Nathan Deal moves money from the Governor’s Emergency Fund to the Georgia Public Defenders Standards Council.  The allocation comes after the state Supreme Court ruled last year that lawyers in the same public defender’s office cannot represent co-defendants in a criminal case if doing so would create a conflict of interest. The ruling effectively meant that many cases must be referred to outside lawyers.”  (Enquirer-Herald)

April 10, 2014 – “The St. Cloud office of Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid has received a grant of Older Americans Act funds from the Central Minnesota Council on Aging to provide legal services for seniors residing in Cass County.  The funds will be used to provide legal advice, counseling and representation in court and administrative hearings. There is no cost for these services.”  (Pilot-Independent)

April 10, 2014 -  “A Judicial Branch work group is looking into how the state might provide low-cost legal representation for people who lack the resources to pay standard legal fees but who have too many assets to qualify for legal aid.  The Workgroup on Modest/Moderate Means was created in January at the recommendation of the Judicial Branch’s Access to Justice Program. According to Chief Justice Chase Rogers, the group’s goal is to assess ‘the feasibility of establishing a voluntary statewide modest means program’ with the support of state bar associations and the 26,000 licensed lawyers in the state.”  The group held it’s first meeting in March, and expect to submit a plan for creating a statewide program to the chief justice by this fall.  (Connecticut Law Tribune)

April 12, 2014 -  “The Legal Aid Society of Louisville has received a $50,000 grant from the Internal Revenue Service to expand the free legal services society lawyers provide to low-income taxpayers involved in disputes with the IRS.  The society’s Low Income Taxpayer Clinic provides legal help for income-eligible taxpayers with disputes with the IRS that involve such issues as: unpaid tax debt, non-filings, lack of a Social Security number, incorrect claiming of dependents, help in obtaining the Earned Income Tax Credit, and debt relief for some spouses in specific circumstances.”  (The Courier-Journal)

April 12, 2014 – “Groups representing Alberta’s defence lawyers lost a bid this week to restructure Legal Aid Alberta, but the head of the program says it can’t avoid drastic changes if someone doesn’t step in with more money.  ‘There’s no question we’ll have to consider what changes we’ll have to make — and very shortly — to our programming, given the static funding situation,’ said Suzanne Polkosnik, president and CEO of the publicly funded agency, which provides lawyers for low-income Albertans and other legal services.”  “While funding has remained the same, demand for legal aid has gone up: the group provided service 227,600 times last year, a jump of 33,000 cases since 2010.”(Calgary Herald)

April 14, 2014 – “Advocates for the poor are asking the Texas Supreme Court to revise a rule regarding indigency court affidavits following concerns about inconsistencies in how it is being enforced throughout the state.  The Texas Access to Justice Commission issued a report in May calling for an overhaul of what is known as Rule 145 when questions were raised about how court officials were collecting fees from the poor even after their cases had been resolved.”  Access to Justice hopes that modifying the rule it would clarify procedures for court officials while allowing those who are indigent to access the courts.  (Star-Telegram)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:  Emily Ward, a 3L at Penn State’s Dickinson School of Law, dreams of a career in the public interest.  She’s started early by advancing a pro bono program to help the homeless.  “Building on research and draft materials done by former students Heather Hoechst, 2012 graduate, and Maren Miller Bam, 2013 graduate, Ward brought the concept to fruition by completing the volunteer manual, recruiting volunteers, and conducting student training sessions. The 33-page manual includes interviewing techniques, forms and resources available to qualifying mission guests.”  Read more about here amazing work here.  Congratulations!

Super Music Bonus! Is it Spring yet?  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6tkqdOB5bEw

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – April 4, 2014

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

Happy Friday!  We are off to the NALP Annual Education Conference in Seattle.  The Digest will take a break for this week and return on April 18.  We hope to see many of you at the conference!

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

Here are the week’s headlines:

  •  ABA Job Corps targets access to justice paradox;
  • New rules allow retired Iowa attorneys and law students to help legal aid;
  • New job site launches in Canada;
  • PA considers bill to establish training center for public defenders;
  • Students form Law Students Society of Ontario;
  • The Washington University School of Law establishes Prosecution Law Clinic;
  • New scholarship from Davis Levin Livingston promotes public interest lawyers;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: Phil Morgan;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

March 27, 2014 - “The American Bar Association will pay between $5,000 and $15,000 to organizations that come up with good ways to match unemployed law school graduates to unmet legal needs for the poor.  The organization this month urged law schools, bar associations, courts and other organizations to submit requests for proposals and will reward the best ideas with financial support, ABA President James Silkenat said, under a new program dubbed the Legal Access Job Corps.”  “To qualify for grants, projects must provide both legal services to the poor or people with moderate incomes, and employment for recent law graduates. Existing projects are not eligible.”  Ideas are due by May 15.
(National Law Journal)

March 30, 2014 -  “The Iowa Supreme Court ruled this month to allow retired Iowa attorneys and attorneys licensed in other states to provide pro bono services to legal aid organizations. The state’s legal aid offices turns thousands of low income people away every year because of the high caseload and lack of attorneys. The rule allows retired attorneys to apply for an emeritus license and volunteer their time for a legal aid office.”  “The court also amended the student practice rule this month which will provide more assistance to the offices by allowing law school students in the state to handle cases under supervision.”  “Guy Cook, attorney and Iowa State Bar Association president, said the rule change also allows law school graduates to provide legal services to clients while they are waiting to pass the bar exam on behalf of the offices of the public defender, attorney general, county attorney or legal aid organizations.”  (The Gazette)

March 31, 2014 – What started last year as a Facebook page for  University of Ottawa civil law graduate, Nikolitsa Katsoulias has just turned into a full-blown job site and blog.  The Law Job Exchange, launched just three weeks ago, promises to ‘link you up with opportunities that you may have otherwise missed.”  “The web site is all about sharing opportunities and I don’t think that’s something law students are necessarily used to with the competitiveness of the profession,” says web site founder Katsoulias. “But [students] seem to be embracing it, so I encourage them to log on and share an opportunity if they find one.” “The main feature of the web site is its job postings, which visitors can only view if they are members.  Members can also opt to have job alerts e-mailed to them.  Jobs are primarily Canadian-based, but international opportunities have been available.” (Canadian Lawyer)

