Archive for Public Interest Law News Bulletin

PSJD Public Interest News Digest – September 11, 2015

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

Happy Friday and welcome to September! My favorite season has started – football season.  It’s also service project season.  Fantastic work out there folks. Keep those updates coming!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • ABA launches its first social media lobbying campaign to save Public Service Loan Forgiveness;
  • New pro bono rule in New York allows remote supervision;
  • ABA’s Blog the New Normal guest columnist posits current access to justice initiatives are ineffective;
  • Free legal clinics to be held for low-income families in Kentucky;
  • North Carolina consortium receives $2.6 million grant for health care navigation;
  • Nest and New Mexico Legal Aid form legal partnership;
  • First Arkansas transgender clinic assists more than 2 dozen;
  • For criminal justice reform, look to civil legal aid;
  • The Law Clinic at Valparaiso University Law School is accepting new clients;
  • National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers report – Judges have too much control in federal public defense system;
  • New Orleans judge calls hearing to discuss public defender funding;
  • Boston University Law School and MIT create legal clinic;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

August 27, 2015 – “For the first time, the ABA is incorporating social media into a major advocacy initiative as it seeks to protect the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness program from possible elimination by Congress.” “In developing a strategy to preserve the PSLF program, Thomas M. Susman, director of the ABA’s Governmental Affairs Office, and other members of the GAO working on the issue determined that the usual methods of trying to get the attention of federal legislators wouldn’t be enough. They decided that the loan forgiveness issue would be a good fit for a social media campaign, especially since the issue is crucial to so many recent law school graduates. ‘This isn’t replacing our retail lobbying, but it is supplementing it,’ says Susman. ‘It’s an effort to step up a notch our ability to cut through the noise level on Capitol Hill.'”  (ABA Journal)

September 2, 2015 – “The New York Court of Appeals has broadened the rule requiring 50 hours of pro bono service for those seeking admission to the bar, allowing for remote supervision of pro bono work.” “On Friday, the Court of Appeals announced it had amended the rule, effective Sept. 16, eliminating the requirement that supervising attorneys be admitted in the same jurisdiction where the pro bono work is being performed. Bar groups and law school officials sent the court a letter in June, noting several scenarios that would be excluded under the initial rule. The letter said the global practice of law now may involve teams of lawyers worldwide using shared secured documents and video conferencing. ‘Close physical proximity is no longer the mark of supervision in law firms or law schools,’ said the letter from the Association of Pro Bono Counsel, the New York City Bar Association’s Committee on Pro Bono and Legal Services and law school officials from Columbia, New York University and Fordham. Margaret Wood, court attorney for professional matters at the Court of Appeals, said several applicants also contacted the court with questions about whether their pro bono work would count toward the rule, since their supervising attorneys were in other jurisdictions. The change ‘will allow for more opportunities for pro bono work,’ Wood said.” Here is a link to the Court’s Order. (New York Law Journal)

September 2, 2015 –  Guest blogger Dan Lear says the problem with current access to justice initiatives is that “[e]xpanding legal services access beyond the poorest and most disadvantaged is a significant challenge. Attempts to bring similar types of services and resources to large numbers of people—from infrastructure to transportation to medical care—have been tremendously expensive and time-consuming. Doing the same for legal services will certainly be a unique challenge.” He suggests part of the solution is changing the focus of the conversation. “One good initial, but admittedly small, step for legal services is semantics. Specifically, instead of talking about an ‘access to justice’ gap let’s switch the rhetoric and consider the ‘access to legal services’ gap instead.” He goes on to point out “[m]odest-means clients are also different than the access-to-justice clients. For one, while they may not be able to afford traditional full representation legal services but they can pay something. Further, many modest means clients are middle-income individuals, so they’re more likely better educated with better access to technology or other resources that would help them self-educate, receive unbundled legal services delivered partially or fully though technology or online, or navigate the legal system with only limited guidance from an attorney.” “There are pervasive legal access issues throughout the economy—from pro se litigants, to entrepreneurs who need business help, to families without wills or simple estate plans. This access gap is a significant problem for the legal profession and it won’t be solved overnight. It might not even be solved in our lifetime. But greater precision in how we talk about access challenges is an easy first step in the right direction.”  What do you think? (The New Normal)

September 3, 2015 – “A $30,000 grant from the Kentucky Bar Foundation will help low-income families get legal advice regarding family court. Those who qualify can talk one-on-one with local lawyers, for free, on issues regarding divorce, child custody and other family [matters] at an upcoming domestic relations clinic. Advanced registration is required to attend the clinic, because only those who are eligible can attend. You must be at or below the poverty line and have children to qualify.” (WPSD Local 6)

September 3, 2015 -“A group of 14 health care, social service and legal aid organizations has received more than $2.6 million in federal funding to help North Carolina residents sign up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. Officials with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said Wednesday that the N.C. Navigator Consortium will receive the grant to help consumers sign up during the open enrollment period for 2015-2016. Legal Aid of North Carolina will administer the grant. Officials say the grant will fund about 250 navigators who will help consumers determine which plan works best for them, apply for financial help and complete their enrollment.” (WNCT)

September 4, 2015 – “After years of limited access to legal representation for their residents, The Nest domestic violence shelter is entering into a new partnership with New Mexico Legal Aid. The organization, that gives assistance in civil legal cases to people who otherwise are not able to afford a private attorney, has new funding that will allow an attorney from their Roswell field office to visit Lincoln County and Mescalero residents at the shelter on a consistent basis. ‘We have used New Mexico Legal Aid in the past, but with fewer attorneys and the nearest field office being in Roswell, there was either a very long wait for representation or transportation problems,’ Nest Executive Director Coleen Widell said. Widell went on to explain survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking encounter a variety of legal problems for which they require assistance, including Orders of Protection, child custody issues, child support, divorce or separation, landlord tenant problems, credit repair and access to benefits. Not only residents at The Nest will benefit from the new partnership. ‘In addition, survivors who do not want or need to come into shelter for safety or services can still meet with a NMLA attorney here,’ Widell said. ‘HEAL will coordinate the screening and referral of everyone in Lincoln County, regardless of whether they are current clients at The Nest, to ensure they meet criteria for free legal services.’ The program in Lincoln County will begin Oct. 1.” (Ruidoso News)

September 4, 2015 – “Earlier this summer, 27 people converged on the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s William H. Bowen School of Law to meet with attorneys at Arkansas’s first transgender legal clinic. In the end, 11 attorneys wrote up 43 notarized documents ready to file, including 25 name changes and 10 gender changes. Human Rights Campaign Arkansas was a primary supporter of these clinics and is co-sponsoring additional clinics planned in Arkansas as well. In addition Transgender Equality Coalition (ArTEC), the Center for Arkansas Legal Services and VOCALS worked together to create the clinic, which provided free legal advice and fee waivers. ArTEC has also pledged to continue assisting those who attended the clinic, should they encounter any difficulties when filing their documents in their respective counties.” (Human Rights Campaign)

