Archive for Public Interest Law News Bulletin

PSJD Public Interest News Digest – July 11, 2014

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

Happy Friday everyone!

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

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Legal Aid Ontario to fund more Gladue services in Thunder Bay;
  • LA court opens self-help website;
  • Denver (CO) County Court judges seek new defender office;
  • BC lawyers back to job action;
  • ND pilot program exposes law students to rural careers;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: Scopes Trial litigants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

July 4, 2014 – “Legal Aid Ontario plans to address the ‘acute need’ for Gladue services in Northwestern Ontario in the coming months.  ‘When all this is finished we’ll have the best Gladue program across the country,’ director general Nye Thomas said. ‘There’ll still be more work to do after that, but it’s addressing a long standing need.’  Gladue reports allow the court to consider the life circumstances of Aboriginal people accused of crimes. It’s a method of addressing the over-representation of Aboriginal peoples in the criminal justice system.”  “Nishnawbe Aski Legal Services submitted a proposal for Legal Aid Ontario to fund three Gladue report writers. One based in Thunder Bay, one in Sioux Lookout and one in Timmins.”  “The Lakehead Law school has also asked for funding for Gladue services from Legal Aid Ontario.”  The details haven’t been finalized, but Thomas is optimistic that they will be able to provide funding to both those programs within a year.  (cbcnews)

July 5, 2014 – “A state district judge has introduced a new self-help website designed to provide easier and wider access to legal services.
Fourth Judicial District Judge Wendell Manning says the website — — is the result of a collaboration between the court, its bar association, the Louisiana Bar Association, the Ouachita Parish Clerk of Court’s Office and Access to Justice.”  “Manning says he hopes the site’s services will help to close the gap between those who qualify for legal aid and those who have an income source but can’t afford an attorney.”  (

July 5, 2014 – “Denver County Court is seeking creation of a public defender’s office for municipal offenses, replacing contracted attorneys with in-house lawyers to represent needy defendants.  Similar to an office in Aurora, the new public defender would represent those accused of violating municipal ordinances — not state criminal offenses — if they face jail time.  Presiding Judge John Marcucci made the case for the change to a City Council committee, which signed off 4-0.”  If approved, the office will begin operation January 1, 2015. (The Denver Post)

July 5, 2014 – “The Trial Lawyers Association of BC is starting a new wave of job action today. Kamloops lawyer Michelle Stanford, who sits on the Legal Aid Action Committee, says a blackout period starts today and runs until August 8th. That means participating lawyers will refuse to perform duty counsel services, attend trials or bail or sentencing hearings. The next stage will involve one week of blackouts per month. That begins in October and will go on indefinitely.  Stanford says the lawyers have long been pressing the government for desperately needed Legal Aid funding, money to help those who can’t afford their own legal representation. She says the unfortunate part of this job action, is it will hurt those they want to serve. That includes people needing help with family matters or dealing with mental health issues.  The lawyers’ job action was halted after the last provincial election to allow talks to continue with the new Attorney General, but now they’re putting the heat back on.”  (CFJC TV)

July 5, 2014 – “Opportunities abound to practice law in rural North Dakota. The challenge has been persuading young law students to seize those opportunities.  The State Bar Association of North Dakota, University of North Dakota School of Law and North Dakota court system have responded with a pilot project that this summer has two law students working for pay as clerks for rural district judges. The program is designed to expose students to the law and lifestyle in communities of fewer than 15,000 people.” Currently, two students are participating, but there are hopes to expand the program to allow students to clerk with rural attorneys.  (The Bismark Tribune)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:  On July 10, 1925, in Dayton, Tennessee, the so-called “Monkey Trial” begins with John Thomas Scopes, a young high school science teacher, accused of teaching evolution in violation of a Tennessee state law.  The law, which had been passed in March, made it a misdemeanor punishable by fine to “teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals.” With local businessman George Rappalyea, Scopes had conspired to get charged with this violation, and after his arrest the pair enlisted the aid of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to organize a defense. Hearing of this coordinated attack on Christian fundamentalism, William Jennings Bryan, the three-time Democratic presidential candidate and a fundamentalist hero, volunteered to assist the prosecution. Soon after, the great attorney Clarence Darrow agreed to join the ACLU in the defense, and the stage was set for one of the most famous trials in U.S. history.  Reviewing the details now provides a fascinating look at where we’ve been and perhaps a preview of where we’re going as a society. Read more here.

Super Music Bonus!


PSJD Public Interest News Digest – July 4, 2014

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

Happy July 4th!  Have a safe and happy holiday!

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

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic conduct needs assessment for trans people;
  • NYC legal aid groups get grant to help low-income tenants fighting eviction;
  • Justice Department of Canada aims to cut $52 mil in legal services;
  • NYC funds public defender system for immigrants;
  • St. Mary’s University School of Law to offer Presidential Scholarships to service-oriented students;
  • Baylor Law receives pro bono award;
  • MO legislature grants public defense money – Governor takes it away;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: Our Founding Fathers;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

June 24, 2014 – “The HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario (HALCO) is leading an innovative Trans Legal Needs Assessment project that will help trans people meet their legal needs and determine the barriers they face in accessing justice. Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) is funding this project as part of its support for the addition of gender identity and gender expression to the Ontario Human Rights Code.”  Ryan Peck, executive director of HALCO, adds, “Our goal for this project is to help a wide range of legal service providers make their vital services more available and accessible to all trans people.”  (Legal Aid Ontario)

June 26, 2014 – “New Yorkers facing eviction will get more help in Housing Court this year.  The City Council’s final budget, approved early Thursday, earmarked $5 million for free legal assistance for low-income tenants who are fighting their landlords in Housing Court, more than double the $2 million that was allocated last year.  The money will go to The Legal Aid Society, Legal Services NYC and other public attorney groups, in an effort to prevent the nearly 30,000 evictions that occurred in New York City last year, advocates said.”  (DNAinfo New York)

June 26, 2014 – “The federal Justice department is taking steps to cut $52.2 million worth of legal services it provides government over the next three years with “two waves” of reforms that will eliminate jobs, change the working relationship with client departments and, it hopes, improve efficiency.”  “In the first wave, the changes will eliminate the positions of 65 lawyers and 15 management jobs by 2017, which the department believes can be done by attrition rather than layoffs.  According to a memo circulated to staff, a key area for reform is ‘re-defining’ Justice’s relationship with client departments ‘to strike the right balance between supply and demand of legal services.’”  (Ottawa Citizen)

June 26, 2014 – “Poor New York City residents who have been detained in the immigration system and are facing deportation will now have legal representation to help them through the complicated proceedings after city lawmakers voted to fund a program advocates say is the first of its kind in the country. Lawmakers approved $4.9 million for the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project as part of the $75 billion budget passed early Thursday covering the next fiscal year, which starts July 1. The funding allows the initiative, which started as a $500,000 pilot program last year, to cover all eligible immigrant city residents appearing in immigration courts in New York City or the New Jersey cities of Elizabeth and Newark.”  (Wall Street Journal)

June 26, 2014 – “The St. Mary’s University School of Law will present as many as five, full-tuition Presidential Scholarships each year to service-oriented law students, starting as early as Fall 2014. The Presidential Scholarship is open to any law school applicant of outstanding academic achievement, commitment to the service to others, and potential for a life of community leadership.  The scholarship will cover 100 percent of the tuition and fees required to complete the Juris Doctor degree at St. Mary’s University, as well as a $5,000 annual stipend. Recipients will be expected to be active in the law school community while a student and to complete all three years of legal study at St. Mary’s.” (St. Mary’s University)

June 26, 2014 – “Baylor Law School was honored today by the State Bar of Texas with an award for exceptional service to the poor during the awards presentation at the organization’s Annual Meeting at the Hilton Austin and Austin Convention Center.  The State Bar presented Baylor Law School with the 2014 W. Frank Newton Award for Pro Bono Excellence. The award, presented by the bar’s Legal Services to the Poor in Civil Matters Committee, recognizes the pro bono contribution of attorney groups whose members have made an outstanding contribution to the provision of, or access to, legal services to the poor.”  (The Gilmore Mirror)

June 29, 2014 – “The Missouri State Public Defender System has once again failed in its quest for more funding.  Backed by new evidence that supports its claims of understaffing, the public defender system received about $4 million in funding increases from the legislature in the budget for fiscal year 2015. But Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed about 80 percent of the increase Tuesday.”  The system will receive “about $36 million in next year’s budget, with some additional money included to help the system contract out cases.”  (Missourian)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:  On July 4, 1776, “[i]n Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Continental Congress adopts the Declaration of Independence, which proclaims the independence of the United States of America from Great Britain and its king.”  From there, a system of government and laws developed that is the bedrock of our society.  Read more about the events leading up to the Declaration here.  Enjoy this uniquely American holiday! 

