PSJD Public Interest News Digest – March 24, 2017

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

Happy Friday! We are once again recognizing law students in action. If you’d like your project featured, let us know.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • California Chief Justice asks federal officials to stop making immigration arrests at courthouse;
  • Missouri public defender director won’t extend paid parental leave for employees;
  • Private attorneys pledge to take on some cases from overworked St. Louis public defenders;
  • Legal aid wins funding boost in Alberta budget;
  • Legal Aid of Western Michigan launches online intake interview;
  • Tenants battling bad landlords find help from new app;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants; and
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

March 16, 2017 – “The chief justice of the California Supreme Court asked federal immigration agents to stop making arrests at courthouses, saying ‘stalking undocumented immigrants’ at the facilities thwarts people’s access to justice. Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye wrote in a letter to top federal officials that she is concerned about recent reports of immigration agents going to the courts to track down immigrants for arrest, saying the practice will affect the public’s confidence in the court system. ‘Courthouses should not be used as bait in the necessary enforcement of our country’s immigration laws,’ she wrote in the letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, adding that crime and domestic violence victims and witnesses all go to the courts seeking justice and due process of the law. Immigration and Customs Enforcement had no immediate comment on the letter.” (The Mercury News)

March 17, 2017 – “Michael Barrett, director of the Missouri State Public Defender System, has notified Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens that he cannot and will not expand paid parental leave for his employees. Barrett put the information in a letter he sent to the governor Wednesday. Urging other branches of government to follow suit, Greitens signed an executive order Monday giving roughly 45,000 executive branch employees six weeks of paid parental leave if they are the primary caregiver and three weeks if they are the secondary caregiver. The time off is on top of vacation and sick days. The Office of Administration estimated the executive order’s cost to the state would be about $1.1 million annually.” “Barrett, whose department falls under the judiciary branch, wrote in his letter that while he applauded the governor’s efforts, and said he wanted to do the same for his employees, he added that ‘regrettably’ he wouldn’t. The office has more than 560 employees, 334 of whom are attorneys. ‘I believe that these mission-critical employees would instead prefer that I work to alleviate their impossible caseload burden and deliver them a salary that is worthy of their contribution to the state and its citizens,’ Barrett wrote.” (The Joplin Globe)

March 20, 2017 – “The state’s overburdened public defender system could soon see some relief, as private attorneys in the St. Louis area have committed to taking over some cases on a volunteer basis. A new nonprofit group, the Missouri Coalition for the Right to Counsel, has proposed a system where younger attorneys in the private sector try certain jury cases in the circuit courts of St. Louis and St. Louis County, where they can gain trial experience and reduce the caseloads for public defenders. More than a dozen St. Louis area firms have pledged to provide volunteers, who will undergo training from public defenders in April and then begin assisting with their overwhelming workload.” “Regardless of outside help, lawmakers still have a duty to address the issue statewide, [Missouri Public Defender Michael] Barrett said. ‘In no way is this meant to allow the state to get out of its obligation to provide counsel to poor people in Missouri,’ said Barrett, who also helped create the coalition. And to make that clear, the help has an expiration date; the firms only plan to provide volunteers for two years.” (St. Louis Dispatch)

March 20, 2017 – “Criminal lawyers in Alberta are celebrating a boost in funding to the province’s beleaguered legal aid services. ‘We’re all pleasantly surprised that the government has shown such a commitment,’ Kelly Dawson, president of the Criminal Trial Lawyers Association, said Monday. In last week’s budget the province committed $81 million to legal aid for the upcoming year.” “The funding increase comes after the province dedicated more money towards hiring 50 new Crown prosecutors and 30 support staff earlier this month.” (CBC News)

March 20, 2017 – “Low-income individuals and seniors who are seeking legal services now have another way to make an initial connection with a local nonprofit. Legal Aid of Western Michigan in Grand Rapids has launched an online intake interview, which will help potential clients determine whether they meet eligibility requirements for Legal Aid’s services. The tool can be accessed by computer, tablet and smartphone.” “Legal Aid designed the tool to let those who don’t qualify find out quickly — and provide them with the contact information of other places where they might find help. The guided online intake tool is interactive and should take less than 15 minutes to complete.” (Grand Rapids Business Journal)

March 21, 2017 – “Tenants and advocates fighting evictions can get some much-needed assistance from an award-winning new app launched by a nonprofit startup. JustFix.nyc is piloting a dashboard interface to make it easier for community organizers and legal aid attorneys to keep track of open maintenance cases — like leaks, mold or rodent infestations — and communicate with multiple tenants in one building or across a complex, according to startup co-founder Georges Clement. Clement — who developed the app with Dan Kass and Ashley Treni while they were fellows at Blue Ridge Labs, the Robin Hood Foundation’s tech incubator — saw the need for such a tool after spending many days observing housing court proceedings. They saw how tenants rarely had legal representation, unlike their landlords, and often ended up simply showing judges photos on their smart phones to prove poor apartment conditions — which were inadmissible as evidence unless they wanted to give up their phones. By streamlining the ability to monitor open cases, he said, it will be easier for housing advocates to negotiate with landlords and build strong legal cases against them — especially in rent stabilized buildings where owners may be trying to push out low-income tenants through harassment and neglect.” (dnainfo)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

Law Students in Action:  Students from the University of Connecticut School of Law spent their spring break providing free legal assistance to immigrant detainees at the York County Prison who are seeking asylum.  Congratulations to Anna Cabot, a very dedicated group of law students, and several volunteer alumni attorneys, who have just returned from the second annual spring break service trip to assist detained asylum-seekers.  You can see a TV news segment about the trip at the link. (WGAL)

Music Bonus! Music pick from the PSJD Fellow Delisa Morris.

