PSJD Public Interest News Digest – June 20, 2014

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

Happy Friday everyone!  Summer officially begins tomorrow, but it’s been HOT here for some time.  I just visited Fredericton, NB, where it was absolutely beautiful.  Thank you to all my Canadian hosts for a wonderful trip!

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: If you know someone we should honor, drop me a line.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Montgomery Co, AL gets a public defender office;
  • Cleveland, OH firm launches pro bono veterans clinic;
  • NC House & Senate slash budget for legal services;
  • Canyon Co, ID appoints first chief public defender;
  • IN task force created to increase free legal aid;
  • GA public defender system sued;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: June 23 is UN Public Service Day;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

June 12, 2014 – “Aylia McKee is building Montgomery County’s first Public Defender’s Office from the ground up.”  “The state committed $2.2 million to fund the office, including salaries, benefits and office supplies. The Montgomery County Commission has provided the historic Greil mansion next to the county courthouse on Lawrence Street to house its staff.”  “McKee is currently looking to hire seasoned attorneys who will work as her deputy attorneys in the Public Defender’s Office. She hopes to have her key staff in place by the end of next month.  At full capacity, the public defender’s office will have a staff of about 30 people, with between 16-18 attorneys.  McKee does not yet have a set date when the office will start taking cases.”  “The public defender’s office will be phased in to the courtrooms in Montgomery County and as the office takes on more cases, the contract attorneys will be phased out. But McKee says there is still going to be a lot of work and responsibility for private attorneys. They will be needed to help handle any conflict cases or cases with multiple defendants.”  (WSFA)

June 12, 2014 - ”McDonald Hopkins, working with the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland and the Veterans Administration Community Referral and Resource Center, has developed a new initiative to provide free legal advice and referrals to low-income veterans in need of help. This unique collaboration – conceived by Anne Owings Ford and R. Jeffrey Pollock, co-chairs of the firm’s Pro Bono and Public Service Committee – is the first of its kind in Cleveland, and connects low-income veterans with our volunteer lawyers to deliver direct legal advice and recommend a course of action. The inaugural Clinic, held May 7, 2014, was a rousing success.”  (Digital Journal)

June 12, 2014 – “The state Senate budget proposes to cut more than $2 million in legal aid funding, which could make it more difficult for North Carolina’s poorest residents to defend their rights.  Under the Access to Civil Justice Act, a portion of court filing fees are given to legal aid groups in North Carolina—$1.8 million per year. The Senate’s budget bill cuts this funding. The Senate budget also eliminates the Access to Civil Justice Grant, which provided more than $670,000 to legal services in North Carolina last year.”  “While the Senate’s proposed budget eliminates funding both from filing fees and the direct grant, in the House’s proposed budget, funding from filing fees is restored while the Access to Civil Justice Grant is eliminated.” (Indy Week)

June 12, 2014 – “The Canyon County Board of Commissioners has appointed Tera A. Harden as the county’s first chief public defender.  Harden will officially start her new role in July so she will have time to build her staff before the county’s new in-house Public Defender’s Department officially goes into service on Oct. 1. The Public Defender Department will be housed in the newly built Canyon County Administration Building in Caldwell.”  (Idaho Statesman)

June 16, 2014 – “An Indiana Supreme Court task force plans to submit recommendations next week for how to increase the amount of free legal services Hoosier attorneys donate to the poor.  The Supreme Court has already decided against mandatory pro bono services, instead asking a task force to suggest ways to implement mandatory reporting of pro bono hours.”  “The task force is also looking at other administrative issues, including how to define pro bono work.   The justices will make the final decision on how to implement the requirement.”  (Indiana Public Media)
June 16, 2014 – “A former Middle Georgia public defender has filed a whistle-blower lawsuit that alleges breakdowns at all levels of the state’s indigent defense system.  The lawsuit, filed Monday, said that public defenders in the Towaliga Judicial Circuit were forced to work in unsanitary and dilapadated offices and carry crushing case loads. The plaintiff, Jim Kight, who worked as a defender in the circuit for eight years, was fired in retaliation last year after he complained about the conditions, the suit said.”  (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:  The UN Public Service Day intends to celebrate the value and virtue of public service to the community; highlight the contribution of public service in the development process; recognize the work of public servants, and encourage young people to pursue careers in the public sector.  The United Nations Public Service Day 2014 theme is, “Innovating Governance for Sustainable Development and Well-being of the People.” (United Nations)

Super Music Bonus! Try to stay cool out there folks! 