Super Music Bonus! A track to add to your July 4th playlist.


PSJD Public Interest News Digest – June 27, 2014

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

Happy Friday everyone!

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

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • FL attorneys file petition to increase fees to help legal aid;
  • Legal Aid Foundation launches Thunderdome Tallahassee;
  • Anonymous donor gives $4 mil to SMU for legal clinic;
  • New federal agencies sign up for virtual interns;
  • B.C. lawyers to withhold legal aid in protest;
  • “And Justice for All” welcomes first legal fellow;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: “Clerical Queen” Cindy Jensen;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

June 19, 2014 – “A coalition of attorneys, including former Supreme Court Justice Raoul Cantero, filed a petition Monday with the state’s top court seeking to hike fees on lawyers to help fund legal services for the poor.  The Florida Bar wasted no time reaffirming its opposition to the effort to increase Bar fees by $100, noting there are lawyers struggling to make ends meet.  Bar President Eugene Pettis said the Bar doesn’t oppose the intent of the petition, rather how the funding ‘crisis’ and the continued delivery of legal aid is addressed.”  (Florida Courier)

June 23, 2014 – “The Legal Aid Foundation has announced a new program: Thunderdome Tallahassee, a hands-on legal group training program to provide education, camaraderie, networking, leadership and recognition to a new generation of lawyers serving the community.  For 45 years, the Legal Aid Foundation has matched volunteer lawyers to low-income families needing legal solutions to desperate situations. Though many lawyers in our area volunteer free representation to those who need it, finding a family law volunteer is particularly difficult.”  “Thunderdome Tallahassee addresses this gaping need for equal access to the law, while supporting volunteer lawyers with the best in legal education and leadership development. This summer, 15 to 20 diverse young lawyers will apply or be nominated for LAF’s inaugural class. Each will commit to volunteer representation for a family law case more than 9 months of training, mentorship and leadership development.  Upon completion of the program, participants will be invited to return as mentors and presenters to future Thunderdome Tallahassee classes. This supportive environment will foster new and continued volunteerism, benefiting local families and children.”  (Tallahassee Democrat)

June 23, 2014 – “An anonymous donor has given $4 million to SMU’s Dedman School of Law to endow the new VanSickle Family Law Clinic to provide free legal help for Dallas residents and skills training for law students.  The clinic, expected to open in fall 2015, will help low-income North Texas residents with divorces, annulments, paternity actions, custody and visitation issues, and child support.”  (Dallas News)

June 23, 2014 – “A dozen federal agencies have signed on to a virtual internship program run through the State Department that fields out special agency projects to American college students.”  The Virtual Student Foreign Service eInternship program “received 315 requests from federal agencies for e-interns this year, a record number compared to the 276 requests in 2013.”  “The 315 projects available this year include work in research, computer programming, graphic design, journalism, data analysis, social media, finance, blogging, STEM, food security, public diplomacy and law. If selected, e-interns will commit to volunteering 10 hours per week starting in September 2014 through April 2014.”  Students can apply to their top three projects on between July 2 and 22. The 320 projects will be posted on the VSFS website at the end of June.  (Nextgov)

June 23, 2014 – “B.C. lawyers are being urged not to work on legal aid cases next month to protest what some legal advocates are calling a chronic underfunding of the system, possibly leading to empty courtrooms. ‘The idea is that we’re going to keep judges very unbusy for the month of July,’ Birgit Eder, a member of the Trial Lawyers Association of B.C.’s legal aid action committee, said in an interview.”  “Ms. Eder said lawyers in Vancouver, Victoria and Kamloops have been asked not to schedule any legal aid matters for next month. The committee says the amount of money put into legal aid by government lags far behind other court spending, and that 40 per cent of people accused in criminal court must now represent themselves. It says 90 per cent of people in small-claims court represent themselves, while in family court, it’s 95 per cent.”  “Justice Minister Suzanne Anton, in a written statement, said government recognizes the important role legal aid plays in providing services. She said that’s why the province increased the Legal Services Society’s budget by $2-million this year, to $74.5-million.  She expressed confidence the protest would not bog down the court system.” (The Globe and Mail)

June 24, 2014 – “‘And Justice for All,’ a Utah nonprofit organization that supports three legal service agencies and provides grants to five others, has launched a legal fellowship program thanks to a $10,000 grant from CIT Bank.  Mary Anne Davies, a recent graduate of Loyola Law School, has joined the Disability Law Center as the first ‘And Justice for All’ legal fellow. The center is a protection and advocacy organization for people with disabilities.  As a fellow, Davies joins a staff of about 30 in assisting people with disabilities who have experienced discrimination at work, school or in the community. The agency also advocates for people who are abused or neglected in institutional settings or in the community.”  (Deseret News)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:  This happens all over the federal government, but no one talks about it.  A great person with experience sees a problem and does something about it.  Enter “Clerical Queen” Cindy Jensen. Thinking there had to be a better way than the cumbersome manual payment process formerly used, which was based on hard-copy billing, Ms. Jensen began brainstorming a computerized billing program six years ago.  “Six months later, with the help of two technicians, a prototype had been developed. Today her CJA eVoucher (the CJA stands for Criminal Justice Act) is used in 18 federal courthouses in western states and, earlier this year, the director of federal courthouses announced that it would become the standard system throughout the country.”  The system is expected to speed up payment to indigent defense attorneys at more than 100 federal courthouses across the country.  Outstanding work Ms. Jensen!! (Las Vegas Sun)

Super Music Bonus! 


PSJD Public Interest News Digest – June 20, 2014

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

Happy Friday everyone!  Summer officially begins tomorrow, but it’s been HOT here for some time.  I just visited Fredericton, NB, where it was absolutely beautiful.  Thank you to all my Canadian hosts for a wonderful trip!

