Archive for Public Interest Law News Bulletin

PSJD Public Interest News Digest – February 13, 2015

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

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

Here are the week’s headlines:

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

The summaries:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: 

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

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – February 6, 2015

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

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

Here are the week’s headlines:

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

The summaries:

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

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

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

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

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: 

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

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

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – January 30, 2015

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

Happy Friday everyone!

Here are the week’s headlines:

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

The summaries:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – January 23, 2015

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

Happy Friday everyone!

Here are the week’s headlines:

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

The summaries:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – January 16, 2015

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

Happy Friday everyone!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • US federal government launches 2015 Workforce Recruitment Program for candidates with disabilities;
  • New endowment supports professional development and diversity efforts at University of Arkansas School of Law;
  • Prairie provinces contemplating overhaul of legal services delivery;
  • CA State Bar provides grant to start incubator;
  • Legal Aid of Marin launches lawyer referral service;
  • IU Maurer School of Law names first Director of IP Clinic;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

January 12, 2015 -The Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP) is a recruitment and referral program that connects employers nationwide with university students and recent graduates with disabilities to internships or permanent jobs.  Individuals must work with their schools, who register with the program.  For details on how the program works, see the WPR website.

January 12, 2015 – “University of Arkansas School of Law alumnus and Walmart executive Jeff Gearhart and his wife, Lisa Gearhart, have created an endowed fund to enhance academic and professional development opportunities that advance diversity in the legal profession. The Gearhart Family Endowed Diversity Support Initiative was established through a $200,000 gift from the couple.”  “The initiative will support programs such as internships, student travel to conferences and competitions, and expanded diversity education. It will complement existing diversity initiatives at the School of Law.”  (University of Arkansas Newswire)

January 12, 2015 – “Putting your affairs in order might one day be as simple as another stop at Costco or the Alberta Motor Association, the dean of the University of Alberta’s law school says.  With seismic shifts already shaking the American and Commonwealth legal profession, Alberta has joined the Canadian conversation about changes in technology and service delivery that could improve access to legal services, break the virtual monopoly held by lawyers and radically change how and where legal advice is given.”  “In September, the Law Society of Alberta began working with partner societies in Saskatchewan and Manitoba to contemplate an overhaul of the delivery of legal services on the Prairies. Potential changes include rules around ownership of firms and the enhanced use of technology and paralegals.”  Alternatives to the traditional legal office are being considered across Canada, and changes may occur as soon as 2016.  (Edmonton Journal)

January 12, 2015 – “The State Bar of California’s Commission on Access to Justice has awarded a grant to Southwestern Law School, UCLA School of Law and Pepperdine University School of Law to establish a modest means incubator, a pilot program to help new attorneys launch and develop viable law practices serving modest means clients.
The law schools have partnered with local legal aid organizations and the Los Angeles County Law Library to create the Los Angeles County Incubator Consortium, through which 12 to 15 recent graduates –  four or five from each law school – will receive training in establishing law practices that provide legal services to low and modest income populations.”  (Southwestern Law School News)

January 13, 2015 – I have been in numerous discussions recently regarding lawyer referral services.  Here is one example of how the program could work.  “Legal Aid of Marin, a nonprofit based in San Rafael [CA], has launched a referral service to match litigants to qualified lawyers in relevant fields.  Under the service, called the Marin Lawyer Referral Service, residents pay trained volunteers $50 for each referral, and the lawyer agrees to provide a free 30-minute consultation. The participating lawyers are selected from a panel screened for experience and clean state bar records.”  (Marin Independent Journal)

January 15, 2015 – “The IU Maurer School of Law will bring in Norman Hedges as a new clinical associate professor of law and its first full-time director of Maurer’s intellectual property law clinic.  The clinic opened its doors in January 2014 to provide pro bono patent, trademark and intellectual property law counseling, according to an IU press release.”  (Indiana Daily Student)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:  A moment of silence for the Nigerian victims of Boka Haram and those at Charlie Hebdo in Paris.  All lives are important and should be mourned equally.