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Job’o’th’Week (Fellowship Edition)

Help Wanted

Photo: Brenda Gottesman – CC License

2017-2019 Jerry Shestack Justice Fellowship

The Organization

The Lawyers’ Committee is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to enlist the private bar’s leadership and resources in combating racial discrimination and the resulting inequality of opportunity – work that continues to be vital today.

The Position

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is seeking to sponsor a bright, creative, and driven individual for the two-year Jerry Shestack Justice Fellowship. Law school graduates who have passed the bar and have two or more years of outstanding litigation experience and/or judicial clerkships are eligible to apply. The chosen Fellow will have demonstrated a passion and commitment to civil rights and public service and have shown promise of becoming an exceptional litigator.

Ready to get under this position? Find the full-post on PSJD.

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Pro Bono Publico Award Winner Gabrielle “Gabs” Lucero

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 2016-17 PSJD Pro Bono Publico Award winner will be guest blogging about law student pro bono and her public interest commitments.  (Check out posts by the Merit Distinction honorees here and here.)  Today, we’re featuring award winner and Duke University School of Law student Gabrielle “Gabs” Lucero, who has organized pro bono projects that advocate for victims of sexual assault and veterans.


Creating Impact through Infrastructure

by Gabs Lucero, PSJD Pro Bono Publico Award Winner, 2016-2017 (Duke University School of Law)

My goal in coming to graduate school was to pursue a career in service and advocacy.  I became involved with sexual assault advocacy as a high school student and have since dedicated the majority of my academic and extracurricular time toward advocating for victims of sexual assault.  Early in this process I realized the power of the criminal justice process to either hurt or harm victims of sexual assault, and so I decided to go to law school to be a positive force within the system.  I also recognized the need for legislative changes regarding sexual violence, so I decided to pursue a master of public policy in the hopes of bridging the gap between people with public interest needs and the structures they must navigate in seeking relief or systemic changes.

Through my education and experiences in advocacy work, I have learned that one of the best ways to have an impact is to create a strong and lasting infrastructure.  As such, my activities throughout my time at Duke and in Durham have centered on the goal of creating an infrastructure for veterans and sexual assault victims, especially through my involvement in two pro bono projects: the Veterans Assistance Project (VAP) and the Coalition Against Gendered Violence (CAGV).

It was incredibly important to build an infrastructure that will survive my departure and the continual flux of students entering and leaving the law school.  I can trust that when people know that infrastructure is there, they will continue to utilize it, grow it, and increase the impact of the project on the clients that need help.  My goal at Duke has been to create strong infrastructures that address important community needs and will continue to grow with each new class of engaged students.

VAP is a program that connects students with veterans seeking services from the Veteran Unit in Legal Aid to help with work such as discharge upgrades, access to benefits, and military sexual trauma claims, among others.  My goal with VAP has been to create a self-sustaining foundation that serves local Durham veterans.  My co-director, Sarah Williamson ’17, and I worked closely with the Veteran Unit Legal Aid attorney to restructure the program which was challenged by inconsistent support from supervising attorneys and by changes that Legal Aid was undergoing in its work with veterans.  Working closely with the new attorney, we were able to establish a structured process so that students could more easily and regularly complete the work.  We instituted office hours with the supervising attorney every week, conducted training on the specific types of claims, and streamlined the connection between the attorney and the students on each veteran’s claim.  We created standing documents and templates that students could use in claims.  We also drafted step by step outlines for the process for certain parts of cases so that students could turn to them without having to spend extra time on similar research.  Additionally, we established connections that will be our go-to personnel in future cases, such as a local practitioner who specifically conducts the required Veterans Affairs assessment for claims of military sexual trauma.

When I joined the Coalition Against Gendered Violence, it was a relatively inactive group that put on two or three informational events throughout the year.  Once in leadership, my co-director, Shannon Welch ’17, and I went to work on expanding the group and its impact.  We connected with an attorney at the North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NCCASA) and began to develop a program where law students could represent student sexual assault victims in college adjudication processes.  We recognized that defendants in adjudication hearings were disproportionately represented by counsel, whereas victims often did not have representation and went to the hearings alone.  Victims are often limited by factors of cost, embarrassment, not wanting to tell their family what happened, and many other significant concerns.  In order to have a fairer process, we wanted to create a mechanism for students to have representation and support throughout the adjudication process.  We have worked diligently with NCCASA to create an infrastructure that provides training for law students to work with victims in the college adjudication system.  The training includes, for example, how to help a victim write an opening statement, working with clients on questions, and understanding the nuances between different colleges’ processes.  The goal of the project, for both CAGV and NCCASA, is to create a statewide infrastructure between the different North Carolina law schools where law students represent victims at any college across the state.  My role has been to establish a lasting connection with NCCASA and to build an infrastructure for trainings and volunteer availability for representation of victims.  My co-director and I have also worked diligently to provide more availability and acceptance of resources for members of the Duke Law community who are survivors of sexual assault.  This has included, among other things, creating a successful initiative to include resource stickers in every bathroom stall at the law school and providing a training for law students on working with victims as clients and witnesses.  We hope to further empower students to take better care of themselves as well as their clients in the future.