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

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Montgomery Co, AL gets a public defender office;
  • Cleveland, OH firm launches pro bono veterans clinic;
  • NC House & Senate slash budget for legal services;
  • Canyon Co, ID appoints first chief public defender;
  • IN task force created to increase free legal aid;
  • GA public defender system sued;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: June 23 is UN Public Service Day;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

June 12, 2014 – “Aylia McKee is building Montgomery County’s first Public Defender’s Office from the ground up.”  “The state committed $2.2 million to fund the office, including salaries, benefits and office supplies. The Montgomery County Commission has provided the historic Greil mansion next to the county courthouse on Lawrence Street to house its staff.”  “McKee is currently looking to hire seasoned attorneys who will work as her deputy attorneys in the Public Defender’s Office. She hopes to have her key staff in place by the end of next month.  At full capacity, the public defender’s office will have a staff of about 30 people, with between 16-18 attorneys.  McKee does not yet have a set date when the office will start taking cases.”  “The public defender’s office will be phased in to the courtrooms in Montgomery County and as the office takes on more cases, the contract attorneys will be phased out. But McKee says there is still going to be a lot of work and responsibility for private attorneys. They will be needed to help handle any conflict cases or cases with multiple defendants.”  (WSFA)

June 12, 2014 - ”McDonald Hopkins, working with the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland and the Veterans Administration Community Referral and Resource Center, has developed a new initiative to provide free legal advice and referrals to low-income veterans in need of help. This unique collaboration – conceived by Anne Owings Ford and R. Jeffrey Pollock, co-chairs of the firm’s Pro Bono and Public Service Committee – is the first of its kind in Cleveland, and connects low-income veterans with our volunteer lawyers to deliver direct legal advice and recommend a course of action. The inaugural Clinic, held May 7, 2014, was a rousing success.”  (Digital Journal)

June 12, 2014 – “The state Senate budget proposes to cut more than $2 million in legal aid funding, which could make it more difficult for North Carolina’s poorest residents to defend their rights.  Under the Access to Civil Justice Act, a portion of court filing fees are given to legal aid groups in North Carolina—$1.8 million per year. The Senate’s budget bill cuts this funding. The Senate budget also eliminates the Access to Civil Justice Grant, which provided more than $670,000 to legal services in North Carolina last year.”  “While the Senate’s proposed budget eliminates funding both from filing fees and the direct grant, in the House’s proposed budget, funding from filing fees is restored while the Access to Civil Justice Grant is eliminated.” (Indy Week)

June 12, 2014 – “The Canyon County Board of Commissioners has appointed Tera A. Harden as the county’s first chief public defender.  Harden will officially start her new role in July so she will have time to build her staff before the county’s new in-house Public Defender’s Department officially goes into service on Oct. 1. The Public Defender Department will be housed in the newly built Canyon County Administration Building in Caldwell.”  (Idaho Statesman)

June 16, 2014 – “An Indiana Supreme Court task force plans to submit recommendations next week for how to increase the amount of free legal services Hoosier attorneys donate to the poor.  The Supreme Court has already decided against mandatory pro bono services, instead asking a task force to suggest ways to implement mandatory reporting of pro bono hours.”  “The task force is also looking at other administrative issues, including how to define pro bono work.   The justices will make the final decision on how to implement the requirement.”  (Indiana Public Media)
June 16, 2014 – “A former Middle Georgia public defender has filed a whistle-blower lawsuit that alleges breakdowns at all levels of the state’s indigent defense system.  The lawsuit, filed Monday, said that public defenders in the Towaliga Judicial Circuit were forced to work in unsanitary and dilapadated offices and carry crushing case loads. The plaintiff, Jim Kight, who worked as a defender in the circuit for eight years, was fired in retaliation last year after he complained about the conditions, the suit said.”  (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:  The UN Public Service Day intends to celebrate the value and virtue of public service to the community; highlight the contribution of public service in the development process; recognize the work of public servants, and encourage young people to pursue careers in the public sector.  The United Nations Public Service Day 2014 theme is, “Innovating Governance for Sustainable Development and Well-being of the People.” (United Nations)

Super Music Bonus! Try to stay cool out there folks! 


PSJD Public Interest News Digest – June 13, 2014

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

Happy Friday the 13th everyone!  This week there is a lot going on.  The big news is the extension of PAYE.  Here’s hoping it means more folks can follow their passions.

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

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • The 2014 Public Sector & Public Interest Attorney Salary Report now available;
  • Ontario justice groups launch access to justice collaborative;
  • Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service receives grant;
  • DOJ starts legal aid program for immigrant children;
  • The Capital Assistance Project of Louisiana seeks to withdraw from multiple capital cases citing budget problems;
  • FL firm launches veterans scholarship;
  • CA pioneers court-aided one-day divorce;
  • President Obama extends PAYE;
  • ABA Council says no to paid student externships;
  • Senator Warren’s student loan bill stalls;
  • FL Gov. Scott vetoes legal services funding & Board of Governors rejects proposed bar fee increase;
  • DC Bar Foundation awards $600,000 for legal services;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: NYC Bar Association honors public service;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

The Public Sector & Public Interest Attorney Salary Report is now available in the NALP bookstore.  It is THE definitive source for public sector salaries.  You can search by employer type and region.  There is also great information LRAP programs and federal government salaries and benefits.

June 5, 2014 – The Law Society of Upper Canada’s access to justice initiative, known as TAG, creates a forum for the legal and justice sectors to foster teamwork on the access to justice front.  “LSUC Treasurer Thomas Conway, who created the initiative, says this is ‘without a doubt’ one of his biggest accomplishments.”  “Two years ago, when I was first elected, the goal I set was to define a new role for the law society in improving access to justice,” says Conway.  “At the meeting, participants discussed what they are already doing to share their knowledge with other justice groups, and brainstormed innovative ideas to make justice more accessible. Their suggestions included creating a sort of “incubator” for lawyers building a practice to help underserved clients, coaching self-represented litigants, and setting up a ‘legal brokerage’ to assist family law litigants at a reduced fee.”  Collaborators will use the information they have to press government and other agencies to work together to provide better access to justice.  (Canadian Lawyer Magazine)

June 5, 2014 - ”The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) has recently granted $100,000 to Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service to support three key program areas. $50,000 will be designated to support the LIRS Access to Justice Program, which engages congregations to help provide holistic services to immigrants and migrants released from detention on the journey to integration. The grant will expand educational resources for local congregations, increase staff capacity, and cover travel to support local partners.”  “As the second largest refugee resettlement agency in the U.S., LIRS is nationally recognized for its leadership advocating with refugees, asylum seekers, unaccompanied children, immigrants in detention, families fractured by migration and other vulnerable populations, and for providing services to migrants through over 60 grassroots legal and social service partners across the United States. Celebrating 75 years of service and advocacy this year, LIRS has helped more than 500,000 migrants and refugees rebuild their lives in America.”  (

June 6, 2014 – “The Department of Justice said on Friday it will help provide lawyers for the growing number of children coming to the United States illegally, without parents or relatives accompanying them.  The new program, established in conjunction with the agency that administers the AmeriCorps volunteer program, will seek out around 100 lawyers and paralegals to provide legal services to the children, the department said.”  The new justice AmeriCorps members will also “help identify unaccompanied immigrant children who have been victims of human trafficking or abuse to assist in the investigation and prosecution of those who perpetrate such crimes on those children.” (Reuters) (DOJ)

June 6, 2014 – The Capital Assistance Project of Louisiana (CAPOLA) has filed motions to withdraw as council in multiple capital cases, citing budget issues.  “Court records document the issue:  ‘In recent years the contractual arrangements and awarding of the annual contracts have been handled by the Louisiana Public Defender Board (LPDB)… The Executive Director of CAPOLA has been informed by the LPDB that LPDB has made no provision to fund CAPOLA for the upcoming fiscal year.’  CAPOLA received almost $1.4 million funding in 2013from the state board’s $33m dollar budget.”  “Louisiana State public defender Jay Dixon says they’re reviewing CAPOLA’s operations and calls the motions to withdraw ‘premature.’  Prosecutors say allowing CAPOLA attorneys to drop cases could affect their ability to try for the death penalty, a claim Dixon denies.”  The state board meets with CAPOLA board members this week to examine their performance review.  (KTBS)

