Archive for Public Interest Law News Bulletin

PSJD Public Interest News Digest – September 15, 2017

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

Happy Friday! The great need for pro bono legal services in areas hit by storms and fires has just begun. For opportunities to help, stay tuned to the PSJD Blog, follow PSJD on Twitter (@PSJDTweets) and Facebook, or contact your local legal service providers. Together we can help our neighbors recover.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Technology, Harvey and the attorney ‘first responder’;
  • Avvo launches free hotline for DACA program recipients;
  • University of British Columbia Peter A. Allard School of Law launches Cultural Competency Certificate;
  • New immigration pro bono website connects New York lawyers with legal services organizations;
  • Department of Education’s edits of forms call for judicial review in loan forgiveness case, ABA says in filing;
  • Civil Rights Center at University of North Carolina School of Law shut down;
  • Utah will pay for public defenders to represent those arrested in Operation Rio Grande;
  • Florida Bar Foundation allocates up to $500K for civil legal aid after hurricane, establishes fund;
  • Elder rights project launches in Wisconsin, offers legal advice;
  • Minister Monsef announces more than $2.2 million for gender equality projects in British Columbia;
  • DC funds legal assistance for immigrants as DACA recipients worry about the future;
  • Representatives voice support for Legal Services Corporation on House floor;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants; and
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

September 7, 2017 – “Technology is increasingly enabling speedier deployment of emergency legal services, but it’s not the most sophisticated, innovative gadgets that help the most. Instead, it’s the simpler, more accessible technology driving speedier coordination and deployment of legal support services. Sometimes, all it takes is a charged laptop. Social media is a key piece of this strategy. Lowell Brown, communications division director for the State Bar of Texas, said that social media is playing a central role in the state bar’s communications efforts. ‘There is a lot of outreach going on by us and by other attorney organizations on social media, particularly Twitter and Facebook. I’ve seen a lot of people offering services and connecting to service opportunities that way,’ Brown said. The state bar used Twitter to direct hurricane victims to its legal hotline and to direct attorneys to its volunteer form.” “‘I think technology can shorten response times. I think that technology can help people get back to equilibrium faster—the same thing that technology does when there isn’t a natural disaster it can do in this situation,’ Hire an Esquire’s [Irena] Kin said.” (National Law Journal)(subscription required)

September 7, 2017 – “Following the Department of Justice’s announced plans to close the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, Avvo, the world’s leading online legal marketplace connecting consumers and lawyers, today announced it has launched a free hotline for DACA program recipients facing legal issues and questions. The toll-free hotline will help individuals and families by answering basic questions about what the announcement means and how it might affect them. Callers will have access to Avvo’s free Q&A forum and fixed-fee, limited scope legal services for immigration, and can be connected to the local immigration attorney of their choice.” “Any DACA program recipients or family members facing legal issues can seek help by calling Avvo’s toll-free hotline at 1-888-380-4056. The hotline will be managed by Avvo, and is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. – 5 p.m. PST. The DACA program closes its renewal application window on October 5, 2017.” (Markets Insider)

September 7, 2017 – “Law school is in, and this year the University of British Columbia is offering students, faculty, staff and alumni the opportunity to see the world through new eyes. It has launched a Cultural Competency Certificate — believed to be the first in the country — to help participants connect with the Indigenous community and reflect on the impact of Canada’s colonial legal system. The certificate is a starting point, said Patricia Barkaskas, an instructor in the Peter A. Allard School of Law and a Métis person from Alberta. ‘[Participants will] understand what systemic ongoing discrimination based on colonialism really means for people and what as legal professionals do we really need to know.’ The one-year program has six modules and a corresponding session to explore what they have learned in a journal. The latter is a critical element. It offers participants the chance to reflect, analyze and discuss.” (The Lawyer’s Daily)

September 7, 2017 – “The New York State Bar Association and The New York Bar Foundation have sponsored a new website called the Immigration Pro Bono Portal that connects volunteer attorneys with legal service organizations from around the state that serve immigrant communities. ‘The goal is to assist attorneys in finding pro bono volunteer opportunities helping low income immigrant New Yorkers in a way that also benefits the various organizations across the state that are actively working with this population,’ said Kristen Wagner, director of Pro Bono Services at the State Bar. The portal was created in response to a January executive order for a substantial expansion of interior immigration enforcement that left many immigrants in fear of deportation. Without taking political sides on the issue, the State Bar’s Pro Bono Services Department, with guidance from the State Bar’s Committee on Immigration Representation, responded with the creation of the online portal to address the impending legal crisis. Funding for the portal was split evenly between the New York State Bar Association and the New York Bar Foundation. Yuriy Pereyaslavskiy, previously a staff attorney for Legal Services of the Hudson Valley in Kingston, was hired for a one-year fellowship position to staff the online platform. Legal service organizations list their needs on the portal and potential volunteers can search the listings, including by what area of immigration law interests them or may fill out a questionnaire and be provided a potential match by Pereyaslavskiy. Training resources are also available on the portal.” (New York State Bar Association)

September 7, 2017 – “The U.S. Department of Education recently revised two online forms for its Public Service Loan Forgiveness program to say that it applies only to jobs with organizations whose ‘primary purpose’ is either public service or public education. The ABA says in a court filing that this is proof that the change was more than informal and should have been handled through administrative law.” “The Education Department had mentioned ‘primary purpose’ in the past—first in letters to those whose participation in the program was being revoked, then in a response last fall to ABA Executive Director Jack Rives, who questioned the revocations—but argued in a July motion for summary judgment (PDF) that its use of the term was ‘individual, informal, interim, nonprecedential adjudications.’ If the agency were changing its interpretation of its 2008 final rule on the statute, that would open the revocations of program participants to judicial review—a key issue in the litigation. The ABA argues in its lawsuit (PDF) that the agency failed to follow statutory procedures for modifying the regulation in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act and improperly applied the changes retroactively. A spokesman in the Education Department’s press office said Wednesday that the agency does not comment on pending litigation.” (ABA Journal)

September 8, 2017 – “University leaders on Friday voted to strip the Center for Civil Rights at the University of North Carolina School of Law of its ability to litigate cases. The move caps a months-long fight between the predominately Republican board of governors for the University of North Carolina and supporters of the center, who say the board’s push was motivated by politics. Proponents of the litigation ban said that it was inappropriate for a public university entity to sue local governments when taxpayers must foot the bill, and that the scope of its work fell outside the university’s mission. Those who opposed the ban argued that litigation is a key resource in the fight for civil rights, and that the center’s work is a public service and helps educate future lawyers. It’s the second time in two years that the UNC board of governors has taken aim at a law school center. That body in 2015 voted to defund the school’s Center on Poverty, Work, and Opportunity. With Friday’s vote, the board banned all centers within the university system from engaging in litigation, although the law school’s Center for Civil Rights is the only one that currently brings cases in court. Law clinics are exempt from the ban. The center has sued a southeast North Carolina county to stop a landfill being built in a low-income neighborhood, and sued an eastern North Carolina school district alleging segregation, among other matters. The center, which operates exclusively on private money and does not receive state funding, conducts research on civil rights issues, performs community outreach and education, and brings litigation on behalf of clients who are often low-income or minorities. It employs three attorneys but does not house a traditional law clinic. It hires law students as summer interns, who assist in research and on lawsuits. Reconfiguring the center as a law clinic exempt from the ban would be costly, administrators have said. It’s unclear what the new ban means for the future of the center, which was founded in 2011 by the late North Carolina civil rights attorney Julius Chambers. Carol Folt, Chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, wrote in a July letter to the board that the ban would likely force the closure of the center. Both Holt and law dean Martin Brinkley opposed the litigation ban.” (Law.com)

September 8, 2017 – “Utah’s Indigent Defense Commission will help foot the bill for additional public defenders needed for those arrested in Operation Rio Grande, the commission announced Friday. Salt Lake County was awarded more than $368,000 to hire two new public defenders to represent those who have been charged with crimes as part of local and state officials’ efforts to reduce lawlessness around Salt Lake City’s downtown homeless shelter. The money will be reimbursed to the county quarterly over the next two years. The Indigent Defense Commission (IDC) voted Wednesday to award the grant to the county. It is the second request for funds the commission has approved since it was formed during the 2016 legislative session to oversee public defense services in the state and dole out $1.5 million in state grants to help counties cover costs.” (The Salt Lake Tribune)

September 8, 2017 – “The Florida Bar Foundation’s board of directors has approved allocating up to $500,000 to support legal organizations after Hurricane Irma. The money can be spent to repair building damage, cover equipment losses and help clients with hurricane-related legal issues, according to a press release. The bar foundation has also created the Florida Hurricane Legal Aid Fund to collect donations for civil legal assistance for victims of Hurricane Irma and any hurricanes that follow. In addition, the foundation has created a ‘storm aid’ website providing links to volunteer opportunities for Florida lawyers. The website also provides links to FloridaLawHelp.org, where Florida residents can find their local legal aid organization, and a link to Florida Free Legal Answers where Floridians can post civil legal questions to be answered by volunteer lawyers.” (ABA Journal)

September 8, 2017 – “As baby boomers continue to age, a renewed effort is launching to keep the elderly safe from abuse and fraud. The Elder Rights Project offers free civil legal assistance to Wisconsin residents 60 years or older who are victims of abuse or crime.” “The Elder Rights Project website, www.legalaction.org. ERP has more information or people can call 1-844-614-5468 to talk with a lawyer. Unlike other services, victims and their families can get Elder Rights Project service regardless of income or assets — it’s not just for low-income. Cases can include physical, sexual and emotional abuse, stalking, harassment, neglect, identity theft and financial exploitation.” (Lodi Enterprise)

September 8, 2017 – “As Canada marks the 150th anniversary of Confederation, it is important to reflect on our legacy for the future. Despite the important milestones witnessed in these 150 years, women, girls, and gender-non-conforming people still face hardships. There is more work remaining for gender equality to become a reality in Canada. By investing in a strong and thriving women’s movement today, we are laying the foundation for gender equality tomorrow. Today, the Honourable Maryam Monsef, Minister of Status of Women, along with the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, announced Government of Canada funding for seven projects that will help advance gender equality in British Columbia.” The list of recipients is at the link. (Markets Insider)

September 12, 2017 – “California leaders took another step to support “Dreamers” on Tuesday by pledging $30 million for legal services and financial aid to help undocumented young people threatened with deportation by the Trump administration. Gov. Jerry Brown, State Sen. President pro Tempore Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) agreed to spend an additional $20 million on immigration legal services and $10 million on college financial aid for young people in California protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.” “The money is part of two identical bills introduced Tuesday in the Assembly and Senate. The governor has until Friday, when the legislative session ends, to sign one of them.” (EdSource)

September 12, 2017 – “Community organizations are launching programs to help immigrants get legal advice as many families worry about the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.” “Mayor Muriel Bowser announced $1 million in grants that will be given to ten different organizations that help immigrant families get legal advice on matters including citizen applications, ‘Know Your Rights’ trainings, and litigation to protect DACA information.” “The mayor’s office also released a guide, Ensuring the Safety and Security of DC’s Immigrant Community, detailing information about resources available to immigrant families.” (NBC4)

September 13, 2017 – “Yesterday, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) introduced an amendment to increase LSC’s funding by $10 million during debate of the FY 2018 Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies appropriations bill. This is the first time a bipartisan amendment to increase LSC funding has ever been offered on the House floor. Although the amendment was withdrawn before a final vote was taken, four members spoke in support of the amendment: Rep. Fitzpatrick (R-PA); Rep. Cohen (D-TN); Rep. Susan Brooks (R-IN); and Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY), the Ranking Member of the CJS appropriations subcommittee. Chairman John Culberson (R-TX) of the subcommittee opposed the amendment, but expressed support for the important work of LSC and his commitment to work to increase the allocation in conference with the Senate.” (Legal Services Corporation)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants!

