Archive for Public Interest Law News Bulletin

PSJD Public Interest News Digest – March 3, 3017

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

Happy Friday!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • St. Charles Parish Public Defender’s Office may cut lawyers/lawyer pay;
  • Proposal would bar North Carolina public law schools from providing legal representation;
  • Indiana University Maurer School of Law and Southern Poverty Law Center partner on scholar program;
  • Yale Law School launches six new clinics;
  • Alberta’s justice system has reached breaking point says prosecutors;
  • Montana governor signs bills addressing criminal justice costs;
  • Legal Aid Ontario offers coverage for second judicial pre-trials across Ontario;
  • Eviction Defense Project launches in Milwaukee;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants; and
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

February 24, 2017 – “Dealing with a budget crunch, the St. Charles Parish Public Defender’s Office has put its 11 attorneys on notice of possible layoffs and salary cuts. District Public Defender Vic Bradley Jr. said the move comes with a $138,000 deficit. Without cuts, Bradley projected the figure could easily surpass last fiscal year’s $392,596 budget shortfall. ‘We can’t keep going that way,’ he said. ‘We have to cut costs. We’re spending twice what we were taking in for the last couple of months.’ Bradley said it’s possible one lawyer will be cut and the others will take a pay cut. He recently notified them by letter that their contracts have been ended and pay will be renegotiated. ‘The money is not just coming in,’ he said. ‘The court costs are not there.'” (St. Charles Herald Guide)

February 24, 2017 – “A proposal headed to the UNC system’s Board of Governors would bar public university centers and institutes in North Carolina from providing legal representation to clients in any sort of litigation. The broadly worded measure, submitted to the board’s education policy committee in a memo credited to member Joe Knott, would almost certainly affect organizations like the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Law’s Center for Civil Rights. The Center for Civil Rights has provided support, counsel or other aid in a variety of cases involving school desegregation, voting rights and compensation for victims of the state’s former forced-sterilization program. System policy currently allows that, but Knott’s cover memo said the board should decide that ‘filing legal actions against the state or city and county governments does not come within the primary purpose of centers and institutes.’ But the attached proposal, drafted in the style of the ones already included in the system policy manual, goes much farther than barring participation in the sort of civil matters that have drawn criticism from some board members previously. It forbids centers and institutes from filing ‘a complaint, motion, lawsuit or other legal claim,’ in its own name or for others, ‘against any individual, entity or government.’ Moreover, they wouldn’t be able to ‘act as legal counsel to any third party,’ employ people who do, or arrange for someone’s representation. As worded, it would apparently forbid the system’s law schools, at UNC-Chapel Hill and N.C. Central University, from setting up or operating centers or institutes to help out with such things as the Innocence Project.” (The Herald-Sun)

February 24, 2017 – “The Indiana University Maurer School of Law is partnering with the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center on a program aimed at attracting law students interested in social justice and equality issues. The Julian Bond Law Scholars program includes scholarship, mentoring and summer externship opportunities. The program is named after the civil rights leader, who also founded the SPLC. The university says the program will give law students an ‘affordable  pathway to a professional career; eliminate the stress and anxiety that some students feel when trying to find employment after their first year of law school; and provide unparalleled hands-on legal experience, while allowing students to make a difference in advancing social justice issues.’ IU says the program will provide one scholarship worth 50 to 100 percent of tuition each year. Julian Bond Law Scholars will also be able to take part in a formal mentoring program and will be offered summer externships after completing their first year of law school. The externships will include a $4,000 stipend to cover living expenses and a research assistantship during the scholars’ second or third years.” (Inside Indiana Business)

February 27, 2017 – “This semester six new clinics launched as part of a growing experiential learning program at Yale Law School. The clinics provide students with hands-on experience in a number of fields, including immigration, reproductive rights, environmental law, consumer protection, domestic violence, and human rights.” The new clinics are the Arbitration Project, Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP), the Environmental Justice Clinic, the Reproductive Rights and Justice Project, and the Rule of Law Clinic. (Yale Law School)

March 1, 2017 – “The justice system in Alberta is facing a crisis, according to Crown prosecutors. The Alberta Crown Attorneys’ Association took the unusual step of calling a news conference Wednesday after Edmonton’s chief Crown prosecutor stayed 15 separate criminal prosecutions on Feb. 28 because of a lack of resources. Those charges included impaired driving, assaulting a police officer, and weapons charges. The choice to stay charges because of a shortage of prosecutors is affecting the whole province, said James Pickard, assistant executive director of Specialized Prosecutions with Alberta Justice. ‘Since January 2017, all across Alberta, we are confident in stating that approximately 200 significant charges have been stayed due to a lack of resources,’ he said. In Edmonton in December 2016 alone, 20 charges were abandoned because there were too few Crown prosecutors to see them through, he said. Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley acknowledged the short staffing to be a problem. ‘We’re concerned as well,’ she said.” “Criminal defence lawyer Kelly Dawson said although the situation appears politically charged with the provincial budget coming down this month, the Crown prosecutors raise real issues. ‘The government has been receptive to meeting with us, consulting with us,’ he said. ‘But at some point you wonder if they’re really listening to anything other than public pressure.'” (CBC News)

March 1, 2017 – “Gov. Steve Bullock has signed a package of bills that seeks to cut costs for the state public defender’s office and help reduce recidivism. One bill calls for the Office of Public Defender to establish a pilot project in up to four regions that would put clients in touch with social workers and other services that might help address the reasons they got in trouble with the law.” “Bullock held a ceremonial signing for the pilot project bill on Wednesday while also signing a bill that would allow jail inmates free phone calls to their attorneys. The law is expected to save the public defender’s office about $35,000 a year in collect calls as well as time public defenders spend visiting clients in jail.” “Another bill signed Wednesday eliminates the requirement to appoint a public defender for an unknown parent in child abuse and neglect cases, which could save the state about $100,000 annually, said sponsor Rep. Kim Dudik, D-Missoula.” “A fourth bill, requested by the Department of Corrections, allows criminal records for juvenile offenders to be shared electronically, rather than on paper, and calls for sealing most formal and informal youth court records when the youth involved turns 18. That bill takes effect immediately.” (Missoulian)

March 1, 2017 – “Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) is working to decrease criminal court delays and better support its clients by providing coverage for mandatory second judicial pre-trials to courts across Ontario. A second judicial pre-trial is a substantial meeting between Crown and defence with a judge to determine options for resolving a case, or to examine the evidence and outstanding issues before a case goes to trial. This proceeding is often effective in either settling many criminal matters or reducing delays help to spare the expense of time and money on a needless trial. For eligible matters legal aid clients receive additional coverage on their legal aid certificates for the second judicial pre-trial. Over the last ten months LAO has worked with the Ontario Court of Justice, criminal defence bar and the Ministry of the Attorney General on a project to fund second judicial pre-trials or substantially similar events in several Ontario Court of Justice locations as a pilot project. This pilot has been successful in increasing the number of early resolutions to criminal cases, while also improving how cases are managed if they need to come to trial. LAO will now provide coverage for lawyers representing eligible clients to participate in these second case management events across the province as of March 1, 2017. The roll-out of coverage for second judicial pre-trials across the province follows from an initiative by both the Ontario Court of Justice and the Ministry of the Attorney General to decrease criminal court delays.” (CNW)

March 1, 2017 – “Legal Action of Wisconsin has successfully launched its new Eviction Defense Project (EDP), which seeks to reduce housing instability for low-income Milwaukee County families, especially those with children. Housed at the Milwaukee County Courthouse, EDP provides tenants facing eviction with access to free civil legal aid and on-site, limited scope, representation.” “A close collaboration between Legal Action and others made the EDP possible:  The Legal Services Corporation, the Milwaukee Justice Center, Marquette Volunteer Legal Clinic, Marquette University, the Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee, Community Advocates, Quarles & Brady LLP, and many volunteer attorneys.  The support of the Milwaukee County Circuit Court was also critical in allowing Legal Action to launch the project.” (Urban Milwaukee)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

A lesson from the past that is relevant today.  On this day in 1865, President Abraham Lincoln signs a bill creating the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands. Known as the Freedmen’s Bureau, this federal agency oversaw the difficult transition of African Americans from slavery to freedom. The Freedmen’s Bureau, born out of abolitionist concern for freed slaves, was headed by Union General Oliver O. Howard for the entire seven years of its existence. The bureau was given power to dispense relief to both white and black refugees in the South, provide medical care and education, and redistribute “abandoned” lands to former slaves. The latter task was probably the most effective measure to ensure the prosperity and security of the freedmen, but it was also extremely difficult to enact. Many factors stymied the bureau’s work. White Southerners were very hostile to the Yankee bureau members, and even more hostile to the freed slaves. Terror organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan targeted both blacks and whites and intimidated those trying to help them. The bureau lacked the necessary funds and personnel to carry out its programs, and the lenient policies of President Andrew Johnson’s administration encouraged resistance. Most of the land confiscated from Confederates was eventually restored to the original owners, so there was little opportunity for black land ownership. Although the Freedmen’s Bureau was not able to provide long-term protection for blacks, nor did it ensure any real measure of equality, it did signal the introduction of the federal government into issues of social welfare and labor relations. (History.com)

Music Bonus! Music pick from the PSJD Fellow Delisa Morris.

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – February 24, 2017

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

Happy Friday! I was thrilled to be at Duke University School of Law this week to present the 2016 Pro Bono Publico Award to Gabrielle Lucero. Read more about her exemplary contribution to pro bono in her community on PSJD and stay tuned to the PSJD Blog for her guest post. Thank you to Stella Boswell and her team at Duke for an amazing celebration of pro bono.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Austin City Council approves emergency funds for immigrant legal services;
  • DC District Court certifies class in Pacer fee lawsuit;
  • Hunton & Williams LLP receives Coast Guard Meritorious Public Service Medal for pro bono work;
  • Judges and lawyers push for better access to British Columbia justice system;
  • Immigrant Justice Corps announces 2017 Justice Fellows;
  • ABA study finds Louisiana’s public defender system understaffed by about 1,400 lawyers;
  • New Mexico judge rules against underfunding public defenders;
  • Law Foundation of Ontario issues grants to examine technology and access to justice;
  • Grant from Massachusetts Attorney General will help veterans;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants; and
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

February 16, 2017 – “Austin City Council approved $200,000 in emergency funding for immigration legal services Thursday, while immigrants and advocates took to the steps of City Hall outside to protest ICE raids and national anti-immigrant policies. The grant expands a preexisting contract the city holds with Catholic Charities of Central Texas, which provides pro bono legal service to help immigrants understand their rights and legal statuses. Justin Estep, the director of legal services for Catholic Charities, says the money is much needed.” (KUT)

