Archive for Public Interest Law News Bulletin

PSJD Public Interest News Digest – December 12, 2014

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

Happy Friday!  We continue our series on job search strategies for the winter break on the PSJD Blog.  Check it out and share with your friends.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • LGBT law clinic Legal G launches in FL;
  • Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians donates funds to help homeless;
  • Iowa Legal Aid champions attorney fee for the poor;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: Ellen Greenlee;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

December 6, 2014 -Tavernier lawyers Bernadette Restivo, Elena Vigil-Farinas and Jessica Reilly have launched Legal G-Aid, a nonprofit aimed at helping low-income people with LGBT-related legal issues. “It registered with the state Nov. 4 — Election Day — and officially launched at a kickoff event Friday in Key West.” “The basis for the nonprofit, according to Restivo, is the costs associated with LGBT-related legal issues.”  “Restivo is seeking the help of others to serve on Legal G-Aid’s board and attorneys who are willing to work pro bono or at a “greatly reduced” hourly rate to help with LGBT legal issues. She said she has interest from people in other counties in starting their own Legal G-Aid chapters.”(KeysInfoNet)

December 8, 2014 – “To bolster the Legal Aid Foundation of Santa Barbara County’s efforts to reduce homelessness through its effective programs, the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians donated $10,000 on Monday to the organization’s fundraising campaign.  The Legal Aid Foundation’s vision is to provide equal access to justice for all; removing victims of domestic violence permanently from harm’s way, preventing homelessness, helping seniors live with dignity and independence, and providing a legal safety net for low-income residents of Santa Barbara County.”  (NoozHawk)

December 10, 2014 – Iowa Legal Aid has championed a proposal to require most Iowa attorneys to pay a yearly $100 fee to support its budget.  “The proposal has divided Iowa lawyers and has brought in more than 130 pages worth of public comments to the state Supreme Court. Lines are drawn between attorneys who believe they have a special duty to help the poor get access to courtrooms and those who argue a mandatory fee is essentially forced charity or an unfair tax on lawyers.”  “A $100 mandatory fee could potentially raise $903,400 of an estimated $1.8 million needed to boost the number of staff attorneys, according to the report from Supreme Court staff. Currently, eight other states require attorneys to pay similar fees, including Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin. The Iowa high court is also considering whether the fee could be paid on a voluntary basis.”  Comments will be accepted until January 5, 2015.  (The Des Moines Register)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: “Ellen Greenlee, who has been the chief defender at the Defender Association of Philadelphia for the past 25 years, has announced she will be stepping down this spring.  According to a statement from the association’s board of directors emailed Tuesday, Greenlee will be retiring as the chief public defender March 1, 2015. Greenlee has worked at the association for 40 years, and spent 25 as chief defender, the statement said.”  “Her exemplary career has truly been a light in all-too-often dark corners of the criminal justice system and we join in celebrating her accomplishments and well-earned retirement,” said David Rudovsky, president of the association’s board of directors, in the statement. “On behalf of the board, and we know we speak for many in the Philadelphia criminal justice community, we express our deepest thanks to Ellen for her extraordinary leadership and service of the Defender Association.”  We congratulate Ms. Greenlee on an outstanding career, and thank you for your service.  (The Legal Intelligencer)

Super Music Bonus! http://youtu.be/4vNcGlM8O3I

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – December 5, 2014

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

Happy Friday and welcome to December!  Check out the PSJD blog, where we’re featuring tips for your job search during winter break.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Leading Law Students Program seats Penn State Law students on boards of nonprofits;
  • Push for legal aid for civil cases finds advocates;
  • UO Law becomes newest Gideon’s Promise law school partner;
  • ID legislative committee rejects public defender resolution;
  • The Law Commission of Ontario releases final report in its Capacity and Legal Representation for the Federal RDSP project;
  • Chief Justice leads commission to solve FL’s legal aid woes;
  • Legal Aid Ontario funds 3 Gladue workers in northern Ontario;
  • FL bill would give prosecutors/defenders student loan assistance;
  • Atkinson Foundation honors pro bono legal program at children’s hospital;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: Nobel Peace Prize winners;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