Ofelia Calderón has been named recipient of the 2017 Lewis F. Powell Pro Bono Award by the Virginia State Bar. Calderón, a founding partner of Calderón Seguin PLC in Fairfax County, will be honored for her work in support of immigrants and others in need of legal support without the resources to afford it. ‘She is the standard-bearer among the private bar for what pro-bono service looks like – [a] model and mentor to countless fellow attorneys,’ said Christine Lockhard Poarch, an attorney who nominated Calderón for the accolade. The award will be presented Oct. 18 during the Virginia State Bar Pro Bono Conference and Celebration, to be held in Charlottesville. (Inside NOVA)

Music Bonus! Music pick from the PSJD Fellow Brittany Swett.

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – September 8, 2017

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

Happy Friday! This week is more storm damage and the (potential) end of DACA. We’re keeping Florida and the I95 corridor in our thoughts and prayers. Stay tuned to PSJD and the PSJD Blog for opportunities to help in those areas as well as the ongoing efforts in Texas and Louisiana and immigration efforts across the country.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • University of Denver Sturm College of Law offers new Public Good Distinction capstone;
  • Center for Access to Justice launches Access to Justice Map of Georgia;
  • University of Denver Sturm College of Law provides funding for student externships;
  • Gonzaga University School of Law launches new Center for Civil and Human Rights;
  • University of Georgia School of Law announces plans to establish a Veterans Legal Services clinic;
  • Trump rescinds DACA;
  • First Public Service Loan Forgiveness application now available;
  • Latham & Watkins takes up fight against transgender military ban;
  • 15 states, D.C. sue Trump Administration over plan to end DACA;
  • 47 conservative nonprofit leaders denounce Southern Poverty Law Center’s ‘Hate List’ in open letter to media;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants; and
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

August 31, 2017 – “The new school year at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law will bring a fresh crop of students and along with them, new classes and projects to stretch their legal wings. One new class is the Public Good Distinction capstone, headed by Alexi Freeman, an associate professor of the practice and the school’s director of externships and public interest initiatives. She said her desire to do social justice legal work and her background in nonprofit practice motivated her to spearhead the capstone. Freeman said the goal of the course is to build a sense of community that is key for those in public-interest legal practices, as well as to provide guidance on issues relevant to the practice. Some specific issues include financial mentorship, since public-sector attorneys typically do not make as much as those at private firms, as well as managing the emotional stress that can come with the work. Freeman said she believes law schools historically have not done the best job of encouraging students to go into public-sector work, whether through available classes or job-placement assistance, and her goal is to make entering the sector easier and more accessible.” (Law Week Colorado)

August 31, 2017 – “As part of its goal to help identify and better understand the difficulties people face in navigating the justice system, the Center for Access to Justice has produced an online Access to Justice map of Georgia. The map provides insight into attorney representation and other factors that affect how, and if, Georgia residents are able to gain access to the justice system. ‘This map provides a data-driven picture of how the ability to access justice varies dramatically across the state, and particularly between the metropolitan areas and more rural counties,’ said Lauren Sudeall Lucas, center director and associate professor of law. For each Georgia county, the interactive map shows its population and its number of active lawyers, as well as which Atlanta Legal Aid Society or Georgia Legal Services office serves the area. The map also shows percentages of: households that live near public transit, households that do not have access to a vehicle, households with home Internet access, the population that does not speak English at home and population at or below the poverty level.” (Georgia State University News Hub)

August 31, 2017 – “Beginning this year, the [University of Denver Sturm College of Law] endeavored to help students follow the path toward the public sector by providing summer funding for externships to 26 of them. ‘I want every student who envisions themselves as a public sector lawyer to have the opportunity to do so, and public sector externships are a perfect avenue to be reminded of one’s passions and purpose in the midst of the challenging atmosphere of law school,’ [Alexi Freeman, associate professor of the practice of law and director of Externships and Public Interest Initiatives] says.” “As Freeman sees it, the stipend empowers students to make choices that support their dreams and passions. ‘Far too often,’ she says, ‘the public interest legal community loses law students and lawyers to the private sector, not because of a change in interest or motivation, but because of a need to earn more money. While we understand finances are a factor, we definitely want to push back against that trend and allow students to make choices that are not solely based on funds.'” (University of Denver Newsroom)

September 1, 2017 – “The Gonzaga University School of Law is launching a new Center for Civil and Human Rights this fall to further its mission-based commitment to public service and social justice, and to advance understanding of the law surrounding civil rights and civil liberties. Directed by Gonzaga Law Professor Jason Gillmer, the John J. Hemmingson Chair for Civil Liberties, the Center is made possible by a generous gift by John Hemmingson, a member of Gonzaga’s Board of Trustees. The Center will provide students and scholars with opportunities to explore and address issues relating to civil rights and civil liberties, social and criminal justice, public interest law, immigration, Native American law, and international human rights.” “To advance students’ career development, the Center will coordinate efforts with career placement to foster relationships with potential employers, especially career tracks in civil rights and civil liberties, social and criminal justice, public interest law, immigration, Indian law, and international human rights. The Center will offer significant new scholarship and professional development opportunities for faculty as well, and will sponsor an annual lecture from a nationally known scholar of civil rights and civil liberties.” (newswise)

September 2, 2017 – “The University of Georgia School of Law has recently announced plans to establish a Veterans Legal Services clinic to provide local veterans with legal assistance. The clinic aims to give veterans care that ‘they might not otherwise have access to or be able to afford,’ according to a press release from the school of law. ‘It’s a win-win situation,’ said Alexander Scherr, associate dean for clinical programs and experiential learning in the UGA School of Law. ‘I am convinced that there is a long-standing, powerful need for veterans to get equal representation for their claims from the Veterans Administration.’ The clinic is expected to be open by fall of 2018.” (The Red & Black)

September 4, 2017 – “The future of the 800,000 so-called DREAMers is in limbo. The Trump administration is rescinding DACA, probably. Congress has six months to replace the program with one of their own. And Trump tweeted last night that he may revisit the issue if they don’t act. DACA stands for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. And it’s the Obama era executive action that helped nearly 800,000 people brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents find a way to live and work here without fear of being deported. The Homeland Security Department says it will begin an orderly phasing out of the program.” (NPR)

September 5, 2017 – “It’s been 10 years since the launch of Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), which means some borrowers can finally have their loans forgiven through the program. For the first time since PSLF’s beginning, the application to have their loans eliminated is now available.” “There are over 600,000 people enrolled in the PSLF program. Although there may be changes to the PSLF program in the future, any changes would only affect new borrowers. Current borrowers are still eligible for PSLF.” (Student Loan Hero)

September 5, 2017 – “Latham & Watkins represents the LGBT civil rights group Equality California and several transgender members of the military in a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of President Donald Trump’s Aug. 25 directive.” (The National Law Journal)(subscription required)

September 6, 2017 – “Fifteen states and the District of Columbia on Wednesday sued to block President Donald Trump’s plan to end a program protecting young immigrants from deportation — an act Washington state’s attorney general called ‘a dark time for our country.’ The lawsuit was filed in the Eastern District of New York. The plaintiffs were New York, Massachusetts, Washington, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia.” (Time)

September 6, 2017 – “On Wednesday, 47 leaders of conservative nonprofits sent an open letter to the media warning against using the notorious ‘hate map’ put out by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). The leaders denounced any news organization that would cite the SPLC’s list of ‘extremists’ and ‘hate groups’ as if it carried moral authority. ‘The SPLC is an attack dog of the political left’ and should be treated as such, the leaders wrote. ‘To associate public interest law firms and think tanks with neo-Nazis and the KKK is unconscionable, and represents the height of irresponsible journalism,’ the leaders declared. ‘All reputable news organizations should immediately stop using the SPLC’s descriptions of individuals and organizations based on its obvious political prejudices.’ The letter addressed ‘Members of the Media’ and strongly warned against the SPLC. The leaders characterized the organization as ‘a discredited, left-wing, political activist organization that seeks to silence its political opponents with a ‘hate group’ label of its own invention and application that is not only false and defamatory, but that also endangers the lives of those targeted with it.'” (PJ Media)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants!

Community Legal Aid (of Central and Northeast Ohio) plans to recognize Justice for All award recipients at its 65th Anniversary Celebration in September. Honorees will include Akron Children’s Hospital, recipient of the Community Partner Award. The hospital will be recognized for its medical-legal partnership with Community Legal Aid through the Locust Pediatric Care Group, which serves infants, children and adolescents, particularly those with special healthcare needs. Through Project HEAL (health, education, advocacy and law), legal volunteers visit the clinic several days a week. The medical team talks to families to identify issues, and the legal team helps them tackle the challenges they face related to housing, neighborhoods, transportation, education, income stability and access to benefits, according to Maria Duvuvuei, Legal Aid director of development and communication. Others to be presented with Justice for All awards include Nancy Yakubek, of Warren, Pro Bono Award honoree; Alicia Williamson, of Warren, Staff Support Award honoree; and Jaime-Lyn Poh, of Broadview Heights, Staff Attorney Award honoree. (Akron.com)

Music Bonus! Music pick from the PSJD Fellow Brittany Swett.

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – September 1, 2017

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

Happy Friday! As Texas recovers from Hurricane Harvey, lawyers are mobilizing to help. Here are some resources if you want to help:

The Texas Equal Access to Justice Foundation has set up a fund to support legal services in Texas in the wake of the storm.