April 1, 2014 – “Advocates Tuesday urged state Senate lawmakers to support better training for lawyers tasked with defending adult criminal defendants and juvenile delinquents who can’t afford to hire a lawyer.  A measure before state lawmakers would create such a program with $1 million in the next fiscal year.  Access to such free counsel is required under the U.S. Constitution and federal case law, but Pennsylvania is the only state that doesn’t help fund county offices providing indigent defense.”  (witf.org)

April 1, 2014 - All of the student societies at Ontario’s seven law schools have agreed to participate in a newly formed Law Students Society of Ontario.  “The goal of the Law Students’ Society of Ontario (LSSO) is to advance student concerns to governmental, regulatory, and educational stakeholders on issues such as access to legal education, professional accreditation requirements, and other matters affecting law students across the province.”  “Membership in the LSSO has been ratified by student groups at all seven Ontario law schools (the University of Windsor, Western University, the University of Toronto, Osgoode Hall Law School (York University), Queen’s University, the University of Ottawa, and Lakehead University).” (LSSO website)

April 2, 2014 -  “The Washington University School of Law will establish a Prosecution Law Clinic in partnership with the City of St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office. The new clinic joins 17 other clinical opportunities within the law school’s long-standing Clinical Education Program.  The clinic will be funded by a generous gift from former prosecutor and Washington University School of Law alumna Alicia McDonnell (JD ’95), who hopes to strengthen the ranks of criminal prosecutors by creating opportunities for talented law students to gain hands-on experience essential to a career in criminal justice.”  (Washington University of St. Louis)

April 2, 2014 – “With a new scholarship, the Honolulu-based law firm of Davis Levin Livingston intends to support law students intending to pursue public interest law and add to the ranks of motivated young attorneys willing to consider a career as a public interest lawyer.”  “The $3000 scholarship will be awarded to a student entering law school this fall. A letter of acceptance is required, and candidates are asked to write a short essay demonstrating their intention to pursue a career as a public interest lawyer.  The scholarship will be payable by The Davis Levin Livingston Charitable Foundation to the law school of attendance by the awardee to assist with tuition or other expenses.”  (Digital Journal)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: Legal aid attorney Phillip Morgan, who likely has represented more public housing tenants in San Francisco than anyone, is retiring. As an attorney for Bay Area Legal Aid, Morgan fought for housing rights with countless clients over the course of his long career. He had an institutional knowledge of the SF Housing Authority that will surely be missed.  Read more about his amazing work.  Thank you for your service!

Super Music Bonus! A glimpse of Seattle.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TcN1j11sfJA

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – March 28, 2014

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

Happy Friday!  We are getting ready for the NALP Annual Conference, and there are some great public interest programs.  New this year – the Social Justice Walking Tour.  We’re really looking forward to celebrating public service in Seattle.

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

Here are the week’s headlines:

  •  Google Public Policy (summer) Fellowship application now available;
  • Rutgers-Newark law school starts unique fellowship offering low cost legal help;
  • Goodwin Procter receives ABA’s 2014 National Public Service Award;
  • NY State officials taking indigent defense funds for other purposes;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: Maria Keller;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

March 23, 2014 - The Google Policy Fellowship program offers undergraduate, graduate, and law students interested in Internet and technology policy the opportunity to spend the summer contributing to the public dialogue on these issues, and exploring future academic and professional interests.  Fellows will have the opportunity to work at public interest organizations at the forefront of debates on broadband and access policy, content regulation, copyright and creativity, consumer privacy, open government, government surveillance, data security, data innovation, free expression and more. More information about the program is outlined hereThe deadline for applications is April 14, 2014.

March 23, 2014 -  “Rutgers School of Law-Newark has launched a program to ease graduates into the legal profession. The program, believed to be the first of its kind in the nation, is paying new law school graduates $30,000 to spend a year working in an on-campus law firm serving low- and moderate-income New Jerseyans.  Under [Associate Dean Andy] Rothman’s guidance, the newly minted lawyers take on criminal, divorce, custody, special education, estate, landlord-tenant and other cases for clients who make too much money to qualify for free legal help. The Rutgers Law Associates Fellowship Program charges clients $50 an hour, a fraction of the $250 to $300 hourly rate many private attorneys charge.”  The program began with six fellows.  “The fellows agree to stay for a year, with the option of remaining with the firm for a second year with a $40,000 salary.”  (nj.com)

March 24, 2014 – “Goodwin Procter, a national Am Law 50 firm, has been selected by the Business Law Section of the American Bar Association as the law firm recipient of its 2014 National Public Service Award. Initiated in 1994, the annual honor recognizes delivery of significant pro bono legal services that demonstrate a commitment to providing assistance to the poor in a business context.”  “In selecting Goodwin Procter, ABA Business Law Section’s Pro Bono Committee Chair William Woodward said the Section ‘carefully considered the firm’s dedication to the development and delivery of innovative pro bono services that have provided legal counsel to nonprofit organizations and microbusinesses in aid of community development on an ongoing basis.’”  (Business Wire)

March 25, 2014 – “Over the past six years, the [New York State's] elected officials have yanked close to $50 million from a fund designated for indigent legal services.  While the ‘sweeps,’ as they are called, have not had immediate impact on a fund designated for indigent defense, those lost millions may be needed in future years as counties across New York try to provide constitutionally sound legal services for the poor. And the practice speaks to a larger issue, advocates for indigent defense services say: A continued unwillingness by state officials to confront a patchwork system of indigent legal aid.”  The state’s Indigent Legal Services Fund pays for the Office of Indigent Legal Services and provides grants across the state to counties to improve public defense services.  (Democrat and Chronicle)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: No matter your age, you can make a difference.  Just ask 13-year old Maria Keller.  She was one of recipients of this year’s Jefferson Awards for Public Service.  Founded in 1972 by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Senator Robert Taft, Jr. and Sam Beard, the Jefferson Awards is America’s highest honor for public service.  Ms. Keller won her award for her nonprofit Read Indeed.  Ms. Keller has always loved reading and at age 8 was shocked to find out some kids don’t have access to books.  So, she started by organizing a book drive and made a donation of a thousand books to a children’s shelter.  “From there she told her parents she wanted to collect and donate a million books to kids in need by the time she was 18.  This past fall the Orono Middle School student reached her goal, five years early.”  Her “new goal is to distribute books in every state in the country and in every country in the world.  For more information on her organization or how to donate books go to Read Indeed online or check out their Facebook page.”  Congratulations Maria!!  (CBS Minnesota)

Super Music Bonus! How could you not love a song called “Happy?”  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMmbEF017Zc

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – March 21, 2014

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

Happy Friday!  And Happy Spring to you!