September 5, 2015 – Our colleague David Udell, Executive Director of the National Center for Access to Justice at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, has an opinion piece this week linking the benefits of utilizing civil legal aid in combating the cycle of criminal justice abuses, particularly in the areas of fees. “Millions of evictions and foreclosures, domestic violence cases and accusations of neglect, debt collections and denials of benefits, civil asset forfeitures, civil court fees, suspensions of driver’s licenses and more churn through local courtrooms. When neglected, the problems fester, and lives go awry. The result is a spinning cycle of poverty and correctional control as hunger, isolation, stress and violence inevitably draw people into the system and burden our society.”  Check out his thoughts.  (Aljazeera America)

September 5, 2015 – “The Law Clinic at Valparaiso University Law School, which provides free legal representation to individuals with limited income, is accepting new cases. The Law Clinic represents low-income residents of the region in matters such as debt collection defense, consumer issues, landlord/tenant disputes, guardianships, adoptions and tax concerns involving the Internal Revenue Service. Potential clients must meet income eligibility guidelines, officials said. The Law Clinic’s legal services are provided by Valparaiso University law students, who receive firsthand legal experience by representing financially disadvantaged clients. Students work under the supervision of law school faculty.” (

September 9, 2015 – “A tough new report has concluded that the federal government’s system for defending poor people needs to change. The nearly two-year study by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers said judges who are supposed to be neutral arbiters too often put their fingers on the scales. The report said defense lawyers for the poor who work in the federal court system need more resources to do their jobs. That means money, not just for themselves, but to pay for experts and investigators. In an adversary system, lawyers for poor defendants say they need to operate on equal footing with prosecutors. But the study, the first of its kind in more than 20 years, found the source of most concern rests with judges who exercise too much control over the process. In many cases, judges cut fees without explanation. And there’s no way to appeal. ‘It’s just not a good situation to have the judge that you’re appearing before have that much control over your practice, over ultimately how you represent your client,’ said Gerry Morris, a longtime defense attorney in Texas and president of NACDL. The new report doesn’t offer a clear solution to the independence problem. But Morris pointed out that the chief administrative body of the U.S. courts has launched its own study of the system for representing poor defendants.” (NPR)

September 10, 2015 – “A New Orleans judge has ordered the parish’s chief public defender Derwyn Bunton to appear in court Friday (Sept. 11), to explain whether his office can meet the constitutional mandate of providing legal representation to poor people charged with crimes. Criminal District Court Judge Arthur Hunter called for the hearing on his own motion on Wednesday, after reading an op-ed piece in The Washington Post by New Orleans public defender Tina Peng. She opines on the fiscal crisis faced by her employer that hurts the office’s ability to provide an adequate criminal defense to indigent people. ‘I asked Derwyn to provide an answer to a simple question: Whether his office can provide constitutionally effective assistance of counsel to indigent defendants,’ Hunter said Thursday morning.” (The Times-Picayune)

September 10, 2015 – The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Boston University School of Law “have partnered to launch a new clinic in which law students offer legal help to MIT and other Boston University students launching start ups or technology projects. As part of the new Entrepreneurship and Intellectual Property Clinic, law students will spend Fridays on the MIT campus, advising student entrepreneurs on everything from how to set up and finance their fledgling ventures to negotiating contracts and registering trademarks and copyrights. The clinic will also help the student entrepreneurs evaluate any regulatory matters their ideas or startups might encounter. ‘The students get the chance to put the doctrine they’ve learned in the classroom into practice, and they get a better idea of how clients look at the world,’ said Boston University law dean Maureen O’Rourke. ‘They learn client counseling skills and negotiation skills.'”  (National Law Journal)(free subscription required)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:  

“At 8:46 a.m. on a clear Tuesday morning, an American Airlines Boeing 767 loaded with 20,000 gallons of jet fuel crashes into the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York City.”  This was the first of three incidents that would have a profound change on America and the world. Please take a moment to remember all those who sacrificed on this day and since in an effort to respond to this attack.  (

Super Music Bonus!  Music pick from the PSJD Fellow Eulen Jang.


PSJD Public Interest News Digest – August 28, 2015

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

Happy Friday! Did your school have a day of service as part of your Orientation? Tell us about it, and we’ll feature it during the month of September. The Digest will take a vacation next week, and will return on September 11th.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Young lawyers in  South Korea launch online legal help service;
  • Ava Maria School of Law gives back with day of service;
  • New York provides grant for legal services for HIV families;
  • Texas Tech’s School of Law announces public service requirement;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

August 21, 2015 – Here is an interesting take on direct legal services.  “You can book a movie ticket, order food or call a taxi via online and mobile tools. So, what about legal services? That idea had led three lawyers ― Park Hyo-yeon, 33, Lee Sang-min, 35, and Nam Ki-ryong, 36 ― to launch a ‘Help Me,’ website for instant messaging to better and more easily provide legal help. The three started the service in response to the growing needs of people who seek immediate help with cases not high-profile enough to warrant the services of large law firms, Park said. ‘People usually do not know where to find lawyers, and the idea of hiring a lawyer itself is a lot of stress amid the lack of credible information about who are the good ones,’ she said. ‘We hope to provide easier access to those who need legal help. We hope they will find out answers to any questions they may have regarding their current situation.’ Reservation is required with 10,000 [$8.52] won on deposit, and the service areas include finance, criminal cases, defamation, property disputes, school violence and start-up businesses. Not only instant messaging, but also counseling ― either face-to-face or via phone ― is available. The hourly fee for counseling is 110,000 won [$93.71]. Drafting legal documents costs 440,000 [$374.84] won for the first two hours, and 165,000 [$140.57] won is added for every hour after that. Since its launch on July 30, almost 3,000 people have visited the website.” (Korea Times)

August 21, 2015 –  “Ave Maria School of Law welcomed their newest class of students last week. As part of their annual volunteer commitment these 120 new students spent Saturday volunteering at different locations in Naples. Although the event was mainly for the first year law students Student Bar Association officers, alumni, faculty, and staff came out to volunteer as well. Monsignor Frank McGrath, Dean of Student Affairs Kaye Castro, Director of Admissions Claire O’Keefe, and the President and Dean Kevin Cieply were all in attendance.” (Naples Herald)

August 22, 2015 – “State officials are offering support and protections for HIV-positive individuals and their families through $2.5 million in grants awarded to 11 organizations across the state which provide these individuals with access to various legal services.” “‘Individuals living with HIV often have to deal with a long list of legal issues resulting from their illness and are unable to find or afford the proper assistance,’ said New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker. ‘This funding helps ensure that HIV-positive individuals and their families have access to the services and supports that can sometimes be difficult to obtain.'” (Nyack-Piermont Patch)

August 26, 2015 -“Texas Tech’s School of Law announces new public service graduation requirements beginning with the fall 2015 semester. New students entering the Tech School of Law in or after fall 2015 must complete at least 30 hours of public service before graduation. At least 15 of those hours must be in the form of pro bono legal services, with the remaining hours consisting of either pro bono or non-legal community service. All full-time faculty will be required to perform at least 10 hours of public service each year.” (Lubbock Avalanche-Journal)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:  

The law firm Bodman PLC has been named to the 2015 State Bar of Michigan’s Circle of Excellence for its commitment to pro bono and community service.

The State Bar recognized Bodman at the “Leadership Level,” a designation given to firms that contribute more than 30 hours of pro bono work per attorney or give at least $500 per attorney in financial donations to approved organizations.