I hope to leave the Law School with strong infrastructures in place that are ready to be built upon by the many dedicated students that come after me.  After I graduate, I plan to continue a career in public service by first clerking on the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.  I will then serve on active duty with the Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps.  I hope to one day be a Special Victims Prosecutor within the JAG Corps.

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – March 17, 2017

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

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  The big news is Trump’s budget, which proposes eliminating 19 agencies including the Legal Services Corporation. We have reactions below.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Law firms urge government to continue funding legal services;
  • Flood Proof launches app;
  • Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program and Pro Bono Net launch new website for veterans/volunteer lawyers;
  • Law students’ report says Canada in violation of Charter;
  • Paladin co-founder newest Entrepreneur-in-Residence at 1871;
  • Chicago judge orders access to lawyers at police stations;
  • North Carolina Commission on the Administration of Law and Justice issues recommendations for court improvement;
  • Trump White House releases proposed budget – cuts LSC funding;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants; and
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

March 10, 2017 – “Leaders of more than 150 U.S. law firms with offices in all 50 states sent a letter to the Office of Management and Budget Thursday, urging it to continue funding the Legal Services Corp. President Donald Trump’s proposed budget has reportedly put funding for the bipartisan nonprofit on the chopping block. ‘The pro bono activity facilitated by LSC funding is exactly the kind of public-private partnership the government should encourage, not eliminate,’ the law firm leaders wrote. In the letter, which is addressed to OMB Director John Michael Mulvaney, the law firm chairs and managing partners said that lawyers in their firms provide millions of hours of free pro bono service “to individuals in desperate need of assistance,” noting that they do this by working closely with independent legal aid agencies around the country that are funded by the LSC. ‘Our ability to provide pro bono legal services is directly dependent on partnership with legal aid organizations,’ they wrote.  The LSC, they said, provides essential support for the firms’ pro bono work because those agencies screen cases for merit and eligibility and train and mentor attorneys. In addition, low-income people living in rural areas often can only find free legal assistance through LSC grantees, they said. The firm leaders told Mulvaney that LSC funding is money well-spent, in part because civil legal aid is able to leverage pro bono services provided by private firms. The LSC has asked Congress to appropriate $502.7 million in the 2017 budget.” (The American Lawyer)

March 10, 2017 – “Flood Proof: Free Legal Help for Homeowners with Title Problems launched a new iPhone app to streamline the process for homeowners seeking to obtain a clear title to inherited property. “Homeowners who were affected by the August floods and lack clear title to their home need to gather information and documents to prove title. The Flood Proof App is a tool that will allow flood victims to do exactly that from their home or place of temporary residence, and hopefully minimize the number of times that they have to take off of work or arrange child care in order to make multiple trips to an attorney’s office,” said Judy Perry Martinez, Special Advisor to the newly created American Bar Association Center for Innovation and former chair of the ABA Presidential Commission on the Future of Legal Services.” “The Flood Proof app was developed with support from Southeast Louisiana Legal Services, the American Bar Association’s Center for Innovation, Stanford University Law School and the LSU Law Center. The project is led by Southeast Louisiana Legal Services in collaboration with the Baton Rouge Bar Foundation, Southern University Law Center, LSU Law Center, Louisiana Appleseed, and the American Bar Association’s Center for Innovation. Generous support funding the project is provided through grants from the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Louisiana Bar Foundation, the Equal Justice Works Foundation, and the Greater New Orleans Foundation.” (brproud)

March 10, 2017 – “The Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program and Pro Bono Net are pleased to announce the launch of a new website, www.vetsprobono.org, to support and engage both veterans and volunteer attorneys.  The new site leverages the probono.net technology platform, which is used to support broad-based networks of legal aid, civil rights and pro bono lawyers across the country. The site offers veterans and their families information about appealing unfavorable VA benefits decisions, including informational videos and frequently asked questions. The new web platform delivers a winning ‘trifecta’ solution: making it easier for veterans to file federal court appeals, making it more efficient for attorneys to volunteer and ask for cases to represent veterans in need, and making it more effective for The Veterans Consortium (TVC) staff attorneys to carefully match the right client with the best volunteer. The Consortium’s volunteers will be able to find available pro bono cases, as well as have the ability to indicate their interest in specific cases. To support their representation of veterans, the site also provides volunteers a library of resources on a wide variety of veterans’ issues. In addition, TVC will soon launch an interactive interview to generate an informal brief hosted on Pro Bono Net’s LawHelp Interactive (LHI’s) platform. The brief was designed for veterans who are appealing benefit denials in the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. Through LHI and its Connect feature, appellants respond to questions with an easy-to-use interface and then are able to share their drafts with TVC staff for review before filing them with the Court. ‘This partnership between Pro Bono Net and The Veterans Consortium demonstrates an ideal use of online tools and expertise to support a truly national network of volunteers to serve veterans across the country,’ says Mark O’Brien, Executive Director of Pro Bono Net. The Veterans Consortium and Pro Bono Net also teamed with Neota Logic and Just-Tech, LLC to build and integrate the tools needed to make this technology initiative a reality. Ed Glabus, Executive Director of The Veterans Consortium, summed up the project in these words: ‘This new web platform is a leap ahead for our staff and dedicated volunteers, and helps us live our credo that our veterans in need, our nation’s defenders, deserve the benefits and compensation they were promised, and the best legal services free of charge, to meet their challenges. We couldn’t have accomplished this rapid increase in capability and capacity without our outstanding high tech and mission driven partner Pro Bono Net.'” (probono.net Press Release)

