Archive for Public Interest Law News Bulletin

PSJD Public Interest News Digest – March 27, 2015

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

Happy Friday everyone!  Below is our last featured spring break pro bono trip.  There are so many programs, we couldn’t feature them all.  We’re so excited that so many of  you spent your time off helping your community. You are truly outstanding public servants!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Legal aid gives Tennessee economy a $188 mil boost;
  • Oregon and California consider limited license practioners;
  • Settlement reached in New York requiring court facilities to provide space for confidential defendant/attorney meetings;
  • Ohio counties seek reimbursement increase for indigent defense;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

March 22, 2015 - “When we hear about economy boosts in Tennessee, we generally think of revenue generated by local businesses, by tourism, or farming. What we don’t always know is the amount of revenue generated in the legal industry. A newly released report show that civil legal services providers generated $188.6 million in economic impact from cases handled across Tennessee in 2013.  The study also showed that every dollar invested in legal aid produced more than $11 in financial benefits to businesses, local governments and individuals across all social classes.  ’This report demonstrates that access to free civil legal representation has a profound impact not only on individual clients served, but also on the state, which receives an economic benefit worth millions of dollars,’ TBA President Jonathan Steen said.”  (Knoxville Daily Sun)

March 23, 2015 – “Washington is currently the only state with a program allowing limited license legal technicians to help civil litigants prepare legal documents and provide advice on legal procedures. But bar groups in two other states are taking steps that could lead to legal technician programs in their own jurisdictions.  A task force of the Oregon State Bar issued a report last month recommending that the bar’s board of governors consider the concept of legal technicians to help increase access to justice, according to Robert Ambrogi’s LawSites. Now a California bar task force has published for comment a draft report that calls for a legal technician pilot program in one subject matter area, LawSites says.  The report by the State Bar of California’s Civil Justice Strategies Task Force says the state bar should first study design of the pilot program, addressing how oversight and licensing would be handled.  The California report also calls for a pilot program of volunteer navigators to attend hearings with self-represented litigants. The navigators could sit at the counsel table with litigants, but would not address the court.  The navigator idea is based on a New York pilot program that uses nonlawyer navigators to help unrepresented litigants in housing and consumer-debt cases.”  (ABA Journal)

March 24, 2015 - “East End towns and villages have settled a lawsuit brought last month by the Suffolk County Legal Aid Society over the towns’ justice court facilities.”  The Legal Aid Society filed suit, alleging the court facilities in the towns of Riverhead, Southold and Southampton and the villages of Southampton and Sag Harbor did not “provide confidential meeting space for attorneys to confer with defendants in custody, compelling defendants to converse with their lawyers in the presence of law enforcement personnel. That arrangement violates the criminal defendant’s constitutional rights, the suit alleges.  Under a settlement that’s already been signed and was filed yesterday in state court, the towns of Riverhead and Southold have agreed to undertake some construction work.”  They are the only two jurisdictions that need to undertake construction, with the work in all facilities to be completed by April 30.  (Southold Local)

March 27, 2015 - “Ashland County is joining with other counties across the state to support an effort of County Commissioners Association of Ohio to seek additional state funding for indigent defense reimbursement. Counties now are reimbursed for 40 percent of the cost of representing indigent people, and CCAO is lobbying the state to increase reimbursements to 50 percent– providing an additional $12 million in reimbursements to counties for fiscal years 2016 and 2017.”  (Ashland Times-Gazette)(subscription required)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:  UC Irvine School of Law. Each year since 2011, the UC Irvine School of Law subsidizes an alternative spring break trip for 30 students to volunteer with the Mississippi Center for Justice.  The past 2 years, the students have visited all three MCJ offices with a group in Biloxi, another in Jackson, and the final group in Indianola (“the Delta”).  Student work has involved legal assistance on behalf of victims of Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill as well intensive research in areas of education and consumer law.  Each year the students have had a fabulous experience.  Simply researching and applying the law in an area very different than California has been an eye opening experience.  The students always comment on the surprising cultural differences, but most often they are humbled by the kindness of the Mississippians that they encounter.  Read student Aaron Adams’ (2L) account of his work in both Jackson and the Delta in The Notice.

Super Music Bonus!   https://youtu.be/nyFvDbwyhF8

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – March 20, 2015

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

Happy Friday everyone!  We continue featuring spring break pro bono trips. If you’d like to be featured, send us the information.  We are very excited about all the great work being done!!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Ontario’s ethnocultural legal clinics to get increased funding;
  • Louisiana to implement new rule allowing CLE credit for pro bono work;
  • New York public defender settlement final;
  • DOJ files Statement of Interest in Georgia juvenile justice suit;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

March 13, 2015 - “Legal clinics that focus on serving the GTA’s growing immigrant communities will get a slice of the province’s $4.2 million new funding, but the bulk of the money will go to mainstream neighbourhood clinics.  After years of stagnant funding to assist vulnerable groups with unique language and cultural needs, the so-called ethnocultural legal clinics are expected to receive a $86,000 raise in annual operational funding. Legal Aid Ontario is to announce the funding on Friday.  ’This is a provincial investment that will significantly improve the legal aid services in Ontario,’ said Nye Thomas, the LAO’s director general in policy and strategic research. ‘The funding will effectively address the concerns raised previously by the ethnolinguistic clinics.’”  (The Star)

March 13, 2015 - “The Louisiana Supreme Court announced this week it is implementing a rule some say provides lawyers with an incentive to do legal work for needy clients for free.   The state’s high court this week issued an order about the rule, which goes into effect May 1, that says every lawyer who performs pro bono work can earn up to three hours of Continuing Legal Education credit a year.”  ”Five hours of pro bono work, the rule says, can count as one hour of CLE credit. Emily Ziober, the chairwoman of the Baton Rouge Bar Association’s pro bono committee, said the new rule encourages those who already perform pro bono work by offering them a reward. And it incentivizes lawyers who don’t do pro bono work to start.”  (The Times-Picayune)