In 2014, Bodman attorneys devoted more than 5,400 hours of pro bono work to dozens of organizations and individuals. Highlights of the firm’s recent efforts include founding and coordinating a legal clinic at Detroit’s Capuchin Soup Kitchen and helping launch the Wayne County PPO Assistance Project, which assists victims of domestic violence obtain and defend their personal protection orders.

Bodman is one of only two firms in Michigan to employ a dedicated to pro bono counsel. Kimberley Paulson. Paulson joined Bodman in 2012 to focus on the firm’s pro bono efforts and works directly with individuals and organizations to coordinate these activities. (Oakland Press)

Super Music Bonus!  Music pick from the PSJD Fellow Eulen Jang.


PSJD Public Interest News Digest – August 21, 2015

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

Happy Friday!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Legal aid failing in Alberta says Justice Minister;
  • California moves to provide interpreters in all court cases;
  • St. Tammany Louisiana Public Defender’s Office gets new office and new management strategy;
  • St. Lawrence County, New York District Attorney cuts services;
  • Washington Attorney General cracks down on unauthorized legal assistance to immigrants;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

August 14, 2015 – “Legal experts, politicians and Canada’s top judge are saying it’s increasingly difficult for low- and middle-income Canadians to get access to the courts. Alberta Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley, who was attending a Canadian Bar Association convention on Friday, told reporters there needs to be a review of the province’s legal aid since it appears to barely be getting the job done. ‘We’re sort of rapidly moving toward a crisis point and we need to start considering what it is we can do to solve that,’ Ganley said. Ganley said a review is to be done, but it’s still too early to say when it will be conducted and what the parameters will be.” (CBC News)

August 16, 2015 –  “Legal advocates say throughout [California], litigants in divorce, child custody, eviction and other civil cases who have difficulty with English are going into court without qualified interpreters. Instead, many are forced to turn to friends or family members — or worse yet, the opposing party — for translation. That’s because California only guarantees access to an interpreter in criminal cases, not civil cases. But the state is looking to change that. Under pressure from the U.S. Department of Justice, California’s Judicial Council this year approved a plan to extend free interpretation services to all cases by 2017. ‘You can’t have a court hearing without having your client understand it correctly,’ said Protima Pandey, a staff attorney with Bay Area Legal Aid.” “Some courts have been extending the provision of interpreters. Los Angeles County, which was part of the Justice Department’s probe, has been among the most aggressive in expanding access to interpreters, legal advocates say. In addition to domestic violence restraining orders, the court now provides interpreters to anyone who needs them in other family cases, as well as eviction, child guardianship, conservatorship, civil harassment and small claims cases. The rollout has faced challenges. The court has found it difficult to find certified interpreters in some languages with origins in South America, said Carolyn Kuhl, the court’s presiding judge. And travel times for interpreters needed in more than one courthouse on the same day can be a challenge. But so far, the court has been able to meet the needs, and judges are pleased, according to Kuhl.” (ABC News)

August 17, 2015 – The public defenders for the St. Tammany and Washington Parishes move into their new offices with a new outlook. They have spent the better part of a year in cramped, borrowed offices at City Hall while their offices had been modernized.  “The move affords [Chief Public Defender John] Lindner and his roughly three dozen staff members the opportunity to make something of a new start after a year in a poor physical environment and, perhaps more important, a work environment riven with division and strife, problems compounded by poor management. Those problems prompted a raft of complaints from current and former employees to the Louisiana Public Defender Board, which oversees all of the state’s public defenders. An ensuing investigation found an office crippled by the perception of favoritism for some employees and lack of support for others. The situation was exacerbated by Lindner himself, who admitted referring to a black employee as a ‘Negro.'” Intensive training and staff changes have followed. “Louisiana Public Defender James Dixon said things seem to have settled down at the office but that he intends to take inventory again in the coming months.”  (The New Orleans Advocate)

August 20, 2015 -“St. Lawrence County District Attorney Mary E. Rain has announced she will be cutting services due to low staffing levels and the county Legislature’s refusal to fill a vacant position in her office. In a letter to county justice courts dated Aug. 17, Ms. Rain said she is instituting the ’emergency measures’ to continue giving attention to her office’s caseload. That includes prosecutors no longer attending normal court calendars for town, village and city courts, effective Monday, except to conduct scheduled hearings and trials, Ms. Rain wrote. ‘All other physical appearances will be temporarily suspended for a period of six months, at which point the office will re-evaluate its position,’ Ms. Rain wrote.”  (Watertown Daily Times)

August 20, 2015 – “Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced Wednesday that he has taken action against four companies accused of offering fraudulent legal services to immigrants. Ferguson, speaking at a news conference in Seattle, said his office has stepped up enforcement against the companies and owners of companies in Lakewood, Tacoma and Everett. He said that unlicensed immigration consultants who refer to themselves as ‘notarios’ or ‘notarios publicos’ are misrepresenting themselves to consumers as having advanced legal training. Victims face losing their immigration status if a deadline is missed or paperwork is filled out incorrectly, he noted.”  (The Lewiston Tribune Online)(subscription required)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:  

Pro Bono Institute (PBI) announced today that it will present Sidley Austin LLP with its 2015 John H. Pickering Award at its Annual Dinner on November 5 inNew York. The Pickering Award is presented annually to a law firm that has demonstrated outstanding commitment to pro bono service.

Sidley’s longstanding commitment to pro bono and public service is underscored by its robust and innovative pro bono program. A Signatory to PBI’s Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® and a Founding Member of PBI’s Law Firm Pro Bono Project, Sidley continually demonstrates its core values by working on behalf of pro bono clients around the world to enhance their clients’ quality of life and improve their communities.

Super Music Bonus!  Our first pick from the PSJD Fellow Eulen Jang.


PSJD Public Interest News Digest – August 14, 2015

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

Happy Friday! This week we welcome the 2015-2016 PSJD Fellow Eulen Jang.  We are very excited to have her, and are looking forward to a great year!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Gift helps Loyola University New Orleans College of Law Incubator expand;
  • Defender Association of Philadelphia gets new Chief;
  • Law library and Recorder join forces to answer property questions;
  • Missouri Public Defender asks Governor for $10 million;
  • Boston University President gives $1 million for public interest fellowships;
  • Vermont’s new NAACP chapter receives housing complaints;
  • Northwestern University School of Law receives $5 million bequest to assist public interest students;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

August 7, 2015 – “A new $118,500 gift to the Loyola University New Orleans College of Law from Ed and Kathy Womac of the Womac Law Firm will support the recently launched Loyola Incubator Program—an intensive mentorship and skills program for recent College of Law graduates who are engaged in solo law practice. ‘This major gift will support enterprising new lawyers who want to use their Loyola law degrees to pursue social justice work and make a difference in the world,’ said outgoing College of Law Dean María Pabón López.” (Loyola University New Orleans Newsroom)

August 10, 2015 –  Keir Bradford-Grey says a recent case is illustrative of the approach she will take as she moves on to become chief of the Defender Association of Philadelphia. “We’re not going to just kind of shuffle people through,” she said. “Our mission is to understand our clients’ needs, advocate for them on behalf of their cases and then find creative ways to . . . suggest alternatives for them.”  “In September, Bradford-Grey will become leader of the office where she began her legal career, and replace Ellen Greenlee – the woman who hired her. Greenlee retired in March after 25 years as chief defender.”  (