November 19, 2014 -”An innovative program now in its second year at Penn State Law provides students with a unique avenue for developing their leadership skills while they serve in their local community. Leading Law Students, which started last year at the suggestion of a current Penn State Dickinson School of Law student, places select law students on the boards of directors of local nonprofit organizations.”  “‘The program was envisioned as a way to encourage our students to begin thinking about how, as future attorneys, they can give back to their communities and start interacting with community members who could be their future clients,’ says Neil Sirota, assistant dean of Career Services at Penn State Law. ‘The reaction from our students and the local community has been tremendously positive. Our students are honing their leadership skills, expanding their professional networks, and helping to create new connections between the law school and the local community.’” (Penn State Law)

November 21, 2014 – “Free legal assistance in noncriminal cases is rare and growing rarer. A recent study in Massachusetts found that two-thirds of low-income residents who seek legal help are turned away. Nationally, important civil legal needs are met only about 20 percent of the time for low-income Americans, according to James J. Sandman, president of the Legal Services Corporation, a federal agency that finances legal aid groups.”  The Eviction Assistance Center, a legal aid office in the same building as the housing court works to provide legal aid.  “Established in 2011, the center is part of an experiment by the California courts on the benefits of providing more lawyers and legal advice to low-income people in civil cases such as child custody, protective orders against abusers, guardianship and, most commonly, evictions.”  “The California initiative and similar projects in New York, Massachusetts and elsewhere aim not only to help more needy clients but also to improve guidelines for the unavoidable and often painful legal triage: In a sea of unmet needs, who most needs a lawyer, who can do with some ‘self-help’ direction? What happens to those who must be turned away?”  Read on to find out more.  (NY Times)

November 24, 2014 – “The University of Oregon School of Law has joined the ranks of law schools at the University of Chicago, the University of California at Los Angeles and others by becoming a Gideon’s Promise law school partner.”  “Oregon Law graduates who participate in the program will receive a post-graduate fellowship from the law school and the promise of a job within one year of graduation at the public defender offices where they are placed. Graduates in the program will also receive three years of training and education from Gideon’s Promise.”   (University of Oregon)

November 24, 2014 – “Lawmakers on a committee charged with improving Idaho’s broken public defense system have killed a resolution that would have given the state full responsibly for assigning attorneys to indigent defenders.  Earlier this year, representatives from the state’s 44 counties voted that Idaho should manage the public defense system. However, members of the Legislature’s Public Defense Reform Interim Committee at a meeting Monday agreed that counties should remain in control.”  “The American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho and other legal experts have warned lawmakers since 2010 that Idaho’s public defense system is a potential target for lawsuits. The Idaho Association of Counties says the resolution won’t be presented again.  (KTVB.com)

November 27, 2014 – “The Law Commission of Ontario (LCO) today releases its final report in its Capacity and Legal Representation for the Federal RDSP project.  The Government of Ontario requested that the LCO undertake a review of how adults with disability might be better enabled to participate in the Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP). The RDSP is a savings vehicle created by the federal government to assist persons with disability with long-term financial security. The LCO’s final report presents recommendations respecting the creation of a streamlined process to appoint an ‘RDSP legal representative’ for adults seeking access to the RDSP who do not have legal capacity to establish a plan themselves.”  “The final report was the result of extensive research and consultations, and benefited from work being carried out in the LCO’s larger, ongoing Legal Capacity, Decision-Making and Guardianship project.”  (CNW)

November 27, 2014 – “Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Jorge Labarga doesn’t have solutions yet, but he announced this week a commission filled with lawyers, politicians and business leaders who he thinks can figure out a way for people to have more access to civil justice. In 2008, the Florida Bar Foundation gave $29 million to legal aid, nonprofit law firms that help the poor. This year, legal aid gets just $12 million. That means fewer attorneys can help fewer poor people navigate the civil courts.”  “Largely, [Labarga] said, the commission will study how other states provide access to civil attorneys.”  (The Florida Times-Union)

November 28, 2014 – “The director of Nishnawbe-Aski Legal Services says it has hired three Gladue workers in northern Ontario.  The specially-trained workers will prepare pre-sentence reports on the unique life experiences of aboriginal people who face charges.  Celina Reitberger said the workers will be based in Sioux Lookout, Thunder Bay and Timmins.”  (CBC News)

November 28, 2014 – State Senator Jeremy Ring filed a bill  which would offer thousands of dollars a year to help prosecutors and public defenders pay off student loans.  Ring’s bill would help assistant state attorneys, assistant public defenders, assistant attorneys general and assistant statewide prosecutors make their loan payments. Prosecutors or public defenders who have had their jobs three to six years would get $3,000-a-year. The amount climbs to $5,000 for attorneys who have served six to 12 years.”  (Broward Beat.com)

