by Christina Jackson, NALP Director of Public Service Initiatives & Fellowships
Happy Friday! Postgraduate fellowship and government program deadlines are fast approaching. The 2016 Comprehensive Fellowship Guide and Federal Legal Employment Guide are now live and available on PSJD to assist you in researching and applying to these programs.
Here are the week’s headlines:
- Pro bono requirement for bar licensure in California passes state Assembly;
- ABA Commission on the Future of Legal Services releases final report;
- Lawyer reflection on clemency work after executive action;
- Push for Maine to cover indigent defense costs on appeal;
- Legal Service Board Chair remarks to ABA – public at large needs to be concerned about justice gap;
- New York State awards funds for disability assistance legal services;
- Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants;
- Super Music Bonus!
August 5, 2016 – “Before a law student can become a lawyer in California, he or she must make it through the toughest bar exam in the nation. A new bill written by Sen. Marty Block would require would-be lawyers to do something else too before they can be admitted to the State Bar: complete 50 hours of pro bono legal work. It’s an idea New York has already implemented, and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor has said all states should be doing. Block’s bill passed the Assembly this week and is headed back to the state Senate for a final sign-off.” (Voice of San Diego)
August 6, 2016 – “As expected, the ABA Commission on the Future of Legal Services delivered plenty of recommendations for how the bar can close the access to justice gap in America, while steering clear of the most contentious issue: whether alternative business structures—most notably nonlawyer ownership of law firms—should be permissible. After two years of work, the commission released its final report (PDF) on Saturday during the 2016 ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco. The underlying message of the report, said ABA President Paulette Brown, is that ‘The future is not going to wait for us. We have got to go with it. We have to not let the future get away from us.’ Citing statistics showing that in some jurisdictions, over 80 percent of the civil legal needs of lower-to-middle income individuals went unmet, the commission called on the legal profession to support the idea that all people should have some form of legal assistance for their civil legal needs. To that end, the commission found that the legal profession ‘should support the aspirational goal of 100 percent access to effective assistance for essential civil legal needs.'” In order to meet that standard, the Commission made several recommendations:
- courts should be open to innovations in the delivery of legal services and were called upon to adopt the ABA Model Regulatory Objectives for the Provision of Legal Services (PDF);
- the ABA open a Center for Innovation that would amount to a research and development division for the legal industry;
- all members of the legal profession should keep abreast of relevant technologies; and
- the legal profession should partner with other industries to design, develop and create new delivery models and technological tools.
“The wide-ranging report also called for criminal justice reform; increased diversity within the legal profession; regular preventive legal checkups for individuals; and utilization of statistics and metrics to determine how effective the intended reforms really are.” You can read the details here. (ABA Journal)
August 9, 2016 – The National Law Journal has an excellent reflection from lawyers working with the Clemency Project 2014. The Project is a “working group of lawyers who review clemency petitions. Through the project, inmates who qualify for clemency under the guidelines are assigned a lawyer, who works the case pro bono. The project seeks inmates convicted of nonviolent crimes, such as drug offenses, with good prison records, no gang affiliations, who have already served more than 10 years in prison, and who, if sentenced today, would likely have received less time. When the project first launched in January 2014, 37,000 interested inmates were surveyed to evaluate their potential eligibility for clemency.” (National Law Journal)(subscription required)
August 9, 2016 – “A criminal defendant in Maine stripped of his right to an attorney at his trial after threatening his sixth lawyer is at the center of a push to have the state cover the costs for indigents to petition the U.S. Supreme Court. Joshua Nisbet of Scarborough handled his own defense in 2014 with two standby attorneys after threatening a string of defense lawyers; he was convicted in the robbery case and sentenced to seven years in prison. Since then, attorney Jamesa Drake of Auburn has taken up his petition to the Supreme Court on a pro bono basis. The Maine Commission on Indigent Legal Services has declined Drake’s request for the state to pay the petition costs. Maine is the only state in the nation that lacks an intermediate appellate court and also refuses to pay the costs for indigent defendants to petition the country’s highest court, the Maine Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers said in arguing for the state to cover the costs. The group says the law doesn’t prohibit such assistance. Drake also has told the commission that Supreme Court justices have never endorsed the theory that a defendant can forfeit his right to counsel.” “Commission members said Tuesday they may ask a legislative committee for explicit authority to cover the petition costs.” (Portland Press Herald)
August 9, 2016 – “The Legal Services Corp. is expanding its efforts to provide innovative technology to close the justice gap and trying to raise public awareness of the legal aid crisis, said John G. Levi, the board chair of the publicly funded nonprofit, to the ABA House of Delegates at the association’s annual meeting in San Francisco. As for expanding the use of innovative technology, among many existing, new and proposed uses of technology to increase availability of legal services, Levi said the LSC has partnered with Microsoft Corp, which has committed $1 million to develop statewide legal portals to direct those with legal needs to where they can get assistance. Levi spoke at length about the need for more funding and increasing the availability of legal services, and the need to get that message to the public. ‘We can no longer leave this issue just to the lawyers,’ Levi said. To raise public awareness of the legal aid crisis and resulting justice gap, the LSC formed the Leaders Council to connect with the public , with high-profile, influential people from various walks of life. Among them are the legendary baseball player Hank Aaron; author John Grisham; University of Michigan head football coach Jim Harbaugh; former commissioner of Major League Baseball Bud Selig; and well as former U.S. attorneys general Eric Holder and Dick Thornburgh, and former ABA presidents Paulette Brown, William Hubbard and Bill Neukom, among others.” “In a 2005 study and a follow up in 2009, the LSC found that most civil legal needs of low-income people went unmet. Levi said that a new report will be issued early next year and that, he’s confident it ‘will reveal a continuing, alarming justice gap.'” (ABA Journal)
August 10, 2016 – “The New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance announced Wednesday that it has allocated $8.2 million to provide legal assistance for those who have been denied federal disability benefits. The funding will be divided up among 11 organizations that provide legal services for lost benefits including Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance. Providing more funding ensures that these nonprofit organizations can provide adequate legal assistance for those seeking appeals.” (Watertown Daily Times)
Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:
This Day in History: On August 14, 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs into law the Social Security Act. Press photographers snapped pictures as FDR, flanked by ranking members of Congress, signed into law the historic act, which guaranteed an income for the unemployed and retirees. FDR commended Congress for what he considered to be a “patriotic” act. Although it was initially created to combat unemployment, Social Security now functions primarily as a safety net for retirees and the disabled, and provides death benefits to taxpayer dependents. The Social Security system has remained relatively unchanged since 1935. (History.com)