Lawyers admitted to practice in Texas can look herehere and here for information about volunteering. Out of state attorneys should reach out to Scott Lachman with the American Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division. Legal hotlines are already set up in Texas (800 504-7030) and Louisiana (800 310-7029) to provide legal advice. The ABA Free Legal Answers network is also working to provide access points for lawyers who want to help across the country. And the ABA has additional information on how to help here.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Gillis Long Poverty Law Center funds $200,000 in summer internships in 2017;
  • Maine looking for civil legal aid providers;
  • Florida International University College of Law launches new program to help families;
  • Sentencing reform and criminal defense groups launch state-level clemency project;
  • Gov. Bruce Rauner signs bill making it easier for transgender people to change the sex listed on their birth certificates;
  • Seattle and King County award $1.5 million in immigrant and refugee legal aid;
  • OneJustice Justice Bus celebrates 10th year;
  • Deported military veterans seeking U.S. citizenship will get access to state legal aid in California;
  • ICE launches new careers web content;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants; and
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

August 25, 2017 – “The Gillis Long Poverty Law Center at Loyola University New Orleans College of Law creates opportunities for students to learn public service lawyering through immersive, substantive legal internships. In summer 2017, the Center placed 40 paid interns in 12 offices across the United States. ‘In keeping with the social justice mission of our law school, we are proud that our law students are providing legal services to the neediest members of our community. Together, they are providing over 10,000 hours of support with local nonprofits this summer. Since the program started in 1991, more than 700 of our law students have participated,’ said Madeleine Landrieu, Dean and Judge Adrian G. Duplantier Distinguished Professor of Law.” (University Newsroom)

August 25, 2017 – “The state of Maine is looking for groups to provide free civil legal services to low-income people and the elderly. Only experienced non-profit organizations, legal aid clinics at law schools, and pro-bono programs are eligible to receive funding from the state’s civil legal services fund. Such groups have until Sept. 1 to apply for funding. Decades ago, the Legislature created the civil legal services fund to help those who can’t afford legal help. A 2016 report by a University of Maine economics professor found that Maine legal aid providers secured about $4 million in benefits from federal programs and $2.4 million in federal grants. The report found such efforts created about $13.4 million in economic activity and created dozens of full-and-part time jobs.” (US News)

August 25, 2017 – “Hiring a lawyer can be pricey — which is partially why many people, particularly in family court, lack legal representation. Florida International University’s College of Law is aiming to fill that gap. In an initiative launched Friday morning, FIU law graduates will offer affordable legal services to families who face financial difficulties hiring a lawyer but whose incomes are too high to qualify for free legal aid programs. Michelle Mason, senior associate dean of the program, anticipates that there will eventually be six to eight in-house fellows providing services to around 360 to 480 clients each year. The program will hire one fellow this semester to begin.” “The program is also designed to double as a teaching tool for young lawyers. Fellows — recent graduates licensed to practice law in Florida — will offer services while learning the necessary skills to open their own practice.” (Miami Herald)

August 25, 2017 – “Clemency Project 2014 ended when Barack Obama left office in January. But several legal groups have launched a clemency project of their own aimed at the states. The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers has teamed up with sentencing reform group Families Against Mandatory Minimums on the State Clemency Project, which seeks to recruit, train and support pro bono attorneys who will help state prisoners submit applications for commutations of their sentences. Sentence commutation ends a sentence, but does not erase the conviction as a pardon would. FAMM and NACDL were both major participants in CP14, a project that sought to reduce sentences for nonviolent, low-level offenders with no significant ties to organized crime. (The ABA Criminal Justice Section was also a major participant.) The project used a large team of pro bono attorneys to select qualified prisoners out of about 36,000 applications, then represent them through the process of applying for a commutation. The state clemency project builds on that experience, the NACDL press release says. The project will work with interested governors or clemency boards to lay out criteria for commutations and identify prisoners who meet those criteria. Volunteer attorneys, likely drawn from the same state as their clients, will work with their clients to submit petitions. Project staff will work with the state agencies on streamlining the application process and the gathering of supporting information. In the end, the federal Clemency Project 2014 was involved in 894 commutations, a little more than half of the 1,705 total commutations. Depending on how many states participate, the state project could dwarf those numbers, because states imprison far more people than the federal government does.” (ABA Journal)

August 26, 2017 – As part of a package of 100 bills, “Gov. Bruce Rauner on Friday signed into law a measure to make it easier for transgender people to change the sex listed on their birth certificates.” ” The Governor “signed legislation that would make it easier for transgender people to change the sex designation on their birth certificates. Formerly, state law said transgender people could only change their birth certificates if a doctor said they had transition surgery. The new law would allow for a change if a medical or mental health provider confirms someone has received ‘clinically appropriate’ treatment. A range of practices including hormone therapy would be covered, using a similar standard that applies to U.S. passports. Supporters said people were often denied coverage for preventive care like pap smears and prostate exams if their birth certificates and identities don’t match, saying the previous surgery requirement was an unnecessary burden. ‘It’s basic common sense that a person’s gender should be recognized and respected, whether or not that person has had any particular kind of surgery,’ John Knight, director of the LGBT and HIV Project for the ACLU of Illinois. ‘I’m extremely proud of our state for taking this important step to modernize a law that has been a significant barrier in transgender people’s lives for many, many years.'” (Chicago Tribune)

August 29, 2017 – “In a unanimous vote back in April, the Seattle City Council passed a resolution to dedicate $1 million to helping locally-based immigrants and refugees get legal representation in the wake of threats to sanctuary cities by the Trump administration. Seattle has since joined with King County to bring that total to more than $1.5 million. On Monday, Seattle and King County announced the recipients of that money: The vast majority, more than $1 million, went collectively in a joint award to Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, who provides legal aid to immigrants in addition to advocacy and education work, and Colectiva Legal del Pueblo, who provide direct legal services to fight deportations. Other recipients include Kids In Need of Defense, West African Community Center, South Park Information and Referral Center, and Filipino Community of Seattle.” (Curbed Seattle)

August 29, 2017 – “The Justice Bus is celebrating its 10th year. Over the past decade, a bus full of volunteer lawyers, counselors and translators — all part of a program called OneJustice — have rolled up and down California giving free legal counsel to low-income people on immigration and naturalization law, veterans’ rights and more. The group recently visited the San Fernando Valley to help immigrants who were qualified and ready to become citizens work through a maze of paperwork.” (NPR)

August 29, 2017 – “Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher applauded the California Department of Social Services for declaring that the state will provide legal services to deported military veterans from California, a huge victory for these often-overlooked veterans as they seek citizenship. Assemblywoman Gonzalez Fletcher made this issue one of her top priorities for the 2017 legislative year and personally requested a letter from the CDSS affirming its commitment to provide these legal services. ‘This is great news for anyone who cares about how our nation treats its veterans,’ Assemblywoman Gonzalez Fletcher said. ‘These are patriots who were willing to risk their lives for this country. To reward their service and sacrifice by deporting them is unconscionable and un-American.’ California becomes the first to provide this legal help, which will be available to all deported veterans who formerly lived in California and were honorably discharged from the military, according to an Aug. 25 letter from the Department of Social Service.” (Yuba.net)

August 30, 2017 – “U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is hiring. The nation’s premier federal law enforcement agency focused on protecting America from cross-border crime and illegal immigration launched an enhanced careers section on its website Aug. 29 to help top candidates apply for a variety of jobs. In addition, ICE started a new Twitter feed – @ICEgovCareers – dedicated solely to job-related information about the agency, including recruiting events, job opportunities and more. The presidential executive order Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States, instructs ICE to hire 10,000 law enforcement positions in the coming years. ICE’s current 20,000 employees focus on carrying out smart immigration enforcement, preventing terrorism and combating transnational criminal threats.  In fiscal year 2017, ICE hired more than 1,300 new employees across all job series, and anticipates filling another approximately 100 vacancies before the end of this fiscal year.” “Visitors may find the frequently asked questions (FAQs) web page the most helpful resources on the website. The exhaustive list covers topics that include: general questions about ICE and the hiring surge; law enforcement positions; Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO); Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); Office of the Principal Legal Advisor (OPLA) and Management and Administration(M&A); or questions specific to students and veterans. The website also has a link to sign up for the latest news and job vacancies to be sent to your inbox.” (ICE Newsroom)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants!

Sarah Leverette, one of the first female lawyers in South Carolina and a longstanding legal and social influencer, is being recognized for her life’s work of improving the lives of fellow South Carolinians. The S.C. Appleseed Legal Justice Center is honoring 97-year-old Leverette with the 2017 Rev. Sen. Clementa C. Pinckney Award for Justice. The award recognizes Leverette as an influential advocate for equal rights for women in the law and in the community. Leverette graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law in 1943 as the only woman in her class and just the third woman ever to graduate from the school at the time. She defied many of the expectations for women of her time to become a woman admired in the South Carolina legal profession as influential and a trailblazer.” Read more about here amazing career at the link. (The State)

Music Bonus! Music pick from the PSJD Fellow Brittany Swett.

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – August 25, 2017

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

Happy Friday! Up and down news this week. Some programs are expanding while others are closing offices. With funding cuts and shrinking budgets, pro bono is more important than ever. Check out PSJD for pro bono opportunities in your area.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Legal Aid Ontario defunds African Legal Clinic;
  • DNA, early champion of Indian rights, to shutter 3 legal offices;
  • New York expanding pro bono clemency program;
  • Ottawa’s first Indigenous peoples court announced;
  • Turner Family Community Enterprise Clinic established at Vanderbilt Law School;
  • Michigan Legal Help creates toolkit for parents of students ‘facing discipline’;
  • Out & Equal Workplace Advocates announces recipients of inaugural Global Fellowship program;
  • Associates’ Committee expands legal aid fundraising efforts;
  • Bills filed to link more pro bono attorneys with Florida’s special needs kids;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants; and
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

August 16, 2017 – The following is a statement from Legal Aid Ontario President and CEO David Field. “The Clinic Committee of Legal Aid Ontario’s Board of Directors has decided, under its dispute resolution process, to withdraw LAO’s [Legal Aid Ontario] funding of the African Canadian Legal Clinic (ACLC) effective September 30, 2017. Every dollar of funding currently provided to ACLC will be redirected to a new organization to provide dedicated services to the Black community. LAO’s priority is addressing the legal needs of a very vulnerable segment of our population—members of Black communities who need our help. We have work to do to meet those needs. LAO is committed to doing that work through hearing directly from members of the Black community, working with an advisory committee comprised of community leaders and investing additional funding to improve access to justice for members of the Black community. The Clinic Committee of LAO’s Board of Directors has found that ACLC’s board and management have engaged in financial mismanagement and that there has been a lack of board oversight. Although LAO’s dispute resolution process is internal, it is clear to me that there is an overriding public interest in what has occurred. Therefore, in the interest of transparency, I have directed that the decisions of the clinic committee and supporting documents be posted on LAO’s website. LAO will ensure that there will be no interruption or delay to legal services to Black Ontarians. LAO will immediately begin working with members of the community to establish a new community-based organization to deliver legal aid services to Ontario’s Black community. In the meantime, LAO will provide legal services through the Human Rights Legal Support Centre, members of the private bar, and LAO’s Test Case Program.” (thestar.com)(Legal Aid Ontario)

And Ontario province is now evaluating its contribution. “Now that Legal Aid Ontario has yanked its funding from the African Canadian Legal Clinic, the province is rethinking its own contribution. In a decision released last week, a committee of Legal Aid’s board of directors said the organization had failed to meet all eight conditions placed on it in 2014 to address concerns of financial mismanagement and poor governance. ‘Given the serious nature of its findings, the province is reviewing the decision and supporting documents produced by the sub-committee in order to assess the government’s funding relationship with the African Canadian Legal Clinic going forward,’ wrote Andrew Rudyk, press secretary for the office of Attorney General Yasir Naqvi. He did not offer a timeline for the review.” (Metro News)

August 18, 2017 – “For 50 years, DNA — or, in Navajo, Dinébe’iiná Náhiilna be Agha’diit’ahii — has provided free legal services to low-income people in three Southwestern states and won groundbreaking cases in Indian law on behalf of its clients. Now, facing years of financial shortfalls, it is planning to shutter three of its nine offices — in Crownpoint, Shiprock and Monument Valley, Utah. Some staff will move to remaining offices, and others will be laid off. DNA provides free legal services in areas such as consumer fraud, public benefits, wills and estates, taxes, housing evictions and domestic violence.” (Santa Fe New Mexican)

