Spotlight on Student Public Service & Pro Bono: On the Need for Holistic Representation in Veterans’ Rights Services, by Pro Bono Publico Award Winner Martin Bunt

Every year, we honor law student pro bono with the PSJD Pro Bono Publico Award. Any 2L or 3L who attends a PSJD subscriber school and has significant pro bono contributions to underserved populations, the public interest community and legal education is eligible for nomination.

This week, the 2013-14 PSJD Pro Bono Publico Award winners have been guest blogging about law student pro bono and their public interest commitments. Today, we’re featuring the grand prize winner and Emory University School of Law student Martin Bunt, a veterans’ rights advocate who co-founded the student-run Volunteer Clinic for Veterans.

Atlanta Photographer | LeahAndMark & Co. | Emory Law

Read Martin’s take on why veterans’ service organizations need to unite and work together below!

I recently went to a briefing in Atlanta on state and federal funding available for veterans and the organizations that benefit them with Sion New, the next student director of the Emory Law Volunteer Clinic for Veterans. Also present at the briefing were churches, summer camps, medical organizations, mental health organizations, veteran job training organization, veteran general support organizations, the American Red Cross.

This was not the first time I had attended a get-together of this type. To see the amount of organizations serving veterans is truly heartening. There are so many people who wish to serve veterans. However, what others and I realized at the meeting is that the amount of organizations serving veterans creates both an opportunity and a problem. The opportunity is the ability of organizations serving veterans to partner with each other to provide “whole package” services to veterans in need. The problem is how do organizations become aware of all the other organizations in their area that they should partner with to serve veterans?

Organizations that serve veterans and other organizations need to solve this problem. We cannot fully accomplish our goal of helping those we serve without working together.

Each service an organization provides is a piece of a puzzle. For example, the VCV provides legal services in the areas of discharge upgrades and VA benefits. But we only provide legal services.

The following hypothetical explains how this could fail to fully help a veteran who comes to us:

A veteran named Brad, for example purposes only, comes to our Clinic for help appealing a denied VA rating for PTSD. Brad believes that his PTSD is connected to his two tours in Iraq between 2003 and 2006. Since Brad was discharged he got married and has two kids. After service Brad realized that his temper flared easily and he often woke with nightmares of a battle where he lost three of his friends to mortar and RPG fire. Brad works at a job that underutilizes the skills he learned as a soldier and therefore he does not enjoy going to work. His temper and lack of sleep recently caused him to lose his job and has severely strained his marriage. From interviews with Brad, it is clear that he has struggled as a veteran to find a purpose and the structured lifestyle that the military gave him.

The VCV can advocate on Brad’s behalf and win a PTSD rating for him from the VA. But monthly disability checks will not help Brad get his life where he truly wants it. He needs a purpose, he needs counseling, and he needs help with his family. Just from the community of organizations I met this past week in Atlanta, Brad can get all the help he needs.

Purpose

A new organization in Atlanta, the Phoenix Patriot Foundation, individually tailors programs that get veterans involved in serving their community and learning new skills to provide these services. Brad will discover a niche in helping his community with a skill he already possesses or will learn. This service will in turn lead him down a path to a job that he truly enjoys.

Counseling

Multiple organizations present at the briefing provided individual PTSD counseling. These private organizations are effective and needed supplements to the VA’s efforts to provide PTSD counseling to veterans. Brad would receive individual counseling and mentoring on different methods to manage his tempers and sleep better at night.

Family

Camp Twin Lakes is a Georgia based organization that has a Wounded Warrior program that offers weekend getaways for veterans and their families at Camp Twin Lakes different camps around Georgia. During these getaways veterans and their families not only get a wonderful vacation but attend marriage and family counseling.

After Brad receives all of the services offered by these organizations he would truly be a different man: He would be receiving the VA benefits he has earned; he would have a new purpose by utilizing his skill sets to serve his local community and in turn discovering a new, more suitable career; He would learn to control his temper and sleep better at night; His marriage would be on a much better footing. Brad would find all the pieces to the puzzle of life falling into place.

This example demonstrates why service organizations must work together in a community to aid those they serve. I believe a great solution to service organizations discovering each other is to create a central website that lists all service organizations by targeted population and services offered. This does not yet exist in Atlanta, but I believe it will happen soon. Leaders of all service organizations have a duty to work together to help those that we serve receive the “whole package,” we are failing them if we do not.