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

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Quinnipiac University School of Law’s Civil Justice Clinic receives $5,000 AT&T grant;
  • WY organizations partner to increase legal aid;
  • DC legal services groups awarded $3.4 million;
  • MO AG sues fake legal aid;
  • Legal Aid Ontario tackles access to justice in family law;
  • Wake Forest Law helps cancer patients;
  • ABA stipend available for law students working with the homeless this summer;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: ABA’s ProBAR celebrates 25 years;
  • Super Music Bonus! This week – a video bonus.

The summaries:

March 15, 2014 - “The Quinnipiac University School of Law’s Civil Justice Clinic has received a $5,000 grant from AT&T Connecticut in support of its pro bono legal services work in the community.  This is the third year that the clinic has received funding through the AT&T Excellence in Pro Bono Legal Service Award and Fellowship. The funding provides a stipend to a student fellow who spends 10 hours a week working in the clinic, supervising other law students and researching ways to expand the scope of the clinic’s work.  In the Civil Justice Clinic, law students work under the supervision of full-time faculty members Sarah Russell and Kevin Barry, representing low-income individuals who cannot afford counsel, and work on public policy projects to benefit disadvantaged communities.”  (The Courant)

March 15, 2014 -  “The Wyoming State Bar announced that it will partner with the Wyoming Center for Legal Aid on an initiative called ‘I’ll Do One.’ The goal of the initiative is to encourage lawyers licensed in Wyoming to commit to at least one pro bono case.”  Attorneys who want to volunteer should go to www.wyomingbar.org.  (Casper Journal)

March 17, 2014 – “Twenty legal services projects across the District of Columbia will receive more than $3.4 million this year in publicly funded grants.  The annual Access to Justice Grants are funded by the D.C. Council and distributed by the D.C. Bar Foundation.”  “The foundation awarded approximately $250,000 more in grants this year than in 2013. The single largest grant, $589,500, went to a joint project by Bread for the City and the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia that provides in-court legal services to clients in landlord and tenant matters.”  “This is the eighth year the D.C. Council has funded grants for local legal service organizations. The D.C. Bar Foundation also makes a set of separate grants each year based on money it raises from attorneys and the Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts program.”  (Legal Times)

March 18, 2014 – “Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster filed a lawsuit on Friday against a Florida-based legal services company that allegedly misled Missourians by claiming it was affiliated with state Legal Aid offices.  Yoram Rozenberg, doing business as Legal Aid and The Legal Aid Society, allegedly advertised to Missouri consumers that the businesses were associated with Legal Services of Southern Missouri when that was not the case. Legal Services of Southern Missouri serves low-income and elderly citizens, typically with no charge.  Rozenberg allegedly took payments from at least one Missouri consumer for legal work that was not performed by a licensed Missouri attorney. Rozenberg’s businesses allegedly advertised in the Springfield phone books using a local phone number and falsely indicated affiliation with Legal Services of Southern Missouri.”  The suit seeks restitution and a bar against Rozenberg doing business in Missouri.  (Legal NewsLine)

March 19, 2014 – “Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) is developing a slate of programs and services to address the unmet legal needs of unrepresented family litigants as part of a larger, long-term strategy to improve access to justice for low-income Ontarians.  ‘Research shows that as many as 50 per cent of people in the family justice system try to solve their problems on their own because of limited available resources,’ says John McCamus, Chair of LAO. ‘Thanks to $30 million in additional provincial funding, LAO is in a position to expand on our current family services, while dedicating new resources to clients with family law needs.’” Currently, LAO has 15 family law projects in development which make use of the additional provincial funding.  LAO will continue consulting with stakeholders on avenues for resolving family law disputes.  (Digital Journal)

March 19, 2014 – “A new partnership between Wake Forest University School of Law and Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center will connect cancer patients in need of legal assistance with more than 40 law students participating in the school’s pro bono program.   Patients at the Comprehensive Cancer Center will be able to receive free legal assistance in areas such as advanced directives and other medical legal services, with the students supervised by attorneys from Wake Forest Baptist and Wall, Esleeck and Babcock in Winston-Salem.”  (The Business Journal)

March 20, 2014 – Law students interning with an organization that works with homeless clients can apply for a stipend.  The Curtin Justice Fund Legal Internship Program is seeking motivated law student interns to apply for stipends available for the Summer 2014 Program. The Program will pay a $2,500 stipend to three law school students who spend the summer months working for a bar association or legal services program designed to prevent homelessness or assist homeless or indigent clients or their advocates. The application deadline is Monday, March 31, 2014.

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: The South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project (ProBAR) is a project of the American Bar Association that provides legal information, pro se assistance and pro bono representation to thousands of immigrants and asylum-seekers detained in remote South Texas each year by the United States government.  Congratulations on 25 years of great work, and here is to many more!!!  Their celebration video is our Super Video Bonus for this week.

Super Video Bonus!

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – March 14, 2014

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

Happy Friday!  And Happy St. Patrick’s Day to everyone.  We’re now in spring break season, and if you’re looking for a service project to undertake, we’ve got you covered.  If you’re in the US, check out probono.net.  In Canada?  Go to Pro Bono Students Canada.

