Job’o’th’week (Fellowship Edition) – North Carolina Justice Center

Help Wanted Photo: Brenda Gottsabend – CC License

The North Carolina Justice Center is seeking a fellow for their inaugural Leslie J. Winner Public Interest and Civil Rights Fellowship. The Winner Fellowship provides the opportunity for a recent law school graduate to spend two years as a staff attorney at the North Carolina Justice Center – a nonprofit organization committed to alleviating poverty in North Carolina by ensuring that every household has access to the resources, services and fair treatment it needs to achieve economic security.

If this sounds like something for you, check out the full post on PSJD. (Application Deadline: April 30, 2016)

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DC Event: FTC Legal Services Quarterly Brownbag

Check out the following message from the Federal Trade Commission:

The FTC will host a Legal Services Quarterly Brownbag at 12:30pm on Thursday, March 31, 2016 at the FTC’s offices in the Constitution Center, 400 7th Street SW, Washington, DC 20001, Room 10102. We hold these meetings to discuss what is happening at the FTC that may be of interest to the legal services community. We also want to hear from you as well. If you have consumer protection concerns you would like to raise, new issues or trends you are seeing, any consumer outreach or education campaigns, or any other items you wish to share—please let us know.

On the agenda for this upcoming brownbag is the DeVry University case the agency filed on January 27, 2016, as well as recent cases we’ve brought to put a stop to fraudulent diploma mills.  We will also talk about policy changes and upcoming events at the FTC.

Please send your RSVP to Tracey Thomas at tthomas@ftc.gov. We also hope you won’t hesitate to contact Tracey Thomas (tthomas@ftc.gov), Monica Vaca (mvaca@ftc.gov), or Patti Poss (pposs@ftc.gov), with any questions or input.

Note that the Constitution Center is conveniently located at the L’Enfant Plaza metro station, which services the yellow, green, blue, and orange metro lines.  Leaving the metro via the “7th and D” exit will let you out right at the Constitution Center.  Please give yourself time to get through the security line.

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – March 25, 2016

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

Happy Friday! Spring is here!  Ok, maybe just a day or 2 in the DMV. But let’s enjoy it while it lasts!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Tagalog legal assistance helpline launched in LA County;
  • Justice Department addresses high cost of court fines and fees on the poor;
  • New Mexico’s Chief Public Defender resigns;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

March 18, 2016 – “To expand its reach of legal services in the growing Filipino community, non-profit organization Asian Americans Advancing Justice — Los Angeles has launched a free Tagalog helpline to assist the community with citizenship issues. ‘We know that many Filipino-Americans speak English, but many still have language barriers and many prefer to speak Tagalog or another Filipino dialect as they try to get services,’ said Stewart Kwoh, president and executive director of Advancing Justice. ‘Without that, many Filipinos have difficulties accessing services and will not come forward. Somewill suffer in silence rather than reaching out and getting the help that they need.'” “The new line is part of Advancing Justice’s Asian Language Legal Intake Project (ALLIP), which provides toll-free hotlines to low-income community members in a variety of legal areas, including family law and domestic violence, employment, housing and immigration. The Tagalog line will focus on the area of citizenship, as Advancing Justice has noticed that many Fil-Ams wish to become US citizens.” (Asian Journal)

March 18, 2016 – “In a letter this week to local courts in all 50 states, the Justice Department put judges on notice that slapping fines and fees on defendants without regard for their ability to pay can be a constitutionally dubious practice. In some instances, it has relegated judges and police to roles that have little to do with justice and protecting the public, and more to do with filling the public coffers.” “In the Justice Department letter, Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division, and Lisa Foster, director of the Office for Access to Justice, wrote of the imposition of unchecked court costs that ‘in addition to being unlawful, to the extent that these practices are geared not toward addressing public safety, but rather toward raising revenue . . . can cast doubt on the impartiality of the tribunal and erode trust between local governments and their constituents.’ The officials urged courts to adhere to basic constitutional principles, warning them not to jail poor people who failed to pay court costs because they couldn’t afford it, and to consider alternatives such as community service for indigent defendants. Judges were also cautioned not to keep poor defendants in jail solely on the basis of their inability to post bail and not to make payment of court costs a condition of access to judicial hearings.” (Washington Post)

March 23, 2016 – “Simmering tensions between the newly minted independent New Mexico Public Defender Commission and its executive, Chief Defender Jorge Alvarado, led this week to Alvarado’s resignation after two years and four months at the helm. He said he was leaving with ‘a heavy heart,’ mindful that there have been dramatic changes during the transition from being an agency overseen by the executive branch to one with an independent commission setting policy. Alvarado’s announcement of his imminent departure, official April 1, was accompanied by a long, impassioned missive to the attorneys and staff in the department sent out late Monday.” “The commission has scheduled an April 1 meeting, its first in months, at which an interim chief will be named, or at least a committee appointed to look into procedures to maintain continuity and seek a replacement, commission chairman Michael Stout said Tuesday.” (Albuquerque Journal)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

“A group in Salisbury, North Carolina has seen the need for legal aid, but not everyone has access to the help they provide. A new justice initiative aims to help people by coming to them. It’s the brain child of City Council member and attorney David Post. It’s hard to miss the bright green RV rolling through Salisbury and East Spencer. Jackie Leach, who needed some legal help, knows firsthand just what the traveling ‘Center for Access to Justice’ can do. ‘He was able to take time out even though he had other things scheduled to help me and from that point on, he’s been a great access to me and I’m quite sure he’ll be a great access to others,’ said Leach.