June 6, 2014 – “Florida traffic attorneys Katz & Phillips, PA announced a new scholarship this week for veterans of the armed forces pursuing a law degree.  The $1,000 Law Scholarship for Veterans is the first of its kind offered by Katz & Phillips, which issues a number of law school scholarships every year. It’s aimed at high-achieving, passionate law students who are either current or retired members of the military.”  “The scholarship is open to veterans of any branch of service, who served at home or overseas, who are attending or have been accepted to law school. Details and an application can be found online.”  (Digital Journal)
June 6, 2014 – With budgets being slashed and more and more litigants doing their own cases, the new reality of access to justice has to include helping individuals “do it themselves.”  The California Courts have taken up the charge with a new program for those seeking a divorce.  “In California, roughly three-fourths of family law litigants lack lawyers, said Maureen F. Hallahan, supervising judge in the family law division at San Diego Superior Court.”  “So now some courts in California offer one-day divorce programs for people who either can’t afford or don’t want to hire a lawyer. ‘The reality is, people are going to do it without lawyers, and we had to accommodate that,’ said Judge Hallahan.  The program doesn’t mean a divorce is truly started and completed in a single day — residency and notification requirements have to be met first. You must, for example, already have filed a divorce petition and served your spouse with divorce papers to participate. But the program does allow you to wrap things up in a single day, or even a matter of hours, once you meet the initial criteria.”  Currently, San Diego and Sacramento have programs.  I suspect we will see more soon.  (New York Times)

June 9, 2014 – President Barack Obama signed a presidential memorandum Monday expanding Pay As You Earn (PAYE) to  an additional 5 million borrowers.  The program “let borrowers pay no more than 10 percent of their monthly income in payments, but was only available for those who started borrowing after October 2007.  Obama’s memo expands that program by making opening it to those who borrowed anytime in the past.”  “Obama also announced he is directing the government to renegotiate contracts with federal student loan servicers to encourage them to make it easier for borrowers to avoid defaulting on their loans.”  The President also to endorsed Sentate legislation that would let college graduates with heavy debts refinance their loans.  The Senate is expected to debate the legislation next week.  (PBS NewsHour)

June 10, 2014 – “It appears the American Bar Association’s ban on allowing law students to receive both pay and academic credit for externships will remain in force.”  “The council on June 6 took up a multitude of revisions to the accreditation standards and sent them for review by the ABA’s House of Delegates during its next annual meeting in August in Boston. The council could revise the standards depending on the delgates’ feedback, but it has the final say.”  (National Law Journal)

June 11, 2014 – “The Senate on Wednesday voted not to move forward on a bill from Sen. Elizabeth Warren that would have allowed an estimated 25 million people with older student loans to refinance that debt at current, lower interest rates.  President Barack Obama and second lady Jill Biden had thrown their support behind the bill in recent days, and Obama on Monday rolled out new executive actions to help address student loan debt alongside the action in the Senate.”  (Politico)

June 11, 2014 – “For the fourth year running, Gov. Rick Scott has vetoed funding earmarked to provide legal service for low-income Florida residents.  According to the News Service of Florida, the June 2 veto eliminated $2 million that the 2014-15 state budget of $77.1 billion described as ‘civil legal assistance.’”  “Scott’s veto comes as the legal community debates a proposal by some to raise Florida Bar annual dues 27 percent, from $265 to $365, to fund legal services for low-income residents.”  The Florida Bar board of governors recently voted against the proposal, while proponents plan to petition the Florida Supreme Court on June 16 “to request The Florida Bar take up the issue” again.  (KeysInfoNet)

June 12, 2014 – “The DC Bar Foundation announces the FY14 DC Legal Services Grants awards to 20 organizations totaling $600,000 to support civil legal services providers, based in the District of Columbia, that serve low-income, underrepresented DC residents.”  “The Board of the Bar Foundation is pleased that we could add $600,000 to the ability of civil legal service providers to undertake their important work. This is an important supplement to the $3.4 million that we disbursed earlier this year for the Access to Justice Grants program. We will continue to work hard so this support can continue to expand in the years ahead,” said Marc L. Fleischaker, President of the Foundation’s Board of Directors.  (DC Bar Foundation)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:  The New York City Bar Association last night honored the recipients of the 25th Annual Legal Services Awards, which give recognition to attorneys and non-attorneys who provide outstanding civil legal assistance to New York’s poor. Among the honorees was Margaret Becker, Director of LSNYC’s Staten Island Disaster Recovery Unit.  This year’s other recipients were: Alan Canner, The Legal Aid Society, Harlem Community Law Office; Bernadette Jentsch, MFY Legal Services; Liz Markuci, Immigration Project, Volunteers of Legal Service; and Leander McRae, Preserving Affordable Housing Program, Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A . The Awards were presented by Hon. Jenny Rivera, Associate Judge of the New York Court of Appeals.  Congratulations and thank you for your great work!  (Legal Services NYC)

Super Music Bonus! Worst summer jobs with Jimmy Fallon of The Tonight Show.


PSJD Public Interest News Digest – June 6, 2014

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

Happy Friday!  We’ve welcomed our summer project assistants this week.  Check out the PSJD blog all summer for their insights on job searching and other fun topics.

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

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Public defender system for immigrants facing deportation would pay for itself study finds
  • House passes funding for LSC;
  • Victoria Legal Aid welcomes fines reform;
  • Stetson students respond to President’s clemency initiative;
  • TN legal aid takes initiative in helping vets;
  • FL courts implement new Family Law Guardian ad Litem pilot program;
  • Pacific Legal Foundation opens DC office;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: Breck Hopkins;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

May 29, 2014 – “On Friday, the New York City Bar Association plans to release a study contending that cost should not be an obstacle to the creation of a public defender system, paid for by the federal government, for indigent immigrants facing deportation.  The 37-page study estimates that a system that provided legal counsel for every poor immigrant facing deportation would cost about $208 million per year.  But the program would pay for itself by saving about the same amount in reduced government expenditures to detain and remove immigrants and in other savings associated with the overburdened enforcement system, the study says.”  The the study makes the argument for the first time that appointed counsel is cost-effective.  The study is based on federal data, academic studies and interviews but acknowledges the available data is “incomplete.”  (NY Times)

May 30, 2014 -  “The U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation early Friday that provides $350 million for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) in Fiscal Year 2015. The measure passed by a vote of 321-87.  The Commerce, Justice, Science & Related Agencies (CJS) FY 2015 Appropriations bill would cut current funding by $15 million but is $50 million more than the House voted to allocate last year.”  “The Senate will mark up the FY 2015 CJS Appropriations bill in subcommittee on Tuesday and in full committee on Thursday.  The vast majority of LSC’s funding is used to support local nonprofit organizations via grants for the delivery of civil legal assistance to low-income Americans.”  (LSC)

May 30, 2014 – “Sweeping recommendations for further reform of the fines system have been welcomed by Victoria Legal Aid.  Following today’s release of a Sentencing Advisory Council report into the fines system, Victoria Legal Aid Social Inclusion Program Manager Joel Townsend said the recommendations, if adopted, would address concerns that the fines system is severely affecting the most vulnerable in the community.  ‘The current system has had a disproportionate impact on people affected by disability, mental illness, homelessness or poverty,’ Mr Townsend said. ‘We agree with the Council that people who can’t pay their fines for these reasons should be treated differently to people who can afford to pay but deliberately avoid payment.’ “  “The Bill’s introduction of work and development permits as a way of dealing with fines is also welcomed by Victoria Legal Aid. These permits allow people with mental illness or intellectual disability, drug or alcohol addiction, or financial hardship, to undertake treatment or counseling, or to build their life skills through voluntary work, courses or mentoring, instead of paying a fine, and have been successful in New South Wales.”  (Victoria Legal Aid)

May 30, 2014 – “The U.S. Department of Justice recently announced a new clemency initiative, designed to prioritize clemency applications for certain non-violent offenders who would likely receive lesser sentences if they were sentenced today. To date, more than 35 Stetson Law students have signed on to assist the Office of the Federal Defender for the Middle District of Florida in identifying former clients who may qualify for the new clemency initiative. The Stetson Law students will help gather information relevant to the clemency criteria as part of a new pro bono project on campus.”  (Digital Journal)