March 18, 2015 - “A settlement between five New York counties and the state over the handling of public defender services was finalized Monday in state Supreme Court, and state officials are now on the clock to enact major changes.  Under the agreement, the state will adopt major reforms in Ontario, Onondaga, Schuyler, Suffolk and Washington counties, which were chosen because their public defense systems are run differently and have diverse communities of different sizes.”  ”The settlement of the case, Hurrell-Harring vs. New York, requires the counties to hire a sufficient number of lawyers, investigators and support staff to ensure that criminal defendants who cannot afford attorneys receive legal representation and mandate that every qualifying criminal defendant will be guaranteed a lawyer at the first court appearance. The state must also spend $4 million over the next two years to increase attorney communications with lower-income criminal defendants and to advertise its services, as well as increase training.”  (Register-Star)

March 18, 2015 - “The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a Statement of Interest in a suit against the state and the Cordele Judicial Circuit, which claims some children in the circuit’s four south Georgia counties aren’t receiving adequate representations in juvenile court.  The 20-page statement doesn’t weigh in on the merits of the suit’s claims. Rather, it outlines the kind of defense juveniles are entitled to under the law. The letter concludes that if the allegations of inadequate representation are true, then the court should hold that ‘juveniles’ constitutional rights are being violated.’”  (WABE)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: Boston University School of Law.  Fifty-two BU Law students are spending their spring breaks providing assistance to low-income clients involving legal issues ranging from asylum to housing. Groups of one to six students are traveling to 12 different cities across the US, while a dozen students are staying local to serve in the Boston community, as part of BU Law’s Pro Bono Spring Break Service Trips.  Under the supervision of BU Law faculty, staff, or alumni, the students will work at 20 different nonprofit organizations to advocate for the legal rights of economically disadvantaged individuals. They will gain valuable experience working with real clients, learning about their host organizations, and conducting legal research. And by the end of the week, they will have had the chance to make a tangible impact on the communities they are serving.  What a great opportunity to give back!  (BU School of Law)

Super Music Bonus!   

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – March 13, 2015

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

Happy Friday everyone!  We continue featuring spring break pro bono trips.  If you’d like to be featured, send us the information.  We are very excited about all the great work being done!!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Texas Indigent Defense Commission honors law school/counties;
  • Public Service Venture fund awards two seed grants;
  • Pro Bono legal program awarded Toledo (Ohio) SOUP funds;
  • Government plans overhaul of USAJobs;
  • Louisiana hackathon promotes access to lawyers;
  • New British Columbia online tribunal could resolve some legal matters;
  • DC Bar Foundation awards $3.8 mil to fund civil legal services for the poor;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

March 6, 2015 - “The Texas Indigent Defense Commission (TIDC) honored the Texas Tech University School of Law, along with Lubbock and Dickens counties, for their work in improving indigent defense throughout the state.  Specifically, the School of Law and Dickens County were presented the Gideon Award for their work in creating the Caprock Regional Public Defender Office (CRPDO). That office provides indigent defense representation to more than 16 rural counties on the South Plains that is more cost effective for communities that have a lack of access to local attorneys who will accept court appointments.”  (Everything Lubbock)

March 6, 2015 – “Two recent Harvard Law School graduates, Shannon Erwin ’10 and Alana Greer ’11, 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.  The Public Service Venture Fund, a first-of-its kind program at a law school, was launched in 2012 to invite law students and recent alumni to identify unmet legal needs and develop new initiatives to meet them.”  (Harvard Law Today)

March 9, 2015 - A group of female attorneys who volunteer their time with Sisters in Law (a new initiative at Mom’s House) providing legal advocacy and mentorship to young moms walked away March 8 with the most money raised yet at a Toledo SOUP event.  ”Founded 21 years ago, Mom’s House is a Toledo nonprofit that assists mothers aged 13-24 while they raise their children. There are currently 13 mothers enrolled in the program — full capacity — with more on the waiting list, said Executive Director Christina Rodriquez.  Sisters in Law was established a few months ago by Toledo attorney Gretchen DeBacker after her friend Rodriquez called on her several times to help mothers in the program with legal issues.”    (Toledo Free Press)

March 9, 2015 - “Federal officials on Monday announced plans to reshape government hiring and employee engagement efforts — including an overhaul of the troubled job announcement site USAJOBS — saying the changes were ‘a long time coming.’”  ”OPM is referring to the initiative as “REDI” (recruitment, engagement, diversity and inclusion), and it includes new programs as well as ongoing efforts.”   The first changes are expected in May, after which “OPM will roll out new developments to the website every 12 weeks. A final overhaul of the website, which could include an entirely new design or changes to the current one, will become public in early 2016.”   (Government Executive)

March 10, 2015 - “The Louisiana State Bar Association is partnering with the American Bar Association to host a hackathon to promote access to justice during New Orleans Entrepreneur Week.  The event will attract entrepreneurs, coders and developers who will compete to create the best hacks to improve access to the civil justice system for Louisiana residents who cannot afford lawyers.  The hackathon will be held at Loyola University College of Law on March 21 and 22.”  (New Orleans City Business)

March 10, 2015 - “Bitter fights between condo owners and their strata corporations over fees, parking stalls, pets and other matters could soon be forced into arbitration rather than through the courts.  Justice Minister Suzanne Anton said new legislation Tuesday would make it mandatory for strata property disputes, as well as small claims lawsuits worth less than $10,000, to go through a new government civil resolution tribunal website.”  ”The new civil tribunal’s website should go online later this year, said Anton. People can access it, file complaints and update their case material from a computer at any time of day.  Currently, a strata dispute that can’t be resolved through arbitration ends up either in small claims court or B.C. Supreme Court — depending on the matter — where legal fees can easily cost tens of thousands of dollars.  The new tribunal’s goal is for people to proceed through the Internet resolution process within 60 days, at a cost of around $200, said Shannon Salter, chairwoman of the Civil Resolution Tribunal.” (The Vancouver Sun)