A chance meeting at the courthouse gave Leach the help she needed. The traveling initiative is the result of years of planning, by Post and other community attorneys and activists. Post saw a need for legal help, after talking with some West End residents. ‘A lot of them don’t have cars, so the only way for them to see me, is they have to take a bus and then a second bus, so I came up with this idea of an RV,’ said Post. ‘There are more people that go to the courthouse every single day, every single day, than go to every doctor and the hospital in Salisbury,’ said Post. Post said legal aid is hard to come by in the Salisbury and Greensboro area, with 200,000 people qualifying for legal aid. ‘You have about one lawyer for about 40-50 thousand people,’ said Post.” (TWC News)

Super Music Bonus!  This week we have a special treat.  Our music pick is from the 2015 PSJD Pro Bono Publico Award Winner Lark Mulligan.

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Job’o’th’week (Internship Edition) – Spend the summer with PSJD!

Help Wanted Photo: Brenda Gottsabend – CC License

Plan on being in DC for the summer? Consider coming to work for us! We have two paid internships available for law and/or graduate students. Check them out below!

NALP/PSJD Publications CoordinatorWe are seeking a law or graduate student to work full-time as its PSJD Summer Publications Coordinator, editing and producing our Comprehensive Fellowship Guide during the summer of 2016.  The term of the employment period is approximately 10 weeks.  The position is ideal for a law or graduate student who has editing experience and is interested in public interest law and/or nonprofit administration.  The Publications Coordinator serves as an integral part of the PSJD team.
To learn more, check out the full post on PSJD. (Application Deadline: April 28, 2016)

PSJD Project Assistants – We are seeking three to four summer project assistants to help update and maintain database content on the PSJD website. This is an ideal opportunity for law or graduate students who desire to supplement their income while interning or clerking in Washington, DC in the summer of 2016.
To learn more, check out the full post on PSJD. (Application Deadline: June 1, 2016)

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Spotlight on Student Public Service & Pro Bono: Prison Abolition for Transgender Liberation

Lark Mulligan Picture
2015-16 Pro Bono Publico Award Winner, Lark Mulligan

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.

Last week, the PSJD Pro Bono Publico Award Merit Distinction honorees guest blogged about their law student pro bono and their public interest commitments. Today, we’re featuring our 2015-2016 Pro Bono Publico Award Winner and DePaul University College of Law student Lark Mulligan, a multi-talented advocate dedicated to transgender rights.


Prison Abolition for Transgender Liberation
Lark Mulligan, PSJD Pro Bono Publico Award Winner, 2015-2016 (DePaul University College of Law)

I met her in Cook County Jail, where she was awaiting trial for felony charges.[1] A Black transgender woman from Chicago’s south side, our client spent her late teens and early twenties in and out of prison and jail. Incarceration is an especially dangerous and traumatic experience for transgender people because they are almost exclusively housed according to their gender as assigned at birth, meaning that trans women, like my client, are housed in men’s facilities. Like many other incarcerated trans people, she was placed in “protective custody,” a misleading name for what others might call “solitary confinement.” It was a small cell where she sat in isolation and experienced daily threats, harassment, and slurs from correctional staff. While she was in protective custody, jail staff denied her HIV medications, gender-affirming feminine products like bras and makeup, and hormone therapy, which she had been taking as prescribed for over a decade.

Eventually she was convicted, served two years in a men’s prison, and was paroled out on house arrest to an all-men halfway home. Having been kicked out of her mother’s house after coming out as trans as a teenager, she was no stranger to gender-segregated shelters and public housing, and she knew the risks of presenting her true gender in such an environment. After feeling it out for a week, she began presenting more in line with her female gender identity, wearing feminine clothing, makeup, wigs, etc. But she immediately felt unsafe when the other residents and house staff harassed her for her appearance, calling her names, and threatening to sexually assault her.

She tried to get a job so she could move into her own apartment, but everything was working against her. Because of her ankle bracelet, she was only able to leave the house for a few hours every day. She didn’t have a diploma or GED because she dropped out in tenth grade when administrators forced her to use the men’s room, students harassed and attacked her, and teachers would only refer to her as “he”. When she was able to get her foot in the door with an employer, she would bring in her state ID and birth certificate to fill out the new hire paperwork. However, because of an Illinois law that prohibits someone with a felony conviction from changing their legal name until ten years have elapsed since the termination of their sentence,[2] her documents unfortunately still displayed her masculine-sounding former name and identified her as “male.” Employers would take one look those documents, shoot her some strange glances, ask a few invasive questions about her identity and genitalia, and later she would receive a call saying they “decided to go with an internal hire.” When she was finally hired, she was quickly fired after refusing to wear the men’s uniform.