August 21, 2017 – “New York is partnering with several legal organizations to expand the state’s pro bono clemency program, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday. The state will partner with the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Families Against Mandatory Minimums and other organizations helping incarcerated individuals seeking clemency from the governor’s office to provide ‘high-quality clemency applications.’ ‘These nationally recognized organizations have already proven successful in helping incarcerated individuals get access to the resources they need to apply for clemency, make the case for their rehabilitation and have the opportunity to contribute to and re-enter society,’ Cuomo said in a statement.” (New York Law Journal)

August 22, 2017 – “The provincial government will announce the opening of Ottawa’s first court for Indigenous peoples this week, CBC News has confirmed.” “The opening of the specialized court is meant to address the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in Canada’s criminal justice system. Ottawa’s first Indigenous court, also known as a Gladue court, draws its name from a 1995 court case where a defendant successfully argued the court should consider the lived experience of an Indigenous offender, for example, the trauma associated with the residential schools system.” (CBC News)

August 22, 2017 – “A $2 million investment in Vanderbilt Law School by Cal Turner Jr., BA’62, will provide legal support to entrepreneurs on shoestring budgets to help them get up and running. The funding, which results from the growth of a previous endowed gift from Turner, names the Turner Family Community Enterprise Clinic at the law school. The clinic will offer students hands-on opportunities to assist individuals with legal matters, such as applying for tax-exempt status and drafting lease agreements, when they otherwise would not be able to afford representation. ‘The Turner clinic sits at the intersection of law and business, reinforcing Vanderbilt’s strengths in working across disciplines to achieve viable solutions,’ said Chris Guthrie, dean and John Wade–Kent Syverud Professor of Law. ‘This funding allows us to better support our students and faculty who provide this important legal representation to lower-income clients. We’re deeply grateful for this new opportunity.'” “Under the guidance of faculty mentors, students in the Turner Family Community Enterprise Clinic will receive course credit as they hone legal skills in a range of transactional matters, including entity formation, governance, tax, contracts, employment, intellectual property and risk management. The clinic also will expose students to opportunities that arise in today’s rapidly evolving legal environment, which is explored in the school’s Program on Law and Innovation.” (Vanderbilt News)

August 22, 2017 – “A website that provides free legal assistance for simple civil matters now offers a toolkit for parents of children who are in trouble at school. The toolkit is a landing page on the Michigan Legal Help website’s education section called, ‘My Child is Facing Punishment or Expulsion from School.’ It consists of articles, answers to common questions, and local referrals for issues relating to special education accommodations, discipline and student rights. It also includes a do-it-yourself letter for students receiving special education services who are being suspended or expelled. The toolkit has a drop-down menu that allows users to filter results by Michigan county. Resources and referrals vary based on the user’s location.” (grbj.com)

August 22, 2017 – “After a competitive application process featuring applicants from more than 20 countries on five continents, Out & Equal Workplace Advocates has announced its inaugural cohort of Global Fellows: Levis Nderitu, Sullivan Reed Society, Kenya; Suresh Ramdas, HP Inc., India; and Kaspars Zalitis, Association Open Centre, Latvia. ‘Each and every one of our Global Fellows is a true inspiration,’ said Selisse Berry, Founder and CEO of Out & Equal Workplace Advocates. ‘Levis, Suresh, and Kaspars have demonstrated incredible commitment to advancing LGBT rights and workplace equality, even in the most challenging of environments. Though the movement for LGBT equality has made significant progress in recent years, it’s critical to remember that in 76 countries we can still be arrested, imprisoned or even killed because of who we are and who we love. Our Global Fellows make me confident that the future of LGBT workplace equality is bright. I look forward to offering each one of them this learning opportunity, and to learning from them as well.’ The fellows will travel to the United States to participate in an intensive five-week Out & Equal leadership development program for emerging global advocates in LGBT workplace equality.” (LGBT Weekly)

August 23, 2017 – “A grassroots effort to empower law firm associates to be more charitable has gained some momentum, and some help. Last year, Corey Laplante, then an associate at Skadden Arps, launched The Associates’ Committee, a group that raised more than $200,000 from Big Law associates for legal aid groups and litigation non-profits for the homeless, veterans, survivors of domestic violence and others. As the group enters its second year, Laplante — now an associate in Los Angeles at the litigation boutique Wilkinson Walsh + Eskovitz — says the Committee is generating interest from big law firms and partners, not just from associates. Laplante said he hopes to ‘increase the impact’ of the group through firm support and that member-associates have taken up the cause with a letter writing campaign to their firms. ‘They’re saying they’re members and are passionate about their cause and would like the firm to match their contribution,’ he explained. Among the partners supporting the group is Jeff Simes, chair of the litigation department at Goodwin Procter, where partners have pledged a total of $6,000 to the group. ‘It’s a great thing when associates pull together and are excited about something. It’s infectious,’ he said. Along with Goodwin, Laplante’s former firm Skadden has pledged $10,000 to the organization.” (Bloomberg Law)

August 24, 2017 – “Two Florida lawmakers are hoping to get more pro-bono attorneys to help kids with special needs for the 2018 legislative session. Rep. Frank White (R-Pensacola) and Sen. Aaron Bean (R-Fernandina Beach) filed the ‘Pro Bono Matters Act of 2018.’ The goal is to encourage more attorneys to take pro-bono cases involving special needs children who have been abused, abandoned and neglected. Florida Guardian ad Litem Executive Director Alan Abramowitz says it builds on a 2014 law.” (WGCU)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants!

The Waco-McLennan County Young Lawyers Association was presented with the Texas Young Lawyers Association Award of Achievement for Service to the Public. The group was honored for its Pro Bono Challenge, a partnership with Baylor Law School that has connected many lawyers in McLennan County to low-income veterans and others in need of pro bono legal services. The program was developed by MCYLA President-elect Stephen Rispoli, who serves as the assistant dean of pro bono programs at Baylor Law School, C. Scott Omo of Pakis, Giotes, Page & Burleson PC, and Josh Borderud, director of the Baylor Law Veterans Clinic. (Waco Tribune-Herald)

Music Bonus! Music pick from the PSJD Fellow Brittany Swett.

 

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – August 18, 2017

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

Happy Friday! With all that has happened this week, you may be looking for ways to combat the hate. PSJD has many resources to help you find and connect with pro bono opportunities in your area.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Duke Law School emphasizes public interest with new certificate program;
  • DC lawyers support record-breaking legal aid fundraising campaign;
  • Pennsylvania county launches domestic violence court;
  • Broadway performers vocalize support for Legal Service Corporation at ABA rally;
  • ABA launches second site to assist veterans;
  • SOAR for Justice announces inaugural scholarship;
  • ABA Center for Innovation announces eight inagural fellows;
  • Akin Gump announces new pro bono counsel;
  • Stanford Law School clinic announces website for nonprofit pro bono support;
  • Missouri sued over lack of attorneys for parole violators;
  • New York University School of Law launches new center to support state attorneys general in environmental litigation;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants; and
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

August 11, 2017 – “Duke Law School recently announced its first certificate for Juris Doctor students. The new program—the Public Interest and Public Service Law Certificate—is specifically designed for students who have an interest in public service. Stella Boswell, assistant dean of public interest and career development, said public service jobs have become more competitive in recent years.  As a result, law students have to clearly demonstrate a strong interest in public work—something they can accomplish with the new certificate.” “Students in the program must perform at least 75 hours of community service and work full-time in the public sector during a summer while pursuing their degree. ” (The Chronicle)

August 11, 2017 – “The Generous Associates Campaign is a fundraising drive run by associates at Washington, D.C. law firms each summer. This year’s campaign kicked off on June 1. Although contributors to the campaign include associates, partners, non-lawyers, and the firms themselves, it is a campaign that allows the true generosity of the associates in our legal community to come through in spectacular fashion.” This year, the campaign raised $1.79 million, beating the goal by almost $300,000. (Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia)

August 11, 2017 – “Lancaster County [Pennsylvania] launched a Domestic Violence court Thursday with the goal of providing a safe avenue for victims and immediate treatment for offenders, while more efficiently handling domestic violence cases. A group of specialized prosecutors familiar with the intricacies of domestic-violence cases will handle the court’s caseload. Attorneys from the Public Defender’s Office will be on hand for defendants without private counsel. Twelve defendants appeared before the court during its first session. The court will be held every other Thursday at the Lancaster County Courthouse.” (Penn Live)

August 11, 2017 – “Broadway performers from War PaintHello Dolly and other productions voiced their support for the Legal Services Corp. on Friday by performing at a rally at the ABA Annual Meeting in New York City. The event, titled ‘It’s Only Fair! An ABA Concert and Rally for the Legal Services Corp.,’ was staged in an uncertain budget year for the LSC. President Donald Trump has proposed eliminating all funding for the agency, while House and Senate committees have recommended budget amounts below the LSC’s $527.8 million funding request for fiscal 2018. The LSC is the single largest funder of civil legal aid programs in the United States. ‘This is no time to eliminate or even cut funding to the Legal Services Corp.,’ ABA President Linda A. Klein said between the performers’ songs and speeches by LSC supporters.” “An ABA grassroots campaign has garnered more than 20,000 supporters whose message has been delivered to Congress, Klein said. It’s not too late for others to send their message through www.DefendLegalAid.org. The ABA was there for the birth of the LSC, and it was there in the 1980s and 1990s when policymakers threatened to eliminate funding. The ABA is making the case once again, Klein said, and this time it is armed with better information. Talking points for those who are sending a message to their representatives include the following: Every year, the LSC provides legal aid for 1.9 million individuals and their families. Funding for LSC only accounts for 0.0001 percent of the total federal budget.” (ABA Journal)

August 14, 2017 – “At its annual meeting in New York Saturday, the American Bar Association announced the launch of VetLex.org, a website, developed in partnership with the law firm Jones Day, that matches veterans in need of pro bono legal services with attorneys willing to provide such services. For now, the new site is only accepting registrations from attorneys, law firms and legal organizations interesting in providing services. By Veterans Day, the site will open on a pilot basis in a limited number of cities and states to accept veterans’ cases. The site will become fully operational nationally in 2018, the ABA’s announcement said. Once the site opens to veterans, it will provide an online tool for them to obtain pro bono counsel for their specific legal needs, including civil, criminal or administrative matters. It will also provide educational information on basic legal concepts, and serve as a repository for paperwork, such as DD 214s, that is required by various service providers. The ABA expects that the site will also be used by organizations that serve veterans in helping them find lawyers to assist their clients.” (Law Sites)

August 14, 2017 – “In furtherance of the goal of supporting survivors of abuse with the costs of obtaining a legal education and increasing the number of future lawyers committed to careers in domestic violence advocacy and law reform, the inaugural SOAR for Justice Scholarship awards $500 – $1000 to qualified California law students with proven track records in social justice. Individuals of all races, ethnicities, national origins, religions, ages, sexes, sexual orientations and gender identities, as well as differently abled persons, survivors of domestic violence, candidates from traditionally underrepresented communities and historically oppressed groups, bilingual and bicultural candidates, and those who are the first in their family to complete college or graduate school, are encouraged to apply.” “The deadline to apply is September 29, 2017 and awards will be announced during National Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October 2017.” (SOAR for Justice)

