Archive for Public Interest Law News Bulletin

PSJD Public Interest News Digest – July 15, 2016

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

Happy Friday! Welcome to a double issue this week. Lots of funding news, and one interesting lawsuit, so let’s get to it.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • New attorneys’ fees in Ohio to fund legal aid;
  • Funds for new prosecutors in South Carolina;
  • Senator and Representative propose bills to fix America’s strained public defense system;
  • New Hampshire approves $1 million in new legal aid funds;
  • New fellowship promoting public interest law names first recipient;
  • Pennsylvania Department of Aging receives legal assistance grant;
  • Ohio lawyers donated over 76,000 pro bono hours;
  • Ontario Access to Justice Challenge finalists announced;
  • State grant funds more legal services for Vermont seniors;
  • Missouri’s public defender system sues over funding cuts;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

July 1, 2016 – “New attorneys’ fees approved by the Ohio Supreme Court will help fund legal services for poor and disadvantaged Ohioans. The fees taking effect Friday were adopted earlier this year by the Ohio Supreme Court. Under new court rules, annual registration fees paid by out-of-state attorneys to appear in Ohio courtrooms increase from $150 to $300. The court also approved a voluntary $50 ‘add-on’ fee on top of the $350 attorney registration fee paid every two years. Money raised from the fees will help pay for civil legal aid services for poor or disadvantaged Ohioans. The court’s Task Force on Access to Justice recommended the increases last year.” (Home Town Stations)

July 3, 2016 – “South Carolina’s criminal justice system will see changes in the coming months, as millions of dollars the Legislature approved to help lighten unmanageable prosecutor caseloads start to trickle into judicial circuits. The Legislature approved $7.8 million in this year’s state budget with the goal of adding an estimated 104 prosecutors statewide. The cash is expected to lower the burden on prosecutors, especially in poorer and rural districts, where the workload discrepancy is stark.” “Legislators also approved $2.9 million to have South Carolina hire more prosecutors specifically to deal with criminal domestic violence cases and end the practice of having police officers playing the role of prosecutor against seasoned criminal defense attorneys in magistrates court.” “The extra money is expected to reduce the average caseload to 280. ‘That’s a start,’ said David Ross, executive director of the Commission on Prosecution Coordination.” (The State)

July 8, 2016 – “U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18) announced the beginning of a new bicameral effort to fix America’s strained public defender system. Sen. Booker is introducing the Equal Justice Under Law Act of 2016, legislation that seeks to address the indigent defense crisis in many states throughout the country. Rep. Maloney has introduced the Equal Justice Under Law Act of 2016 in the House. The two will partner to advance the legislation through Congress. ‘The right to counsel is a constitutional right guaranteed to all Americans. Sadly, all too often our broken justice system falls short of providing this right, and the consequences of these shortcomings is felt most acutely in low-income communities all across this country,’ Sen. Booker said. ‘The Equal Justice Under Law Act seeks to fill in the glaring gaps that have left too many Americans vulnerable and without adequate legal representation. I will continue to work relentlessly to better balance the scales of justice so that we can truly be a nation of liberty and justice for all.'” “The Equal Justice Under Law Act of 2016 would: create a federal cause of action that allows indigent criminal defendants to file a lawsuit against states and political subdivisions for systemic failures to provide effective assistance of counsel in felony cases; permit litigants to file a class action lawsuit against states and localities for systemic failures to provide effective assistance of counsel in felony cases; and in the Senate version, it would require states to consult with representatives from the public defender community prior to distributing Byrne JAG funds.” (Cape May County Herald)

RELATED: “U.S. Sen. Cory Booker has also introduced the Clarence Gideon Full Access to Justice Act (Gideon Act), which would establish a federal corporation dedicated to delivering independent, uniform, and quality defense representation in criminal cases before the United States Supreme Court and, at times, the highest courts in the states.” “‘The Gideon Act seeks to support ordinary citizens in their pursuit of justice by providing access to high-quality and specialized representation at the Supreme Court.'” (Cape May Herald)

July 8, 2016 – “The [New Hampshire] Executive Council last week approved $1 million in new funding for New Hampshire Legal Assistance and two other organizations to expand legal aid services to more victims of stalking and domestic violence. Of the more than 5,000 domestic violence and stalking victims who filed restraining order petitions in the state in 2015, just 9 percent received legal help, according to the court system. ‘Victims who are unrepresented are at an enormous disadvantage in court,’ said Amanda Grady Sexton, public policy director for the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. With the new money, New Hampshire Legal Assistance will hire two attorneys focused solely on domestic violence and stalking cases, more than doubling the organization’s current capacity to help victims. The Legal Advice and Referral Center, which connects victims with crisis centers and lawyers, will hire an additional intake worker. And the New Hampshire Bar Association’s Pro Bono Program will launch a new statewide program to help stalking victims and work to recruit more private volunteer attorneys. The partnership will put more effort into reaching immigrant, refugee and non-English speaking victims who may face cultural or language barriers that prevent them from seeking help.” (Valley News)

July 8, 2016 – “Lisa Hartline overcame personal obstacles with poverty and homelessness to go to law school. At age 41, she’s a year away from her degree, and she plans to turn around and help others experiencing the same struggles she did in West Virginia. This year, Hartline was the inaugural recipient of the Regina Charon Fellowship, which provides a stipend to a West Virginia University College of Law student to spend the summer working at Legal Aid of West Virginia. The fellowship was created to honor a former Morgantown lawyer and administrative judge, Regina Charon, who worked for North Central Legal Aid of West Virginia after earning her law degree from WVU in 1976. It’s one of many internships funded through the West Virginia Fund for Law in the Public Interest. Hartline will spend 10 weeks working at the Parkersburg office of Legal Aid of West Virginia, with support from a $5,500 stipend.” (West Virginia Record)

July 8, 2016 – “Today, Pennsylvania Department of Aging Secretary Teresa Osborne announced that the department has received a federal grant to enhance and strengthen Pennsylvania’s senior legal service delivery systems. The grant will enable the department to further protect the rights, health, and safety of older Pennsylvanians, with a focus on victims of elder abuse and exploitation.” “The purpose of the grant is to implement a well-integrated and cost-effective legal service delivery system that maximizes the impact of limited legal resources for older Pennsylvanians with the greatest need. This entails assessing the capacity of the current legal service delivery system, developing and implementing legal service delivery standards and guidelines as well as data collection and reporting systems, creating and strengthening no-cost and low-cost legal service delivery mechanisms, and establishing new guardianship and court-based initiatives. The department will fulfill the grant requirements through a partnership with the SeniorLAW Center, a non-profit organization which improves the lives of older Pennsylvanians and protects their rights through legal representation, education, and advocacy.” (Yahoo Finance)

July 8, 2016 – “The Ohio Supreme Court says attorneys around the state donated more than 76,000 hours of legal services last year. The state’s high court and the Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation said Thursday that more than 4,300 attorneys voluntarily reported pro-bono services for 2015. That’s more than double the number of attorneys who reported such work last year.” (The Washington Times)

July 11, 2016 – “The Legal Innovation Zone at Ryerson University, in partnership with the Ministry of the Attorney General, announced the ten startup finalists in the Ontario Access to Justice Challenge. After reviewing the 29 applications received, 10 finalists have been chosen because of their innovative service, process, and/or solution that will challenge the status quo of legal services and enhance access to justice in Ontario. The 10 finalists are: Codify Legal Publishing, Compliance Buster, Courthouse Access, JusticeTrans, Law Scout Inc., Legale(a)se, Legally Inc., Lex Cortex Ltd, ParDONE and Small Claims Wizard. These 10 startups will pitch to a panel of judges on Wednesday July 20 at the Legal Innovation Zone. Six of these teams will be awarded working space at the Legal Innovation Zone for four months, including access to mentors, advisors and other resources.” “At the end of four months, the six startups will participate in a ‘Demo Day,’ where three of the six startups will be selected and awarded seed money totaling $50,000 and invited to stay in the Legal Innovation Zone for an additional four months.” (Legal Innovation Zone)

July 13, 2016 – “Vermont received an Administration for Community Living grant that will provide $178,500 each year for three years to expand legal services for at-risk older adults. The Model Approaches to Statewide Legal Assistance Systems demonstration grant is a cooperative grant between the Vermont Agency of Human Services’ Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living (DAIL) and Vermont Legal Aid. The grants are designed to help states respond effectively to legal issues affecting seniors with significant social or economic needs. In Vermont, the funding will be used to develop services specifically for seniors at the statewide legal hotline, Vermont Law Help, as well as to provide legal training, to do outreach, and to build and strengthen partnerships throughout the state with the court system, Adult Protective Services, the Office of Public Guardian, the Area Agencies on Aging, and others.” (Vermont Biz)