August 10, 2015 – “Residents of Madison County [Illinois] who have legal questions about property matters can now speak with an attorney at no cost in a trial program presented jointly by Recorder Amy M. Meyer, and the Madison County Law Library Pro Bono Program. The Law Library, which is operated under the direction of the Circuit Court and located in the Madison County Courthouse, provides free access to legal research and pro bono services. The Law Library and Recorder Meyer have worked together previously to provide property related self-help legal forms to the public. They are now expanding their efforts to help people understand the land recording process, answer legal questions about property, and prepare accurate and appropriate land recording documents.” (The Telegraph)

August 10, 2015 -“The director of Missouri’s public defender system is asking Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon for an additional $10 million. Director Michael Barrett said Monday that the money is needed to help the agency adequately represent the state’s poorest individuals charged with crimes. Nixon’s office did not have an immediate comment Monday about the request for more money. Barrett cited a federal report released in July on the St. Louis County Family Court, which said young people accused of crimes often lack adequate legal representation. Barrett says the agency’s most pressing need is to hire more public defenders. Nixon cannot give the department $10 million without first asking permission from lawmakers during the legislative session beginning in January.”  (FOX 2 Now)

August 11, 2015 – “BU President Robert Brown issued a challenge to the law school in 2014: If you can raise $1 million by the end of June 2015 to fund public interest fellowships for BU Law grads, I’ll match it dollar for dollar. What ensued was a fundraising effort that brought in $1 million from alumni by Brown’s deadline, said Terry McManus, BU School of Law’s assistant dean for development and alumni relations. And Brown lived up to his promise, too. With the match from Brown, the law school has a total of $2 million, enough funding for 10 public-interest fellowships each year for five years, starting this fall. The positions will be in a range of settings, from a U.S. governmental organization to a non-governmental organization overseas.”  (Boston Business Journal)

August 11, 2015 – “Mary Brown-Guillory, president of the Champlain area NAACP, told a statewide civil rights panel Monday that her organization has received an ‘avalanche’ of discrimination complaints. In the month since they’ve been ‘open for business,’ Vermont’s first NAACP chapter has received at least 50 complaints. Most involve discrimination, she said, including housing discrimination. Vermont Legal Aid, a civil rights nonprofit law firm, recently released data from a study conducted by its fair housing program. The study shows preferential treatment toward white residents without children and without an apparent disability, said Marsha Curtis, of Vermont Legal Aid.” “Further outreach and education was recommended by most of the panelists as a possible solution to continued housing discrimination.” (VT Digger)

August 12, 2015 – “Northwestern University School of Law has received a $5 million bequest from the Estate of Dawn Clark Netsch to endow the Walter and Dawn Clark Netsch Scholarship Fund, which will provide financial aid for law students who are interested in pursuing careers in public interest law. The gift also will fund loan repayment assistance to graduates working in the public interest law field. Netsch, who died in 2013, was a beloved Northwestern alumna and long-serving professor who had a storied career in Illinois politics. The gift in Netsch’s honor will fittingly provide support for the next generation of public servants.” (Northwestern University News)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:  Darleen Gondola Bonislawski

Darleen Gondola Bonislawski’s first job out of high school was working as a maid at Harvard, and her time as a union leader in the Harvard University Employees Representative Association led her to first become a paralegal and later a lawyer who advocated for workers’ rights.

“It really gets to me when Harvard says workers are a dime a dozen,” she said in 1979 while she was a vice president of the union, according to The Crimson, Harvard’s student newspaper. “We should have the benefits of the wealth we help produce.”

She also spent 24 years as a Cambridge election commissioner, working to improve the city’s voting process and register scores of disenfranchised voters. “We have to fight against voter suppression,” she wrote at the end of her term in a letter to the Cambridge Democratic City Committee. “Even in so-called liberal Massachusetts, there is still so much to do.”

At 47, she realized a lifelong dream and became a lawyer. Most of her clients couldn’t afford representation, and she often worked pro-bono.

Read more about her amazing life here in the Boston Globe.

Super Music Bonus!  Starting next week, our PSJD Fellow Eulen Jang will be bringing you the music.  So, this is my last pick for a while.  Enjoy!


PSJD Public Interest News Digest – August 7, 2015

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

Happy Friday! We are very sad this week to have to say good bye to Sam Halpert, our 2014-2015 PSJD Fellow and Sarah Mandehzadeh, our 2015 Publications Coordinator.  Both contributed so much to PSJD this year, and we will miss them greatly!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Bay Area Legal Incubator to launch in 2016;
  • Canadian federal government provides $130,000 for Victorian child advocacy centre;
  • The need for pro bono programs at law firms;
  • New York lawyer receives 2015 ABA Pro Bono Publico Award;
  • ABA delegates endorse transparency in law school loans;
  • Minneapolis NAACP chapter opens legal aid hotline;
  • Texas Access to Justice Foundation awards more than $63 million for legal aid services;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

July 29, 2015 – The Bay Area Legal Incubator (BALI), a two-year training program being launched by Berkeley Law and four other Bay Area law schools, seeks to fill the justice gap in California. BALI is the brainchild of Berkley Law’s Associate Director for Public Interest Programs Melanie Rowen and Tiela Chalmers, CEO of the Alameda County Bar Association. It is “a fulltime, two-year training program in which recent admittees to the California Bar will receive education, support, and professional mentoring to learn how to successfully operate a solo or small-firm law practice that serves the modest-means community. The project’s goal is two-fold: to close the justice gap and to provide sustainable, socially conscious employment for recent law school graduates. The five participating law schools are Berkeley Law, Golden Gate University School of Law, Santa Clara Law, UC Hastings, and the University of San Francisco School of Law. BALI will officially launch in January 2016, accepting 15 students (three from each school) from the class of 2015.” (Berkeley Law News)

July 31, 2015 – “The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada’s office announced funding of $130,000 over two years for the Victoria Child Abuse Prevention and Counselling Centre to support the opening of a new child advocacy centre that will serve Victoria and southern Vancouver Island. Child advocacy centres (CACs) and child and youth advocacy centres (CYACs) help child and youth victims and their families navigate the criminal justice system. They provide a safe child- and youth-friendly environment where a coordinated team of professionals works to meet the specific needs of each person. The work of a multidisciplinary team in a CAC or a CYAC can greatly reduce the emotional and mental harm to child and youth victims involved in the criminal justice system. In Economic Action Plan 2015, the Government of Canada committed to provide additional funding to CACs and CYACs. Starting in 2016-17, the Government will provide $5.25 million over four years, and $2.1 million on an annual basis thereafter, to make the support and services provided by CACs and CYACs more accessible in communities across the country.” (Market Wired)

July 31, 2015 – Our friend Lisa Dewey, Partner and Pro Bono Counsel at DLA Piper, has written a very good article on the need for robust pro bono programs at law firms.  She is a great champion of pro bono, and this is a fantastic read. (Legal Solutions Blog)

August 4, 2015 -“The American Bar Association has awarded New York attorney Daniel L. Brown its Pro Bono Publico Award for his outstanding commitment to volunteer legal services for the poor and disadvantaged. Brown, of New York City (Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton), received the award at a luncheon during the ABA’s annual meeting in Chicago on August 1. Brown, a New York State Bar Association member, performs extensive pro bono work in the areas of disability rights and human rights.”  (Read Media)