February 16, 2017 – “The United States District Court for the District of Columbia certified a class of all individuals and entities who paid fees to obtain court records though the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system. The proposed class representatives, three nonprofit legal advocacy organizations, overcame the government’s primary challenge to class certification, which was that they were not adequate class representatives. The National Veterans Legal Services Program, the National Consumer Law Center and the Alliance for Justice, all nonprofit entities that paid fees to obtain court records from PACER, filed suit to recover the allegedly excessive fees charged by the government for PACER access. Plaintiffs claim that the PACER fee schedule violated the E-Government Act of 2002, 28 U.S.C. § 1913) and seek reimbursement of the excess fee pursuant to the Little Tucker Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1346, on behalf of all individuals and entities, excluding class counsel and federal governmental agencies, who paid PACER fees from April 2010 through April 2016. Plaintiffs assert that the PACER fees result in a profit that violates the E-Government Act, inhibits “public understanding of the courts” and thwarts “equal access to justice.” For example, although the 2012 cost to the judiciary for providing technology and access to PACER was approximately $41 million, the judiciary collected more than $145 million in PACER fees that year. Plaintiffs seek a refund of the excess fee for themselves and the class members.” (JD Supra Business Advisor)

February 16, 2017 – “Hunton & Williams LLP today received the U.S. Coast Guard Meritorious Public Service Medal for the firm’s pro bono legal work on behalf of Coast Guard members.” “‘While we are honored to receive this prestigious award, it truly has been our privilege to serve the Coast Guard and its families, and we look forward to continuing and expanding our partnership,’ said Managing Partner Wally Martinez, a member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary, who helped start the pro bono legal assistance program and is among the program’s most active participants. Martinez also received a Meritorious Public Service award for his personal contributions. Begun in 2012, the Coast Guard partnership has involved about 30 of the firm’s lawyers who have contributed nearly 1,800 volunteer hours in five states. The firm assists Coast Guard members and their families with legal issues involving real estate, estate planning, bankruptcy, immigration and other matters. Lawyers from the firm’s New York, Miami, Norfolk, Richmond, Atlanta and Washington offices have all been involved in the partnership. The Meritorious Public Service Medal is given to recognize substantial contribution to the Coast Guard that produced tangible results and specific individual accomplishments that provide unique benefits to the public.” (Business Wire)

February 16, 2017 – “As the old saying goes, ‘justice delayed is justice denied.’ Those words are being invoked by many of BC’s judges and lawyers who are demanding the provincial government fix a troubled legal system. In a report entitled ‘An Agenda for Justice,’ the Canadian Bar Association’s BC branch is making wide-ranging recommendations it would like to see made provincial election issues ahead of the May vote. The association is concerned about access to the justice system, pointing to struggles with long case delays and an overstretched legal aid system. ‘Legal aid funding is so limited that in Provincial Court, approximately 40 percent of British Columbians are unrepresented by a lawyer in family court cases and 20 percent are unrepresented in criminal cases,’ states the report. ‘The impact is that, through no fault of their own, people who are unrepresented take up more court time and more taxpayer-funded resources to go through the system.’ Among other recommendations, the Bar Association suggests increasing funding for legal aid lawyers from $84 an hour to $135.” The report concludes, ‘the Government of British Columbia and Members of the Legislative Assembly have the opportunity — every day — to improve the lives of British Columbians by taking steps to ensure they have access to justice that is delivered in a timely manner, by courts supported by up-to-date legislation and technology, and with a studied interest in their needs and challenges.'” (News 1130)

February 16, 2017 – “Immigrant Justice Corps (IJC), the country’s first fellowship program wholly dedicated to meeting immigrants’ need for high-quality legal assistance, announced today its 2017 fellowship class, a select group of talented and promising new lawyers who will represent immigrants fighting deportation and seeking lawful status and citizenship.  Twenty-five graduates from top law schools from around the country were chosen for the prestigious fellowship at IJC, which was conceived of by Robert A. Katzmann, Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and incubated by Robin Hood in 2013.” Click the link for the complete list.  Congratulations Fellows! (Immigrant Justice Corps)

February 17, 2017 – “The state public defender system in Louisiana is understaffed by 1,406 lawyers, according to an ABA study of their workloads.The study (PDF) found that 1,769 full-time public defenders are needed to provide reasonably effective assistance of counsel in Louisiana, but the state only employs 363 full-time equivalent PDs. An ABA press release summarizes the findings. Currently, the state has the capacity to handle 21 percent of the workload to provide indigent defense that complies with prevailing professional norms, the study concludes. The study was conducted by the ABA Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants and the consulting firm Postlethwaite & Netterville.” (ABA Journal)

February 17, 2017 – “A state district court judge in southeastern New Mexico has rejected arguments by public defense attorneys that they are too overloaded with work to provide adequate representation to poor defendants facing jail time. District Judge William Shoobridge of Lea County said in an order released Friday that attorneys with the Law Offices of the Public Defender have been providing reasonably competent representation to indigent defendants in the area despite financial pressures. The order is a setback for the Office of the Public Defender as it seeks to suspend work on some indigent cases while seeking more state funding. Chief Public Defender Bennett Baur says his office is weighing an appeal to the state Supreme Court and that he would continue to raise issues of high caseloads and lack of resources.” (Artesia Daily Press)

February 21, 2017 – “The Law Foundation of Ontario has issued grants to the Winkler Institute at Osgoode Hall Law School and Ryerson University’s Legal Innovation Zone so they can examine how technology and innovation can improve access to justice for young people. ‘Together, these projects will give the Foundation insight into how technology can be harnessed to help young people facing legal problems,’ said Linda Rothstein, chair of the foundation’s board. ‘The projects will enable youth to explore creative solutions while allowing them to create tangible prototypes that use technology to improve access to justice.’
The effort to improve youth access to justice was inspired by Elizabeth Goldberg, who was the foundation’s chief executive from 2007 to 2015 and who previously served on the foundation’s board of trustees.” (Financial Post)

February 22, 2017 – “The state is helping hundreds of veterans by awarding $350,000 in grants to four Massachusetts organizations. The grant funding will go to Community Legal Aid, Inc., in Worcester; Montachusett Veterans Outreach Center in Gardner; The Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School in Boston; and Veterans Legal Services in Boston, Attorney General Maura Healey’s office announced Wednesday. Veterans seeking health services benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs healthcare system, housing and education assistance, discharge status upgrades, general legal representation, and veteran-specific employment will benefit from the funding, Healy’s office said in a statement.” (Mass Live)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

Legal Aid Ontario will honour HIV/AIDS legal activist Ryan Peck with the Sidney B. Linden Award at a ceremony Feb. 23 at Osgoode Hall, in recognition of his commitment to helping low-income Ontarians in the pursuit of access to justice. The award is named in honour of Legal Aid Ontario’s first board chair, Justice Sidney B. Linden, who has been involved with legal aid for over 35 years. Since its inception, the award has been presented to eight deserving recipients. The Toronto lawyer and the executive director of HIV & Aids Legal Clinic Ontario (HALCO) told The CJN he was surprised to be chosen for the award. “I went to law school because I was interested in issues surrounding social and economic justice, and I have devoted my career to those issues,” he said. (CJN)

Music Bonus! Music pick from the PSJD Fellow Delisa Morris.

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – February 17, 2017

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

Happy Friday! With all the pro bono activity, you may be wondering how you can volunteer.  PSJD has lawyer and law student pro bono opportunities and resources for exploring pro bono in your area.  And while you’re there, check out the many useful resources in the Resource Center!  Not sure where to start? In our PSJD Blog Series Resource Round-Up career counselors talk about their favorites.  What are you using?  Let us know, and you might be featured in our next Resource Round-Up.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • University of North Dakota School of Law puts student law clinic on hiatus;
  • Nova Southeastern University opens new legal clinic;
  • New website provides convenient option for pro bono service in Massachusetts;
  • Crowdfunding for litigation – new site launches in US;
  • New York City guarantees legal aid to low-income residents facing eviction;
  • New Indiana program gives resources to elder victims;
  • Hofstra University’s Maurice A. Deane School of Law launches new deportation defense clinic;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants; and
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

February 9, 2017 – “The University of North Dakota School of Law will put its student law clinic on hiatus for at least two years and is beginning to discuss tuition increases because of higher education budget cuts proposed by North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum. In a meeting with about 80 law students Thursday afternoon, UND School of Law Dean Kathryn Rand told students the program would need to begin making hard cuts. Those cuts will include no longer operating the law clinic, which provides pro bono legal service primarily in immigration and employment law fields. The clinic allows law students to get some of the hands-on credits they need to earn their juris doctorates.” “The two-year hold on the law clinic will force law students down other routes to get the six experiential courses required for their degree. UND law students also can get such credits via moot court courses, field placement assignments and estate planning courses. Rand said they would have to get creative in how students get experiential credits.” (Bismarck Tribune)

February 9, 2017 – “Nova Southeastern University will open a legal clinic in the fall that will provide legal services to nonprofits, students, researchers, educators and entrepreneurs. The enterprise is made possible thanks to a donation by Berger Singerman founder Mitchell W. Berger and his wife—fellow attorney Sharon Kegerreis. The Sharon and Mitchell W. Berger Entrepreneur Law Clinic at Nova’s Shepard Broad College of Law will provide legal services to researchers associated with Nova Southeastern’s Center for Collaborative Research and to low- to medium-income inventors in technology, life sciences and creative communities. The clinic will serve students who are inventing, as well as law students working in fields such as intellectual property, data security and technology.” (Daily Business Review)

February 9, 2017 – “Want to do your part in filling the legal aid gap but don’t have the time to provide a needy client full representation on a pro bono basis? A legal advice website launched by the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute may be the answer to your public service aspirations.” Details at the link. (Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly)(subscription required)

February 11, 2017 – “When online crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and GoFundMe debuted, people hoping to invent and sell a better bottle opener, those in need of help with medical bills and all sorts of personal would-be fundraisers talked about the concept in grand, world-changing ways. This, they said, was a disruptive, potentially transformative financial development. A new website aims to mash up that kind of popular Internet fundraising with legal work, hoping to turn legal cases into publicly funded — and backed — social causes. CrowdJustice.org, went live with its first U.S. fundraising appeals in recent weeks with a tag­line meant to promote equal access to the courts, regardless of one’s economic standing: ‘The law should be available to everyone.’ The site’s founder, a British transplant, says CrowdJustice is a politically neutral portal where people and organizations pursuing litigation can solicit and win public help with the costs.” “Also, despite its “dot.org” URL, CrowdJustice is not a nonprofit organization. It collects 5 percent of all donations made to legal cases and another 3.5 percent goes to the website’s payment processor. The remaining 91.5 percent of donations goes to trust accounts set up to fund the individual cases to which donors contribute. CrowdJustice does some due diligence to ensure none of the parties to the lawsuit are subject to any kind of national or international sanctions (such as Securities and Exchange Commission violations, federal or international court matters) and verifies that the case in question is under active litigation by a licensed attorney. Then, it posts a campaign.” (The Washington Post)

February 12, 2017 – “Funding just doubled for the city’s well-supported ‘right to counsel’ initiative, turning the free legal aid pilot program into a full-fledged city service, Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Councilmembers announced Sunday. Low-income tenants who earn up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level are now entitled to city-sponsored intervention in New York City Housing Court, where the vast majority of those tenants have had no legal counsel. The program will drastically reduce the excessive rate of homelessness and the cost to taxpayers on homeless shelters and other services, officials say.” (metro)