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

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Growing number of TX lawyers are “Banking on Justice”;
  • Federal defenders could fill jobs lost under sequestration;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: Today in History – the FBI debuts the 10 Most Wanted List;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

March 10, 2014 - Lawyers and bankers in Texas are teaming up to increase funding for legal aid.  “The Prime Partner program, which provides funds for vulnerable Texans seeking justice, is gaining momentum. Prime Partner banks agree to pay higher interest on lawyers’ trust accounts to support legal-aid assistance for the poor, explained Betty Balli Torres, executive director, Texas Access to Justice Foundation. Prime Partner banks agree to pay 1 percent on IOLTA (Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts) accounts so they can increase funding for civil legal aid in this state. The ‘I Bank on Justice’ component is really lawyers and law firms that move their accounts into Prime Partner banks in order to support legal aid,” Torres explained.”  (Public News Service)

March 11, 2014 -  “Federal defender offices, which lost approximately 400 employees because of last year’s mandatory budget cuts known as sequestration, have enough money in this year’s budget to begin backfilling most of those positions, court officials said Tuesday.  Following the biannual meeting of the Judicial Conference of the United States, Chief Judge William Traxler Jr., chairman of the judicial conference’s executive committee, said Congress’ fiscal year 2014 appropriation to the judiciary would allow officials to backfill about 350 jobs in federal defender offices.”  (Legal Times)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: On this day in 1950, the Federal Bureau of Investigation institutes the “Ten Most Wanted Fugitives” list in an effort to publicize particularly dangerous fugitives. The creation of the program arose out of a wire service news story in 1949 about the “toughest guys” the FBI wanted to capture. The story drew so much public attention that the “Ten Most Wanted” list was given the okay by J. Edgar Hoover the following year. As of 2011, 465 of the criminals included on the list have been apprehended or located, 153 as a result of tips from the public.  (History.com)  The List recently made the news when number 10 was captured.  Only 8 women have appeared on the List.  The current List is all male with the least recent addition on the List since 1987.

Super Music Bonus!  Some Celtic music.  Enjoy!  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qoktesLkHy8

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – March 7, 2014

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

Happy Friday!  I hope the weather isn’t getting  you down.  Whether it’s drought or blizzard, it’s got to end soon, right?

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

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Government of Canada adopts new pro bono policy for Justice lawyers;
  • DOJ launches language access tool;
  • MA SJC Justice leading push to expand housing court statewide;
  • NYC Mayor fills poverty post with critic;
  • Suffolk Law launches new public interest scholarship;
  • SCC tackles challenge to court fees;
  • John Marshall Law School receives grant to research/help with predatory lending;
  • Orleans Bar Association urges assigned counsel for indigent defense;
  • White House honors LegalCorps for patent pro bono work;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: Tom Hillier;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

February 28, 2014 - “Justice Minister Peter MacKay announced that the Department of Justice has adopted a new Policy on Pro Bono Legal Services by Justice Lawyers. The policy was developed in response to a widespread desire among Justice lawyers to participate in pro bono legal services as a way to directly give back to their communities.”  “Justice lawyers can now volunteer their personal time at specified pro bono clinics that offer free legal services to Canadians living with limited means. The Department is proud to support its lawyers in their personal goals and professional obligation to increase access to justice for Canadians who might otherwise not be able to afford legal advice.”  (Digital Journal)

February 28, 2014 – “[T]he Justice Department released a new tool to help state and local courts assess and improve their language assistance services for limited English proficient (LEP) litigants, victims and witnesses who need access to court services.”  The Language Access Planning and Technical Assistance Tool   (Planning Tool) will be able to assist courthouses and administrative tribunals across the country to self-assess their court systems to determine how effectively they are providing language assistance services and how these services can be improved.  The Planning Tool prompts courts to examine their court rules, the quality and competency of interpretation and translation, the level of their engagement with LEP communities and the implementation of language access plans.  The tool was created by the Federal Coordination and Compliance Section (FCS) of the Civil Rights Division and provides courts with a tailored checklist of recommended steps towards achieving equal access to justice for all.”  (Imperial Valley News)

“Lisa Wood, Chair of the ABA Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants made clear that ABA’s commitment to stay involved with the issue, as part of the follow up to the issuance of the comprehensive Standards that are the bedrock on which the DOJ tool is built.” (Richard Zorza’s Access to Justice Blog)

February 28, 2014 – Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Justice Ralph Gants is pushing a plan that would expand the housing court system to cover the entire state by July 1, 2015.  “The expansion proposal is based on the recommendation of the Access to Justice Commission, which Gants co-chairs. The specialized court was created in 1978 to handle residential housing matters, including landlord-tenant issues, and to enforce the state’s building, fire and sanitary codes.”  Legislators will now consider the plan.  (Waltham News Tribune)

February 28, 2014 – “The top attorney at the nonprofit Legal Aid Society who for three decades has been a hard-charging advocate for poor New Yorkers will take the reins of New York City’s welfare agency, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday.  Over the years, the society’s attorney-in-chief, Steve Banks, has spent many an hour on the steps of City Hall assailing mayors and policies that he contended unfairly treated the homeless and other low-income New Yorkers. And the Legal Aid Society—which represents people who can’t pay for attorneys in criminal and civil court—has challenged a number of city policies in the courts, from homelessness to food stamp eligibility.  Now, for the first time, Mr. Banks has been invited inside City Hall to play a role in developing city policy on poverty.”  (Wall Street Journal) (New York Times)

February 28, 2014 – “Suffolk University Law School will launch a scholarship and lecture series named for Harry H. Dow, a 1929 Law School graduate who, although he was the first Chinese-American admitted to the Massachusetts Bar, faced racism that eventually drove him out of practice.”  “The Harry H. Dow scholarship award will supplement tuition costs for a current Suffolk Law student who has demonstrated interest in public interest and/or immigration law.”  (Sampan)