December 3, 2014 – “Parents of seriously ill children often have to make a difficult choice between being present for their child during hospital visits and keeping their jobs. Hannah Lee is trying to change that. Lee is the ‘triage lawyer’ at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital.”  “Lee is part of a Pro Bono Law Ontario (PBLO) partnership with the hospital that provides legal assistance in such situations to low-income families who don’t quite qualify for publicly funded counsel — a program that just got a $50,000 funding boost from the Atkinson Foundation and the Hindmarsh family. PBLO’s Medical-Legal Partnerships for Children is the recipient of the 2014 Ruth Atkinson Hindmarsh Award, named for the former foundation president and daughter of longtime Star publisher Joseph E. Atkinson. The annual award, presented Thursday, was established in 1998 to support the efforts of organizations dedicated to improving the lives of children.”  “The award funds will help the PBLO expand to a fifth location, McMaster Children’s Hospital in Hamilton.”  (thestar.com)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: On December 10, 1901, the first Nobel Prizes are awarded in Stockholm, Sweden, in the fields of physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and peace. The ceremony came on the fifth anniversary of the death of Alfred Nobel, the Swedish inventor of dynamite and other high explosives. In his will, Nobel directed that the bulk of his vast fortune be placed in a fund in which the interest would be “annually distributed in the form of prizes to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind.” Although Nobel offered no public reason for his creation of the prizes, it is widely believed that he did so out of moral regret over the increasingly lethal uses of his inventions in war.  Perhaps the most recognized are the winners of the Nobel Prize for Peace.  Notable winners have included Marie Curie, Theodore Roosevelt, Albert Einstein, George Bernard Shaw, Winston Churchill, Ernest Hemingway, Martin Luther King, Jr., the Dalai Lama, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Nelson Mandela.  To read more, go to History.com.

Super Music Bonus! http://youtu.be/t4lnWB7R_qM?list=PLVXq77mXV53_3HqhCLGv4mz3oVGYd2Aup

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – November 21, 2014

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

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  The Digest will take a holiday next week to celebrate Thanksgiving with the family.  We will return in December with news to prepare you for the winter break.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • New certificate program at Loyola University New Orleans College of Law prepares students to work in the public interest;
  • Former MS Volunteer Lawyers official pleads guilty to stealing federal funds;
  • National Center for Access to Justice revises Justice Index;
  • ABA launches site to aid unaccompanied minors;
  • USAJobs is getting another makeover;
  • Kings County (WA) Council delays PD layoffs;
  • TN CLE Commission supports access to justice;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: Maureen Alger;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

November 12, 2014 -”The Loyola University New Orleans College of Law now offers a new Social Justice Certificate Program, which assists students who want to effectively advocate for the poor and the marginalized.  Through hands-on experience and focused academic study in this certificate program, students will not only be able to advance public interest causes for the needy and disadvantaged, but also provide a strong signal of their commitment to social justice to fellowship programs and future employers.  Students must maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher in the certificate courses and an overall GPA of 2.5 or higher to receive the certificate, while completing four to eight hours of doctrinal coursework, seven to 10 hours of experiential hours, as well as 50 hours of public service work.  (Loyola University New Orleans)

November 13, 2014 – “The former executive director of the Mississippi Volunteer Lawyers Project faces up to one year in prison and a $100,000 fine for stealing less than $1,000 in federal Legal Services funds. Shirley Mae Williams, 47, of Jackson pleaded guilty Wednesday to theft of less than $1,000 in federal funds, which is misdemeanor. Federal prosecutors say from January 2009 through December 2012, Williams, while employed as MVLP executive director, converted the federal funds to pay for a portion of her family’s cellular phone expenses and health club membership. MVLP received Legal Services Corp. grant funds as a sub-grantee of both North Mississippi Rural Legal Services and Mississippi Center for Legal Services.”  (The Clarion-Ledger)

November 13, 2014 – “The National Center for Access to Justice revised The Justice Index on November 13, 2014 to reflect comments and corrections received from 21 states following publication of The Justice Index on February 25, 2014.”  A notice will be published on the Index when the updates are finalized.  (National Center for Access to Justice)

November 14, 2014 – “Child advocates have for months voiced concerns about unaccompanied minors not having an attorney by their side in immigration court, and now the American Bar Association is stepping in to help. The group launched a website this week as a resource for attorneys who want to volunteer their time to help unaccompanied minors navigate through the immigration system. The goal is to get more attorneys to provided unaccompanied minors with legal representation on a pro bono basis. The website is dubbed the Immigrant Child Advocacy Network. It was put together by the American Bar Association’s working group on unaccompanied minors in collaboration with partner organizations, like Kids in Need of Defense and the American Immigration Lawyers Association.” (VOXXI)