March 13, 2017 – “Law students from across the country issued a report that argues Canada’s continued participation in the Safe Third Country Agreement with the U.S. violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The report, compiled by hundreds of law students on behalf of the Canadian Council for Refugees, calls on the government to suspend the agreement in response to the Trump administration’s immigration policies.” “The report shows how refugees turned back on Canadian borders could face detention, deportation or lack of access to legal representation in the United States. By continuing to be part of the agreement, Canada “is breaching” both its own Charter of Rights and the International Refugee Convention, the report notes. Despite mounting pressure, immigration minister Ahmed Hussen said last month Canada was not considering reviewing the agreement.” (Metro News)

March 13, 2017 – “The co-founder of a startup matching lawyers to pro bono cases will join the push for diversity in tech at 1871. Kristen Sonday was announced Saturday as 1871’s next Entrepreneur in Residence through the Code2040/Google for Entrepreneurs program, where she’ll work to expand opportunities for underrepresented minorities.” (Chicago Tribune)

March 14, 2017 – “In a city where fewer than 1 percent of people in police custody are visited by an attorney, a judge’s order will help the poor access a free lawyer while at the police station. Chief Judge Timothy Evans of the Circuit Court of Cook County signed an order Tuesday that would make a county public defender or a designated private attorney available to anyone who is in custody at one of the Chicago Police Department’s 22 stations with lockup facilities.” “Under Evans’ order, arrestees will now have access to legal aid during normal weekday business hours. [24-hour First Defense Legal Aid’s] group of volunteer attorneys will be on call after hours, on weekends and on holidays.” (Huffington Post)

March 15, 2017 – “Electronic filing of documents in criminal cases and civil lawsuits, data analytics to improve case flow and increased funding for indigent defense and public interest lawyers are among the recommendations a statewide panel has made to improve the North Carolina court system. The North Carolina Commission on the Administration of Law and Justice presented its final report to Chief Justice Mark Martin on Wednesday. Martin appointed the 65-member commission almost two years ago and tasked members with the first comprehensive evaluation of the state court system in two decades. ‘The commission’s recommendations create a framework for dramatic, systemic improvement in the administration of justice in North Carolina,’ Martin said in a statement. ‘The work of this blue-ribbon commission will help ensure that North Carolina’s Judicial Branch meets the needs and expectations that the people of North Carolina have for fair, modern and impartial courts.’ Recommendations were made in five areas: criminal investigation and adjudication, civil justice, technology, legal professionalism and public trust and confidence.” (WRAL)

March 16, 2017 – “On Thursday, the Trump administration released a preliminary 2018 budget proposal, which details many of the changes the president wants to make to the federal government’s spending. The proposal covers only discretionary, not mandatory, spending. To pay for an increase in defense spending, a down payment on the border wall and school voucher programs, among other things, funding was cut from the discretionary budgets of other executive departments and agencies. The Environmental Protection Agency, the State Department and the Agriculture Department took the hardest hits. The proposal also eliminates funding for these 19 agencies.” One of the proposed eliminations is funding for the Legal Services Corporation. (Washington Post)

LSC Statement: “President Trump’s budget proposal released today calls for defunding the Legal Services Corporation, but LSC leaders expressed confidence that Congress would continue to support the vital mission of the nation’s single largest funder of civil legal aid for low-income people. ‘I look forward to working with Congress to continue LSC’s work,’ said James Sandman, President of LSC. ‘I am optimistic that the bipartisan support we have enjoyed in Congress for more than four decades will continue for years to come.'” (LSC Press Release)

ABA Statement: “The American Bar Association is outraged that the administration  proposes to eliminate funding for the Legal Services Corporation in its budget and calls on every member of Congress to restore full funding. LSC provides civil legal aid to people who desperately need help to navigate the legal process. Without this assistance, court house doors will slam in the faces of millions of Americans, denying them equal access to justice. Some of the worthy services the LSC provides include securing housing for veterans, protecting seniors from scams, delivering legal services to rural areas, protecting victims of domestic abuse and helping disaster survivors. Their offices are in every congressional district and they help almost 1.9 million people annually. More than 30 cost-benefit studies all show that legal aid delivers far more in benefits than it costs. If veterans become homeless, or disaster victims cannot rebuild, their costs to society are significantly more.” (ABA News)

NLADA Statement: “Today the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released a framework for the FY18 federal budget that recommends the elimination of the Legal Services Corporation (LSC). The OMB proposal would further clog courts with individuals who would be forced to represent themselves without the assistance of an attorney, and deny equal access to justice for millions of people in our country.  NLADA, the nation’s judiciary, the legal profession, and a host of other organizations are joined in our resolve to educate Congress about the critical role LSC plays in guaranteeing our nation’s promise of justice and fairness for all. Civil legal aid is integral to the effective functioning of our justice system, and to the principle that the quality of justice you receive should not depend on how much money you have.” (NLADA Statement)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