March 3, 2015 – In April, the Supreme Court of Canada “is expected to tackle a challenge over court hearing fees, which the Trial Lawyers Association of British Columbia and the Canadian Bar Association B.C. branch say are unconstitutional because they impede access to justice for the middle class.”  The suit stems from a custody case involving a self-represented common law couple in which one party asked to be relieved of the $3,600 bill for the court hearing fees. The B.C. Supreme Court Civil Rules allow an “impoverished” person to apply for exemption.  There is a split in the lower courts regarding the constitutionality of the fees.  “Now the SCC must decide if the fees are valid. Interestingly, only B.C., Saskatchewan, Yukon, and the Northwest Territories have fees yet attorneys general from Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, and the federal government are intervening.”  (Canadian Lawyer)

March 3, 2014 – “The John Marshall Law School is expanding its work in the area of predatory lending and fair housing education using nearly $454,000 in grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the City of Chicago.  A $324,966 HUD grant allows the law school to continue educating students on predatory lending issues, as well as undertake research on the ongoing predatory lending trends in the Chicago area.  The HUD-financed Fair Lending Home Preservation Program includes a Predatory Lending course giving students a review of the mortgage lending crisis through information from private attorneys, the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, and Circuit Court of Cook County judges dealing with mortgage foreclosures.  Students also intern four hours each week at a number of government offices and nonprofits researching or working on-hands to help agencies fix various problems.”  (Digital Journal)

March 6, 2014 -  “The Orleans County Bar Association is recommending significant reforms to how indigent defense is managed through an assigned counsel plan that will streamline and organize assignment procedures.  The plan, outlined to legislators Wednesday by Bar Association Vice President and Public Defender Sandy Church and Shirley Gorman, who chairs the legal group’s assigned council committee, is part of a statewide push to improve the systems used to find attorneys for criminal defendants and family court participants who are unable to afford legal services.”

“The Orleans County Public Defender’s Office would continue to be the primary resource for impoverished residents to receive legal counsel under the plan. However, a new conflict coordinator recommended by the Orleans County Bar Association and appointed annually by the Orleans County Legislature would step in for cases where a previous conflict, or multiple defendants prevent the Public Defender from acting as a resident’s representative.  The new administrator would continue to rotate cases between lawyers, but the proposed plan would also seek to match the workload and difficulty of a case to attorneys’ qualifications and experience.”  (The Daily News)

March 6, 2014 – Minneapolis firms Patterson Thuente and Lindquist & Vennum were honored at the White House in February by U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker for establishing the three-year-old Inventor Assistance Program at Minnesota LegalCorps as the first “patent pro bono program in the country.”  “The inventor program is part of 10-year old LegalCorps, the Minneapolis-based organization that connects volunteer lawyers with low-income entrepreneurs, innovators and small nonprofits.” (StarTribune)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:  “Tom Hillier, Seattle’s hell-raising, hippie federal public defender who built an office considered a model for indigent defense nationwide, is retiring after 38 years in the office, an unprecedented 28 of them as its chief.”  Now if that isn’t a ringing endorsement of a professional life well-spent, I don’t know what is.  Read more about his invaluable contributions at the Daily Reporter.  Congratulations to Mr. Hillier and good luck with the next chapter of your life.

Super Music Bonus!  Sometimes you just have to let it go. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=moSFlvxnbgk

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – February 28, 2014

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

Happy Friday!  Can you believe it’s the end of February already?  Let’s hope spring is just around the corner.

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

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Grim outlook for PMF Class of 2013;
  • SMU’s Dedman School of Law announces new law center;
  • The Davenport-Perth Neighbourhood and Community Health Centre (Ontario, Canada) now providing legal services;
  • Chicago’s Center for Disability & Elder Law celebrates 30 years;
  • Project measures access to civil legal services;
  • Women’s advocacy groups urge pilot projects to improve access to family services in British Columbia;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: Dan Glazier;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

February 21, 2014 – “More than two-thirds of the 2013 finalists in the Presidential Management Fellows Program have not received jobs yet in the federal government, according to Office of Personnel Management data.”  Just 213 of 668 finalists in 2013 have received jobs so far.  A group of current finalists and alumni of the program are organizing a campaign directed at OPM to get more finalists hired. Finalists have one year to receive an appointment; the deadline for the 2013 class is April 8, but the group is seeking an extension.  Fellows must be completely on-boarded, not just hired, before the deadline.  With the government shutdown, furloughs, and deep budget cuts, this has been a particularly rough year for PMF.  Here’s hoping the deadline can be extended.  (Government Executive)

UPDATE:  OPM declines to extend the deadline.  Office of Personnel Management Director Katherine Archuleta informed the PMF finalists in a recent letter she would not extend the eligibility deadline.  OPM will provide two additional job fairs before the April 8 deadline.  “In addition to the job fairs, OPM will host a workshop to help finalists market their skills and work with PMF coordinators at each agency to help get potential fellows hired.”  (Government Executive)

February 21, 2014 -   “Southern Methodist University has announced it will open a new legal center that will provide services for the victims of domestic violence, sex trafficking and other crimes against women.  Ray L. and Nancy Ann Hunter Hunt have committed $5 million for the Judge Elmo B. Hunter Legal Center for Victims of Crimes Against Women.”  “Dedman students working in the new center will provide legal services such as protective orders; divorce, custody and child support agreements; and assistance with credit and housing issues.”  (KERA News)

February 26, 2014 – “The Davenport-Perth Neighbourhood and Community Health Centre can now add legal services to its cornucopia of programs already provided by the area hub.  Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) is partnering with Davenport-Perth, on Davenport Road, just west of Symington Avenue, to offer family and immigration services, working in collaboration with its community legal clinics, West Toronto Community Legal Services included, so clients can have greater access to justice.  It is part of LAO’s quest to expand its current mix of services, according to Vicki Moretti, LAO regional vice-president for the Greater Toronto Area.” (The Register-Guard)

February 26, 2014 – The Center for Disability & Elder Law, which has provided free legal services for more than 30,000 senior citizens and persons with disabilities in Chicago, will celebrate its 30th Anniversary this week.  The Center for Disability & Elder Law (CDEL) was founded to provide legal services to low-income residents of Cook County, Illinois who are either elderly or who have permanent disabilities. Dedicated volunteers from some of the largest law firms in Chicago, and from firms and corporations located throughout Cook County, as well as paralegals, provide more than ninety percent of all legal services CDEL delivers, pro bono, to its clients. In its 30-year history, CDEL has provided services to more than 30,000 clients.  (World News Report)