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Fellowships 101: An Introduction to Postgraduate Public Interest Fellowships Wednesday, July 9, from 6:30 – 8:30 pm

Fellowships 101: An Introduction to Postgraduate Public Interest Fellowships
Wednesday, July 9, from 6:30 – 8:30 pm

Georgetown University Law Center
McDonough Hall, Hart Auditorium
600 New Jersey Avenue NW
(building entrance on 2nd Street NW)
Washington, DC 20001
Union Station or Judiciary Square Metro

Join the Washington Council of Lawyers, Equal Justice Works, NALP, the Partnership for Public Service, and Georgetown University Law Center, as they co-sponsor an interactive panel discussion of the ins and outs of project-based fellowship programs.  Our expert panelists will offer tips and insights about how to craft the best fellowship proposals while in law school.

This panel discussion will be held at the Georgetown University Law Center, McDonough Hall, Hart Auditorium, 600 New Jersey Avenue NW, (entrance on 2nd Street NW), and will be followed by a networking reception offering light refreshments.

Our program features opening remarks by Christina Jackson, Director of Public Service Initiatives and Fellowships, NALP.  Our panelists will be:

  • Ashley Fox, Program Associate, Partnership for Public Service
  • Evan Henley, Skadden Fellow, The Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia
  • Sterling Morriss, Manager, Fellowships & Advancement, Equal Justice Works
  • Vytas Vergeer, Legal Director, Bread for the City

Our moderator will be David Steib, Office of Public Interest, American University, Washington College of Law.

The cost to attend is $5 per person.
WCL members attend for free!

Click here to join WCL.

Register Now!

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Discover the PATH to becoming a public defender.

The Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia invites you to discover the PATH to becoming a public defender on Saturday, August 2, 2014.  If you are considering a career in criminal defense, this panel is for you.  This comprehensive program will give you a roadmap for achieving your goals, with frank discussions and insider tips not found anywhere else.  And the event is FREE.  Visit www.pdsdc.org for more information and to register.

Hosted by The George Washington University Law School, 2000 H Street, NW, Washington, DC 20052.

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – June 13, 2014

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

Happy Friday the 13th everyone!  This week there is a lot going on.  The big news is the extension of PAYE.  Here’s hoping it means more folks can follow their passions.

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: If you know someone we should honor, drop me a line.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • The 2014 Public Sector & Public Interest Attorney Salary Report now available;
  • Ontario justice groups launch access to justice collaborative;
  • Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service receives grant;
  • DOJ starts legal aid program for immigrant children;
  • The Capital Assistance Project of Louisiana seeks to withdraw from multiple capital cases citing budget problems;
  • FL firm launches veterans scholarship;
  • CA pioneers court-aided one-day divorce;
  • President Obama extends PAYE;
  • ABA Council says no to paid student externships;
  • Senator Warren’s student loan bill stalls;
  • FL Gov. Scott vetoes legal services funding & Board of Governors rejects proposed bar fee increase;
  • DC Bar Foundation awards $600,000 for legal services;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: NYC Bar Association honors public service;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

The Public Sector & Public Interest Attorney Salary Report is now available in the NALP bookstore.  It is THE definitive source for public sector salaries.  You can search by employer type and region.  There is also great information LRAP programs and federal government salaries and benefits.

June 5, 2014 – The Law Society of Upper Canada’s access to justice initiative, known as TAG, creates a forum for the legal and justice sectors to foster teamwork on the access to justice front.  “LSUC Treasurer Thomas Conway, who created the initiative, says this is ‘without a doubt’ one of his biggest accomplishments.”  “Two years ago, when I was first elected, the goal I set was to define a new role for the law society in improving access to justice,” says Conway.  “At the meeting, participants discussed what they are already doing to share their knowledge with other justice groups, and brainstormed innovative ideas to make justice more accessible. Their suggestions included creating a sort of “incubator” for lawyers building a practice to help underserved clients, coaching self-represented litigants, and setting up a ‘legal brokerage’ to assist family law litigants at a reduced fee.”  Collaborators will use the information they have to press government and other agencies to work together to provide better access to justice.  (Canadian Lawyer Magazine)

June 5, 2014 - ”The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) has recently granted $100,000 to Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service to support three key program areas. $50,000 will be designated to support the LIRS Access to Justice Program, which engages congregations to help provide holistic services to immigrants and migrants released from detention on the journey to integration. The grant will expand educational resources for local congregations, increase staff capacity, and cover travel to support local partners.”  “As the second largest refugee resettlement agency in the U.S., LIRS is nationally recognized for its leadership advocating with refugees, asylum seekers, unaccompanied children, immigrants in detention, families fractured by migration and other vulnerable populations, and for providing services to migrants through over 60 grassroots legal and social service partners across the United States. Celebrating 75 years of service and advocacy this year, LIRS has helped more than 500,000 migrants and refugees rebuild their lives in America.”  (news.gnomes.es)