Law Students in Action: Students in Boston University School of Law’s Immigrants’ Rights Clinic (IRC) have been working to help those caught in the confusion following President Trump’s executive orders on immigration enforcement and deportation. Supervised by Clinical Instructor Sarah Sherman-Stokes, IRC students recently worked in conjunction with the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to ensure compliance with the Massachusetts Federal Court Order that put a seven-day hold on the enforcement of President Trump’s executive order of January 27, 2017, which blocked travelers coming to the US from seven majority Muslim countries. Students, on a volunteer-basis, went to Logan Airport and provided legal support for travelers who were having issues or were simply curious about their rights. (Boston University School of Law News)

Music Bonus! Music pick from the PSJD Fellow Delisa Morris.

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Job’o’th’Week (Internship Edition)

Help Wanted

Photo: Brenda Gottesman – CC License

Civil-Criminal Litigation Clinic

The Organization

The Civil-Criminal Litigation Clinic is the University of Michigan Law School’s oldest and biggest general litigation clinic of U-M’s 18 clinics.  On the civil side, CCLC students represent clients in many areas of the law, including landlord-tenant & housing, debt collection, consumer fraud, contract disputes, prisoners’ civil rights, discrimination, employment issues, sexual harassment, political asylum and refugee, and some public benefits claims. On the criminal side, students represent clients charged with misdemeanors from arraignment through trial. Students also handle some post-judgment issues in serious felony cases. The clinic’s docket frequently includes class actions, issues of first impression, and other impact litigation. The CCLC handles all of its own appeals and has litigated cases at every level of the state and federal court systems.

The Position

For 2017 we are seeking two students (1L, 2L, or post-graduate students) for a summer internship in the U-M’s Civil-Criminal Litigation Clinic.  We generate a significant case load during the academic year, and then need to represent those clients over the summer while our law students are gone.

Is this you chance to litigate? Find the full-post on PSJD.

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Newer Professionals’ Forum Debrief

 

The NALP Newer Professionals’ Forum (NPF), is a two and a half-day conference focused on the development of newer legal recruitment and career services professionals.  It is a mega networking and education event.  I had the opportunity to attend the 2017 NPF in Houston, TX.  I had a wonderful time, learned a lot, and had the opportunity to meet new colleagues and fill my networking spreadsheet.  By the way, if you aren’t using the Networking Contacts Spreadsheet available on PSJD, you’re really missing out.

NPF took place March 2-5 in Houston.

The first night attendees got a brief introduction to NALP and a conference overview.  The plenary was followed by a networking reception, where I had the opportunity to speak with members from across the country, who were both legal recruiting professionals and law school career advisers.  Somehow, I managed to run into almost all of the attending mid-westerners during the networking event.  Since I am a Chicago native, we had a lot to chat about.  After networking, we split up and went to dinner in separate locations where I had the opportunity to connect with several recruiting professionals from law firms with offices in the Washington, D.C. area.

The second day was all about learning.  For breakfast there were faculty leaders at separate tables facilitating open discussions around various legal topics.  Afterward, I attended sessions around management foundations, how career counselors can build relationships with employers and finally a plenary session on recruiting ethics.  By the end of the day Saturday, I only had three of my business cards left.  I’m an introvert, so I was very impressed with myself.

On Sunday, there was a session on the recruiting numbers, which was extremely eye opening.  There have been several calls and initiatives to improve diversity in the legal profession, but the numbers do not show many changes, especially at the partnership and senior associate level.  Even looking around the room at the NPF attendees, they were overwhelmingly women.  Work-life balance was one of the top advantages cited in the Emerging Legal Careers session for why people pursue JD advantage positions.

Attending NPF was a great experience, and I strongly recommend it for all career counselors, law firm recruiters, and subsequent PSJD Fellows.

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Resource Round-Up: PSJD Summer Funding Resources

Image courtesy of The Diamond Gallery

Image courtesy of The Diamond Gallery

The PSJD Resource Center has valuable information for law students, career counselors and lawyers about public service law jobs.

The PSJD Firms Allowing Split Public Interest Summer Options includes a few law firms that have programs that enable law students to work for part of the summer with the firm, and part of the summer with a public interest organization.  Some of the firms will pay all or part of the students’ salaries for the entire summer.  These programs provide an opportunity for a diverse summer experience and demonstrate a firm’s strong commitment to pro bono work.  There are a few variations of the split public interest summer.

The Summer Funding Sources Paid Internship Programs resource lists programs that are either sources of unrestricted funding for summer internships previously secured or programs that will fund students at program host sites for summer work. Some programs have specific issue areas (indicated) and/or geographic restrictions. The table is sorted by typical deadline, with the fall deadlines first followed by the spring deadlines.


*Career Counselor’s Corner*

 

Ashley Matthews, JD, Program Manager for Law School Engagement and Advocacy for Equal Justice works says “The PSJD Summer Funding Guide and Split Summer Firm Guide are both essential lists of stipends, awards, and paid internship programs for public interest law students. We share it in all of our Summer Funding webinars!”

Do you know of a great summer funding opportunity? Send it to us in an email and we’ll do our best to get it up on the website.