March 11, 2015 - “The DC Bar Foundation today announced the FY15 recipients of the Access to Justice (ATJ) Grant Program, which awards grants to nonprofit legal services organizations that provide direct civil legal services to low-income DC residents. A total of $3,865,000 was awarded to 24 projects, of which five are new projects.  Funded by a grant from the District of Columbia Office of Victim Services (OVS), the ATJ Grant Program funds projects in three categories: (a) underserved areas; (b) housing-related matters; and (c) a shared legal services interpreter bank. The Foundation awarded 19 grants in the underserved areas category, totaling $2,555,000; four grants in the housing-related matters category, totaling $1,040,000; and one grant to the shared legal services interpreter bank, totaling $270,000.”  (DC Bar Foundation)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: The University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law tackles 5 specialized areas of pro bono representation this week during their Alternative Spring Break 2015.  Students will work on pro se divorce, advanced directives, civil rights restoration, DACA, and LGBT Equality legislation.  Read more about their great work!!

Super Music Bonus!   I’m trying to encourage Spring with a little Vivaldi.

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – March 6, 2015

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

Happy Friday everyone!  Welcome to March and spring break season.  This month we’re going to feature spring break pro bono trips.  If you’d like to be featured, send us the information.  We are looking forward to all the great work that will be done this month!!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • MacArthur Foundation awards $400,00 to legal incubator;
  • Legal Aid Ontario extending services to Tilbury;
  • Montana counties receive DOJ domestic abuse grant;
  • Georgia lawmakers back away from indigent defense changes;
  • Louisiana Public Defender cuts set to take effect April 1;
  • Virginia General Assembly includes law clinic in budget;
  • Oregon governor signs legal aid class action bill;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

February 26, 2015 - “The MacArthur Foundation is awarding a two-year, $400,000 grant to a Chicago pilot program that connects lawyers hanging out their shingles to clients who need low-cost legal services.  The grant to the Chicago Bar Foundation will support the group’s Justice Entrepreneurs Project, which launched in 2013. John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation program officer Jeff Ubois said in a press statement that the project shows ‘great potential to develop replicable, market-based models’ to address the needs of low- and moderate-income people who don’t qualify for free legal aid but are priced out of the open market.  ’This gives us a really big endorsement from someone who’s in the business of looking for promising models,’ said Bob Glaves, executive director for the Chicago Bar Foundation, the charity arm of the city’s bar association.”  (Chicago Business)

February 26, 2015 - “Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) has recognized transportation is a challenge for some residents of this Chatham-Kent community.  That’s about to change.  ’LAO’s mandate is to provide assistance to low-income people and what we found through our experience is a lot of these individuals in our outlying communities, such as Tilbury, have a lot of problems accessing services in Chatham due to lack of transportation,’ Rocio Alvarez, staff lawyer at LAO’s Chatham Family Law Service Centre told The Daily News Thursday.  So Alvarez will make the drive from Chatham to Tilbury to reach those individuals in need through a new family law advice clinic held locally once a month.  ’The intention is that it’s a walk-in clinic, but we also will be taking appointments through our family law service office in Chatham,’ Alvarez said.  People can receive legal advice on issues such as separation, divorce, child custody, access, child and spousal support and Children’s Aid Society matters.”  (Chatham Daily News)

March 2, 2015 - “A three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Justice will allow two western Montana counties to expand their domestic abuse and sexual violence programs, and help prosecute the offenders.  Missoula County signed a memorandum of understanding last week with nearly a dozen partners and hopes to receive the $750,000 grant this fall from the Office on Violence Against Women.”  ”As proposed, the new grant would fund a crime-victim advocate in Mineral County to work with local prosecutors. It would also fund a part-time investigator, marking the first time the Mineral County Sheriff’s Department would have an investigator on staff who specializes in sexual and domestic abuse.”  (Missoulian)

March 3, 2015 - “Georgia lawmakers have backed away from a proposal that would have removed requirements governing public defense, a move that had sparked backlash from attorneys groups in the state.”  ”Under an amended bill introduced in a House committee late last week, though, that language would have been stripped out. It also would have changed the name of the state agency that oversees the system from the Georgia Public Defenders Standards Council to the Georgia Public Defenders Council. The changes to the public defender provisions, tied to a criminal justice reform bill, prompted strong opposition from the Southern Center for Human Rights and the Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.  But just before a the committee was set to vote on the bill Monday afternoon, sponsor Republican Rep. Chuck Efstration, R-Dacula, restored the public defense requirements currently in place.”  ”With the changes, the bill passed out of committee with a unanimous vote.  It now moves on to the House floor. “ (WABE)

March 3, 2015 - “Cuts to Louisiana’s Public Defender Offices are set to take place on April 1.”  ”Back in October, Alan Golden the head of that department in Caddo Parish, announced the program was going broke and would soon require cuts.  ’We have to make personnel cuts,’ said Golden. Tuesday, those cuts were announced as an initiative to help offset a projected $700,000 shortfall for next year.”  (KLSA News)