July 13, 2016 – “Missouri’s public defender agency is suing over what it calls Gov. Jay Nixon’s unconstitutional decision to withhold $3.5 million in funds for defending the indigent. The Missouri State Public Defender system and the state’s Public Defender Commission filed the lawsuit Wednesday in Cole County. The plaintiffs allege that Nixon has cut its budget by 8.5 percent while no general revenue was restricted from Nixon’s own budget.” (WGEM)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

For its work in providing unmet legal needs to underserved parts of the United States, the University of Georgia School of Law was awarded the State Bar of Georgia’s Law School Excellence in Access to Justice Award. The UGA School of Law was selected for the award because of its ‘Working in the Public Interest’ — UGA Law Student Access to Justice Project, a group-led, student-run conference. Public law practitioners from around the world travel to this conference held by UGA Law students to speak about public issues and provide networking opportunities to students interested in public law. (The Red & Black)

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

Comments

PSJD Public Interest News Digest – July 1, 2016

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

Happy 4th of July everyone!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Mandatory pro bono reporting proposed in Virginia;
  • Special Report:  A Year of Service;
  • Illinois Bar Foundation renews $15,000 grant to PILI;
  • Iowa Supreme Court establishes access to justice commission;
  • Thunder Bay one site for Ontario pilot project to assist victims of sexual assault;
  • 2016 Access to Justice Conference explores urgent need for civil legal assistance;
  • DC Bar Foundation awards $900,00 to expand access to justice;
  • JAG recruiters return to Lavender Law;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

June 23, 2016 – “A Virginia Supreme Court panel has proposed a requirement that lawyers report the number of hours and dollar amount of donations they make to pro bono each year. The June 5 proposal – unanimously approved by the court-appointed Virginia Access to Justice Commission – was presented June 16 to the Virginia State Bar.” (Virginia Lawyers Weekly)(subscription required)

June 27, 2016 – “The American Lawyer’s latest survey of Big Law’s pro efforts, from law firm rankings to project profiles and the state of the Justice Gap.” On of the most striking aspects of the survey is the wide range of pro bono projects, and the scope of their work.  The survey also looks specifically at the Clemency Project.  Check out the link for the full survey, including law firm pro bono rankings. (American Lawyer)

June 27, 2016 – “PILI is grateful to the Illinois Bar Foundation for renewing their $15,000 grant to PILI. This funding helps to support our statewide pro bono efforts through our Pro Bono Initiative and our Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committees. We share the IBF’s mission to enhance the availability of justice for those without attorneys, and through these programs we work to promote pro bono throughout the state.”  (Public Interest Law Initiative)

June 27, 2016 – “Too many Iowans can’t afford attorneys, giving people no choice but to represent themselves in the justice system, according to the Iowa Supreme Court. In response, the court is establishing the Iowa Access to Justice Commission to help remove financial barriers preventing people from getting legal representation, Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady wrote in an order on Monday.” “Along with the establishment of the Access to Justice Commission, Cady ordered a grant by way of $26,646 to the ISBA Public Service Project for the sole purpose of providing staff for the commission through July 2017.” (Des Moines Register)

June 28, 2016 – “Ontario is piloting a new program in three cities, including Thunder Bay, that will give survivors of sexual assault access to free legal advice, regardless of how much time has passed since the incident. Starting June 28, survivors of sexual assault living in Toronto, Ottawa, and the District of Thunder Bay will be able to receive up to four hours of free, confidential advice from a lawyer. The pilot is expected to run until March 2018. During that time, the province will assess the effectiveness of the program and determine its next steps.” (CBC News)

June 28, 2016 – “An outspoken former Chief Judge of the New York courts challenged judges and other leaders across the country to step up the fight to provide access to justice for thousands of people who, because of financial need, are left to represent themselves in civil court cases.” “The 2016 conference brought together attorneys, judges, legal service providers and lay people to discuss ongoing challenges to providing legal representation for thousands of people who have no means to pay an attorney in civil cases that often involve basic needs, such as housing issues and parental rights. Also included on the day-long conference agenda were discussions about homelessness, landlord-tenant mediation, attorney training for self-help centers, affordable housing issues, implicit bias, and ceded land and quiet title actions.” (University of Hawai’i System News)

June 30, 2016 – “Between July 2016 and December 2017, the DC Bar Foundation (DCBF) will award $900,000 to 22 organizations that provide direct civil legal assistance to underserved and low-income DC residents. These grants are funded by private donations to DCBF and by the DC Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts (IOLTA) program, which DCBF administers. The organizations receiving grants provide legal help in many areas of civil law, including housing, employment, domestic violence, immigration, education, health, and disability rights.” (DC Bar Foundation)

June 30, 2016 – In another historic step, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced today that, effective immediately, the US military will have a policy allowing for open transgender service. Not only is this great news for civil rights, but it also opens another avenue of legal service for many.  In response, the LGBT Bar has invited JAG recruiters to return to the Lavender Law Conference and Career Fair in August.  See the link for more details.  (LGBT Bar Association)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

The Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland presented its Pro Bono Service Awards to a wonderful group of attorneys.  The Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland is the statewide coordinator of volunteer legal services. Recipients include:
Lee A. Caplan Award: Gerald Kelly, Esq., Kelly | Dorsey, P.C. – Howard County

Young Lawyers Section Alex Fee Memorial Award: Jonathan D. Kossak, Esq., Miller & Chevalier Chartered- Washington, DC

Judge Robert M. Bell Award: Tracey Turner, Esq., DLA Piper – Baltimore City

Distinguished Pro Bono Volunteer Award: Andrea Trento, Esq., Hogan Lovells  – Baltimore City

Law Firm Pro Bono Service Award: Pamela West, Esq., P.S. West, Attorney at Law, LLC- Montgomery County

Pro Bono Program Award: Catholic Charities of Baltimore – Immigration Legal Services, Esperanza Center and the Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service

Herbert S. Garten Special Project Award: “Life for Lifers” project – Michael P. Lytle, Esq., The Law Offices of Michael Patrick Lytle- Anne Arundel County and Erica J. Suter, Esq., The Law Offices of Erica J. Suter, LLC – Prince George’s County

(Maryland Pro Bono Resource Center)

Music Bonus!  

 

Comments

PSJD Public Interest News Digest – June 24, 2016

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

Happy Friday!  Are you an intern in a new city looking for fun (and cheap) stuff to do?  Well, we’ve got you covered.  Check out our “Having Fun on the Cheap” in PSJD’s Resource Center. You just might find your next great adventure.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • New York State Senate approves indigent defense bill;
  • Texas Advocacy Project receives Texas Access to Justice Foundation grant;
  • John Marshall Law School Domestic Violence Clinic receives ISBA Excellence in Education Award;
  • ACLU sues Utah for failing indigent defense system;
  • Louisiana governor signs indigent defense funding bill;
  • Rhode Island Center for Law & Public Policy to close;
  • South Dakota lawyer set to launch the Collaborative Legal Incubator Program;
  • AmeriCorps to receive $2.7 million in Hawaii;
  • Texas A&M University School of Law launches incubator program;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

June 17, 2016 – “A long-running push to make the state pay full reimbursement for indigent defense costs passed a major hurdle Thursday afternoon. The state Senate voted 61-0 to approve the indigent defense bill, which came on the heels of the state Assembly’s unanimous approval last Friday. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has to sign the measure before it takes effect. The legislation would be phased in over the next seven years beginning in 2017.” (Watertown Daily Times)

June 17, 2016 – “Kicking off Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the Texas Advocacy Project announces it has received $165,496 in funding as one of eight agencies awarded a LASSA (Legal Aid for Survivors of Sexual Assault) grant from the Texas Access to Justice Foundation. The funding for these grants was obtained through a state tax levied on certain types of sexually-oriented businesses. With this funding The Project will continue delivering legal services to low-income sexual assault survivors including victims of intimate partner violence, acquaintance, and stranger sexual assault referred by collaborative partners. Family law services include advice and counsel through The Project’s legal lines, aid with protective orders including MOEPs, oversight in pro se matters, direct representation, and impact litigation. In addition to family law services, attorneys at The Project will provide holistic legal remedies that are identified as primary needs of survivors, such as safety, privacy, employment, housing, immigration, and education. Finally, funding allows The Project to participate in targeted outreach and trainings to college and university students, faculty, campus law enforcement, and others on the legal rights of victims of sexual assault, leveraging its experience with youth and education law to benefit that especially vulnerable population.”  (The Dallas Weekly)

June 20, 2016 – “The John Marshall Law School’s Domestic Violence Clinic was awarded the Excellence in Legal Education Award by the Illinois State Bar Association. The ISBA award honors law school programs that emphasize real-world skills for students. The award is a wonderful honor, said Domestic Violence Clinic director and John Marshall Law School Professor Debra Pogrund Stark. ‘I’m so proud of the dedicated students and attorneys in our clinic who do such excellent work with adult and child survivors of domestic violence. We all hope the validation this award provides will help us to promote the clinic’s work and to fund the costs to operate the clinic at the highest level of excellence.’ The ISBA’s Standing Committee on Women and the Law nominated the Domestic Violence Clinic for the award calling it ‘truly unique.'” (Globe Newswire)