June 1, 2014 – “Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands, Tennessee’s largest non-profit law firm, has partnered with Operation Stand Down Nashville and drawn on its Volunteer Lawyer Program to ensure at-risk veterans are receiving the resources they need. With more than 20 referrals from Operation Stand Down Nashville (OSDN) since the start of the year, Legal Aid Society has provided low-income veterans vulnerable to homelessness the legal counsel needed to maintain or secure permanent housing. This is possible because of a Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) grant from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. SSVF is a homeless-prevention and rapid re-housing program which provided funding to OSDN in October 2013.”  “The Volunteer Lawyers Program staffs monthly clinics at OSDN that provide general advice and legal counsel to veterans. The clinics have helped veterans on a wide range of topics, including custody, drivers’ licenses, divorce and landlord-tenant issues. Many of the volunteer attorneys who staff the clinics are veterans themselves.”(Murfreesboro Post)

June 2, 2014 – “More than two dozen lawyers from the Icard Merrill law firm have signed up to be guardians ad litem as part of a new Family Law Guardian ad Litem pilot program backed by the 12th Judicial Circuit Court of Florida.  The program, directed by judges Lee Haworth and Charles Williams, will provide children caught in the middle of contentious cases in the Circuit’s Family Law Division with guardians ad litem.” For Williams, the program is an added tool in the judges’ toolbox to assist in making the right decisions. “There are always money issues and property issues,” Williams said, “but really the issues that keep us judges up at night are children — those are the real difficult decisions to make.”  (Bradenton Herald)

June 5, 2014 – “The conservative nonprofit law firm Pacific Legal Foundation has opened a Washington, D.C., office in an effort to expand its congressional and media outreach.  The office will be operated by Todd Gaziano, a new hire and former staff to the Heritage Foundation, and will advocate on issues related to federal health care reform and the impact of environmental protection laws.”  (Sacramento Business Journal)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: Breck Hopkins, longtime Arkansas Department of Human Services’ legal chief is retiring after more than three decades with the state agency.  Among many accomplishments, he developed the first computer-based case management system for the agency’s chief counsel office and wrote the child custody chapter in the Arkansas Bar Manual.  Thank you for your service!  Read more here.

Super Music Bonus! What summer movie are you excited to see?


PSJD Public Interest News Digest – May 30, 2014

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

Happy Friday!  Summer is in full swing!  Are you looking for additional ways to increase your skills?  New opportunities are being added daily to PSJD.

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

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Ontario County, NY gets conflict defenders office;
  • Additional public defender relief coming to NY counties;
  • BC increases legal aid funding;
  • Legal Aid strike action still looms for summer in BC;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: Student activists;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

May 23, 2014 -  “Ontario County is moving forward in staffing its new conflict defender’s office. The office, which is expected to be fully functional by October, will handle cases for indigent defendants in which a conflict of interest exists within the public defender’s office.” “At its meeting next Thursday, May 29, the Board of Supervisors is due to approve the appointment of Andrea Schoeneman, of Victor, as the new conflict defender.”  (Victor Post)

May 23, 2014 – “Struggling with sometimes unmanageable caseloads, public defenders in the Capital Region may soon get a bit of relief as more than $1 million in state money will soon flow into local offices to hire more attorneys.  The funds come from grants dispersed throughout New York by the Office of Indigent Legal Services (OILS), the state’s first program for guiding the quality of assigned counsel. Now OILS is working to disperse an additional $12 million to counties across New York to reduce caseloads.”  (Times Union)

May 26, 2014 – “The [British Columbia] government is shelling out $2 million to expand legal aid services and launch new pilot projects.  The new funding aims to increase access to justice and resolve disputes more quickly.  Projects include a Parents’ Legal Centre for child protection cases, and expanded duty counsel and family legal advice at the Victoria Justice Access Centre.”  (CKNW)

May 27, 2014 – Despite the $2 million recently added to the British Columbia budget for legal aid, it is not near enough for legal aid lawyers.  “Some B.C. lawyers are once again planning to withdraw legal aid services in a bid to force the provincial government to pour more money into the system.  Bentley Doyle, spokesman for the Trial Lawyers Association of B.C., said participating lawyers will halt work on existing legal aid cases and refuse new ones for the month of July.  Previous legal aid ‘strikes’ split the legal community and there’s no sign the tactic will be embraced by all lawyers this time either.  Doyle said 50 to 75 lawyers in Vancouver are on board, as well as a group in Kamloops and the aim is to recruit more in other areas.”  “The plan is to continue the action in the fall with one-week-a-month stoppages starting in October. Both criminal and family law cases will be affected.”  (BC Local News)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:  Students are a powerful force for change.  As history has born out repeatedly, people who ban together for a common cause often triumph.  That was the case when a group of students in China got together in 1989 to protest against their government.  “Ignoring government warnings of suppression of any mass demonstration, students from more than 40 universities began a march to Tiananmen on April 27. The students were joined by workers, intellectuals, and civil servants, and by mid-May more than a million people filled the square, the site of Mao Zedong’s proclamation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949.

On May 20, the government formally declared martial law in Beijing, and troops and tanks were called in to disperse the dissidents. However, large numbers of students and citizens blocked the army’s advance, and by May 23 government forces had pulled back to the outskirts of Beijing. On June 3, with negotiations to end the protests stalled and calls for democratic reforms escalating, the troops received orders from the Chinese government to seize control of Tiananmen Square and the streets of Beijing. Hundreds were killed and thousands arrested.”  (History Channel)  In the aftermath, the world responded.    Many say this protest was an example for the recent Arab spring and other events that have brought about change.  So, take action.  You may be surprised at the result.

Super Music Bonus! Getting ready for the World Cup?


PSJD Public Interest News Digest – May 23, 2014

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

Happy Friday!  School’s out and it’s time to prepare for the summer, especially internships.  Are you interning in a new city?  Check out PSJD’s Having Fun on the Cheap series to find great stuff to do in your internship city.

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

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Leslie Caldwell confirmed to head DOJ criminal division;
  • FL lawyers argue over proposed $100 dues increase to help fund legal aid;
  • Stetson Law seeks volunteer lawyers for its new veterans clinic;
  • IA Supreme Courts awards grants for legal aid;
  • DOJ Office of Inspector General releases report of audit of John R. Justice Grant Program;
  • Environmental residency/incubator debuts in Pittsburgh;
  • LSAC settles ADA suit with a consent decree;
  • Grant to UNM Law to encourage public interest lawyers;
  • AILA announces Michael Maggio Immigrants’ Rights Summer Fellow;
  • MA must pay public defenders more;
  • Youths guaranteed representation at detention hearings in CO;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: NLADA Beacon of Justice Award winners;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

May 15, 2014 -  “White-collar defender Leslie Caldwell was confirmed Thursday to lead the Criminal Division at the U.S. Department of Justice.  Caldwell, co-chairwoman of the corporate-investigations and white-collar practice at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, sailed through her confirmation hearing in February. The Senate approved Caldwell on a voice vote.  “I’m confident that her extensive experience on both sides of the courtroom will serve her well as she assumes leadership of the Criminal Division,” Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. said in a written statement.”  (National Law Journal)(subscription)

May 15, 2014 – “Joined by a former state Supreme Court justice, attorneys for the poor are trying to raise annual Florida Bar dues by up to $100 to address what they call a fiscal crisis.  The attempt to hike the annual dues, which have not increased since 2001, from the current $265 has sparked an outcry in the legal community and created a rift over how much of the onus lawyers should bear to fund legal-services groups throughout the state.”  The proposed dues hike is also creating a larger conversation on the delivery of legal services to the poor in Florida.  (The Florida Times-Union)