March 3, 2015 - “The Lewis B. Puller, Jr. Veterans Benefits Clinic at William & Mary Law School is slated to receive $245,000 in funding from the Commonwealth of Virginia in FY2015/16 through the state budget passed by the Virginia General Assembly last week. This legislation is now before Governor McAuliffe for his approval.  William & Mary Law School’s Puller Clinic provides free legal representation to injured veterans seeking disability benefits from the Veterans Administration.  Since its founding in 2008, the Puller Clinic has represented more than 100 veterans with their disability claims – all of whom suffered an injury or illness as a result of their military service.  Almost all of them are Virginia residents.  ‘We are enormously grateful that the General Assembly has made this important investment in the Commonwealth’s wounded warriors who served our nation,’ said Davison M. Douglas, dean of William & Mary Law School.”  (William and Mary Law School)

March 4, 2015 – “Kate Brown on Wednesday signed the first bill of her young tenure as Oregon’s governor, waiting a little more than a day to approve controversial legislation redirecting unclaimed class-action damage awards to the state’s legal aid fund.  Under House Bill 2700, that money will now be used by the Oregon State Bar to help low-income Oregonians obtain free counsel in housing, family law, public benefits and other noncriminal cases. State law had otherwise allowed companies that were sued to keep whatever money was unclaimed.”  (Oregon Live)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: University of Tennessee Knoxville College of Law Alternative Spring Break.  UT Pro Bono is proud to support an Alternative Spring Break program. Each year, during Spring Break, students choose to serve at various locations across the country.  We’re looking forward to hearing about the great work they will do this year.  (UT Law Pro Bono)

Super Music Bonus!  http://youtu.be/iKuxM1Lt4y0

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – February 27, 2015

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

Happy Friday everyone!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • York County, Pennsylvania gives $50k to civil law fund for low-income residents;
  • Tennessee funding law could mean changes for prosecutors/defenders;
  • Funded Justice allows people to crowdsource funds for an attorney;
  • University of Michigan Law School working with University of Brazil to create human trafficking clinic;
  • Grant helps more veterans get assistance in Florida;
  • Settlement reached in MFY Legal Services strike;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

February 20, 2015 – “A new initiative by the York County Bar Association received a funding boost Wednesday when the county commissioners agreed to contribute $50,000 toward its program to help low-income residents involved in civil litigation.  There are more than 50,000 county residents who qualify for civil legal services, but there are only four full-time attorneys employed by Mid-Penn Legal Services who provide such assistance in the county, said Victoria Connor, CEO of the bar association.  The bar association is providing a 2-to-1 match — or $100,000 — to the county’s contribution because it’s such a ‘critical area of need,’ said Steve Feldman, president of the bar foundation’s board of directors. The foundation is the charitable arm of the bar association.”  (York Dispatch)

February 22, 2015 – “A law meant to ensure Tennessee counties fund their prosecutors and public defenders offices at roughly the same rates is on the legislature’s chopping block, a move touted as long overdue by prosecutors behind the movement but lamented by public defenders as a potentially dangerous blow to justice. Shelby County would see by far the greatest impact from any changes to the 23-year-old law, nicknamed the ’75 Percent Rule,’ which requires Tennessee counties to give public defenders at least 75 percent of whatever funding they give to prosecutors. The Shelby County Public Defender’s Office released a statement Friday strongly condemning House Bill 241 and Senate Bill 1324, saying they ‘would dismantle fiscally sound legislation’ that ‘helps ensure fairness’ in an adversarial justice system.”  (The Daily Herald)

February 23, 2015 – “Chicago attorney Michael Helfand noticed a fundamental problem in American courtrooms: the average American can’t afford proper legal representation.  Determined to address this disparity, Helfand founded Funded Justice, a crowdfunding platform for people struggling to pay attorney fees. Targeting people who don’t qualify for government-subsidized legal support but can’t afford to pay out of pocket for a private attorney, Funded Justice allows users to call on friends, acquaintances, and strangers for financial contributions.”  While in the very early stages, this is a trend to watch.  (Built In Chicago)

February 24, 2015 – “The University of Michigan Law School’s Human Trafficking Clinic is working with a university in Brazil to create a similar legal clinic there in which law students will represent people who have been forced into slave labor in South America’s largest country.  U-M and the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais-UFMG School of Law have developed a memorandum of understanding that paves the way for the creation of the new clinic, which will begin operating on March 2, 2015.  ‘Unfortunately, Brazil is a source, a destination, and a transit point for men, women, and children subjected to human trafficking and slave labor,’ said Carlos Henrique Haddad, a federal judge in Brazil and a member of the law faculty at UFMG. ‘I think the new clinic will help victims of slave labor in Brazil, and also that this is our opportunity to collaborate on international and cross-border cases.’”  (Michigan Law press release)

February 24, 2015 – “Thanks to a hefty new grant, a few more Broward County veterans may soon get some needed help.  Mission United Veterans Pro Bono Project, which provides free legal assistance to local veterans, recently received a $50,000 grant from the NBCUniversal Foundation.”  “Recently word came that NBCUniversal Foundation’s 21st Century Solutions awarded Legal Aid Service the $50,000 grant in recognition of the service’s ‘new and innovative programs.’”  Legal Aid Service will use the money to hire an additional attorney.  (Sun Sentinel)

February 25, 2015 – “A settlement was reached Tuesday in the 22-day-long strike by attorneys and support staff at MFY Legal Services in New York.  The Legal Services Staff Association, a unit of the United Auto Workers, overwhelmingly ratified the three-year contract.  Union spokesman Brian Sullivan said the contract provides for 40 paid childbirth leave days, along with salary increases of 2.75 percent, 2.5 percent and 2.25 percent in each year.  Staff attorney Nahid Soroofhyari, 31, who joined MFY two years ago, said the new contract would bring ‘family friendly’ policies to the organization that will ‘encourage people like me to stay and become better lawyers for our clients.’  MFY Executive Director Jeanette Zelhof said the contract ‘expands on an already generous compensation package, and gives MFY administrative changes that we need to run our nonprofit more efficiently’ and will ‘allow MFY to continue to expand much needed legal services to underserved communities.’”  (New York Law Journal)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: Deborah Templer, a commercial litigation partner in the Gowlings Lafleur Henderson LLP Toronto office, has been named the winner of the Canadian Bar Association’s 2015 Young Lawyers Pro Bono Award. “Deborah is an outstanding lawyer with a steadfast commitment to access to justice,” said Scott Jolliffe, Gowlings chair and CEO. “Pro bono legal service forms an essential part of both her practice and her contributions to our firm and profession. We’re tremendously proud of Deborah, and are delighted to see her efforts recognized through this prestigious award.”

