Advocates for Children of New York, Inc. (AFC) is seeking a Post-Graduate Legal Fellow to work in one or more of the following areas: Direct representation of individual students and parents in school-related matters, including special education hearings and suspension hearings; Community education and training for students, parents, and professionals on students’ and parents’ rights; and/or Policy reform to address systemic barriers to quality education for NYC students. AFC is a not-for-profit organization that works in partnership with New York City’s most disadvantaged families to secure quality public education services.
Every week, we honor an exceptional faculty/staff member who is making significant contributions to under-served populations, the public interest community, and/or legal education.
Today, we’re featuring an outstanding faculty member from the Texas Tech University School of Law, dedicated to providing pro bono mediation services.
Who: Professor Gerry W. Beyer (Governor Preston E. Smith Regents Professor of Law)
Where: Partnership with Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas in Lubbock, Texas
What: Pro Bono Wills Clinic. Since the incorporation of a formal pro bono program at Texas Tech School of Law in 2014, Professor Beyer has been an integral part of the Pro Bono Wills Clinic. Over the past two years, approximately 70 law student volunteers have helped draft wills and assist with the execution of advanced directives and powers of attorney for low-income Lubbock-area clients under the supervision of licensed volunteer attorneys. As part of the program, Professor Beyer has shared his nationally recognized wealth of expertise in estate planning in a condensed one hour “Nuts & Bolts” training for both students and licensed attorneys. Licensed attorneys are able to earn CLE credit for attending the presentation. In addition to teaching the crash course, Professor Beyer attends the two-part clinic, providing overall assistance and mentoring to students and practitioners. He is always standing by to accept a more complex case himself, assisting a needy client and providing valuable mentorship to an eager student.
On his work: “Providing estate planning services to economically-challenged individuals is of vital importance, perhaps even more so than for those in better financial situations. Participating students gain a genuine appreciation of how an estate plan can reduce and even prevent family squabbles about property distribution and who will serve as guardians for the client’s minor children. The students also learn how other documents clarify who can manage the client’s property and make health care decisions when the client is unable to do so.”
“The volunteer students and their supervising attorneys did a stellar job in drafting and supervising the execution of the clients’ estate planning documents. In addition, other students partnered with me to handle cases for several legal aid clients who needed probate services. I was extremely impressed with the skill and professionalism of these students sometimes making me wonder whether they were already licensed!”
by Christina Jackson, NALP Director of Public Service Initiatives & Fellowships
Here are the week’s headlines:
Harvard clinical program receives grant from Milstein Foundation to launch Syrian Refugee Resettlement Project;
Tennessee Supreme Court selects firm to launch new pro bono initiative;
The Legal Services Corporation turns to law firms for assistance;
Attorney and entrepreneur seek to uberize legal services;
Virginia Access to Justice Commission launches self-help website;
Pace University’s Elisabeth Haub School of Law launches Food and Beverage Law Clinic;
Volunteer Legal Services Hawaii receives surplus funds from bank settlement;
Echoing Green announces 2016 Fellows;
USPTO to expand law school clinic certification program;
Ohio Attorney General announces grant for legal aid for seniors;
Equal Justice Works gets grant to help elder-abuse victims;
Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants;
Super Music Bonus!