August 14, 2017 – “One will work with the Legal Services Corporation to develop web portals to help low-income Americans find appropriate legal aid resources. Another will help innocence projects develop a tool to better communicate with each other. These will be two of the eight first-time Fellows announced Monday who will work under the umbrella of the American Bar Association Center for Innovation. The Center was established in September 2016 at the recommendation of the ABA Commission on the Future of Legal Services to encourage and accelerate innovations that improve the accessibility, affordability and effectiveness of legal services and to transform how the public accesses the law and legal information. The Fellows, who were selected by the ABA Center for Innovation Fellows Committee, will begin work later this summer. Each will spend between three months and one year at the Center, and the group includes five NextGen Fellows, who will spend a year on projects, and three Innovation Fellows, whose fellowships run up to four months. ‘We’re thrilled to welcome these Fellows to the Center for Innovation,’ ABA President Linda A. Klein said. ‘They’re not only helping lawyers and their clients in creative new ways, they’re also giving us a glimpse into what legal services could look like in the decades to come.'” See the list of fellows and their projects at the link. (ABA Center for Innovation) (Legal News)

August 15, 2017 – “Akin Gump has found its new pro bono counsel, announcing recently that an associate at the firm with a history of work with nonprofits and programs aimed at providing service to immigrants fleeing violent situations would be taking over the position. Lauren Connell, previously an associate in the firm’s corporate practice, will succeed Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP’s first pro bono counsel Fiona Brett and step into a role that will have her assisting in the management of the firmwide pro bono practice, both maintaining relationships with the organizations Akin Gump has previously partnered with, and looking in a variety of fields for new pro bono opportunities for the firm’s attorneys.” (Law 360)(subscription required)

August 15, 2017 – “Stanford Law’s Organizations and Transactions Clinic announced today the launch of a website offering free access to hundreds of sample legal documents for attorneys who represent nonprofit organizations. As described on the website, model legal documents for nonprofits are often hard to find. Several organizations make available corporate governance models, though it’s difficult to find examples of other documents, especially materials relating to charitable programs and other activities specific to nonprofits. ‘We wanted to make a contribution toward addressing that gap in the resource base,’ said Jay A. Mitchell, Professor of Law and director of the clinic. The site’s roughly 200 form and precedent legal documents relate to a wide range of matters, including corporate governance, programmatic and earned income activities, and fiscal sponsorship, resource sharing, affiliation, and other relationships unique to nonprofits. The website also contains brief discussions of the clinic’s approach to the design of legal documents and client communications, which centers on accessibility and practical use by clients. ‘We think it’s instructive to try to learn from the design community in how we approach legal documents. We thought the site was a way to share that point of view in a concrete way,’ continued Mitchell, who has published about the intersections of design and legal documents. Mitchell and Michelle Sonu, Lecturer in Law and Clinical Supervising Attorney, led the project with support from the Robert Crown Law Library and Stanford Law’s communication and information technology departments.” (Stanford Law School Press)

August 15, 2017 – “While many states try to reverse incarceration rates, Missouri is held back by thousands of offenders returning to prison each year for not honoring the terms of their early release. The revolving door from parole violations isn’t unique to the Show-Me state. But a new class-action lawsuit filed Monday alleges that the parole revocation process is a ‘sham’ and ‘byzantine’ because hearings are often never held and Missouri Department of Corrections officials don’t provide attorneys. ‘Plaintiffs are constantly rotated in and out of the prison system — often at the result of non-criminal technical parole violations, and often based upon unsubstantiated accusations that the parolee committed a new criminal offense,’ according to a copy of the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri. ‘The vast majority of parolees in the State of Missouri need and are entitled to appointed counsel to help them navigate these arcane proceedings. Yet, as a matter of practice, procedure, and custom, the Defendants systematically deny indigent parolees their right to counsel.’ Instead, the lawsuit claims, parolees often don’t speak on their own behalf, nor present evidence or cross-examine witnesses during parole revocation proceedings ‘to which they are also constitutionally entitled.'” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

August 17, 2017 – “NYU School of Law announced today the creation of the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center (State Impact Center) dedicated to helping state attorneys general fight against regulatory roll-backs and other actions that undermine key clean energy, climate change, and environmental values and protections. The non-partisan State Impact Center will support state attorneys general on clean energy, climate, and environmental initiatives of regional or national importance in a number of ways, including providing legal, analytic, and communications support, as well as facilitating coordination across multiple offices of state attorneys general.” “A primary goal of the State Impact Center is to enable interested state attorneys general to expand their capacity to take on important clean energy, climate, and environmental matters by recruiting and hiring NYU fellows to serve as special assistant attorneys general.” (NYU News)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants!

ABA Medal winner John Feerick called on lawyers to help close the justice gap by volunteering to help those in need and by supporting the Legal Services Corp. “Why not find a place to serve or create a program that can make a difference?” he asked. Feerick, the former dean at Fordham University School of Law, spoke Saturday in New York City at the ABA Annual Meeting’s General Assembly where he received the ABA Medal, the association’s highest honor. (ABA Journal)

Music Bonus! Music pick from the PSJD Fellow Brittany Swett.

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – August 11, 2017

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

Happy Friday! This week is bittersweet here at PSJD.  We are thrilled to welcome our 2017-2018 PSJD Fellow Brittany Swett. Brittany comes to us from the University of San Diego School of Law. She is a fantastic addition to the team, and we couldn’t be more excited to start her fellowship year.  But that also means we have to say good-bye to our 2016-2017 PSJD Fellow Delisa Morris. We have had such a great year together, and it is sad that’s it’s coming to an end.  Her contributions to PSJD were invaluable, and we are extremely grateful for her hard work. We also say good-bye to our 2017 Publications Coordinator Allison Katona. She has put together the 2017-2018 Comprehensive Fellowship Guide and contributed in so many other ways.  We are excited to see what she does next.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Big Law’s bid to improve access to justice through pro bono (perspective);
  • Dean Susan Westerberg Prager Endowment Fund to benefit Southwestern Law School public interest students;
  • Virginia attorney general launches new resource guide to help servicemembers;
  • DC Mayor Bowser renews grants that provide legal help to D.C. immigrants;
  • Major new pro bono projects help imprisoned immigrants, struggling students in Atlanta;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants; and
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

August 3, 2017 – Lisa Dewey, Pro Bono Partner at DLA Piper and Director of New Perimeter, Sara Andrews, Senior International Pro Bono Counsel at DLA Piper and Assistant Director for New Perimeter, and Eve Runyon, President and CEO of Pro Bono Institute share an excellent perspective on the expansion of global pro bono as law firms have become more global and government funding cuts have curtailed local response to legal needs. (Bloomberg Law)

August 4, 2017 – “Southwestern Law School announced the establishment of the Dean Susan Westerberg Prager Endowment Fund to benefit the Southwestern Law School Summer Public Interest Law Grant program which is supported through fundraising efforts of the Public Interest Law Committee (PILC). Sterling Franklin, trustee of Morris S. Smith Foundation and a friend of Dean Prager, established the Fund with a $50,000 gift.  The endowment will generate an annual $2,000 Prager Summer Grant to support one student doing public interest law work.  The Fund’s 2017 awardee is Ms. Jeannette Beaudelaire ’18.” (SWLaw Blog)

August 4, 2017 – “ A new online resource to help meet the legal needs of servicemembers, military families and veterans in Virginia has been launched. Attorney General Mark Herring announced the launch of the Virginia Military and Veteran Legal Resources Guide on Friday. The resource will help them with legal protections, rights and resources that are currently available under the law.” “The Virginia Military and Veteran Legal Resource Guide was created by volunteer attorneys from Herring’s office who spent more than a year developing it. It is available online, and it will be distributed in hard copy and digital in conjunction with the Virginia Department of Veterans Services, veteran service organizations and others. Some of the topics covered in the new guide include employment help with the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act and continuing health care. It also covers consumer protections such as the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act limiting interest rates on loans, the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children, tax deductions and exemptions for certain military pay, family law regarding child custody and visitation protections, programs ensuring access to ballots for deployed servicemembers, and access to legal services.” (CBS 19)

August 8, 2017 – “After announcing $500,000 in grants to serve immigrants in D.C. facing or fearing deportation in January, Mayor Muriel Bowser’s administration is bringing the grants back for a second year. ‘It is a clear need for residents in the District, and we’re addressing it,’ says Betsy Cavendish, the mayor’s general counsel. ‘Washington, D.C. is blessed with a very civicly engaged bar and our lawyers are some of the most generous pro bono givers of their time and expertise in the country. And we are also fortunate to have a very diverse population that brings great cultural contributions from around the world to the city. We’re matching up that vibrant sector of our community with the attorneys to hopefully provide more security.'”  (DCist)

August 9, 2017 – “Pro bono leaders from the city’s big firms gathered at Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton on Tuesday for updates from Dan Werner of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and Michael Lucas of Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation (AVLF) on two ambitious new pro bono initiatives that are quickly gaining traction. The SPLC launched an unprecedented deportation defense project at the Stewart Detention Center in April, and AVLF last year started a project at Thomasville Heights Elementary School in southwest Atlanta that provides legal aid to resolve housing problems that cause children to struggle with school and miss days. Both pilot projects embed staff lawyers on-site—at the immigration court and the elementary school, respectively—and recruit volunteer lawyers from the private bar to help with individual cases. Each has gained enough support to start expanding to new locations, Werner and Lucas told the Atlanta Pro Bono Roundtable members.” (Daily Report)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants!

University of Windsor associate professor Reem Bahdi is the 2017 recipient of the Guthrie Award from the Law Foundation of Ontario, in recognition of her contributions to the field of access to justice. Bahdi says it has an intuitive appeal. “Wrapped up in the idea of human dignity is the idea that everybody is equal, everybody is entitled to human rights, everybody has potential.” “And in an ideal world, we would live in a way that allows individuals to live up to their potential and not put social or political or economic barriers in the way.” As a legal scholar, she’s particularly interested in access to justice. Bahdi helped develop the Palestinian justice system, created a model for judicial education to advance human rights in the West Bank by promoting human dignity and worked to form Windsor’s mandatory access to justice course for law students. Dean of law Christopher Waters noted Bahdi’s diverse contributions to legal education have put her at the forefront of access to justice, theoretically and literally. Read more about her amazing work at the link. (Windsor Star)

Music Bonus! Music pick from the PSJD Fellow Brittany Swett.