November 17, 2014 – “The Office of Personnel Management once again is revamping USAJobs, the website most people use to apply for jobs in the federal government. The agency wants to streamline and clarify its job descriptions and make sure job postings don’t ask applicants redundant questions, said OPM Director Katherine Archuleta on Friday during a virtual town hall where she took questions on topics including recruitment, diversity and the role of veterans’ preference in the hiring process. She did not say when a new site might debut.”  (Government Executive)

November 17, 2014 – “The King County department that helps defendants who can’t afford an attorney will lose 40 employees, including about 20 attorneys, under the two-year county budget adopted Monday by the Metropolitan King County Council. But the controversial staff reduction won’t happen immediately and could potentially be reversed next spring, because of a last-minute amendment by the council. County Executive Dow Constantine had proposed the reduction, saying the Department of Public Defense, at nearly 400 employees, had more staff than required. But the council tweaked the proposal after hearing one attorney after another testify Monday that the reduction would harm poor people and fail to save money.”  “Lisa Daugaard, deputy director of the Department of Public Defense, said the council’s amendment was in line with the board’s recommendations. ‘This is an important and welcome shift,’ said Daugaard. ‘It gives everyone involved a chance to get on the same page about what the real staffing requirements of the department are and then to make budget decisions in light of that information.’”  (Seattle Times)

November 19, 2014 – “The Tennessee Commission on Continuing Legal Education and Specialization has awarded more than $100,000 in grants to support Access to Justice initiatives in the state. The grants will extend by one year each the pro bono coordinator position and the aLEGALz project. ‘Encouraging lawyers to give back to their communities is a priority for the Court,’ said Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Sharon Lee. ‘These programs play a significant role in identifying opportunities and aligning the appropriate resources and we are grateful that the funding to continue them was possible.’”  (The Chattanoogan.com)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: On November 14, 2014, at its annual conference of the National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA), Cooley pro bono partner, Maureen Alger, was awarded the 2014 Arthur von Briesen Award for her work on behalf of equal justice. The von Briesen Award honors outstanding service in advancing the cause of equal access to justice, and recognizes the contributions of individuals and programs from a cross-section of the legal aid, public defense, and corporate law communities.  Congratulations!  (Market Wired)

Super Music Bonus!  Happy Thanksgiving!

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – November 14, 2014

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

Happy Friday everyone!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Georgia State Law School opening clinic to help vets;
  • Lewis & Clark Law School shuts down pro bono legal clinic;
  • SUNY Buffalo Law School launches new veterans clinic;
  • Brooklyn charity fund seeks to help people too poor to afford bail;
  • William & Mary Law receives DOJ grant to expand domestic violence clinic;
  • Immigrant aid expands to western NY;
  • Columbia Law’s Human Rights Clinic launches mentor program;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: The Public Interest Law Society, the Black Law Students Association and the Latin American Law Students Association of Widener Law;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

November 7, 2014 – “Georgia State University officials say the school is opening a law clinic to serve roughly 800 veterans who are enrolled as students. GSU officials say the Law Volunteer Clinic for Veterans will open with a ribbon cutting ceremony Nov. 11 at 4 p.m. GSU dean and law professor Steven Kaminshine said in a statement that the clinic will demonstrate how a law school can provide a valuable community service. Kaminshine says the clinic will allow students to work with experienced volunteer lawyers and receive pro bono credit.”  (The Florida Times-Union)

November 7, 2014 – “The downtown Lewis & Clark Legal Clinic, a source of pro bono legal services for low-income Portlanders since 1971, will close on Jan. 1, 2015.  The Clinic was run by legal clinicians and law students enrolled in externships through the law school. It created a mutually beneficial relationship between LC and the community: students received practical law experience; low-income Portlanders received help with legal issues including child support modifications, domestic violence cases and tax controversies.  The closure will force people to find pro bono services elsewhere.”  “Despite the loss to the local community, the downtown legal clinic is not the only public interest clinic run by the law school. There are six others currently in operation. In addition to services provided through the clinics, externships and internships, [Dean Jennifer] Johnson stated that students provided more than 15,000 hours of pro bono community service last year.” (The PIOLOG)