May 16, 2014 – Stetson University College of Law is seeking attorneys to volunteer civil legal services to military members, veterans and their families as part of its Veterans Pro Bono Initiative Team.  Stetson’s new Veterans Pro Bono Initiative Team will serve Tampa Bay area veterans through its Veterans Law Institute.  “We are looking for volunteer attorneys with a passion to serve the veterans, members of our military and their families,” said Trista Miller, assistant director of clinical education and Veterans Law Institute pro bono supervisor at Stetson.  “Attorneys interested in volunteering may apply with no obligation at For more information about volunteering with Stetson’s Veterans Pro Bono Initiative Team, contact vetprobono(at)law.stetson(dot)edu or call 727-562-7333.” (Digital Journal)

May 16, 2014 – “The Iowa Supreme Court has approved more than $282,000 in grants to non-profit programs that provide legal assistance to low-income residents with civil legal problems, including those in North Iowa.  The Second Judicial District, whose 22-county area includes Cerro Gordo, Worth, Winnebago, Franklin, Mitchell, Floyd, Hancock, Wright and Butler counties, is receiving $5,900 for its Civil Legal Assistance Fund. This fund is for legal assistance to low-income residents involved in dissolution of marriage or modification of child support/custody cases in which other legal assistance is not available.  Fourteen other programs throughout the state also received grant funding, including statewide programs such as Iowa Legal Aid, which has a regional office in Mason City. Iowa Legal Aid provides civil case assistance to low-income residents.  The grant funds are generated entirely from interest earned on certain pooled trust accounts held by Iowa’s lawyers.”  (

May 20, 2014 – On Tuesday Department of Justice Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz released a report examining the John R. Justice (JRJ) grant program, which provides student loan assistance to attorneys serving as state and local prosecutors or federal, state, and local public defenders.  JRJ program grants are provided to U.S. states and territories, which are responsible for selecting eligible attorney applicants for JRJ awards.  The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) audit found that the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) needs to improve its record-keeping, oversight, and communication with state administering agencies and beneficiaries to ensure responsible tracking of the $28 million that has been appropriated to fund the JRJ program since 2010.  The audit found many issues with the program and the way the funds are being handled, including funds going to states that weren’t distributed.  The OIG made 12 recommendations addressing the administration of JRJ program funds, the tracking of JRJ participants and their owed repayments, and factors that may detract from the financial benefit of the program.  OJP agreed with all 12 recommendations.  I highly recommend reading the report. (DOJ OIG)

May 20, 2014 – “Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services, a foundation-supported justice incubator and residency program, has debuted in Pittsburgh and in Akron, Ohio, to serve clients of modest means — individuals, groups and small businesses. Emily Collins is the executive director; she previously was at the University of Pittsburgh’s Environmental Law Clinic.”  Resident attorneys will spend two years in residence at Fair Shake serving modest means clients.  Fair Shake also employs full-time, permanent staff.  (Pittsburgh Business Times)

May 20, 2014 – “The Law School Admission Council agreed to an overhaul Tuesday that, combined with $7.73 million in penalties and damages, will settle disability-discrimination claims.  The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing brought the original suit on behalf of California test takers, and the United States soon intervened in the case to ensure comprehensive and nationwide relief.  They alleged that 17 disabled students taking the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), administered by LSAC, were forced to submit to ‘psychoeducational and neuropsychological testing after requesting extra time or other accommodations.’  LSAC also allegedly required disabled test-takers to disclose whether they took prescription medications during evaluations of their condition, and it allegedly ‘flagged’ the exam scores of those who received accommodations for extra time.  U.S. District Judge Edward Chen had refused in 2012 to dismiss the action, which alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the California Fair Housing and Employment Act, and the Unruh Act.  All parties filed a joint motion Tuesday for entry of a consent decree that requires the LSAC to pay $7.73 million in penalties and damages, compensating more than 6,000 individuals nationwide who applied for testing accommodations on the LSAT over the past five years.”  More about the other terms of the decree are here.  (Courthouse News Service)

May 21, 2014 – “Combining direct legal services, policy advocacy, and impact litigation strategies, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area advances the rights of immigrants, refugees and communities of color, with a specific focus on low income communities and a long-standing commitment to African Americans. We provide leadership and expertise in identifying legal issues and cases that are critical to the advancement of minority and immigrant communities, and we marshal the resources of the private bar to help effect structural change.”  “[T]he law school will seek input from legal services providers, minority communities and tribes to ‘develop a plan to create a pipeline of excellent lawyers who reflect New Mexico’s diverse communities and who will serve low-income children and families.’”  (Albuquerque Journal)

May 21, 2014 – “The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), joined by its project partners the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law (CHRCL), and the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild (NIP/NLG), are delighted to announce Danielle Alvarado has been named the recipient of the Michael Maggio Immigrants’ Rights Summer Fellowship for 2014. Ms. Alvarado, a second-year law student at Northeastern University will use her time as a fellow to clerk at the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice.”  (AILA InfoNet)

May 22, 2014 – Earlier the Boston Globe did a great article on the study by the Massachusetts Bar Association on salaries paid to public defenders and prosecutors.  Basically, the Bar said the State must do better or criminal justice lawyers will become the working poor.  “The report said that Massachusetts ranks dead last in annual salaries paid to public defenders through the Committee for Public Counsel Services and that county prosecutors often are the lowest-paid person in a courtroom, finishing behind custodial workers.  The study was conducted by the MBA’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Criminal Justice Attorney Compensation, which included a current and former judge, bar association officials, defense attorneys, and former district attorneys.”

This week we have an excellent follow up, including interviews from defenders and prosecutors who are the heart and soul of the criminal justice system and are paid less than $40,000 a year.  (Boston Globe)

May 22, 2014 – “Gov. John Hickenlooper signed legislation to guarantee legal representation for juveniles facing charges in Colorado.  The bill Hickenlooper signed Wednesday will require that minors have either a court-appointed attorney or a private lawyer at detention hearings. That’s where a judge determines whether a defendant should be released while their case is pending.  The legislation comes in response to data from youth advocates showing that nearly half of juveniles with cases in state courts don’t get legal representation.  Supporters of the legislation argue that juveniles sometimes resolve their cases without understanding the long-term consequences of the proceedings.”  (Daily Journal)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:  Law firms are an important component of the provision of legal services to those most in need.  The National Legal Aid and Defender Association (NLADA) honors those firms with the 2014 Beacon of Justice Award. The exceptional law firms listed below have all devoted significant time and resources to creating and implementing innovative strategies to improve life outcomes for low income individuals.  Congratulations and thank you for your contributions to access to justice!  (NLADA)

The full list of 2014 Beacon of Justice winners is as follows:

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP
Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC
Briggs and Morgan, P.A.
Callister Nebeker & McCullough
Cook, Yancey, King & Galloway 
Dechert LLP
DLA Piper
Fenwick & West LLP
Friday, Eldredge & Clark, LLP
Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP
Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP
Kaye Scholer LLP
Kirkland & Ellis LLP
Locke Lord LLP
Lowenstein Sandler LLP
Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo P.C.
O’Melveny & Myers LLP
Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP
Polsinelli LLP
Quarles & Brady LLP
Robins, Kaplan, Miller, Ciresi L.L.P.
Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP
Stinson Leonard Street LLP
Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP
Sullivan & Cromwell LLP

Super Music Bonus! In a bit of a summer mood this Memorial Day weekend.  Enjoy!


PSJD Public Interest News Digest – May 16, 2014

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

Happy Friday!  It is with both great sadness (for us) and joy (for her) that we say goodbye to our PSJD Fellow Ashley Matthews.  She has been such a wonderful part of our staff, and I am sad to say goodbye.  However, she is going on to much greater things, and we wish her all the best!  Thank you Ashley for all your contributions.  Good luck at LSC.