A long-time supporter of Pro Bono Law Ontario (PBLO), Templer was behind the formation of a unique partnership between Gowlings and PBLO to launch a medical-legal clinic at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital. Under her leadership, Gowlings has delivered free legal advice and information sessions to over 100 low- and moderate-income families on tax, employment, insurance, and estate matters.  Congratulations and well-deserved!  (Gowlings press release)

Super Music Bonus!  http://youtu.be/KnIozPJWTPM

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – February 20, 2015

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

Happy Friday everyone!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Corporations help pay legal aid costs in Connecticut;
  • No new money for legal aid in British Columbia;
  • Oklahoma Senate panel passes measure to fund civil legal services;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

February 15, 2015 – “Some of the world’s largest companies have chipped in to help provide free legal help to poor people across Connecticut in what’s billed as the first program of its kind in the country.   Connecticut-based mega corporations General Electric, United Technologies and Xerox, along with several other companies, have teamed up with the state’s three legal aid organizations to start LawyerCorps Connecticut. The program will pay the salaries and benefits of young attorneys dubbed ‘fellows’ who will work with the legal aid groups to represent several hundred clients a year in civil and family courts.”  “LawyerCorps was conceived about two years ago by Connecticut Chief Justice Chase T. Rogers and is based on [Teach for America], which recruits and trains teachers to educate students in low-income areas.”  “LawyerCorps is now reviewing applications from dozens of young or future lawyers and plans to hire three — one for each legal aid organization in the state — who will begin working by September.”  (New Haven Register)

February 18, 2015 – “The budget announced this week by the British Columbia government has more money for police, for courthouse renovations, and a new correctional facility. Despite a projected budget surplus of nearly $900 million, there is no new funding for legal aid services in the province.  Legal organizations in B.C. that have been outspoken about what they say is the chronic underfunding of legal aid, expressed disappointment over the budget, which also included a tax cut for people earning over $150,000 annually. ‘This is 25 years with no new funding,’ says Birgit Eder, a defence lawyer and co-chairperson of the Trial Lawyers Association of B.C.’s legal aid action committee.  The Canadian Bar Association-British Columbia chapter also expressed its concerns about the budget.  ‘This is a big part of the access-to-justice problem,’ says Alex Shorten, a Vancouver lawyer and president of the CBA-BC. ‘There needs to be more money for legal services for the most vulnerable in the province.’”  (Canadian Lawyer Magazine)

February 19, 2015 – “A Senate panel passed a measure Wednesday to fund legal services in civil cases for low-income people.  Senate Bill 459, now moves to the full Senate for consideration after passing the Senate Appropriations Committee. The measure diverts 65 cents of a $2 filing fee on civil cases to the Oklahoma Access to Justice Commission from the Council on Judicial Complaints. The remainder would stay with the Council on Judicial Complaints. The diversion is expected to generate $178,000.The Oklahoma Supreme Court created the seven-member Oklahoma Access to Justice Commission last March, said Vice Chief Justice Douglas L. Combs, who appeared before the panel to answer questions. The commission was created to expand access to and enhance the quality of justice in civil legal matters for low-income Oklahomans, Combs said. It coordinates with groups that currently offer legal civil services to low-income individuals, Combs said.”  (Tulsa World)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: 

Jan R. Jurden became the first female president of the Delaware Superior Court when she was sworn in on Monday afternoon.  The oath was administered to Jurden by Susan Del Pesco, the state’s first female Superior Court judge, in front of a packed courtroom in the New Castle County Courthouse.  Jurden, who has been on the bench since May 2001, will fill the vacancy left by Justice James Vaughn Jr.  Congratulations President Judge Jurden!  (Delaware Online)

Super Music Bonus!  http://youtu.be/f_rt9bZhrF8

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – February 13, 2015

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

Happy Friday everyone!  It’s Friday the 13th and Valentine’s Day weekend. There’s a lot of public interest love this week in the news.  Enjoy!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • EEOC joins federal partners to produce resource guide on disability hiring for employers;
  • Dallas Bar Association and Legal Aid raise more than $1 mil;
  • Mobile legal aid office to help homeless youth;
  • NYLAG head resigns amid allegations of financial wrongdoing;
  • New Jersey State Bar begins efforts to lower legal services costs for middle class;
  • Madison, Wisconsin non-profits uniting to develop free legal clinics for undocumented;
  • Idaho panel tries to ease load of public defenders;
  • Chicago legal aid names new Executive Director;
  • Idaho Appellate Defender seeks to close wage disparity;
  • Hogan Lovells introduces mandatory community service requirements for all employees;
  • LA School Board oks attorneys to offer free legal aid to students at risk of deportation;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

February 6, 2015 – “On Tuesday, Feb. 3, at a Summit on Disability and Employment, the White House announced a new guide for employers that compiles key federal and federally funded resources related to the employment of people with disabilities. The resource guide, Recruiting, Hiring, Retaining, and Promoting People with Disabilities, provides employers with plain language technical assistance tools in an easy-to-use question-and-answer format.  The guide was produced by the Curb Cuts to the Middle Class Initiative — a federal interagency effort working to increase equal employment opportunities and financial independence for people with disabilities. “  The guide is a central repository of information and resources to increase employment opportunities for candidates with disabilities.  (JD Supra Business Advisor)