November 7, 2014 – Beginning in January, 2015, the SUNY Buffalo Law School clinical program will launch a new Veterans’ Economic Security Clinic to help veterans.  “The clinic will provide free civil legal services to western New York veterans facing eviction and consumer debt issues. Law faculty and students will work to prevent veterans’ homelessness and increase their financial security by helping them navigate the legal system, and crafting comprehensive suggestions for needed law reform. The clinic will strive to ensure equity in securing basic necessities required to thrive in civilian life.”  (University at Buffalo)

November 8, 2014 – You can plead guilty and get out of jail right now or fight your case, and stay in jail.  This situation is faced by many of the Brooklyn Defender’s clients who are pleading guilty to charges because they can’t afford to miss work or their family will be turned out of a shelter because they won’t be back for the night.  “To help these indigent defendants fight their cases out of jail and without the pressure to plead guilty, [Josh] Saunders and a fellow public defender, Scott Hechinger, are creating a charity fund, which would be sponsored by their employer, the Brooklyn Defenders Services.”  “The charity, called the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund, is made possible by a 2012 law that allows nonprofit organizations to post bail for defendants with misdemeanor charges, who are facing bail of $2,000 or less.”  This fund will follow the example of the first nonprofit bail fund in the state, the Bronx Freedom Fund works with clients from The Bronx Defenders.  So far, that Fund has “served 149 clients so far, with roughly $100,000 in the fund.”  (The Epoch Times)

November 11, 2014 – “William & Mary Law School has announced that its Domestic Violence Clinic is the recipient of a grant from the Department of Justice Office of Violence Against Women (DOJ OVW). The grant will provide more than $250,000 over two years to expand the services of the existing clinic.”  “The W&M Domestic Violence Clinic provides domestic violence legal education and protective order advocacy. The grant funding will be used to expand the clinic’s services to provide a more holistic approach to assisting clients and enable the clinic to represent more clients.”  (William & Mary Law School)

November 12, 2014 – “The New York Immigrant Family Unity Project, a joint venture between the Vera Institute of Justice and other groups, expanded to the Buffalo area on Monday, with the Erie County Bar Association’s Volunteer Lawyers Project providing free legal services to 55 immigrants facing deportation.”  (New York Law Journal) (free subscription required)

November 12, 2014 – “Students working in Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Clinic have been paired with experienced advocates from leading human rights organizations as part of an exciting new mentoring initiative.  ‘The Mentorship Program is designed to develop a new generation of human rights advocates while increasing practitioner links to new allies and fostering a supportive environment for human rights work,’ said Sarah Knuckey, the Lieff Cabraser Clinical Associate Professor of Human Rights, faculty co-director of the Human Rights Institute, and director of the Human Rights Clinic.  The just-launched Human Rights Clinic Mentorship Program connects students with mentors drawn from the global community of human rights practitioners. Selected to ensure diversity of experiences, the mentors work as advocates at organizations defending everything from the environment to freedom of expression, and from the rights of civilians in armed conflict to indigenous communities harmed by extractives projects. Students have been paired with mentors based on their interests and career goals, and the mentorship will promote the students’ development as strategic, principled, and reflective advocates for social justice.”  (Columbia Law School)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: Law students from the Harrisburg campus will be embarking on a new service project this holiday season that provides a meaningful opportunity to give back to the community.  Signups are now underway for students who will participate in a Thanksgiving Day of service at the Bethesda Mission in Harrisburg. The effort is a joint public service project of the Public Interest Law Society, the Black Law Students Association and the Latin American Law Students Association.  ‘This experience – the interpersonal skills and giving back – that’s what we are founded on,’ said Bri Gaumer, president of the Public Interest Law Society, which formed just last year.  The organizations will volunteer at the mission from 4 to 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving afternoon. Gaumer said they will be serving plates of food but also able to sit with residents and engage and connect with them. The students will also set up a table with access-to-justice information and resources for low-cost community legal services.”  Read more about this outstanding new project here.

Super Music Bonus!  A dance tune that’s been running through my head lately.

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – November 7, 2014

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

Happy Friday everyone!  Welcome to November.  Can you believe the holidays are almost upon us?  Now that we’re in the full swing of 1L counseling, any new initiatives out there we should know about?