June 10, 2016 – “The Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program has received a generous grant from the Howard and Abby Milstein Foundation to launch the Syrian Refugee Resettlement Project. The Obama Administration has committed to resettling at least 10,000 Syrian refugees in the current fiscal year. Due to bottlenecks in processing, the United States has fallen far short of its goal to date. Over the next six months, the Clinic will be working to gather and analyze information regarding current obstacles to efficient processing of Syrians destined for U.S. resettlement. The Clinic will compile a compendium of relevant laws and regulations related to refugee resettlement, document current practice, and make practical recommendations for improvements to those processes. The report will be broadly disseminated to both Congress and the Administration and will include specific recommendations for reform.” (Harvard Law Today)
June 10, 2016 – “As part of an initiative designed to improve access to legal services, the Tennessee Supreme Court has created a new way for attorneys to earn required CLE credit for doing pro bono work and the court has designated Nashville’s Bass Berry & Sims as the first firm in the state to offer the program. Over the past decade, the court has, through the creation of the Access to Justice Commission, searched for ways to increase access to legal services. The Commission petitioned the Court to create a new designation — ‘approved legal assistance organization’ — to expand the types of entities that may confer CLE credit for pro bono cases. Under previous CLE rules, attorneys were ineligible to receive CLE credits for pro bono cases unless the cases were referred to them by a legal aid organization receiving federal funding. The update enables those organizations approved by the Tennessee Supreme Court to offer the incentive directly. As part of an approved legal assistance organization, Bass attorneys will be able to receive one hour of CLE credit for each five hours of pro bono representation. The maximum CLE credit an attorney can earn annually through this program is three. Tennessee attorneys are required to earn 15 CLE credits annually.” “Ann Pruitt, executive director at Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services, said several other law firms have completed the application and qualification process to become approved legal assistance organizations.” (Nashville Post)
June 13, 2016 – “In the fall of 2014, for the first time in its 40-year history, the Legal Services Corporation turned to the nation’s largest law firms for financial support. The cash-strapped organization asked big firms to commit as much as $250,000 or more to support its mission of funding civil legal services programs for the poor.” So far, the effort has yielded just over $2.5 million from law firm contributions. Some firms have stepped up in a big way, contributing the goal amount of $250,000 or more to the effort. “This first round of law firm donations are primarily funding a summer rural legal fellows program, in which 32 lawyers in 28 states will be helping the rural poor. (Equal Justice Works is training the fellows and administering the program.) LSC is committed to funding the rural fellows program for at least five years, said [John Levi, a Sidley & Austin partner who chairs LSC’s board], who added that he’d like to raise enough money to put 50 lawyers in the field.” The American Lawyer takes a look at who has contributed and how much. There have been some great efforts so far, but it is clear from the article, that there is more work to be done. (American Lawyer)
June 13, 2016 – “[U]p until now, the legal industry had remained relatively untouched by this newfound demand for digital automation. Partners Matthew Horn and Ryan Caltagirone are ready to change that. Founded in 2015, Legal Services Link has rapidly risen to become one of the industry’s most dynamic assets for consumers. It’s essentially an intuitive, online forum that enables businesses and individuals to instantly connect with the perfect attorney to suit their legal needs. Not only does Legal Services Link provide users with access to an all-encompassing, old-fashioned database with which to track down legal help — but it also allows them to post a concise summary of the precise job they’ve got in mind. In turn, multiple attorneys are then free to review the work and submit an application directly back to the user. Bottom line: rather than chase down dozens of attorneys, Legal Services Link ensures that the perfect person for the job comes directly to you. Better yet, the service is completely free for would-be clients. It’s also free for attorneys to join the forum — although they are required to pay a small annual fee in order to upgrade to a premium account and communicate directly with clients.” “As part of the Chicago-based 1871 incubator, Legal Services Link has taken off fast — and it’s already started to turn heads within the legal industry. In May, the fledgling start-up expanded its increasingly diverse pool of attorneys after launching a new partnership with the Military Spouse JD Network (MSJDN), a bar association for attorneys whose spouses are or were in the military. And as Legal Services Link continues its aggressive rate of expansion, Horn said he’s hopeful the legal industry will finally start to evolve along with it.” (Small Business Trends)