Super Music Bonus!  http://youtu.be/PoPL7BExSQU

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – January 9, 2015

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

Happy Friday everyone and welcome to 2015! Pro Bono hours are in, and I’m so pleased to see an increase in both hours and the number of individuals who have answered the call to service.  Keep up the great work!!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Legal Services of North Florida, Inc. receives 1.4 mil gift;
  • TX county tests indigent defense pilot project;
  • Crowd-funding a public interest career?;
  • CT boosts legal aid ranks with ‘LawyerCorps’;
  • DE launches Access to Justice Commission;
  • Washington State to license LLLTs;
  • New rules clarify NJ requirements for pro bono exemption;
  • Syracuse University College of Law opens veterans clinic;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants:  National Law Journal Pro Bono Hotlist – 10 firms making a real impact on their communities;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

December 22, 2014 – Legal Services of North Florida, Inc. covers 16 counties with “16 attorneys and seven paralegals trying to cover a geographic area where 200,000 people could be eligible for its services. 362 private attorneys also provide pro bono services, amounting to 5,600 hours of work.”  The agency “recently received a boost from someone it helped. William T. and Virginia N. Lyons never forgot the work that Legal Services provided for its clients and for the internship that [Executive Director Kris] Knab provided William Lyons over 30 years ago, when he took up law as a second career.  Legal Services this week announced receiving a gift of $1.4 million from the estate of the couple, now both deceased. To honor the agency’s single largest donation, Legal Services has renamed its Tallahassee office the William T. and Virginia N. Lyons Justice Center.”  The money comes at a critical time when all agencies are cutting staff and services in the face of budget cuts and funding shortfalls.  (Tallahassee Democrat)

December 28, 2014 – A central Texas county “will be the first in the country to give [indigent defendants] the ability to choose their own attorneys at the government’s expense.  It’s part of a pilot program in Comal County that could determine whether the idea could be adopted in other jurisdictions and provide a new wrinkle to how the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments are exercised.  Under the new system, a defendant who is declared indigent will be given a list of 30 to 50 attorneys who have been approved by the county. An individual will have a day to make a choice.  Legal experts have suggested that defendants will be more invested in their cases, and there will be more accountability for attorneys.”  The program is set to begin January 12.  (ABC News)

December 30, 2014 – Here is an interesting article from Above the Law about one student who is attempting to crowdfund her public interest law firm.  It is an intriguing idea, and, in her case, well thought out.  Give it a read.  (Above the Law)

December 30, 2014 – “Connecticut’s legal aid community breathed a collective sigh of relief when lawmakers in 2014 approved a plan to continue using increased court filing fees to fund their legal services programs for the poor.”  Each of the state’s three largest legal aid agencies—Connecticut Legal Services, Greater Hartford Legal Aid, and the New Haven Legal Assistance Association—is in the process of reviewing applications for the new [LawyerCorps Connecticut] fellowships. Hiring committees will interview applicants and choose fellows, who maybe either in law school or recently graduated. The new fellows will work to help those in need obtain protection from domestic violence. They will also help clients with legal issues related to housing, education and health care.”  Law students and admitted lawyers interested in applying for the LawyerCorps Connecticut program can visit lawyercorpsct.org/apply. Applications are due by Jan. 20.
(Connecticut Law Tribune)

December 31, 2014 – “Delaware Supreme Court Chief Justice Leo E. Strine Jr. earlier this month launched the Access to Justice Commission, a task force focused on helping low- to moderate-income individuals obtain legal services for criminal and civil cases.  The commission’s main efforts will be to ensure organizations providing indigent legal services make the most of limited resources, increase attorney pro bono offerings, and lessen the economic hardship on attorneys representing low-income clients.  ‘All of the commission’s mandates are equally important,’ Strine told Delaware Law Weekly. ‘We will take the time to look specifically at these issues and how to go about addressing them with the talent that is relevant to those issues. You will see distinguished in-house attorneys look at increasing pro bono work or financial experts look at increased funding.’”  (Delaware Law Weekly) (free subscription required)

