Archive for Public Interest Law News Bulletin

PSJD Public Interest News Digest – July 2, 2015

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

Happy Friday!  Happy 4th of July!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • New York State legislature resolution supports civil Gideon;
  • Major law firm giving to legal aid declining;
  • State marijuana laws complicate federal government hiring;
  • Boston Bar Foundation awards $950,000 in grants;
  • Los Angeles County’s top prosecutor creates wrongful conviction unit;
  • Legal Services of North Florida, Inc. receives grant;
  • First federal reentry program underway in Alaska;
  • Legal incubator programs growing;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

June 29, 2015 - “While the Legislature’s just-completed regular session included bills expanding efiling and refining pre- and post-divorce maintenance guidelines, court administrators say a symbolic gesture by the Senate and Assembly will have lasting significance as well. ‘It does establish a statewide policy of providing legal assistance for persons in need of the essentials of life,’ chief administrative judge A. Gail Prudenti said in an interview Friday. ‘While it is aspirational, it allows us to work with our access-to-justice partners knowing that they are as committed as we are to providing this assistance.’ Each house adopted a concurrent resolution (C776/B2995) declaring that the ‘fair administration of justice’ obligates the state to ensure that all New York residents have ‘adequate’ and ‘effective’ legal representation for matters pertaining to the essentials of life. Essential matters are defined as housing, family matters, access to healthcare, education and subsistence income. Legislators also pledged to continue working toward the ‘ideal of equal access to civil justice for all.’” (New York Law Journal)(free subscription required)

June 29, 2015 - “While major law firms are enjoying record revenues — more than $100 billion last year — they are donating only a tenth of 1 percent of their proceeds for legal aid to low-income people, according to a new analysis released by The American Lawyer. Such institutional giving now accounts for only 7 percent of total legal aid funding, which comes from federal, state and private sources, the publication said. Law firm giving is under pressure to give to clients’ charities and to law school alma maters, the analysis found. Five law firms said they had given more than $1 million each last year to organizations that provide legal aid, but most firms were unwilling to disclose the exact amounts.”  The analysis provides interesting reasons for the decline, and points to ways in which more firm pro bono can offset the decline.  (The New York Times)(The American Lawyer)

June 29, 2015 - Marijuana possession is legal is some states, but not under federal law.  This is a recruitment development I’ve been tracking, and one we may touch on at the Public Service Mini-Conference.  This article provides an interesting perspective on the issue.  Suffice it to say, it’s still best to counsel students to steer clear of any drug use if they are considering a career in the federal government.  ”For all the aspiring and current spies, diplomats and F.B.I. agents living in states that have liberalized marijuana laws, the federal government has a stern warning: Put down the bong, throw out the vaporizer and lose the rolling papers. It may now be legal in Colorado, in Washington State and elsewhere to possess and smoke marijuana, but federal laws outlawing its use — and rules that make it a firing offense for government workers — have remained rigid. As a result, recruiters for federal agencies are arriving on university campuses in those states with the sobering message that marijuana use will not be tolerated.”  (The New York Times)

June 29, 2015 - “The Boston Bar Foundation has awarded $950,000 in grants to 23 community organizations that work to provide legal services to low-income people. The organizations administer legal aid to the homeless, domestic violence survivors, at-risk children and veterans.”  (Daily Journal)

June 29, 2015 - “Los Angeles County’s top prosecutor has created a unit, headed by three experienced prosecutors, to review credible claims of wrongful convictions by criminal defendants. District Attorney Jackie Lacey said on Monday that the vast majority of the more than 71,000 felony cases filed by her office each year were upheld on appeal but that the unit was designed to catch those instances where the system failed. ‘In a few instances, new evidence is discovered and, on rare occasions, mistakes are found,’ Lacey said in a written statement. ‘Whenever we receive new credible information that may exonerate a person, the responsibility is on us, as prosecutors, to re-examine the facts and, if appropriate, to seek to vacate a wrongful conviction,’ she said.”  (Yahoo! News)

June 29, 2015 - “Sunday’s Child awards a total of $66,250 to two Escambia County nonprofits. Legal Services of North Florida, Inc. and Arc Gateway each won a grant for $33,125. Legal Services of North Florida, Inc. (category of Family & LGBT) will use their grant to hire a staff attorney for one year to develop enhanced advocacy and education tools to support victims of violence and bullying in the community.”  (Pensacola Today)

June 30, 2015 - “Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Bradley and federal public defender Rich Curtner stood inside a courtroom together as part of the team that makes up the Alaska Hope Court. The Hope Court is a project that has been in the works for a few years. Chief Magistrate Judge Deborah Smith and Curtner were advocates for bringing a reentry program to the state. The goal of the program is to reduce recidivism rates for federal offenders, keeping them out of prison once they reenter society. The Hope Court is also designed to help lower the costs associated with having criminals return into the system. Smith says reentry programs can save the judicial system about $2.21 for every $1 they invest in rehabilitating a criminal.“  (KTVA)

June 30, 2015 - “Law schools in California and other states have started up incubator programs. These projects, sort of training law firms, aim to help students prepare for life as lawyers by teaching them about the basics of law practice. At the same time, these programs provide affordable access to legal services for people of modest means. There are now about two dozen of these start-up firms across the country. Next year, five law schools in the San Francisco Bay Area will launch their program. Its objectives will be to provide long-term employment for graduates and increase access to legal services. Tiela Chalmers, CEO of the Alameda County Bar Association, discusses the initiative in this report.”  (Legal Broadcasters Network)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:  Kathleen Moccio, Hennepin County, Minnesota assistant public defender.

As public defenders nationwide scrambled to deal with the aftermath of a major court ruling on immigration in 2010, Kathleen Moccio was ready to help Hennepin County take it head-on. That year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that noncitizens have the right to legal advice on immigration consequences. Moccio immediately developed a plan for her office to ensure that her clients would get help in holding onto the American dream. Now, with five years under her belt as a Hennepin County assistant public defender, Moccio has been honored for her efforts by the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, which chooses one lawyer a year for the award.  Congratulations!  (Star Tribune)

Super Music Bonus!  https://youtu.be/KSrvulzNb4k?list=PL3QK-FeOu2ceTmYVjx45NQmr2minjaNqG

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – June 26, 2015

by Christina Jackson, NALP Director of Public Service Initiatives & Fellowships Happy Friday! Here are the week’s headlines:

  • State Bar of Georgia approves funding for incubator program;
  • Orleans Public Defender announces austerity plan;
  • New Hampshire Legal assistance receives grant from New Hampshire Bar Foundation;
  • Vermont launches patent pro bono program;
  • North Carolina State Senate proposes stripping another $3 million from UNC Law School;
  • Equal Justice Wyoming announces grants to legal service providers;
  • Need for access for  francophone legal services in Manitoba on the rise;
  • Legal Services of the Hudson Valley (of New York) launches project to provide LGBTQ services;
  • Rhode Island Supreme Court ruling expands legal services;
  • San Mateo County California approves budget for private defender system;
  • Boston Bar Foundation awards $950,000 in grants;
  • First class of New York Pro Bono Scholars are sworn in;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

June 19, 2015 – “The State Bar of Georgia’s Board of Governors on Friday narrowly approved funding for a new lawyer incubator program through which up to 30 new graduates from Georgia law schools will receive mentoring, office space and other help to start small practices.” The project will be run by a nonprofit group with an initial startup donation of $25,000 from each of the state’s law schools. (Daily Report)(free subscription required)