August 4, 2015 – “The American Bar Association’s House of Delegates on Tuesday adopted a resolution urging law schools to better inform students about their educational loans and how to repay that debt. The ABA’s Task Force on the Financing of Legal Education sponsored the resolution. That group—an outgrowth of an earlier task force that examined the future of legal education—spent nearly a year looking at tuition, student debt, student diversity and graduate employment.”  (National Law Journal)(free subscription required)

August 4, 2015 – “The Minneapolis chapter of the NAACP is launching a legal aid service in the wake of a controversial confrontation between Metro Transit police and a Minneapolis man on July 8. Draon Armstrong, who is black, was stopped by police for not paying a light rail fare and forcefully arrested. NAACP Minneapolis chapter president Nekima Levy-Pounds said her organization thinks existing measures to protect civil rights — like internal police investigations — don’t adequately address concerns of minority communities. The NAACP service will include a telephone and email hotline, a Facebook page and monthly office hours. The organization is still looking for attorneys to volunteer their time to help staff the service, Levy-Pounds said. The hotline is for general legal concerns.” (MPR News)

August 6, 2015 – “The Texas Access to Justice Foundation will distribute more than $63 million over the next two years to 30 nonprofit organizations across Texas to provide civil legal aid to disadvantaged residents.The foundation recently announced its grant recipients, noting that each year more than 100,000 disadvantaged Texas families receive legal aid as a result of the program.Public interest and pro bono lawyers, with the help of the foundation grants, provide civil legal representation to low-income Texans in matters such as obtaining benefits for veterans and addressing foreclosures.” (Texas Bar Blog)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

The American Bar Association Commission on Women in the Profession gave five women lawyers its 2015 Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award. The recipients are: Mari Carmen Aponte, ambassador of the United States to El Salvador; Flora D. Darpino, lieutenant general, United States Army, Judge Advocate General; Fernande R.V. (Nan) Duffly, associate justice, Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court; Mary Ann Hynes, senior counsel, Dentons US LLP; and Emma Coleman Jordan, professor of law, Georgetown University Law Center.  Read more about their outstanding accomplishments here.  They are an amazing group of advocates!

Super Music Bonus!  This week we have 2 picks — Director of Technology and Electronic Information Resources Lisa Quirk and PSJD Fellow Sam Halpert.  Can you guess which is which?



PSJD Public Interest News Digest – July 31, 2015

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

Happy Friday! Can you believe it’s the end of July already?  It’s time to get ready for Fall recruiting, Honors programs, and fellowships among other things.  Check out the PSJD Resource Center for guidance on these programs and more.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Professors work with Pro Bono Students Canada on study of family law litigants;
  • William & Mary Law’s Revive My Vote gets grant;
  • Maryland law schools collaborate on Baltimore Legal Practice Incubator;
  • New York announces $7 million to help disabled get federal benefits;
  • Legal Aid Ontario boosts funding to clinics;
  • Boston University Law and alumni boost public interest fellowships;
  • One way cuts to Public Service Loan Forgiveness will harm Americans;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

July 24, 2015 – “King’s University College Professor Dr. Rachel Birnbaum is partnering with Professor Nick Bala of Queen’s University to work with Pro Bono Students Canada on an inventive study. The study will look to survey both represented and self-represented family law litigants to better understand their experiences in the courts. Starting in the fall of 2015, The Family Law Litigant Survey Project will collect and analyze empirical data to understand the challenges faced by family litigants. The hope is that this survey will result in greater understanding of issues related to the family justice system in Ontario, and will assist in making improvements to the system overall. Dr. Birnbaum explains; ‘our research will also be the first evidence-based study on access to justice and will include results on the effects of different court-related services and address the efficiency and effectiveness of these interventions.’ The study will run during the 2015-2016 and the 2016-17 academic year. ” (King’s University College Media)

July 24, 2015 – “William & Mary Law School’s Revive My Vote is pleased to announce it has received a grant of $230,000 through the Knight News Challenge, a grant program aimed at better informing voters and increasing civic participation before, during, and after elections. Created in conjunction with the Williamsburg Bar Association and launched in April 2014, Revive My Vote helps Virginians with prior felony convictions who have served their time and are eligible for voting rights restoration to navigate the process of regaining their right to vote.” (William & Mary News & Events)

July 27, 2015 – “The University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law and the University of Baltimore School of Law are launching an incubator to help recent graduates launch solo practices while serving low-income clients. The schools developed the project with the help of the Maryland State Bar Association, which is providing $50,000. Administrators hope to have the incubator running by November. In Baltimore, each school will contribute three graduates who have passed the Maryland bar exam for the inaugural cohort. The participants will spend 12 to 18 months getting their practices off the ground. Participants must donate at least 10 percent of their billable hours to low-income clients and take a least one pro bono case.” (National Law Journal)(free subscription required)

July 27, 2015 -” The state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance announced Monday that more than $7 million has been awarded to help provide legal assistance to people who have been denied federal disability benefits. Locally, the Legal Aid Society of Mid-York, which serves Oneida and Herkimer counties, among others, is receiving $546,541 through the Disability Advocacy Program. These services will be provided by not-for-profit legal services corporations, not-for-profit agencies serving the disabled and local departments of social services, with the goal of reversing the initial decision and acquiring approval for these federally-funded benefits for the applicants. Without this assistance, these individuals would otherwise be dependent on State- and locally-funded programs for support and care.”  (Utica Observer-Dispatch)

July 29, 2015 – “Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) is investing an additional $1.5 million in community legal aid clinics with the fewest resources per low-income person in the 2015/16 fiscal year. This annual funding will be added to the clinics’ base funding. This support is on top of the additional $2.4 million in funding LAO provided for the 2014/15 fiscal year, as announced in March 2015. This injection of $3.9 million will allow community legal clinics to hire more staff, expand existing services, or launch new services that support clients. This new investment is part of LAO’s strategy to expand financial eligibility and clinic law services for low-income Ontarians. It also meets the provincial government’s multi-year commitment to increase access to legal aid.”  (CNW)

July 29, 2015 – “Boston University School of Law is bolstering its graduate public-interest fellowship program with a $2 million influx of funding. The university provided half that amount and a group of alumni donated the rest, according to law dean Maureen O’Rourke. The law school has already selected fellows from the class of 2015, who will work in fields including reproductive rights, Internet freedom, legal aid and international human rights. The selection committee looks for placements likely to have a large influence on the communities involved and to enhance the fellows’ development, said Fiona Hornblower, assistant dean for career development and public service.” (National Law Journal)(free subscription required)

July 30, 2015 – Here’s a good article by our friends Isaac Bowers and Sarah Corcoran at Equal Justice Works about the harm that would be done to the public interest if PSLF is cut.  (Huffington Post)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: Marsha Weissman, Roger Brazill, and Luke Nebush

Honoring three people who devote great skill, huge effort, and much time to making justice happen, the New York State Defenders Association (NYSDA) hosted its annual awards celebration during a statewide training conference.