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Spotlight on Student Public Service: “Pro Bono Work is for Everyone!” by a Future BigLaw Attorney

Every year, we honor law student pro bono with the PSJD Pro Bono Publico Award. Any 2L or 3L who attends a PSJD subscriber school and has significant pro bono contributions to underserved populations, the public interest community and legal education is eligible for nomination.

This week, the 2013-14 PSJD Pro Bono Publico (PBP) Award honorees will be guest blogging about law student pro bono and their public interest commitments. Today, we’re featuring  Emory Law student Rachel Erdman, who helped PBP Award winner Martin Bunt create a student-run veterans’ rights clinic.

Atlanta Photographer | LeahAndMark & Co. | Emory Law

My name is Rachel Erdman, and together with Martin Bunt I co-founded the Emory Law Volunteer Clinic for Veterans. When people hear about my work with the Clinic, they generally assume that like Martin, I want to work in military law or in the public sector. When I explain that I’m going into intellectual property law at a large firm, I get confused looks. I’m often asked, “But then why are you so involved with pro bono work in veteran law?” The answer is simple: Attorneys aren’t limited by their area of law or firm size. Pro bono work is for everyone!

I did not seek out my biggest pro bono project, the Volunteer Clinic for Veterans. Instead, the Clinic found me. When Martin approached me at the end of 1L year, I had already accepted two other officer positions in extremely active student groups, and I knew that I would likely be on journal.  “I want to start this Clinic, but I can’t do it alone,” he said. “Will you help me?” There were a thousand reasons to say no. I didn’t have the time, it wasn’t in my area of focus, and we didn’t have a clear idea as to how I could even contribute. But in the end, pro bono work relies on us being able to open our hearts and say yes. You will always be glad that you did.

As attorneys and law students, we have the unique skill-set to help people in need, no matter what our background. Oddly enough, it was my background in science and systems that proved invaluable to the Clinic. Unlike Martin, I do not possess the admirable ability to walk into a room and immediately engage people in conversation. I typically end up turning red and mumbling something vaguely offensive, so I left the networking up to my co-founder. Instead, I quietly created the student-side infrastructure that one of the largest veteran’s clinics in the country needed to operate, all entirely for free. No matter what your background, you’ll always find an area that needs your skills.

Going into the private sector doesn’t mean that we can’t also volunteer. When I decided to pursue a job in Big Law, my public-sector law friends joked that I had turned to the dark side. But Big Law attorneys can play a critical role as pro bono advocates. Pro bono work is a never-ending flood of people in need. The attorneys that dedicate their lives to helping others simply can’t do it alone. They need allies in firms of all sizes and in every field of law.

Think of the Salvation Army standing outside of a store, ringing their bells with the big red buckets during Christmastime. If just one person in a group of people walking past these buckets tosses in their change, other people in the group are more likely to follow. The same applies to a firm. When people are involved in pro bono work, other attorneys in the firm are more likely to be interested. If pro bono interest is strong enough, the firm will even change its policies to make volunteering easier, such as allowing some pro bono hours to count towards the billable hour requirement, or organizing fundraising and charity events. Pro bono advocates in the private sector can therefore play a huge rule in shaping the pro bono community.

So next time you find yourself wondering whether you should take on a pro bono project, don’t be discouraged by your background or your area of law. The pro bono community is full of attorneys that would be more than happy to guide and mentor you. And most importantly, the people that you help don’t care about your background or if you’re in Big Law or from a tiny firm – they’re just happy that you said yes.

* Photo taken by Atlanta photographers LeahAndMark & Co.

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Spotlight on Student Public Service & Pro Bono: On Community Lawyering, by an Advocate for Undocumented Immigrant Youth

Every year, we honor law student pro bono with the PSJD Pro Bono Publico Award. Any 2L or 3L who attends a PSJD subscriber school and has significant pro bono contributions to underserved populations, the public interest community and legal education is eligible for nomination.

This week, the 2013-14 PSJD Pro Bono Publico Award winners will be guest blogging about law student pro bono and their public interest commitments. Today, we’re featuring Merit Distinction honoree and Seton Hall University School of Law student Karol Ruiz, an advocate for undocumented immigrant children who helps host of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) clinics for her community.