June 20, 2016 – “The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah is suing the state for failing to provide adequate indigent defense services to the public…a requirement under the 6th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The ACLU issued a report back in 2011 that said Utah was falling short of its obligation to provide attorneys to criminal defendants who can’t afford to hire one. The 6th Amendment Center, based in Boston, Massachusetts, reached the same conclusion last fall when it released a report of its own. Marina Lowe is the legislative and policy council for the ACLU of Utah. ‘People’s rights are being violated today,’ Lowe says. ‘It’s not enough to say, in three years maybe you’ll get what is your due under the constitution. It’s not like your rights can be put on a layaway plan.’ Utah is one of only two states that neither funds, nor oversees indigent defense. That responsibility is left to individual counties. That’s led to inconsistent service across the state, says Salt Lake City Attorney and former public defender Rich Mauro.” “During the 2016 Legislative Session, lawmakers passed a bill to create an indigent defense commission to track cases and develop guidelines for local defenders. It also provided $1.5 million in one-time funding for county governments. The ACLU’s Marina Low says that’s insignificant considering counties across the state spend roughly $24 million per year on indigent defense.” (KUER)

June 21, 2016 – “Louisiana will rework how it spends the money it allocates to defending the poor, to ensure two-thirds of it flows to local indigent defenders, under a new law signed by Gov. John Bel Edwards. That measure was among a package of bill signings released Monday evening by the governor’s office. The bill by Rep. Sherman Mack, R-Albany, requires the Louisiana Public Defender Board to dedicate at least 65 percent of its annual financing to local defenders of the indigent, which have been struggling with financial shortfalls.” (nola.com)

June 21, 2016 – “Geoffrey A. Schoos, president of the Rhode Island Center for Law and Public Policy, Inc. (RICLAPP), a non-profit legal services organization, recently announced the center will cease operations and close its doors at 3288 Post Road in Warwick effective June 30. ‘As a non-profit legal services organization that provided legal counsel and direct services to thousands of low-income, underserved Rhode Islanders, finances were always a challenge,’ Schoos wrote in an email to the Beacon. Over the past two years, Schoos said the center has attempted to obtain funds through the legislature and the judiciary, as well as from private donors and foundations. For several months, he said the center suspended taking new clients until funds could be found to continue operations. There were even attempts to merge with other organizations in an effort to keep the legal services available to those most in need, but those efforts were unsuccessful.” (Warwick Beacon)

June 21, 2016 – “A Sioux Falls lawyer wants to mobilize her peers to help close a gap that exists for lower-income South Dakotans in need of legal services. Taneeza Islam, a Sioux Falls immigration lawyer, created a free year-long program called the Collaborative Legal Incubator Program, or CLIP, that will train young lawyers on how to run successful firms, and in turn, they will provide free to low cost legal services to low-income clients for at least a year. ‘What it does is provide access to vulnerable community members by training new lawyers on how to build a sustainable practice,’ Islam said. ‘Access to a lawyer is critical for these vulnerable people to help them navigate the legal system.'” (Argus Leader)

June 23, 2016 – “Sen. Brian Schatz was able to secure $2.7 million to help fund AmeriCorps programs across the state, officials confirmed Wednesday. ‘This new funding is great news for Hawaii,’ Schatz said. ‘AmeriCorps members supported by these grants will serve across the state, teaching in high-need schools, improving public parks, and providing legal resources and other services to veterans and their families.’ The funds from the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency for volunteering and service programs, will support three grants. One will go toward supporting 18 AmeriCorps members who work at the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii.” (The Garden Island)

June 23, 2016 – “In response to the need to train recent law graduates for solo practice and to help bridge the state’s justice gap, Texas A&M University School of Law is introducing a new incubator program designed to accelerate recent graduates’ transition from law school to solo and small firm practice. This is the first incubator-type program launched in Texas. The Texas Bar Foundation approved a grant to support the program, formally titled The Texas Apprenticeship Network: Empowering Solo Practitioners to Help Bridge the Justice Gap.” “The Texas Apprenticeship Program will match recent law graduates with practitioners who share the common goal of helping address the state’s growing need for attorneys to assist pro bono and modest means clients. The recent graduates, as apprentices, will work in the offices of solo and small firm attorneys who mentor the apprentices in communities and areas of interest in which the apprentices want to work after admission to law practice. Through this process, the apprentices will obtain experience while learning about practice management. The mentors will also commit to connecting the apprentices in the community. In addition to learning from their mentors, the apprentices will complete a practicum on law practice management. In the practicum, the apprentices will develop their business plans and tools for their solo practices. The practicum also provides a network for the apprentices and opportunities for innovation. For example, the apprentices may collaborate in developing tools and applications for unbundled legal services.” (PRNewswire)

 

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

Here at PSJD we love pro bono for so many reasons.  This summer, we are honoring law school faculty and staff who dedicate their time to helping their communities.  Our new blog series – Faculty/Staff Pro Bono Spotlight, is one way we’re recognizing these dedicated public servants.  Check out the honorees every Tuesday.  And if you are someone you know is doing great work, let us know about it at psjd@nalp.org. Don’t be shy.  If you don’t get the word out there, who will?

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

Comments

PSJD Public Interest News Digest – June 17, 2016

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

Happy Friday!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Harvard clinical program receives grant from Milstein Foundation to launch Syrian Refugee Resettlement Project;
  • Tennessee Supreme Court selects firm to launch new pro bono initiative;
  • The Legal Services Corporation turns to law firms for assistance;
  • Attorney and entrepreneur seek to uberize legal services;
  • Virginia Access to Justice Commission launches self-help website;
  • Pace University’s Elisabeth Haub School of Law launches Food and Beverage Law Clinic;
  • Volunteer Legal Services Hawaii receives surplus funds from bank settlement;
  • Echoing Green announces 2016 Fellows;
  • USPTO to expand law school clinic certification program;
  • Ohio Attorney General announces grant for legal aid for seniors;
  • Equal Justice Works gets grant to help elder-abuse victims;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

June 10, 2016 – “The Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program has received a generous grant from the Howard and Abby Milstein Foundation to launch the Syrian Refugee Resettlement Project. The Obama Administration has committed to resettling at least 10,000 Syrian refugees in the current fiscal year. Due to bottlenecks in processing, the United States has fallen far short of its goal to date. Over the next six months, the Clinic will be working to gather and analyze information regarding current obstacles to efficient processing of Syrians destined for U.S. resettlement. The Clinic will compile a compendium of relevant laws and regulations related to refugee resettlement, document current practice, and make practical recommendations for improvements to those processes. The report will be broadly disseminated to both Congress and the Administration and will include specific recommendations for reform.” (Harvard Law Today)

June 10, 2016 – “As part of an initiative designed to improve access to legal services, the Tennessee Supreme Court has created a new way for attorneys to earn required CLE credit for doing pro bono work and the court has designated Nashville’s Bass Berry & Sims as the first firm in the state to offer the program. Over the past decade, the court has, through the creation of the Access to Justice Commission, searched for ways to increase access to legal services. The Commission petitioned the Court to create a new designation — ‘approved legal assistance organization’ — to expand the types of entities that may confer CLE credit for pro bono cases. Under previous CLE rules, attorneys were ineligible to receive CLE credits for pro bono cases unless the cases were referred to them by a legal aid organization receiving federal funding. The update enables those organizations approved by the Tennessee Supreme Court to offer the incentive directly. As part of an approved legal assistance organization, Bass attorneys will be able to receive one hour of CLE credit for each five hours of pro bono representation. The maximum CLE credit an attorney can earn annually through this program is three. Tennessee attorneys are required to earn 15 CLE credits annually.” “Ann Pruitt, executive director at Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services, said several other law firms have completed the application and qualification process to become approved legal assistance organizations.”  (Nashville Post)

June 13, 2016 – “In the fall of 2014, for the first time in its 40-year history, the Legal Services Corporation turned to the nation’s largest law firms for financial support. The cash-strapped organization asked big firms to commit as much as $250,000 or more to support its mission of funding civil legal services programs for the poor.”  So far, the effort has yielded just over $2.5 million from law firm contributions.  Some firms have stepped up in a big way, contributing the goal amount of $250,000 or more to the effort.  “This first round of law firm donations are primarily funding a summer rural legal fellows program, in which 32 lawyers in 28 states will be helping the rural poor.  (Equal Justice Works is training the fellows and administering the program.) LSC is committed to funding the rural fellows program for at least five years, said [John Levi, a Sidley & Austin partner who chairs LSC’s board], who added that he’d like to raise enough money to put 50 lawyers in the field.”  The American Lawyer takes a look at who has contributed and how much.  There have been some great efforts so far, but it is clear from the article, that there is more work to be done.  (American Lawyer)