February 8, 2015 – “The Dallas Bar Association and Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas set a record this year, raising $1,100,415 in their Equal Access to Justice Campaign. The fundraiser supports the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program, which offers free legal assistance to more than 4,000 low-income families each year. The campaign raises money from Dallas lawyers to fund pro bono legal services for the poor.”  (The Dallas Morning News)

February 8, 2015 – “A new legal aid office on wheels will hit the road this month and begin reaching scores of youngsters who are homeless or in danger of landing in the streets, advocates said.  ‘Most of the youths who are moving around and experiencing some level of homelessness don’t know they have legal rights,’ said Stacey Violante Cote, a lawyer who directs the Teen Legal Advocacy Project for the Center for Children’s Advocacy in Hartford.  This new endeavor of ours is to literally use a vehicle to reach out to this population.’”  “The project is believed to be the second of its kind in the country, said Martha Stone, executive director of the Center for Children’s Advocacy, which secured about $50,000 worth of grants and donations to buy the van and get it retrofitted. The first such mobile legal clinic focused on youth homelessness is in Chicago, she said.  ‘It’s bringing legal services to where the kids are,’ Stone said, ‘because the kids aren’t going to come to us.’”  (Hartford Courant)

February 8, 2015 - The head of New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG) stepped down amid a federal investigation into his alleged “accounting irregularities.”  “We are confident the matter involving our former CEO will not interfere with the important legal services our dedicated team provides New Yorkers on a daily basis,” NYLAG spokeswoman Camilla Jenkins said in a statement.  Yisroel Schulman will be replaced by Beth Goldman, who was appointed as New York City’s commissioner of finance in 2013 by Mayor Bill de Blasio. Goldman will start her new position at NYLAG on Feb. 17.  (Jewish News)

February 8, 2015 – “The New Jersey State Bar Association is working on a way to make legal services affordable for the middle class.  The group has begun studying methods to hook up those who can’t afford the traditional retainer for a lawyer with attorneys in their price range.”  The group hopes to replicate the program involving Rutgers Law School.  “A blue ribbon panel that includes a pair of retired state Supreme Court Justices will look to create a commercially-viable model of that program, with elder lawyers supervising younger ones.”  The Bar hopes to present suggestions within 6 months.  (CBS Philly)

February 9, 2015 - Several Madison, Wisconsin nonprofit organizations are uniting to develop free legal clinics for undocumented immigrants who qualify for new immigration programs announced last November.  “The Madison City Council also approved $30,000 in assistance from the city’s contingent reserve last week to go toward the effort.  Ald. Shiva Bidar-Sielaff said that funding will go to a half-time staff member at Centro Hispano to coordinate information about the clinic’s hours, train volunteers and get responses from people wanting to go to the clinic.”  (The Cap Times)

February 9, 2015 – “In an effort to cut down on the use of public defenders in Idaho, a legislative panel introduced several bills that would change some misdemeanor charges to lesser infractions.  Republican Rep. Lynn Luker says the bills also try to match an appropriate penalty for the crimes.”  (Times-News)

February 9, 2015 – “The Legal Aid Society of Metropolitan Family Services (LAS), the second oldest legal aid organization in the nation, has announced that Karina Ayala-Bermejo, Executive Vice President of Human Resources & General Counsel at Metropolitan Family Services, will become Executive Director of the Legal Aid Society (LAS), effective April 1, 2015. Ayala-Bermejo also will continue to serve as Metropolitan’s General Counsel and Executive Vice President.”  LAS is part of Metropolitan Family Services, which has been empowering Chicago-area families to reach their greatest potential and positively impact their communities since 1857.  (Chicago Tribune)

February 10, 2015 – “Idaho’s appellate public defenders make nearly $16,000 less than the state’s Attorney General’s deputies, who often represent the other side while arguing the same case in court.  State Appellate Public Defender Sara Thomas asked legislative budget writers Tuesday for an additional $91,900 in fiscal year 2016 to raise salaries for her appellate public defenders.  Thomas says the amount still falls short compared to how much private attorneys charge. However, the income boost would close the disparity gap between her office and the lowest-paid counterpart in the Attorney General’s office.  State appellate public defenders currently make an average of roughly $56,000 a year. The average Attorney General deputy in the appellate unit makes more than $71,000.”  (KHQ)

February 11, 2015 – “Hogan Lovells has put in place a new broad-reaching policy that will require each of the firm’s more than 5,000 employees in about 25 countries to devote 25 hours per year to community service.  Employees will be able to count the 25 hours as part of their workday, according to Hogan Lovells CEO Stephen Immelt, with the expectation that the approximately 2,500 lawyers who work at the firm will spend their time on pro bono legal services.  While mandatory or highly encouraged pro bono work at Am Law 100 firms is hardly unique, Hogan Lovells’ requirement that nonlawyers participate appears to be the first of its kind. Another ambitious component of the policy is that it applies equally to employees in the firm’s offices outside the United States.”  (American Lawyer)

February 11, 2015 – “Staff attorneys with the Los Angeles Unified School District will be allowed to voluntarily provide free legal services to unaccompanied minors who live within the district and are facing the threat of deportation.”  “Under the program announced last month, 10 LAUSD attorneys will be expected to take on individual cases for an average of one to three hours a week. They will make up their work hours by working late or on weekends, according to the district.”  (CBS Los Angeles)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: 

A Hall County public defender will receive an award Tuesday for work in community service.  Public defender Nicki Vaughan is the recipient of the 16th Annual Justice Robert Benham Award for Community Service.  The award, which is presented by the State Bar of Georgia, honors members of the bar who “have made significant contributions to their communities and demonstrate the positive contributions of members of the Bar beyond their legal or official work,” according to a news release.  Vaughan is one of the co-founders of Georgia CASA, a group of court-appointed special advocates who assist children in foster care.  She is one of 10 recipients.  Congratulations!  (GainesvilleTimes.com)