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Alberta increases legal aid funding/raises eligibility threshold;
  • Vermont Legal Aid receives HUD grant;
  • FL Supreme Court to decide bar dues increase fight;
  • New York Law School starts public interest center and new externship program;
  • NY State Bar seeks broader definition of pro bono;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: Jeannette Rankin;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

October 30, 2014 – “The provincial government on Thursday announced increased Legal Aid funding which will allow lower income Albertans, such as those on AISH, access to justice.  An additional $5.5 million was pledged to the $47.9 million already committed for this fiscal year, meaning the maximum annual eligible income will be increased from $16,176 to $19,056.  The additional funds were ‘necessary to increase the eligibility requirement above AISH levels,’ Justice Minister Jonathan Denis said of those on Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped.”  (Calgary Sun)

October 30, 2014 – “Vermont Legal Aid has received a three-year Fair Housing Initiatives Program Grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to continue the Housing Discrimination Law Project’s work to ensure Vermonters’ access to housing and to challenge both individual and systemic discriminatory practices. The $975,000 grant will be disbursed over three years to fund Vermont Legal Aid’s statewide systemic and complaint-based testing project, fair housing counseling, representation in enforcement actions, education, and land use planning and policy advocacy with state and local officials.”  (vermontbiz)

November 4, 2014 – Legal aid providers in Florida are at the crisis stage.  “A combination of [Governor Rick] Scott’s budget vetoes and the [Florida State] bar’s refusal to add a new $100 fee to its membership dues mean that Florida’s legal-aid budget is about to take a 40 percent whack. Pending a last-minute emergency rescue by the Florida Supreme Court next month, hundreds of attorneys who help the poor will be out of a job.”   A group led by Kent Spuhler, executive director of Florida Legal Services Inc., has challenged the State Bar’s decision.  Oral arguments will be heard by the Florida Supreme Court on December 2.  (Miami New Times Blog)

November 4, 2014 – “New York Law School has launched the Impact Center for Public Interest Law, which will act as an umbrella for seven new and five existing initiatives seeking to advance social justice.  The Unshared Bounty Project, the Health Law and Patient Safety Initiative, the Voting Rights and Civic Participation Project, the Detention and the Struggle Against Terrorism, and the Safe Passage Project will be housed at the Center.”  “Separately, the school has started an externship program that places four fellows within eight business improvement districts (BID) in the city. The three students and one recent graduate in the Neighborhood Legal Fellows Program this fall are researching BID legal issues, such as city administrative law compliance, under the supervision of the city’s Small Business Services legal team. The graduate fellow will receive $3,000 while the students receive course credit.”  (New York Law Journal) (free subscription required)

November 4, 2014 – “The Unified Court System will work with the New York State Bar Association to develop a more expansive definition of pro bono to guide attorneys when they disclose pro bono hours and monetary contributions.  State Bar President Glenn Lau-Kee said drafts of more liberal definitions of pro bono were being exchanged between his group and the court system. On Saturday, the state bar’s House of Delegates adopted his resolution calling on the court to amend §118.1 of the Rules of the Chief Administrative Judge to identify additional activities as ‘reportable hours and financial contributions given by attorneys’ toward pro bono (NYLJ, Nov. 3).  “Lau-Kee said adding new categories of service to §118 of the Rules of the Chief Administrator will effectively formalize new and expanded definitions of pro bono.”  (New York Law Journal) (free subscription required)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: On this day in 1916, Montana suffragist Jeannette Rankin is elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. She is the first woman in the history of the nation to win a seat in the federal Congress.  Today, in the 113th Congress, there are 99 women (20 in the Senate and 79 in the House of Representatives) serving.  That is 18.5% of the elected officials in Congress.  Doesn’t seem like we’ve come that far in 100 years, have we?  One avenue toward change is to motivate our girls to grow up to become women who  seek change in positive ways.  I know we all know someone like that.  Let’s make an extra effort to support and encourage them.  We all benefit from diversity in our electorate.  (History.com)(Rutgers Center for American Women and Politics)

Super Music Bonus!  A little blues from two of my favorites.

 

 

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – October 31, 2014

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

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

Here are the week’s headlines:

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

The summaries:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Super Music Bonus!  

 

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

From our friends at EJW:

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

About Immigrant Children’s Defense Corps

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

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

Applications are now being accepted

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

Special opportunity to meet our host organizations

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

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

NEXT STEPS

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

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – October 17, 2014

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

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

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

Here are the week’s headlines:

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

The summaries:

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

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

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

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

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

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: 

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

Super Music Bonus!  

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – October 10, 2014

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

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

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

Here are the week’s headlines:

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

The summaries:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: 

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

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

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – October 3, 2014

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

Happy Friday everyone!

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

Here are the week’s headlines:

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

The summaries:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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