After a few months of struggling, she returned to her halfway house one day to find all of her belongings on the sidewalk. The Illinois Department of Corrections only pays rent for people on parole for three or four months, and her time limit had expired. Because she had nowhere else to live, that evening her ankle bracelet automatically notified her probation officer that she missed curfew, and the next day she was arrested on a warrant for probation violation and taken back to Cook County Jail.

The United States is experiencing an urgent crisis of hyper-policing and mass incarceration of poor people of color, in particular Black people, and the criminal legal system ensnares people in impossible situations. Transgender people of color living in poverty are impacted by these trends in specific ways; over 50% of Black transgender women can expect to be arrested at some point in their lives, and because the world is so gendered and hostile to people who fall outside gender norms, they face numerous barriers to returning to a stable life. One reason trans people are overrepresented in the criminal legal system is that they experience disproportionate rates of poverty and homelessness resulting from barriers to housing, education, and employment. As a result, trans people might commit survival crimes like retail theft, sex work, or trespassing into a building to sleep at night. Without stable housing and under the burden of a criminal record, it is almost impossible to find a job, and the cycle of poverty and incarceration continues.

Even if they are not committing any crimes, the mass media has very effectively taught police, judges, states attorneys, and the rest of us to assume that trans women of color occupying public space are sex workers. Many transgender women of color report being arrested and charged with prostitution while they were simply walking down the street – a phenomenon some have termed “walking while trans.”

Transgender people are also being murdered at staggering rates, with over 21 murders in the U.S. in 2015 alone, the vast majority were women of color, and many of them went uninvestigated. The global average lifespan of a transgender person is around 23 years. By failing to hold anybody accountable for these deaths, the legal system passively condones this violence and the notion that trans people of color are disposable. Further, transgender people who try to defend themselves from racist and transphobic violence, as in the cases of CeCe McDonald and Eisha Love, are often arrested and prosecuted while their attackers go free.

In short, the criminal legal system is not working for transgender people.

To address some of these injustices, in 2008 a group of prison abolitionist activists, social workers, and lawyers founded the Transformative Justice Law Project (TJLP), which provides free holistic legal services and support for trans people who are criminalized in Chicago and throughout prisons in Illinois. Among other things, we currently help trans people change their legal names, advocate for trans prisoners, conduct workshops and trainings, and publish writing and artwork from trans prisoners in our ‘zine publication Hidden Expressions. After moving to Chicago by way of Vermont in 2011, I became a TJLP Collective Member and have worked on various projects ever since.

Since joining TJLP, I have learned that lawyers can only do so much for criminalized trans people caught in an inherently violent, transphobic, and racist system.  While lawyers have an important role to play in reducing the harm that the legal system inflicts, I believe that the only long-term solution to mass incarceration is a grassroots movement to abolish the prison-industrial complex.

Prison abolition is a movement to dismantle all systems of incarceration, surveillance, and policing, and to build a world that has no need for prisons or police by eradicating the root causes of violence, inequality, and oppression in our communities. Instead of reacting to violence and conflict with more police and more prisons, which do not make society safer but rather cause more violence and poverty and racism, an abolitionist approach would address the root causes of violence by investing in free public education, community empowerment, reparations, healing and restorative practices, non-punitive drug treatment programs, open dialogue, accessible and affordable healthcare, and food justice. Rather than trying to reform an inherently violent system, like conducting police sensitivity trainings, I think the only way to actually make the world safe and affirming for trans people – and for all people – is to get rid of police and prisons altogether.

Prison abolition does not necessarily mean that I want to walk over to the nearest jail and let everyone out. Instead, abolition means recognizing the ways in which systems of racism and transphobia mutually reinforce and are reinforced by the prison-industrial complex, and then taking steps to eradicate them all. Rather than asking the penological question “what do we do with people who commit crimes,” prison abolitionists ask much more fundamental questions like “why do people commit crimes in the first place?” and “how can we prevent people from causing harm to others?” Prison abolition teaches that people often commit crimes because they are poor and need to survive, or because they are reproducing violence that was done to them in the past; they are trying to survive and cope in an oppressive world that criminalizes their existence, and therefore all systems of oppression must be dismantled in order to prevent harms. In the words of abolitionist Alexander Lee, “The absence of prisons is only one way of describing a society free of systems of inequity – white supremacy, male supremacy and the gender binary, capitalism, ableism, among other things – which produce violence, desperation, hatred, and suffering. Such a society would laugh off the outrageous idea of putting people into cages.”

Working with criminalized transgender people has convinced me of the necessity of prison abolition. In 2010, I started as an intern at TJLP. When friends would ask me what I was doing there, I would say “I’m working with trans people who have been wrongfully convicted.” Over time I saw that the reality of our clients’ lives was much more complicated – that regardless of guilt or innocence or whether someone “actually” committed a crime, their very survival was being policed, punished, and extinguished. Eventually it clicked that the term “wrongfully convicted” assumes that some people deserve to be punished and other people don’t, that guilty people deserve to be in cages and innocent people don’t. While many people are incarcerated for crimes they didn’t commit – particularly in Chicago, the false confession capital – not every trans person is in prison because of police profiling. Yet regardless of what they may have done in the past, none of the people whom I have met in Illinois’ prison system deserve to endure the abuse, isolation, violence, and fundamentally oppressive environment of incarceration.