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – February 6, 2015

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

Happy Friday everyone!  Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow this week, so six more weeks of winter.  I know many of you are ready for it to be over already. Stay warm out there.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Peace Corps and law school team up to offer Coverdell Fellowships in Hawai’i;
  • Equal Justice Coalition calls for greater legal aid funding in Massachusetts;
  • New York’s MFY Legal Services on strike;
  • Iowa attorneys will not support legal aid through yearly fee;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

January 29, 2015 – “The Peace Corps has announced the launch of a new Paul D. Coverdell Fellows Program in partnership with the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa’s William S. Richardson School of Law. The program will provide graduate school scholarships to returned Peace Corps volunteers who complete a degree-related internship in an underserved American community while they pursue their studies.”  “Competitively selected Coverdell Fellows will have the opportunity to pursue a juris doctor degree. The new partnership is the first between the Peace Corps and a university campus in Hawai‘i, and is one of only a small handful of Coverdell Fellows programs to offer a law degree.”  (University of Hawai’i at Mānoa)

January 30, 2015 – “Attorneys from private law firms and advocates of civil legal aid organizations in Massachusetts gathered at the State House Thursday, calling for a $10 million funding increase in next year’s state’s budget for civil legal aid.  Currently, the state provides $15 million in funding for civil legal aid. The group, which held its annual walk to Beacon Hill on Thursday, is pushing for the state budget to include $25 million in civil legal aid funding next year and then ratchet up to a total of $45 million in funding over the three years.  The annual walk is organized by The Equal Justice Coalition, which is composed of the Massachusetts Bar Association, the Boston Bar Association, and the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, known as MLAC.”  (Boston Business Journal)

February 2, 2015 – “Lawyers are on strike at one of the city’s top legal aid organizations, leaving the firm with hardly any staff left to handle cases.  Attorneys, paralegals and secretaries at MFY Legal Services — which helps thousands of low-income New Yorkers each year with housing problems, family issues and discrimination cases — voted on Friday to reject a new contract because the raises were too low and MFY’s leadership asked for ‘givebacks’ in exchange for parental leave.”  (DNAinfo)

February 3, 2015 – “Iowa attorneys will not be required to pay a yearly fee to support low-income legal services, but the state needs to find more ways to provide representation to its poorest residents, Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady wrote in a Tuesday order.  The order stems from a drive by Iowa Legal Aid for the court to establish a $100 yearly fee to help support its budget amid a decline in funding from the federal government and other sources. Iowa Legal Aid is the state’s largest organization offering civil legal services to poor residents, closing an average of 23,000 cases a year between 2008 and 2012.”  The Court, Legal Aid, and the Iowa State Bar Association will continue to look for other ways to meet the legal needs of poor Iowans.  (The Des Moines Register)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: 

A human rights organization at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law is one of nine nonprofit groups to win the 2015 MacArthur Foundation grants.  The MacArthur Foundation honors extraordinary organizations – in this case, recognizing the Human Rights Center’s investigations and research on war crimes and human rights abuses in more than a dozen countries and spotlighting the center’s recent work on wartime sexual violence. MacArthur will award the center $1 million to establish an endowment and expand its sexual violence program.  Read more about their excellent work here. (Daily Journal)

Super Music Bonus! http://youtu.be/4wfa6qZmz5A?list=PLVXq77mXV53_3HqhCLGv4mz3oVGYd2Aup

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – January 30, 2015

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

Happy Friday everyone!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • B.C. lawyer donates $30 mil to UBC law school;
  • ME’s legal services fund short $1.7 mil;
  • Law incubator welcomes inaugural class;
  • Congressman introduces bill to discharge student loan debt in bankruptcy;
  • Ottawa pilot project offers legal information, but not advice;
  • Proposed legislation in MO would alter prosecutor system;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

January 22, 2015 – “A B.C. lawyer, philanthropist and businessman who has already donated millions to social justice causes has given the law school at the University of British Columbia the biggest gift it has ever received.  Peter Allard, a UBC law school grad, has donated $30-million to help the school promote human rights and social justice, as well as anti-corruption efforts around the world, the university said in a news release on Thursday. The donation is on top of $11.86-million Mr. Allard gave the school in 2011.”  The grant will be used, in part, to expand the school’s legal advice clinic.  (The Globe and Mail)

January 22, 2015 – “The state Commission on Indigent Legal Services told lawmakers the agency is short $1.7 million to meet its expected obligations this budget year.  Executive Director John Pelletier says not only do they need additional funds for this year, they are flat funded in the governor’s proposed two-year budget.  ‘These are requests that we believe are realistic, acknowledges the existence of these increasing costs and put the increases at a number that is based on data,’ Pelletier said.  Pelletier says actual costs are going up by about 8 percent a year and funding has not kept up.”  (MPBN News)

January 22, 2015 – “The Loyola University New Orleans College of Law has announced its inaugural group of participants for the Loyola Incubator Program, an intensive, yearlong mentorship and skills program for recent graduates in their first three years of solo practice. With 25 percent of participants’ time devoted to pro bono legal work, the Incubator Program addresses the unmet legal needs of poor or moderate-income individuals in the Greater New Orleans area. The first year of the two-year pilot program began this month and runs through December 2015.”  (Loyola University New Orleans Newsroom)