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

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • The Partnership for Public Service releases report calling for overhaul of federal government civil service system;
  • CT budget averts $4.5 million cut to legal aid;
  • OK governor vetoes check off for domestic violence fund;
  • Senate Democrats propose plan for refinancing student debt;
  • OPM wants to help agencies’ HR;
  • 40% of LA’s PD offices ran a deficit;
  • Defenders organizing to give ‘Gideon’ teeth;
  • Canadian lawyer speaks to the self-represented;
  • Legal aid for youth for detention hearings expected to be signed into law in CO;
  • SallieMae must compensate troops for overcharging on student loans;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: Law enforcement;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

May 9, 2014 -  “In the new report, “Building the Enterprise: A New Civil Service Framework,” the Partnership for Public Service calls for major reforms to the federal government’s decades-old civil service system and lays out a plan to modernize areas that include the outdated pay and hiring policies.”  You can download the report and view the panel discussion.  “The report calls for overhauling the entire civil service system, including pay, performance management, hiring, job classification, accountability and workplace justice, and the Senior Executive Service, the nation’s career leadership corps.”  (Partnership for Public Service)

May 9, 2014 – “Connecticut lawmakers have averted a looming $4.5 million cut to legal aid services that lawyers for the poor say would have forced them to turn away hundreds of low-income people seeking help with court cases involving domestic violence, eviction and health care.  The General Assembly approved a plan to continue using increased court filing fees to fund legal aid, as part of a massive budget bill adopted just before the legislative session ended Wednesday and sent to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy for his signature. The increased fees approved in 2012 to stabilize legal aid were set to expire next year.”  (SFGate)

May 10, 2014 – “Gov. Mary Fallin vetoed a bill Friday that would set up an income tax checkoff to help pay for legal aid for victims of domestic violence. She said the fund would be redundant.  There is already a checkoff on income tax forms for taxpayers who wish to contribute part of their tax refund to a fund for victims of domestic violence, said Alex Weintz, her spokesman.  Having two similar funds in the checkoff program could cause one or both to fail to reach donation requirements needed for a fund to stay in the program, Weintz said.”  (NewsOK)

May 12, 2014 – “Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said his plan, backed by Senate Democrats, would allow borrowers who have undergraduate student loan rates locked in at high interest rates to refinance at the rate currently offered for new student loans — 3.86 percent.  The plan is expected to be brought to the floor of the Senate in June, Schumer said. The new legislation has bipartisan support, Schumer said, but has yet to be taken up by the House of Representatives.”  (Newsday)

May 12, 2014 – “The Office of Personnel Management is pursuing various strategies that focus on the individual needs of agencies, as well as human resources challenges common across government, to improve federal hiring and employee retention, OPM Director Katherine Archuleta said on Monday.”  “We are drilling down in agencies to find the knots in the hiring process, and to untie them,” Archuleta said during a speech to federal workers at Government Executive’s annual Excellence in Government conference in Washington.  OPM wants to help agencies hire and cultivate talent, especially in the midst of tight budgets.  (Government Executive)

May 12, 2014 – “More than 40 percent of Louisiana’s public defender offices ran deficits last year as they struggled to come up with enough money to handle the cases of people too poor to afford their own attorneys, according to an annual report released Monday.  The Louisiana legislative auditor’s office found that 17 public defenders’ offices out of 40 spent more money than they brought in for the budget year that ended June 30, 2013.  To continue operating, districts dipped into reserve funds, a solution the report described as a temporary fix that “seriously depleted most of the local districts’ fund balances.” Public defenders had to do the same practice in 2012, forcing some to restrict services.  The offices have had similar problems for several years. The auditor’s office notes that the Louisiana Public Defender Board requested more money than it received during the budgeting process last year.”  (Daily Journal)

May 12, 2014 – “During the past six months, more than 6,000 state and federal public defenders from around the country have accepted the invitation to join a new organization formed to “own” the problems and future of indigent defense, as one of its founders put it. The catalyst was the 50th anniversary of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision, Gideon v. Wainwright, in which the justices held that the Sixth Amendment required states to provide counsel to poor defendants charged with serious crimes.”  “The organization, the National Association for Public Defense, arrives at the ‘right time,’ said Stephen Hanlon, chairman of the indigent defense advisory group of the ABA’s Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants.”  “Unlike those organizations, which view indigent defense as a subset of the criminal justice system, Young said, the new organization’s sole focus is indigent defense. ‘We want to address training and workload relief for lawyers on the line in the courtroom every day, and all of the support staff that gets us to the courtroom every day.’  To that end, the organization’s education committee is providing training webinars for public defenders and staff, and is blogging and writing articles about the justice system.”  The organization is also seeking to bridge the gap between federal and state defenders.  So far, more than 6,000 members are on board.  (National Law Journal)

May 13, 2014 – “Record numbers of Canadians are appearing without a lawyer in family court all across the country. University of Windsor law professor Julie Macfarlane estimates that as many as 80 per cent of family court cases in Canada involve Self-Represented Litigants; that’s up by half from 1993.  Judges, however, still hold Self-Represented Litigants to the same standard of work quality and following court processes as they would expect from a lawyer.”  That’s where Family lawyer Andrew Feldstein comes in.  He has launched “, an information-packed website designed specifically for Self-Represented Litigants (also called Unrepresented Litigants or Do-it-Yourselfers) who are thinking of ending their marriages or common-law relationships.”  “The site offers ‘unbundled legal services’ where instead of providing comprehensive services to a client, a lawyer only handles the aspects that a client chooses. For example, clients can get any one of these, or a combination of these written:  applications, answers, notices of motion, affidavits, and offers to settle. And the spouse handles the balance, to the best of his or her abilities.”  Unbundled services is certainly a trend that is gaining momentum in Canada and the US.  (Mississauga News)

May 14, 2014 – “Juveniles in criminal proceedings in Colorado will be guaranteed defense counsel at hearings where judges determine whether they should be released while their case is pending, under a bill expected to be signed into law next week.  The legislation comes in response to concerns raised by youth advocates who maintain that many juveniles with cases in state courts don’t get legal representation, and they sometimes resolve their cases without ever getting legal advice. The advocates argued that this situation often leads to juveniles and their parents settling cases without realizing the long-term consequences, including having trouble getting jobs or housing because of their records.”  “Gov. John Hickenlooper is expected to sign the bill next week. On Wednesday, he signed a companion measure that requires the public defender’s office to hire social workers to assist in juvenile cases.”  (Washington Times)

May 14, 2014 – “Sallie Mae must pay $60 million in refunds to troops for violating a law, called the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, that ensures members of the U.S. military pay no more than six percent interest on student loans.  U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said not only did Sallie Mae charge an illegal interest rate to some troops, but in some cases the lender obtained default judgments against members of the military who fell behind on their student loan payments.”  “In addition to the $60 million in restitution paid to military members, NBC reports, Sallie Mae must also make amends to troops whose credit scores were damaged by the student loan company.  Finally, Sallie Mae has been ordered to pay about $37 million in penalties to the FDIC, according to”  (KPBS)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:  This week is National Police Week.  We have been fortunate in DC to host tens of thousands of officers honoring the fallen and celebrating those who serve.  “In 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed a proclamation which designated May 15th as Peace Officers Memorial Day and the week in which that date falls as Police Week.  The Memorial Service began in 1982 as a gathering in Senate Park of approximately 120 survivors and supporters of law enforcement. Decades later, the event, more commonly known as National Police Week, has grown to a series of events which attracts thousands of survivors and law enforcement officers to our Nation’s Capital each year.”  Please take a moment to thank a cop.  It’s a hard job, and those who do it are special kinds of heroes.  (

Super Music Bonus! In honor of Ashley – her favorite song right now.  Good luck in the next chapter!


PSJD Public Interest News Digest – May 9, 2014

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

Happy Friday!  This month we’re talking about service projects.  Do you have a great Law Day program planned?  Let us know!  Today, we feature spring break projects from Denver.