June 21, 2015 - “Three years after purging nearly a third of his lawyers amid a steep budget shortfall, Orleans Parish Chief Public Defender Derwyn Bunton has told his staff that a new round of stiff cuts — lengthy furloughs, possibly layoffs or some combination — is coming. Bunton put his austerity plan on paper last week, alerting the City Council, the mayor, judges and Sheriff Marlin Gusman that it ‘will likely cause serious delays in the courts and potential constitutional crises for our criminal justice system in New Orleans if no solution is reached timely.’ Bunton said he would institute a hiring freeze beginning July 1, the start of a new fiscal year in which he says he’s facing a $1 million shortfall from the current year’s budget of about $6 million. Barring a bailout before then, furloughs will come in October, Bunton said. His letter did not say how long the furloughs would run, but Bunton has told his staff they can expect to lose several weeks of pay.”  (The New Orleans Advocate)

June 21, 2015 - “New Hampshire Legal Assistance was recently awarded $488,000 from the New Hampshire Bar Foundation’s IOLTA Grants Program to provide civil legal aid services to New Hampshire residents in the coming fiscal year, according to a press statement.”  (Concord Patch)

June 22, 2015 - “Vermont is launching a program to help qualified inventors and small businesses get donated legal services from patent attorneys and agents. The program is made possible by the Leahy -Smith America Invents Act, which requires the US Patent and Trademark Office to work with law associations to create donated programs for under-resourced small businesses and independent inventors. Vermont’s program is part of a regional New England effort.”  (Washington Times)

June 22, 2015 – “State Sen. Tom Apodaca, a Republican, introduced a late amendment to the state budget last week that would cut $3 million from the law school in Chapel Hill—more than 10 percent of its proposed $27.2 budget for next fiscal year. The Senate passed the amendment by a 30-19 vote, and the proposed budget is now before the state House of Representatives. In February, the UNC Board of Governors voted to strip money from the law school’s Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity. The center is now supported through private donations.”  (The National Law Journal)

June 22, 2015 - “Equal Justice Wyoming, formerly the Wyoming Center for Legal Aid, recently announced the award of grants to five, nonprofit, legal service providers totaling $852,777 to provide civil legal aid to the low-income population of Wyoming, the maximum amount available in the budget approved by the legislature. Equal Justice received 12 grant proposals requesting more than $1.5 million. The grants awarded are one-year grants.”  (Casper Journal)

June 22, 2015 - “Manitoba’s growing francophone population is putting pressure on the province’s judicial system to provide legal services in French. And that’s got some influential players doing what they can to try to ensure people are equally able to have a trial or preliminary hearing in either of Canada’s official languages. ‘Because you have a more significant French-speaking population in Manitoba (than in previous years) that isn’t always comfortable with English, the requirement for French legal services and trials is going up,’ said Renald Remillard, executive director of the Centre Canadien de Francais Juridique Inc., a training centre for judges, police officers, lawyers and private sector jurists to hone their French language skills. Another new development is lawyers now have a professional obligation to inform their clients of the right to have a trial in French or English, said Lorna Turnbull, dean of the law school at the University of Manitoba, an obligation that they didn’t have in previous years. The right to have a French-speaking lawyer and judge only applies to criminal matters, she said.”  (The Carillon)

June 22, 2015 - “Westchester County now has an attorney dedicated to providing civil legal services to low-income lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning individuals. The Legal Services of the Hudson Valley (LSHV) has launched a project aimed at helping members of the LGBTQ community with issues such as changing their legal name and fighting discrimination. ‘We are extremely excited to start work on this new project,’ CEO Barbara Finkelstein said. ‘While civil rights for the LGBTQ community have expanded in recent years, there is still important work to be done.’ Deputy Executive Director Cynthia Knox said Legal Services of Hudson Valley is supporting the project with increased state funding for general civil legal services.”  (New York Law Journal)

June 22, 2015 - “A recent state Supreme Court decision is widening the menu of legal services Rhode Islanders can choose from when they represent themselves in court — a move advocates praise as improving access to justice for people who can’t afford the “Cadillac” of legal help. The high court earlier this month cleared the way for lawyers to provide a limited scope of representation — including writing briefs — for people representing themselves, as long as those services are reasonable and the litigant gives informed consent.  Lawyers must sign any pleadings that they help a client prepare and disclose extent of their role in the case.”  (Providence Journal)

June 22, 2015 - ”The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved a $17.5 million budget for the Private Defender program, which provides private attorneys for defendants who can’t afford to pay for a lawyer. The Chief Defender John Digiacinto says the program, which replaces a Public Defender’s office, is run by the San Mateo Bar Association and is the only one of its kind in California. The Private Defender program has been in place for more than 40 years and was instituted to lower costs.”  There have been critics in recent years, particularly regarding case outcomes. “The Private Defender Program did receive an award for excellence from the American Bar Association. Chief Defender John Digiacinto said he would like to keep improving the program, hire more minorities, and get more community feedback.” (KTVU)

June 24, 2015 - “The Boston Bar Foundation – the charitable affiliate of the Boston Bar Association – announced today that it will provide $950,000 in grants to 23 community organizations that work to provide legal services to those in need. Approximately 40% of the funding is comprised of proceeds from the BBF’s annual John & Abigail Adams Benefit and BBF reserves, with the remainder derived from Interest on Lawyer Trust Account (IOLTA) funds. The grantee organizations administer legal aid to the most vulnerable and underprivileged members of the population, such as the homeless, domestic violence survivors, at-risk children, and veterans.” (Real Estate Rama)

June 25, 2015 - “The first class of Pro Bono Scholars, a program that allows 3L students to spend their final semesters of law school working in the field, was sworn in this week to each of the state’s four appellate division departments. The program has 106 participants statewide. This week, 72 of those were admitted to the bar. Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman proposed the program in his 2014 State of the Judiciary address. Law students who qualify are allowed to take the bar examination in February of their third year of law school and then work for 500 hours over 12 weeks for groups providing legal services to the indigent. Provided they pass the bar exam and complete the program’s requirements, the participants can be sworn in just after graduation—up to one year earlier than classmates who take the July bar exam after graduation.” (New York Law Journal)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:  The Pueblo County Bar Association and the local office of Colorado Legal Services honored former Municipal Judge Joe Ulibarri at its annual awards ceremony Friday night. Each year, legal services and the local bar association honors attorneys and firms that have devoted several hours to pro bono work in the community. Ulibarri was given a lifetime achievement award for his leadership and commitment to pro bono work. Read more about Judge Ulibarri’s commitment to his community here.