June 14, 2016 – “The Virginia Judicial System Court Self-Help Website provides neutral legal information as a public service on common topics of interest for self-represented litigants. Topics include traffic tickets, divorce, and landlord-tenant issues. The website features glossaries of legal terms used in the district and circuit courts and instructions for routine processes. The goal is to make the courts more accessible for all citizens, the court said in a news release. A project of the Virginia Access to Justice Commission, the website addresses various case types and organizes information from the state judicial system website and other sources into user friendly content areas. The site features responsive design that works on computers, smartphones, and tablets, the release said.” (Virginia Lawyers Weekly)
June 14, 2016 – “Pace University’s Elisabeth Haub School of Law announced today that it has received a generous grant of $400,000 from alumnus Rob Sands, and from Constellation Brands, where Mr. Sands is CEO and President. The gift will sponsor a two-year pilot of a new Food and Beverage Law Clinic that will provide transactional legal services to farmers, community and grassroots groups, and mission-oriented food and beverage entrepreneurs. The Clinic is part of a broader collaboration between Pace Law and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) to expand the capacity of the legal community to provide direct services to individuals and organizations seeking to build a more sustainable and healthy regional food system. In order to implement innovative practices, farmers, food entrepreneurs, micro brewers and distillers, and other activists must navigate a complicated legal landscape governing everything from labeling to estate planning.” (PR Newswire)
June 14, 2016 – “Volunteer Legal Services Hawaii received $107,000 from the Perkin & Faria law firm after the settlement of a $2 million class action against American Savings Bank over the bank’s overdraft fees, firm partner Brandee Faria told Pacific Business News on Tuesday. The lawsuit was among a group of cases filed by Perkin & Faria in 2011 against American Savings Bank, Central Pacific Bank and Bank of Hawaii. The suits alleged that the banks used improper methods of calculating overdraft fees on debit card and ATM transactions.” “Surplus settlement funds accumulate when class members in a case are, for various reasons, unable to collect them. According to Hawaii’s cy pres rule, certain charitable organizations in Hawaii receive these funds, legal service organizations among them. Most of the money will go to support Volunteer Legal Services Hawaii’s core services, including its biweekly legal clinics.” (Pacific Business News)
June 14, 2016 – “Echoing Green, a global organization that supports social entrepreneurs, today announced its 2016 Fellowship class. These 33 exceptional innovators will develop social enterprises that address some of the world’s most intractable challenges around economic development, racial and gender equity, food security, and the environment. Each Fellow will become part of a global network of leaders identified by Echoing Green as dramatic, scalable, and important to the progress of the world. Fellows will access a community of funders, investors, and entrepreneurs across issue areas, geographies, and disciplines. Seed funding of up to $90,000 will also be available to them for two years to support the growth of their organizations. For nearly 30 years, Echoing Green has provided a launch pad for projects with a purpose. It serves as an early and important investor in the growing field of social entrepreneurship. This year, the organization reviewed 2,077 applications from 120 countries, which represent meaningful trends from the front lines of social change. This year’s Fellows are split almost evenly between for-profit (43 percent) and nonprofit organizations (39 percent). An additional 14 percent have a hybrid model, and 4 percent are not yet decided.” (Globe Newswire)
June 15, 2016 – “The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced that it opened the current Law School Clinic Certification Program (Program) to admit additional schools to commence participation in the Program. This Program allows law students to practice patent and/or trademark law before the USPTO under the guidance of a law school faculty clinic supervisor. Submissions from interested law school clinical programs will be accepted on a rolling basis until June 30, 2017. Applications from interested law school clinics will be examined for admission into the Program as they are received.