June 6, 2014 – “The Department of Justice said on Friday it will help provide lawyers for the growing number of children coming to the United States illegally, without parents or relatives accompanying them.  The new program, established in conjunction with the agency that administers the AmeriCorps volunteer program, will seek out around 100 lawyers and paralegals to provide legal services to the children, the department said.”  The new justice AmeriCorps members will also “help identify unaccompanied immigrant children who have been victims of human trafficking or abuse to assist in the investigation and prosecution of those who perpetrate such crimes on those children.” (Reuters) (DOJ)

June 6, 2014 – The Capital Assistance Project of Louisiana (CAPOLA) has filed motions to withdraw as council in multiple capital cases, citing budget issues.  “Court records document the issue:  ‘In recent years the contractual arrangements and awarding of the annual contracts have been handled by the Louisiana Public Defender Board (LPDB)… The Executive Director of CAPOLA has been informed by the LPDB that LPDB has made no provision to fund CAPOLA for the upcoming fiscal year.’  CAPOLA received almost $1.4 million funding in 2013from the state board’s $33m dollar budget.”  “Louisiana State public defender Jay Dixon says they’re reviewing CAPOLA’s operations and calls the motions to withdraw ‘premature.’  Prosecutors say allowing CAPOLA attorneys to drop cases could affect their ability to try for the death penalty, a claim Dixon denies.”  The state board meets with CAPOLA board members this week to examine their performance review.  (KTBS)

June 6, 2014 – “Florida traffic attorneys Katz & Phillips, PA announced a new scholarship this week for veterans of the armed forces pursuing a law degree.  The $1,000 Law Scholarship for Veterans is the first of its kind offered by Katz & Phillips, which issues a number of law school scholarships every year. It’s aimed at high-achieving, passionate law students who are either current or retired members of the military.”  “The scholarship is open to veterans of any branch of service, who served at home or overseas, who are attending or have been accepted to law school. Details and an application can be found online.”  (Digital Journal)
June 6, 2014 – With budgets being slashed and more and more litigants doing their own cases, the new reality of access to justice has to include helping individuals “do it themselves.”  The California Courts have taken up the charge with a new program for those seeking a divorce.  “In California, roughly three-fourths of family law litigants lack lawyers, said Maureen F. Hallahan, supervising judge in the family law division at San Diego Superior Court.”  “So now some courts in California offer one-day divorce programs for people who either can’t afford or don’t want to hire a lawyer. ‘The reality is, people are going to do it without lawyers, and we had to accommodate that,’ said Judge Hallahan.  The program doesn’t mean a divorce is truly started and completed in a single day — residency and notification requirements have to be met first. You must, for example, already have filed a divorce petition and served your spouse with divorce papers to participate. But the program does allow you to wrap things up in a single day, or even a matter of hours, once you meet the initial criteria.”  Currently, San Diego and Sacramento have programs.  I suspect we will see more soon.  (New York Times)

June 9, 2014 – President Barack Obama signed a presidential memorandum Monday expanding Pay As You Earn (PAYE) to  an additional 5 million borrowers.  The program “let borrowers pay no more than 10 percent of their monthly income in payments, but was only available for those who started borrowing after October 2007.  Obama’s memo expands that program by making opening it to those who borrowed anytime in the past.”  “Obama also announced he is directing the government to renegotiate contracts with federal student loan servicers to encourage them to make it easier for borrowers to avoid defaulting on their loans.”  The President also to endorsed Sentate legislation that would let college graduates with heavy debts refinance their loans.  The Senate is expected to debate the legislation next week.  (PBS NewsHour)

June 10, 2014 – “It appears the American Bar Association’s ban on allowing law students to receive both pay and academic credit for externships will remain in force.”  “The council on June 6 took up a multitude of revisions to the accreditation standards and sent them for review by the ABA’s House of Delegates during its next annual meeting in August in Boston. The council could revise the standards depending on the delgates’ feedback, but it has the final say.”  (National Law Journal)

June 11, 2014 – “The Senate on Wednesday voted not to move forward on a bill from Sen. Elizabeth Warren that would have allowed an estimated 25 million people with older student loans to refinance that debt at current, lower interest rates.  President Barack Obama and second lady Jill Biden had thrown their support behind the bill in recent days, and Obama on Monday rolled out new executive actions to help address student loan debt alongside the action in the Senate.”  (Politico)

June 11, 2014 – “For the fourth year running, Gov. Rick Scott has vetoed funding earmarked to provide legal service for low-income Florida residents.  According to the News Service of Florida, the June 2 veto eliminated $2 million that the 2014-15 state budget of $77.1 billion described as ‘civil legal assistance.’”  “Scott’s veto comes as the legal community debates a proposal by some to raise Florida Bar annual dues 27 percent, from $265 to $365, to fund legal services for low-income residents.”  The Florida Bar board of governors recently voted against the proposal, while proponents plan to petition the Florida Supreme Court on June 16 “to request The Florida Bar take up the issue” again.  (KeysInfoNet)