Seeing the harsh realities of incarceration for transgender people also challenged me to reframe my concept of community safety. The expansion of the prison system is often justified on the grounds of keeping people safe: the state builds new prisons, police are given tanks and assault rifles, neighbors call 911 when they see a “suspicious” person in their neighborhood – all in the name of community safety. While working with trans people in prison, I realized that we rarely think about the safety of people in prisons and jails; are they not also members of a community who also deserve to be safe? But when I tried to think of ways to make prisons safe for trans people – for example, housing trans women in women’s facilities – I realized that, while such reforms might reduce the harm in some ways, they wouldn’t actually help trans people live longer fuller lives, and they wouldn’t stop trans people from being arrested in the first place. Incarceration and contact with the police cannot be a safe experience for trans people because prisons and police are inherently violent, isolating institutions. How can you be safe when you’re locked in a cage, completely subject to the authority of people who hate you? At the end of the day, the safest thing for trans people – and for all people – is to be free from the threat of incarceration and policing altogether.

The current era of mass incarceration requires that we all ask ourselves fundamental questions about safety, punishment, race, gender, and oppression. Given the authority and knowledge that the legal system has granted to lawyers, we all have a responsibility to think critically about how we can contribute to a more just, safe, and affirming world for everyone whom the criminal legal system fails.

Footnotes:

[1] The following story is being shared with permission, and the facts have been modified to protect anonymity.

[2] 735 ILCS 5/21-101 (2007).

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Spotlight on Student Public Service & Pro Bono: Inspiration to Fight Evictions

Courtney Brown Picture
2015-16 Merit Distinction Honoree, Courtney Brown

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 2015-16 PSJD Pro Bono Publico Award Merit Distinction honorees are guest blogging about law student pro bono and their public interest commitments. Today, we’re featuring Merit Distinction honoree and Golden Gate University School of Law student Courtney Brown, a multi-talented advocate dedicated to the eviction and housing crises facing San Francisco.


Inspiration to Fight Evictions
Courtney Brown, PSJD Pro Bono Publico Merit Distinction Honoree, 2015-2016 (Golden Gate University School of Law)

Having a home is deeply rooted in one’s sense of stability and security; however, too often it can be taken away for the financial benefit of others, especially in San Francisco. San Francisco is currently facing the worst housing crisis in recent history. Here, income and housing inequality is growing rapidly. Increasing rents and evictions displace thousands of tenants, many of whom are low-income senior and/or disabled people. Eviction often displaces people from their long-term homes and San Francisco completely. With each eviction, San Francisco loses more of its culture and history.

Clients are the Inspiration

My clients’ desire and strength to fight for their homes and resist the most powerful eviction push in recent history inspires me every day to continue to do this work. Their inspiration is the driving force behind my late night study sessions, what gets me up in the morning after very little sleep, and what pushes me to stand up in front of often hostile judges to strongly advocate for my clients.

I am blessed every day to work alongside clients who have made San Francisco the city it is known to be. It is difficult to imagine the profound loss my clients feel when they lose not only their homes but also the communities in which they have lived for decades. I see just a fraction of the pain and stress in their eyes when they talk about leaving the community in which they grew up and raised their children and grandchildren. From artists and veterans, to seniors and people with disabilities, our city is being “cleansed” of everyone that gives this city the personality that makes it so unique. And yet, these people persevere in the face of struggle. And so do I.

As I continue my career in tenants’ rights law, I will continue to meet amazing people who helped build this city. While assisting clients in the battle to enforce their rights, I am inspired by their stories and their strength in the face of adversity.

One of my first clients was facing an Ellis Action eviction. In short, the Ellis Act is a California law that allows landlords to exit the rental business by evicting all of the tenants at the rental property. Unfortunately, this law that was put in place to assist “mom and pop” landlords, is now being abused by real estate speculators, who use the law to flip the rental property so they can make a profit. This client was a 69-year old Vietnam War Veteran who suffered from PTSD. Due to his condition, he was unable to leave the house for long periods of time, so when I needed to talk to him about his case or have him sign papers, I would always go to his house. He would tell me stories about the war and about the special unit he was assigned to, and no matter how many times we lost a motion in court regarding his eviction he was always looking for the bright side. Luckily, through our perseverance, the landlord, notorious in San Francisco for using the Ellis Act to flip properties, decided the fight was not worth it and dismissed the eviction action.

We Need You to Get Involved

San Francisco’s Residential Rent Stabilization and Arbitration Ordinance regulates rent increases, evictions, and habitability standards to protect tenants from unlawful actions by their landlords. However, San Francisco tenants are unable to enforce the protections provided by the Rent Ordinance due to the lack of legal representation available for low- and moderate-income individuals and families. Few evictions occur because tenants lose an unlawful detainer action, but of the few, many are lost on procedural grounds. Instead, the vast majority of evictions in San Francisco occur because tenants are unable to find necessary representation when they are faced with eviction notices alleging false claims or when their landlords harass and intimidate them to leave without a fight.