Super Music Bonus!  https://youtu.be/IPeo_X7hVe8

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – June 19, 2015

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

Happy Friday!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • 2015-2016 White House Fellowship finalists announced;
  • OPM announces then pulls back contract award for social media screening for applicants;
  • New collaboration in Victoria, British Columbia brings new help for child protection issues;
  • Changes in leadership in public interest organizations demonstrate a national trend;
  • Washington state study shows many low-income households don’t seek legal aid;
  • ACLU sues Idaho for lack of action to fix public defender system;
  • Office created to coordinate civil legal services in New York City;
  • Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law establishes Veterans Disability Law Clinic;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

June 11, 2015 - “The President’s Commission on White House Fellowships announced the National Finalists for the 2015-2016 White House Fellowship. This year’s class of Finalists represents an accomplished and diverse cross-section of professionals from the private sector, academia, medicine, and our armed services. National Finalists have advanced through a highly competitive selection process, including a comprehensive written application and regional interviews with civic leaders at eight different cities across the country. The National Finalists were evaluated by the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships in Washington, DC over the weekend.”  (The White House)

June 15, 2015 - “The Office of Personnel Management began taking a few first steps last week toward incorporating social media and other publicly available information about prospective hires into the traditional background check process. But less than a week a later, the agency has backtracked without explanation. OPM, still dealing with a massive data breach that potentially compromised personal information from every federal employee, last week posted a notice stating its intent to award a sole-source contract to California-based tech company Social Intelligence. The company, which also has offices in Washington and Western Pennsylvania, claims to be able to use social media and other publicly available information to compile reports detailing ‘whether an individual’s publicly available online data contains information that may be relevant for the security clearance or employment suitability process,’ according to its website. Social Intelligence relies on proprietary algorithms and analysts, the site said. But on Monday, the solicitation was canceled, according to a notice on FedBizOpps.gov.”  (NextGov)

June 15, 2015 - “A new collaboration between Victoria Legal Aid and two community legal centres aims to achieve better outcomes for local families with child protection problems. Under the two-year pilot announced this week, lawyers with Women’s Legal Service Victoria and Loddon Campaspe Community Legal Centre will for the first time help people in the Family Division of the Children’s Court in Bendigo and Moorabbin, and at the pilot Family Drug Treatment Court. The community legal centre lawyers will provide eligible clients with advice, representation and referrals on the day they first come to court with a child protection legal problem, then continue to work with them on related ongoing casework.”  (Victoria Legal Aid News)

June 15, 2015 – “The Philadelphia public interest community is in the midst of a flurry of leadership changes, and as longtime pillars of the community pass on their organizations’ torches, the same appears to be happening nationwide as a generational shift occurs. ‘It’s a national phenomenon,’ said Catherine Carr, who is leaving Community Legal Services after serving as its executive director for 20 years. ‘Just in the last few days, I’ve seen probably three ads around the country.’ Carr attributed the increase in national turnover to the aging of the baby-boom generation. Many public interest organizations were founded 40 or 50 years ago, she said, and their leaders are reaching the ends of their careers.” This is an interesting article about the national trend.  (The Legal Intelligencer)

June 17, 2015 - “Despite an overwhelming percentage of low-income households in Washington facing civil legal problems, very few actually seek legal aid, according to information gathered in a study by the Washington State University Social and Economic Sciences Research Center. According to the report, more than 70 percent of low-income households in Washington had a civil legal problem within the past year, but three-fourths of those people did not seek or obtain legal aid, said Arina Gertseva, co-principal investigator with the SESRC. Those surveyed most commonly said they were unable to receive legal assistance because it was too expensive, they didn’t know where to go or their phone calls were never returned, she said.”  Many of the conclusions may already be known anecdotally, but the results are an interesting read.  (Moscow-Pullman Daily News)(subscription required)

June 17, 2015 - “Citing Idaho’s persistent failure to fix a broken public defense system, the ACLU followed through Wednesday on a threatened lawsuit to force the state to create a centralized public defense system and take other steps to insure compliance with federal and state laws on right to counsel and due process. The class-action lawsuit on behalf of five Idaho residents names Gov. Butch Otter and members of a legislative commission created in 2014 to address deficiencies in the state’s patchwork network of county public defender offices and practices. That commission was itself an outgrowth of an earlier governor-appointed panel. Commission after commission ‘passed the buck,’ the lawsuit charges. The group said it would file the suit Wednesday.”  (Idaho Statesman)

June 17, 2015 - “Mayor Bill de Blasio signed legislation this week to create an Office of Civil Justice, which will be responsible for coordinating civil legal services for low-income New Yorkers. The office will fall under the auspices of the city’s Human Resources Administration and mirror the Office of Criminal Justice, which was established last year. It will issue regular reports on the need for civil legal services by low-income residents and the availability of free and low-cost services to meet that need, as well as review budget requests from city agencies that provide such services.”  (New York Law Journal)

June 18, 2015 - ”Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law has established a Veterans Disability Law Clinic. The school says the clinic, which it calls the first of its kind in the state, will represent veterans whose disability benefits applications have been denied. Income-eligible veterans in Monroe, Greene, Lawrence, Brown, Owen and Morgan counties will be eligible for services. The clinic plans to begin accepting clients next month.”  (Inside Indiana Business)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: 

Theodore Howard of Wiley Rein has long defended the rights of prisoners and fought against prison overcrowding across the country. John Relman of Relman, Dane & Colfax has championed the development of integrated communities in the fight for racial and economic justice. Howard and Relman received the Washington Lawyers’ Committee’s 2015 Wiley A. Branton Award, named for civil rights advocate Wiley A. Branton Sr. Nearly 1,000 attorneys and business leaders gathered at the Grand Hyatt Washington Hotel for the awards ceremony.  Read more about their great work here.

Super Music Bonus!  https://youtu.be/tqw4LCOdD04

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – Jun 12, 2015

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

Happy Friday!  I hope your summer is going well so far.  We have a lot of new programs and services to report this week.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Legal Aid Ontario lawyers launch constitutional challenge; 
  • Tennessee Legal Aid Society launches elder law program;
  • California Senate passes bill to help public interest lawyers;
  • New legal aid office opens in Saratoga Springs, New York;
  • Six tips for a federal resume;
  • Legal Aid Ontario announces significant expansion;
  • Bexar County, Texas to offer attorneys at initial hearings;
  • Proposal to allow pay and academic credit for externships moves forward in ABA;
  • Pennsylvania raises pro hac vice fees to support loan repayment program;
  • Michigan Indigent Defense Commission works on standards for public defenders;
  • NLADA report shows loan forgiveness critical to access to justice;
  • University of California providing direct legal aid to undocumented UC students;
  • Senate Appropriations Committee approves $385 million for Legal Services Corporation;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

June 4, 2015 – “Lawyers employed at Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) along with The Society of Energy Professionals (The Society) launched a constitutional challenge following two years of resistance by Legal Aid Ontario to recognize their right to collectively bargain as enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. ‘After two years of requests to our employer, LAO, and to the government for help, we have been forced to pursue our rights by filing the application to remedy this injustice,’ said Dana Fisher, LAO Lawyers’ spokesperson. ‘Rights enshrined in the Charter are for everyone, even lawyers.’”  (CNW)

June 4, 2015 – “A $40,000 grant from The Memorial Foundation will be used to support Legal Aid Society’s services to senior citizens. Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands, Tennessee’s largest non-profit law firm, announced today it has received a $40,000 grant from The Memorial Foundation to launch an Elder Law Program in parts of the region. The new Elder Law Program will provide ongoing legal and educational services for seniors residing in Davidson, Cheatham, Sumner and Robertson counties. As part of the program, Legal Aid Society staff will present community seminars to empower seniors and their caretakers by addressing common legal issues faced by the elderly, as well as educating them on their rights and responsibilities. The Elder Law Program will also provide free civil legal services to qualified seniors.”  (South Cheatham Advocate)

June 4, 2015 – “A bill that would allow the California State Bar to collect donations from members to fund a student loan repayment program for public interest attorneys was unanimously approved yesterday by the state Senate. The bill next moves to the Assembly. If the bill becomes law, an option to donate to the Public Interest Attorney Loan  Repayment Program could be added to State Bar dues statements as soon as next year.”  (Metropolitan News-Enterprise)