June 12, 2014 – “The DC Bar Foundation announces the FY14 DC Legal Services Grants awards to 20 organizations totaling $600,000 to support civil legal services providers, based in the District of Columbia, that serve low-income, underrepresented DC residents.”  “The Board of the Bar Foundation is pleased that we could add $600,000 to the ability of civil legal service providers to undertake their important work. This is an important supplement to the $3.4 million that we disbursed earlier this year for the Access to Justice Grants program. We will continue to work hard so this support can continue to expand in the years ahead,” said Marc L. Fleischaker, President of the Foundation’s Board of Directors.  (DC Bar Foundation)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:  The New York City Bar Association last night honored the recipients of the 25th Annual Legal Services Awards, which give recognition to attorneys and non-attorneys who provide outstanding civil legal assistance to New York’s poor. Among the honorees was Margaret Becker, Director of LSNYC’s Staten Island Disaster Recovery Unit.  This year’s other recipients were: Alan Canner, The Legal Aid Society, Harlem Community Law Office; Bernadette Jentsch, MFY Legal Services; Liz Markuci, Immigration Project, Volunteers of Legal Service; and Leander McRae, Preserving Affordable Housing Program, Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A . The Awards were presented by Hon. Jenny Rivera, Associate Judge of the New York Court of Appeals.  Congratulations and thank you for your great work!  (Legal Services NYC)

Super Music Bonus! Worst summer jobs with Jimmy Fallon of The Tonight Show.

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2014 Public Sector & Public Interest Attorney Salary Report now available!

The Public Sector & Public Interest Attorney Salary Report is now available in the NALP bookstore!  It is THE definitive report on salaries in the public sector.  You can see median, average and middle ranges of salaries for employers by type, region, and years of experience.  There is also some great information about salary and benefits in the federal government.  If you are considering a career in the public sector, this is information you must have.

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Washington Council of Lawyers – Fellowships 101 – July 9 at 6:30 pm

The Washington Council of Lawyers (WCL) will be offering their Fellowships 101: An Introduction to Postgraduate Public Interest Fellowships on Wednesday, July 9, from 6:30 – 8:30 pm at Georgetown University Law Center.

Information about how to register can be found on their website, www.wclawyers.org, or the direct link to the registration page is here:  http://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/event?oeidk=a07e9bhzrgv5393ae5e&llr=eca9oegab.

This is an amazing and informative program.  If you think you want to apply to a post-graduate fellowship in your 3L year and you’ll be in DC this summer, you need to check it out!!!

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West Virginia Fund for Law in the Public Interest announces its 2014 summer Public Interest Advocates Fellows

The West Virginia Fund for Law in the Public Interest (WVFLIPI) is proud to announce its 2014 class of Public Interest Advocates Fellows.    The following students have been awarded 10 week paid fellowships for the summer of 2014:

  • Patrick Holbrook, Legal Aid of West Virginia, Morgantown, W.V.
  • Martin McKeen, Legal Aid of West Virginia, Clarksburg, WV.
  • Stephanie Welsh, Legal Aid of West Virginia, Wheeling, WV.
  • Alex Meade, Legal Aid of West Virginia, Logan, WV.
  • Bethany Burdette, Legal Aid of West Virginia Beckley, WV.
  • Lia Deane, Legal Aid of West Virginia Charleston, WV.
  • Brown Holston and Laura Lee Partington, Senior Legal Aid, Morgantown, WV.
  • Phil Wachowiak, Child Law Services, Princeton, WV. P
  • Shane Snyder, West Virginia Advocates, Charleston, WV.
  • Allison Santer, Mountain State Justice, Charleston, WV.
  • Jordan Smith, Mountain State Justice, Clarksburg, WV.
  • Jenny Thoma, Appalachian Citizens Law Center, Whitesburg, KY.
  • Aaron Moss, WV Public Defender, Harrison County, Clarksburg, WV.
  • Taylor Graham, Federal Public Defender, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia, Clarksburg, WV.

WVFLIPI is a non-profit organization that works to fund fellowships for WVU College of Law students to spend the summer working in public interest organizations throughout West Virginia. Founded in 1987, the fund seeks to help students gain a deeper understanding of the grave importance of public interest work. These students provide legal services to help West Virginians, including the elderly, the poor, children, and victims of domestic violence. The Fund is aided greatly by the fund-raising efforts of the Public Interest Advocates (PIA) at the West Virginia College of Law. PIA works closely with the Fund for the Public Interest to select candidates and supports the fund by raising funds throughout the year, including hosting online book sales and the annual Spring Auction.

The Fund awards PIA fellowships annually to West Virginia College of Law students through a competitive selection process. Since its inception, over 320 students have received fellowships at public interest organizations. These include Legal Aid of West Virginia, Senior Legal Aid of West Virginia, Mountain State Justice, the Public Defender’s Office, The Appalachian Center on the Economy and the Environment, West Virginia Advocates, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, and ChildLaw Services, Inc. The Sprouse Public Defender Fellowship is particularly competitive and students apply in the Fall to be awarded this opportunity. The selected candidate then chooses the county in which he or she will work with the public defender.