February 13, 2017 – “Because of an aging baby boomer generation, Indiana is seeing a swift increase in the number of elder abuse and exploitation cases throughout the state.” “But now, thanks to a new program from Indiana Legal Services, elders and endangered adults have more resources if they fall victim to these crimes. The Legal Assistance for Victimized Adults project was established at the beginning of the year with a grant from the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute. LAVA provides legal representation to seniors and endangered adults who have suffered abuse, neglect or exploitation. Among many of the services, the program can provide legal representation, file civil actions on behalf of a victim, file protective orders and fight to recoup financial loss from scams or from the exploitation by a guardian or someone with power of attorney. The program also works with county prosecutors when pursuing criminal charges. An endangered adult is defined as a victim at least 18 years old that has some physical or mental incapacity, and a senior is anyone 60 or older. There are income guidelines to qualify for services, but for those who are eligible, LAVA is completely free.” (South Bend Tribune)

February 15, 2017 – “Hofstra University’s Maurice A. Deane School of Law launched a new legal clinic on Wednesday to represent Long Island immigrants facing deportation. The law school also will lead education and advocacy programs for immigrant rights. Hofstra’s Deportation Defense Clinic, is the first clinic of its kind on Long Island. It aims to protect immigrants vulnerable to the consequences of increased deportation enforcement. It will concentrate on two high risk populations: those immigrants with removal orders against them and DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients – undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children and have spent most of their lives here.” (Long Island Business News)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

We have lost a great champion – E. Clinton Bamberger. Our colleague Jonathan Smith, Executive Director of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs had this remembrance – “Clinton was one of the founders of the original War on Poverty program that later became the Legal Services Corporation. He argued Brady v. Maryland in the United States Supreme Court and was a leader in the clinical legal education movement. Clinton served on my Board of Directors when I was at the Public Justice Center in the late 90’s. He helped push us to begin the work on civil Gideon and other critical projects. Clinton was kind, supportive and always up for the struggle to create greater equity, fairness and justice. This is a tremendous loss at a time when every progressive voice, especially those as wise as his, is needed.”

Read more about Mr. Bamberger’s fight on behalf of disadvantaged people and his great legacy at the link. He will be sorely missed in our community. (The Baltimore Sun)

Music Bonus! Music pick from the PSJD Fellow Delisa Morris.

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – February 10, 2017

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

Happy Friday! More pro bono efforts in the news this week. We’re also seeing a rise in contributions to organizations that provide legal assistance. Did you see the ACLU Amazon Dash button? Let’s keep the money (and assistance) flowing.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Canadian law students take part in a research-a-thon to help people affected by the U.S. refugee ban;
  • Applications open for The Massachusetts Bar Foundation’s Legal Intern Fellowship Program;
  • Virginia Legal Aid Society receives $20,000 grant;
  • Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee awards Serving Tennessee’s Seniors grants;
  • New Arizona website gives court information and more;
  • New indigent defense lawsuit filed in Louisiana;
  • Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice seeks critical funding;
  • Atlanta office of public defender receives grant;
  • University of Virginia School of Law launches new pro bono clinic;
  • Lawyers help create website to coordinate legal aid to immigrants at airports;
  • $25 million donation boosts University of Minnesota Law School’s legal services for immigrants and refugees;
  • Community Legal Services receives $3.1 million Chan Zuckerberg Initiative grant;
  • Sen. Booker, Rep. Maloney renew effort to fix America’s strained public defender system;
  • Montana officials may take novel approach to overhaul of indigent defense system;
  • Coder turns Amazon Dash button into ACLU donation tool;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

February 3, 2017 – “Students from 22 Canadian law schools from coast to coast joined a ‘research-a-thon’ Saturday to help with possible legal challenges stemming from U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent travel ban and suspension of the country’s refugee program. The focus of the research was on what is known as the Safe Third Country Agreement between Canada and U.S., which mandates that a person seeking refugee status must make the claim in the first country in which they arrive — the understanding being that both countries are considered ‘safe.’ But in the wake of Trump’s executive order banning travellers from seven Muslim-majority countries, advocates have been calling on Ottawa to immediately suspend the pact, arguing the U.S. is no longer safe for refugees.” “Kim Veller, a second-year student at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School and chair of the local chapter of the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, said each school had been given a different question to work on by the Canadian Council for Refugees, which she said is building a proposal to suspend the bilateral agreement.” (The Star)

February 3, 2017 – “The Massachusetts Bar Foundation’s (MBF) Legal Intern Fellowship Program was established in 1996 to give talented law students the experience and encouragement they need to pursue careers in the public interest law sector while providing legal aid organizations with much-needed additional staff capacity for the summer. The MBF awards at least three (3) stipends of $6,000 each to law students who intern during the summer months at nonprofit organizations providing civil legal services to low-income clients in Massachusetts. These awards are supported by generous contributions to the MBF from lawyers and judges statewide and by the Smith Family Fund.” Application materials available at the link. (MBF)

February 3, 2017 – “The Virginia Legal Aid Society has received a $20,000 grant to help support low-income families in Suffolk and Isle of Wight County. The money comes from the Beazley Foundation Inc., a supporter of many organizations serving South Hampton Roads for nearly seven decades. The grant will support VLAS’s Strengthening Families with Children program to help low-income families increase and preserve financial resources, obtain and maintain safe and affordable housing, increase access to healthcare and education and increase stability for families in transition.” (Virginia Lawyers Weekly)

February 3, 2017 – “The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, a charitable organization dedicated to enriching our quality of life, is pleased to announce that Legal Aid of East Tennessee (LAET) is one of 121 Tennessee nonprofits and governmental organizations receiving funding as part of a one-time Serving Tennessee’s Seniors grant opportunity. Funding of Serving Tennessee’s Seniors was provided by the Chancery Court and administered by The Community Foundation through the settlement of a lawsuit initiated by Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper against both SeniorTrust and ElderTrust.” “Legal Aid of East Tennessee (LAET) has received a $25,000 grant to provide legal education to seniors in Upper East Tennessee, and give them tools to assess their individual legal problems.” “Outcomes achieved by each grantee will be reported to the Court and available to the public on an interim basis. Final results will be available in July 2017.” (The Newport Plain Talk)

February 5, 2017 – “A new website has recently launched to offer basic assistance to people of all walks of life who have legal questions or need assistance in resolving disputes in court. AzCourtHelp.org is organized by topic and geographical location to help people find the court locations, forms, and other information they may need. Geographical information includes court locations, maps, hours, payment terms, parking, and accessibility information.  The site also features live chat forums to assist with legal information, legal talk clinics on popular topics, and other information helpful to self-represented individuals.  Frequently asked questions are arranged by topic so users can quickly find the information that is most helpful to their situation.  The site will also include video tutorials, webinars, and a calendar of free legal workshops around Arizona.” (The Daily Courier)

February 6, 2017 – “Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards and the board that oversees the state’s indigent defense services were named in a class-action lawsuit filed Monday (Feb. 6) by a group of 13 inmates who contend their constitutional rights to counsel have been denied because of an insufficient public defense system. The suit, filed in the 19th Judicial District Court in East Baton Rouge Parish, asks for a court declaration that Louisiana’s system for indigent representation is ‘significantly compromised,’ and for a court-appointed monitor with the power to oversee fixes to the system. ‘This suit seeks to bring long-overdue relief to communities that have literally been left defenseless for far too long,’ said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, one of the groups representing the plaintiffs. The suit names Edwards, Chief Public Defender Jay Dixon, and all members of the Louisiana Public Defender Board, the agency responsible for the oversight of statewide legal services for the poor in criminal cases.” (The Times-Picayune)

February 6, 2017 – “The Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice is seeking $1.5 million in one-time funding to support legal defense for Utahns who can’t afford it. Joanna Landau, executive director of the Indigent Defense Commission, said that funding would build on last year’s support to fund more defense attorneys, training and oversight to local governments throughout the state. Support from the Indigent Defense Commission is done through cost sharing with local governments, and grants awarded by the commission are carefully administered, Landau told the Executive Offices and Criminal Justice Appropriations Subcommittee on Monday. In response to questions from the committee, Landau agreed that while the commission is currently seeking one-time funding, eventually a long-term solution will need to be addressed.” (Deseret News)

February 6, 2017 – “The City of Atlanta’s office of the public defender has been chosen to join the Safety and Justice Challenge, a grant program awarded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to create a more fair and effective local justice system and model reforms for the nation, the city announced. The chosen sites taking part in the grant program’s Innovation Fund will get technical assistance and financial support of $50,000 each, and are eligible for future funding opportunities, the city said. The challenge is a national $100 million initiative whose aim is to reduce over-incarceration by changing the way America thinks about and uses jails, according to the city’s announcement. Atlanta and the other selected jurisdictions will design and test innovative local justice reforms with the purpose of safely bringing down jail usage and reducing racial and ethnic disparities in their local justice systems.” (Atlanta Journal Constitution)

February 6, 2017 – “Over winter break, nine law students from the University’s School of Law volunteered at the Legal Aid Justice Center, which will be launching a new pro bono clinic this coming semester. The Civil Rights Litigation Pro Bono Clinic is a partnership between the Law School and Charlottesville’s Legal Aid Justice Center. ‘We’re always looking to elevate our cases to make a big impact that will help as many people as we can,’ said Mario Salas, an attorney at the Legal Aid Justice Center who is working with the Civil Rights Pro Bono Clinic. Volunteers will work on civil rights and racial justice cases pro bono, which means they don’t receive academic credit for their work, but can receive volunteer hours. Many of the topics involved in the cases can be seen in today’s headlines, such as policing and race, the criminalization of poverty and mental health.” (The Cavalier Daily)

February 6, 2017 – “A group of lawyers has tapped into technology to make sure that immigrants and families waiting for them at airports around the country have access to free legal help when they need it. A website launched Monday, called airportlawyer.org, collects information about travelers and sends it securely to volunteer lawyers near airports, who can then help clients on the ground. The site, created by Seattle-area lawyers and New York legal software company Neota Logic, was spurred by President Trump’s recent executive order, said Tacoma immigration lawyer Greg McLawsen, who was involved in creation of the website.” “The site takes in simple information from travelers’ friends or family members such as flight time and the type of visa the traveler holds. It then passes that information, with identifying details removed, on to a coordinating lawyer. Once a volunteer is assigned, that attorney can log in to a secure site to review the entire case.” “Airportlawyer.org currently has coordinating lawyers working near Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Denver International Airport, Baltimore-Washington International Airport and Dulles International Airport.” (The Seattle Times)

February 6, 2017 – “A $25 million donation to the University of Minnesota Law School will solidify a unique partnership between lawyers and students to provide free legal services to immigrants and refugees.” “The center is a partnership between University law students and lawyers from the Dorsey & Whitney, Faegre Baker Daniels, and Robins Kaplan law firms, as well as the nonprofit Immigration Law Center of Minnesota, Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid and The Advocates for Human Rights. In 2015, the students and lawyers won a U.S. Supreme Court case after arguing that a Tunisian noncitizen’s conviction for hiding unspecified pills in his sock should not trigger deportation. Last year, 50 law students worked on cases.” (TwinCities.com)