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Read below for Karol’s post on community lawyering and how she uses it to help undocumented immigrant students.

Many attorneys and law students enter the profession of law to answer a call to serve from deep within ourselves.  In my work, I follow the wisdom of Lao Tzu, who said, “A leader is best when people barely know she exists, when her work is done, her aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”  I first learned this valuable lesson from my mentor, Wind of The Spirit Immigrant Resource Center co-founder Diana Mejia, a humble yet commanding community leader.  She never uttered Lao Tzu’s words; she lived them.  The best teachers lead by example.

Following in her footsteps, I joined the struggle to end the discriminatory practice of barring admission to undocumented immigrant students at my alma mater, the County College of Morris.  As a former undocumented student, my lobbying began in 2008 with the painful sharing of my personal story before the college board of trustees.  With the help of then New York University law student interns, Camilo Romero and Sara Cullinane, my advocacy evolved to include the legal and economic arguments against the college’s discriminatory practices.  Soon after, others galvanized to share their own stories.  In 2010, immigrants and allies from all over New Jersey filled the college gymnasium, clamoring for immigrants’ rights to higher education before the board, the county freeholders, the press, and even the anti-immigrant groups opposing the end to the discriminatory practice. We succeeded not only in changing the policy, but in raising awareness in our community and building a network of activists.  The law students involved in the movement inspired me to apply to law school.  Together, we inspired our entire community to work toward reform of state and national immigration laws.  It takes a village.

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Spotlight on Student Public Service & Pro Bono: Don’t Be Afraid to Change Career Paths

Every year, we honor law student pro bono with the PSJD Pro Bono Publico Award. Any 2L or 3L who attends a PSJD subscriber school and has significant pro bono contributions to underserved populations, the public interest community and legal education is eligible for nomination.

Every day this week, the 2013-14 PSJD Pro Bono Publico Award winner and honorable mentions will be guest blogging about law student pro bono and their public interest commitments. Today, we’re featuring Merit Distinction honoree and University of California, Berkeley School of Law student  Ioana Tchoukleva, a prisoners’ rights advocate and creator of the student-run Post-Conviction Advocacy Project (PCAP). 

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Read Ioana’s take on non-linear public interest career paths and how she balances her domestic and international legal work:

First year of law school, you are told that your 1L summer job matters — it will put you on the path to your dream job and somehow magically prepare you for the rest of law school. The following year, you are told that your 2L summer job basically determines where you will work after graduation, so you better choose carefully! In fact, throughout law school you feel a latent anxiety that underlies every move you make. For many, at the core of that anxiety lies a fear of not doing the right thing, of being behind in one way or another, of missing out on opportunities. This feeling of “not being good enough” runs deep and affects students in a variety of ways that reverberate way beyond law school.

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – March 14, 2014

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

Happy Friday!  And Happy St. Patrick’s Day to everyone.  We’re now in spring break season, and if you’re looking for a service project to undertake, we’ve got you covered.  If you’re in the US, check out probono.net.  In Canada?  Go to Pro Bono Students Canada.

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

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Growing number of TX lawyers are “Banking on Justice”;
  • Federal defenders could fill jobs lost under sequestration;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: Today in History – the FBI debuts the 10 Most Wanted List;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

March 10, 2014 - Lawyers and bankers in Texas are teaming up to increase funding for legal aid.  “The Prime Partner program, which provides funds for vulnerable Texans seeking justice, is gaining momentum. Prime Partner banks agree to pay higher interest on lawyers’ trust accounts to support legal-aid assistance for the poor, explained Betty Balli Torres, executive director, Texas Access to Justice Foundation. Prime Partner banks agree to pay 1 percent on IOLTA (Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts) accounts so they can increase funding for civil legal aid in this state. The ‘I Bank on Justice’ component is really lawyers and law firms that move their accounts into Prime Partner banks in order to support legal aid,” Torres explained.”  (Public News Service)