For more information, contact the Director of the Center for Law and Public Service/Executive Director of the WV Fund for Law in the Public Interest:

Jennifer Powell, M.S.W., J.D.

Jennifer.powell@mail.wvu.edu

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – June 6, 2014

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

Happy Friday!  We’ve welcomed our summer project assistants this week.  Check out the PSJD blog all summer for their insights on job searching and other fun topics.

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: If you know someone we should honor, drop me a line.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Public defender system for immigrants facing deportation would pay for itself study finds
  • House passes funding for LSC;
  • Victoria Legal Aid welcomes fines reform;
  • Stetson students respond to President’s clemency initiative;
  • TN legal aid takes initiative in helping vets;
  • FL courts implement new Family Law Guardian ad Litem pilot program;
  • Pacific Legal Foundation opens DC office;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: Breck Hopkins;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

May 29, 2014 – “On Friday, the New York City Bar Association plans to release a study contending that cost should not be an obstacle to the creation of a public defender system, paid for by the federal government, for indigent immigrants facing deportation.  The 37-page study estimates that a system that provided legal counsel for every poor immigrant facing deportation would cost about $208 million per year.  But the program would pay for itself by saving about the same amount in reduced government expenditures to detain and remove immigrants and in other savings associated with the overburdened enforcement system, the study says.”  The the study makes the argument for the first time that appointed counsel is cost-effective.  The study is based on federal data, academic studies and interviews but acknowledges the available data is “incomplete.”  (NY Times)

May 30, 2014 -  “The U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation early Friday that provides $350 million for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) in Fiscal Year 2015. The measure passed by a vote of 321-87.  The Commerce, Justice, Science & Related Agencies (CJS) FY 2015 Appropriations bill would cut current funding by $15 million but is $50 million more than the House voted to allocate last year.”  “The Senate will mark up the FY 2015 CJS Appropriations bill in subcommittee on Tuesday and in full committee on Thursday.  The vast majority of LSC’s funding is used to support local nonprofit organizations via grants for the delivery of civil legal assistance to low-income Americans.”  (LSC)

May 30, 2014 – “Sweeping recommendations for further reform of the fines system have been welcomed by Victoria Legal Aid.  Following today’s release of a Sentencing Advisory Council report into the fines system, Victoria Legal Aid Social Inclusion Program Manager Joel Townsend said the recommendations, if adopted, would address concerns that the fines system is severely affecting the most vulnerable in the community.  ‘The current system has had a disproportionate impact on people affected by disability, mental illness, homelessness or poverty,’ Mr Townsend said. ‘We agree with the Council that people who can’t pay their fines for these reasons should be treated differently to people who can afford to pay but deliberately avoid payment.’ “  “The Bill’s introduction of work and development permits as a way of dealing with fines is also welcomed by Victoria Legal Aid. These permits allow people with mental illness or intellectual disability, drug or alcohol addiction, or financial hardship, to undertake treatment or counseling, or to build their life skills through voluntary work, courses or mentoring, instead of paying a fine, and have been successful in New South Wales.”  (Victoria Legal Aid)

May 30, 2014 – “The U.S. Department of Justice recently announced a new clemency initiative, designed to prioritize clemency applications for certain non-violent offenders who would likely receive lesser sentences if they were sentenced today. To date, more than 35 Stetson Law students have signed on to assist the Office of the Federal Defender for the Middle District of Florida in identifying former clients who may qualify for the new clemency initiative. The Stetson Law students will help gather information relevant to the clemency criteria as part of a new pro bono project on campus.”  (Digital Journal)

June 1, 2014 – “Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands, Tennessee’s largest non-profit law firm, has partnered with Operation Stand Down Nashville and drawn on its Volunteer Lawyer Program to ensure at-risk veterans are receiving the resources they need. With more than 20 referrals from Operation Stand Down Nashville (OSDN) since the start of the year, Legal Aid Society has provided low-income veterans vulnerable to homelessness the legal counsel needed to maintain or secure permanent housing. This is possible because of a Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) grant from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. SSVF is a homeless-prevention and rapid re-housing program which provided funding to OSDN in October 2013.”  “The Volunteer Lawyers Program staffs monthly clinics at OSDN that provide general advice and legal counsel to veterans. The clinics have helped veterans on a wide range of topics, including custody, drivers’ licenses, divorce and landlord-tenant issues. Many of the volunteer attorneys who staff the clinics are veterans themselves.”(Murfreesboro Post)