June 4, 2015 – “Residents of Saratoga, Warren and Washington Counties have a new place to get free legal help. The Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York opened a new office Thursday in Saratoga Springs. The lawyers and paralegals will provide free civil legal services and education to low-income residents. Staff helps clients with issues related to their essential needs such as housing and health care.”   (WNYT)

June 5, 2015 - Federal government resumes will always be their own animal.  Government Executive put together 6 tips that are extremely helpful.  (Government Executive)

June 8, 2015 - “Legal Aid Ontario is embarking on the most significant and rapid expansion of services for low-income residents in a quarter century. The multi-year plan being announced Monday aims to address the growing needs of a range of vulnerable groups that are over-represented in the courts, including members of First Nations, victims of domestic violence and people suffering from mental illness. The array of new services includes everything from coverage for first-time offenders in criminal cases to complex matters in family courts, where more than 50 per cent of litigants do not have lawyers. Monday’s announcement is the latest in a series of legal aid expansions that have followed a commitment by the province last year to inject more than $150 million over four years to raise the income eligibility threshold and increase the range of legal services that qualify for assistance. The new services available to financially eligible adults were chosen in consultation with lawyers, judges and community groups, to provide early intervention and prevent legal matters from escalating.”  (The Star)

June 8, 2015 - “The Bexar County Public Defender’s Office will now provide attorneys to poor, mentally ill offenders at their initial hearing, making Bexar the only county in Texas to do so. The new service is possible because of a grant from the Texas Indigent Defense Commission. The grant will provide about $600,000 worth of support over four years.”  (San Antonio Current)

June 8, 2015 - ”A proposed change to law school accreditation standards eliminating the current ban on students receiving academic credit for paid externships has been approved for notice and comment by the governing council of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar. Under the proposal, a law school could decide for itself whether a student should receive academic credit for a paid externship or field placement—but only if the school can demonstrate that it has maintained enough control over the student experience to ensure that the requirements of the standards are being met.”  (ABA Journal)

June 9, 2015 - “In an effort to revitalize a student loan debt program supporting attorneys who provide civil legal work for those who can’t afford representation, the state Supreme Court has nearly doubled the fee for out-of-state attorneys to appear in Pennsylvania courts. The increased revenue from the fee hike will go toward the state’s Loan Repayment Assistance Program, which provides student loan debt assistance to attorneys in Pennsylvania who serve the legal needs of the poor. The program is not funded with tax money, but solely through the revenue from the pro hac vice fee.”  (The Legal Intelligencer)

June 10, 2015 - “The Michigan Indigent Defense Commission on Tuesday hashed out a first draft of its first set of proposed standards for public defenders in Michigan, saying appointed attorneys should be well-educated and continually trained, should meet quickly with their clients, should thoroughly investigate their cases, and more. Jonathan Sacks, MIDC executive director, told commissioners meeting in downtown Lansing that he hoped to publish the standards within a couple of weeks. They will be posted on the commission’s new website, michiganidc.gov, and in trade publications ahead of an Aug. 18 public hearing. The commission hopes to deliver its recommendations to the Michigan Supreme Court by Oct. 1, with final approval from justices by spring 2016.”  (Lansing State Journal)

June 10, 2015 - “The National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA) has just released a 2,000-person survey showing that dramatically reducing student loan forgiveness for lawyers working in the public interest would profoundly diminish access to justice for low-income people. The Obama Administration has proposed capping payments for those participating in the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, and some in Congress have recommended completely eliminating the program. The survey – ‘The Critical Role of Public Service Loan Forgiveness in Access to Counsel and Equal Justice’ — makes it clear that cutting PSLF would force many with substantial loans from law school to take jobs in private practice rather than in public service, and the people who would suffer most are community members with limited incomes who rely on these attorneys.” The full analysis is available at the link.  (NLADA)

June 10, 2015 – “The University of California is the first public university in the country to start a legal center on this level, with full-time attorneys to provide legal aid to undocumented students and their families. The UC Undocumented Legal Services Center is based at the UC Davis School of Law, but the attorneys see students at six other campuses, specifically those that don’t have their own law schools: Santa Cruz, Riverside, Merced, San Diego, Santa Barbara and San Francisco. The attorneys say they’ve helped more than 100 students since the center opened in November.”  (KQED)

June 11, 2015 – “The Senate Appropriations Committee today approved $385 million for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) in FY 2016. This amount represents a $10 million increase over LSC’s current funding and is $85 million more than the House approved last week. The bill now moves to the full Senate for consideration.”  (LSC)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: Retired Maj. General Kenneth D. Gray

Retired Maj. General Kenneth D. Gray, former vice president of student affairs at West Virginia University, is the American Bar Association’s 2015 Nelson Award recipient. The award recognizes outstanding contributions to the ABA by an individual government or public sector lawyer. Winners are chosen by the American Bar Association Government & Public Sector Lawyers Division. Gray joined the ABA in 1972, when he was a captain in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps. He is the first and only African-American general officer in the history of the JAG Corps since its inception in 1775. For more than 20 years, he has worked to ensure the voice of military lawyers is heard and that they are an integral part of the association.  Read more about Maj. Gen. Gray’s contributions to our community here.  (The State Journal)

Super Music Bonus!  https://youtu.be/UPNDK46QiRM

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – June 5, 2015

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

Happy Friday!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • UnitedLex launches legal residency program;
  • Ontario launches pilot to strengthen access to justice in French;
  • Canadian legal clinics ramp up efforts to get justice for vulnerable workers;
  • NAACP Legal Defense Fund boosts grants to law school scholarship fund;
  • Seven people passed test to become limited license legal technicians in Washington;
  • ABA will revisit paid externships;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

May 28, 2015 - “UnitedLex, a leading global provider of legal services, announced today an innovative ‘legal residency’ program in conjunction with four top U.S. law schools: Emory University School of Law, the University of Miami School of Law, the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law and Vanderbilt Law School. Recent Emory Law graduates who participate in the two-year UnitedLex residency program will learn to use cutting-edge legal technologies and processes to provide high-quality and efficient legal services to corporate legal departments and top law firms. Those selected for the residency program each year will receive rigorous classroom instruction provided by senior attorneys, will serve in a supervisory capacity, and will work directly with clients to deliver legal services in such practice areas as litigation management, e-discovery, cyber security, contract management, patent licensing, IP management and immigration law. At the end of the residency, some residents will remain on UnitedLex’s permanent legal staff, while others will join employers seeking experienced attorneys trained in the technologies and processes of 21st-century law practice.” (Emory News)

May 29, 2015 - “Ontario is piloting an initiative in Ottawa to give French-speaking Ontarians timely and seamless access to French-language justice services. A pilot project at the Ottawa courthouse, delivered in partnership with Ontario’s chief justices, will help reduce potential challenges faced by French-speaking litigants, lawyers and other users of Ontario’s courts. The project, which responds to a number of recommendations set out by the French Language Services Bench and Bar Advisory committee in its 2012 Access to Justice in French report and the French Language Services Commissioner’s 2013-2014 Annual Report, will help Ontario identify best practices to enhance access to justice in French at court locations throughout the province.”  (Ontario Newsroom)