Landlords in San Francisco have power due to income inequality, limited affordable housing, and lack of legal representation for tenants. The power differential allows landlords to use oral notices or serve eviction notices based on exaggerations and lies. For example, in San Francisco landlords have started using 3-day notices alleging nuisances to quickly evict tenants from their homes. The law surrounding nuisance evictions is very grey which allows for landlords to exaggerate allegations in the eviction notice. When tenants fight evictions through legal representation, they generally stop the eviction. However, many tenants are coerced through lack of resources into leaving their long-term homes without a fight. Additionally, many San Francisco tenants’ rights organizations do not provide tenants with the full-scope representation needed to fight these evictions, and instead provide limited-scope representation which has been found to be less effective in ensuring the tenants retain possession. Full-scope representation is when a client is represented throughout the entire eviction process, and the attorney handles every party of the case from the eviction notice to the trial or appeal of the case. Limited-scope representation is generally ghost-writing of documents for the tenants, including answers, and possibly attending a mandatory settlement conference with the tenant. Evictions can be dramatically reduced if more lawyers provide full-scope representation to low- and moderate-income tenants facing evictions.

There is a desperate need for law students and attorneys to provide full-scope representation to tenants facing evictions in San Francisco. The outcome differential between tenants provided with limited-scope representation and tenants provided with full-scope representation during an eviction is substantial. A study entitled In Pursuit of Justice? Case Outcomes and the Delivery of Unbundled Legal Services by Jessica K. Steinberg published in The Georgetown Journal of Poverty Law and Policy found that unrepresented tenants only retained possession 14% of the time and tenants who received limited-scope or unbundled representation only retained possession 18% of the time, while 55% of fully represented tenants were able to retain possession of their homes. The study also found that tenants receiving limited-scope representation did not secure more actual relief when fighting the eviction than the unrepresented tenants. To decrease the number of evictions in San Francisco, tenants must be provided with the full-scope representation necessary.

San Francisco continues to lose tenants every day as the city becomes more gentrified. These tenants want to stop this, and they have the desire and strength to push back against the evictions that are taking their homes. However, for them to be able to fully fight back and enforce the protections they are provided under the Rental Ordinance, they need attorney allies who can provide the necessary representation. Full-scope representation can only be provided if law students and attorneys contribute pro bono services in housing law.

Communities across the country need you to help us stop evictions and community fragmentation by getting involved with eviction defense work during law school. It will not only provide representation to someone facing eviction, it will also provide you with valuable experience, skill, and inspiration to carry forward into your career.

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – March 18, 2016

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

Happy Friday! Spring Break is right around the corner.  Do you have a spring break service project planned?  Let us know. We’d love to feature your project on the Blog.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Osgoode Hall Law School’s Community and Legal Aid Services Programme is taking action to support Ontario’s vulnerable workers;
  • Access to Justice B.C. to help people access civil legal services;
  • Connecticut law students may be enlisted to help abused animals;
  • Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad College of Law receives grant to open innovative legal clinic;
  • Montana court commission examines legal help for poor in non-criminal cases;
  • Maryland Legal Services and The Kentucky Bar Foundation receive grant to assist in foreclosure prevention and community redevelopment;
  • Ontario launches pilot program to give legal assistance to sexual violence survivors;
  • Panel studying Delaware’s juvenile justice system;
  • Judge launches domestic relations clinic at The University of Akron School of Law;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

March 10, 2016 – “On March 10, CLASP opened an employment law division to help meet what has been identified as a serious need in a neighbourhood near the law school. Phanath Im, review counsel for the new division — as well as a former CLASP division leader and 2010 Osgoode graduate — says that while part of legal work is representing the individual, at a clinic such as theirs, it’s also a ‘very human endeavour.’ ‘We aim to look at our clients more holistically — not just as a legal case. We want to look at all issues.'” “Last fall, Legal Aid Ontario announced a $100,000 annual increase in funding for each of the province’s seven student legal aid clinics. While LAO didn’t specify where the funds should be allocated, ’employment law and housing were the main areas of law’ where the money was used, says Im. The boost in funding gave CLASP the means to fill the gap in its employment law services. The employment law division is a one-year pilot project, starting off taking a limited number of cases and ramping up to full capacity by the summer.” (Canadian Lawyer)

March 10, 2016 – “B.C.’s top judge is teaming up with ordinary citizens to improve the province’s civil justice system, after numerous reports have shed light on how difficult it is for people without legal training to access justice. The justice system is not doing a good enough job of helping Canadians access the legal services they need when faced with a civil court case, says Access to Justice B.C., a group made up of advocates from both inside and outside the justice system. “We’re failing the users of our system and that’s who should be our partners in this reform process,” said Robert Bauman, Chief Justice of B.C., and the group’s chair. ‘We’ve got to figure out how to ease the access issue for … the middle class in this country, where litigation is simply beyond the means of ordinary people.’ Bauman says he intends to start by reforming family law services first.” (CBC News)