February 26, 2014 -  “When trying to measure access to civil legal assistance, empirical data can be hard to find. But an ambitious online database released Tuesday by the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law’s National Center for Access to Justice aims to solve that problem by showing state-by-state comparisons of available services such as affordable counsel and foreign language interpreters in state courts.”  “The ‘Justice Index’ attempts to quantify access-to-justice problems through interactive data visualizations and graphics that show which states are doing the most and least to meet people’s needs, said David Udell, director of the center.”  (New York Law Journal)

February 26, 2014 – “A women’s advocacy group is proposing two ways to address a critical lack of family law services in British Columbia, saying cuts to legal-aid funding have made access to justice nearly impossible for vulnerable citizens.  The group released a report Wednesday recommending two pilot projects — one with lawyers working in community agencies so legal services can be integrated with those of other professionals such as counsellors, social workers and interpreters.  The other proposal is for a women’s clinic led by student lawyers who would provide free and low-cost family law services in the Metro Vancouver area, with a travel and technology budget to serve remote regions.”  “West Coast LEAF’s recommendations were based on a year of consultations in 16 urban, rural and remote communities across B.C.”  (The Province)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: Thank you to Carol A. Vizzier, Director, Public Interest Programs at Washington University School of Law for a wonderful spotlight candidate.

“When he was growing up, Dan Glazier couldn’t decide whether to be a lawyer or a social worker.  So he became both.  He is director of Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, which provides free lawyers for poor people facing eviction, consumer rip-offs, health care cut-offs and other legal messes they can’t afford. The group employs both lawyers and social workers.”  “There’s a Jewish expression, tikkun olam — ‘to repair the world.’ That sort of was how I was raised,” Mr. Glazier said.  He landed at Legal Services in 1981 and never left.  What an amazing lawyer and person.  Thank you for your many years of service to the poor.  Read more about his amazing work here.

Super Music Bonus!   In my counseling days, this was the time of year when I started to feel exhausted.  Time to take a humor break and check out the History of Hip Hop.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZTpn30Pms8I

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – February 21, 2014

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

Happy Friday!  The snow continues for many of us, so stay warm out there.  Are you finding watching the Olympics as inspiring as I do?  Now it’s your turn.  Get out there and inspire.

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

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Private attorneys can keep pay rate for federal indigent defendants;
  • Audit of LA Public Defender Board found poor monitoring of attorneys;
  • Unclaimed judgements in OR may fund legal aid;
  • Study finds DE indigent defense constitutionally deficient;
  • Legal Aid Ontario pilots independent legal advice for mediation clients;
  • BC government increases legal aid funding;
  • Public defender system could change in ID;
  • LA Public Defender’s Office turns 100 this year;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: Marty Needelman;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

February 13, 2014 – A judicial committee has reversed a sequester-related pay cut for lawyers in private practice who represent indigent defendants in federal criminal cases. Starting March 1, those “panel attorneys” will generally make $126 an hour, while lawyers in capital cases will earn $180, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts said in a statement issued Feb. 13. Last August, the executive committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States had chopped the standard fee from $125 to $110 an hour in response to the across-the-board budget cuts. As part of a final fiscal 2014 spending plan approved this week, the committee restored the higher hourly rate and an added one percent inflation-related increase to push it to $126. The decision follows the signing of a full-year appropriations bill that partially rolls back another round of budget cuts scheduled for this year. Under the bill, the judiciary will get about $6.5 billion, or roughly equal to its pre-sequester funding level for last year, the news release said.”  (Federal Times)

February 17, 2014 -   The Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office released a report Monday finding the Louisiana Public Defender Board does a poor job of monitoring attorneys that defend clients accused of first-degree murder and facing the death penalty.  “The audit says the board hasn’t reviewed the work as required under its contracts and hasn’t established any performance standards for lawyers.  The board disagreed with some findings, saying it does more monitoring than the audit suggests. But it also said it would make improvements.”  (SFGate)

February 18, 2014 – “The Oregon House on Monday approved a controversial bill that would change what happens with the unclaimed money damages from class action judgments or settlements in state court.  Under House Bill 4143, those unclaimed funds would be used to bolster legal aid services for low-income Oregonians, rather than automatically being returned to the company that lost the lawsuit, as they are now.  Unclaimed funds are a common occurrence with class actions, either because people entitled to funds fail to claim them or can’t be found, or because the individual claims are so small that the cost to disburse them exceeds their value.”  The bill now heads to the State Senate.  (The Register-Guard)

February 18, 2014 – “An independent review of Delaware’s legal defense system for the indigent concludes it is “constitutionally deficient” and effectively denies many poor Delawareans their right to adequate representation.  The 200-page report by the nonprofit Sixth Amendment Center was commissioned by Delaware Public Defender Brendan O’Neill and paid for with a $120,000 federal grant.”  The study determined that while the state does a good job for indigent defendants facing felony charges, it fails to provide adequate representation for lesser, misdemeanor charges.  (delawareonline)

February 18, 2014 -  Under a new pilot aimed at reducing unrepresented family litigants and improving outcomes, Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) will cover the cost of a family lawyer to support clients who choose mediation and to transform those agreements into legally-binding documents. “In looking at expanding access to justice for low-income Ontarians, mediation is a good alternative to having a judge or a third party step in to resolve family relationship issues,” says John McCamus, Chair of LAO. “This voluntary process empowers people to resolve their family legal issues for themselves – and with this pilot, they can be assured that the end result is legally binding.”  (Digital Journal)

February 18, 2014 – The government of British Columbia today increased the budget of the Legal Services Society (LSS) in 2014-15 by $2-million. The funding will be maintained for the next three years.  (Digital Journal)