June 13, 2016 – “[U]p until now, the legal industry had remained relatively untouched by this newfound demand for digital automation. Partners Matthew Horn and Ryan Caltagirone are ready to change that. Founded in 2015, Legal Services Link has rapidly risen to become one of the industry’s most dynamic assets for consumers. It’s essentially an intuitive, online forum that enables businesses and individuals to instantly connect with the perfect attorney to suit their legal needs. Not only does Legal Services Link provide users with access to an all-encompassing, old-fashioned database with which to track down legal help — but it also allows them to post a concise summary of the precise job they’ve got in mind. In turn, multiple attorneys are then free to review the work and submit an application directly back to the user. Bottom line: rather than chase down dozens of attorneys, Legal Services Link ensures that the perfect person for the job comes directly to you. Better yet, the service is completely free for would-be clients. It’s also free for attorneys to join the forum — although they are required to pay a small annual fee in order to upgrade to a premium account and communicate directly with clients.” “As part of the Chicago-based 1871 incubator, Legal Services Link has taken off fast — and it’s already started to turn heads within the legal industry. In May, the fledgling start-up expanded its increasingly diverse pool of attorneys after launching a new partnership with the Military Spouse JD Network (MSJDN), a bar association for attorneys whose spouses are or were in the military. And as Legal Services Link continues its aggressive rate of expansion, Horn said he’s hopeful the legal industry will finally start to evolve along with it.” (Small Business Trends)

June 14, 2016 – “The Virginia Judicial System Court Self-Help Website provides neutral legal information as a public service on common topics of interest for self-represented litigants. Topics include traffic tickets, divorce, and landlord-tenant issues. The website features glossaries of legal terms used in the district and circuit courts and instructions for routine processes. The goal is to make the courts more accessible for all citizens, the court said in a news release. A project of the Virginia Access to Justice Commission, the website addresses various case types and organizes information from the state judicial system website and other sources into user friendly content areas. The site features responsive design that works on computers, smartphones, and tablets, the release said.” (Virginia Lawyers Weekly)

June 14, 2016 – “Pace University’s Elisabeth Haub School of Law announced today that it has received a generous grant of $400,000 from alumnus Rob Sands, and from Constellation Brands, where Mr. Sands is CEO and President. The gift will sponsor a two-year pilot of a new Food and Beverage Law Clinic that will provide transactional legal services to farmers, community and grassroots groups, and mission-oriented food and beverage entrepreneurs. The Clinic is part of a broader collaboration between Pace Law and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) to expand the capacity of the legal community to provide direct services to individuals and organizations seeking to build a more sustainable and healthy regional food system. In order to implement innovative practices, farmers, food entrepreneurs, micro brewers and distillers, and other activists must navigate a complicated legal landscape governing everything from labeling to estate planning.” (PR Newswire)

June 14, 2016 – “Volunteer Legal Services Hawaii received $107,000 from the Perkin & Faria law firm after the settlement of a $2 million class action against American Savings Bank over the bank’s overdraft fees, firm partner Brandee Faria told Pacific Business News on Tuesday. The lawsuit was among a group of cases filed by Perkin & Faria in 2011 against American Savings Bank, Central Pacific Bank and Bank of Hawaii. The suits alleged that the banks used improper methods of calculating overdraft fees on debit card and ATM transactions.” “Surplus settlement funds accumulate when class members in a case are, for various reasons, unable to collect them. According to Hawaii’s cy pres rule, certain charitable organizations in Hawaii receive these funds, legal service organizations among them. Most of the money will go to support Volunteer Legal Services Hawaii’s core services, including its biweekly legal clinics.” (Pacific Business News)

June 14, 2016 – “Echoing Green, a global organization that supports social entrepreneurs, today announced its 2016 Fellowship class. These 33 exceptional innovators will develop social enterprises that address some of the world’s most intractable challenges around economic development, racial and gender equity, food security, and the environment. Each Fellow will become part of a global network of leaders identified by Echoing Green as dramatic, scalable, and important to the progress of the world. Fellows will access a community of funders, investors, and entrepreneurs across issue areas, geographies, and disciplines. Seed funding of up to $90,000 will also be available to them for two years to support the growth of their organizations. For nearly 30 years, Echoing Green has provided a launch pad for projects with a purpose. It serves as an early and important investor in the growing field of social entrepreneurship. This year, the organization reviewed 2,077 applications from 120 countries, which represent meaningful trends from the front lines of social change. This year’s Fellows are split almost evenly between for-profit (43 percent) and nonprofit organizations (39 percent). An additional 14 percent have a hybrid model, and 4 percent are not yet decided.” (Globe Newswire)

June 15, 2016 – “The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced that it opened the current Law School Clinic Certification Program (Program) to admit additional schools to commence participation in the Program. This Program allows law students to practice patent and/or trademark law before the USPTO under the guidance of a law school faculty clinic supervisor. Submissions from interested law school clinical programs will be accepted on a rolling basis until June 30, 2017. Applications from interested law school clinics will be examined for admission into the Program as they are received.
Students in both the patent and trademark portions of the Program can expect to draft and file applications and respond to Office Actions. Each law school clinical program must meet and maintain the requirements for USPTO certification in order for law school clinic students to practice before the USPTO. The Program began in 2008 with 6 schools selected to allow students to practice before the USPTO in patents and/or trademarks. The Program expanded in 2010, 2012 and 2014.  Currently 42 law school clinics participate in the Program, 17 clinics participate in both the patent and trademark portions of the Program, 19 clinics participate only in the trademark portion of the Program, and 6 clinics participate only in the patent portion of the Program. Details on the Program expansion and application materials are available here.” (USPTO News & Updates)

June 15, 2016 – “In recognition of Elder Abuse Awareness Day, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has announced a $738,000 grant to support a statewide project of Pro Seniors and Ohio’s legal aids to provide free legal assistance to older Ohioans. The funding will support a telephone-based legal hotline and direct civil legal guidance and assistance to Ohioans age 60 and older. Pro Seniors, as the lead organization and coordinator, will receive referrals from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. In partnership with Ohio’s legal aids, they will provide legal assistance to seniors, their family members, and individuals concerned about the health, financial stability, safety, and security of seniors.” (The Van Wert Independent)

June 15, 2016 – “Equal Justice Works has received a $1.4 million grant as a part of the Elder Justice AmeriCorps initiative, the nonprofit organization announced Tuesday. In response to growing awareness of elder abuse, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Corporation for National and Community Service announced the creation of the Elder Justice AmeriCorps grant program in September 2015 to provide elder abuse victims with legal aid and support services. The $1.4 million grant, awarded over the next two years, will help Equal Justice Works connect 150 AmeriCorps members—25 practicing lawyers and 125 law students—and some 300 pro bono volunteers to a network of partner organizations that focus on elder abuse. Under the supervision and training of these organizations, volunteers will provide legal assistance to about 8,000 low-income adults.” (American Lawyer)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

Roger Benson, 83, may be retired but he hasn’t stopped working. As a volunteer for Prairie State Legal Services, the former associate judge handled 20 divorce cases last year. He’s lead the charge on 165 cases in his 15-year tenure, according to pro bono coordinator Nancy Hinton. Benson’s volunteer legal work has earned him the Illinois State Bar Association’s John C. McAndrews Pro Bono Service Award. Congratulations, and thank you!! (Daily Journal)

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

Comments

PSJD Public Interest News Digest – June 10, 2016

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

Happy Friday! I’m so sad to be saying goodbye to our PSJD Fellow Eulen Jang this week.  She has been such a pleasure to work with, and has contributed so much to PSJD.  We will miss her very much!  In very good news for all of us, she has made sure we have music for the Super Music Bonus to sustain us through the rest of the summer. So we will have a piece of her for a bit longer. We wish her well at the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights.  We know she will be doing great things!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Toronto judge rules legal aid qualifying threshold too high;
  • Boston Bar Foundation grants support assistance to homeless and others;
  • Bill to reimburse counties for indigent defense passes New York Assembly;
  • Missouri public defense system to see budget increase;
  • Free women’s legal aid clinic opens in British Columbia in partnership with law school;
  • Ottawa commits an extra $30 million for legal aid;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

June 3, 2016 – “A Toronto judge has criticized the income cut-off for legal aid funding in Ontario as ‘not realistic’ given the face of poverty in Canada. Superior Court Justice Ian Nordheimer was presiding over the case of Tyrell Moodie, charged with a number of drug offences, who was denied funding by Legal Aid Ontario because he made more than the organization’s threshold income level for a single person — about $12,000. Moodie, 23, works part time and earned about $16,000 in 2015. Nordheimer put a halt to the charges against Moodie until the government picks up the tab for his lawyer, which the court heard could cost a minimum of $11,000. ‘It should be obvious to any outside observer that the income thresholds being used by Legal Aid Ontario do not bear any reasonable relationship to what constitutes poverty in this country,’ Nordheimer wrote in a ruling last week.” “A spokesperson for LAO said demand for legal aid for low-income individuals remains high. ‘Although the province has recognized this and has made a multi-year commitment to raising the legal aid financial eligibility thresholds, Legal Aid Ontario has a yearly budget it must adhere to and it must prioritize, in accordance with its legislation, the cases it is able to fund,’ said Feroneh Neil in an email. There have been three 6-percent increases to the financial eligibility thresholds since 2014, Neil noted, with the most recent this past April.” (The Hamilton Spectator)

