by Christina Jackson, NALP Director of Public Service Initiatives & Fellowships
Happy Friday everyone! Welcome to September! I don’t know about your area, but the late summer heat here is awful! But, despite the high temps, we have some dedicated students out there helping their communities. We continue our focus on 1L Orientation Service Projects through this month.
Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: If you know someone we should honor, drop me a line.
Here are the week’s headlines:
- Alberta legal aid lawyers taking action over funding;
- Federal grants to aid victims of violence in ND Bakken region;
- Victoria legal aid restored for family violence victims;
- ME Volunteer Lawyers Project launches new legal aid program;
- Court fee hike supports PA legal services;
- CO Public Defenders want juveniles out of restraints in court;
- Legal Aid Ontario funding law school clinics;
- Spotlight on Public Service Servants: Professional Development and Pro Bono staff of Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School, University of Pennsylvania Law School, Brooklyn Law School;
- Super Music Bonus!
August 28, 2014 – “Alberta’s legal-aid lawyers are threatening to clog the courts with applications from people denied coverage to draw attention to what the lawyers say is a severely underfunded system. Ian Savage, president of the Criminal Defence Lawyers Association in Calgary, says the government has raised the bar so high that people living on income support or with major disabilities can’t get a legal-aid lawyer.” “Justice Minister Jonathan Denis has rejected calls for increased funding and has instead asked the federal government to provide more money to Alberta. He has said he is willing to look at what can be done in next year’s budget for legal aid.” (Global News)
August 28, 2014 – “The North Dakota Council on Abused Women’s Services has a three-part plan for its share of a $3 million grant from the Department of Justice. It includes counselors, legal services and advocacy. CAWS North Dakota is one of five recipients sharing the award from the Office on Violence Against Women special initiative. The grants are to provide services for victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking, and to help local and tribal governments prosecute violence against women in the Bakken Region of North Dakota and Montana.” (Bismark Tribune)
August 31, 2014 – “Victoria Legal Aid will restore free legal help for family violence victims in child custody battles, reversing cuts that left some to face their attackers in court alone. The organisation stopped funding legal assistance for people in the Family Court if they were against a person who was also without a lawyer last year, amid drastic cuts to its services to save money.” “From Monday, Legal Aid will make an exception for family violence victims whose perpetrators had been convicted of breaching an intervention order or other family-violence related offences, or if the police or government department had helped them move due to safety concerns.” (The Age)
August 31, 2014 – “The Maine Volunteer Lawyers Project, with the cooperation of lawyers in Washington County, is getting ready to launch a new legal aid program to serve needy people. The Courthouse Assistance Program will provide legal aid to people on a walk-in, first-come, first-served basis. They will receive a free initial consultation with a volunteer lawyer. People will be screened according to income level using the same guidelines as Pine Tree Legal Assistance and social service agencies.” (Bangor Daily News)
September 1, 2014 – “A $1 increase in court surcharges that took effect Aug. 8 is generating more revenue to fund legal services for low-income Pennsylvanians, a step in a broader effort to expand access to justice. The additional surcharge on court costs and filing fees is authorized under legislation sponsored by Rep. Tarah Toohil, R-116, Butler Twp., that was signed into law in July. The money will support the Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network, which assists the poor in civil cases that often involve domestic violence, eviction and emergency custody issues. The extra money will help address a problem facing thousands of citizens who qualify for that assistance based on poverty income guidelines but are being turned away because legal aid has insufficient funding, said Ms. Toohil.” (thetimes-tribune.com)
September 1, 2014 – In all but three [Colorado] courthouses, juveniles as young as 10 are led into courtrooms wearing restraints that can weigh as much as 25 pounds. Defense attorneys and advocates say the long-term effects of shackling juveniles can be devastating for children still developing their self-worth. Sheriff’s departments — which are in charge of the custody of all offenders and courthouse security — cannot readily recall a recent assault or escape attempt by a juvenile inside a courtroom, but most still say the risks of removing restraints are too great. Judges, who have the ultimate say of whether juveniles wear restraints in their courtroom, have repeatedly deferred to the sheriff’s judgment.” “Public defenders and child advocates have been working with judges and law enforcement for several years to change the practice. Since the beginning of the year, three districts — Boulder, Jefferson and La Plata counties — have started unshackling juveniles while they are in the courtrooms.” “Law enforcement and public defenders in each of those counties said there have been no problems inside the courtrooms since they started removing the restraints. Some even reported improved behavior.” Advocates are fighting to create a state-wide policy. (The Denver Post)
September 2, 2014 – “Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) is providing over $2 million over three years to six university-operated legal clinics to provide family law services for low-income Ontarians. Starting in September (January for the University of Windsor), four student legal aid services societies will begin offering family law services. The University of Toronto’s Downtown Legal Services will be using the funds to expand its existing family law division. All of these societies will use a combination of summer students, in-term students and staff lawyers to broaden access to justice by addressing the unmet legal needs of family litigants.” (CNW)
Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:
Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School Community Service Day took place on August 15, 2014. Students participated in a variety of projects including visiting a prison, conducting a phone bank to update the re-entry guide for formerly incarcerated citizens, did police ride-alongs, volunteering at a food bank, and helping to collect and ship books for students in Africa.
University of Pennsylvania Law School’s Orientation Service Day connected students, staff and faculty with five sites. More than half of the incoming class signs up and the sites are set up throughout Philadelphia so that students can get to know the community they’ll be part of for the next three years. It starts with breakfast and ends with a late lunch. Students clean neighborhoods, spruce up schools, work in urban farms/gardens, sort food/clothes, etc. Current students, staff and faculty are invited to participate.
On August 17, Brooklyn Law School held its Inaugural Orientation Community Service Day, co-sponsored by Brooklyn Law Students for the Public Interest (BLSPI) and the Environmental Law Society. New and continuing students came together to beautify the area around Gowanus Canal by painting, gardening, and sifting compost. The event was held in partnership with the Gowanus Canal Conservancy, a nonprofit organization that works to maintain and develop the canal for the public. Each group was led by a team of upper classman as well as one staff member. All faculty and staff were also invited to participate.
Super Music Bonus! This week we honor Mary’s home state.