May 31, 2015 - “For the precariously employed, getting justice for workplace violations is more often than not confusing, daunting and discouraging. Legal Aid Ontario does not provide any direct support for workers’ rights matters. Instead, it funds the province’s 76 clinics, about 40 per cent of which are in the GTA. They are the only source of legal support for the thousands of precariously employed people whose rights are violated at work each year. But for years, many of those clinics have been too overburdened to offer employment law services at all. And for decades, the working poor have not even qualified for their help because of outdated government eligibility criteria. Clinics are leaping on a sliver of opportunity presented by two recent developments: new money for the community clinic system from Legal Aid Ontario, and new guidelines that mean more low-income people are now able to use legal clinics. The new funding, first announced in March, will pump $9.8 million a year over the next two years into community legal clinics. Of that, $2 million will be devoted specifically to improving clinic capacity, including a boost to services such as workers’ rights law. ‘There are plans to expand in this area as there is an unmet client need currently,’ Geneviève Oger, Legal Aid Ontario’s media relations officer, told the Star.”  (The Star)

June 2, 2015 - ”The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund is overhauling its law student scholarship program, increasing the amount of grants and providing substantive civil rights training. The changes come as the organization celebrates its 75th anniversary of leveraging the law in pursuit of racial justice and education.  The Earl Warren Scholarship— launched in 1971 and named for the former chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court who presided over the seminal school desegregation case, Brown v. Board of Education—has increased from $9,000 to $30,000, although the organization will limit recipients to five each year, down from about 15.”  (The National Law Journal)

June 2, 2015 - “Seven people have cleared a major hurdle to become the nation’s first limited license legal technicians. Nine people took Washington state’s first exam for limited license legal technicians, and seven of them passed. Washington is the first state with a program to allow limited license legal technicians to help litigants prepare legal documents and provide advice on legal procedures without a lawyer’s supervision. The seven applicants passed a test to work in domestic relations, the first practice area open to technicians in Washington’s program. The seven people will still have to show they have insurance and 3,000 hours of supervised experience. A licensing fee and trust account reporting are also required.”  (ABA Journal)

June 3, 2015 – The the ABA’s Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar will again take up the issue of whether schools can allow paid externships in addition to granting academic credit.  We’ll keep you posted on their conclusions.  (National Law Journal)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: On June 4, 1919, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, guaranteeing women the right to vote, is passed by Congress and sent to the states for ratification.  The women’s suffragist movement was founded in the mid-19th century by women who had become politically active through the abolitionist and temperance movements.  71 years and two wars later, the struggle for female enfranchisment was rewarded with passage of the 19th Amendment.  Thank you to all the brave women and men who fought for a woman’s right to vote.  (History Channel)

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – May 29, 2015

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

Happy Friday!  Can you believe it’s the end of May already?  Time to turn our attention to summer plans.  Are you going to a new city?  Check out PSJD’s Having Fun on the Cheap series for fun and inexpensive activities in your area.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • William & Mary’s Puller Veterans Benefits Clinic receives Dominion Foundation grant;
  • Maine Governor proposes public defender system;
  • Layoffs in DA’s office in Massachusetts;
  • Susan M. Finegan named co-chair of Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission;
  • Legal aid, law firms, and lawyers of color;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

May 21, 2015 - “William & Mary Law School’s Lewis B. Puller, Jr. Veterans Benefits Clinic received a $25,000 grant from the Dominion Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Dominion Resources, parent company of Dominion Virginia Power. ‘Dominion Foundation is joining William & Mary Law School in supporting work on behalf of veterans in procuring their disability benefits,’ said Davison M. Douglas, dean of the Law School. ‘We now have a model we want to take to other law schools across the country; this support from Dominion Foundation is going to be of tremendous help.’ Part of the Dominion Foundation’s grant will be used for seed funding for the National Law School Veterans Clinic Coalition, a recently established organization created to provide a unified voice to identify and advance the needs of law school veterans clinics and, more importantly, the veterans they serve. It will serve as an advocate before the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, U.S. Congress and other federal entities. With the seed funding from Dominion, it is hoped that the coalition will double its clinic membership in the coming year, and significantly increase the number of veterans served by law school clinics nationwide.” (W&M Law School press release)

May 26, 2015 - “Gov. Paul LePage has submitted legislation that would create a new system of public defenders to assure that every poor Maine resident charged with a crime receives adequate legal representation. Maine is the only state without public defenders, and has long relied on paying individual lawyers on a case-by-case basis. Sen. David Burns, a Republican from Whiting, co-chairs the Judiciary Committee and is sponsoring the bill for the governor.”  (MPBN News)

May 26, 2015 – “Four Norfolk County prosecutors have been laid off due to statewide budget cuts on district attorneys, and leaders in the legal community are concerned that the firings are an ominous harbinger for the criminal justice system. ‘It’s a bit of a frightening situation because these are the people in the front lines,’ said Marsha V. Kazarosian, president of the Massachusetts Bar Association. ‘They do the lion’s share of the work. It’s of great concern that you have to start laying people off. The end result is, people won’t have access to justice.’ Norfolk District Attorney Michael Morrissey said the layoffs came in response to Gov. Charlie Baker’s unilateral budget cuts in early February. That essentially doubled the impact on Morrissey’s office, he said, because he had only half a fiscal year to make up the difference.”  (Boston Herald)

May 27, 2015 - “Susan M. Finegan, a Member at Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C. and the firm’s first full-time Pro Bono Partner, has been named co-chair of the third Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission, a 24-member body appointed by the Supreme Judicial Court. The Commission is charged with the mission of providing leadership, vision and coordination in the search for equal justice for all persons in the Commonwealth. She will serve alongside Supreme Judicial Court Justice Geraldine S. Hines.”  (Business Wire)

May 28, 2015 – My predecessor Steve Grumm has always been a strong advocate for civil access to justice.  He’s blogging from Idaho on this and other issues.  He took a look at recent data and found legal aid is doing better than the private sector on diversity.  See the numbers and his thoughts on the issue on his blog.  As always, his insights are thought-provoking and right on point.  (That Much Further West)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: Access to Justice advocate Fiona MacCool.

Fiona MacCool is the Project Manager of Your Legal Rights, an online resource produced by Community Legal Education Ontario (CLEO) to provide free legal information for people in Ontario. Fiona was previously the Project Manager of CLEONet, a precursor to Your Legal Rights. For over 10 years, she has worked as an IT project manager, software trainer, and web content developer. Fiona is passionate about helping non-profit organizations take advantage of the cost-efficient and time-saving power of the Internet to support community partnerships, share resources, and make a difference. The Canadian Forum on Civil Justice visited the CLEO offices to speak to Fiona MacCool about her work on Your Legal Rights. You can see the full interview here.