February 6, 2017 – “An East Palo Alto nonprofit group that helps thousands of low-income residents with housing and immigration issues will receive a three-year, $3.1 million grant from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the Initiative announced on Monday. David Plouffe, president of policy and advocacy, announced in a Facebook post that the philanthropic Initiative would begin supporting Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto and the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at University of California, Berkeley. Both organizations help affordable housing challenges. The Initiative was founded by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan.” (Palo Alto Online)

February 7, 2017 – “U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18) are renewing a bicameral effort to fix America’s strained public defender system from local courts all the way to the Supreme Court. Today, Booker and Maloney are re-introducing two legislative initiatives that seek to ensure America’s judicial institutions are living up to the Constitution’s guarantee of a right to counsel. The Equal Justice Under Law Act would empower indigent criminal defendants to take action against states and localities that systematically fail to provide effective assistance of counsel in felony cases. The Gideon Act would establish a federal corporation dedicated to delivering independent, uniform, and quality defense representation in criminal cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and, at times, in the highest courts in the states.” (Sen. Booker Press Release)

February 8, 2017 – “Montana officials moved forward Wednesday with an effort to overhaul the state’s public defender system, which has been long beset with sinking morale and a growing caseload that puts pressure on what officials say is an overburdened staff. The state Senate, without debate, gave preliminary support to a pilot project that is to develop a more comprehensive approach to helping repeat offenders stay out of the criminal justice system. The program, if approved, would connect defendants with social workers and services to help offenders get their lives back on track. The Senate also gave final approval to a bill stripping a requirement that automatically assigned a public defender to a parent of a child, even if that parent had not been identified or was not involved in the case. The latter change is expected to save the system at least $100,000 annually. Earlier, a legislative committee approved a plan to transfer oversight of the public defender’s office to the Department of Administration from a state commission.” “To help reduce the caseload, the state is exploring a variety of approaches, including a novel method called a ‘holistic defense pilot project’ already used by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. It is among the growing number of jurisdictions nationwide experimenting with a holistic approach that draws human support services into the criminal justice system. The project would be established for up to four public defender’s offices. The approach could eventually save millions of dollars, according to the pilot program’s lead sponsor, Rep. Kimberly Dudik, a Democrat from Missoula, who is sponsoring several bills as part of the overhaul.” (Bozeman Daily Chronicle)

February 9, 2017 – “Nathan Pryor was getting frustrated by news of Trump administration policies that he disagrees with. So he did what any a self-described designer, programmer and ‘tinkerer’ would do: He hacked into an Amazon gizmo designed to instantly order consumer goods for the home and made it donate $5 to the American Civil Liberties Union with every press, instead. OK, so maybe that’s not something anyone would do. Pryor credits his friend Katherine with the idea, but his follow-through on the execution has made donating to the ACLU as easy as, well, pressing a button.” “Amazon introduced the Dash Button in 2015 to allow frazzled consumers to reorder essential home supplies by literally pressing a button that sticks to a surface at home. The Dash Button quickly became a favorite hobby project for hackers and ‘maker’ types, who invented hacks that allowed users to control lights, build a silent doorbell and track work hours all with a single push. Amazon responded by releasing a developer kit and a customizeable ‘Internet of Things’ button called the AWS IoT. Pryor’s version looks to be one of the first Dash Buttons that donates to a charitable cause.” “He’s got a lot of ideas about how to implement a nonprofit donation button on a large scale, too. Pryor told NBC News that use of the buttons among supporters could provide ‘great feedback’ to an organization. “If 10,000 people pushed to donate within 10 minutes of a policy announcement, while another announcement brought only a trickle through the day, the organization would have a new perspective on what mattered to its donors,” Pryor said.” (NBC News)

 

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

“Joe Meux has been a volunteer attorney with Jacksonville Area Legal Aid since 1994 and has since served more than 300 low-income clients. He has worked with Elder Source and SHINE and also has served as a volunteer mediator. For the past 10-plus years, nearly weekly, he has been the attorney on-site at the Mary Singleton Senior Center. On Jan. 24, Joe shared with us that he is retiring from pro bono work to concentrate his time on his family and his church.” What a wonderful legacy.  Thank you Mr. Meux for your long service. (Jacksonville Daily Record)

Music Bonus! Music pick from the PSJD Fellow Delisa Morris.

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – February 3, 2017

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

Happy Friday! This week’s news is dominated by the recent executive actions of President Trump and the legal community’s response. Law school clinics and local legal aid organizations are mobilizing, and can use the help.  If you wish to get involved, PSJD has attorney and law student pro bono opportunities.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Two New York immigration legal services merge;
  • New York State Bar opposes Cuomo proposal to raise lawyer fees to pay for indigent defense;
  • Employers extend legal aid to employees caught in President’s aggressive immigration reform;
  • New York governor offers legal aid to airport detainees;
  • Hundreds of lawyers offer free legal aid at airports;
  • Law school clinics stepping up to provide immigration legal aid;
  • Big Law responds with immigration legal assistance;
  • Federal judge dismissed ACLU suit over indigent defense funding in Louisiana;
  • Protesters seeking money for indigent defense block Governor Cuomo’s office;
  • Greater Waco Legal Services opens;
  • Study finds civil legal aid yields seven fold return on investment in Florida;
  • Legal clinic pilot launched in the Supreme Court of Prince Edward Island;
  • Bill seeks to include juvenile defendants under Utah’s Indigent Defense Commission;
  • HackJustice brings together multiple disciplines for access to justice solutions;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

January 26, 2017 – “At a time of uncertainty and anxiety in immigrant communities here and across the nation, a merger between Neighbors Link in Mount Kisco and the Pace Community Law Practice in White Plains will formalize a partnership between two nonprofit service organizations with overlapping missions. Neighbors Link focuses on helping immigrants integrate into communities in Westchester County through efforts that include educational and employment programs. Pace Community Law Practice, founded in 2012, employs a staff of two lead attorneys, student fellows and volunteers to provide low-cost legal services. The two organizations began working together in 2014 on immigrant legal services, including naturalization and deferred action on cases involving undocumented juvenile immigrants to exempt them from deportation. By merging the Pace practice into the operations of the immigrant community center in Mount Kisco, Neighbors Link Executive Director Carola Bracco said the organization can add an additional component to its offerings. ‘We have a very holistic approach to the services we offer and legal services was the last thing missing,’ she said. The legal service has been renamed the Neighbors Link Community Law Practice, though its office will remain at 33 Crane Ave. near the Pace law school campus in White Plains. The practice will also continue to work on cases taken outside of the Neighbors Link partnership.” (Westchester County Business Journal)

January 27, 2017 – “The president of the New York State Bar Association said Jan. 27 her group will ‘vehemently oppose’ Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to raise biennial lawyer registration fees in New York by $50. Claire Gutekunst, speaking at the state bar’s annual meeting in Manhattan, told the group’s policy-setting House of Delegates Jan. 27 that the 74,000-member organization’s executive committee will oppose the governor’s proposal. Lawyers currently pay a $375 fee to re-register as attorneys with the state every two years. The fee was last increased in 2010, when it rose to $375 from $350 under a proposal by then-Gov. David Paterson to help boost state aid for civil legal services. Cuomo’s proposal calls for the new $50 charge on lawyers to go directly toward paying for legal representation of indigent criminal defendants, as required under the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 1963 ruling in Gideon v. Wainwright.” (New York Law Journal)

January 28, 2017 – “On Friday President Donald Trump signed an executive order that is temporarily halting the admission of refugees, indefinitely banned the admission of refugees from Syria, and stopping citizens of several Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. The order also includes any green card and visa holders from Iran, Iraq, Syria and Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia, meaning if you were a citizen of these countries and you are outside of the U.S. at the time the order went into effect, you’re now barred from entering the country for at least the next 90 days. Employees from many tech companies who are visiting or on holiday in their home country have been affected by the ban, with an estimated 500,000 legal employees of foreign nationality affected. Microsoft is providing legal assistance to its employees affected by the issue, saying in a statement, ‘We share the concerns about the impact of the executive order on our employees from the listed countries, all of whom have been in the United States lawfully, and we’re actively working with them to provide legal advice and assistance.'” (MSPowerUser Blog)

Another company story: “Uber says it will create a $3 million defense fund to help cover legal, immigration and translation costs for drivers affected by Trump’s immigration and travel ban, which Uber CEO and founder Travis Kalanick calls ‘wrong and unjust’ in a new note shared to Facebook and Uber’s newsroom. The post outlines in more detail Uber’s commitment to assist drivers impacted by the executive order, which Kalanick made Saturday in a prior post.” “Meanwhile, rival Lyft has committed $1 million to the ACLU, and its founders came out strongly in opposition to the measures by Trump’s White House.” (techcrunch)

And another company: “Amazon chief executive, Jeff Bezos, has pledged the full legal resources of his company to fight the travel ban instituted by Donald Trump against seven Muslim-majority nations. In an email to employees sent on Monday afternoon, Bezos said that Amazon would be putting its legal and lobbying efforts behind the fight against the ban. A key avenue of opposition involves supporting the attorney general for Washington state, where Amazon is headquartered, in his lawsuit against Trump – the first confirmed legal action from a state against one of the new administration’s policies.” (The Guardian)

January 29, 2017 – “Gov. Andrew Cuomo is dispatching lawyers from his office and the Port of Authority to aid persons detained at airports by federal authorities enforcing President Donald Trump’s executive morder on immigration. In addition to providing legal counsel to detainees, the governor announced during a news conference Sunday that he is proposing legislation to protect transportation workers against physical assault perpetrated by anyone on the basis of race or religion. The proposed bill was sparked by an attack against Rabeeya Khan, a Muslim airline employee in her office in the Delta Sky Lounge. A Massachusetts businessman, 57-year-old Robin A. Rhodes, is accused of mocking her religion and kicking her in the leg. He is being charged with hate crimes, prosecutors said. Anyone convicted of assaulting an airport worker or other state transit employee would be guilty of a class D felony and subject to a maximum sentence of seven years in prison under the new law, dubbed the Transportation Worker Protection Act.” (metro)

January 29, 2017 – “Hundreds of attorneys descended on U.S. airports all over the country this weekend to offer free legal help to the travelers and family members of loved ones detained under President Trump’s executive order. By Saturday afternoon, arrival terminals in airports from Dulles, Va., to Chicago to San Francisco were being turned into makeshift hubs for legal aid. Lawyers assembled conference-style tables in restaurants and gathered around electrical outlets with their laptops awaiting work. Some held signs near arrivals gates introducing themselves to families in need.” (Washington Post)

January 30, 2017 – “New York University is among the growing number of universities looking to their law schools to help protect and guide fellow students, faculty and staff in the wake of Trump’s executive order banning citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. The order led to chaos and protests at airports around the country and sparked concern and confusion at colleges and universities that draw faculty and students from around the globe. The Institute of International Education, a nonprofit organization that promotes international educational opportunities, estimates that 17,000 students from the seven banned countries were studying in the United States in 2015. The majority of those are from Iran. Harvard Law School; Cornell Law School; Yale Law School; and Stanford Law School are also pitching in to assist affected students and university employees.” (Law.com)