Students in both the patent and trademark portions of the Program can expect to draft and file applications and respond to Office Actions. Each law school clinical program must meet and maintain the requirements for USPTO certification in order for law school clinic students to practice before the USPTO. The Program began in 2008 with 6 schools selected to allow students to practice before the USPTO in patents and/or trademarks. The Program expanded in 2010, 2012 and 2014. Currently 42 law school clinics participate in the Program, 17 clinics participate in both the patent and trademark portions of the Program, 19 clinics participate only in the trademark portion of the Program, and 6 clinics participate only in the patent portion of the Program. Details on the Program expansion and application materials are available here.” (USPTO News & Updates)
June 15, 2016 – “In recognition of Elder Abuse Awareness Day, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has announced a $738,000 grant to support a statewide project of Pro Seniors and Ohio’s legal aids to provide free legal assistance to older Ohioans. The funding will support a telephone-based legal hotline and direct civil legal guidance and assistance to Ohioans age 60 and older. Pro Seniors, as the lead organization and coordinator, will receive referrals from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. In partnership with Ohio’s legal aids, they will provide legal assistance to seniors, their family members, and individuals concerned about the health, financial stability, safety, and security of seniors.” (The Van Wert Independent)
June 15, 2016 – “Equal Justice Works has received a $1.4 million grant as a part of the Elder Justice AmeriCorps initiative, the nonprofit organization announced Tuesday. In response to growing awareness of elder abuse, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Corporation for National and Community Service announced the creation of the Elder Justice AmeriCorps grant program in September 2015 to provide elder abuse victims with legal aid and support services. The $1.4 million grant, awarded over the next two years, will help Equal Justice Works connect 150 AmeriCorps members—25 practicing lawyers and 125 law students—and some 300 pro bono volunteers to a network of partner organizations that focus on elder abuse. Under the supervision and training of these organizations, volunteers will provide legal assistance to about 8,000 low-income adults.” (American Lawyer)
Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:
Roger Benson, 83, may be retired but he hasn’t stopped working. As a volunteer for Prairie State Legal Services, the former associate judge handled 20 divorce cases last year. He’s lead the charge on 165 cases in his 15-year tenure, according to pro bono coordinator Nancy Hinton. Benson’s volunteer legal work has earned him the Illinois State Bar Association’s John C. McAndrews Pro Bono Service Award. Congratulations, and thank you!! (Daily Journal)
Music Bonus!Music pick from the PSJD Fellow Eulen Jang.
NALP, the Washington Council of Lawyers, and Georgetown University Law Center is co-sponsoring Fellowships 101 on Wednesday, July 13, from 6:30 – 8:30 pm in the Hart Auditorium of McDonough Hall at Georgetown Unviersity Law Center (600 New Jersey Avenue NW). RSVP by clicking here.
Public-interest fellowships offer a unique combination of substantive responsibility, training, and the chance to make meaningful contributions at the very start of your legal career. But, too often, law students may overlook or not be aware of the wide variety of postgraduate public interest fellowships that are available. That’s why we encourage all law students to attend Fellowships 101: An Introduction to Postgraduate Fellowships,where our panel of experts will provide an overview of public interest fellowships and tips on negotiating the application process for maximum chances of success.
Our discussion will be moderated by Christina Jackson, Director of Public Service Initiatives and Fellowships at the National Association for Law Placement (NALP), and the panel will include:
Ella Holman (Associate Manager, Education and Outreach, Partnership for Public Service)
Oscar Lopez (Skadden Fellow, The Advancement Project)
Erin Loubier (Senior Director of Medical-Legal Integration, Whitman-Walker Health)
Sterling Morriss (Senior Manager of Fellowships, Equal Justice Works)
The program is free for our members, and costs just $5 for non-members. (Join Washington Council of Lawyers now.) We’ll serve light refreshments at the start of the evening, and provide the opportunity for mixing, mingling, and asking additional questions at the conclusion of the formal program.
Street Law (located in Silver Spring, MD) is seeking a full-time program director to implement their Legal Diversity Pipeline Programs with law firms and corporate legal departments. Their Legal Diversity Pipeline Programs match diverse high schools across the country with law firms or corporate legal departments in their communities. Volunteer legal professionals teach students about the law and legal careers and provide support and encouragement for the students to pursue legal careers.
We are excited to introduce a new blog series: Faculty/Staff Pro Bono Spotlight! Every week, we will be honoring an exceptional faculty/staff member who is making significant contributions to under-served populations, the public interest community, and/or legal education.