March 11, 2014 -  “Federal defender offices, which lost approximately 400 employees because of last year’s mandatory budget cuts known as sequestration, have enough money in this year’s budget to begin backfilling most of those positions, court officials said Tuesday.  Following the biannual meeting of the Judicial Conference of the United States, Chief Judge William Traxler Jr., chairman of the judicial conference’s executive committee, said Congress’ fiscal year 2014 appropriation to the judiciary would allow officials to backfill about 350 jobs in federal defender offices.”  (Legal Times)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: On this day in 1950, the Federal Bureau of Investigation institutes the “Ten Most Wanted Fugitives” list in an effort to publicize particularly dangerous fugitives. The creation of the program arose out of a wire service news story in 1949 about the “toughest guys” the FBI wanted to capture. The story drew so much public attention that the “Ten Most Wanted” list was given the okay by J. Edgar Hoover the following year. As of 2011, 465 of the criminals included on the list have been apprehended or located, 153 as a result of tips from the public.  (History.com)  The List recently made the news when number 10 was captured.  Only 8 women have appeared on the List.  The current List is all male with the least recent addition on the List since 1987.

Super Music Bonus!  Some Celtic music.  Enjoy!  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qoktesLkHy8

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Still Need to Fund Your Summer Public Interest Work? PSJD’s Got You Covered!

by Ashley Matthews, PSJD Fellow

Landed an awesome internship this summer, but in desperate need of funding? PSJD is here to help!

We just updated our Summer Funding Resource pages, available in the Funding & Debt section of the site’s Resource Center. Click here for a list of organizations that offer funding for internships located anywhere. For summer funding resources for work in a specific geographical region, click here.

Most of the deadlines fall in March and April, so head over to the Resource Center right away! These lists are continuously updated as the organizations renew their application cycles. PSJD is always checking for new deadlines. Stay tuned to the site for new updates!

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – March 7, 2014

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

Happy Friday!  I hope the weather isn’t getting  you down.  Whether it’s drought or blizzard, it’s got to end soon, right?

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

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Government of Canada adopts new pro bono policy for Justice lawyers;
  • DOJ launches language access tool;
  • MA SJC Justice leading push to expand housing court statewide;
  • NYC Mayor fills poverty post with critic;
  • Suffolk Law launches new public interest scholarship;
  • SCC tackles challenge to court fees;
  • John Marshall Law School receives grant to research/help with predatory lending;
  • Orleans Bar Association urges assigned counsel for indigent defense;
  • White House honors LegalCorps for patent pro bono work;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: Tom Hillier;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

February 28, 2014 - “Justice Minister Peter MacKay announced that the Department of Justice has adopted a new Policy on Pro Bono Legal Services by Justice Lawyers. The policy was developed in response to a widespread desire among Justice lawyers to participate in pro bono legal services as a way to directly give back to their communities.”  “Justice lawyers can now volunteer their personal time at specified pro bono clinics that offer free legal services to Canadians living with limited means. The Department is proud to support its lawyers in their personal goals and professional obligation to increase access to justice for Canadians who might otherwise not be able to afford legal advice.”  (Digital Journal)

February 28, 2014 – “[T]he Justice Department released a new tool to help state and local courts assess and improve their language assistance services for limited English proficient (LEP) litigants, victims and witnesses who need access to court services.”  The Language Access Planning and Technical Assistance Tool   (Planning Tool) will be able to assist courthouses and administrative tribunals across the country to self-assess their court systems to determine how effectively they are providing language assistance services and how these services can be improved.  The Planning Tool prompts courts to examine their court rules, the quality and competency of interpretation and translation, the level of their engagement with LEP communities and the implementation of language access plans.  The tool was created by the Federal Coordination and Compliance Section (FCS) of the Civil Rights Division and provides courts with a tailored checklist of recommended steps towards achieving equal access to justice for all.”  (Imperial Valley News)

“Lisa Wood, Chair of the ABA Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants made clear that ABA’s commitment to stay involved with the issue, as part of the follow up to the issuance of the comprehensive Standards that are the bedrock on which the DOJ tool is built.” (Richard Zorza’s Access to Justice Blog)

February 28, 2014 – Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Justice Ralph Gants is pushing a plan that would expand the housing court system to cover the entire state by July 1, 2015.  “The expansion proposal is based on the recommendation of the Access to Justice Commission, which Gants co-chairs. The specialized court was created in 1978 to handle residential housing matters, including landlord-tenant issues, and to enforce the state’s building, fire and sanitary codes.”  Legislators will now consider the plan.  (Waltham News Tribune)