January 30, 2017 – “It’s a busy time to be a pro bono lawyer. After President Donald Trump issued an executive order Friday to severely limit immigration from seven Muslim-majority nations, lawyers across Big Law jumped in to help travelers, visa and green card holders, who faced uncertainty and deportation in the wake of the order that was soon followed by federal rulings staying parts of the action. Akin Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, Davis, Polk, Hogan Lovells, and Mayer Brown represent just a sliver of the firms that had lawyers on the ground at John F. Kennedy International, Dulles and other airports assisting clients. To find clients, they have partnered with non-profits such as IRAP [International Refugee Assistance Project], which organizes law students and lawyers to offer legal aid for refugees, while tapping their existing client networks, and resorted to holding signs in airports.” Click on the link for more information about the firm programs. (Bloomberg Law)

January 31, 2017 – “A federal judge in Baton Rouge on Tuesday threw out a lawsuit seeking court enforcement of poor criminal defendants’ right to counsel in Orleans Parish, ending a bid by the American Civil Liberties Union to force the state to address what even U.S. District Judge James Brady agreed is a crisis in public defense funding in Louisiana. ‘It is clear that the Louisiana Legislature is failing miserably at upholding its obligations’ under the 1963 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Gideon v. Wainwright, which required states to provide lawyers for defendants unable to hire their own, Brady wrote. ‘Budget shortages are no excuse to violate the United States Constitution.’ But in a 13-page ruling, Brady raised concerns over federalism, writing that ruling in the ACLU’s favor ‘would inevitably lead (the court) to become the overseer of the Orleans Parish criminal court system’ in a way that would fly in the face of prior U.S. Supreme Court rulings. The court ‘sees no way to enter this funding fray without intermeddling in state criminal prosecutions,’ Brady wrote. The ruling puts an end to an unusual lawsuit in which the ACLU sued Orleans Parish Chief Public Defender Derwyn Bunton’s office, while also targeting the state Public Defender Board, in an effort to force the state to fund both agencies better.” (The New Orleans Advocate)

January 31, 2017 – “Eight protesters were arrested outside Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office Tuesday, as they demonstrated for more money for legal aid services for New York’s poorest. Protesters chanted “What do we want? Lawyers,” and blockaded an entrance to Governor Cuomo’s suite of offices at the Capitol. After years of what critics say was under-funding legal aid for New York’s lowest income people, the Senate and Assembly passed a bill in 2016 to create a state funded system to ensure that indigent criminal defendants receive legal representation, as is their right under the U.S. Constitution. Currently, most  individual counties pay the costs of legal defense. Governor Cuomo held the legislation until New Year’s Eve, then vetoed it, saying it would be an $800 million cost shift to state taxpayers and that reform is needed first to bring the price down. Cuomo has proposed a new plan in his budget that he says will offer more accountability. Terrell Jones, with VOCAL New York,  says he’s tired of waiting, and accused Cuomo of favoring the wealthy over the poor. Demonstrators blocked the entrance to the governor’s offices, and eight were arrested.” (WAMC)

January 31, 2017 – “A legal service for low-income residents that incubated under the wings of Mission Waco is striking out on its own. Greater Waco Legal Services kicks off this week as an independent nonprofit organization, headed by attorney Kent McKeever, who started Mission Waco Legal Services in 2012. ‘I think it opens new doors for us to really strategically structure ourselves for growth,’ McKeever said. ‘Our mission is the same: to provide compassionate, affordable legal services for our community.'” (Waco Tribune-Herald)

January 31, 2017 – “With funding for civil legal aid in Florida at its lowest point in 10 years, a new study shows that every dollar spent on civil legal services for the state’s low-income residents yields more than $7 in economic impacts. With total funding of $83 million from all sources, 33 Florida civil legal aid organizations made $600 million of economic impact in 2015, according to the study commissioned by The Florida Bar Foundation. The detailed results and implications of the study will be the topic of three press conferences Feb. 2 and 3.” (citybizlist)

January 31, 2017 – “Starting next week, the Supreme Court of Prince Edward Island will launch a pilot project to provide free legal advice. It’s a response to a trend seen in courtrooms around the Island and across the county, where many people try to represent themselves in court without the help of a lawyer. According to P.E.I. Supreme Court Justice David Jenkins, it’s part of ‘crisis’ in access to justice across the country. ‘In a majority of family law matters we see in our courts, there’s at least one participant who is self-represented,’ he said. The pilot project will allow people to meet privately with a qualified lawyer. The 45-minute sessions, by appointment only, are free of charge. The clinics are for family law and civil matters only.” “The volunteer lawyers who will be providing the free advice are all qualified members of Law Society of Prince Edward Island. The Community Legal Information Association (CLIA), based in Charlottetown, will help people arrange appointments for the weekly sessions.” (CBC News)

February 1, 2017 – “Juvenile defendants may soon benefit from a state-funded commission created last year to tackle problems with Utah’s public-defender system. A bill introduced this week would amend a legislation enacted last year that created the Indigent Defense Commission, which distributes state funds and oversees indigent defense services statewide. But bill sponsor Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, said the bill he passed a year ago did not include juvenile defendants. This meant the commission could only grant money to counties for use in providing attorneys to those charged in adult court, who can’t afford their own attorneys and face the possibility of jail time. SB134 proposes that the commission be expanded to include juvenile defense, and also proposes an additional $150,000 a year to hire a staffer who has experience in juvenile crimes.” (The Salt Lake Tribune)

February 1, 2017 – “Students, legal professionals, computer programmers, computer scientists, software developers, members of the public and professionals of various disciplines will come together Feb. 3 and 4 for a two-day ‘hackathon’ designed to create technology applications that will improve access to justice. HackJustice, which is organized by the Winkler Institute for Dispute Resolution at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School and the Cyberjustice Laboratory at Université de Montréal – will run simultaneously at MaRS Discovery District in Toronto and the Cyberjustice Laboratory in Montréal. Over the course of the two days, participants will compete for prizes as they work in teams to create and code either a mobile phone or software app, a website, or other technological solution that will make justice more accessible. Each team will then present their tech solution to a panel of judges who will choose the hackathon winners based on the originality and usefulness of the tech developed. ‘HackJustice is a great competition for anyone who is interested in technology and improving access to justice,’ said Nicole Aylwin, Assistant Director of the Winkler Institute. ‘The challenges that the teams will be taking on reflect a desire to help build public engagement and participation in the justice system and policy-making.'” (York University Media Relations)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

Lawyers – for those of us with the training and expertise to make a difference, it is more important than ever that we do so.  We have seen a incredible response to the call to action by our profession.  Lawyers on both sides of the issues will be asked to do extraordinary things.  Please support them as you can, and thank you to those who have already stepped up.

Music Bonus! Music pick from the PSJD Fellow Delisa Morris.

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – January 27, 2017

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

Happy Friday! We continue to see an increase in interest and participation in pro bono since the inauguration.  If you’re looking to volunteer, PSJD has you covered.  Check out PSJD for law student and attorney pro bono opportunities nationwide.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Indiana nonprofit legal aid celebrates 1 year anniversary;
  • Trump’s election sparks new interest in pro bono;
  • Proposed bill to raise Montana civil court fees to help fund legal aid;
  • New online tool helps immigrants know their rights and access legal aid;
  • Miami legal services receives $1 million gift;
  • Louisiana public interest attorneys launch new social justice initiative;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

January 19, 2017 – “In the original business plan for the legal clinic, Justice Unlocked, the staff expected 15 to 20 cases in its first year, executive director Jamie Sutton said. However, since the nonprofit opened in December 2015, Justice Unlocked said it has opened 88 cases.The organization’s legal services have helped get clients out of jail, regain custody of their children and have a place to live after being evicted, Sutton said. Justice Unlocked is a local nonprofit that provides low-cost legal services for people unable to afford attorneys. It provides services in areas like criminal law, family law, landlord and tenant law, small claims court, and a victim’s justice clinic. The nonprofit is a sliding scale legal clinic, Sutton said, which means it provides low fees based on income and household size.” (Indiana Daily Student)

January 19, 2017 – “Since Donald Trump was elected president on a platform that many fear would curb protections for society’s most disadvantaged, donations have flooded into public interest groups. And at many large law firms, pro bono coordinators are seeing a spike in offers to volunteer. ‘The interest level is extremely high,’ says David Lash, the managing counsel for pro bono and public interest services at O’Melveny & Myers. ‘People involved in all things pro bono have largely reacted to the election by framing it as a call to action. They are responding with a renewed commitment to helping vulnerable groups of people.'” “But the uncertainty over what a Trump administration would do has made other pro bono planning difficult. ‘Most groups are urging caution,’ says Steven Schulman, a partner at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld who leads the firm’s worldwide pro bono practice. ‘We don’t want to overplan.’ Kevin Curnin, a partner at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan and the new president of the Association of Pro Bono Counsel, says that his members are talking daily among themselves. ‘It’s not too soon to start thinking,’ says Curnin, who is the founding director of Stroock’s public service project. ‘We can collaborate and strategize to come up with reasonable and practical responses.’ There is one area where advocates feel pressure to move quickly. ‘The most urgent discussions are around immigration,’ says Schulman. ‘That’s an area where it’s more predictable than others where individuals might be affected.’ Ellyn Josef, pro bono counsel at Vinson & Elkins, recalls that the day after the election, five lawyers contacted her asking for immigration assignments. ‘I probably don’t get five calls in a typical month,’ says Josef.” “Josef, who also sits on the board of the Association of Pro Bono Counsel, urges firms to advocate for more funding for legal services groups, as well as dig deeper into their own pockets.” (National Law Journal)

January 20, 2017 – “On a split vote Friday, the Montana House approved raising some civil court filing fees for the first time in several decades, with added money going to help fund legal assistance for the poor. House Bill 46, by Rep. Kimberly Dudik, D-Missoula, passed on a preliminary vote 54-46 and must clear a final vote in the House before moving to the Senate. Dudik said the bill is the product of a four-year study by the Montana Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission and is supported by Gov. Steve Bullock, Attorney General Tim Fox, AARP, the Montana Chamber of Commerce, Montana Trial Lawyers Association and some other groups. She said some of these civil filing fees haven’t been raised in 20 or 30 years.” (Bozeman Daily Chronicle)

January 25, 2017 – “In response to President Trump’s threat to deport up to 3 million immigrants, the Immigration Advocates Network and Pro Bono Net have launched immi – a free online tool to help immigrants know their rights, understand their legal options, and access civil legal aid to avoid risk of deportation.” “Immi was created by the Immigration Advocates Network and Pro Bono Net, who are dedicated to increasing access to justice for low-income immigrants and other vulnerable populations through innovative and effective technology, with support from Open Society Foundations, the MacArthur Foundation, and other donors.” (Sampan)

January 25, 2017 – “Legal Services of Greater Miami has received a $1 million gift from commercial real estate broker Edie Laquer to endow the nonprofit organization’s first attorney chair focused on women and children’s rights. The donation established the Edie Laquer Foundation women and children’s rights endowed attorney chair. Rebecca Schram of the legal services group has been named to the post. The gift will ensure ‘our most vulnerable neighbors — women and children — will always have an attorney dedicated to providing them with representation in our civil justice system,’ the nonprofit said in a news release.” (Daily Business Review)

January 26, 2017 – “Today, a group of Louisiana public interest attorneys announce the launch of a new social justice initiative – Green Justice Legal.  Green Justice will provide key services for individuals, communities and organizations that might otherwise not have access to important legal representation due to cost, the nature of the issue or other challenges. An independent non-profit organization, Green Justice will strategically align its work with the Center for Environmental Law at Loyola University New Orleans.” “Green Justice is a ‘low bono’ law group, meaning that it will charge some fees for services, but those are significantly less than a typical firm. The organization is meant to fill the gap for those unable to pay regular legal costs, but for whatever reason, also cannot access pro bono assistance.  By working with solo practitioners who supervise senior law students to collectively provide critical legal services, Green Justice can keep costs low. Students will learn important skills and clients are well served for far less expense.”  (PRNewswire)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

The Legal Services Corporation (LSC) Board of Directors will present Pro Bono Service Awards on January 26 to five attorneys, a law firm, and a corporate legal department in recognition of their extraordinary commitment to equal justice.