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Pro Bono Publico Award Merit Distinction Honoree Lilah Thompson

2016-17 Merit Distinction Honoree, Lilah Thompson

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, one of the 2016-17 PSJD Pro Bono Publico Award Merit Distinction honorees will be guest blogging about law student pro bono and her public interest commitments.  (Check out last week’s guest blog by Merit Distinction honoree Derek Mergele, and next week award winner Gabrielle “Gabs” Lucero will be guest blogging on PSJD.)  Today, we’re featuring Merit Distinction honoree and Temple University School of Law student Lilah Thompson, who co-created a workshop that simulated the life of a refugee.


Looking Between Borders to Understand the Refugee Experience

by Lilah Thompson, PSJD Pro Bono Publico Merit Distinction Honoree, 2016-2017 (Temple University School of Law)

A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence. Of the 65.3 million people displaced worldwide 21.3 million are refugees. Over half of the world’s refugees are children. The number of refugees in the world is currently at the highest level ever recorded in human history. To fully understand the stories behind these staggering numbers, I worked with Professor Jaya Ramji Nogales to create Between Borders: A Refugee Simulation Experience. Between Borders is a participatory workshop that simulates the life of a refugee throughout all stages of the refugee process. This simulation is an awareness-building activity that places participants in the “shoes of a refugee” in order to conceptualize the experiences that they face. The simulation focuses on four important aspects: (1) why refugees flee; (2) how they are deemed refugees; (3) how refugees are screened and vetted; and (4) how they are welcomed to a new country.

 

Why do refugees flee?

Currently, 53% of refugees worldwide come from Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia. Every country’s conflict is different, which makes the reasons why refugees flee and each refugee’s journey different. For example, an estimated 11 million Syrians have fled their homes since the outbreak of the violent civil war in 2011. This includes over 4.8 million who have escaped to neighboring countries, thousands who have attempted to seek asylum in European countries, and over 6 million who remain internally displaced within Syria. While situations in countries facing mass displacement and flight are different, they share important commonalities, including violence, instability, and persecution.

 

How are individuals desginated as “refugees”?

In designing Between Borders, one important aspect for me was to define refugees accurately, by also making clear what they are not: terrorists or illegal immigrants. In order to be deemed a refugee, an individual must prove that they have a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. Without falling into one of those groups, the individual is not provided protection as a refugee. Once registered and approved as a refugee, individuals reside in refugee camps where they wait until they can be firmly resettled in a third country, like the U.S. These temporary camps are typically situated in neighboring countries. The situation in refugee camps is dire; health care, food, employment opportunities and education are extremely limted.

 

How are refugees screened, vetted, and processed to come to the United States?

Under the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP), an interagency process that includes three primary U.S. Government agencies—Department of State, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)—refugees are vetted based on specific requirements. These requirements cannot be waived, and include an in-person DHS interview, security checks, and a medical exam. Due to these strict requirements, the process currently takes anywhere from 18 to 24 months, or even longer.Additionally, many refugees have to wait long periods of time to even be processed, and some wait in refugee camps for up to 20 years before being resettled in a third country.

 

How are refugees welcomed to a new country?

After being granted a visa and going through all security background checks, refugees finally arrive to the U.S. They are greeted at the airport by a caseworker who works for one of the U.S. private agencies that have cooperative agreements with the State Department to provide reception and placement services for arriving refugees. At this stage, a new struggle begins. Refugees have only 90 days of assistance from these agencies. In that time, they must sign up for English classes, get jobs, enroll children in school, go to health visits, set up their new homes, and obtain government-approved benefits. As the clock ticks, many refugees struggle to become self-sufficient within this three month time-frame.

 

Why is it important to understand the refugee journey? 

It is essential to understand that refugees are just like anyone living in the U.S., except their lives have been torn apart by persecution and violence. The only difference between U.S. residents and refugees is chance. Imagine switching places with a Syrian child. She is sitting at her desk in school, and suddenly a bomb explodes two classrooms away. She scrambles through hallways trying to find her brother to see if he is okay. Together, they run home through the streets, hoping their parents are there. Her parents won’t allow her to go to school the next day, or the day after. Her fafther, a taxi driver, can no longer work, because no one is taking taxis. Instead, the taxis have been replaced with tanks. She wakes up, day after day, hearing bombs going off, and witnessing the loss of life in the streets. If we put ourselves in the shoes of this child, it is easy to comprehend why her and her family would flee. Why they would do anything in their power to seek safety and stability in the face of violence and uncertainty. As one participant in Between Borders commented: “There are unprecedented amounts of refugees and migrants in today’s world, but here in the U.S. they are ‘invisible’ to us … we need to appreciate the problems that cause refugees and migrants to take this journey and the challenges they faced along the way.”

 

What does it say about the United States when we turn our back on refugees?

It says that we do not understand. We cannot tell the difference between a refugee, who is fleeing terror, from a terrorist, who is the oppressor. It says that, even with all of the facts about what refugees face, and that they are screened and vetted more than any other individual who sets foot on U.S. soil, we do not care to help. It says that U.S. citizens deserve peace of mind over a refugee child’s safety from violence or death. My goal throughout law school has been to educate individuals about refugees and asylum seekers. Not simply about their legal claims, but about our moral obligation to understand.