Marsha Weissman, Executive Director of the Syracuse-based Center for Community Alternatives (CCA), received NYSDA’s Service of Justice Award for effectively promoting alternatives to incarceration and sentencing advocacy as key components of justice. Roger Brazill, First Assistant Public Defender in Monroe County (Rochester) received the 2015 Wilfred R. O’Connor Award for exemplifying a client-centered approach in his work with clients and for sharing his legal expertise throughout his career of over 35 years. Luke Nebush, a First Assistant Public Defender in Oneida County (Utica), was chosen to receive the Kevin M. Andersen Memorial Award for his zeal and devotion in practicing effective, client-centered representation, his diligence in honing his skills, and his collegial approach.

Read more about the awards and their great work here.

Super Music Bonus!  This week our pick comes from Member Services Coordinator, Meaghan Hagner:




PSJD Public Interest News Digest – July 24, 2015

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

Happy Friday!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Minnesota legislature increases public defender budget;
  • Kentucky area clinics receive grant;
  • Attorneys ask Florida Justices to reconsider dues fee hike;
  • Goodwin Procter announces recipients of 2015 Public Interest Fellowships for law students of color;
  • Vermont Law School library offering services to public;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

July 17, 2015 – “The Minnesota legislature this year decided to add $6,480,000 to their chief public defender budget for next year. That’s about an 8 percent increase. Part of the reason for the new funding was the government’s projected budget surplus. But also important was the legislature’s realization that public defenders are good for Minnesota. The new appropriation by the legislature will provide funds to give public defenders their first pay raise in a long time, hire additional attorneys and support staff, and improve the overall standard of representation. The new law also includes an additional $879,000 for legal aid agencies to help victims of domestic violence and prevent improper evictions and foreclosures.” (Lake County News Chronicle)

July 18, 2015 – “The Kentucky Bar Foundation recently awarded $30,000 to legal clinics to benefit impoverished families in three Kentucky communities: Warren, Daviess and McCracken counties. One-third of the grant will be devoted to clinics hosted in Warren County Family Court. The family law clinics will be designed to help impoverished families gain access to the courts to resolve their family law legal issues.” (Bowling Green Daily News)

July 20, 2015 -“A group of 522 attorneys has asked the Florida Supreme Court to reconsider allowing the Florida Bar to raise its annual dues to help fund legal aid. The high court ruled 4-3 this month to deny a petition that would have allowed the Florida Bar board of governors to increase annual dues by up to $100. Dues have held steady at $265 since 2001. The petitioners asked the court Friday to consider tweaking the proposed amendment to Bar rules, rather than denying it outright. The group seeks to avoid the ‘time-consuming and onerous’ process of starting from scratch in its effort to help the poor afford legal representation.”  (Daily Business Review)

July 21, 2015 – “Goodwin Procter, a national Am Law 50 firm, today announced the recipients of its 2015 Public Interest Fellowships for Law Students of Color. The fellowships support first-year students from law schools across the country who spend the summer working in community service legal positions. This year’s fellows are: Sonam Bhagat, Boston University School of Law;Rachel Clark, The George Washington University Law School; Cindy Guan, Harvard Law School; and Amari Lynn Hammonds, Stanford Law School.”  (Business Wire)

July 21, 2015 – “The Vermont Law School library is providing legal reference services to the public, seeking to fill the gap created with the closure of the state library’s law program in Montpelier. The Julien and Virginia Cornell Library at the South Royalton school is offering a new ‘Ask a Law Librarian Line’ at 802-831-1313 for reference requests by phone. It’s also offering a new Community Legal Information Corner with two public-access computers with Westlaw, an online legal research service, and a legal self-help collection. The library submitted a proposal to the state last spring, and the Legislature subsequently approved a $67,000 grant to offset the costs associated with the school opening its library doors to the public.” (WCAX)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: NASA Astronauts

At 12:51 EDT on July 24, 1969, Apollo 11, the U.S. spacecraft that had taken the first astronauts to the surface of the moon, safely returns to Earth. The American effort to send astronauts to the moon had its origins in a famous appeal President John F. Kennedy made to a special joint session of Congress on May 25, 1961: “I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth.” Eight years later, on July 16, 1969, the world watched as Apollo 11 took off from Kennedy Space Center with astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin Jr., and Michael Collins aboard. After traveling 240,000 miles in 76 hours, Apollo 11 entered into a lunar orbit on July 19. The next day, at 1:46 p.m., the lunar module Eagle, manned by astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, separated from the command module, where a third astronaut, Michael Collins, remained. Two hours later, the Eagle began its descent to the lunar surface, and at 4:18 p.m. the craft touched down on the southwestern edge of the Sea of Tranquility.  Read more about this historic flight at

Super Music Bonus!  This week our pick comes from Mary Beal, NALP’s Director of Member Professional Development



PSJD Public Interest News Digest – July 17, 2015

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

Happy Friday!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • American Lawyer’s 2015 Pro Bono Report;
  • South Carolina Bar Foundation awards $1.9 million in grants;
  • Florida Supreme Court rejects push to increase bar dues to support legal aid;
  • Bank settlement means millions for Florida non-profits;
  • Mississippi Center for Legal Services receives grant;
  • ACLU sues Fresno County, California over public defender system;
  • Boston law schools launch joint practice incubator;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

July 9, 2015 – Since the Digest was so big last week, I didn’t want this to get lost.  Hours dip slightly at AmLaw 200 firms.  The Report details where firms are putting their hours and links to the Special Report: Justice Gap. (The American Lawyer)

July 9, 2015 – “The South Carolina Bar Foundation has awarded $1.9 million in grant funds to support civil legal aid, law related education and other law related projects for Fiscal Year 2016.”  Check out the article to see the list of grantees. (Moultrie News)

July 9, 2015 -“While pointing to a ‘crisis’ in funding for legal-aid programs, the state Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a proposal that could have led to attorneys paying higher Florida Bar membership fees to help cover the costs of legal services for the poor. Justices split 4-3 on a proposal that would have allowed the Bar to increase dues by as much as $100 a year, with the increased money going to legal-aid programs. The Bar opposed the proposal, which was spearheaded by former Supreme Court Justice Raoul Cantero and backed by more than 500 lawyers. The court’s majority wrote that ‘there is an urgent need to develop new solutions and sustainable sources of funding for legal aid’ but said a more-comprehensive approach is needed than the possible increase in Bar dues. A commission formed by Chief Justice Jorge Labarga began meeting in January to come up with recommendations for addressing the issue.” (Tampa Bay Times)

July 9, 2015 – “A big payout from a credit card debt collection settlement with Chase Bank will mean millions of dollars for Florida non-profit agencies. Florida was awarded $16.9 million from the settlement, the largest chunk out of the $136 million awarded to a total of 47 states, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said in a press conference. ‘We were hit the hardest, so we’re very pleased,’ Bondi said. About $1.6 million of the state’s payout will go to Florida’s general revenue fund; the remaining $15.3 million will go to charities that offer financial literacy and debt management services, as well as legal help to those who can’t afford it, Bondi said.”  (The Tampa Tribune)

July 14, 2015 – “Mississippi Center for Legal Services has been awarded a $54,350 grant by the Mississippi Bar Foundation through its Interest on Lawyers Trust Account program. The grant awarded to Mississippi Center for Legal Services will be used to fund resource development efforts and to provide direct legal assistance through its call center.”  (Hattiesburg American)