June 2, 2014 – “More than two dozen lawyers from the Icard Merrill law firm have signed up to be guardians ad litem as part of a new Family Law Guardian ad Litem pilot program backed by the 12th Judicial Circuit Court of Florida.  The program, directed by judges Lee Haworth and Charles Williams, will provide children caught in the middle of contentious cases in the Circuit’s Family Law Division with guardians ad litem.” For Williams, the program is an added tool in the judges’ toolbox to assist in making the right decisions. “There are always money issues and property issues,” Williams said, “but really the issues that keep us judges up at night are children — those are the real difficult decisions to make.”  (Bradenton Herald)

June 5, 2014 – “The conservative nonprofit law firm Pacific Legal Foundation has opened a Washington, D.C., office in an effort to expand its congressional and media outreach.  The office will be operated by Todd Gaziano, a new hire and former staff to the Heritage Foundation, and will advocate on issues related to federal health care reform and the impact of environmental protection laws.”  (Sacramento Business Journal)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: Breck Hopkins, longtime Arkansas Department of Human Services’ legal chief is retiring after more than three decades with the state agency.  Among many accomplishments, he developed the first computer-based case management system for the agency’s chief counsel office and wrote the child custody chapter in the Arkansas Bar Manual.  Thank you for your service!  Read more here.

Super Music Bonus! What summer movie are you excited to see?

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – May 30, 2014

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

Happy Friday!  Summer is in full swing!  Are you looking for additional ways to increase your skills?  New opportunities are being added daily to PSJD.

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: If you know someone we should honor, drop me a line.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Ontario County, NY gets conflict defenders office;
  • Additional public defender relief coming to NY counties;
  • BC increases legal aid funding;
  • Legal Aid strike action still looms for summer in BC;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: Student activists;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

May 23, 2014 -  “Ontario County is moving forward in staffing its new conflict defender’s office. The office, which is expected to be fully functional by October, will handle cases for indigent defendants in which a conflict of interest exists within the public defender’s office.” “At its meeting next Thursday, May 29, the Board of Supervisors is due to approve the appointment of Andrea Schoeneman, of Victor, as the new conflict defender.”  (Victor Post)

May 23, 2014 – “Struggling with sometimes unmanageable caseloads, public defenders in the Capital Region may soon get a bit of relief as more than $1 million in state money will soon flow into local offices to hire more attorneys.  The funds come from grants dispersed throughout New York by the Office of Indigent Legal Services (OILS), the state’s first program for guiding the quality of assigned counsel. Now OILS is working to disperse an additional $12 million to counties across New York to reduce caseloads.”  (Times Union)

May 26, 2014 – “The [British Columbia] government is shelling out $2 million to expand legal aid services and launch new pilot projects.  The new funding aims to increase access to justice and resolve disputes more quickly.  Projects include a Parents’ Legal Centre for child protection cases, and expanded duty counsel and family legal advice at the Victoria Justice Access Centre.”  (CKNW)

May 27, 2014 – Despite the $2 million recently added to the British Columbia budget for legal aid, it is not near enough for legal aid lawyers.  “Some B.C. lawyers are once again planning to withdraw legal aid services in a bid to force the provincial government to pour more money into the system.  Bentley Doyle, spokesman for the Trial Lawyers Association of B.C., said participating lawyers will halt work on existing legal aid cases and refuse new ones for the month of July.  Previous legal aid ‘strikes’ split the legal community and there’s no sign the tactic will be embraced by all lawyers this time either.  Doyle said 50 to 75 lawyers in Vancouver are on board, as well as a group in Kamloops and the aim is to recruit more in other areas.”  “The plan is to continue the action in the fall with one-week-a-month stoppages starting in October. Both criminal and family law cases will be affected.”  (BC Local News)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:  Students are a powerful force for change.  As history has born out repeatedly, people who ban together for a common cause often triumph.  That was the case when a group of students in China got together in 1989 to protest against their government.  “Ignoring government warnings of suppression of any mass demonstration, students from more than 40 universities began a march to Tiananmen on April 27. The students were joined by workers, intellectuals, and civil servants, and by mid-May more than a million people filled the square, the site of Mao Zedong’s proclamation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949.

On May 20, the government formally declared martial law in Beijing, and troops and tanks were called in to disperse the dissidents. However, large numbers of students and citizens blocked the army’s advance, and by May 23 government forces had pulled back to the outskirts of Beijing. On June 3, with negotiations to end the protests stalled and calls for democratic reforms escalating, the troops received orders from the Chinese government to seize control of Tiananmen Square and the streets of Beijing. Hundreds were killed and thousands arrested.”  (History Channel)  In the aftermath, the world responded.    Many say this protest was an example for the recent Arab spring and other events that have brought about change.  So, take action.  You may be surprised at the result.