Today, we’re featuring an outstanding faculty member from the University of Nebraska, College of Law, dedicated to providing pro bono mediation services.
Who: Professor Kristen Blankley, University of Nebraska College of Law
Where: The Meditation Center – Lincoln, NE
What: Professor Blankley has an extensive relationship with The Mediation Center, a non-profit mediation service provider in Lincoln, NE. She sits on the Board of Directors, works as a pro bono mediator, and helps the Center with their educational opportunities for mediators. Professor Blankley serves as a mediator in family, small claims, and other community cases. She has also donated time as a facilitator working with large groups, including the Nebraska Legislature and public sector workplaces.
On her work: “I love working with The Mediation Center. I am able to practice what I teach as well as influence policy and best practices.“
by Christina Jackson, NALP Director of Public Service Initiatives & Fellowships
Happy Friday! I’m so sad to be saying goodbye to our PSJD Fellow Eulen Jang this week. She has been such a pleasure to work with, and has contributed so much to PSJD. We will miss her very much! In very good news for all of us, she has made sure we have music for the Super Music Bonus to sustain us through the rest of the summer. So we will have a piece of her for a bit longer. We wish her well at the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights. We know she will be doing great things!
Here are the week’s headlines:
Toronto judge rules legal aid qualifying threshold too high;
Boston Bar Foundation grants support assistance to homeless and others;
Bill to reimburse counties for indigent defense passes New York Assembly;
Missouri public defense system to see budget increase;
Free women’s legal aid clinic opens in British Columbia in partnership with law school;
Ottawa commits an extra $30 million for legal aid;
Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants;
Super Music Bonus!
June 3, 2016 – “A Toronto judge has criticized the income cut-off for legal aid funding in Ontario as ‘not realistic’ given the face of poverty in Canada. Superior Court Justice Ian Nordheimer was presiding over the case of Tyrell Moodie, charged with a number of drug offences, who was denied funding by Legal Aid Ontario because he made more than the organization’s threshold income level for a single person — about $12,000. Moodie, 23, works part time and earned about $16,000 in 2015. Nordheimer put a halt to the charges against Moodie until the government picks up the tab for his lawyer, which the court heard could cost a minimum of $11,000. ‘It should be obvious to any outside observer that the income thresholds being used by Legal Aid Ontario do not bear any reasonable relationship to what constitutes poverty in this country,’ Nordheimer wrote in a ruling last week.” “A spokesperson for LAO said demand for legal aid for low-income individuals remains high. ‘Although the province has recognized this and has made a multi-year commitment to raising the legal aid financial eligibility thresholds, Legal Aid Ontario has a yearly budget it must adhere to and it must prioritize, in accordance with its legislation, the cases it is able to fund,’ said Feroneh Neil in an email. There have been three 6-percent increases to the financial eligibility thresholds since 2014, Neil noted, with the most recent this past April.” (The Hamilton Spectator)
June 3, 2016 – “Housing Families of Malden will get a share of $1 million in grants from the Boston Bar Foundation (BBF), the charitable affiliate of the Boston Bar Association. The grants will go to 21 community organizations that work to provide legal services to those in need. Approximately 55 percent of the funding comes from proceeds from BBF’s annual John & Abigail Adams Benefit and BBF reserves, with the remainder derived from Interest on Lawyer Trust Account (IOLTA) funds. The grantee organizations administer legal aid to the most vulnerable and underprivileged members of the population, such as the homeless, domestic violence survivors, at-risk children and veterans. ‘I am thrilled that the Boston Bar Foundation’s grants program has reached the million-dollar mark,’ said BBF President Lisa Goodheart, a partner at Sugarman Rogers Barshak & Cohen. ‘The tremendous success of the John & Abigail Adams Benefit, as well as the year-round support of the BBF’s mission by lawyers, law firms, and area businesses has allowed us to assist these 21 important organizations in providing access to justice for those in need.'” (Wicked Local Malden)