January 22, 2015 – “A lawmaker has filed legislation in Congress to allow student loan debt to be treated like other forms of debt that can be discharged in bankruptcy proceedings.  Rep. John K. Delaney, D-Md., introduced the Discharge Student Loans in Bankruptcy Act (H.R. 449).  ‘Student loan debt is dragging down economic growth, keeping the American Dream out of reach for many and is a monthly strain for millions,’ Delaney said in a statement. ‘While student loan debt is a complex problem that will require many solutions—increased support for grant programs, efforts to increase affordability, improved consumer education—we also need to reform our laws to help those with the absolute greatest need. Right now, there is effectively a huge student loan loophole in bankruptcy law that’s hurting real people.’”  (Accounting Today)

January 23, 2015 – “A new centre in Ottawa that provides free bilingual legal information is up and running after receiving $1.5 million from the federal government. The Ottawa Legal Information Centre, which opened its doors last week, offers free legal information and referral services, but not legal advice or representation. ‘We don’t represent in court, we won’t evaluate a case’s chances of success,’ said executive director Andrée-Anne Martel.  Martel says the centre will help Canadians who face legal issues but don’t know what to do or can’t afford to properly deal with their case.”  (CBC News)

January 25, 2015 – “Proposed legislation in the Missouri Senate could significantly alter criminal prosecution with a fundamental change in the structure of prosecuting attorney offices that is tied to structural reforms of the circuit court system.Senate Bill 79, sponsored by Sen. Bob Dixon (R-Greene County), would allow county commissions to abolish the office of county prosecuting attorney to join a state’s attorney system that could potentially have some elected prosecutors covering multiple counties.”  “SB 79 would allow a state’s attorney to be elected every four years beginning with the 2018 general election from counties in a judicial circuit that have elected to join the system.”  (Lake News Online)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: Akerman LLP has been selected as the recipient of the 2015 Chief Justice’s Law Firm Commendation Award by the Florida Supreme Court and The Florida Bar — the highest recognition of pro bono legal service awarded in the state to a law firm.  This is the second consecutive year that the Florida Supreme Court and The Florida Bar have recognized Akerman lawyers for their pro bono work and efforts benefiting at-risk youth.  Thank you for your outstanding work!  (Orlando Business Journal)

Super Music Bonus! In honor of the Super Bowl, here is a great video about game watching stereotypes.  Enjoy!

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – January 23, 2015

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

Happy Friday everyone!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • TX panel recommends case limits for indigent defense;
  • Montgomery County, AL Public Defenders Office takes first cases;
  • NY State Bar seeks budget surplus funding of new legal aid center;
  • Goodwin Proctor opens applications for Public Interest Fellowship;
  • Dayton, OH grants $25,000 for immigrant legal services;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

January 15, 2015 – “Criminal defense attorneys across Texas should have specific limits for caseloads, according to a state commission study released Thursday.  Based on information collected from defense lawyers statewide, the Texas Indigent Defense Commission recommended guidelines on the number of cases attorneys can handle, saying it would help ensure that court appointed lawyers have enough time to devote to each client.  According to the study’s findings, a Texas attorney should handle an annual full-time equivalent of no more than 236 Class B misdemeanors, 216 class A misdemeanors, 175 state jail felonies, 144 third-degree felonies, 105 second-degree felonies or 77 first-degree felonies.  The report was applauded by legislators who have long sounded the call for lower caseloads and more resources.”  (Chron)

January 19, 2015 – “Starting Tuesday, Montgomery County defendants who are unable to pay for attorneys for court cases will have an option.  The Montgomery County Public Defender’s Office will begin representing indigent clients Tuesday. The office is headed by Aylia McKee, formerly of the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office and the Public Defenders Office for the Middle District of Alabama.”  (Montgomery Advertiser)

January 19, 2015 – “The New York State Bar Association is seeking $5 million in state funding for the creation of a legal services center in Albany to enhance the availability of legal services to low income individuals.  ‘With the state’s surplus, there is now an opportunity to make a one-time investment that could be very meaningful in terms of improving the access of people needing legal assistance to available services and enhancing the ability of lawyers to provide these services,’ State Bar President Glenn Lau-Kee of New York City (Kee & Lau-Kee) wrote in a letter to Governor Cuomo.”  “The Association’s proposal is supported by the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York, Empire Justice Center and the Legal Project, all of which are providers in the Capital District.”  (Read Media)

January 21, 2015 – For the 10th consecutive year, Goodwin Proctor LLP is offering “its 2015 Public Interest Fellowships for Law Students of Color program, which provides awards of $7,500 to law students of color who demonstrate outstanding academic performance, leadership skills and a commitment to community service. The fellowships are designed to help support students who plan to work in public interest law positions in the summer following their first year of law school. This year, four fellowships will be awarded. Application guidelines and forms are available online; the application deadline is March 13, 2015.  (Business Wire)

January 21, 2015 – “Dayton City Commissioners approved a grant that may have a major impact on immigrants.  The grant for $25,000 is all part of an initiative to make Dayton a friendlier, more welcoming community.  It was awarded to Advocates for Basic Legal Equality (ABLE), a non-profit firm that provides legal services for immigrants.  The non-profit estimates that through this grant, and more in the future, it will have the funds to aid nearly 5,000 people who are eligible for temporary stays through President Obama’s executive action in November.”  (WDTN.com)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: Chatham County Assistant Public Defender Christopher Middleton has been named winner of the State Bar of Georgia’s 16th annual Justice Robert Benham Award for Community Service for the state’s District 1.  The award, to be presented Feb. 17 at the Georgia Bar Center in Atlanta, was created in 1996 by then-Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Benham and others amid concerns that a decreasing number of the state’s lawyers were active in leadership positions in public and community services.  The award, which is administered by the state bar and the Chief Justice’s Commission on Professionalism, recognizes lawyers who continue to value the tradition of community service and who measure their success in ways other than financial gain.  Congratulations to Mr. Middleton, who has impacted his community in numerous positive ways!  (Savannah Morning News)

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