January 1, 2015 -Washington’s (and the nation’s) first limited license legal technicians are preparing for practice. The inaugural class of 15 “have taken the required courses and will sit for a licensing examination in March. The state will begin licensing those who pass in the spring.  These nonlawyers will be licensed by the state to provide legal advice and assistance to clients in certain areas of law without the supervision of a lawyer.  The first practice area in which LLLTs will be licensed is domestic relations.”  “So far, Washington stands alone in formally licensing nonlawyers to provide legal services. But California is actively considering nonlawyer licensing, and several other states are beginning to explore it. New York has sidestepped licensing and is already allowing nonlawyers to provide legal assistance in limited circumstances while also looking to expand their use.  In its January 2014 final report, the ABA Task Force on the Future of Legal Education called on states to license ‘persons other than holders of a JD to deliver limited legal services.’ Now this issue of allowing nonlawyers to provide legal services is among the topics being taken up by ABA President William C. Hubbard’s Commission on the Future of Legal Services.”  The Washington and New York programs are detailed in the article.  (ABA Journal)

January 5, 2015 – “Rule changes aimed at helping New Jersey lawyers fulfill their annual pro bono obligations kicked in at the start of the new year.  The changes were proposed in 2012 by the New Jersey State Bar Association’s Pro Bono Task Force and adopted by the state Supreme Court last July, but had a delayed effective date of Jan. 1.  New Jersey has a unique system of mandatory court-appointed pro bono service, but lawyers can claim an exemption from it by doing at least 25 hours of pro bono work for a qualifying organization in the preceding year. It is known as Exemption 88.”  “New Rule 1:21-12 for the first time sets forth the exemption in the form of a single rule, stating that lawyers who certify to 25 hours of voluntary qualifying pro bono service in the prior year are exempt from court-appointed service under Madden. The other new rule, Rule 1:21-11, defines what constitutes ‘qualifying pro bono service’ for purposes of satisfying the obligation and requires certification of the programs through which lawyers provide such service.”  More information can be found on the Court’s website.  (The New Jersey Law Journal) (free subscription required)

January 8, 2015 – “Military veterans in Central New York will have access to free legal help through a new, year-round legal clinic opening today at Syracuse University’s College of  Law.  The Veterans Legal Clinic opens today at SU’s Dineen Hall. It will specialize in work involving the Department of Veterans Affairs such as appeals of adverse VA decisions and attempted  upgrades of military discharges.  Tom Caruso and Josh Keefe, both of whom graduated from SU’s College of Law and SU’s Maxwell School this year, helped create the clinic.  Each is returning to active duty as a judge advocate  - Caruso for the U.S. Navy, Keefe for the Marine Corps.”  (The Post-Standard)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: As law firms continue to expand their services globally, so too have their pro bono programs, with lawyers volunteering in 2014 to help with immigration matters, natural disaster relief and human trafficking cases. Last year also brought plenty of pro bono opportunities stateside. Attorneys devoted their time to gun control cases, voter identification laws, free speech issues, abortion rights and same-sex marriage cases.  Here is the National Law Journal’s list of the top 10 firms that made exemplary contributions to access to justice.

  • Arnold & Porter
  • Chadborne & Parke
  • Crowell & Moring
  • Farella Braun + Martel
  • Jenner & Block
  • Kirkland & Ellis
  • Morrison & Foerster
  • Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe
  • Reed Smith
  • Sidley Austin

Read about their great work.  (National Law Journal)

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – December 19, 2015

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

Happy Holidays everyone!  We finish up our series on job search strategies for the winter break on the PSJD Blog.  Check it out and share with your friends.  The Digest will be taking a hiatus for the holidays.  We will return in January with news to get your year started right.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • RI legal services non-profit to suspend services;
  • CT legal aid agency marks 50 years;
  • Marquette law clinic to offer free legal services to start-ups;
  • Vancouver nearly doubles indigent defense fund;
  • DC Bar Foundation awards $319,000 in loan repayment assistance;
  • Ontario appoints lead for new Aboriginal Justice Division;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants:  William P. Quigley;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