Super Music Bonus! Getting ready for the World Cup?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7-7knsP2n5w&feature=share&list=PLFgquLnL59alCl_2TQvOiD5Vgm1hCaGSI

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – May 23, 2014

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

Happy Friday!  School’s out and it’s time to prepare for the summer, especially internships.  Are you interning in a new city?  Check out PSJD’s Having Fun on the Cheap series to find great stuff to do in your internship city.

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: If you know someone we should honor, drop me a line.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Leslie Caldwell confirmed to head DOJ criminal division;
  • FL lawyers argue over proposed $100 dues increase to help fund legal aid;
  • Stetson Law seeks volunteer lawyers for its new veterans clinic;
  • IA Supreme Courts awards grants for legal aid;
  • DOJ Office of Inspector General releases report of audit of John R. Justice Grant Program;
  • Environmental residency/incubator debuts in Pittsburgh;
  • LSAC settles ADA suit with a consent decree;
  • Grant to UNM Law to encourage public interest lawyers;
  • AILA announces Michael Maggio Immigrants’ Rights Summer Fellow;
  • MA must pay public defenders more;
  • Youths guaranteed representation at detention hearings in CO;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: NLADA Beacon of Justice Award winners;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

May 15, 2014 -  “White-collar defender Leslie Caldwell was confirmed Thursday to lead the Criminal Division at the U.S. Department of Justice.  Caldwell, co-chairwoman of the corporate-investigations and white-collar practice at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, sailed through her confirmation hearing in February. The Senate approved Caldwell on a voice vote.  “I’m confident that her extensive experience on both sides of the courtroom will serve her well as she assumes leadership of the Criminal Division,” Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. said in a written statement.”  (National Law Journal)(subscription)

May 15, 2014 – “Joined by a former state Supreme Court justice, attorneys for the poor are trying to raise annual Florida Bar dues by up to $100 to address what they call a fiscal crisis.  The attempt to hike the annual dues, which have not increased since 2001, from the current $265 has sparked an outcry in the legal community and created a rift over how much of the onus lawyers should bear to fund legal-services groups throughout the state.”  The proposed dues hike is also creating a larger conversation on the delivery of legal services to the poor in Florida.  (The Florida Times-Union)

May 16, 2014 – Stetson University College of Law is seeking attorneys to volunteer civil legal services to military members, veterans and their families as part of its Veterans Pro Bono Initiative Team.  Stetson’s new Veterans Pro Bono Initiative Team will serve Tampa Bay area veterans through its Veterans Law Institute.  “We are looking for volunteer attorneys with a passion to serve the veterans, members of our military and their families,” said Trista Miller, assistant director of clinical education and Veterans Law Institute pro bono supervisor at Stetson.  “Attorneys interested in volunteering may apply with no obligation at stetson.edu/veteransprobono. For more information about volunteering with Stetson’s Veterans Pro Bono Initiative Team, contact vetprobono(at)law.stetson(dot)edu or call 727-562-7333.” (Digital Journal)

May 16, 2014 – “The Iowa Supreme Court has approved more than $282,000 in grants to non-profit programs that provide legal assistance to low-income residents with civil legal problems, including those in North Iowa.  The Second Judicial District, whose 22-county area includes Cerro Gordo, Worth, Winnebago, Franklin, Mitchell, Floyd, Hancock, Wright and Butler counties, is receiving $5,900 for its Civil Legal Assistance Fund. This fund is for legal assistance to low-income residents involved in dissolution of marriage or modification of child support/custody cases in which other legal assistance is not available.  Fourteen other programs throughout the state also received grant funding, including statewide programs such as Iowa Legal Aid, which has a regional office in Mason City. Iowa Legal Aid provides civil case assistance to low-income residents.  The grant funds are generated entirely from interest earned on certain pooled trust accounts held by Iowa’s lawyers.”  (globegazette.com)

May 20, 2014 – On Tuesday Department of Justice Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz released a report examining the John R. Justice (JRJ) grant program, which provides student loan assistance to attorneys serving as state and local prosecutors or federal, state, and local public defenders.  JRJ program grants are provided to U.S. states and territories, which are responsible for selecting eligible attorney applicants for JRJ awards.  The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) audit found that the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) needs to improve its record-keeping, oversight, and communication with state administering agencies and beneficiaries to ensure responsible tracking of the $28 million that has been appropriated to fund the JRJ program since 2010.  The audit found many issues with the program and the way the funds are being handled, including funds going to states that weren’t distributed.  The OIG made 12 recommendations addressing the administration of JRJ program funds, the tracking of JRJ participants and their owed repayments, and factors that may detract from the financial benefit of the program.  OJP agreed with all 12 recommendations.  I highly recommend reading the report. (DOJ OIG)

May 20, 2014 – “Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services, a foundation-supported justice incubator and residency program, has debuted in Pittsburgh and in Akron, Ohio, to serve clients of modest means — individuals, groups and small businesses. Emily Collins is the executive director; she previously was at the University of Pittsburgh’s Environmental Law Clinic.”  Resident attorneys will spend two years in residence at Fair Shake serving modest means clients.  Fair Shake also employs full-time, permanent staff.  (Pittsburgh Business Times)