February 28, 2014 – “The top attorney at the nonprofit Legal Aid Society who for three decades has been a hard-charging advocate for poor New Yorkers will take the reins of New York City’s welfare agency, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday.  Over the years, the society’s attorney-in-chief, Steve Banks, has spent many an hour on the steps of City Hall assailing mayors and policies that he contended unfairly treated the homeless and other low-income New Yorkers. And the Legal Aid Society—which represents people who can’t pay for attorneys in criminal and civil court—has challenged a number of city policies in the courts, from homelessness to food stamp eligibility.  Now, for the first time, Mr. Banks has been invited inside City Hall to play a role in developing city policy on poverty.”  (Wall Street Journal) (New York Times)

February 28, 2014 – “Suffolk University Law School will launch a scholarship and lecture series named for Harry H. Dow, a 1929 Law School graduate who, although he was the first Chinese-American admitted to the Massachusetts Bar, faced racism that eventually drove him out of practice.”  “The Harry H. Dow scholarship award will supplement tuition costs for a current Suffolk Law student who has demonstrated interest in public interest and/or immigration law.”  (Sampan)

March 3, 2015 – In April, the Supreme Court of Canada “is expected to tackle a challenge over court hearing fees, which the Trial Lawyers Association of British Columbia and the Canadian Bar Association B.C. branch say are unconstitutional because they impede access to justice for the middle class.”  The suit stems from a custody case involving a self-represented common law couple in which one party asked to be relieved of the $3,600 bill for the court hearing fees. The B.C. Supreme Court Civil Rules allow an “impoverished” person to apply for exemption.  There is a split in the lower courts regarding the constitutionality of the fees.  “Now the SCC must decide if the fees are valid. Interestingly, only B.C., Saskatchewan, Yukon, and the Northwest Territories have fees yet attorneys general from Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, and the federal government are intervening.”  (Canadian Lawyer)

March 3, 2014 – “The John Marshall Law School is expanding its work in the area of predatory lending and fair housing education using nearly $454,000 in grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the City of Chicago.  A $324,966 HUD grant allows the law school to continue educating students on predatory lending issues, as well as undertake research on the ongoing predatory lending trends in the Chicago area.  The HUD-financed Fair Lending Home Preservation Program includes a Predatory Lending course giving students a review of the mortgage lending crisis through information from private attorneys, the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, and Circuit Court of Cook County judges dealing with mortgage foreclosures.  Students also intern four hours each week at a number of government offices and nonprofits researching or working on-hands to help agencies fix various problems.”  (Digital Journal)

March 6, 2014 -  “The Orleans County Bar Association is recommending significant reforms to how indigent defense is managed through an assigned counsel plan that will streamline and organize assignment procedures.  The plan, outlined to legislators Wednesday by Bar Association Vice President and Public Defender Sandy Church and Shirley Gorman, who chairs the legal group’s assigned council committee, is part of a statewide push to improve the systems used to find attorneys for criminal defendants and family court participants who are unable to afford legal services.”

“The Orleans County Public Defender’s Office would continue to be the primary resource for impoverished residents to receive legal counsel under the plan. However, a new conflict coordinator recommended by the Orleans County Bar Association and appointed annually by the Orleans County Legislature would step in for cases where a previous conflict, or multiple defendants prevent the Public Defender from acting as a resident’s representative.  The new administrator would continue to rotate cases between lawyers, but the proposed plan would also seek to match the workload and difficulty of a case to attorneys’ qualifications and experience.”  (The Daily News)

March 6, 2014 – Minneapolis firms Patterson Thuente and Lindquist & Vennum were honored at the White House in February by U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker for establishing the three-year-old Inventor Assistance Program at Minnesota LegalCorps as the first “patent pro bono program in the country.”  “The inventor program is part of 10-year old LegalCorps, the Minneapolis-based organization that connects volunteer lawyers with low-income entrepreneurs, innovators and small nonprofits.” (StarTribune)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:  “Tom Hillier, Seattle’s hell-raising, hippie federal public defender who built an office considered a model for indigent defense nationwide, is retiring after 38 years in the office, an unprecedented 28 of them as its chief.”  Now if that isn’t a ringing endorsement of a professional life well-spent, I don’t know what is.  Read more about his invaluable contributions at the Daily Reporter.  Congratulations to Mr. Hillier and good luck with the next chapter of your life.