June 3, 2016 – “Housing Families of Malden will get a share of $1 million in grants from the Boston Bar Foundation (BBF), the charitable affiliate of the Boston Bar Association. The grants will go to 21 community organizations that work to provide legal services to those in need. Approximately 55 percent of the funding comes from proceeds from BBF’s annual John & Abigail Adams Benefit and BBF reserves, with the remainder derived from Interest on Lawyer Trust Account (IOLTA) funds. The grantee organizations administer legal aid to the most vulnerable and underprivileged members of the population, such as the homeless, domestic violence survivors, at-risk children and veterans. ‘I am thrilled that the Boston Bar Foundation’s grants program has reached the million-dollar mark,’ said BBF President Lisa Goodheart, a partner at Sugarman Rogers Barshak & Cohen. ‘The tremendous success of the John & Abigail Adams Benefit, as well as the year-round support of the BBF’s mission by lawyers, law firms, and area businesses has allowed us to assist these 21 important organizations in providing access to justice for those in need.'”  (Wicked Local Malden)

June 3, 2016 – “The New York State Assembly passed legislation [last week] that would fully reimburse counties for the costs of providing public defenders to poor defendants by 2023. The legislation, which passed with 132 yes votes, and 0 no votes, would reimburse counties an increasing percentage of public defense costs, starting at 25 percent in 2017 until it reimbursed 100 percent of counties’ costs by 2023.” “The legislation is in response to new guidelines released by the state’s Office of Indigent Legal Defense that drastically increase the number of criminal defendants who would qualify for a free public defender by doubling the income cutoff from 125 percent of the federal poverty threshold to 250 percent. The new 250 percent income cutoff means a single defendant would need to earn less than $29,700 a year to qualify for a free lawyer, double the $14,850 or less they’d have had to earn under the 125 percent cutoff. The new guidelines, announced in April, are set to go into effect October 3.” “An identical bill is currently pending in the Senate’s Finance Committee.” (Livingston County News)

June 6, 2016 – “Missouri’s public defenders will see a $4.5 million cash infusion in the coming fiscal year, after studies and experts have described the office as chronically underfunded. Under the state budget that takes effect July 1, the State Public Defender System could begin chipping away at caseloads that have raised questions about whether poor defendants are being adequately represented. While it likely will mean the hiring of an additional 10 employees, the bulk of the money is going to be used to hire private attorneys on a contractual basis, allowing the office’s 370-plus attorneys to focus on their cases, said system director Michael Barrett. ‘This targeted funding will allow us to contract out co-defendants to the private bar, significantly reducing the amount of time attorneys spend on the road and replacing it with time spent working on cases,’ Barrett said. ‘It makes an already efficient defender system all the more so.'” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

June 7, 2016 – “A new center for women, the first of its kind in British Columbia, opened its doors May 24 to provide legal help for free or a reduced-cost. ‘We are incredibly proud to announce that, today, the doors open to an historic new service in B.C.,’ said a spokesperson for the charity responsible for setting up the service. ‘We couldn’t be more thrilled that BC women will now have greater access to legal assistance.’ The charity, West Coast LEAF, partnered with the law school at the University of British Columbia to open a full service storefront legal clinic that will serve low income women. Rise Women’s Legal Centre, will provide a full range of legal services with a focus in family law. It will be staffed by upper-year law students who are closely supervised by onsite attorneys. Services will include filing documents in court and representing clients in their hearings.” (GoodNewsNetwork)

June 8, 2016 – “Ottawa plans to give the provinces more money for legal aid programs to help improve access to the justice system. ‘All Canadians — no matter their means — should have the right to a fair trial and access to a modern, efficient justice system,’ Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said in a statement issued Wednesday. The federal government committed $88 million over five years in the federal budget this year. Wilson-Raybould now has announced another $30 million a year in ongoing funding to boost legal aid services for people who cannot afford to pay for lawyers. But that additional funding will not begin until 2021.” “The money will go to the federal Legal Aid Program, which is then distributed to the provinces for delivery of services. Each province and territory sets its own policies and priorities when it comes to legal aid. The government said the money will also come with performance measures to ensure it is doing what it is supposed to do.” (Winnipeg Free Press)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

Pro Bono Innovator of the Year – Suffolk Law School

One of two Pro Bono Innovator of the Year honors goes to Suffolk Law’s Institute on Law Practice Tech & Innovation (LPTI), the school’s parent organization of legal technology programs, and its Accelerator-to-Practice Program. The program teaches students how to use legal technology, practice law, and give legal services to low and middle income clients. LPTI is also training students on how to use high-tech tools that make lawyering more efficient and lower the costs per client. Law students learn about project management, process improvement and document automation, as well. (Legal Tech News)

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

Comments

PSJD Public Interest News Digest – June 3, 2016

Happy Friday!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Understanding taxable forgiveness on student loans;
  • Wal-Mart Law Stores a reality in Missouri;
  • New York City Bar urges Governor and Legislature to support fully funding indigent defense;
  • Michigan Supreme Court conditionally approves initial standards for indigent defense;
  • Legal aid with a digital twist;
  • Some non-profit employees told they don’t qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness;
  • Bill to guarantee public defender funding sent to Louisiana Governor;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

May 27, 2016 – Here is a great article from Ashley Matthews, former PSJD Fellow and current Program Manager for Law School Engagement & Advocacy for Equal Justice Works, on the taxable forgiveness options besides Public Service Loan Forgiveness.  (Huffington Post)

June 1, 2016 – “According to a 2009 study by the Legal Services Corp., a nonprofit funder of civil legal-aid groups, less than 20 percent of legal problems experienced by low-income Americans are addressed with the help of an attorney. Reasons for not seeking legal representation vary. Studies suggest some people assume they can resolve legal issues themselves, others may not be aware their problem is legally actionable, and some believe they cannot afford the help of a lawyer. Whatever the barrier to legal representation, The Law Store hopes to break it down. A fully functional legal office based in Wal-Mart stores, two Law Store locations will have grand openings today. The stores — one in the Wal-Mart Supercenter at 2623 W. 7th St. in Joplin [Missouri] and the other in the Wal-Mart Supercenter at 3200 Lusk Drive in Neosho [Missouri] — have been operating since early May, handling basic legal services such as traffic offenses, family law and wills and estate planning. ‘The Law Store is a law firm, that’s what it is,’ said Katrina Richards, a Joplin attorney and chief public relations officer for The Law Store. ‘But what we handle are basic, transactional services, smaller things. Things that most every American needs, but a lot of people are not able, or they don’t know a lawyer, or they just, for some reason, they don’t go to a lawyer to get these types of services. Those types of things that can help out everyday Americans, but they otherwise might not get the service.’ The Law Store operates on an upfront, menu-style pricing model instead of the traditional hourly rate, and it doesn’t charge for an initial consultation.” “Five more locations are planned in Missouri by the end of the year, and the company says 11 other states have expressed interest in bringing in The Law Store locations. Hershewe said the business could be in as many as 1,500 Wal-Mart stores.”(The Joplin Globe)

June 1, 2016 – “The City Bar’s Mass Incarceration Task Force sent a report to Albany last week urging the Legislature and Governor Cuomo to support full funding of indigent defense services throughout New York State by backing bill A.6202-C/S.6341-B (the ‘Bill’). The right to counsel in criminal proceedings is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, the New York Constitution and state law; and in Gideon v. Wainwright, the Supreme Court held that states are required to provide counsel to any person charged with a crime who cannot afford a lawyer. However, New York’s County Law 18-B makes the 62 state counties responsible for providing indigent defense services, and has resulted in a ‘patchwork of services’ that falls short of the constitutional mandate. The report encourages the enactment of the Bill this session, which ‘would send the message to New Yorkers and to the country that New York State is committed to a fair criminal justice system where a person’s right to meaningful and effective counsel does not depend on his or her location within the State.’ The Bill also would require the State to reimburse every county the full amount of its expenditures for providing indigent defense services. Additionally, it would require statewide standards and regulations that ensure every person has an attorney at arraignment, that regulate the caseloads of public defense attorneys so as to allow for meaningful and effective representation, and that improve the overall quality of court-appointed representation.” (New York City Bar)