July 15, 2015 – “The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project, and the law firm Paul Hastings LLP filed a lawsuit against Fresno County and the state of California, seeking an overhaul of the county’s deficient public defense system. Because public defenders do not receive the resources necessary to represent their clients, thousands of Fresno County residents are forced to navigate the criminal justice system without the adequate legal representation that is guaranteed by the Constitution.”  (ACLUNC News)

July 15, 2015 – “New York University School of Law is launching a yearlong pro bono law office that will help federal prisoners seek clemency. Seven full-time attorneys—primarily recent law school graduates—will begin handling prisoners’ applications in August. ‘There seems to be an increased focus on clemency and the use of that constitutional tool,’ said Deborah Gramiccioni, executive director of NYU Law’s Center on the Administration of Criminal Law, which is housing the new Clemency Resource Center. ‘We need to push these cases to the president’s desk, to maximize the chances of prisoners to get clemency.’ NYU’s new clemency center is funded with a grant from the Open Society Foundations, founded by George Soros. It will work closely with the Clemency Project 2014, a nationwide consortium of legal organizations that reviews clemency requests and connects eligible prisoners with pro bono attorneys. The organization will refer prisoners to NYU’s pop-up law office, Gramiccioni said.”  (National Law Journal)(free subscription required)

July 16, 2015 – “Three Boston law schools are teaming up to launch a practice incubator that will serve low- and modest-income clients. Lawyers for Affordable Justice, as the program is called, will employ approximately 12 recent graduates from Boston College Law School, Boston University College of Law and Northeastern University School of Law. Those selected will spend two years handling immigrant rights, employment and housing cases, as well as small-business and transactional matters. Most clients will pay below-market rates. The schools plan to open the incubator in January.” (National Law Journal)(free subscription required)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: 

Five Minnesota attorneys will receive national honors for their pro bono work from the Legal Services Corporation (LSC).  LSC is bestowing its Pro Bono Service Awards on the five for their “extraordinary commitment to equal justice.”

The awards go to:

  • Frank Bibeau, a tribal attorney who has volunteered with Anishinabe Legal Services for 10 years. He has donated hundreds of hours of pro bono legal service, advocating for tribal members’ rights.
  • Steven Kirsch, a shareholder with HKM Professional Association (formerly Murnane Brandt) who has served as the chair of the Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services Campaign for Legal Aid for 21 years.
  • Larry McDowell, a private attorney with Wurst & McDowell Limited, who has volunteered for Legal Services of Northwest Minnesota since its doors opened in 1976. He has contributed thousands of pro bono hours working on hundreds of family law cases.
  • Tom Kramer, a private attorney with Kramer Law Office in west central Minnesota, who has done pro bono work with Central Minnesota Legal Services for more than 20 years. He has donated more than 1,000 pro bono hours to assisting low-income clients.
  • Nora Sandstad, an assistant county attorney in St. Louis, who has spent five years providing pro bono legal assistance on a variety of family law cases at Legal Aid of Northeastern Minnesota. In 2013, she donated 300 hours of pro bono service.


Super Music Bonus!  from our Street Law Fellow Emily Peeler:



PSJD Public Interest News Digest – July 10, 2015

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

Happy Friday!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • New York City approves $750,000 for legal services program at Rikers Island jail;
  • Baylor Law School’s Veterans’ Assistance Clinic receives grant;
  • Montana Legal Services Association develops online child support calculator;
  • CIA establishes new diversity procedures;
  • Massachusetts public defenders attempt unionization again;
  • Atlanta non-profit offers legal assistance and citizenship classes to Asian immigrants;
  • Clinic changes in Canada still possible despite merger collapse;
  • Housing Families (of Malden, Massachusetts) now offering pro bono legal services;
  • Law clinics answer the call to help veterans;
  • Salt Lake County rethinking indigent defense;
  • Lakehead University opens Ontario’s seventh Student Legal Aid Services Society;
  • Legal aid in Connecticut to close lobbying arm at State Capitol;
  • Legal Aid of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands receives grant for SNAP advocacy;
  • Funding to help lighten Minnesota public defender caseloads;
  • $1 million gift to Rutgers Law School enhances statewide public interest efforts;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

July 1, 2015 – “The New York City Council has approved $750,000 in funding for a legal services program at Rikers Island jail, the Legal Aid Society announced in a statement. ‘The funds will allow Legal Aid to support the current staff in the Prisoners Rights Project, whose staff was cut in half over the last two decades,’ Legal Aid Society Attorney-in-Chief Seymour James said on Wednesday. ‘The funding will also allow the program to hire a paralegal case handler, who will be available to directly assist clients.'” (Sputnik)

July 1, 2015 – “For the first time in Baylor Law School history, the State Bar of Texas has awarded a grant to support and foster the ongoing effort of the Baylor Law School Veterans’ Assistance Clinic to provide Texas military veterans free legal counsel. With more than 19,000 veterans residing in McLennan County – adjacent to Fort Hood, the largest U.S. Army installation in the world – there is a great need to provide pro bono legal services to a well-deserving segment of the Central Texas community. (Baylor Media Communications)

July 1, 2015 -“Montana Legal Services Association, with input from the State of Montana Child Support Enforcement Division, has developed an online child support calculator for self-represented litigants. The calculator is intended specifically for cases in which self-represented litigants need to establish original or modified child support orders in parenting plan or dissolution with children cases. The calculator can be found through a link at the website under the Families and Kids/Child Support topic area or on the website. Calculator users can compute child support by answering questions about their incomes, parenting schedules and other information in an online interview. Once finished, users can print or email court-ready financial affidavits and/or child support worksheets. Users who create accounts on the Law Help Interactive website can save their answers for later use. Funding for the Montana Online Child Support Calculator was provided through a Legal Services Corporation Technology Initiative Grant.”  (State Bar of Montana)

July 2, 2015 – “The CIA is implementing new diversity practices following a report released this week that concluded the agency ‘does not sufficiently prioritize the development of its officers, hold itself accountable for maintaining a diverse and inclusive workplace, or consistently promote an inclusive culture.’ Director John Brennan ordered a set of remedies to be implemented during the next 12 months.” (Government Executive)

July 3, 2015 – “In an attempt to improve working conditions and salaries, [public defender Rachel] Scotch and her fellow employees are attempting to unionize. But it’s no simple undertaking. Public defenders have tried to organize twice before, in 1979 and in 1993, but were rejected by the state labor relations department because of what they say is an oversight in the collective bargaining statute that gives public employees the right to unionize. They are also trying, for the second time, to get a bill passed that would fix the problem. The difficulty in forming a union stems from the fact that the Committee for Public Counsel Services, or CPCS, is not considered a public employer in the executive or judicial branches, whose workers are covered by the state’s collective bargaining statute for public employees. The statute also does not specifically name CPCS as a public employer. For this reason, the state labor relations department has twice ruled that the committee’s employees are not eligible to organize. While they wait in hopes of a legislative change, the public defenders are trying a different tactic, petitioning to organize under a private-sector collective bargaining statute that also covers state employees that are not subject to the jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Board, including MBTA employees and those who work for the Steamship Authority.”  (The Boston Globe)