March 10, 2016 – “If state Rep. Diane Urban’s bill is approved, abused animals in the state will have access to some unlikely allies: Connecticut law students. The so-called Desmond’s Law would allow students at the University of Connecticut School of Law, and potentially other law schools in the state, to act as courtroom advocates in cases of animal neglect, abuse and cruelty. They would apparently function in a similar manner as guardians ad litem who represent the best interest of children involved in custody battles. The bill would create a ‘win-win’ situation, said Jessica Rubin, an animal law professor at UConn. ‘Law students would benefit from having an opportunity for experiential learning by being advocates in the court and the courts would be provided with volunteer assistance,’ Rubin said. ‘So that courts that are lacking in a resource would have those additional resources.’ The way the statute is written, a judge would be able to select a volunteer, which can either be an interested law student or a pro bono attorney, to act as an advocate on behalf of the animals. The list of volunteers would be maintained by the state Department of Agriculture.” (Connecticut Law Tribune)

March 11, 2016 – ” Nova Southeastern University’s (NSU) Shepard Broad College of Law received a $1 million grant from The Taft Foundation to establish an innovative clinical program to address the legal needs of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (AIDD) and their families. The NSU AIDD Law Clinic will be launched in the fall of 2016 and will begin enrolling third-year students to staff it by January 2017.” “While the particular fields of representation will vary depending on client needs, the most likely focus areas will be public benefits, housing, and educational rights. NSU’s College of Law will be working closely with the Brooklyn Law School which introduced a similar clinic last spring, also funded by a grant from The Taft Foundation. In addition, the AIDD clinic will provide community outreach through workshops, events, and community training to educate and encourage these adults, their families, service providers, and the general public regarding issues facing the affected population.” (Market Wired)

March 11, 2016 – “Every day in Montana, someone faces a crisis that may need legal assistance – and many Montanans have no way to pay for that help. ‘Thousands of Montanans who are at or below the poverty line have legal needs,’ says Supreme Court Justice Beth Baker. ‘They have housing problems, health-care issues that they can’t resolve because they don’t have the wherewithal to do so.’ ‘And when they have these issues, it has a cascading or snowballing effect and they end up in crisis.’ But Baker and others hope to put a dent in this problem in the coming year – and say the effort could help ease Montana’s clogged court system as well. Baker chairs the Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Commission, which is holding public forums across the state on how best to provide civil legal assistance for low-income Montanans. There are programs to help poor Montanans get legal help on civil matters, but they fall well short of the need, Baker says. She says the commission is assessing the need and current resources in Montana, and likely will ask the 2017 Legislature to approve some form of state funding to help.” (KPAX)

March 11, 2016 – Eric D. Green, independent Monitor of Bank of America’s August 20, 2014, mortgage settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice and six states, today announced the distribution of $4,396,113 to the Maryland Legal Services Corporation, and the distribution of $6,016,165 to the Kentucky IOLTA Fund of the Kentucky Bar Foundation, Inc., as mandated under the settlement, to provide legal assistance in foreclosure prevention and community redevelopment. Maryland Legal Services, headquartered in Baltimore, and The Kentucky Bar Foundation, headquartered in Frankfort, are two of 56 state-based legal-assistance organizations receiving funds under the settlement, which settled legal claims arising from mortgage-related activities by Bank of America and its subsidiaries. A distribution was made earlier to NeighborWorks America, a national, congressionally-chartered nonprofit organization that provides training and support for community-based redevelopment programs in the United States and Puerto Rico.” (PR Newswire Maryland Legal Services) (PR Newswire Kentucky Bar Foundation)

March 11, 2016 – “Ontario will launch a $2.8 million pilot this spring to give survivors of sexual assault access to free legal advice — a Canadian first. Anyone who has experienced a sexual assault in Toronto, Ottawa and Thunder Bay — the host cities for the pilot — will be offered access to four hours of free legal advice. ‘It’s not representation in court but to help these women to make an informed decision: what are their options, what are the services offered to them,’ Ontario Attorney General Madeleine Meilleur said. ‘At the end they will make their decision: do I go forward, what do I do?’ While some advocates have called for sexual assault complainants to get equal standing in criminal trials to defendants, that’s a federal matter and one that would challenge centuries of common law. This move is meant to empower and inform these individuals of their legal rights and options without upending the justice system.” (National Post)

March 12, 2016 – “At the end of 2016, there should be a strategic plan for the reformation of Delaware’s juvenile justice system. That’s the hope of Lisa Minutola and an advisory committee working with $147,983 in federal grant money. Their task is to study how children are handled and represented in Family Court — and in legal-related proceedings. Ms. Minutola, co-chair of the Smart on Juvenile Justice Access Committee, believes the future of kids in the justice system are crucially impacted by how their issues are resolved. Access to legal counsel for juveniles in the system is not guaranteed and Ms. Minutola said a ‘child at the very least should have the right to consult with an attorney.'” “The Delaware Criminal Justice Council received the grant from the U.S. Department of Justice in September 2015, and the committee includes stakeholders from the state, private and nonprofit sectors. Ms. Minutola, chief of Legal Services at the Office of Defense Services, is heading the committee along with Dawn Williams, director of Training and Development at the Office of Defense Services.” (Delaware State News)