June 1, 2016 – “With Administrative Order No. 2016-2, the Michigan Supreme Court today announced its conditional approval of standards that would regulate the appointment of counsel for indigent defendants in criminal cases. The standards, initially submitted by the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission (MIDC), also impose specific training, experience, and continuing legal education requirements on attorneys who seek appointment as counsel in these cases. The Court took this action to enable the legislatively-approved process, which is intended to promote the goal of providing effective assistance of counsel for indigent defendants in criminal cases, to continue without disruption. Although the Court shares the Legislature’s goal of providing effective assistance of counsel for these defendants, the Court’s approval is subject to and contingent on legislative revision of the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission Act (the Act) to address provisions of uncertain constitutionality.” (Michigan Courts News Release)

June 1, 2016 – Here is another great example of technology making it easier and more efficient to provide legal aid.  The article also takes a look at the ever-growing link between technology and legal services. “Matthew Stubenberg was a law student at the University of Maryland in 2010 when he spent part of a day doing expungements. It was a standard law school clinic where students learn by helping clients — in this case, he helped them to fill out and file petitions to erase parts of their criminal records. Although Maryland has a public database called Case Search, using that data to fill out the forms was tedious. ‘We spent all this time moving data from Case Search onto our forms,’ Stubenberg said. ‘We spent maybe 30 seconds on the legal piece. Why could this not be easier? This was a problem that could be fixed by a computer.’ Stubenberg knew how to code. After law school, he set out to build software that automatically did that tedious work. By September 2014 he had a prototype for MDExpungement, which went live in January 2015. (The website is not pretty — Stubenberg is a programmer, not a designer.) With MDExpungement, entering a case number brings it up on Case Search. The software then determines whether the case is expungeable. If so, the program automatically transfers the information from Case Search to the expungement form. All that’s left is to print, sign and file it with the court.” (New York Times)

June 2, 2016 – “Some nonprofit employees counting on the federal government’s Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program recently received word that they don’t qualify, for reasons that remain unclear. The change might be related to an employer’s tax status. Part of the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007, the PSLF program includes charitable nonprofit employers that under the Internal Revenue Code have 501(c)(3) status. PSLF program guidelines include other nonprofits that provide public service, but some, including the American Bar Association—which has 501(c)(6) status—were told earlier this year that they don’t qualify, although they received employer certification in previous years.” “Some American Civil Liberties Union offices also lost employer certification for the program, while others received various answers from the federal government.” The first forgiveness of loan balances is expected in October 2017. Until then, it appears there will remain uncertainty and conflicting information.  Stay tuned! (ABA Journal)

June 2, 2016 – “The Louisiana House has given final passage to a reshuffling of how the state spends its money on defending the poor. With a 100-0 vote Thursday, the House sent the governor a Senate-backed House Bill 1137 from Rep. Sherman Mack, R-Albany, to require the Louisiana Public Defender Board to dedicate at least 65 percent of its annual financing to local defenders of the indigent. Parishes have reduced and restricted indigent defense services under strained operating budgets. In some recent cases, law enforcement officials have released people charged with serious crimes from prison because public defenders were not available to represent them in criminal cases. Members of the House and Senate have debated a number of ways to fund the cash-strapped system throughout the legislative session. But Mack worked with the Louisiana District Attorneys Association and people opposing the measure to gain support for his proposal and create a workable indigent defense bill that could advance to the governor. Mack said the funding percentage may not be a large change from the amount of money already given to public defenders, but the proposal would guarantee that the offices would receive a threshold amount of funding each year.” (The New Orleans Advocate)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

It is with a very heavy heart that we reflect on the passing of one of our community, Melanie Kushnir.  Many of you will remember her from her time with the ABA Center for Pro Bono.  Most recently, she was the Pro Bono Project Director for the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada.  She was a passionate advocate and a good friend to those who needed access to justice the most.  We will miss her very much!

Here is nice tribute to Melanie – Las Vegas Journal-Review

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

Comments

PSJD Public Interest News Digest – May 27, 2016

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

Happy Friday!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Inaugural Gallogly Family Foundation Public Interest Fellowship awarded to three University of Oklahoma College of Law graduates;
  • Justice Sotomayor would like to see mandatory pro bono;
  • The University of Minnesota Law School launches the Minnesota Law Public Interest Residency Program;
  • Illinois pushes legal aid for juveniles in murder cases;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

May 19, 2016 – “The University of Oklahoma College of Law announced the selection of three of its 2016 graduates to the inaugural class of the Gallogly Family Foundation Public Interest Fellowship Program. The program supports recent graduates of a select number of leading law schools across the country. In its first year, the Gallogly Family Foundation selected the OU College of Law to serve as the pilot school for the Foundation’s fellowships.” “At at time when funding for public interest legal services is in great need, the Gallogly program exists to increase the number of people who receive much-needed services and to help new lawyers pursue a career in public interest law. It is modeled after the prestigious Skadden Public Interest Fellowships. Each Gallogly Fellowship includes a compensation and benefits package of $50,000 and is awarded for one year with the option to renew for an additional year. Fellows work for a domestic 501(c)(3) nonprofit on a new or existing project within the organization. Qualified organizations provide legal services to the poor and/or those deprived of their civil or human rights.” (Tulsa Business & Legal News)

May 19, 2016 – “U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor is winning praise for re-energizing the movement toward mandatory pro bono for lawyers with her recent remarks on the subject, but some advocates think the requirement poses significant challenges and won’t work for everyone. In remarks May 16 before the American Law Institute, Sotomayor said, ‘If I had my way, I would make pro bono service a requirement’ for all lawyers, adding, ‘I believe in forced labor.'”  A flurry of commentary followed.  The National Law Journal looks at the ensuing debate.  (National Law Journal)(subscription required)

May 23, 2016 – “The University of Minnesota Law School announced today the launch of an innovative program to provide students committed to serving the public with valuable legal experience and to provide them with guaranteed legal employment post-graduation, while providing leading public interest and government organizations with much-needed legal assistance. The Minnesota Law Public Interest Residency Program, established by a gift from Allen (’56) and Linda Saeks, will connect leading public interest and government organizations with high-achieving law students, committed to long-term careers in serving the public interest. Students selected for the program work as an extern full-time (32-hours per week) during their third year of law school for a nonprofit or government agency for which they receive law school credit toward their graduation. Upon graduation, the law student is guaranteed a full-time, paid legal position with the same organization the year following graduation.” (University of Minnesota)

May 24, 2016 – “A lawyer would have to be present when police question juveniles younger than 15 in murder or sex offense investigations under a measure Illinois lawmakers are considering that seeks to eliminate false confessions. Illinois currently mandates legal representation for children younger than 13 in those cases, even if they’re not the targets of the criminal probe. However, the two Democratic legislators sponsoring the new bill say 14- and 15-year-olds should receive legal protection too. Tim Curry, director of training and technical assistance at the National Juvenile Defender Center, said most children don’t know to invoke their rights to an attorney.” “The bill would require that when police question anyone younger than 18 about a murder or sex crime, they must read a simplified Miranda warning explaining the person’s right to stay silent and have legal counsel. It also would guarantee that interrogations of all juveniles be videotaped in misdemeanor and felony cases.” (ABC News)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

Alaska Bar Association 2016 Pro Bono Award recipients Rob & Jeannie Sato (Solo Practioner); Dorsey & Whitney (Firm); Matt Claman (Public Sector); Lee Holden (Lifetime Achievement).

Lee Holden: “Receiving a Lifetime Achievement award is much deserved when you’ve had a 38 year long career devoted to helping Alaskans.  Lee’s career has been focused on employment law by representing employees, unions, and small employers in her private practice; however, she has left a distinct footprint on the clients of Alaska Legal Services Corporation over the last 15 years. Lee has not only carried a pro bono caseload and provided employment law consultations but also pioneered ALSC’s Employment Law ‘Attorney of the Day’ program. This program enables ALSC to screen potential employment law issue applications to volunteer attorneys who review for merit and provide brief services. She is ALSC’s primary consultant on employment matters and a long-standing mentor to new attorneys or those simply new to volunteering on employment law issues. Lee’s volunteer service extends also to the Bar Association where she does Fee Arbitrations and is on the board of the Blood Bank of Alaska. But her true passion may be the volunteer work she does for Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary in Thailand.”

Read about the other recipients here. Congratulations to all the recipients!!