June 3, 2016 – “The New York State Assembly passed legislation [last week] that would fully reimburse counties for the costs of providing public defenders to poor defendants by 2023. The legislation, which passed with 132 yes votes, and 0 no votes, would reimburse counties an increasing percentage of public defense costs, starting at 25 percent in 2017 until it reimbursed 100 percent of counties’ costs by 2023.” “The legislation is in response to new guidelines released by the state’s Office of Indigent Legal Defense that drastically increase the number of criminal defendants who would qualify for a free public defender by doubling the income cutoff from 125 percent of the federal poverty threshold to 250 percent. The new 250 percent income cutoff means a single defendant would need to earn less than $29,700 a year to qualify for a free lawyer, double the $14,850 or less they’d have had to earn under the 125 percent cutoff. The new guidelines, announced in April, are set to go into effect October 3.” “An identical bill is currently pending in the Senate’s Finance Committee.” (Livingston County News)
June 6, 2016 – “Missouri’s public defenders will see a $4.5 million cash infusion in the coming fiscal year, after studies and experts have described the office as chronically underfunded. Under the state budget that takes effect July 1, the State Public Defender System could begin chipping away at caseloads that have raised questions about whether poor defendants are being adequately represented. While it likely will mean the hiring of an additional 10 employees, the bulk of the money is going to be used to hire private attorneys on a contractual basis, allowing the office’s 370-plus attorneys to focus on their cases, said system director Michael Barrett. ‘This targeted funding will allow us to contract out co-defendants to the private bar, significantly reducing the amount of time attorneys spend on the road and replacing it with time spent working on cases,’ Barrett said. ‘It makes an already efficient defender system all the more so.'” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
June 7, 2016 – “A new center for women, the first of its kind in British Columbia, opened its doors May 24 to provide legal help for free or a reduced-cost. ‘We are incredibly proud to announce that, today, the doors open to an historic new service in B.C.,’ said a spokesperson for the charity responsible for setting up the service. ‘We couldn’t be more thrilled that BC women will now have greater access to legal assistance.’ The charity, West Coast LEAF, partnered with the law school at the University of British Columbia to open a full service storefront legal clinic that will serve low income women. Rise Women’s Legal Centre, will provide a full range of legal services with a focus in family law. It will be staffed by upper-year law students who are closely supervised by onsite attorneys. Services will include filing documents in court and representing clients in their hearings.” (GoodNewsNetwork)
June 8, 2016 – “Ottawa plans to give the provinces more money for legal aid programs to help improve access to the justice system. ‘All Canadians — no matter their means — should have the right to a fair trial and access to a modern, efficient justice system,’ Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said in a statement issued Wednesday. The federal government committed $88 million over five years in the federal budget this year. Wilson-Raybould now has announced another $30 million a year in ongoing funding to boost legal aid services for people who cannot afford to pay for lawyers. But that additional funding will not begin until 2021.” “The money will go to the federal Legal Aid Program, which is then distributed to the provinces for delivery of services. Each province and territory sets its own policies and priorities when it comes to legal aid. The government said the money will also come with performance measures to ensure it is doing what it is supposed to do.” (Winnipeg Free Press)
Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:
Pro Bono Innovator of the Year – Suffolk Law School
One of two Pro Bono Innovator of the Year honors goes to Suffolk Law’s Institute on Law Practice Tech & Innovation (LPTI), the school’s parent organization of legal technology programs, and its Accelerator-to-Practice Program. The program teaches students how to use legal technology, practice law, and give legal services to low and middle income clients. LPTI is also training students on how to use high-tech tools that make lawyering more efficient and lower the costs per client. Law students learn about project management, process improvement and document automation, as well. (Legal Tech News)
Music Bonus!Music pick from the PSJD Fellow Eulen Jang.