Super Music Bonus!  Sometimes you just have to let it go. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=moSFlvxnbgk

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Today, Canadian Legal Services Orgs are ‘Flipping Their Wigs’ for Access to Justice!

March 6th is officially “Flip Your Wig for Justice” Day in Canada! Members of the justice community and public are sparking dialogue about Canada’s access to justice funding crisis by wearing traditional judicial or wacky wigs and making donations to participating non-profit agencies. This is the awareness campaign’s first year, and most of the activity is taking place in Ontario.

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From Pro Bono Students Canada:

  • Of the 12 million Canadians who will experience a legal dispute or injustice in a given three year period, 65% believe nothing can be done with respect to their legal problems.
  • Almost 40% of people with one or more legal problems reported having other social or health related issues that they directly attributed to a justiciable problem.
  • Statistics indicate that individuals who receive legal assistance are between 17% and 1,380% more likely to receive better results than those who do not.

How to Flip Your Wig

  1. Wear a traditional judicial or wacky wig on March 6, 2014, marking the day Ontarians took action for access to justice. Visit flipyourwigforjustice.ca to register as a participant or team and begin collecting donations.
  2. Make a direct donation to a registered participant or team on the website or offline. Donations are eligible for a charitable tax receipt.
  3. Join the conversation on Twitter (twitter.com/FlipWig, #FlipYourWig), Facebook (facebook.com/FlipYourWigforJustice) and Instagram (instagram.com/flipwig).

The seven founding non-profit organizations are: Association in the Defense of the Wrongly Convicted (AIDWYC);Canadian Civil Liberties Association Education Trust (CCLA); Community Legal Education Ontario (CLEO); The Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children (METRAC); Ontario Justice Education Network (OJEN/ROEJ); Pro Bono Law Ontario (PBLO); and Pro Bono Students Canada (PBSC).

Check out the Flip Your Wig website for more information.

Photo: Ontario justice leaders and community prepare for ‘Flip Your Wig for Justice’, an awareness campaign in support of access to justice on March 6, 2014. Left to right: Treasurer Thomas G. Conway, Law Society of Upper Canada; Executive Director Wendy Komiotis, Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children; and Dean Lorne Sossin, Osgoode Hall Law School (CNW Group/Flip Your Wig for Justice)

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – February 28, 2014

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

Happy Friday!  Can you believe it’s the end of February already?  Let’s hope spring is just around the corner.

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

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Grim outlook for PMF Class of 2013;
  • SMU’s Dedman School of Law announces new law center;
  • The Davenport-Perth Neighbourhood and Community Health Centre (Ontario, Canada) now providing legal services;
  • Chicago’s Center for Disability & Elder Law celebrates 30 years;
  • Project measures access to civil legal services;
  • Women’s advocacy groups urge pilot projects to improve access to family services in British Columbia;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: Dan Glazier;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

February 21, 2014 – “More than two-thirds of the 2013 finalists in the Presidential Management Fellows Program have not received jobs yet in the federal government, according to Office of Personnel Management data.”  Just 213 of 668 finalists in 2013 have received jobs so far.  A group of current finalists and alumni of the program are organizing a campaign directed at OPM to get more finalists hired. Finalists have one year to receive an appointment; the deadline for the 2013 class is April 8, but the group is seeking an extension.  Fellows must be completely on-boarded, not just hired, before the deadline.  With the government shutdown, furloughs, and deep budget cuts, this has been a particularly rough year for PMF.  Here’s hoping the deadline can be extended.  (Government Executive)

UPDATE:  OPM declines to extend the deadline.  Office of Personnel Management Director Katherine Archuleta informed the PMF finalists in a recent letter she would not extend the eligibility deadline.  OPM will provide two additional job fairs before the April 8 deadline.  “In addition to the job fairs, OPM will host a workshop to help finalists market their skills and work with PMF coordinators at each agency to help get potential fellows hired.”  (Government Executive)

February 21, 2014 -   “Southern Methodist University has announced it will open a new legal center that will provide services for the victims of domestic violence, sex trafficking and other crimes against women.  Ray L. and Nancy Ann Hunter Hunt have committed $5 million for the Judge Elmo B. Hunter Legal Center for Victims of Crimes Against Women.”  “Dedman students working in the new center will provide legal services such as protective orders; divorce, custody and child support agreements; and assistance with credit and housing issues.”  (KERA News)