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

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • University of Denver Sturm College of Law give back during spring break;
  • Ontario budget allows more people to qualify for legal aid;
  • First Sanford Heisler Public Interest Diversity Fellow announced;
  • MA adds access to justice question to Bar exam;
  • HUD provides grant to help Brooklyn organizations advocate for affordable housing;
  • BARBRI names first Public Interest Fellow;
  • Grant to John Marshall clinic for foreclosure work;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: San Francisco Public Defender Legal Educational Advocacy Program (LEAP);
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

May 2, 2014 -  From Alexi Freeman, Director, Public Interest & Lecturer/Legal Externships, University of Denver Sturm College of Law -  This year, a number of Denver Law students skipped out on beach and mountain vacations to provide much-needed legal support to a number of different organizations and individuals over spring break.

Alternative Spring Break:  For the fifth year in a row, Sturm College of Law students traveled to El Paso, Texas and Window Rock, Ariz. to take part in the school’s Alternative Spring Break (ASB)program. Six students spent the week volunteering at immigration and civil rights legal clinics in El Paso including the Texas Civil Rights Project and Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center. Another 4 students ventured to Window Rock, Ariz. where they assisted non-profit organizations providing legal assistance to American Indian tribes, including DNA-People’s Legal Services and the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission.

The ASB program offers Sturm students a unique opportunity for short-term exposure to a professional legal environment. This is especially helpful for many first-year law students seeking to jump-start their professional development. The trip also is a great way to give back as    students help make legal services more readily available to people of modest means. ASB was developed by students in the Chancellor’s Scholar program.

Tribal Wills Project:  If members of recognized Native American tribes die without a will, the American Indian Probate Reform Act of 2004 requires that all trust property go to the one eldest descendant. For some, this Act has become problematic, as it doesn’t allow for flexibility and personal choice.

Enter the Tribal Wills Project. Initiated by Professor Lucy Marsh and John Roach, the Fiduciary Trust Officer for the Southwest Region of the Department of Interior, the Tribal Wills Project allows Denver Law students to spent their spring break drafting wills, powers of attorneys, and burial instructions for members of two Native American tribes, the Southern Utes and the Ute Mountain Utes. The project is in its second year and the demand for these services has increased. This year, 21 law students traveled either to Durango or Towaoc, Colo., or White Mesa, Utah. Supervised by Prof. Marsh and three attorneys, Molly Barnett, Beth Bryant, and Paul Padilla, all Denver Law grads, the law students served approximately 70 clients. “We ran like a ‘micro firm’ out of these conference rooms,” Ryan Cusick remarked. “We worked together in teams, picked up each’s other slack, and really got along well.”

The legal work that was done could have easily cost $75K, but instead, it allowed students to fulfill their Public Service Requirement and provide a much-needed service. Overall participating students shared that it was one of–if not the best– experiences they had in law school.

May 2, 2014 – “The threshold to qualify for legal aid in Ontario will rise for the first time in 18 years, the government announced in its budget, though to what level it did not say.”  “The Liberal government’s budget, tabled Thursday, revealed that raising the criteria would allow an additional one million low-income Ontarians to qualify for legal aid ‘when fully implemented.’ It did not specify a timeline for full implementation.  Ontario’s legal aid eligibility criteria have not changed since 1996.”  (Global News)

May 2, 2014 – “The California-based Foundation for Advocacy Inclusion and Resources (FAIR) today announced selection of the first Sanford Heisler Public Interest Diversity Fellow in partnership with the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center (LAS-ELC) and Sanford Heisler LLP, a leading national public interest law firm.  Giselle N. Olmedo, a 2013 graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, bested a talented pool of applicants to earn the 2014 Sanford Heisler Public Interest Diversity Fellowship.” “FAIR will provide Olmedo’s salary and benefits during the year-long Fellowship period, which is comprised of two consecutive six-month terms, based upon a grant received from Sanford Heisler. Olmedo will spend the first half of her Fellowship at the LAS-ELC and the second at a firm affiliated with the California Employment Lawyers Association (CELA), an organization of more than 1,000 workers’ rights advocates statewide.”  (Digital Journal)

May 3, 2014 – The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court approved an amendment to Board of Bar Examiners Rule III, effective July 1, 2016 to include Access to Justice as field in which test takers should be familiar with the law.  “The law to be tested in the field of Access to Justice may include the following topics: Landlord-Tenant, including evictions, affirmative defenses and counterclaims, and fee-shifting statutes; Foreclosures; Divorce, including child custody, support, visitation; Termination of Parental Rights; Domestic Abuse; Guardianship and Conservatorship; Consumer Matters, including debt collection, predatory lending and unfair or deceptive practices; Health Care Proxies, Power of Attorney, Advance Directives; Due Process doctrines related to fair hearings, civil commitment and civil right to counsel; Representation of nonprofit organizations; and Ethical rules including Massachusetts Rules of Professional Responsibility 1.2, 1.5, 1.14, 1.15, 4.3, 6.1, 6.5 and Limited Assistance Representation.” (Massachusetts Law Updates)

May 6, 2014 -The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has provided a grant to Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation and South Brooklyn Legal Corporation, two organizations that advocate for affordable housing in New York. The two organizations will share the $975,000 and use the money to continue providing legal and other services to working families in Brooklyn.  (Brooklyn Daily Eagle)

May 6, 2014 – George Mason University School of Law student Catherine Wauters has been named the first-ever BARBRI Public Interest Fellow competition. She will spend a year as a legal fellow at the global nonprofit Save the Children.  “BARBRI designed the Public Interest Fellow program to promote social responsibility and increase awareness of alternative legal career paths. Contestants submitted resumes, writing samples and short videos expressing why they wanted to work for the nonprofit dedicated to affecting immediate and lasting change for children in need across the country and around the world.

In Wauters’ video, she speaks passionately about how her Peace Corps service solidified her decision to ‘pursue the law as a vehicle for greater social change.’ In Benin, West Africa, she worked to improve nutrition for infants and children by helping mothers incorporate locally available but nutritionally dense foodstuff into their diets.  Wauters, a third-year law student, said the experience proved that even small changes can make a big difference in children’s lives and can have an aggregate positive effect on entire communities. She believes that ‘promoting the general welfare of all children is the best investment we can make in our tomorrow.’”  Congratulations! (Digital Journal)

May 7, 2014 – “Struggling homeowners on Chicago’s north side may now get legal help thanks to a grant from Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. The grant will enable law students from the John Marshall Law School, partnered with Northside Housing Cooperative (NHC), to provide additional legal assistance to home buyers in the city’s northern communities.  The Pro Bono Clinic at the John Marshall will provide expert legal assistance on homebuyer education, foreclosure prevention and employer-assisted housing, thanks to an agreement with Madigan.  The $800,000 grant to NHC comes from a national settlement involving the nation’s five largest bank servicers that were cited for fraudulent practices while servicing loans of struggling homeowners.”  (Digital Journal)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:   “A unique San Francisco Public Defender program that pairs legal advocacy with social work to keep at-risk teens in school has been selected as 2014 Program of the Year by the California Public Defenders Organization.

The Legal Educational Advocacy Program (LEAP) works directly with San Francisco youth on probation, making regular court and school appearances and training parents and caregivers to advocate effectively for their children. Of the youth who have gone through the program, fewer than 13 percent reoffend six to 12 months after exiting.

The 3-year old program, funded through a federal grant, continues to work toward the greater goal of reducing the disproportionate number of youth of color in the justice system overall. It is comprised of Juvenile Unit Attorney Manager Patricia Lee, Social Worker Marynella Woods, Education Attorney Lauren Brady Blalock and Youth Advocate Marc Babus.”  Congratulations on their outstanding work!  (San Francisco Public Defender)

Super Music Bonus!