February 20, 2014 – “Legislation has been proposed that would establish a permanent public defender in counties across Idaho. This would abolish the current system of contracting law firms to perform those duties.”   “If the bill passes both houses and is signed into law by Governor Otter, because of the emergency clause on the bill, it would become effective immediately, but would not be enforced against attorneys with contracts until July 1. Effective that date, lawyers would no longer be able to negotiate the terms of their contract, but they would be honored until expiration.”  (TetonValleyNews)

February 20, 2014 – “This year marks 100 years since the establishment of the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office. The founding of the nation’s first such office occurred nearly half a century before Gideon v. Wainwright, the landmark 1963 US Supreme Court case that established the right to counsel for indigent defendants in all criminal cases.”  “Clara Shortridge Foltz, the first female attorney in California, became the principal advocate for the creation of a public defender.”  “In 1913, with a now greatly expanded voting franchise, Los Angeles voters approved a Foltz-sponsored amendment to the Los Angeles County Charter to establish a public defender’s office.  In January 1914, pursuant to this recently enacted charter, the nation’s first public defender’s office was formed. Walton J. Wood was appointed Public Defender, and his original staff consisted of four deputies and a secretary. (Today, the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office employs more than 700 attorneys.)  Congratulations on 100 years of great work.  (WSWS.org)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: As Chief Counsel of Brooklyn Legal Services, Marty Needelman aims to keep Williamsburg’s most vulnerable safe from the bullies who sabotage their homes. He advocates with the people, not for them.  While less dangerous than it used to be, the neighborhood’s very trendiness creates many of the problems Mr. Needelman fights against.  Just one example of the problem is rent control.  As warehouses shut down and luxury condos moved in, landlords attempted to capitalize by driving out the working class and immigrant populations in very underhanded ways.  Marty Needleman worked to stop them.  To those he fights with, he is a local hero – a celebrity.  Thank you Mr. Needleman for your tireless fight to give hardworking individuals a chance to grow and prosper.

Super Music Bonus!    Go Team USA!  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MCqUESCoB1w

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – February 14, 2014

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

Happy Friday and Happy Valentine’s Day!  Show some love this week and every week by volunteering.  We will love you for it!

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

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Number of Ohio lawyers reporting pro bono work increased;
  • MO public defenders seek pay raise;
  • Legal Hospice of TX receives King Foundation grant;
  • Human Rights First opening new Houston office;
  • NY law students have the option to do pro bono work for credit during their third year;
  • Report details economic impact of NC legal services;
  • NALP  Board adopts changes to Part V of the Principles & Standards;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: This week a special thank you to those who help out in bad weather;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

February 7, 2014 – At the beginning of January, attorneys with an active Ohio registration received an email from the Supreme Court asking lawyers to voluntarily report their 2013 pro bono work and financial contributions to organizations providing civil legal services to those of limited means.  Nearly 1,800 lawyers responded.  This is an increase of approximately 300 lawyers over this time last year.  The data is provided anonymously, reported in the aggregate, and will be used to improve delivery of civil legal services to people and families who cannot afford an attorney and to identify gaps in services.  (The Akron Legal News)

February 7, 2014 – “The head of Missouri’s public defender system is seeking a pay raise for the attorneys who represent low-income criminal defendants.  Public Defender System Director Cat Kelly says entry-level attorneys in her office are paid a salary of about $38,500. She says that’s nearly $5,000 less than beginning lawyers in the state attorney general’s office. Kelly says both should be paid the same amount.”  “Gov. Jay Nixon has recommended a 3 percent pay raise for all state employees.  Senate Appropriations Chairman Kurt Schaefer says he would prefer to give targeted pay raises to certain professions instead of an across-the-board increase.”  (KOAM TV)

February 7, 2014 – “Legal Hospice of Texas received a $10,000 grant from the Carl B. & Florence E. King Foundation to continue providing legal services at no cost to clients in Dallas County.”  “LHT addresses health related, civil legal needs of low-income individuals diagnosed with a terminal illness or HIV. LHT provides legal counsel, representation, and advocacy at no cost to clients who are HIV positive or terminally ill and reside in one of the 16 North Central Texas counties it serves.”  (dallasvoice.com)

February 10, 2014 – “Human Rights First announced it will open a new office in Houston this April at South Texas College of Law, bringing its award-winning pro bono legal representation program to asylum seekers and attorneys in America’s fourth- largest city.”  “Houston is a diverse and dynamic city where there is an increasing need for our services,” said Human Rights First President and CEO Elisa Massimino. “Hundreds of asylum seekers in Houston go unrepresented in a system where having a lawyer can mean the difference between return to persecution and the chance to start a new life in safety and freedom. Our Houston team will help to bridge the gap between this pressing need and the services currently available, giving the city’s pro bono legal community the tools they need to help.”  (Human Rights First)

February 11, 2014 -  New York’s Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman is proposing an option where students spend their last semester doing free legal work for credit.   He says “this approach will also help fill the vast ‘justice gap’ for the poor, who often face civil issues like eviction, foreclosure, custody and denied benefits without legal help.  Calling it the Pro Bono Scholars Program, Lippman says Tuesday that the state Board of Law Examiners has already approved it and the initiative will be offered in all the state’s 15 law schools.  The advantage for students, in addition to practical experience, will be the opportunity to take the bar exam in February during their third year of school, instead of July after graduation.  (The Republic)

February 11, 2014 – Here is something we already know – legal services provide tangible impacts on their communities.  North Carolina sought to quantify the impacts.  “A recently released report finds the work of legal services providers across the state generated $48,775,276 in economic impact in 2012.  Written by the UNC Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity, the report, ‘A 108% Return on Investment: The Economic Impact to the State of North Carolina of Civil Legal Services in 2012,’ details the direct economic benefit, indirect economic impact, and cost savings attributed to the work of three North Carolina legal services providers, Legal Aid of North Carolina, Legal Services of Southern Piedmont, and Pisgah Legal Services.”  (JDNews.com)

February 13, 2014 – At its recent meeting, NALP’s Board of Directors voted to adopt a series of provisional changes to Part V of NALP’s Principles and Standards. The updated guidelines 1) incorporate a 14-day reaffirmation provision within the 28-day offer response window for those candidates not previously employed and 2) change the offer response deadline for those candidates previously employed by an organization to 28 days following the date of the offer letter or October 1, whichever is later, rather than November 1. The updated guidelines are on the Principles and Standards page of the NALP website, and there is a memorandum more fully describing the changes along with the full-text of Part V. The Board also adopted a new Interpretation 22 on using the reaffirmation provisions.