July 5, 2015 – “For the first time, an Atlanta non-profit will offer free legal help and low cost legal immigration services for Asian people. Asian Americans Advancing Justice—Atlanta offers a legal hotline in five languages, legal help, and ESL citizenship classes, according to AAAJA Executive Director Helen Kim Ho. She has wanted to do this for a long time, and is taking a risk. Ho left her corporate legal career and started the non-profit, then called Asian American Legal Advocacy Center, in 2010. It was ‘the first non-profit law center dedicated to promoting the civil, social and economic rights of Asian immigrants and refugees in the South,’ according to its website. At first she drew no salary and worked from her home. Now she has a staff, an office, and a boatload of awards. The risk is this: costs for the hotline, citizenship classes, and immigration help come from AAAJAs’ existing operating budget. There is no big grant and no big revenue stream to support it, so far.” (Epoch Times)

July 6, 2015 – “After allocating more than $1.1 million to efforts to reform the legal clinic system in the Greater Toronto Area, Legal Aid Ontario has confirmed it’s withdrawing financial support for the project but remains open to changes on a piecemeal basis. ‘We’ve indicated to the project that it is our intention to look at those transformational projects and initiatives that are currently being developed by GTA clinics and if we see a project or initiative that is transformative, that will advance client service and expand client service, then we will use the unspent funds from the GTA transformation project to support that endeavor,’ says Vicki Moretti, LAO’s vice president for the greater Toronto region. The comments follow news that a high-profile effort to merge Toronto-area clinics into a handful of organizations had fallen apart. Last week, Moretti confirmed LAO had withdrawn the funding to support those efforts. ‘In its current form, we will not be [continuing to fund the project],’ she says.”  (Law Times)

July 6, 2015 – “Housing Families, a Malden-based agency which aims to end family homelessness in Massachusetts, has recently acquired the Pro Bono Legal Services Program from Tri-City Community Action Program (Tri-CAP), an anti-poverty agency which recently closed. ‘Hosting the program at Housing Families provides families at risk of homelessness with much more than just legal representation — these families now also have the potential to work one-on-one with a case manager to help them get supports in place to minimize the risk of future instability, and the children also have the potential to access our children’s program,’ said Laura Rosi, Housing Families’ director of housing and advocacy. ‘I couldn’t be more proud of the work we’re doing!’ The Pro Bono Legal Services Program will augment Housing Families’ Eviction Prevention Program, which serves to help families keep their housing and avoid becoming homeless in the first place.”  (Melrose Free Press)

July 6, 2015 – The National Law Journal has done a nice job summarizing the law school clinics helping veterans.  “Today, approximately 50 schools operate clinics or pro bono programs for veterans. Syracuse University College of Law; the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law; the State University of New York at Buffalo Law School; and Pennsylvania State University Dickinson School of Law added clinics this spring. The University of Michigan Law School; Indiana University Maurer School of Law – Bloomington and the University of Denver Sturm College of Law will launch clinics this fall.”  Read the full article for more.  (National Law Journal)(free subscription required)

July 6, 2015 – “Salt Lake County officials are rethinking how best to provide legal counsel for indigent offenders — a $17 million bill each year. Having a right to counsel is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution’s Sixth Amendment, so for 30 years, the county has fulfilled that responsibility through a contract with the Salt Lake Legal Defender Association. But there’s been some problems with that contract in recent years, driven largely by a growing disparity between the pay and benefits earned by defense attorneys compared to what prosecutors make in the district attorney’s office. And with the nonprofit Sixth Amendment Center coming out with a study this fall for the Utah Judicial Council on the statewide delivery of indigent defense services, the county is considering three approaches to create more equity in the pay packages of opposing attorneys. One option would be to make the attorneys and staff of the Legal Defender Association employees of the county. Another would be to scrap the contract with the Legal Defender Association and to put the job out for bid. A third choice would be to have the Legal Defender Association contract come up for renewal every year or two, providing a recurring time frame for raising the legal defenders’ pay to match that of district attorneys.”  (The Salt Lake Tribune)

July 6, 2015 – “Low-income people living in either Thunder Bay or Fort William First Nation now have access to additional legal services as Lakehead University opens Ontario’s seventh Student Legal Aid Service Society (SLASS). Today, Lakehead Legal Services (LLS) opened its doors to clients.” (Legal Aid Ontario)

July 7, 2015 – “The longest sustained funding crunch in the history of legal aid is about to cost Connecticut’s poor their long-serving lobbyist at the General Assembly: Raphael L. “Rafie” Podolsky, a Yale-educated lawyer who took them as a client 40 years ago, is getting a pink slip. The state’s three major legal-aid groups are closing the Legal Assistance Resource Center of Connecticut, the agency they jointly fund for lobbying and a wide range of education and community outreach on behalf of the poor.” (The CT Mirror)

July 7, 2015 – “Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands announced today that MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger has awarded Legal Aid Society a $13,000 partnership grant to support MAZON’s anti-hunger efforts. This is the second year Legal Aid Society has received the grant funding, which will be used to continue its Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP – formerly known as food stamps) benefits advocacy.” (Clarksville Online)

July 8, 2015 – “An extra $6.5 million in funding will help lighten the caseloads of overworked and underpaid public defenders in the state. The funds are enough to cover the salaries of 36 new public defenders, but Minnesota’s Board of Public Defense, which employs the state’s public defenders, is also struggling with heavy caseloads and salaries that aren’t competitive with the private sector. The agency will meet next week to discuss how to spend the additional funds.” (MPR News)

July 8, 2015 – “The pro bono and public interest initiatives underway at Rutgers law schools in Camden and Newark will expand their reach throughout the state with a $1 million investment to support future practitioners and those unable to afford legal services, thanks to Rutgers Law–Camden alumnus James Maida and his wife Sharon. The Maidas have long supported Rutgers students through generous scholarships. Now with their $1 million gift, the Maida Public Interest Scholars Program will establish the law school as one of the nation’s leading public law schools for public interest law. The gift will benefit Rutgers students while helping the most vulnerable residents in the surrounding communities. The Maida Public Interest Summer Fellowships will pay up to 40 students to work for public interest legal organizations in positions that are normally unpaid, imparting valuable professional experience to the students while advancing the public good. The Maida Post–Graduate Public Interest Fellowship will fund the full-time salary of a selected fellow working in the public interest. These extraordinary funding opportunities will also help attract a cohort of high-achieving prospective law students with a demonstrated commitment to social change.” (Rutgers Today)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: Bryant Webster, attorney with Stone and Christy P.A. in Black Mountain, North Carolina.

Bryant Webster had no idea he had donated more than 1,300 pro bono hours when he was honored by the state bar association in June. He just thought he was doing his job. Lawyers have an ethical obligation to give back, said the Black Mountain civil litigator who was awarded the North Carolina Bar Association’s 2015 William L. Thorp Pro Bono Award. Webster, 45, practices law at Stone and Christy P.A. in Black Mountain. He has been volunteering with Pisgah Legal Services’ Mountain Area Volunteer Lawyers Program since 1997.  Thank you for your service! (Citizen-Times)

Super Music Bonus!


PSJD Public Interest News Digest – July 2, 2015

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

Happy Friday!  Happy 4th of July!

Here are the week’s headlines:

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

The summaries:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Super Music Bonus!