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – August 4, 2017

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

Happy Friday! Can you believe it’s August already? As we move into the fall recruiting season, don’t forget about all the job search resources in the PSJD Resource Center.  And, as I yearn for cooler temperatures, my thoughts also turn to planning pro bono celebrations in October. If you are doing the same, check out the ABA’s Celebrate Pro Bono resources for all your planning needs.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Maryland Legal Aid creates subsidiary to expand statewide legal services;
  • Holland & Knight donates $100,000 to Miami Legal Services in honor of firm founder;
  • More students seeking public interest internships;
  • Mayor De Blasio, New York City Council reach deal limiting legal fund for immigrants facing deportation;
  • The International Trademark Association officially launches Pro Bono Clearinghouse;
  • North Carolina legal aid gets cut again;
  • Match site launches for progressive lawyers and non-profits;
  • Committee OKs plan to halt pro bono legal work by University of North Carolina School of Law Center for Civil Rights;
  • University of Georgia School of Law creates Veterans Legal Services Clinic;
  • Department of Education files response to ABA lawsuit regarding PSLF;
  • Montreal-based law firm EXEO launches free smart virtual assistant to help future immigrants;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants; and
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

July 26, 2017 – “Maryland Legal Aid is expanding its services with a new, wholly owned subsidiary. The Maryland Center for Legal Assistance — through a contract with the Administrative Office of the Courts — will run the District Court Self-Help Resource centers located in Baltimore, Glen Burnie, Upper Marlboro, Salisbury and the Maryland Courts Self-Help Center in Annapolis. Running of the self-help centers is the first service the MCLA will offer. Its work may also be expanded to offer more legal services, Maryland Legal Aid announced Wednesday. The help centers work on a range of civil legal matters including landlord-tenant disputes, consumer matters such as debt collection and credit card cases, child support and criminal record expungement to remove barriers to attain housing, employment, a license, and child custody. In 2016, the centers helped more than 55,000 self-represented litigants, Maryland Legal Aid said. ‘The new Maryland Center for Legal Assistance will serve as another dependable resource for Marylanders to receive high-quality legal help and to gain the knowledge and tools necessary to represent themselves in court,’ said MCLA Managing Director Sarah Coffey Frush in a statement. MCLA is a separate legal entity which does not receive funding from the Legal Services Corporation, unlike Maryland Legal Aid.” (The Daily Record)

July 27, 2017 – “Holland & Knight is honoring the 100th anniversary of the birth of founding partner Chesterfield Smith with a $100,000 gift to Legal Services of Greater Miami Inc. Smith, who was born July 28, 1917 and died in 2003, was a vocal advocate for pro bono legal services for the poor. The firm commits at least 3 percent of its billable hours to pro bono legal services each year.” (Daily Business Review)

July 31, 2017 – “While a summer job at a large firm is lucrative, a bumper crop of law students is taking low or no-paying public interest jobs instead, in part because it’s a way to gain hands-on legal experience. This year, the University of Georgia School of Law sharply increased the number of public interest fellowships it offered—from 22 to 36. That’s up from only eight or 10 summer stipends a couple of years ago, said Alexander Scherr, associate dean for clinical programs and experiential learning.” “UGA provided $68,000 in public interest fellowship funding this summer, a $15,000 increase from last year, Scherr said, thanks to a new initiative to raise contributions from alumni.” “Meanwhile, the Atlanta Legal Aid Society hosted 26 interns this summer, who came from all five Georgia law schools, plus Harvard, Yale, the University of Oregon and other schools nationally, said the group’s deputy director, Cathy Vandenberg. That’s up from 15 to 20 students it has hosted in the past, Vandenberg said.”  (Daily Report)

August 1, 2017 – “Mayor de Blasio and the [New York] City Council have struck a deal in a fight that had cut off legal help for immigrants facing deportation. The city’s $26 million will not go to pay for lawyers for immigrants convicted of 170 serious crimes — a restriction de Blasio had insisted on — but anonymous private donors have stepped in with $250,000 to aid those who can’t get the taxpayer money. The New York Immigrant Family Unity Project, which provides lawyers for immigrants fighting deportation, had been refusing new clients since June because of the dispute. Mayor de Blasio said people convicted of serious felonies should not get city assistance, but Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito objected to that rule and inserted language into the budget legislation passed by the Council to bar any such restrictions. Under the deal reached Monday, the Council agreed to rescind that condition. While de Blasio will get his way on the city cash, the private money will go directly to NYIFUP to continue defending those with serious convictions, as it has done in the past.” “With the money out of limbo, the program will now resume taking new clients as soon as possible, according to the Legal Aid Society.” (New York Daily News)

August 1, 2017 – “The International Trademark Association’s (INTA) Pro Bono Clearinghouse has officially opened to potential clients facing trademark issues in the US and Germany. The clearinghouse had a pilot soft start on 1 January. In its current form, the clearinghouse offers a host of practitioners in the US and Germany that can help with trademark issues. Eligible clients will be matched with an INTA attorney to help guide them. The intended clients are low-income individuals and directors of non-profit or charitable organizations with low operating budgets that have no other option or don’t have access to legal advice in trademarks.” (IPPro The Internet)

August 1, 2017 – “Poor people who need help fighting a landlord or keeping government benefits can get an attorney for free through North Carolina legal aid programs, but new state budget cuts mean fewer may have that option.” “For years, the three leading legal aid groups have received state funds to represent people in civil matters in part through budget earmarks and a small portion of the fees from court filings and criminal cases. Legal aid funds already had been cut by more than half since 2008 to $2.7 million during the last fiscal year. This year the reduction looks deeper and permanent, and the reasons for the cuts remain unclear. The state budget approved by the Republican-controlled General Assembly last month over Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto eliminated the practice of setting aside $1.50 from each filing fee and repealed the law distributing funds for general legal services. Of the $1.1 million that remains, most will go to help represent domestic violence victims for protective orders or child custody matters. Although the legal aid groups also get funds from other sources, their leaders said in interviews the new state cuts could mean nearly 35 attorneys and staff ultimately will be laid off, resulting in several thousand potential clients unable to get help each year.” (US News & World Reports)

August 1, 2017 – “President Donald Trump has inspired a new online dating service—between lawyers seeking pro-bono work and opposition non-profits in need of help. We the Action, launching Friday, will be an online portal to connect lawyers with legal work waiting to be done, from reviewing leases and contracts to filing Social Security claims to potentially heading to court in immigration cases. Non-profits will be able to post the services they need, and search through online profiles created by attorneys detailing expertise and availability. Several connections have been made already by the 501(c)(4), funded and incubated by the California-based Emerson Collective, the organization founded and led by Laurene Powell Jobs.” “Eleven larger organizations are forming the backbone of support and outreach: Access Democracy, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, Equality New York, the International Refugee Assistance Program, the Latin American Coalition, Let America Vote, NARAL Pro Choice America, the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and Hawaiian Islands and Voto Latino.” (Politico)

August 2, 2017 – “A center founded at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to help the poor and disenfranchised moved one step closer to losing its ability to file lawsuits on Tuesday. A committee of the UNC Board of Governors voted 5-1, with one abstention, to strip the UNC Center for Civil Rights of its ability to sue on behalf of clients or provide legal counsel. Ban proponents say the center’s courtroom work strays from the university’s education mission, but supporters of the center say students gain valuable experience through working on cases and that the ban would effectively defang the center.” “The Board of Governors likely will consider the ban at its Sept. 8 meeting.” (WRAL)

August 2, 2017 – “The University of Georgia School of Law is establishing a Veterans Legal Services Clinic funded by a lead gift from renowned trial attorney and alumnus James E. “Jim” Butler Jr. in memory of his father, Lt. Cmdr. James E. Butler Sr., who was a fighter pilot in the U.S. Navy. Butler Sr. was also the grandfather of James E. “Jeb” Butler III, a 2008 graduate of the law school. The new clinic will provide veterans in Georgia with legal assistance they might not otherwise have access to or be able to afford, with particular regard to denied or deferred claims before the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. It also includes an educational scholarship component.” (University of Georgia News)

August 2, 2017 – “In court documents filed late Monday, the federal agency reaffirmed earlier statements that borrowers could not rely on FedLoan Servicing, the company overseeing the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, to accurately say whether they qualify for debt relief. The department’s position signals that there are no guarantees of loan forgiveness for people who have received assurances from the servicing company, a troubling realization for the hundreds of thousands of people participating in the program.” “‘Though the department’s contractor has made occasional errors in individual notifications to borrowers, it has corrected those errors,’ Education Department attorneys wrote in Monday’s filing. ‘Moreover, it has provided borrowers … ample opportunities to seek reconsideration of its decisions.’ The attorneys said the final decision on forgiveness is, and has always been, in the hands of the Education Department. That means borrowers will know for sure that their loans will be forgiven only after they have completed the 10 years of payments.” (The Washington Post)

August 2, 2017 – “EXEO, a Montreal-based law firm specialized in immigration and international mobility, launches IVA (Immigration Virtual Assistant) a free, AI-powered virtual assistant to assist close to 180,000 people looking to immigrate to Canada each month. As one of Canada’s pioneering legal technology initiatives geared to the general public, IVA is the first tool to cover more than 25 permanent and temporary Canadian immigration categories.” “Accessible via Facebook Messenger, IVA uses a Q&A format to provide users with information regarding the possibilities that are open to them. IVA covers more than 25 immigration program categories, from work permit applications to student visas to permanent residence programs. IVA’s content is vetted by lawyers and researchers who track changes to the Canadian regulations. Updates are done in real time, using adaptive programming. This Canadian initiative is the result of more than 1,000 hours of research and programming, as well as the work of a multidisciplinary team of lawyers, researchers, copywriters, programmers, graphic designers, artificial intelligence specialists and web designers.” (Markets Insider)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants!

Wiley Rein LLP obtained a lifesaving ruling in a compelling pro bono immigration case, securing asylum for a teenage refugee who had fled to the United States to escape gang-related criminal activity, violence, and homelessness in his native Honduras. Read more about the case, and this win at the link. Congratulations to the team! (Wiley Rein News & Insights)

Music Bonus! Music pick from the PSJD Fellow Delisa Morris.

Comments

PSJD Public Interest News Digest – July 28, 2017

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

Happy Friday! There are a number of new programs in the news this week. And in great news, the process of funding LSC for another year has begun. Keep up the pressure on your representatives!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Legal Services of Eastern Missouri introduces new Education Justice Program;
  • Newfoundland and Labrador Legal Aid Commission closes St. John’s Family and Child Office;
  • The true value of public service loan forgiveness;
  • Additional funding for immigration and refugee services in British Columbia;
  • The Roddenberry Foundation launches $1 million fellowship fund for US-based activists;
  • Florida International University College of Law launches low bono family law initiative;
  • Senate subcommittee approves Legal Services Corporation funding;
  • Seattle launches legal aid program to help prevent evictions;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants; and
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

July 20, 2017 – “According to a national study by the Civil Rights Project at UCLA, Missouri is the second-worst state in racially disproportionate suspension rates, and has the greatest gap between the suspension rate of elementary school aged children of color and that of white children. In response to this staggering statistic, Legal Services of Eastern Missouri (LSEM), a non-profit organization that provides legal assistance and representation to low-income people in eastern Missouri, has created a new unit with a big goal: ending the school-to-prison pipeline and creating an equitable educational system. ‘The education justice program is a new unit, comprised of three people, and we are seeking to achieve education equity and racial justice for all children,’ said Susie Lake, staff attorney for the new project. ‘And we’re going to attempt to do that through impact litigation and other impact advocacy tools.’ ‘We will work to address these inequities, because we know that school suspensions can have a profoundly negative impact on children, families and communities,’ said Education Justice Program Director Luz María Henríquez.” (The St. Louis American)