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – May 22, 2015

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

Happy Friday!  I hope you all enjoy a restful Memorial Day weekend!  And take a moment to remember those we lost in service to our country.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • More funding for legal aid tops docket of justice issues for incoming Alberta government;
  • Kiosks could help Floridians get access to the legal system;
  • El Paso County (Texas) chief public defender seeks grant to increase staff;
  • This is the moment for clinics;
  • University of Akron School of Law SEED clinic receives Small Business Administration award;
  • Law firm donation supports Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance with $250,000 donation;
  • Nearly one quarter of 2015 Presidential Management Fellowship Finalists are veterans;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

May 14, 2015 - “More funding for the province’s legal aid program tops the docket of justice issues facing the incoming NDP government.  Funding for Legal Aid Alberta, the non-profit agency that provides subsidized lawyers for low-income clients, has been a long-standing source of friction between the outgoing Progressive Conservative government and groups representing the legal profession. Officials at Legal Aid Alberta, which operates at an arm’s length from the government, have predicted the organization could face a $15 million deficit in the coming years without stable long-term funding.” (Calgary Herald)

May 15, 2015 - “People needing help with divorces, foreclosures or child support could use public computers at libraries, shopping malls or courthouses as a type of legal ‘triage’ under a proposal approved Friday by the Florida Commission on Access to Civil Justice. Also, non-lawyers could provide courtroom assistance to poor and middle-income people under another idea considered by the panel, the brainchild of Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Jorge Labarga.”  ”‘The statewide portal will be a software-based access point that would be in libraries, courthouses, shopping malls that would be the point at which a person with a legal problem could go find someone to solve their problem, or even get forms or education to find out how to do it themselves,’ said commission member William Van Nortwick, a Jacksonville lawyer and former appellate judge. Individuals could access the portal through kiosks, public libraries or public computers in courthouses by the end of the year in certain areas, Van Nortwick said.”  (CBS Miami)

May 18, 2015 - “The county’s chief public defender is seeking a $1.2 million grant from the Texas Indigent Defense Commission to hire additional lawyers who are needed to handle an increasing case load. On Monday the El Paso County Commissioners authorized the county’s chief public defender Jaime Gandara to submit an application for the grant. The state commission will make a decision on June 4.  ’I'm getting more cases and need more lawyers in order to do a good job in representing our clients,’ he said to the commissioners. The grant will help hire eight lawyers, four office staffers, one investigator and one social worker, Gandara said.”  (El Paso Times)

May 18, 2015 - The National Law Journal has a good piece on law school clinics and provides some great examples of innovative approaches.  ”Law school clinics are having a moment. They have become an increasingly important part of the law school curriculum during the past five years, as schools faced pressure to provide students with practical, hands-on experience. In this special report, we highlight six law school clinics taking new approaches to student learning, breaking into new areas of the law or that have impressive track records of success.”  (National Law Journal)

May 19, 2015 - “As many small businesses owners know, it only takes a small seed to grow into a successful enterprise. On May 7, the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Cleveland District office presented its 2015 Legal Services Champion award to the Small Entrepreneurs and Economic Development (SEED) Legal Clinic at The University of Akron School of Law. The SEED Legal clinic provides low-cost legal assistance to emerging businesses in Northeastern Ohio. The clinic, in turn, provides law students the opportunity to gain hands-on legal experience. ‘This is the first time we are honoring a member of the legal profession during small business week,’ said Gil Goldberg, district director of the Cleveland district office of the U.S. Small Business Administration. The SBA recognizes small businesses and other organizations that create jobs, lift local economies, and give back charitably to the communities where they live and work.”  (Akron Legal News)

May 21, 2015 - “Gori Julian & Associates believes in supporting local organizations and making a difference in their community. Recently, the Edwardsville-based law firm donated $250,000 to the Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation, an Illinois not-for-profit corporation that provides free civil legal services to low-income persons and senior citizens in 65 counties in central and southern Illinois. The Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation handles civil cases and provides services ranging from telephone advice or brief service, to representation in court or at administrative hearings. The type of services provided depends on the legal issues, case merits and staff availability. Randy Gori, one of the founding attorneys at Gori Julian & Associates, said ‘Our commitment to those in need is one of the pillars of Gori Julian & Associates so we are happy to support an organization such as Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation because their work benefits so many lives.’”  (River Bender)

May 21, 2015 – “The latest crop of Presidential Management Fellow finalists includes 131 candidates who identified themselves as service veterans, slightly more than last year, according to statistics from the Office of Personnel Management. The 2015 class of PMF finalists totals 600, with 508 traditional finalists and 92 candidates focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. OPM announced the group on March 26, and the finalists have until March 26, 2016, to land a two-year appointment. As of May 21, twenty finalists already have received appointments.”  (Government Executive)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: Charles W. Bone

Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands, Tennessee’s largest non-profit law firm, has awarded the first ever Gallatin Community Award to Charles W. Bone, founder and chairman of Bone McAllester Norton PLLC. The award was announced Tuesday evening during a reception at the Gallatin Public Library. Members of Legal Aid Society’s Gallatin office – which serves Macon, Smith, Sumner, Trousdale and Wilson counties – selected Bone as Legal Aid Society’s first community award recipient because he has championed the non-profit law firm in the community and his firm has been a financial and pro bono supporter to Legal Aid Society’s Gallatin office and its Nashville office.  Thank you for your commitment to pro bono and support of legal aid.  Read more about Mr. Bone here.

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – May 15, 2015

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

Happy Friday!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • St. Louis law firm gives $250,000 to legal aid;
  • New York State Bar Association honors pro bono service;
  • San Francisco unveils $10 million funding for services to immigrants;
  • Lawyers with lower pay report more happiness;
  • New Mexico public defender shortfall results in cutting contract attorneys;
  • Colorado pro bono patent program expands;
  • UMass Law Justice Bridge Incubator expands;
  • Legal Aid Ontario signs funding agreement with Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted (AIDWYC);
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

May 7, 2015 - “In keeping with the true spirit of #giveSTLday, Legal Services of Eastern Missouri (LSEM) celebrated an individual who represents the best of St. Louis philanthropy, John Simon and the Simon Law Firm, P.C., who made an unrestricted gift of $250,000 gift to the organization earlier this year.”  ”Held on May 5, #giveSTLday is an online fundraising initiative from the Greater Saint Louis Community Foundation which encourages everyone in the community to come together for one special day to support St. Louis non-profits. LSEM was one of 790 non-profit organizations that participated in  #giveSTLday across 14 counties in the St. Louis region. More than $2 million was raised in just a 24-hour period. LSEM raised more than $5,000 through this effort and those funds will help the non-profit agency provide civil legal assistance to more than 16,000 low-income clients and their families this year.”  (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

May 7, 2015 – “President Glenn Lau-Kee (Kee & Lau-Kee) and President-elect David P. Miranda (Heslin Rothenberg Farley & Mesiti), co-chair of the President’s Committee on Access to Justice, recognized twenty honorees during a luncheon at the State Bar Center. ‘Attorneys in New York have a long and distinguished tradition of helping the disadvantaged,’ said Lau-Kee. ‘Their selfless commitment to increasing access to justice for New Yorkers provides us with inspiring examples of what is possible and helps raise public awareness about the importance of access to justice for all — not just for those who can afford it.’ In addition to honoring attorneys representing 12 of New York’s 13 judicial districts, the awards were given to a lawyer under age 36 or practicing less than 10 years, a senior lawyer, law school group, law student, in-house counsel, small firm, mid-size firm and large firm.”  Read the full list here.  (Read Media)

May 7, 2015 – “San Francisco City Hall announced the allocation of $10 million over two years for assistance to the city’s immigrant community, including additional legal services, financial education, a new labor center for immigrants and other support services. The funding is aimed at strengthening citywide efforts including San Francisco Pathways to Citizenship Initiative, the DreamSF Initiative and the implementation of President Barack Obama’s Administrative Relief to help undocumented immigrants come out of the shadows.”  (Inquirer.net)

