By: Steve Grumm
Happy Friday, ladies and gents. And Happy 2013. The Bulletin returns after a one-week holiday hiatus. You are all undoubtedly looking for an authoritative source to tell you which pop culture trends to follow in 2013, and which to leave behind with 2012. I am not that source. (I recently had to spend 10 minutes convincing someone that my suggestion to “watch a DVD” was made in earnest.) However, the Washington Post’s “The List: 2013″ provides zeitgeist guidance in convenient “What’s Out?/What’s In?” format. Tofu is out, in favor of insects. That’s all well and good but I still classify both as “things that are not food.”
Before the public interest news, a heads-up for law students that we’re hosting a public interest summer job search webinar series with our good friends at Equal Justice Works. Dates: 1/15 and 1/22. Registration info and all other details here.
Also, here’s a “fiscal cliff” dispatch focusing on two angles that may interest this blog’s readership:
- the potential impact on charitable contributions to nonprofits, courtesy of the Chronicle of Philanthropy: “Throughout December nonprofits [had] been lobbying Congress and President Obama not to impose limits on the tax savings wealthy donors get when they make charitable contributions. The Senate-crafted plan enacts limits that charities have opposed. It reinstates a provision eliminated in 2010 that reduces the value of itemized deductions by 3 percent for household incomes over $300,000. Write-offs grow more limited the more taxable income a person has, and could reduce the value of deductions by up to 80 percent for the highest-income taxpayers, according to the Tax Policy Center.”
- the potential impact on the federal government labor force, courtesy of Government Executive.
On to the week’s public interest and access-to-justice news. In very, very brief:
- the ongoing dispute over public defender caseload strains in Missouri;
- Oklahoma AG and legal aid collaborate on program to help low-income homeowners facing foreclosure;
- teaching law students about technology’s role in bridging the justice gap;
- Cash-strapped CA courts could see more cuts, closures;
- a CA county’s public defender sued for not providing counsel at defendants’ initial court appearances;
- ideas for how state-level access-to-justice networks should develop;
- law school clinic news potpourri;
- U.S. farmworker advocates take their pleas for farm access to the U.N.;
- no legislative action last year on Michigan indigent defense system reforms;
- a shift in post-Hurricane Sandy pro bono efforts;
- IOLTA funds to lose unlimited FDIC insurance backing(?).
- 1.4.12 – this lengthy piece in The Missourian brings readers up to speed on the caseload controversy surrounding the Missouri Public Defender System. In 2012 the rhetoric between prosecutors, judges, and those speaking for the defender system was at times quite heated. And there is still much disagreement on how strained the indigent defense system is.
- And on a related note: “The chair of Missouri’s House Judiciary Committee is proposing reductions in the state’s public defender system. Republican State Representative Stanley Cox of Sedalia says public defenders would still handle the most serious cases for indigent defendants, but the more minor cases would be bid out to private attorneys.” (Story from St. Louis Public Radio.)
- 1.2.13 – “The Attorney General’s Office and Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma are providing free legal help to homeowners who are facing mortgage issues or foreclosure. The program – Resolution Oklahoma – is designed to help Oklahoma residents stay in their homes or seek the best outcome for their situations. The program is provided by a grant from the Attorney General’s Oklahoma Mortgage Settlement Fund. The fund was created in March, following a settlement by the AG’s Office with five of the nation’s largest mortgage servicers.” (Story from LoanSafe.org.)
- 1.2.13 – from a press release: “The Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI®) will announce at the annual meeting of the American Association of Law Schools in New Orleans on January 6, 2013 that they have reached agreements with faculty members from six law schools to develop course kits as part of the Access to Justice Clinical Course Project (A2J Clinic Project). Participating law schools include Columbia Law School, Concordia University School of Law, CUNY School of Law, Georgetown University Law Center, UNC School of Law, and University of Miami School of Law. Each participating faculty member will develop and document a course model that uses A2J Author® to teach law students how technology tools can be used to lower barriers to justice for low-income, self-represented litigants. CALI will use those course models to assist other law schools in establishing A2J Clinical Courses as a permanent part of their law school curriculum.”
- January 2013 – “California’s judicial branch and its allies in the legal community are starting off the New Year under a cloud of uncertainty over further budget cuts…. Courts have been decimated by four years of cuts that have reduced the judicial branch budget by about 30 percent, or $475 million. In addition, the governor revealed to court leaders last month that he’s considering sweeping out local trial court reserves one year earlier than expected, which court leaders say would translate into an additional $200 million cut…. Many counties have already eliminated all non-mandatory spending, shuttered courthouses and reduced services. Litigants in remote reaches of San Bernardino County, for example, will have to travel 175 miles to the nearest courthouse starting in May. Los Angeles County Superior Court is considering a major restructuring that would close 10 courthouses and consolidate all personal injury cases to two judges” (Story from the California Bar Journal.)