July 20, 2017 – “A program giving extra attention to child protection issues has been axed from the Legal Aid Commission in St. John’s because resources are needed elsewhere. The Family and Child Office is closing around July 31. There will be no layoffs according to Nick Summers, provincial director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Legal Aid Commission, but there will be less support for clients.  For the past 10 years, the office has given people a lawyer, paralegal and social worker to help them through the legal process — but not anymore. Now the social worker will be available to all lawyers in the commission, not just the Family and Child Office.” “Not all clients dealing with child protection issues used the services of the Family and Child Office. Many were represented by other legal aid lawyers.” “Summers stressed the closure was not made to target a vulnerable sector, but to provide a boost to all areas of legal aid by removing an enhancement to one group.” “He said two other family and child offices elsewhere in the province will remain open.” (CBC News)

July 21, 2017 – Contributing to the Huffington Post, Isaac Bowers, Director for Law School Engagement & Advocacy for Equal Justice Works, responds to Jason Delisle’s most recent article on Public Service Loan Forgiveness. Jason Delisle is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and an outspoken critic of PSLF.  Isaac does a good job of debunking erroneous information and providing a reasonable and balanced argument for the value of PSLF. (Huffington Post)

July 25, 2017 – “The Legal Services Society has received confirmation that the federal government will provide additional funding to ensure continued legal aid services for immigrants and refugees. LSS announced last month it would stop taking applications for immigration and refugee services effective August 1, 2017, due to a lack of funding to keep up with increased demand. The new funding allows LSS to maintain services until November 2017 and federal-provincial discussions regarding immigration and refugee legal aid in BC are concluded. “Refugees are an extremely vulnerable group. Many have faced persecution and torture and they need help to navigate our complex legal system,” said Mark Benton, QC, Chief Executive Officer of the Legal Services Society. ‘This new funding demonstrates the federal government’s commitment to helping those who need our support and assistance.’ The need for increased funding is the result of the global refugee crisis, which resulted in a 145 percent increase in legal aid refugee cases at LSS over the past three years. The new funding is necessary at this time because LSS, unlike other legal aid plans, cannot reallocate funding from other services to cover a deficit in immigration services.” (Cision)

July 25, 2017 – “The Roddenberry Foundation is pledging $1 million towards activism through its inaugural Roddenberry Fellowship—a year-long program for 20 individuals from across the United States —who will each receive $50,000 to pursue a project or initiative in one of four fields:

  • Civil Rights
  • Climate Change and Environmental Justice
  • Immigration and Refugee Rights
  • LGBTQIA and Women’s Rights

The Fellowship includes tailored support for each activist as they launch a new initiative or amplify an existing early-stage project. ‘It became clear to us that we wanted to support the increase in civic engagement and activism we’ve been seeing across the country,’ says Lior Ipp, CEO of the Roddenberry Foundation. ‘In an era in which more and more people are fighting for what they believe in, we don’t have the luxury to be bystanders. In fact, we have an obligation to help.’ Five fellows will be selected in each of the issue areas, and together they will form a year-long cohort who will receive tailored support to build and scale their initiatives.” (Cision)

July 25, 2017 – “ FIU LAW Practice, an initiative of the FIU College of Law, dedicated to helping local families, will offer affordable legal services to low- and moderate-income families who do not qualify for free legal services. The practice, first-of-its-kind in Florida, will assist families that fall within 125 and 200 percent of the poverty guidelines. That means that a family of four in Miami-Dade county making between $30,376 and $48,600 may be good candidates for the services, which specialize in family law legal matters such as divorce, child support and domestic violence cases. ‘Our mission is to increase access to justice for those who seek it while building relationships within the local community,’ said Michelle Mason, senior associate dean who serves as the community liaison for the FIU LAW Practice. ‘In a recent study by the Justice Index Project, nearly 50 percent of Florida litigants appearing in court on a range of civil legal matters do so without legal representation, which may not be in their best interest.’ The practice will charge clients based on a sliding scale, with service prices ranging from $75 – $125 per hour. FIU LAW Practice will utilize the legal clinic’s current screening process to confirm eligibility based upon federal poverty guidelines and levels. FIU LAW Practice will also serve as a legal incubator for recent law graduates, admitted to the Florida Bar.  The incubator combines approaches used in medical residency programs with those used in a business incubator setting.  The goal of this hybrid, apprentice-style approach is to assist new lawyers through both practical training and mentorship as they launch their careers. FIU LAW Practice will hire two fellows in the first year.” (FIU Law)

July 26, 2017 – “As part of a $53.4 billion spending bill, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies voted Tuesday to sustain funding for legal aid. The subcommittee, chaired by Alabama Republican Richard Shelby, approved an appropriation to the Legal Services Corp. for $385 million. This is equal to what the agency is currently receiving for fiscal year 2017 and $85 million more than what the U.S. House of Representatives provided in its proposed budget.” “The measure now advances to the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations where it is scheduled for consideration Thursday.” (The Indiana Lawyer)

July 26, 2017 – “On Monday, Seattle City Council member Lisa Herbold announced the launch of a pilot program to provide legal aid for incarcerated people accused of crimes, with the goal of helping them avoid eviction and homelessness. Some people who wind up in jail and can’t make bail miss rent payments and risk losing their homes, said Anita Khandenwal, director of the county public defense office. But the repercussions don’t stop there. ‘The consequences of a criminal eviction can really snowball,’ Khandenwal said. ‘There’s the intended consequence of serving jail time, but there’s also loss of housing, [employment] license, employment opportunity, or job you already have.’ Herbold secured funding in the city’s annual budget last year to hire three attorneys for the program. The legal aid pilot is modeled after existing ‘holistic defense’ efforts in Washington, DC and New York, a philosophy of legal work that says lawyers should look beyond their cases and help tackle the roots of a client’s crime, from poverty to mental health issues to addiction. The program’s civil lawyers, employees of the public defense office, will assist public defenders during a client’s court case. One example of where the new attorneys may come in handy, Herbold said, is during the plea bargaining process. A civil lawyer may think of housing issues that could arise from a guilty plea that a criminal defense lawyer might not have considered. Having civil attorneys assist public defenders to understand the impacts of jail time on individuals’ housing and employment will help ‘[improve] the quality of representation’ in the Seattle Municipal Court system and make it easier for formerly jailed people to reintegrate into their communities, Khandelwal said. Over the two-year pilot, attorneys will collect data to better understand how involvement in the legal system impacts housing instability, homelessness, and other ‘civil consequences.'” (SLOG)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants!

Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia honored Kristen Lejnieks, a partner at Jones Day, with their Making Justice Real Pro Bono Award. Legal Aid’s Making Justice Real Pro Bono Award recognizes attorneys who have provided outstanding pro bono service through individual representation and/or leadership in facilitating such representation by their colleagues. This past year, Kristen has set herself apart through her effective leadership as Jones Day’s coordinator for the Housing Right to Counsel Project. Under Kristen’s leadership, Jones Day’s participation in the Project has soared. A number of Jones Day attorneys are now involved with the Project, helping many tenants avoid eviction and the terrible repercussions that follow. Read more at the link. (Making Justice Real)

Music Bonus! Music pick from the PSJD Fellow Delisa Morris.

Comments

PSJD Public Interest News Digest – July 21, 2017

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

Happy Friday! There are a number of expansion of service and opportunities stories this week.  A feel-good week in the news for the most part. In other news, the State Department suspends another fellowship program, which is significant, but only affects people already in certain programs.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Iowa Access to Justice Commission releases report;
  • Georgia state grant bolsters legal aid for domestic violence victims;
  • Another city explores providing legal aid to tenants facing eviction;
  • St. Mary’s University School of Law increases number of Summer Public Interest Fellowships;
  • State Department suspends Diplomacy Fellows Program;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants; and
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

July 13, 2017 – “The Iowa Supreme Court’s ‘Access to Justice Commission’ has released a report that outlines steps to remove barriers to civil justice for low-income and disadvantaged Iowans.” “The report identifies dozens of recommendations and goals. They include recruiting more rural lawyers, creating a veterans legal clinic and developing an app to help people navigate legal issues and resources. The report also suggests ways to encourage the corporate community in volunteering and charitable giving around access-to-justice issues.” (Iowa Public Radio)

July 13, 2017 – “A $2.4 million state grant that funds legal services for domestic violence victims can mean the difference between life and death for some legal aid clients.” “Georgia Legal Services received the lion’s share, $1.6 million, of the $2,425,000 that the state Legislature allocated this fiscal year. The Judicial Council of Georgia, which disburses the annual grant, allocated $700,974 to the Atlanta Legal Aid Society and the remaining $116,674 to five domestic violence shelters to pay private lawyers to represent their residents.” (Daily Report)

July 17, 2017 – “A Baltimore city councilman introduced legislation Monday aimed at establishing a fund that would help low-income tenants facing eviction and other housing problems to hire attorneys, an effort that cities across the nation are exploring or have implemented. If Councilman Robert Stokes’ bill is approved, the city would ask voters to amend the city charter in next year’s election to establish a Tenant Legal Assistance Fund and authorize the mayor and council to dedicate money to it. The fund would help pay for lawyers to represent tenants in Baltimore’s rent court, where most renters arrive without attorneys to face landlords who almost always have some form of representation. It would also ‘provide legal assistance to low-income renters facing eviction,’ assist renters in disputes with landlords and try to make renters more aware of their legal rights. The bill calls for financing the fund with dedicated city revenue — fines and fees — plus grants from private foundations and charities.” (The Baltimore Sun)

July 18, 2017 – “The St. Mary’s University School of Law has increased the number of Summer Public Interest Fellowships available to law students to encourage a future generation of lawyers committed to public interest careers. ‘For the past 90 years, St. Mary’s Law and our students have taken very seriously our obligation to address the justice gap and to serve community members in need,’ said Stephen M. Sheppard, J.S.D., Dean of the School of Law. ‘Expanding our ability to offer Public Interest Fellowships paves a bit more of the pathway for our law students to fulfill our Catholic Marianist mission: To educate lawyers for service, justice and peace.’ With the help of a grant from the University to the School of Law’s Office of Career Services, the number of students participating in Public Interest Fellowships this summer increased from one to five. There is an overwhelming demand for legal aid services and the fellowships aim to help meet that need by encouraging students to pursue public interest legal careers, said Robin Thorner, J.D., Director of Career Services for the School of Law.” (St. Mary’s University News)

July 19, 2017 – “The State Department has suspended a program that fast-tracks top recruits, sparking outrage from students and graduates who planned on joining the diplomatic corps. The Diplomacy Fellows Program (DFP), established as part of then-Secretary of State Colin Powell’s Diplomatic Readiness Initiative in the early 2000’s, allows recipients of several prestigious fellowship programs to fast track their applications to the elite Foreign Service branch — a notoriously long-winded process layered in bureaucratic red tape.” “Over 260 fellows, alumni of U.S. national security internships, and State Department officials signed a hastily-circulated a petition, addressed to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, to reverse the decision. The letter called the move ‘counterproductive’ and ‘an abrogation of commitment and a breach of trust’ to fellows who were promised access to DFP before the program was axed without warning. ‘With the suspension of the DFP, after years of preparation for a career in the Foreign Service, alumni of national security fellowships are no longer recognized for their vigorous academic and language training’ the letter reads. The State Department confirmed the program is on hold.” (Foreign Policy)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

The Legal Services Corporation (LSC) Board of Directors presented Pro Bono Service Awards to two Ohio attorneys, a corporate legal department, and a law firm in recognition of their extraordinary commitment to equal justice. The recipients are:

  • Ann S. Bergen, an attorney based in Willoughby who has volunteered her legal skills and expertise with the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland for 25 years, including serving on the organization’s board.
  • David E. Butz, an attorney with the Canton law firm of Krugliak, Wilkins, Griffiths, & Dougherty Co., L.P.A who has taken on more than 100 pro bono cases with Community Legal Aid Services in Akron.
  • Marathon Petroleum Corporation’s in-house attorneys who have handled numerous pro bono cases during their 10-year partnership with Legal Aid of Western Ohio.
  • Porter Wright Morris & Arthur LLP, a Columbus-based law firm that has worked with Ohio State Legal Services for more than a decade, taking on numerous consumer debt and eviction cases.