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

Comments

PSJD Public Interest News Digest – May 20, 2016

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

Happy Friday! A big thank you to the ABA and the NLADA for an incredible Equal Justice Conference. I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • New York State Senator co-sponsoring bills to make state pay for indigent defense and DA salary increases;
  • National Center for Access to Justice releases 2016 Justice Index;
  • US News and World Report has an article on LRAPs;
  • Southern District of Indiana proposes mandatory pro bono;
  • Delaware lawmakers want to ensure public defenders for juveniles;
  • Louisiana Senate to consider reworking indigent defense spending;
  • Indiana Supreme Court reorganizes civil legal aid programs;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

May 10, 2016 – “State Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, is joining the fight to make the state pick up the tab for district attorney salary raises and indigent defense costs. The senator announced Monday that he is cosponsoring a pair of bills that would see the state take on these costs if passed. The first bill, S.7417, would direct the state to provide approximately $1.6 million in financial assistance to counties to cover the costs of district attorney salary raises.” “Sen. Griffo said he is also cosponsoring another Senate bill, S.6341A, that would require the state to pay for indigent defense costs that all except five counties currently cover. The five counties, Suffolk, Washington, Ontario, Onondaga and Schuyler, won a lawsuit in 2014 that ended in the New York State Office of Indigent Legal Services taking charge of each county’s public defense expenses. Based on a report released in April, the New York State Office of Indigent Defense is recommending all counties outside of New York City increase indigent defense eligibility under the federal poverty level guidelines, which could increase the number of cases county indigent defense offices are required to handle. County officials from Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties have said the new rule, slated to go into effect this October, would increase indigent defense costs.” (Daily Courier Observer)

May 10, 2016 – “The District of Columbia and Massachusetts rank the highest when it comes to access to justice, while Mississippi and Wyoming are at the bottom, according to the National Center for Access to Justice’s latest state-by-state ranking. The center’s Justice Index www.justiceindex.org evaluates each state according to the number of civil legal aid attorneys for the poor, the availability of resources for people representing themselves in legal matters, and assistance for non-English speakers and the disabled.” “‘The biggest story in Justice Index 2016 is about the progress courts are making to help people without lawyers,’ said David Udell, executive director of the center, which is housed at Yeshiva University Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. ‘Nothing replaces the role of a lawyer, but with judicial leadership, many states are pursuing common-sense reforms to help poor Americans in civil cases.'” “Udell said improved research and data on access to justice, as well as new efforts by top state judges to make the courts more user friendly, are spurring change. In August, the Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators passed a joint resolution calling for ‘an aspirational goal of 100 percent access to effective assistance for essential civil legal needs.'” (National Law Journal)(subscription required)

May 11, 2016 – A basic article on law-school based loan repayment programs. It’s good to see these programs highlighted. Also, look for the NALP survey results on law-school based LRAP programs in the upcoming June Bulletin. (US News and World Report)

May 13, 2016 – “A proposed rule change would for the first time obligate lawyers to provide mandatory pro bono service to litigants in civil cases filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, the court announced Friday. ‘Given that approximately fifty percent of the filings in this district last year were made by pro se litigants, the court has found it necessary to join the other district courts around the country that have instituted mandatory pro bono appointment programs,’ Southern District Chief Judge Richard Young wrote in a letter to the federal district bar. Young’s announcement accompanied a proposed rule change to Local Rule 87. Public comments on the change will be accepted through June 12. The court also established a web page regarding the change. Young said the rule ‘is designed to address the urgent and ever-increasing need to provide counsel for indigent litigants in certain civil cases.'” “Under the proposed rule, the court would create a voluntary panel of attorneys who are willing to represent indigent litigants, as well as an obligatory panel that would be used when there are insufficient resources available from the voluntary panel.” (The Indiana Lawyer)

May 16, 2016 – “Top Delaware lawmakers want to guarantee juveniles have access to a public defender, regardless of family income or the level of their alleged crime. The state Office of Defense Services already offers free legal representation to young people facing charges, even though it’s not required by state law. House Bill 382 seeks to set the policy in stone so that future budget cuts or changes in leadership don’t change that. Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, who sponsored the legislation, said in a statement, ‘We can’t rely on current practice as a guarantee for the future.’ The change, if approved, would mean the courts and Public Defender’s Office will be required to continue the practice.” (Delaware Online)

May 17, 2016 – “An effort to reshuffle how Louisiana spends its money on indigent defense is edging closer to final legislative passage. The proposal by Rep. Sherman Mack, an Albany Republican, would require at least 65 percent of the state public defender board’s financing to flow to local indigent defenders. That could steer money away from appeals of death sentences for poor defendants. A Senate judiciary committee voted 4-1 Tuesday to send Mack’s House-approved bill to the full Senate. Some local public defenders have stopped taking cases because of money shortages, prompting lawsuits. Bill supporters say the local public defenders need the money and too much money is spent on capital defense cases by the board. Opponents say more dollars are needed overall to pay for indigent defense.” (KATC)

May 18, 2016 – “The Indiana Supreme Court is reorganizing its programs aimed at ensuring low-income Hoosiers have equal access to the state’s civil court system. Chief Justice Loretta Rush, in an order issued Tuesday, established the 17-member Coalition for Court Access, led by Justice Steven David, to manage the provision of legal aid to individuals unable to afford attorneys for civil lawsuits. The new coalition replaces the state’s Pro Bono Commission, the Indiana Commission to Expand Access to Civil Legal Services and the Indiana Supreme Court Committee on Unrepresented Litigants, all of which were terminated by Rush’s order. However, much of the work of those groups will continue under the Coalition for Court Access, including the Northwest Indiana pro bono committee which annually evaluates and reports on the availability and need for civil legal aid in the Region.” (NWI The Times)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

Harvard Law School Clinical Professor Daniel Nagin will receive the Boston Bar Association’s John G. Brooks Legal Services Award during the association’s annual Law Day Dinner on May 12. Nagin is the Vice Dean for Experiential and Clinical Education and serves as the faculty director of the WilmerHale Legal Services Center and the Veterans Legal Clinic at Harvard Law School. The award was established to recognize professional legal services attorneys for their outstanding work on behalf of indigent clients in greater Boston. Nagin’s work was credited with embodying the spirit of the award, on both the local and national levels. (Harvard Law Today)

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

Comments

PSJD Public Interest News Digest – May 6, 2016

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

Happy Friday! I hope to see many of you at the ABA/NLADA Equal Justice Conference next week in Chicago.  Because I will have an opportunity to share the news in person, the Digest will return on Friday, May 20.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Legal Aid of Nebraska establishes autistic legal hotline;
  • Wisconsin Supreme Court approves petitions encouraging more pro bono work;
  • Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe announces pro bono partnership with the Americans for Safe Access Foundation;
  • Federal government seeks to join suit against Idaho’s public defense system;
  • Missouri to get $6.7 million for foreclosure help;
  • Saint Louis University School of Law legal clinics and St. Louis Housing Authority receive grant;
  • Lambda Legal announces new executive director;
  • Milwaukee programs get grant for legal services;
  • Public defenders in Tennessee county have stopped taking cases;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

April 28, 2016 – “Autism affects approximately 1% of children ages three to 18 in Nebraska, according to the Autism Action Partnership. The Legal Aid of Nebraska recently received a grant from the Autism Action Partnership in Omaha to provide free legal advice and assistance to people with autism and families who help an autistic relative. Children and their families often run into problems and barriers to leading full, productive lives, particularly if they are low-income families, Legal Aid said Thursday. Landlords sometimes misunderstand these families, schools refuse to help with education, social service agencies do not provide benefits, child welfare officials and law enforcement may see neglect rather than parents fighting for their kids. The project will be led through Legal Aid’s Medical-Legal Partnership Project with assistance from the University Of Nebraska Medical Center Munroe-Meyer Institute, and the Children’s Hospital and Medical Center in Omaha.” (North Platte Bulletin)

April 28, 2016 – “A package approved by the Wisconsin Supreme Court is designed to encourage more pro bono work and increase access to justice. Attorneys will be able to get up to six continuing legal education (CLE) credits per reporting period for doing qualified pro bono work, under a petition that was recently adopted by the Wisconsin Supreme Court, subject to minor language changes.” “The court also adopted a so-called cy pres petition, submitted by the Wisconsin Access to Justice Commission, which will require a portion of unclaimed class action awards (residual funds) to be diverted to the Wisconsin Trust Account Foundation (WisTAF), which supports legal services to low-income and indigent persons.” (State Bar of Wisconsin)

April 28, 2016 – “Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe announced a pro bono partnership Thursday with the Americans for Safe Access Foundation, a medical marijuana advocacy group, signifying to some that the push to make legal cannabis available to patients nationwide has gone mainstream. The Oakland, California-based nonprofit, which lobbies lawmakers on how to improve their states’ medical marijuana laws and seeks to educate patients on their rights, will work with Orrick lawyers to update a series of manuals on state medical marijuana laws. Eventually, Orrick hopes to coordinate a hotline for medical marijuana patients in need of legal advice that will involve other law firms.” (The American Lawyer)

April 29, 2016 – “The U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson are requesting to weigh in on a class-action lawsuit against Idaho’s public defense system. The parties earlier this month filed a motion to join the lawsuit on behalf of the United States. The Idaho Supreme Court has not yet approved the request. ‘The United States has a strong interest in ensuring that all jurisdictions — federal, state, and local — fulfill their constitutional obligation to provide counsel to criminal defendants and juveniles facing incarceration who cannot afford an attorney,’ the motion read.” (Hastings Tribune)