 

The most recent executive order that targets refugees is immoral and a violation of our human rights obligations. But, most importantly, it is misinformed. The goal of Between Borders is to broaden awareness and understanding, and allow that to influence how we treat and understand other human beings. In the face of misinformation, if we can come together as a community to better understand the refugee journey and learn about the refugee process then surely we can change the hearts and minds of others.

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – March 10, 2017

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

Happy Friday! This week was a big news week for new projects. And with the release of the revised immigration executive order, a lot of pro bono news. If your school is doing a spring break project (doesn’t have to be immigration), let us know.  We’d like to celebrate your efforts.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Tennessee legal aid society receives grant for foreclosure prevention, community redevelopment;
  • Western Michigan University Cooley Law School receives grants for elder law clinic;
  • ABA Center for Innovation will hold design event to create app for hate crime victims;
  • Employer certification process under PSLF;
  • Mexico opens immigrant defense centers in US consulates;
  • University of New Mexico School of Law program that helps overturn wrongful convictions facing defunding;
  • Facebook Chatbot, ‘DoNotPay,’ provides legal aid for refugees;
  • Judge’s report urges Ontario to let paralegals appear in family court;
  • Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP and Goldman Sachs launch pro bono Immigration Clinic;
  • USC Gould School of Law establishes first named clinical law professorship;
  • Southern Poverty Law Center launches immigration pro bono project;
  • Legal Services Corporation launches data collection for 2017 Justice Gap Study;
  • Concerts for Indigent Defense;
  • Charles Koch Foundation gives $2.2m to the University of Pennsylvania Law School for criminal justice system research;
  • ACLU files suit over Missouri indigent defense;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants; and
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

March 2, 2017 – “Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands, which is Tennessee’s largest nonprofit law firm and has an office in Oak Ridge, has received a two-year grant from the Tennessee Bar Foundation to increase foreclosure prevention and community redevelopment legal assistance.” “With these funds, Legal Aid Society is hiring a new attorney and a new paralegal to provide legal assistance in its Murfreesboro and Tullahoma service areas and expand its foreclosure and consumer work in its Oak Ridge, Gallatin, and Nashville service areas.” (Oak Ridge Today)

March 3, 2017 – “A local school has been awarded funds by three organizations to prevent the financial exploitation of senior citizens. Western Michigan University Cooley Law School said this winter its Sixty Plus Inc. Elderlaw Clinic was awarded $53,950 total for its programs for seniors in Ingham County and the surrounding area. The clinic received $33,000 from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Aging and Adult Services Agency PREVNT Initiative. The Capital Region Community Foundation awarded $10,950, and the Lansing Area Community Trust granted $10,000 toward the initiative.” (Grand Rapids Business Journal)

March 3, 2017 – “The ABA Center for Innovation will hold a design event in Boston to produce an app that assists victims of hate crimes. ‘Legal Design Sprint: Responding to Hate Crimes Through Technology’ will be held at Suffolk University Law School on March 20 and is sponsored by the Center for Innovation and Suffolk Law, along with CuroLegal and Stanford Law School’s Legal Design Lab. The all-day event will bring together participants in the legal, technology and design spheres with the goal of creating a mobile app that will allow users to determine whether they are victims of a hate crime and provide them with resources and information to report it. According to Center for Innovation director Janet Jackson, the project was the brainchild of Nicole Bradick, chief strategy officer at CuroLegal. It is being funded by a $25,000 grant from Cisco.” (ABA Journal)

March 3, 2017 – Here is a good basic article on employer certification for Public Service Loan Forgiveness and a summary of the ABA lawsuit from our friends at Equal Justice Works. (Huffington Post)

March 5, 2017 – “Mexico on Saturday formally began operating centers for the defense of Mexican immigrants in its 50 consulates and embassies in the United States. The centers ‘are specifically designed to provide consular assistance as well as legal representation to all Mexican migrants who require support in America,’ the Mexican Foreign Ministry said in a statement. ‘This significant progress in terms of protection answers to the instruction of the president of the republic to strengthen support for our nationals in that country.'” “The ministry’s statement adds that ‘through these (centers), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs provides an exclusive space for Mexicans in need of consular assistance to receive information, guidance and direct legal advice, with the support of a strong network of local allies, including lawyers and organizations specialized in the defense of the rights of the migrants.'” (CNN)

March 6, 2017 – “A UNM School of Law program that works to overturn wrongful convictions could be losing its funding soon. Since 2009, the New Mexico Innocence and Justice Project (NMIJP) has helped UNM law students investigate claims of innocence in legal cases after the accused has already been convicted.” “But now the program is losing funding, and needs a savior of its own. Grant funds, approximately $200,000 per year, are relied upon to keep NMIJP afloat by providing a means for pursuing investigative and operational costs, including the ability to test DNA, Gordon Rahn, NMIJP project director and research professor, said. However, that grant expires this May, and the funding stream may be discontinued. ‘Due to the state’s budget crisis and its impact on UNM and the Law School, there are no funds available through the law school’s budget for us,’ he said. ‘Without funding from other sources, it is likely the program cannot continue beyond the end date of the grant.'” (Daily Lobo)