February 26, 2014 – “The Davenport-Perth Neighbourhood and Community Health Centre can now add legal services to its cornucopia of programs already provided by the area hub.  Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) is partnering with Davenport-Perth, on Davenport Road, just west of Symington Avenue, to offer family and immigration services, working in collaboration with its community legal clinics, West Toronto Community Legal Services included, so clients can have greater access to justice.  It is part of LAO’s quest to expand its current mix of services, according to Vicki Moretti, LAO regional vice-president for the Greater Toronto Area.” (The Register-Guard)

February 26, 2014 – The Center for Disability & Elder Law, which has provided free legal services for more than 30,000 senior citizens and persons with disabilities in Chicago, will celebrate its 30th Anniversary this week.  The Center for Disability & Elder Law (CDEL) was founded to provide legal services to low-income residents of Cook County, Illinois who are either elderly or who have permanent disabilities. Dedicated volunteers from some of the largest law firms in Chicago, and from firms and corporations located throughout Cook County, as well as paralegals, provide more than ninety percent of all legal services CDEL delivers, pro bono, to its clients. In its 30-year history, CDEL has provided services to more than 30,000 clients.  (World News Report)

February 26, 2014 -  “When trying to measure access to civil legal assistance, empirical data can be hard to find. But an ambitious online database released Tuesday by the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law’s National Center for Access to Justice aims to solve that problem by showing state-by-state comparisons of available services such as affordable counsel and foreign language interpreters in state courts.”  “The ‘Justice Index’ attempts to quantify access-to-justice problems through interactive data visualizations and graphics that show which states are doing the most and least to meet people’s needs, said David Udell, director of the center.”  (New York Law Journal)

February 26, 2014 – “A women’s advocacy group is proposing two ways to address a critical lack of family law services in British Columbia, saying cuts to legal-aid funding have made access to justice nearly impossible for vulnerable citizens.  The group released a report Wednesday recommending two pilot projects — one with lawyers working in community agencies so legal services can be integrated with those of other professionals such as counsellors, social workers and interpreters.  The other proposal is for a women’s clinic led by student lawyers who would provide free and low-cost family law services in the Metro Vancouver area, with a travel and technology budget to serve remote regions.”  “West Coast LEAF’s recommendations were based on a year of consultations in 16 urban, rural and remote communities across B.C.”  (The Province)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: Thank you to Carol A. Vizzier, Director, Public Interest Programs at Washington University School of Law for a wonderful spotlight candidate.

“When he was growing up, Dan Glazier couldn’t decide whether to be a lawyer or a social worker.  So he became both.  He is director of Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, which provides free lawyers for poor people facing eviction, consumer rip-offs, health care cut-offs and other legal messes they can’t afford. The group employs both lawyers and social workers.”  “There’s a Jewish expression, tikkun olam — ‘to repair the world.’ That sort of was how I was raised,” Mr. Glazier said.  He landed at Legal Services in 1981 and never left.  What an amazing lawyer and person.  Thank you for your many years of service to the poor.  Read more about his amazing work here.

Super Music Bonus!   In my counseling days, this was the time of year when I started to feel exhausted.  Time to take a humor break and check out the History of Hip Hop.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZTpn30Pms8I

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SMU Law Opens New Domestic Violence, Sex Trafficking Legal Clinic

From the National Law Journal:

The Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law is launching a center for victims of domestic violence, financed by a $5 million donation from university alumni Ray and Nancy Ann Hunt.

The center will house a clinic through which law students will represent clients in matters including protection orders, divorce, child support and housing. It also will focus on victims of sex trafficking.

“As a result of this program, participating law students will enter the legal profession with a deeper understanding of the victims of exploitation, trafficking and abuse and what they need for their lives to be restored,” Nancy Ann Hunt said. “Their suffering may be hidden from sight and may be uncomfortable to acknowledge publicly. But through the availability of free legal services, we hope they will feel empowered to come forward and obtain help.”

Administrators plan to work with existing community organizations in the Dallas area, including the Genesis Women’s Shelter for domestic violence victims and New Friends New Life, which assists sex trafficking victims.

Congrats, SMU Law! Click here to read more.

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