- 12.31.12 - ”Contra Costa County’s long-standing practice of assigning defense attorneys to indigent criminal defendants after — and not at — their initial court appearance has resulted in a federal class action lawsuit against Public Defender Robin Lipetzky. Point Richmond attorney Christopher Martin, one of two attorneys who filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Oakland on Dec. 21, says the illegal practice could cost the county a minimum of $4,000 for each defendant whose civil rights were violated…. The lawsuit alleges that indigent, in-custody defendants are left in County Jail without an attorney for five to 13 days after their first court appearance, in violation of the right to assistance of counsel from the time one first faces a judge.” (Full story from the Contra Costa Times.)
- 12.30.12 – Richard Zorza blogs on the priorities which should govern development of state-level access-to-justice infrastructures, and offers recommendations about promoting AtJ’s evolution in the states.
- 12.28.12 – law school clinic news potpourri:
- 12.28.12 – “When students at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law return from winter break, those enrolled in clinics will enjoy new digs in a refurbished former city firehouse. The law school in December opened the 6,000-square-foot space, which will now house its 10 legal clinics, just steps away from its main building.” (Story from the National Law Journal.)
- 12.27.12 – Stanford Law starting a religious liberties clinic, which “administrators say is the first of its kind at a U.S. School. The clinic was established with $1.6 million in seed funding from the Washington-based Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which supports the free expression of religious beliefs regardless of the faith. Unlike many public interest law groups that support religious freedom, Stanford’s clinic will take on clients from any religion, said director James Sonne. ‘The point of a clinic is to teach professional skills to law students using real cases and live clients,’ said Sonne. ‘We think the religious liberty aspect offers a unique way to do this work, and it’s something the students get excited about. As our culture becomes more diverse, it’s a great way for students to represent clients whose beliefs are different from their own.’ (Story from the National Law Journal.)
- 12.21.12 – “The University of Louisville Louis D. Brandeis School of Law has received a $1 million gift that will permanently endow a student-run clinic that provides legal advice to the poor. The donation from Sue Ellen Ackerson of Louisville and her family was made to honor her late husband, Robert Ackerson, who founded the Ackerson and Yann law firm. The clinic will be renamed The Robert and Sue Ellen Ackerson Law Clinic.” (Story from the Associated Press.)
- 12.27.12 – Voice of America reports on a group of U.S. farmworker rights advocates that has gone to the United Nations on the issue of being able to get access to workers on farm property. “[A] coalition of 28 rights groups, including Maryland Legal Aid, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the labor union AFL-CIO, submitted a complaint to the United Nations on December 13. The coalition argued that the lack of meaningful access to migrant labor camps ‘stymies’ farmworkers’ access to justice and, as a result, ‘violates international human rights law.’ It has called on the U.N. Envoy for Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Magdalena Sepúlveda, to pressure the U.S. government to allow aid workers better access to migrant farm camps.”
- 12.24.12 – “A proposed overhaul to Michigan’s public defense system will have to wait until next year for action by the state Legislature. State lawmakers passed a flurry of bills in their “lame duck” session. But there were a number of high-profile bills that didn’t move at all. One of those would change the way the state appoints lawyers to people who can’t afford one. Michigan’s public defense system is considered one of the worst in the country…. Critics of the [reform] plan say it would burden cash-strapped county governments, and doesn’t lay out specific standards they would have to meet.” (Story from Michigan Public Radio.)
- 12.24.12 – “Eight weeks after Hurricane Sandy, New York lawyers who have been assisting storm victims pro bono say they are in the effort for the long haul. However, their focus is shifting from the most pressing legal needs in the immediate aftermath of the storm to grinding long-term problems. At first, the lawyers concentrated on securing temporary housing, food stamps and unemployment benefits for storm victims, and later, documenting damages for homeowner and flood insurance and Federal Emergency Management Agency claims. Now, people are increasingly experiencing difficulties with FEMA officials, landlords, insurance companies and contractors.” (Full story from the New York Law Journal.)
- 12.20.12 – “Lawyer IOLTA accounts that help fund civil legal aid and other legal programs are likely to lose their unlimited federal insurance coverage on Jan. 1. The ABA Governmental Affairs Office says it appears unlikely that lawmakers will act this year to extend the unlimited coverage provided by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., according to an ABA statement. If Congress does not act, the amount of FDIC insurance available will be $250,000 per client, per financial institution, as long as the account is properly designated as a trust account and there is a proper accounting of each client’s funds.” (Article in the ABA Journal.)
- [update from Steve: an IOLTA administrator contacted me to offer some context about this, which I should have thought to include. To closely paraphrase said administrator: Congress chose not to extend the FDIC's temporary program that had provided unlimited insurance to certain checking accounts, including IOLTA accounts. IOLTA accounts remain in the same position as this group of checking accounts -- and the insurance picture looks pretty much the same as it did up until the 2008 emergency action that created a temporary unlimited insurance program. The biggest change from the pre-2008 picture? The insurance cap remains at $250,000 per depositor instead of the pre-2008 cap of $100,000. There are important details to this, of course, but none that end up treating IOLTA accounts unfavorably. Here's the link to the FDIC's explanation of the change: http://www.fdic.gov/deposit/deposits/changes.html.]
Music! In 2006, The Long Winters of Seattle, WA released a pop gem with the album Putting the Days to Bed. Here’s “Fire Island, AK.”