(Legal Services Corporation News)

Music Bonus! Music pick from the PSJD Fellow Delisa Morris.

Comments

PSJD Public Interest News Digest – July 14, 2017

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

Happy Friday!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Changes proposed at University of North Carolina School of Law Center for Civil Rights;
  • Hawaii legislature cut funding for free or low-cost legal services;
  • British Columbia legal aid will cease to accept immigration & refugee applications as of August 1;
  • New ABA network increases legal services for homeless youth;
  • Legal chatbot DoNotPay announces massive expansion;
  • Public defender fees waived for those found not guilty in California;
  • New York City immigrants facing deportation denied legal help amid Mayor de Blasio, City Council funding dispute;
  • Esquire launches program to help law firms make the most of pro bono budgets;
  • New Duke University School of Law certificate helps students get head start on public interest careers;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants; and
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

July 6, 2017 – “A UNC committee has presented five alternatives for changes at the UNC Center for Civil Rights, but cautioned that there is no guarantee the center’s mission would survive under significant restructuring. The center has been under the microscope of the UNC Board of Governors for months after a few board members objected to the center representing clients in lawsuits against local governments and agencies. They want to ban the center from litigation, saying legal action should not be taken under the UNC banner. Center supporters have warned that such a prohibition could effectively end the civil rights work and endanger other legal clinics at the UNC and N.C. Central University law schools. The center was founded by the preeminent civil rights lawyer and former NCCU chancellor, Julius Chambers, who was a UNC law school alumnus. A committee appointed by UNC Chancellor Carol Folt issued a supplemental report, dated June 27, that outlines five alternatives for the center.” “‘The UNC-CH Committee wants to emphasize in closing that the availability of these alternatives is not an assurance that any of these alternatives is viable,’ the report said. The board could discuss the issue at a retreat next week but isn’t expected to take any action until September at the earliest. The supplemental report, meant to answer a question by the board about alternative structures, was issued as the legislature adjourned. Other questions submitted by board members had been answered in a previous report. The possibility of ending the center’s legal powers has led hundreds of supporters of the center to write to the board. At a public hearing in May, speakers said the center, and similar legal clinics, provide students with key education and practical experience — a requirement of the American Bar Association.” (The News & Observer)

July 6, 2017 – “Free or low cost legal services for residents in need is in jeopardy as funding for civil legal services has been cut from the Hawaii State Judiciary’s budget for at least the next year. In fiscal year 2016, the Judiciary received $600,000 for civil legal service organizations to help low-income residents, victims of domestic abuse, homeless people, veterans, immigrants and the elderly. In fiscal year 2017, that number was $750,000. For the 2018 fiscal year that started July 1, no money was allocated toward these services in the Judiciary budget.” “Legal Aid Society of Hawaii serves from 8,000 to 10,000 clients each year out of 20,000 calls it receives, said Sergio Alcubilla, director of external relations for the nonprofit. It has its own staff attorneys and is the largest public interest law firm in the state. The lack of state funding will impact the number of clients and cases it can take on, he said. ‘There are a lot of vulnerable people in our communities, and any legal situation can push them over that brink when living paycheck to paycheck,’ Alcubilla said. Aside from Judiciary funding, the nonprofit has been receiving about one fourth of its budget from the national Legal Services Corporation, which the Trump Administration wants to defund. It also receives grants for specific purposes, such as from the state Office of Community Services specifically for helping victims of human trafficking. Alcubilla said the Judiciary money was especially helpful because it wasn’t tied to one specific use.” (Honolulu Civil Beat)

July 6, 2017 – “British Columbia’s Legal Services Society (LSS) has announced that it will no longer accept applications for immigration and refugee cases as of Aug. 1 due to lack of funding. The federal government is responsible for funding immigration and refugee legal aid. According to the Legal Services Society, the federal government gives the B.C. government $900,000 annually for immigration legal aid which the province gives to the LSS, along with an additional $800,000, for a total of $1.7 million each year. Based on current projections, LSS estimates it will need an additional $1.07 million to maintain services until the end of the year.” “LSS issued 350 contracts for refugee services in 2013-2014 with that number jumping to 860 contracts in 2016-2017.” (The Lawyer’s Daily)

July 6, 2017 – “More than 200 criminal cases across the country have been tossed due to unreasonable delays since the Supreme Court of Canada’s landmark Jordan decision one year ago, court data shows. The cases include murders, sexual assaults, drug trafficking and child luring, all stayed by judges because the defendant’s constitutional right to a timely trial was infringed. While provinces and the federal government have taken steps over the past year to speed up Canada’s sluggish courts, legal observers say more drastic and urgent changes are needed. ‘Not nearly enough has been done by the government in order to repair this crumbling system,’ said Rick Woodburn, president of the Canadian Association of Crown Counsel. ‘Until the government views the justice system as a priority, we’ll continue to see murderers set free.’ Advocates say governments must provide more funding for every facet of the system, including judges, Crown attorneys, legal aid and infrastructure. Ottawa is also being urged to reverse decisions made under the previous Conservative government to expand mandatory minimum sentences and to close three of six RCMP forensic labs in the country. The Jordan decision, as it has come to be known, was issued on July 8, 2016, when the high court ruled the drug convictions in British Columbia of Barrett Richard Jordan must be set aside due to unreasonable delay. In a 5-4 ruling, the court said the old means of determining whether proceedings had taken too long were inadequate. Under the new framework, unreasonable delay was to be presumed if proceedings topped 18 months in provincial court or 30 months in superior court.” (CBC News)

July 10, 2017 – “In an effort to increase legal services to [homeless youth], the American Bar Association (ABA) recently launched the Homeless Youth Legal Network (HYLN). The initiative helps homeless youth ages 25 and younger, while also providing opportunities for legal professionals and service providers. ‘The Homeless Youth Legal Network is a fine example of how the American Bar Association can link youth experiencing homelessness with experts in the legal community who can help,’ ABA President Linda A. Klein. ‘This project, made possible with a grant from the ABA Enterprise Fund, shows how we can harness the power and reach of the ABA to improve access to justice by providing much-needed legal assistance to vulnerable populations.'” “To help other programs better serve homeless youth, HYLN identified 12 programs to serve as models during the first phase of this initiative. These 12 pilot sites will provide technical assistance to emerging programs, document best practices, and share data on legal barriers and improved outcomes resulting from legal advocacy. By identifying existing services, as well as unmet needs, the groups leading this initiative—the Commission on Homelessness and Poverty, Commission on Youth at Risk, and Section of Litigation Childrens’ Rights Litigation Committee—hope to create a national directory of legal services available to homeless youth. In addition to helping homeless youth, HYLN benefits attorneys and service providers by offering them technical assistance, training, and learning opportunities. A pro bono initiative is currently being piloted in Florida to recruit and train lawyers and law firms while also matching them with homeless youth shelters and drop-in centers nationwide.” (Associations Now)

July 11, 2017 – “Noted legal aid chatbot DoNotPay just announced a massive expansion, which will help users tackle issues in 1,000 legal areas entirely for free. The new features, which launched on Wednesday, cover consumer and workplace rights, and will be available in all 50 states and the UK. While the bot will still help drivers contest parking tickets and refugees apply for asylum, the service will now also help those who want to report harassment in the workplace or who simply want a refund on a busted toaster.” “Through DoNotPay, a user has a simple, instant message-like conversation with a bot by typing their issue in their own words. Even colorful complaints like, ‘My airline screwed me’ will be registered by the system. Then, a virtual lawyer decides how to best help a user based on their answers to a series of questions. The bot usually crafts a claims letter with the information provided, potentially saving hundreds of dollars in legal fees. DoNotPay can also connect users to outside aid, like a nonprofit that provides pro bono representation or avenues for action in more serious cases. The legal guidance is free, instant, and — in some cases — life-changing.” (Mashable)

July 11, 2017 – “Californians accused of a crime but found not guilty will no longer have to pay for their public defenders after Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday signed a criminal justice-reform law striking the requirement. Under a bill authored by a pair of Los Angeles-area state senators, people using court-appointed counsel must only repay courts for legal costs if they are convicted. State Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, said the current reimbursement laws are a detriment to low-income Californians and that Senate Bill 355 closes a damaging loophole which punishes individuals who are falsely arrested.” (Courthouse News)

July 11, 2017 – “A program offering free lawyers to immigrants facing deportation has stopped taking clients due to a clash between Mayor de Blasio and the City Council over whether city cash can aid people convicted of serious crimes. The New York Immigrant Family Unity Project has been refusing new clients since June because of the dispute over the legal services money, said Andrea Saenz, the program’s supervising attorney at Brooklyn Defender Services. ‘Right now, we’re not serving our community. And people are scared that they’ll get arrested by ICE, and we want to be able to tell them that New York City has your back and we’ll get you a lawyer,’ she said. ‘I never thought we’d be in this spot for this long.’ The city budget for the fiscal year that started July 1 included $26 million for lawyers for immigrants threatened with deportation — but Mayor de Blasio said the money should not go to people convicted of 170 serious crimes. Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito objected to that rule, and inserted language into the budget passed saying only income — not criminal convictions — could be considered in admitting people to the program. Yet de Blasio wouldn’t agree to go along with that condition, only saying vaguely that the dispute would be resolved in the contracting process. The fight left the legal services groups in limbo, unable to spend any money because they don’t know who they’re allowed to represent. About 100 detained immigrants have missed out on lawyers in the six weeks the program has been out of commission, Saenz said.” (Daily News)

July 11, 2017 – “Esquire Deposition Solutions, LLC, the nation’s leading provider of court reporting, video, and interpreting services, is pleased to announce a new Pro Bono Court Reporting Program that creates partnerships with law firms across the country to offer discounted court reporting services to allow more individuals equal access to justice.” (Esquire)

July 12, 2017 – “Duke Law students can now get a head start on careers in public interest law through a new certificate program, the first the Law School has offered to JDs. The Public Interest and Public Service Law Certificate is open to students who demonstrate through their coursework and service an interest in working in a nonprofit or government setting after graduation. In addition to working with a dedicated law school career counselor, students in the program will be assigned both a peer and a faculty mentor who will assist in planning courses to take and navigating opportunities during law school.” (Duke Law)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

“Texas RioGrande Legal Aid Executive Director David Hall will retire from his position after 42 years at the helm, the organization announced Wednesday. ‘It has been my honor and privilege to work alongside colleagues and friends with such inspiring values, compassion, and dedication for justice,’ Hall said in a statement to staff announcing his decision. ‘Siga la lucha.” Read more about his contributions and career at the link.” (Texas Bar Blog)

Music Bonus! Music pick from the PSJD Fellow Delisa Morris.

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