March 16, 2016 – “When Portage County Domestic Relations Court Judge Paula Giulitto was still a student at The University of Akron School of Law, she had the opportunity to find out what being a lawyer is all about through a criminal law clinic. Now, she wants to give back to other students while helping low-income Portage County residents.” The Domestic Relations I clinic officially launched Jan. 19 with four third-year law students.  The clinic’s first full-fledged hearing – an uncontested divorce – is set for April 1. “‘The primary benefit this clinic will yield is to the litigants, who will have free representation,’ the judge said. ‘It also gives students a practical education to apply their schooling in real-life situations, plus get college credit. These students had to pay to take a class to represent people for free, but it’s a good way to start their legal experience.'” (The Akron Legal News)

Featured Spring Break Service Projects:

Recently, a team of nine University of Florida Levin College of Law students — led by third-year student, Ben Silva — donated a large portion of their spring break to help people in need. The students provided assistance at Three Rivers Legal Services, Jacksonville Area Legal Aid and Clara White Mission. Beginning their work at Three Rivers and with coordination from attorney Chardea Murray, the students provided guidance and assistance to people seeking to seal criminal arrest records. Because of their efforts, eight people were able to submit their applications to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. That will mean a barrier to gainful employment will be overcome. It provides hope for family stability and a productive life. Read more about their work — Jacksonville Daily Record.

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

Abigail Beebe has been selected by Florida’s Children First as Pro Bono Attorney of the Year. Beebe operates The Law Office of Abigail Beebe P.A., a marital and family law firm in West Palm Beach. The award highlights her advocacy for children in foster care. Beebe says she gives back to the community to make it a better place, no matter how small the efforts. Congratulations! (Sun Sentinel)

Super Music Bonus!  Music pick from the PSJD Fellow Eulen Jang.

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Meet the Jolly Good Fellows – Washington Council of Lawyers

Check out the following message from our friends at the Washington Council of Lawyers:

Public-interest fellowships enable recent law-school graduates to practice law with nonprofit organizations, the government, educational institutions, and sometimes even law firms. But there are so many different fellowship opportunities that learning about and choosing among them can be a real challenge.

We’ll aim to help solve this problem at Meet the Jolly Good Fellows, where you’ll get to meet a diverse group of current and former public-interest fellows. The event takes place on Monday, April 4, from 6:30 – 8:00 pm at Kirkland & Ellis (655 15th Street, NW).

To learn more and register, you can click here.
This business-casual event is free for our members and $5 for non-members, with a one-year Washington Council of Lawyers membership included in the price of admission.

We hope to see you on April 4th for a jolly good discussion about fellowships!

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Job’o’th’week (Experienced Edition) – Covington & Burling LLP

Help Wanted Photo: Brenda Gottsabend – CC License

Covington & Burling LLP is seeking a Pro Bono Manager to engage in a range of activities to support the firm’s Pro Bono Program. Responsibilities will include tasks such as identifying pro bono matters responsive to the legal needs of under-served communities and interests of individual attorneys and working closely with the Pro Bono Counsel and Public Service Committee. The position is full time and resident in the firm’s San Francisco office.

If this sounds like something for you, check out the full post on PSJD for more information. (Application Deadline: March 23, 2016)

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Spotlight on Student Public Service & Pro Bono: Opening Doors for Students and Clients – Temple Law Students and Criminal Record Expungements in Philadelphia


2015-16 Merit Distinction Honoree, Emily Bock

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 2015-16 PSJD Pro Bono Publico Award Merit Distinction honorees will be guest blogging about law student pro bono and their public interest commitments. (This year’s Pro Bono Publico Award recipient, Lark Mulligan, will be published the following week.) Today, we’re featuring Merit Distinction honoree and Temple University Beasley School of Law student Emily Bock, a multi-talented advocate dedicated to criminal record expungement.


Opening Doors for Students and Clients: Temple Law Students and Criminal Record Expungements in Philadelphia
Emily Bock, PSJD Pro Bono Publico Merit Distinction Honoree, 2015-2016 (Temple University Beasley School of Law)

In Pennsylvania, there are 11.1 African Americans and 6 Hispanics in federal or state prison for every White prisoner.[1] Nationally, there are more than twice as many people on probation or parole than there are incarcerated.[2] One in three United States adults will have been arrested by the age of 23.[3] The magnitude of the problem of criminal records is hard to comprehend, especially when we factor in people who are arrested, charged with crimes, and never convicted. In many cities, low-income communities of color are disproportionately policed as compared to higher-income, white communities.[4] This means that residents of low-income neighborhoods often have more criminal records,  adding more barriers to escaping poverty.[5] Around 87% of employers conduct criminal background checks during the hiring process, which makes any criminal record (conviction or otherwise) a potential barrier.[6] Philadelphia has the highest per capita incarceration rate of the 10 largest U.S. cities, with almost 7 out of every thousand citizens behind bars.[7] Additionally, Philadelphia is one of the poorest major cities in the United States, so when we consider the impact of criminal records on those who are most vulnerable, we must understand the extent of the devastation that our criminal legal system has wrought on poor people, especially poor people of color.[8]

Community Legal Services of Philadelphia has been a pioneer in the practice of representing people with criminal records. I was very fortunate to learn from them as a Haverford House Fellow and paralegal for their Employment Unit, where I worked almost exclusively on criminal record expungement and pardon cases. When I was a 1L at Temple Law, I was fortunate again to work with their Employment Unit as we developed a new project for taking criminal expungement clinics to neighborhoods with high numbers of arrests without convictions. Since September 2014, the Temple National Lawyers Guild Expungement Project has worked with Community Legal Services to hold 9 clinics in different parts of the city – in Center City, Germantown, West Philadelphia, Kensington, Spring Garden, and Olney. We have interviewed approximately 165 potential clients, accepted 111 clients for representation, and filed almost 400 expungement petitions. During this time, over 100 law student volunteers have been trained to interview clients at the clinics.