The Connecticut Fund for the Environment is seeking a Climate and Energy Attorney. The Connecticut Fund for the Environment (CFE) is a leading non-profit environmental advocacy organization based in New Haven, Connecticut. CFE’s climate and energy program is dedicated to maintaining and enhancing Connecticut’s leadership role in addressing climate change and air pollution and supporting sustainable communities and economies.
Understanding taxable forgiveness on student loans;
Wal-Mart Law Stores a reality in Missouri;
New York City Bar urges Governor and Legislature to support fully funding indigent defense;
Michigan Supreme Court conditionally approves initial standards for indigent defense;
Legal aid with a digital twist;
Some non-profit employees told they don’t qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness;
Bill to guarantee public defender funding sent to Louisiana Governor;
Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
Super Music Bonus!
May 27, 2016 – Here is a great article from Ashley Matthews, former PSJD Fellow and current Program Manager for Law School Engagement & Advocacy for Equal Justice Works, on the taxable forgiveness options besides Public Service Loan Forgiveness. (Huffington Post)
June 1, 2016 – “According to a 2009 study by the Legal Services Corp., a nonprofit funder of civil legal-aid groups, less than 20 percent of legal problems experienced by low-income Americans are addressed with the help of an attorney. Reasons for not seeking legal representation vary. Studies suggest some people assume they can resolve legal issues themselves, others may not be aware their problem is legally actionable, and some believe they cannot afford the help of a lawyer. Whatever the barrier to legal representation, The Law Store hopes to break it down. A fully functional legal office based in Wal-Mart stores, two Law Store locations will have grand openings today. The stores — one in the Wal-Mart Supercenter at 2623 W. 7th St. in Joplin [Missouri] and the other in the Wal-Mart Supercenter at 3200 Lusk Drive in Neosho [Missouri] — have been operating since early May, handling basic legal services such as traffic offenses, family law and wills and estate planning. ‘The Law Store is a law firm, that’s what it is,’ said Katrina Richards, a Joplin attorney and chief public relations officer for The Law Store. ‘But what we handle are basic, transactional services, smaller things. Things that most every American needs, but a lot of people are not able, or they don’t know a lawyer, or they just, for some reason, they don’t go to a lawyer to get these types of services. Those types of things that can help out everyday Americans, but they otherwise might not get the service.’ The Law Store operates on an upfront, menu-style pricing model instead of the traditional hourly rate, and it doesn’t charge for an initial consultation.” “Five more locations are planned in Missouri by the end of the year, and the company says 11 other states have expressed interest in bringing in The Law Store locations. Hershewe said the business could be in as many as 1,500 Wal-Mart stores.”(The Joplin Globe)
June 1, 2016 – “The City Bar’s Mass Incarceration Task Force sent a report to Albany last week urging the Legislature and Governor Cuomo to support full funding of indigent defense services throughout New York State by backing bill A.6202-C/S.6341-B (the ‘Bill’). The right to counsel in criminal proceedings is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, the New York Constitution and state law; and in Gideon v. Wainwright, the Supreme Court held that states are required to provide counsel to any person charged with a crime who cannot afford a lawyer. However, New York’s County Law 18-B makes the 62 state counties responsible for providing indigent defense services, and has resulted in a ‘patchwork of services’ that falls short of the constitutional mandate. The report encourages the enactment of the Bill this session, which ‘would send the message to New Yorkers and to the country that New York State is committed to a fair criminal justice system where a person’s right to meaningful and effective counsel does not depend on his or her location within the State.’ The Bill also would require the State to reimburse every county the full amount of its expenditures for providing indigent defense services. Additionally, it would require statewide standards and regulations that ensure every person has an attorney at arraignment, that regulate the caseloads of public defense attorneys so as to allow for meaningful and effective representation, and that improve the overall quality of court-appointed representation.” (New York City Bar)