May 12, 2015 - Let me say that again.  Lawyers with the lowest pay report more happiness.  This New York Times article discusses something we already know – when you like what you do, you’re happier.  And public interest lawyers tend to love what they do.  ”Researchers who surveyed 6,200 lawyers about their jobs and health found that the factors most frequently associated with success in the legal field, such as high income or a partner-track job at a prestigious firm, had almost zero correlation with happiness and well-being. However, lawyers in public-service jobs who made the least money, like public defenders or Legal Aid attorneys, were most likely to report being happy. Lawyers in public-service jobs also drank less alcohol than their higher-income peers. And, despite the large gap in affluence, the two groups reported about equal overall satisfaction with their lives.”  Read the full story for more analysis and ways to help students find what they love.  (The New York Times)

May 12, 2015 - “Chief Public Defender Jorge Alvarado sent a letter to chief judges statewide saying the predicted budget crisis had materialized for his office, resulting in a decision to stop providing contract defenders for indigent defendants who aren’t jailed because there’s no money to pay them. Contract defenders typically are hired when there is more than one defendant in a case, or in rural areas such as Lincoln or Cibola counties, where the Law Office of the Public Defender doesn’t have staff. The move could lead to a lawsuit – something that could be decided as soon as Wednesday, when the New Mexico Public Defender Commission has a special meeting in Albuquerque at the University of New Mexico School of Law. ‘The commission is considering all options, including litigation, but no decisions have been made about how to proceed,’ said commission Chairman Michael Stout. ‘We do know we have inadequate funding, and we have to address it in some forum or another.’”  (Albuquerque Journal)

May 12, 2015 - “The Pro Bono Patent Program is an initiative led by Mi Casa Resource Center and the Colorado Bar Association Intellectual Property Section.  It pairs low-income inventors with patent professionals. Since its launch, 67 inventors have begun the application process and two were able to get their ideas patented. On Tuesday, the reach of the program grew. Mi Casa, the Colorado Bar Association and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office announced the extension of the program — or ProBoPat — to the states of New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. ‘By providing the opportunity for under-resourced inventors to obtain patent counsel to assist in the filing and prosecution of their patent application, that is a way to promote both fairness for all and solid economic growth right here in the local community,’ said Robin Evans, interim director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Denver Satellite Office, which opened in June. With the regional expansion announced Tuesday, the ProBoPat program now is in 49 states, Evans said.”  (The Denver Post)

May 13, 2014 – “An innovative program at UMass Law is expanding thanks to a three-year $225,000 grant from Bristol County Savings Bank, according to a UMass Dartmouth news release. The Justice Bridge law practice incubator started in Boston nine months ago is going to be expanded to Taunton and New Bedford.”  The Boston office of Justice Bridge, that opened last August hired nine lawyers, mostly graduates of UMass Law, and processed more than 500 client matters. The New Bedford office has hired eight attorneys, mostly UMass Law graduates, and will host an open house later this spring. Some of those attorneys will spend eight hours a week at a Taunton office as well, according to the release.  (South Coast Today)

May 14, 2015 - “Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) will provide the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted (AIDWYC) with $100,000 over two years to provide post-conviction legal services and education. Over the years, LAO has both directly and indirectly supported the goals and aims of AIDWYC and the legal needs of its clients.  This pilot project will continue LAO’s relationship with AIDWYC by funding some of AIDWYC’s expenses related to reviewing claims of innocence, such as forensic expert opinions and private investigations. AIDWYC will continue to conduct case reviews on a pro bono basis, with the help of volunteer lawyers. Seventy per cent of the LAO funds will go towards the case review process and 30 per cent towards legal education about wrongful conviction. This agreement aims to recognize and correct wrongful convictions, by providing greater access to legal services after conviction.” (CNW)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: Benjamin Evans, Fall River supervising attorney for the Committee for Public Counsel Services. The Massachusetts Bar Association honored Benjamin Evans, a Fall River public defender, with its Access to Justice Defender Award.  In a press release, the Massachusetts Bar Association said Evans’ priority, when assigned to represent an indigent defendant, is to let the client know that someone is in their corner. For some defendants whom Evans represents, that is a first for them, the MBA said.  Read more about Mr. Evans’ great work for his clients here.

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – May 8, 2015

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

Happy Friday and hello from sunny Austin, TX!  Here at the ABA/NLADA 2015 Equal Justice Conference, we’ve come together to discuss issues such as delivery of legal services to the poor and low income individuals in need of legal assistance.  How can you help?  Check out the pro bono opportunities in your area!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Stetson law students honored for pro bono service;
  • 2015 Gary Bellow Public Service Award recipients honored;
  • Denver law firm donates to both Colorado law schools to create more experiential learning opportunities;
  • New York Office of Court Administration adopts changes to pro bono reporting;
  • Louisiana State Bar honors law student for pro bono service;
  • Wisconsin panel approves hiring 35 more public defenders;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

April 29, 2015 - “Stetson University College of Law student Rebecca Watts won the Law Student Pro Bono Award and students Tamara Major and Kelly Green received honorable mention from Florida’s Sixth Judicial Circuit for their commitment to creating pro bono service opportunities for students at Stetson.  Watts was nominated by the Community Law Program for her extraordinary pro bono service.” (PR Web)

April 30, 2015 - “On April 20, Harvard Law School honored two members of its community—Donna Harati ’15 and Laura Maslow-Armand ’92—with the Gary Bellow Public Service Award, established in 2001 to recognize commitment to public interest work.  The annual award, which is entirely student-run, honors one student and one graduate whose commitment to social justice ‘makes us proud to be members of the law school community,’ said Colin Ross ’16, one of the students announcing the winners at the event. The award was established in memory of the late Gary Bellow ’60, a pioneering attorney specializing in public interest and poverty law, who founded and directed the HLS Clinical Programs.” (Harvard Law Today)

May 1, 2015 - “Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck LLP, a Denver law firm with offices in 13 states, donated $500,000 to be split between the University of Colorado Law School and the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, officials announced Friday. The $250,000 gifts — the largest gift to CU from a law firm — will be used to create endowed fellowship programs. The experiential learning programs will be designed to provide students with hands-on experiences, officials said. The Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck Fellowship private-sector-focused law program at DU is expected to start as early as this fall. CU’s program, which will focus on government, is scheduled to start this summer. ‘We are just delighted that the firm is ‘paying it forward’ in this very impactful fashion, supporting our students gaining valuable experience over the summer and serving the public,’ Phil Weiser, dean of the CU Law School, said in a statement.”  (The Denver Post)

May 4, 2015 - “The Unified Court System has revised its requirements that lawyers report the amounts of time and money they donate to pro bono causes, rules that prompted an at-times bitter fight between Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman and the New York State Bar Association.  The revisions to the Rules of the Chief Administrator, 22 NYCRR Part 118, mandate that lawyers submit an anonymous statement, made separately from the registration forms filed every two years, in which they report their voluntary pro bono services and contributions. Mandatory reports will concern pro bono as described in Rule 6.1 of the attorney Rules of Professional Conduct.”  Lawyers also may report services and contributions not covered in Rule 6.1, including “unpaid public, community or charitable services such as not-for-profit boards, bar associations or soup kitchens, religious organizations or arts groups, as well as financial contributions to any charitable cause or enterprise.”  (New York Law Journal)

May 4, 2015 - “Loyola University New Orleans College of Law student Sophia Mire has been chosen to receive the 2015 Louisiana State Bar Association’s Law Student Pro Bono Award. The award is given annually in Louisiana to a student from an American Bar Association-accredited law school who has demonstrated dedication to providing legal services to the poor. Mire was nominated by Davida Finger, associate clinical professor in the Stuart H. Smith Law Clinic and Center for Social Justice.” (University Newsroom)