Many students are surprised when they learn that in Pennsylvania, arrests without conviction remain on a person’s criminal record until they file an expungement petition. Students are also shocked when they hear that old convictions, especially minor convictions, cannot be expunged. In Pennsylvania, many misdemeanors and all felony convictions are not eligible for expungement or sealing, which leaves those with old convictions only one option for trying to clear their criminal records – applying for a pardon.[9]  However, there has been some progress. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf recently signed a bill into law that would permit sealing of minor (misdemeanor) convictions under certain circumstances.[10] This new law is huge step in the right direction for a state like Pennsylvania where the law on criminal records is fairly conservative.

This year we were lucky to have two first-year law student representatives working with our committee. Here is what they had to say about their work in our expungement clinics:

“I remember sitting with my first client at an expungement clinic. It was early Saturday morning and we were in a part of Philadelphia I had never been to before, that people reference with a certain tone of voice. The client I met with had a low-level conviction when he was very young, then about 10 years later he was arrested and charged with something more serious that he didn’t do. Even though those charges were dropped, he struggled to find a job after that. He currently works full time, and makes the same amount of money I did when I waitressed part time in high school. He supports a family—he has children my age, and several grandchildren. This expungement will mean that he can get a higher-paying job so that his hard work will take him farther.

It has been important to me to put a face to the population that people talk about in class, sometimes in less than respectful ways. It helps me see what a different world I live in than people I inevitably pass on the street every day, and to wonder if people I went to high school with would have such prestigious jobs if we grew up in a different place. I actually keep this client’s initials at the top of my law school to do list to remind me why I’m here and to keep me motivated so I can do as much good as I can.” – Liz, 1L Representative

“I had a very meaningful experience during my first clinic at the church in Germantown. It was an older woman who came in with her daughter. She was incredibly sweet — it was hard to imagine her having ever been in trouble with the law. But one incident about 30 years ago left her record with one conviction and several non-conviction records. I forget whether she was seeking housing assistance or employment; either way, this decades-old conviction was a major roadblock in her life. We told her that she could get the non-convictions expunged. Further, because she was arrest-free for so long, we said that she probably could also get the conviction pardoned. She and her daughter were so happy. It was amazing to me that this woman had lived for so many years with this burden, and we were able to so quickly help her. It was also gratifying to, in one case, employ the several legal tools we have available — expungements and pardons — to help this woman clean up her decades-old record and move forward with her life.” – Aaron, 1L Representative

When I do any work related to the criminal legal system, whether it is working with people who are incarcerated, people with criminal records, or people charged with crimes, I always make sure to emphasize that they are people first. Many people who are charged with crimes are never convicted of the crime, but are left with an arrest record that can create the same challenges as a conviction. They deserve the presumption of innocence that our criminal legal system affords them. I firmly believe that all people deserve a fundamental level of dignity and respect, not conditioned upon whether they have been convicted of a crime or have gone to prison. As one of my heroes, Bryan Stevenson said, “Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.”[11]

I am grateful that Temple Law School can now offer many opportunities to its students to see these words in practice – whether through the Temple NLG Expungement Project, or through any of its other excellent clinical offerings.

Citations:

[1] Christopher Harney and Linh Vuong Created Equal: Racial and Ethnic Disparities in the US Criminal Justice System (National Council on Crime and Delinquency, March 2009).

[2] U.S. Dept. of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Probation and Parole in the United States, 2008, NCJ 228230 (Dec. 2009), at 3.

[3] http://www.sentencingproject.org/doc/publications/cc_HiT_CriminalRecords_profile_1.pdf

[4] JPI Report: http://www.justicepolicy.org/news/1909

[5] https://clsphila.org/sites/default/files/get-help/RESOURCE%20-%20Employment%20and%20Crim%20Records%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf

[6] http://www.sentencingproject.org/doc/publications/cc_HiT_CriminalRecords_profile_1.pdf

[7] http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/03/a-reckoning-in-philadelphia/472092/?utm_source=SFFB

[8] http://articles.philly.com/2015-10-01/news/67015543_1_poverty-rate-deep-poverty-philadelphians

[9] https://clsphila.org/sites/default/files/get-help/Pardon%20Guide%20NEW.pdf

[10] https://www.governor.pa.gov/governor-wolf-signs-criminal-history-sealing-expansion-bill-into-law/

[11] www.amazon.com/Just-Mercy-Story-Justice-Redemption/dp/081298496X

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