June 1, 2016 – “With Administrative Order No. 2016-2, the Michigan Supreme Court today announced its conditional approval of standards that would regulate the appointment of counsel for indigent defendants in criminal cases. The standards, initially submitted by the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission (MIDC), also impose specific training, experience, and continuing legal education requirements on attorneys who seek appointment as counsel in these cases. The Court took this action to enable the legislatively-approved process, which is intended to promote the goal of providing effective assistance of counsel for indigent defendants in criminal cases, to continue without disruption. Although the Court shares the Legislature’s goal of providing effective assistance of counsel for these defendants, the Court’s approval is subject to and contingent on legislative revision of the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission Act (the Act) to address provisions of uncertain constitutionality.” (Michigan Courts News Release)
June 1, 2016 – Here is another great example of technology making it easier and more efficient to provide legal aid. The article also takes a look at the ever-growing link between technology and legal services. “Matthew Stubenberg was a law student at the University of Maryland in 2010 when he spent part of a day doing expungements. It was a standard law school clinic where students learn by helping clients — in this case, he helped them to fill out and file petitions to erase parts of their criminal records. Although Maryland has a public database called Case Search, using that data to fill out the forms was tedious. ‘We spent all this time moving data from Case Search onto our forms,’ Stubenberg said. ‘We spent maybe 30 seconds on the legal piece. Why could this not be easier? This was a problem that could be fixed by a computer.’ Stubenberg knew how to code. After law school, he set out to build software that automatically did that tedious work. By September 2014 he had a prototype for MDExpungement, which went live in January 2015. (The website is not pretty — Stubenberg is a programmer, not a designer.) With MDExpungement, entering a case number brings it up on Case Search. The software then determines whether the case is expungeable. If so, the program automatically transfers the information from Case Search to the expungement form. All that’s left is to print, sign and file it with the court.” (New York Times)
June 2, 2016 – “Some nonprofit employees counting on the federal government’s Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program recently received word that they don’t qualify, for reasons that remain unclear. The change might be related to an employer’s tax status. Part of the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007, the PSLF program includes charitable nonprofit employers that under the Internal Revenue Code have 501(c)(3) status. PSLF program guidelines include other nonprofits that provide public service, but some, including the American Bar Association—which has 501(c)(6) status—were told earlier this year that they don’t qualify, although they received employer certification in previous years.” “Some American Civil Liberties Union offices also lost employer certification for the program, while others received various answers from the federal government.” The first forgiveness of loan balances is expected in October 2017. Until then, it appears there will remain uncertainty and conflicting information. Stay tuned! (ABA Journal)
June 2, 2016 – “The Louisiana House has given final passage to a reshuffling of how the state spends its money on defending the poor. With a 100-0 vote Thursday, the House sent the governor a Senate-backed House Bill 1137 from Rep. Sherman Mack, R-Albany, to require the Louisiana Public Defender Board to dedicate at least 65 percent of its annual financing to local defenders of the indigent. Parishes have reduced and restricted indigent defense services under strained operating budgets. In some recent cases, law enforcement officials have released people charged with serious crimes from prison because public defenders were not available to represent them in criminal cases. Members of the House and Senate have debated a number of ways to fund the cash-strapped system throughout the legislative session. But Mack worked with the Louisiana District Attorneys Association and people opposing the measure to gain support for his proposal and create a workable indigent defense bill that could advance to the governor. Mack said the funding percentage may not be a large change from the amount of money already given to public defenders, but the proposal would guarantee that the offices would receive a threshold amount of funding each year.” (The New Orleans Advocate)
Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:
It is with a very heavy heart that we reflect on the passing of one of our community, Melanie Kushnir. Many of you will remember her from her time with the ABA Center for Pro Bono. Most recently, she was the Pro Bono Project Director for the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada. She was a passionate advocate and a good friend to those who needed access to justice the most. We will miss her very much!
Still looking for post-graduate work? The America Civil Liberties Union of the Nation’s Capital (ACLU-DC) is seeking applications for a two year fellowship in civil liberties, beginning this fall. The ACLU is a nationwide, non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to the defense and expansion of civil liberties and civil rights.