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: I could talk about an outstanding legal public servants, but let’s face it, this week we really need to say thank you to the men and women who clear the roads, man the hospitals, keep our road safe, and respond to emergencies.  Thank you to all of you who make it possible for life to keep working in the midst of chaos.
Super Music Bonus!  I had to do it – it’s Valentine’s Day!  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=840NbiFF1zM 

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – February 7, 2014

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

Happy Friday and welcome to February.

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

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • New federal defender named for New Orleans;
  • MA attorneys mobilize for legal aid;
  • ME AG and Legal Services for the Elderly team up;
  • NALP now accepting applications for the 2014-2016 StreetLaw Fellow – must be a law school graduate to apply;
  • IN Legal Services to get additional funding;
  • OR Innocence Project forms;
  • Hackathon for access to justice planned;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: Katy Sorenson;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

January 30, 2014 - Claude Kelly was appointed federal public defender for the Eastern District of Louisiana, which spans 13 parishes including Orleans and Jefferson.  “Kelly, 52, replaces Virginia Schlueter, the longtime federal public defender who resigned in October after the office was forced to make deep budget cuts.  When budget negotiations stalled last may, the judiciary took a $350 million hit that quickly began to trickle down. As a consequence, Schlueter last year reduced her staff from eight attorneys to five and fired both staff investigators.  That will present challenges for Kelly, who is set to start work later this year, following an FBI background check.”  “I think in all of law, there’s nothing more honorable than criminal public defense work,” Kelly said this week following his hiring, which is done by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. “Although the office has suffered tremendous budget cuts this year, the staff that remains is superb. And those eight years I spent as an assistant federal public defender, those were the best years of my life.”  He takes office just as the US Attorney’s Office is ramping up under new leadership.  (The Times-Picayune)

January 31, 2014 – “Hundreds of Massachusetts attorneys joined forces and visited the state capitol in Boston last week to lobby for increased state funding for civil legal aid programs. This funding has been hard hit in the last six years; according to the Equal Rights Coalition, it has dropped 85 percent since the 2008 fiscal year. Funding for legal aid is an issue about which all nonprofits should care deeply, since it provides civil justice that would be otherwise unavailable to low-income people on issues like housing, benefits, and domestic violence. As such, it complements and advances the work of many types of community groups.”  (Nonprofit Quarterly)

February 1, 2014 – “Maine Attorney General Janet Mills is teaming up with Legal Services for the Elderly to start a task force to combat financial exploitation and other crimes against elderly residents.  The task force will address barriers to prosecuting these crimes and examine issues like whether law enforcement and prosecutors may need more training to work with elderly witnesses or victims. Other questions include whether elderly victims are reluctant to come forward if the perpetrator is a family member and what the state can do to bolster law enforcement’s ability to pursue and prosecute these crimes.” “The task force will be chaired by Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbin and include prosecutors, court personnel and members of the Department of Health and Human Services.”  (Daily Reporter)

February 3, 2014 – NALP is now accepting applications for the 2014-2016 StreetLaw Legal Diversity Pipeline Project Fellow postion.  For a complete description of the position and application details, check out PSJD.  This position is a postgraduate fellowship.

February 3, 2014 – “After watching its federal appropriation sink to $4.7 million during the economic downturn, Indiana Legal Services is set to receive a boost in funding for the 2014 calendar year.  The extra money is part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2014 which was approved by Congress in mid-January.”  ILS is funding by Legal Services Corporation.  The funding will enable ILS to increase services to their clients.  (City-County Observer)

February 5, 2014 -  Lewis and Clark Law School and the Metropolitan Public Defender, a Portland-based nonprofit law firm, are getting together to create the Oregon Innocence Project.  The Project’s “mission is to exonerate the innocent, educate and train law students, and promote legal reforms aimed at preventing wrongful convictions.”  (OPB)

February 5, 2014 – “The ABA Journal and Suffolk University Law School are planning to host a “hackathon” in conjunction with the ABA Annual Meeting this Aug. 7-12 in Boston.  There’s been no formal theme selected. But there’s a general consensus that the project should further access-to-justice efforts in some way.  During the hackathon, lawyers and law students will work alongside developers and graphic designers in teams. Each team will work to plan and develop a Web application or mobile app over the course of the hackathon. At the end of the hackathon, the participants and our panel of experts will rate each of the teams’ work, and a winning team will be chosen.  At this stage, we’re soliciting ideas for problems that the teams can work to resolve with a tech solution as part of the hackathon.  If you have a problem you think we should tackle, or a data set that we can work with, please take this quick survey here and share your ideas.  (ABA Journal)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:   Thank you so much to Sharon Booth, Assistant Director-Public Interest Programs for the HOPE Public Interest Resource Center at the University of Miami School of Law for sending in this week’s spotlight.  Katy Sorenson is the founder, president and CEO of The Good Government Initiative at The University of Miami (and former 16-year member of the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners).  The Good Government Initiative is a program to educate elected officials at the state and local level about the important issues of governance, to cultivate leaders of excellence through development and training, and to engage the community through outreach and education.  Find out more about the project itself and about Ms. Sorenson (who has a really interesting story!).  So many dedicated and good-hearted individuals go into public service as an elected official with little relevant experience and/or no background in governance.  Thank you to Ms. Sorenson and the Initiative for giving these folks the guidance they need to accomplish their goals.
Super Music Bonus!  Does anyone else feel like this?  Thank you to Anna Strasburg Davis, Director of Public Interest Programs, UC Irvine School of Law and Rachel Kronick Rothbart, Career Services Office, University of Southern California Gould School of Law for this gem.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DYu_bGbZiiQ

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