Recipients of the Pro Bono Service Awards are:

  • Alston & Bird LLP and United Parcel Services Inc. (UPS) Legal Department, a law firm and a corporate legal department that have partnered for years to assist relatives and caregivers to obtain guardianships for impaired adults and minor children.
  • Randall L. Hughes, an attorney who has been a supporter of pro bono efforts for nearly four decades, dedicating countless hours to helping low-income Georgians receive the legal help they need.
  • Anne Seward Myers, an attorney who has handled 36 family law cases for Georgia Legal Services.
  • Jeffrey J. Nix, an attorney who has volunteered with Atlanta Legal Aid Society for more than a decade, helping veterans and cancer patients with estate planning and other important legal issues.
  • Huey W. Spearman, an attorney and longtime supporter of Georgia Legal Services Program who has accepted 53 pro bono cases over the years.
  • Juli A. Wilkes Wisotsky, an attorney who has taken on 13 pro bono cases, many involving complex litigation.

(Legal Services Corporation)

Music Bonus! Music pick from the PSJD Fellow Delisa Morris.

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – January 20, 2017

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

Happy Friday! It’s Inauguration Day here in DC. That means long lines, lots of traffic, and hopefully a renewed commitment to what truly makes America great right now. As the public interest community, we play a vital role. This week in the news are a number of initiatives designed to increase access to justice. That is a great place to start! But, there is also an indication of what cuts to government President Trump plans to make – and that news isn’t good.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • New program aims to increase pro bono service in southern Virginia;
  • Attorney General orders probe of Legal Aid Ontario;
  • Idaho legal aid launches new communication service;
  • Pilot project in Ottawa helping homeless overcome huge barrier — lost id;
  • ABA Center for Innovation accepting applications for inaugural fellowships;
  • Ontario justice partners launch new Steps to Justice website;
  • Trump team prepares dramatic government cuts;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

January 12, 2017 – “A new program is trying to increase the amount of lawyers across the state offering pro bono services. Virginia Legal Aid Society is putting together teams of local judges, lawyers, and members of the legal aid society to recruit lawyers to participate in Virginia Legal Aid’s Pro Bono volunteer program. Teams will also be formed in Farmville and Suffolk to recruit lawyers to service those areas. ‘Danville, Martinsville, Henry County these are all areas where we don’t have a lot of big firms with the resources to devote a lot of attention. We have a lot of solo practitioners,’ explained David Weilnau, a staff attorney in the VLAS’s Danville office. Specifically, VLAS hopes to, within two years, double the number of attorneys and cases in its pro bono volunteer program. The program is being funded by a $327,899 grant from Legal Services Corporation’s Pro Bono Innovation Fund. The new program will also allow Liberty University law students to do supervised pro bono work in Danville, Farmville, and Suffolk.” (WSLS)

January 14, 2017 – “The attorney general has ordered a third-party review of Legal Aid Ontario, after the agency announced last month that it was dramatically cutting back on services due to a $26-million deficit. Yasir Naqvi will be bringing in an external firm to review the arm’s-length government agency’s budget forecasting methodology, decision-making procedures related to budget management, and Legal Aid’s plan to balance its budget. The firm’s report must be delivered to Naqvi and John McCamus, chair of the Legal Aid board, by March 31, and will be made public ‘shortly after,’ Naqvi said in a statement.” “The agency’s president and CEO, David Field, told the Star in an interview in December that he would welcome an external audit, saying he was ‘very confident’ in Legal Aid’s financial situation. He reiterated that position to the Star in a statement Friday.” (thestar.com)

January 15, 2017 – “Need legal advice, but can’t afford a lawyer? Idaho Legal Aid Services can help with its new interactive communication system. Are you being evicted? Text the keyword ‘eviction’ to 208-718-1502 on your cellphone and within seconds Legal Aid will text back a link to its website containing eviction information.” “The new service focuses on basic information and doesn’t overwhelm a client with too much information. Even people who are familiar with the legal system can get overwhelmed and can use this messaging system for help.” “The information is written by Idaho attorneys and tailored for Idaho laws. The 13 topics available through the system are based on the most common areas ‘where self-representing people get stuck,’ said Steve Rapp, Idaho Legal Aid technology project developer in Boise. He expects the service to eventually expand into a more comprehensive and interactive tool. The service is free and there is no cellphone application to purchase or download.” (magicvalley.com)

January 17, 2017 – “A new pilot project is helping people from one of Ottawa’s most vulnerable populations replace lost or stolen identification — a process organizers say is simple for most, but ‘a big mountain to climb’ for those living on the street. Pro Bono Students Canada, the Ottawa Mission, Borden Ladner Gervais and Lawyers Feed the Hungry are working together on The ID Project, where volunteers help clients fill out forms twice a month. ‘I think a lot of us take it for granted that you would have identification,’ said Emily Cumbaa, a 28-year-old law student from the University of Ottawa. ‘It’s a huge barrier for people who are homeless or precariously housed.'” “The ID Project runs every third and fourth Thursday from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Ottawa Mission.” (CBC News)

January 18, 2017 – “The ABA Center for Innovation is accepting applications for its inaugural fellowship program. Open to both newly minted lawyers and mid-career professionals outside the law, the program seeks applications and proposals to create or develop projects to improve the legal industry. Those who wish to apply should have an idea that bridges the access-to-justice gap in the U.S.; utilizes technology to deal with a vital legal need; designs or builds a more effective way of delivering legal services; provides the public with easier access to legal information; reduces the backlog of cases in various courts throughout the country; creates tools that allow lawyers to better represent their clients; or helps pro se litigants represent themselves more effectively. The deadline for applicants is Jan. 31.” (ABA Journal)

January 18, 2017 – “Problems with landlords, unfair treatment at a job, and getting separated or divorced: these are some of the issues that Ontarians face every day. However, many cannot access the information they need to understand the legal implications of their problems and respond. Now they can go to Steps to Justice – a new website that empowers people in Ontario to understand and take action to deal with their legal problems. A first of its kind, Steps to Justice presents easy-to-understand, step-by-step information on common issues that people experience in family, housing, employment and other areas of law.” “Steps to Justice is led by Community Legal Education Ontario (CLEO) and brings together key justice sector players such as the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General, the Superior Court of Justice and the Ontario Court of Justice, the Social Justice Tribunals of Ontario, Legal Aid Ontario, the Law Society of Upper Canada, and the Association of Community Legal Clinics of Ontario.” “Numerous justice sector partners are collaborating on content development to ensure the information is accurate and practical; the website will be updated regularly based on their input. Justice sector and community organizations will also be able to embed or present this automatically-updated Steps to Justice content on their own websites to share with their users.” (Newswire

January 19, 2017 – “Donald Trump is ready to take an ax to government spending. Staffers for the Trump transition team have been meeting with career staff at the White House ahead of Friday’s presidential inauguration to outline their plans for shrinking the federal bureaucracy, The Hill has learned.” “The proposed cuts hew closely to a blueprint published last year by the conservative Heritage Foundation, a think tank that has helped staff the Trump transition.” “The administration’s full budget, including appropriations language, supplementary materials and long-term analysis, is expected to be released toward the end of Trump’s first 100 days in office, or by mid- to late April.” “The Heritage blueprint used as a basis for Trump’s proposed cuts calls for eliminating several programs that conservatives label corporate welfare programs. At the Department of Justice, the blueprint calls for eliminating the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, Violence Against Women Grants and the Legal Services Corporation and for reducing funding for its Civil Rights and its Environment and Natural Resources divisions.”  (The Hill)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

Kristen Sonday is the co-founder of Paladin, a platform dedicated to increasing pro bono engagement across the nation. Their goal is to make sure that lawyers are abiding by their professional responsibility and helping those with legal needs that have historically not been met. “I bonded with my co-founder, Felicity Conrad, in the summer of 2015 over a late night conversation about this access to justice gap,” explains Sonday. “She told me a story about her recent pro bono work to gain asylum for a Latin American client, and we brainstormed ways to utilize technology to solve the access problem.” In 2017, the Paladin team, is committed to moving the platform out of beta, rolling out nationwide and expanding both internationally and across industries. Click on the link for the rest of the interview. (Forbes)

Music Bonus! Music pick from the PSJD Fellow Delisa Morris.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6LSarhZpnMs&feature=youtu.be

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – January 13, 2017

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

Happy Friday the 13th!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Connecticut legal aid hires new director;
  • A new way to fund legal aid;
  • University of Connecticut School of Law launches new incubator;
  • Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas gets new CEO;
  • D.C. creates legal defense fund for illegal immigrants;
  • British Columbia Law Society ends paralegal access-to-justice initiative;
  • Idaho Supreme Court hears arguments on public defense reform;
  • Equal Justice Works receives grant to launch New Mexico Immigration Corps;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

January 5, 2017 – “New Haven’s legal aid agency has hired a new executive director. The State Street-based agency, New Haven Legal Assistance Association, announced that its Board of Directors has chosen Alexis H. Smith of Hamden as its next executive director.  She replaces Susan Garcia-Nofi, who departure was announced in late October. She has been serving as the interim chief.” (New Haven Independent)

January 6, 2017 – Interest on IOLTA has been the second largest source of funding for civil legal aid for years.  But in recent years, with falling interest rates, that funding has been significantly curtailed.  “Into this breach emerged a new program, equally as compassionate and as effective. In Massachusetts and Ohio, several banks have launched programs where law firms can choose to donate to IOLTA programs some or all of the ‘cash back’ benefits generated by millions of dollars of credit card transactions. Genius. Citizens Bank has taken the lead and is one of the first financial institutions to get involved. They have announced that law firms in both Massachusetts and Ohio have the opportunity to sign-on and direct their cash-back rewards to the local IOLTA distribution system. ‘The Citizens team has listened to the needs of their clients in the legal community and done a great job coming up with an innovative solution that helps law firms ensure the fairness of our legal system by contributing to civil legal aid for low-income and vulnerable Ohioans,’ said Angela Lloyd, Executive Director of the Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation.” (Above the Law)