December 11, 2014 -”The Rhode Island Center for Law and Public Policy will suspend most of its operations on Dec. 23, its president and founder said in a statement Thursday.  The nonprofit, public-interest, civil-legal-services corporation, founded in 2008, will continue its Medical Legal Partnership Program at Hasbro Children’s Hospital, founder and president Geoffrey A. Schoos said.  The center, which provides legal services for underserved, low-income residents, is seeking additional funding to reopen its programs.”(Providence Journal)

December 11, 2014 – It would be unheard of today, but 50 years ago when New Haven Legal Assistance Association was launched,  it was called a “socio-economic experiment,” and “the bar association felt that legal-aid lawyers were not worthy of being members.”  “A lot has changed since the early days of NHLAA. The so-called research project as it was once referred is now a staple in the legal community. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and former first lady and U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton are among the noteworthy legal minds that got their start at NHLAA.”  Read more about their great work here.  Congratulations, and here’s to many more years of serving your community.
(Connecticut Law Tribune) (free registration required)

December 13, 2014 – “In a move that could bolster the region’s innovation efforts, Marquette University is launching a clinic that will provide free legal services to start-ups and entrepreneurs.  The first such clinic in the area, it will provide services to aspiring companies ranging from high-tech start-ups to mom-and-pop grocery stores, said Nathan Hammons, a full-time faculty member and the clinic’s director.  Marquette’s Law and Entrepreneurship Clinic supports the vision for entrepreneurship and innovation that Michael Lovell, the school’s recently installed president, has laid out for the campus community. But it also will fill a gap in the region’s emerging start-up scene, observers said.”  “The Law and Entrepreneurship Clinic will open in January in a limited capacity and be fully operational by fall 2015, Parlow said. The clinic is being funded by donations to the law school’s annual fund.”  (Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel)

December 15, 2014 – “The Vancouver City Council on Monday approved a new indigent defense contract for 2015 worth nearly $1.1 million, approximately twice what it spent this year.  The additional expense, which was included in the approved 2015-16 budget, enables the city to meet legal standards set by the Washington Supreme Court to help ensure that indigent defendants receive adequate representation.”  (The Columbian)

December 17, 2014 – “The DC Bar Foundation (DCBF) announced the recipients of its two loan repayment assistance programs (LRAP) for FY15. More than $319,000 was awarded to 69 civil legal services lawyers, who provide direct civil legal services to low-income, underserved DC residents. They will receive an interest-free loan from DCBF to help pay their monthly student loan payments from January to December 2015, at which time these interest-free loans will be forgiven.” (DC Bar Foundation)

December 17, 2014 – “Following an extensive recruitment campaign, Kimberly Murray has been selected to lead the newly created Aboriginal Justice Division at the Ministry of the Attorney General.  This new division was recommended by former Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci in his report, First Nations Representation on Ontario Juries.  Ms. Murray, who is a member of the Kanehsatake Mohawk Nation, was called to the Ontario Bar in 1995. Over the past 20 years, she has gained considerable experience in the field of Aboriginal law as a legal counsel, and as a leader who has the ability to build collaborative relationships and bring about transformational change.”  (Ontario Newsroom)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: William P. Quigley, a professor at Loyola University New Orleans College of Law, has been named the 2015 recipient of the Father Robert Drinan Award. The annual award is presented to one law professor a year by the American Association of Law School’s section on Pro Bono and Public Service Opportunities and recognizes educators working toward increasing access to justice.  Read more about this award and his great works here.  Congratulations!

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – December 12, 2014

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

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

Here are the week’s headlines:

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

The summaries:

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

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

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

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

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – December 5, 2014

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

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

Here are the week’s headlines:

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

The summaries:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – November 21, 2014

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

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

Here are the week’s headlines:

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

The summaries:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Super Music Bonus!  Happy Thanksgiving!

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