May 20, 2014 – “The Law School Admission Council agreed to an overhaul Tuesday that, combined with $7.73 million in penalties and damages, will settle disability-discrimination claims.  The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing brought the original suit on behalf of California test takers, and the United States soon intervened in the case to ensure comprehensive and nationwide relief.  They alleged that 17 disabled students taking the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), administered by LSAC, were forced to submit to ‘psychoeducational and neuropsychological testing after requesting extra time or other accommodations.’  LSAC also allegedly required disabled test-takers to disclose whether they took prescription medications during evaluations of their condition, and it allegedly ‘flagged’ the exam scores of those who received accommodations for extra time.  U.S. District Judge Edward Chen had refused in 2012 to dismiss the action, which alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the California Fair Housing and Employment Act, and the Unruh Act.  All parties filed a joint motion Tuesday for entry of a consent decree that requires the LSAC to pay $7.73 million in penalties and damages, compensating more than 6,000 individuals nationwide who applied for testing accommodations on the LSAT over the past five years.”  More about the other terms of the decree are here.  (Courthouse News Service)

May 21, 2014 – “Combining direct legal services, policy advocacy, and impact litigation strategies, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area advances the rights of immigrants, refugees and communities of color, with a specific focus on low income communities and a long-standing commitment to African Americans. We provide leadership and expertise in identifying legal issues and cases that are critical to the advancement of minority and immigrant communities, and we marshal the resources of the private bar to help effect structural change.”  “[T]he law school will seek input from legal services providers, minority communities and tribes to ‘develop a plan to create a pipeline of excellent lawyers who reflect New Mexico’s diverse communities and who will serve low-income children and families.’”  (Albuquerque Journal)

May 21, 2014 – “The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), joined by its project partners the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law (CHRCL), and the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild (NIP/NLG), are delighted to announce Danielle Alvarado has been named the recipient of the Michael Maggio Immigrants’ Rights Summer Fellowship for 2014. Ms. Alvarado, a second-year law student at Northeastern University will use her time as a fellow to clerk at the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice.”  (AILA InfoNet)

May 22, 2014 – Earlier the Boston Globe did a great article on the study by the Massachusetts Bar Association on salaries paid to public defenders and prosecutors.  Basically, the Bar said the State must do better or criminal justice lawyers will become the working poor.  “The report said that Massachusetts ranks dead last in annual salaries paid to public defenders through the Committee for Public Counsel Services and that county prosecutors often are the lowest-paid person in a courtroom, finishing behind custodial workers.  The study was conducted by the MBA’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Criminal Justice Attorney Compensation, which included a current and former judge, bar association officials, defense attorneys, and former district attorneys.”

This week we have an excellent follow up, including interviews from defenders and prosecutors who are the heart and soul of the criminal justice system and are paid less than $40,000 a year.  (Boston Globe)

May 22, 2014 – “Gov. John Hickenlooper signed legislation to guarantee legal representation for juveniles facing charges in Colorado.  The bill Hickenlooper signed Wednesday will require that minors have either a court-appointed attorney or a private lawyer at detention hearings. That’s where a judge determines whether a defendant should be released while their case is pending.  The legislation comes in response to data from youth advocates showing that nearly half of juveniles with cases in state courts don’t get legal representation.  Supporters of the legislation argue that juveniles sometimes resolve their cases without understanding the long-term consequences of the proceedings.”  (Daily Journal)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:  Law firms are an important component of the provision of legal services to those most in need.  The National Legal Aid and Defender Association (NLADA) honors those firms with the 2014 Beacon of Justice Award. The exceptional law firms listed below have all devoted significant time and resources to creating and implementing innovative strategies to improve life outcomes for low income individuals.  Congratulations and thank you for your contributions to access to justice!  (NLADA)

The full list of 2014 Beacon of Justice winners is as follows:

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP
Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC
Briggs and Morgan, P.A.
Callister Nebeker & McCullough
Cook, Yancey, King & Galloway 
Dechert LLP
DLA Piper
Fenwick & West LLP
Friday, Eldredge & Clark, LLP
Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP
Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP
Kaye Scholer LLP
Kirkland & Ellis LLP
Locke Lord LLP
Lowenstein Sandler LLP
Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo P.C.
O’Melveny & Myers LLP
Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP
Polsinelli LLP
Quarles & Brady LLP
Robins, Kaplan, Miller, Ciresi L.L.P.
Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP
Stinson Leonard Street LLP
Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP
Sullivan & Cromwell LLP

Super Music Bonus! In a bit of a summer mood this Memorial Day weekend.  Enjoy!

http://youtu.be/Kr0tTbTbmVA

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