May 5, 2015 - “The Wisconsin Legislature’s budget-writing committee has voted to pay for hiring 35 additional assistant public defenders.  The Joint Finance Committee voted Tuesday to go along with Gov. Scott Walker’s recommendation to pay for the additional attorneys.  The move would actually save the state about $41,000 over two years because fewer private attorneys would have to be hired to represent defendants.”  (NBC 15)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: Marian Wright Edelman, President and Founder of the Children’s Defense Fund.  She was recently honored by the Education Law Center in New Jersey for her tireless work on behalf of  children. A graduate of Spelman College and Yale Law School, Ms. Edelman began her career as an advocate for the disenfranchised in the 1960s. As the first African-American woman admitted to the Mississippi Bar, she directed the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund office in Jackson. In 1968, she moved toWashington, D.C., to work with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as counsel to the Poor People’s Campaign. She later founded the Washington Research Project, a public interest law firm, and served as the Director of the Center for Law and Education at Harvard University. In 1973, she founded the Children’s Defense Fund. As president of the CDF, Marian Wright Edelman has proved to be one of the most effective advocates for disadvantaged children and families not only of our time, but in American history. The CDF’s “Leave No Child Behind” mission is to ensure that every child gets a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start, and a Moral Start in life, and a successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities.  Read more about her amazing work here.

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – May 1, 2015

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

Happy Friday!  We’re back from a great week of learning and connecting in Chicago.  I hope everyone enjoyed their time at the Annual Education Conference – we certainly did!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Settlement reached in Georgia indigent defense system case;
  • Albany Law School opens immigration clinic;
  • Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center receives grant to expand immigration clinic;
  • University of Chicago Law School receives gift for environmental clinic;
  • New York AG partnering with law schools to help technology start-ups;
  • Legal Aid Ontario tightens rules for refugee cases;
  • Wisconsin State Bar supports CLE credit for pro bono work;
  • New student legal aid clinic opening in Thunder Bay;
  • Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County adopts new online arbitration system;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

April 21, 2015 - “A settlement reached this week will improve legal representation for poor children and adults in a south Georgia judicial circuit, lawyers who filed a lawsuit on their behalf said. Lawyers with the Southern Center for Human Rights filed a lawsuit in January 2014 against the four-county Cordele Judicial Circuit and other defendants. Among the problems they cited were juvenile defendants often appearing without a lawyer or represented by lawyers who met with them only briefly, public defenders unable to spend more than a few minutes per adult case, and chronic underfunding and understaffing. The Southern Center says the agreement with the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council, its director, the Cordele Circuit public defender and the circuit’s four county governments was filed Monday. If it is approved by a Fulton County Superior Court judge, it will go into effect July 1 and will run for three years.” (Thomasville Times Enterprise)

April 22, 2015 - “Albany Law School has announced that it will launch a new immigration law clinic to provide free legal help for immigrants in cases of domestic violence, protection of minors, deportation, detention and U-Visa applications. ‘Although we are a nation of immigrants, today’s immigration system is in an unprecedented state of disarray,’ Sarah Rogerson, an Albany law professor who will direct the clinic, said in a news release. ‘This new clinic will give our students the opportunity to provide compassionate legal service to people who really need it.’ The clinic will begin taking cases in the fall.” (New York Law Journal)

April 22, 2015 - “Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center announced that its immigration law clinic has received a grant to take on additional cases involving unaccompanied minors. Touro, which has operated its immigration law clinic since last fall, announced on April 1 that it received $100,000 from the Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program at Shelter Rock, a church congregation that provides funding to outside agencies that address the ‘root of social problems.’ William Brooks, a Touro law professor who directs the school’s program, said the grant would allow the clinic to hire a staff attorney to assist with its growing caseload.”(New York Law Journal)

April 23, 2015 – “A gift made by Jonathan Mills, ’77, as trustee of a charitable trust, will benefit the University of Chicago Law School’s Abrams Environmental Law Clinic. To be expended at the discretion of the clinic’s director, the gift provides funds for activities that support the clinic’s mission, which might include obtaining expert consultation, underwriting student travel for site visits and client interactions, and covering other litigation costs.” (University of Chicago Law School News)

April 24, 2015 - “Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced the formation of  a partnership with local law schools to help start-ups navigate state laws and regulations. By partnering with Brooklyn Law Incubator & Policy Clinic (BLIP), the Fordham University School of Law’s Center on Law and Information Policy and the Tech Startup Clinic (CLIP), operated out of Yeshiva University’s Cardozo School of Law, Schneiderman hopes to promote regular interaction between government and technology start-ups.” (Capitol Playbook)(ABC News)

April 24, 2015 - “Legal Aid Ontario is tightening its rules for lawyers who take on refugee cases following a scathing report that showed thousands of Hungarian Roma were left high and dry by lawyers who made hundreds of thousands of dollars from them. Andrew Brouwer, senior legal counsel with Immigration and Refugee Law at Legal Aid Ontario, said starting this summer, lawyers who want to handle legal aid refugee cases will have to apply to be authorized to handle those kinds of cases, pass a competency test and meet certain standards and best practices.”  (CBC News)

April 24, 2015 - “The State Bar of Wisconsin’s Board of Governors supports a petition that would allow Wisconsin attorneys to obtain continuing legal education (CLE) credit for doing pro bono work to foster practical learning and increase pro bono service. The 52-member board unanimously approved a petition developed by the State Bar’s Legal Assistance Committee – in consultation with the CLE Committee – allowing attorneys to claim one CLE credit for every five hours of qualifying pro bono service, up to a maximum of six credits per reporting period.” (State Bar of Wisconsin)

April 27, 2015 – “Lakehead Legal Services is the first legal aid clinic to open its doors at the law school in Thunder Bay, Ont.  Lakehead University’s Bora Laskin Faculty of Law is just two years old and adding a clinic seems like a natural progression, says Kimberley Gagan, the director of Lakehead Legal Services. This small law school only has 58 students in the 2L stream who have been waiting for the clinic to open since day one. ‘They are very excited and enthusiastic and they are looking forward, I think to the opportunity, for the chance to get their hands on real life files and come to court and represent real people,’ says Gagan.”  (Canadian Lawyer Magazine)

April 28, 2015 – “The Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County, Inc. announces that innovative online arbitration service will soon be made available to its clients. ‘Online arbitration will allow us to streamline our process while at the same time offering a much more cost-effective way to resolve legal issues for the disadvantaged citizens of Palm Beach County,’ said Bob Bertisch, executive director of the Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County, Florida.”  (PR Web)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:  Lam Nguyen Ho, founder and Executive Director of the Community Activism Law Alliance (CALA) in Chicago.  We were pleased to host Lam as the keynote speaker for the NALP Conference Public Interest Luncheon.  He shared his experiences and unique way of lawyering within the community, leaving us uplifted and inspired. As he described to us, he has experienced firsthand the challenges of community lawyering and civil legal services, and was inspired to innovatively confront these challenges through the creation of CALA.

We at NALP were privileged to make a modest donation in recognition of Lam’s contribution to our conference and in support of CALA’s work.  If you’d like to do the same, visit CALA’s website.

Super Music Bonus!   https://youtu.be/CS9OO0S5w2k

 

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