by Christina Jackson, NALP Director of Public Service Initiatives & Fellowships
Happy Friday everyone!
Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: If you know someone we should honor, drop me a line.
Here are the week’s headlines:
- Holder files statement backing public defender suit;
- Commission looks at Public Defense system in ID;
- MO Public Defender funding restricted despite deficiencies found in report;
- CA sets $3mil legal aid for unaccompanied minors;
- Atlanta Legal Aid celebrates 90 years of service;
- Federal government to provide $9 mil for direct representation of unaccompanied minors;
- B.C. lawyers set to resume protest of lack of legal aid funds;
- Spotlight on Public Service Servants: Duncan Marsden;
- Super Music Bonus!
September 25, 2014 – “Attorney General Eric Holder filed a statement of interest in state court in Albany on Thursday, supporting a class-action lawsuit that alleges New York’s public-defender service fails to meet its constitutional obligations.” “The lawsuit, Hurrell-Harring v. New York State, was brought by the New York Civil Liberties Union, arguing the state’s county-based system for providing legal defense is so uneven and underfunded that it deprives poor New Yorkers of their right to counsel.” “The statement of interest from the justice department does not specifically detail problems with New York’s system, saying its interest is in ‘ensuring that all jurisdiction—federal, state, and local—are fulfilling their obligation under the Constitution to provide effective assistance of counsel to individuals facing criminal charges who cannot afford an attorney.’” (capitalnewyork.com)
September 25, 2014 – “A new commission tasked with overseeing improvements to Idaho’s broken public defense system is asking lawmakers to prioritize where the work should begin. Third District Judge Molly Huskey, who sits on the Public Defense Commission, asked a group of lawmakers Thursday whether they wanted the commission to first come up with recommendations on the minimum qualifications for public defenders or to focus on the contract terms that counties should use in working with them.” The Commission is concerned that the problem is too complex to evaluate in a couple of months, and that their recommendations won’t be well-vetted. “Some of the standards the commission will examine include limits on the number of cases a public defender can take on at one time and what resources a public defender should have available. But before recommendations can be made, the commission needs a solid picture of practices across the state — a process that is incomplete, Huskey said” (Idaho Statesman)
September 25, 2014 – “Despite a recent study that found Missouri public defenders lack adequate time to represent their clients, additional state funding to bolster the overloaded system has been restricted by Gov. Jay Nixon. The Legislature approved a $3.47 million increase for the Missouri State Public Defender system, but Nixon vetoed that funding. However, the Legislature then came back this month and overrode that veto. But despite the Legislature’s override of the veto, Nixon was still able to restrict the extra funding for public defender offices.” (emissourian.com)
September 27, 2014 – “California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill providing $3 million in legal services for unaccompanied minors arriving illegally in the state from Central America. The bill also eliminated what Brown called ambiguity regarding the jurisdiction of state courts to make findings necessary to enable the federal government to grant the children special immigrant juvenile status.” (Bloomberg)
September 27, 2014 – “As the primary provider of legal services to low-income people in the metropolitan area, Atlanta Legal Aid works to save children and families, save homes, help people access health care and protect consumers. The society serves clients from Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett counties. Begun in 1924 by 17 prominent local attorneys and with an operating budget of $600, Atlanta Legal Aid saw only modest increases in funding during its early years. For nine decades, Atlanta Legal Aid has meant access to justice for countless individuals. Last year, attorneys handled nearly 25,000 cases, primarily involving housing, family, and senior citizens’ issues.” Read more and wish them a hearty congratulations. (Neighborhood Newspapers)
September 30, 2014 – “The federal government says it will provide $9 million to two refugee organizations that give legal assistance to unaccompanied children who have streamed across the southern border. The Department of Health and Human Services said the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants will receive the supplemental funds through the Unaccompanied Alien Children’s program, which it oversees.” (Wall Street Journal)(subscription required) (New York Daily News)
October 2, 2014 – British Columbia, Canada lawyers “will resume their protest next week of what they call the chronic underfunding of legal aid. Lawyers in Vancouver and Kamloops refused to schedule legal aid cases for a month during the summer, as they publicly urged the Liberal government to pump more money into the system. Birgit Eder, a member of the Trial Lawyers Association of B.C.’s legal aid action committee, said the protest will resume next week, and will continue for the first full week of every month. And, Ms. Eder said, the withdrawal of services will expand to courthouses in Victoria, Surrey and Richmond.” (The Globe and Mail)
Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: Borden Ladner Gervais LLP (BLG) partner Duncan Marsden is the winner of the 2014 Canadian National Pro Bono Distinguished Service Award from Pro Bono Canada. The award was given at the 5th National Pro Bono Conference taking place in Regina, Saskatchewan Canada last week. Mr. Duncan was recognized for his outstanding commitment to providing pro bono services throughout his career. Read more about his great work. Congratulations!!
Super Music Bonus! Sometimes you just gotta shake it off.