January 6, 2017 – “UConn School of Law is launching a new Hartford-based incubator in February to provide affordable legal services to people who need it and help lawyers establish solo practices. Dubbed the Connecticut Community Law Center, the incubator is an initiative of the law school and the Hartford County Bar Association that aims to help people traditionally underserved by the justice system. That typically includes low- and moderate-income clients who don’t qualify for legal aid but can’t afford standard legal fees. The center and the Justice Legal Center at the Center for Family Justice in Bridgeport, also scheduled to open early this year, will be the first in Connecticut.” (Hartford Business Journal)

January 6, 2017 – “After a thorough national search, the Board of Directors of Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas named Maria Thomas-Jones as the new chief executive officer, effective immediately. The board met last month for its quarterly meeting, during which board members unanimously voted to select Thomas-Jones, who has served as interim CEO since February 2016. ‘On behalf of the Board of Directors, I am pleased to officially welcome Maria Thomas-Jones as the new CEO of Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas,’ says Jan Langbein, board chair. ‘Maria has served LANWT effectively in many different capacities during her 17-year tenure with the firm.'”  (My San Antonio)

January 9, 2017 – “The nation’s capital is joining several other heavily Democratic cities in pledging to spend tax dollars to defend illegal immigrants against efforts by the incoming Trump administration to deport them. D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) announced Monday she plans to award grants to defense lawyers and nonprofit organizations to represent any of the District’s estimated 25,000 illegal immigrants who are faced with deportation. The $500,000 fund will also help illegal immigrants in the District apply for asylum and will provide representation for those residing in the city legally with green cards to obtain permanent U.S. citizenship. In a statement, Bowser said the District is ‘doubling down’ on its status as a sanctuary city, where D.C. police have already been instructed to not cooperate with federal authorities working to deport residents.” “Bowser will launch the initiative by shifting funds from the Office on Latino Affairs to a new Immigrant Justice Legal Services Grant Program. City officials said that the fund would also accept donations from individual residents or groups. Nonprofits, private organizations and law firms in Washington will be eligible to win the grant money. Groups can begin applying Jan. 23, the first Monday that Trump will be in the White House. Although the funds are coming through the Latino affairs office, groups that serve immigrants from any region are eligible for grants, aides to the mayor said. The aides also said they envision nonprofit immigrant groups pairing with law firms to win grants, harnessing pro bono work of big firms and creating a network of new legal services for illegal immigrants.” (Washington Post)

January 9, 2017 – “Rose Singh, vice-president of the B.C. Paralegal Association, said hopes for a robust provincial system of less expensive legal services similar to Ontario’s 10-year-old paralegal scheme have been doused.” “In January 2013, a two-year pilot project was launched in the B.C. Supreme Court and the Provincial Court allowing paralegals under the supervision of a lawyer to appear in select locations on some family-law matters. The project ended in the Supreme Court in December 2014; the Provincial Court soldiered on until October 2015. Of the province’s roughly 13,000 lawyers, three participated, not enough data for the Law Society to conclude that paralegals provided a benefit.” The article is a good overview of the program, the shortcomings of the pilot, and other potential access-to-justice programs. (Vancouver Sun

January 11, 2017 – “Idaho’s Supreme Court will soon decide whether to revive an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit against the state over its faulty public defense system. Attorneys on both sides told the high court Wednesday that they agree Idaho’s public defense system has serious deficiencies. But the state’s attorneys say the blame should lie on the counties, not Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter and the state’s Public Defense Commission. ‘The plaintiffs have identified serious issues,’ Idaho Deputy Attorney General Mike Gilmore said. ‘But they have named defendants who are not responsible for providing the services.’ The ACLU sued the state in 2015 on behalf of Idahoans who rely on court-appointed public defenders when they face criminal charges. They contend that state officials have known for years that Idaho’s public defense system is broken, and that by not fixing the problems the state is violating the 6th Amendment rights of its citizens. Indeed, Idaho Gov. C.L. ‘Butch’ Otter, many legislators and legal experts who have studied the issue on behalf of the state have all acknowledged that Idaho’s patchwork public defense system is deficient at best, and likely unconstitutional. But last year a lower court judge dismissed the lawsuit, partly because the judge said he believed a court ruling requiring the state to adequately fund the public defense system would violate the separation of powers. The ACLU promptly appealed.” (The Daily Progress)

January 11, 2017 – “Equal Justice Works has received an $800,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation of Battle Creek, Michigan to launch the New Mexico Immigration Corps, a partnership between Equal Justice Works, New Mexico Immigrant Law Center (NMILC), and University of New Mexico School of Law (UNMSOL). The program will deploy attorneys and paralegals to provide critically needed civil legal aid to immigrant communities throughout New Mexico from September 2016 through August 2020.” “Beyond filling the immediate void in legal representation, this program will expand the pipeline of pre-law students, current law students, and young attorneys committed to serving New Mexicans. Over the grant period, Equal Justice Works will partner with UNMSOL to share best practices, promote public interest curricula, present internship and postgraduate employment options, and counsel students on debt relief.”(PR Newswire)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

The Greensboro Four – Ezell Blair Jr., David Richmond, Franklin McCain and Joseph McNeil. Read about these amazing men, and what individual conviction can do for a nation. (History.com)

Music Bonus! Music pick from the PSJD Fellow Delisa Morris.

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – January 6, 2017

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

Happy New Year! And if you resolved to take on a new challenge this year, why not look into pro bono?  Law students have – to the tune of 2.2 million hours in 2016.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Montana Access to Justice Commission releases recommendations;
  • Public defender lawsuits;
  • New York governor vetoes indigent defense bill;
  • Connecticut Task Force releases access to justice recommendations;
  • Legal Aid of Roanoke celebrates 50 years of service;
  • Federal funding in New York for domestic violence and sexual assault victim programs;
  • Supporters of New York indigent defense bill consider lawsuit;
  • New Mexico judge refuses to dismiss suit against public defender’s office;
  • Missouri judge suspended over dispute with public defenders;
  • Michigan Indigent Criminal Defense Commission may continue its work;
  • Law students performed more than 2.2 million hours of pro bono work;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

December 30, 2016 – “The Montana Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Commission has spent several years working to expand opportunities for low- and moderate-income people to get legal help. Now it’s releasing its conclusions on how to make sure Montanans in need can receive that help. The commission announced four major recommendations this week:

  • Making and publicizing a statewide list of legal resources for people in need.
  • Finding ways to link people with the programs or attorneys that can help with their specific legal problems.
  • Addressing the links between legal needs and other issues, like health, housing and employment.
  • Securing long-term funding to support legal aid services, from self-help programs for people who go to court to mediation and other ways of resolving issues outside of court.

The recommendations are based on more than a year of public testimony. The commission held seven listening sessions around the state to hear from attorneys, service providers and advocates.” “Supreme Court Justice Beth Baker says the commission will work with other organizations and agencies to achieve some of its recommendations. It will bring others to the state legislature during the upcoming session.” (KPAX)

January 1, 2017 – The ABA Journal has an excellent article on the wave of lawsuits filed by public defender offices, and how it is shaping the funding debate. (ABA Journal)

January 1, 2017 – “Governor Andrew Cuomo vetoed a bill Saturday that would have would have required the state to pay the full costs of public defenders for low income people facing charges. Currently, most counties pick up the tab for it. Counties are mandated by the state to offer representation to indigent defendants. The bill that was voted for unanimously by both the state senate and assembly, would have shifted the costs for these services from the county to the state over a seven year period.” “In 2014, the state assumed the indigent defense costs for five counties after a lawsuit known as Hurrell-Herring. Governor Cuomo said in his veto message that he feels the ‘groundbreaking advances in those five counties’ should be there for the rest of the state, but he didn’t think the bill reached that goal.” (WWNY)

January 2, 2017 – “The Task Force To Improve Access to Legal Counsel in Civil Matters found that ‘many Connecticut residents cannot afford the legal assistance they need to protect essential human needs or face other barriers to accessing available legal services.” The four flagship legal services offices turn away thousands of income-eligible residents seeking representation, according to the task force report, because those offices are constrained by their own finances or those seeking assistance have incomes slightly above what’s necessary to secure the services.” Click here for the full recommendations. The Connecticut Bar Association was supportive of the task force’s recommendations. ‘The recommendations offer a series of steps that can be taken immediately to help civil litigants most at risk of being denied adequate legal assistance,’ CBA President Monte Frank said. ‘The focus on restraining orders, child custody and evictions targets the state’s most vulnerable citizens. The task force responsibly addresses the added societal cost of offering these additional legal services with a series of funding recommendations and by laying out a multi-year strategy for wider implementation,’ continued Frank.” (CT News Junkie)

January 2, 2017 – “The Legal Aid Society of the Roanoke Valley, which offers representation and advice to low-income families and others, opened its doors in mid-December 1966. It was headed by two lawyers — Charles Carrington and William Weinberg — with a small support staff that worked out of the basement of a Total Action for Progress building on Shenandoah Avenue. The first nonprofit of its kind in the state, it almost immediately proved divisive. ‘A blessing or a bane?’ wondered the headline of a Roanoke Times column that assessed the agency during the first week of February 1967, just two months after the office had taken on more than 90 initial clients. One of those cases — the defense in civil court of the welfare-supported father of seven children, a man whose in-laws were formally accused of neglect — served as the column’s resolutely unsympathetic centerpiece. ‘I don’t think it’s needed,’ a Roanoke judge said of Legal Aid in the piece. ‘I think that the overall point-of-view is the creation of a society to do everything for everybody rather than the individual doing all he can for himself. To put it in a nutshell, the government can go too far in trying to have a Utopia,’ the judge argued. Looking over that old clipping in December, senior staff attorney Henry Woodward chuckled. ‘I think that was a bit out of touch even then,’ he later said. Half a century has passed since then, and still Legal Aid remains, busy as ever. ‘The fact that it was difficult was often just a reflection of prejudices toward our clients. ‘People who are poor are poor because they deserve to be and shouldn’t be helped,’ Woodward said. ‘I think there’s a much wider base of understanding today.'” But there is still work that needs to be done.  Congratulations on 50 years providing access to justice.  (The Roanoke Times)