April, 29, 2016 – “The Texas Indigent Defense Commission is providing Bexar County with a $600,000 grant to provide attorney services for the homeless and those with mental health issues. The program is designed to identify people often called ‘frequent fliers’ – people who are in and out of the court system for a variety of minor offenses. Instead of going to jail they are offered options, from housing to medical attention and job search guidance. ‘Locking somebody up, just putting them in jail, doesn’t seem to be the answer,’ said Chief Public Defender Michael Young. ‘And I think we’re finally realizing that.’ Young oversees the program funded by the grant.” (KSAT)

April 29, 2016 – “Missouri will get $6.7 million from a settlement with Bank of America, and most of the money would be used for legal help for people facing mortgage foreclosure. The money comes from a 2014 settlement with Bank of America over mortgage issues. Besides help in foreclosure cases, the money can be used for community development. The money will go to the Missouri Lawyer Trust Account Foundation, the settlement monitor announced. The Foundation pools small-dollar escrow accounts from lawyers around the state, and collects interest on the money. About 90 percent of the interest is used to help four legal aid groups serving the poor. Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, based in St. Louis, is one of the four. The group also funds other legal-related programs, such as the Court Appointed Special Advocate program designed to help children in foster care around St. Louis. Denise Brown, the foundation’s executive director, said the group hasn’t decided how the $6.7 million will be distributed. The foundation’s distribution usually ranges from $600,000 to $1.3 million per year.” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

April 29, 2016 – “The School of Law Legal Clinics has partnered with St. Louis Housing Authority (SLHA) for a $100,000 grant to create a youth re-entry program in St. Louis. The grant, from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Justice, is part of a $1.75 million effort for public housing authorities and nonprofit legal services across the country to provide needed pro bono legal services aimed at youth. The Legal Clinics will work with SLHA to focus on sealing and correcting criminal records for target youth, removing records by participation in diversion programs and reinstating revoked or suspended drivers licenses. The program will also provide information about collateral consequences of criminal involvement and connect target youth with existing supportive service partners to assist with a variety of needs including employment, housing and health. Another partner includes St. Louis Agency on Training and Employment (SLATE) which will provide referrals to the program and connect youth with training and employment opportunities.” (Saint Louis University News)

May 2, 2016 – “Rachel B. Tiven has been hired as the new CEO of Lambda Legal, the nation’s oldest legal organization fighting for equality on behalf of LGBT people and those living with HIV. Tiven is currently executive director of the Immigrant Justice Corps. ‘Rachel’s track record of strengthening and growing mission-driven organizations into national forces for legal, political, and social change made her the clear choice to lead Lambda Legal going forward,’ said Tracey Wallace and Stephen Winters, co-chairs, Lambda Legal Board of Directors. ‘The list of victories yet to be won is long, and requires a leader who can ensure equality and dignity for our community, our families and all our loved ones. We’re confident Rachel is the leader to take us forward.'” (Windy City Times)

May 3, 2016 – “Federal and city officials at a news conference Monday announced a $100,000 grant awarded to the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee and Legal Action of Wisconsin. The money will be used to help provide legal services to people between the ages of 18 and 24 who are current public housing residents, or those who would be living in public housing but can’t because of their criminal records.The grant, awarded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Justice, will be used to provide services to young adults, including helping to expunge, seal or correct criminal records as allowed by state law; reinstate revoked or suspended driver’s licenses; or provide job counseling and family law services.” (Journal Sentinel)

May 5, 2016 – “This week Williamson County [Tennessee] made headlines when the district’s public defender said her assistants will not be taking on new cases because of their existing case load. The Tennessee District Public Defenders Conference – charged with filling the state’s obligation to provide a lawyer to those who can’t afford one in criminal cases – says the problem exists throughout the state. Paige Edwards, the conference’s assistant executive director, says she hears from many who are overwhelmed with cases. ‘The fact that more courts have been created and you only have limited staff to go to all those courts, it’s stretching the staff thin,’ she explains. Edwards says population growth has added to demand and more state attorney positions haven’t been added since the 2007 budget year. ” (Public News Service)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

Donna Peel is using sharing-economy principles and woman power to help fill a dire need for legal-aid lawyers. Peel is the founder of Pro Bono Network, an Oak Park, Ill., non-profit organization that provides about 40 volunteer lawyers a month to Chicago-area legal aid agencies. About 90 percent of the 200 attorneys in the network are women and one-third are stay-at-home moms, all of whom do pro bono work when it fits in their schedule — kind of like a part-time Uber driver. The Pro Bono Network’s mission is to be “a force multiplier” for legal aid by making volunteering hyper-easy, Peel says. To do so, it’s harnessing the same broad workplace shift away from traditional 9-to-5 office work and toward more malleable remote and part-time arrangements that its high-tech, for-profit cousins are built on. But rather than offering attorneys a little side income, Pro Bono Network is helping them fill a yawning social need: free legal assistance for low-income people. Legal aid resources are so meager, Peel says, that only about half of Chicagoans who qualify for assistance get help today. (Forbes)

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

Comments

PSJD Public Interest News Digest – April 29, 2016

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

Happy Friday!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Connecticut Senate approves bills providing greater legal access to the poor;
  • Saskatchewan seeks public feedback on legal services;
  • University of California-Irvine School of Law launches Civil Justice Research Institute;
  • San Francisco Mayor grants $1.8 million for legal aid for unaccompanied minors;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

April 21, 2016 – “The state Senate on Thursday approved a bill that would study ways to provide legal help to poor people involved in civil cases.” “The measure, which passed by a vote of 23-12, now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration. The Senate also passed a related bill that bolsters funding for Legal Aid offices. The measure, which cleared the chamber on a unanimous vote, adds more than a million dollars of yearly funding to an interest-generating account of legal fees that funds legal aid. Second, the bill for the first time adds delivery of legal services to the poor to the permissible uses of the Superior Court’s Client Security Fund. Together, these two funding streams will provide more than 2 million dollars a year of additional funding to the Legal Aid programs, supporters of the bill said.” (Hartford Courant)

April 21, 2016 – “The Ministry of Justice  and Law Society of Saskatchewan have launched a quick, online survey to find out what people think about the way legal services are provided, and if some changes could help. It’s part of a consultation focused on improving public access by possibly expanding the services that can be provided by legal professionals other than lawyers.” “‘It’s important to have the (public’s) perspective on what their needs really are,’ said senior Crown counsel Mary Ellen Wellsch, the project lead.” “Access to justice is a growing concern across the country as more people try to puzzle out legal conundrums on their own because they can’t find or afford a lawyer or don’t qualify for free legal services. Supreme Court of Canada Justice Thomas Cromwell issued a call to action on the ‘accessibility gap’ while speaking in Regina at the annual Law Day luncheon earlier this month. Wellsch said it’s too early to say what legal services, if any, might be done by non-lawyers. ‘There’s a whole range of possibilities.’ Some ideas being explored include expanding the scope of paralegals working under supervision of lawyers; relaxing restrictions on other professionals who provide similar legal work; and creating a new class of ‘legal service technicians’ who could provide some services with training and assessment.” “All the information gathered will be used to make recommendations. As to how quickly any changes may come, Wellsch said it really depends on the proposals, since some may require legislative change. At present, the Legal Profession Act prohibits people from practising law without a licence.” (Regina Leader-Post)

April 27, 2016 – “The University of California-Irvine School of Law has launched a Civil Justice Research Institute to explore how to make the U.S. civil justice system more accessible. UCI Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky is the founding chair of the institute, which will be governed by a national board of advisers made up of attorneys and chaired by Roman Silberfeld, executive board member of Minneapolis, Minn.-based Robins Kaplan LLP. UCI Law has received approximately $1 million for the institute from donors across the country, led by a $250,000 gift from Richard Bridgford, founding partner of Newport Beach-based Bridgford, Gleason & Artinian.” (Orange County Business Journal)

April 28, 2016 – “In response to the growing number of unaccompanied minors who come to San Francisco seeking asylum, Mayor Ed Lee announced Wednesday that The City will extend funding by an additional $1.8 million for the legal defense of immigrant families and particularly children who enter the country on their own. The money will go to the San Francisco Immigrant Legal Defense Collaborative, a congregation of 13 nonprofit organizations that represent children and families facing deportation in The City’s immigration courts.” (San Francisco Examiner)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

L. David Shear, one of the founders of Bay Area Legal Services, the Tampa Bay area’s legal aid organization for the poor, died Tuesday morning. He was 79. Throughout his career as a lawyer specializing in corporate and real estate law, Mr. Shear devoted countless volunteer hours to Bay Area Legal Services, an organization he helped found along with several other members of the Hillsborough Bar Association. He became known for championing the interests of children, ultimately lending his name to a center that provides free legal representation for children in Hillsborough County’s foster care system. (Tampa Bay Times)

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

Comments