by Christina Jackson, NALP Director of Public Service Initiatives & Fellowships
Here are the week’s headlines:
- Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands receives three new grants;
- University of New Mexico School of Law receives $2.6 million in funding for fellowships and loan repayment assistance;
- Legal Aid Services of Oregon and Miller Nash Graham & Dunn team up to provide pro bono assistance to rural Oregonians;
- First global ranking on access to justice for children released;
- Missouri public defenders see little relief in proposed budget;
- Northwestern Pritzker School of Law announces new initiatives, including a summer funding guarantee for public interest students;
- Proposed bill to raise court fees by $1 to provide additional funding to Nebraska legal aid;
- Utah Senate committee advances bill to revamp indigent defense system;
- Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
- Super Music Bonus!
February 11, 2016 – “Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands, Tennessee’s largest non-profit law firm, has received three grant awards from area organizations committed to seeking justice for the underprivileged. The organization helps those throughout Middle Tennessee and in Rutherford County. The West End Home Foundation, The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee and the Tennessee Bar Foundation’s Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts program made contributions that will enable Legal Aid Society to advance, defend and enforce the legal rights of vulnerable families who lack the basic necessities of life.” (WGNS News Radio)
February 12, 2016 – “Funding from grants often take a long time to land, and can have a big snowball effect. For example, a finalized $2.6 million W.K. Kellogg Foundation grant to the University of New Mexico School of Law should ultimately create a lot of jobs — including several fellowships and scholarships for extra-curricular job experience.” “More specifically, the funding will create an additional program at the law school for cohorts of six to eight law students to focus on social justice training. The last program will include $15,000 scholarships with an additional $5,000 for summer internship funding. Additionally, the funding will create two-year fellowships with local nonprofits and will allow for salary and loan repayment assistance to ‘remove financial barriers for our graduates and nonprofit host organizations.'” (Albuquerque Business First)
February 12, 2016 – “With the price of an attorney easily costing $200 or more an hour, large numbers of Oregonians can’t afford to pay for the help they need to wade through the legal problems that are hindering their lives. And that means they often flounder through the legal system as they represent themselves. Add to that Oregon’s rural-urban divide — most lawyers willing to work pro bono are in Portland — and poor rural Oregonians are often left in the greatest need. One study found that about 65 percent of the state’s lawyers work in the greater Portland area, while just 21 percent of low-income Oregonians do, said Janice Morgan, the executive director of Legal Aid Services of Oregon. Morgan said that’s why she’s thrilled about a new venture this week: A group of attorneys from one of the state’s biggest law firms — Miller Nash Graham & Dunn — are teaming up with Legal Aid Services of Oregon to provide a series of hour-long consultations to low-income people living in the rural counties of Jefferson, Crook and Deschutes. Those who need a longer consultation will receive a referral for more help. The video-conference sessions are designed to offer guidance to people facing a list of commonplace but nonetheless life-altering problems: Help seeking or enforcing restraining orders; collecting child or spousal support; fighting foreclosures or housing discrimination and bad rental living conditions; disputing landlord’s decisions to keep security deposits; collecting unpaid wages; expunging old criminal convictions to make it easier to get a job; and working with debt collectors to pay down debt. The free legal help from Miller Nash is one of four clinics the firm is planning on doing each year. Morgan, the Legal Aid executive director, said her organization hopes to team up with other firms and lawyers in the Portland area and throughout the state to duplicate similar efforts.” (The Oregonian)
February 15, 2016 – “New research from Child Rights International Network (CRIN) has analysed and ranked how effectively children can use the law to challenge violations of their rights, in the first-ever global study on children’s access to justice.” “The research takes into account whether children can bring lawsuits when their rights are violated, the legal resources available to them, the practical considerations for taking legal action, and whether judges apply international law on children’s rights in their rulings. The report also offers a model of what access to justice should look like for children.” “CRIN wants this report to help provide new ideas and tools for those working to prevent violations of children’s rights and to demonstrate new avenues of legal redress.” (Child Rights International Network)
February 16, 2016 – “Statistics show Missouri’s public defenders are overworked and underpaid.” “The state system’s 376 public defenders handle about 100,000 cases per year. Based on a 2014 study, the system needs almost 270 additional attorneys to meet the current needs based on last budget year’s caseload data. To overcome the attorney shortfall, system officials requested a $23.1 million general revenue increase in the 2017 budget year that begins July 1 for caseload relief. Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, recommended a $1 million increase.” “Michael Barrett, system director, told the Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday the funding answer can lie somewhere in the middle. ‘I feel my obligation is to present what we need,’ Barrett said. But ‘we can see significant relief for a number that’s much smaller.’ The House General Administration Appropriations Committee on Monday approved the governor’s recommendation for the public defenders budget. It now moves to the full House Budget Committee for consideration, where it could change. Lawmakers have until May 6 to complete the budget.” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
February 16, 2016 – “Northwestern Pritzker School of Law announced Tuesday nine initiatives intended to make law school more affordable and support alumni.” One of the most significant is the new “$8,000 Summer Public Interest Funding Guarantee. Effective immediately, the law school is committing to guarantee summer funding of at least $8,000 for students who complete at least 20 volunteer hours for the Student Funded Public Interest Fellowships (SFPIF) or another nonprofit organization and whose summer employment resides within a public interest or nonprofit organization and lasts at least 10 weeks. The law school also will provide a two-to-one match for every dollar in excess of $60,000 that SFPIF raises during the academic year. These additional funds will then be distributed equally among qualifying students who complete at least 10 hours of volunteer work for SFPIF up to a cap of $10,000 per student. ‘To our knowledge, we will now have the most generous summer public interest funding guarantee of any law school in the country,’ [Dean Daniel] Rodriguez said. ‘This augmentation reinforces our increased commitment to invigorate our law school’s public interest culture, both in terms of expanding our programmatic offerings, and in supporting students who wish to pursue careers in public service.'” (Northwestern University News)
February 17, 2016 – “A bill to raise state court fees by $1 would provide much-needed funding for Legal Aid of Nebraska, supporters said Wednesday. State Sen. Adam Morfeld of Lincoln, who sponsored the legislative measure (LB1098), says it would raise an extra $355,000 a year for the nonprofit law firm that provides free legal help to low-income people in non-criminal cases. Seven in 10 low-income Nebraskans deal with a significant legal issue each year, Morfeld said.” (Lincoln Journal Star)
February 18, 2016 – “A Senate committee unanimously advanced a bill on Thursday that would help address myriad problems with Utah’s public-defender system. SB155, sponsored by Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, would create a commission to oversee indigent-defense services statewide. The bill was made in response to criticism that Utah is not meeting its constitutional requirement to provide legal help to those who can’t afford it. Utah is one of two states in the nation that delegate that responsibility to individual counties, which have had no state oversight to guide their efforts in meeting the Sixth Amendment obligation. The proposed commission would be responsible for collecting data, reviewing public-defender contracts, creating caseload guidelines and doling out money from a trust fund to counties that need it to provide defense services.” The state is currently facing a suit filed by the ACLU regarding its indigent defense system. (The Salt Lake Tribune)
Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:
Irell & Manella LLP, along with the Western Center on Law and Poverty and Jennison & Dodds LLP, won a dramatic overhaul of Kern County’s general assistance program on behalf of homeless and disabled residents unlawfully denied public assistance, named plaintiffs Hans Mills and Danny Bowen, and the California Partnership, a non-profit dedicated to serving low-income communities. Read more about their great work here (Irell in the News).
Super Music Bonus! Music pick from the PSJD Fellow Eulen Jang.