January 3, 2017 – “Efforts to help victims of domestic assault in Livingston County will see a more than $70,000 boost courtesy of federal funds provided to New York State. Chances and Changes Inc. was awarded $35,600 to partially fund three domestic violence victims’ advocates. The Livingston County District Attorney’s Office will also receive $35,600. The money will partially fund an assistant district attorney, investigator and probation officer to partner with Chances and Changes to provide domestic violence services and civil legal services. ‘The federal funding will allow local and statewide programs that have proven to be successful in helping victims of domestic violence and sexual assault to continue,’ state Sen. Patrick M. Gallivan, R-Elma, said in a statement. ‘By supporting these various community based services and law enforcement efforts, we can better protect victims and prosecute perpetrators of these despicable crimes.’ The funds were part of $7.7 million in federal funding announced this week by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. The funding will allow the state to fund 11 new programs and support 117 existing programs that help victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Funding through the federal Violence Against Women Act was increased by nearly $662,000 to support programs offered by non-profit organizations, hospitals and law enforcement agencies across the state.” (Livingston County News)

January 3, 2017 – “Supporters of providing uniform representation to indigent criminal defendants in New York are trying to regroup following Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Saturday night veto of a bill that would have required the state to take over all defense costs by the middle of next decade. Cuomo cited the costliness of the phased-in, seven-year takeover when vetoing A10706/S8114 on New Year’s Eve. He said the bill’s eventual cost of $800 million or more a year is so large that it could undermine the state’s finances in many other ways. Members of a disparate coalition which had pushed for Cuomo’s approval since the Legislature unanimously approved the bill in June 2016 tried to find some positives in the governor’s decision. But they insisted they would try to resume their campaign for a unified approach to providing adequate defense for criminal suspects unable to afford a lawyer, as decreed by the Supreme Court in Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335 (1963). While saying they wanted to find another legislative solution to create a statewide indigent defense system, several supporters said Cuomo’s veto has advocates discussing litigation. Stephen Acquario, executive director of the New York State Association of Counties, said several leaders of the 52 counties not covered by the 2014 settlement in Hurrell-Harring v. State of New York contacted him Tuesday to discuss initiating a new lawsuit. Their aim, he said, would be to have the assistance that Albany is providing to the five counties covered by the Hurrell-Harring settlement—Schuyler, Suffolk, Onondaga, Washington and Ontario—extended to the other 52 counties. ‘A dozen counties have approached us with a strong desire to sue the state. We are going to review that possibility. If there is going to be an action, it would be a multi-county joint action,’ Acquario said Tuesday.” (New York Law Journal)(subscription required)

January 3, 2017 – “A state District Court judge ruled Tuesday it wasn’t a normal job duty for a state public defender to ask that his employer be held in contempt of court for failing to provide an indigent defendant with an adequate defense. Sarah Singleton made the ruling in refusing to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Damian Horne, a Santa Fe public defender for more than 15 years, against the Law Offices of the Public Defender. Horne’s lawsuit touches on the larger issue of whether the state is providing adequate counsel for defendants who cannot afford attorneys. Citing a budget crunch, the public defender’s office in November declined to provide lawyers for indigent defendants in Hobbs, leading a judge to hold the state’s chief public defender in contempt of court. In the whistleblower lawsuit he filed in January 2016, Horne said the public defender’s office placed him on paid administrative leave, removed him from 83 cases and required him to undergo a psychiatric examination and release his medical records. He alleges the office’s actions were in retaliation for him raising concerns about the defense of William Kalinowski, a Horne client and former homebuilder charged with fraud and embezzlement. Horne filed a motion asking a judge to hold the public defender’s office in contempt of court for failing to properly finance Kalinowski’s defense, including providing as much as $350,000 for forensic accountants. A judge declined to hold the public defender’s office in contempt but appointed a special master to oversee the case.” (Santa Fe New Mexican)

January 4, 2017 – “The Missouri Supreme Court suspended a Lincoln County judge accused of delaying the assignment of public defenders in probation cases Tuesday. The court suspended Judge Christina Kunza Mennemeyer without pay for six months starting Feb. 1. The action comes in response to a 2014 complaint filed by the director of the Missouri State Public Defender System, who said Mennemeyer deliberately waited to assign public defenders until after the deadline for requesting a new trial judge for a case had passed. Court documents say Mennemeyer also threatened to file complaints against attorneys who tried to represent defendants before she assigned them to the case. The dispute was over a Missouri law dictating when a public defender can appear in court or file on behalf of a defendant charged with a probation violation. Mennemeyer argued that no public defenders can represent a client before they are appointed by the court. After a request for a meeting with Mennemeyer to settle the disagreement was ignored, the public defender’s office filed a complaint with the Missouri judiciary’s Commission on Retirement, Removal and Discipline. The commission found that in all of the cases with a delayed appointment, the defendant had no money or valuable assets, and Mennemeyer had violated the judicial code of ethics. On Tuesday, the court accepted the commission’s recommendation. Missouri Supreme Court Judge Paul C. Wilson wrote in a concurring opinion that Mennemeyer ‘purposely subverted the rights’ of some defendants in her ‘feud’ with the public defender and was therefore in violation of judicial ethics.” (Springfield News-Leader)

January 4, 2017 – “The Michigan Indigent Defense Commission will be able to continue its work. Governor Rick Snyder signed legislation Wednesday reestablishing the commission. It was established in 2013 when Snyder signed legislation that set statewide standards for court appointed public defense attorneys. The commission, among other things, collects data about indigent defense services in Michigan, creates standards for effective representation, and creates requirements for who qualifies for a public defender.” “The legislation would also move the commission into the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.” (WMUK)

January 5, 2017 – “The law class of 2016 performed more than 2.2 million hours of pro bono work while on campus, which is valued at more than $52 million. That’s according to new figures compiled by the Association of American Law Schools (AALS), which polled all American Bar Association-accredited law schools in November to find out how much pro bono work their recent graduates did. It’s the first time a nationwide student pro bono survey has been conducted, according to AALS Director of Communications James Greif.” “The actual number of law student pro bono hours is likely much larger than the 2.2 million reported by the AALS. Its figure is based on responses from only 80 of the 205 ABA-accredited schools, and represents just 45 percent of the law student population. The comprehensive number could be more than double what was reported. Some law schools said they don’t currently track student pro bono hours, but will do so in the future, Greif said. The AALS plans to conduct the pro bono survey annually. Performing pro bono even before officially launching their legal careers can have a lasting impact on students’ lifetime commitment to such work, several pro bono advocates said.” (National Law Journal)(subscription required)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

A school field trip to the Wyandotte County Courthouse was a life-changing experience for 13-year-old Rhonda Mason. It set her on a career path that now, some 30 years later, has been realized with her appointment as a judge. And when Mason is sworn in in January, she will make history as the first African-American judge in Johnson County, Kansas.  After she is sworn in, Mason will likely take over the civil court docket. She said she is eager to take on her new duties and looks forward to serving the community. “I am just really honored and humbled,” she said. “I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work.” Congratulations Judge Mason. (The Kansas City Star)

Music Bonus! Music pick from the PSJD Fellow Delisa Morris.

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – December 22, 2016

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

Happy Holidays! Big news this week – the ABA has filed suit against the Department of Education regarding the retroactive denials of some previously qualified employers under Public Service Loan Forgiveness.  Coverage is below.

We here at PSJD thank you for your support and wish you the happiest of holiday seasons.  The Digest will take a holiday next week and return in the new year.  Happy New Year!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Deficit forcing Legal Aid Ontario to scale back services;
  • LA Justice Fund will offer legal help to potential deportees;
  • ABA sues government over retroactive denials to lawyers under Public Service Loan Forgiveness;
  • Indigent defense bill finally goes to New York governor’s desk;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

December 16, 2016 – “Potentially thousands of Ontarians who can’t afford a criminal lawyer will have to represent themselves at trial, as a deficit at the provincial agency that funds legal aid means it has to cut back dramatically on services. While Legal Aid Ontario will still issue legal aid certificates — which cover a person’s legal fees — for criminal defence lawyers in cases where there is a ‘substantial likelihood of incarceration,’ it will generally no longer do so in other matters. That means that impoverished individuals who may not be facing jail time but could be deported, fired or slapped with a hefty fine if they are convicted — and get a criminal record in the process — will be left to fend for themselves in courtrooms across the province. The news was announced in a memo from LAO president and CEO David Field, issued Friday afternoon and obtained by the Star. ‘Despite our best efforts to predict client demand for expanded services, our forecasts were well below actual demand,’ he said in the memo. ‘The end result was that we provided more services for clients than we had available funding for. We now need to take steps to bring client services in line with our funding.'” (The Star)

December 19, 2016 – “A new fund will provide $10 million dollars to provide legal help for immigrants in Los Angeles County who face deportation proceedings without a lawyer. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the creation of  the L.A. Justice Fund, which he said is a direct response to President-elect Donald Trump’s threat to increase deportations of undocumented immigrants and other ‘dangerous rhetoric.’ The fund is a joint effort between the City and County of Los Angeles, the California Community Foundation, the Weingart Foundation and the California Endowment.” “The fund will focus on helping immigrants in the county under temporary status such as the Deferred Access for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, military families, refugees and unaccompanied minors. It will not provide aid to immigrants with a serious criminal history, Garcetti said. A press release from the Mayor’s office said the fund will begin serving immigrants early in 2017, after the funding partners decide how the funds will be best allocated.” (KCET)

December 20, 2016 – “The American Bar Association and a group of individual public interest lawyers sued the U.S. Department of Education on Tuesday claiming that the agency illegally walked back a loan-forgiveness program meant to encourage attorneys to take low-paying public-sector positions. The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in federal court in Washington, claims that the department has arbitrarily tightened its definition of what sorts of organizations qualify as providers of “public interest law services” under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. The moves, the lawsuit contends, have illegally trimmed the ranks of lawyers who qualify for the program enacted in 2007 by President George W. Bush, which forgives student loan debt for full-time public interest lawyers. To be eligible, attorneys must work in the public sector for 10 years and pay down their loans. According to the suit, some lawyers have gotten word recently that their work doesn’t qualify for the program years after being told the exact opposite by representatives of the Education Department. The department’s eligibility decisions apply retroactively, meaning that years of work that lawyers assumed would apply toward loan forgiveness may not be recognized.” (National Law Journal)(subscription required)(ABA)

December 21, 2016 – “A decades-long movement to the make the state responsible for the cost of providing counsel to indigent criminal defendants has reached a critical point with the transmission to Gov. Andrew Cuomo of a bill providing for a state takeover of all defense costs.After a seven-year phase-in period, the bill (A10706/S8114) would provide for the state to relieve New York City and the 57 upstate counties of the entire financial burden for the adequate defense of individuals charged with a crime that the U.S. Supreme Court deemed a constitutional right in its 1963 ruling in Gideon v. Wainwright. A full takeover would take effect on April 1, 2023, under the bill. Currently, the state provides about $80 million for indigent criminal defense services and the counties and New York City provide $360 million. Cuomo has not indicated whether he will sign or veto the bill, which was approved unanimously by each chamber of the state Legislature in June. His spokeswoman, Dani Lever, repeated on Wednesday the response his office has given to inquiries about the bill for months, which is that the governor is continuing to study the measure. Cuomo has until Dec. 30 to decide.” (New York Law Journal)(registration required)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

Happy Holidays!
History of Christmas
History of Hannukkah
History of Kwanzaa
History of Boxing Day

Music Bonus! Music pick from the PSJD Fellow Delisa Morris.

 

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