March 6, 2017 – “A chatbot which helped people to appeal parking fines is now providing refugees in the US, Canada and the UK with free legal aid. The chatbot, created by 20-year-old Stanford student Joshua Browder, is called DoNotPay, and was originally used to help people in London and New York with legal matters such as appealing parking tickets and receiving compensation for late flights. After the success of the app, lawyers and non-profit organisations approached Browder with the idea of extending the technology to help refugees seek asylum. DoNotPay asks users questions in plain English to assess their eligibility for asylum. The chatbot can also record a user’s details, provides instructions on how to submit applications, and has the ability to automatically fill in immigration applications for the relevant country. In a statement to Mashable, Browder stated his hope that DoNotPay will ‘allow anyone to have a right to safety, regardless of the ability to afford a lawyer.’ DoNotPay uses Facebook Messenger, which does not use automatic end-to-end encryption. Browder stated that he chose to use the the messaging platform as it was ‘the most accessible platform and the most appropriate to launch with.’ Browder also states that data from any interaction with the chatbot is deleted from his servers after ten minutes, and it is also possible to erase the data from Facebook Messenger. DoNotPay can be reached through a search on Facebook, and represents the many possible uses of chatbots.” (Neowin)

March 6, 2017 – “In what could prove to be a huge shakeup of the family court system in Ontario, the former chief justice of the provincial court is recommending that paralegals be allowed to provide some family law services unsupervised, including appearing in court. The recommendations from former Ontario court chief justice Annemarie Bonkalo in a report released Monday were hailed by paralegals and condemned by lawyers, leaving the provincial government and the legal regulator to work out how to implement what are clearly divisive ideas.” “At the same time, the judge dismissed the idea of more funding for family lawyers through Legal Aid Ontario, although she said it was ‘proposed repeatedly’ throughout consultations for her report. ‘Recommendations like expanding legal aid to cover existing gaps are not practicable,’ she said. ‘Moreover, I do not agree that the solution to any crisis in access to legal services lies solely with (legal aid) or the government.’ The report, commissioned by the Ministry of the Attorney General and the law society, comes as the family court system is facing a crisis. According to the province, over 57 per cent of people did not have a lawyer in family court in 2014-15, or about 21,000 people. Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi said in a statement Monday that the government and the law society will work on an ‘action plan’ to address the recommendations by fall 2017. The government is also seeking public feedback on the recommendations until May 15.” (The Star)

March 6, 2017 – “Cadwalader is collaborating with Goldman Sachs on the launch of a pro bono Immigration Clinic. The joint effort brings together Cadwalader and Goldman Sachs attorneys and staff to provide eligible undocumented immigrants with the opportunity to apply for lawful permanent residency. ‘We’re excited about establishing this important program with a valued and long-standing client like Goldman Sachs,’ said Cadwalader’s Managing Partner Pat Quinn. ‘We are committed to working with like-minded clients on pro bono initiatives that provide communities in need with access to legal assistance and representation.'” (Cadwalader News)

March 6, 2017 – “USC Gould School of Law is establishing its first named clinical law professorship at USC with a generous $1.5 million gift from longtime supporter Audrey M. Irmas, whose philanthropic commitment to women and children is well-known throughout California. Professor Niels Frenzen, founding director of the USC Gould Immigration Clinic, will be installed as the first Sydney M. and Audrey M. Irmas Endowed Clinical Professor. The gift will expand the Immigration Clinic’s work and student participation in advocacy and representation of immigration clients. ‘Audrey Irmas has been a steadfast supporter of USC and the Gould School of Law for many decades,’ said Dean Andrew Guzman. ‘We are deeply grateful to have such a committed member of the Trojan Family supporting a critical need for our clinics at the law school.'” (USC Gould News)

March 7, 2017 – “The Southern Poverty Law Center today announced a new project that will enlist and train lawyers to provide free legal representation to immigrants who have been detained in the Southeast and are facing deportation proceedings. When fully implemented, it will be the largest detention center-based deportation defense project in the country.” “The Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative (SIFI) will begin at the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia, in collaboration with the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the American Immigration Council, the Innovation Law Lab and the American Immigration Representation Project. It will then be expanded to other detention centers throughout the Southeast.” Attorneys can sign up for SIFI here. (Southern Poverty Law Center)

March 7, 2017 – “With support from two funders, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Kresge Foundation, LSC is conducting a national report that documents the ‘justice gap’ – the difference between the need for civil legal services and the resources available to meet that need. LSC is updating its 2005 and 2009 justice gap studies. As with LSC’s two prior justice gap studies, LSC is asking grantees to collect data about individuals who come to their offices with a legal problem that they are unable to serve or unable to fully serve. The data collection will last for six weeks – from Monday, March 6, 2017 to Friday, April 14, 2017. Grantees should submit their completed data collection matrix by email to JusticeGapStudy@lsc.gov by the close of business on Friday, April 28, 2017.” (LSC News)

March 8, 2017 – “Concerts for Indigent Defense is musicians and their communities standing together in support of the Constitutional right of all Americans to be represented by a lawyer when accused of a crime – even if one is too poor to hire one. Concerts for Indigent Defense are not fundraisers; they are awareness-raisers, about a cherished Constitutional right that is badly neglected every day across America. New Orleans will kick off this annual effort on Saturday, March 18, 2017, to celebrate the 54th anniversary of the United States Supreme Court decision in Gideon v. Wainwright, which established the fundamental constitutional right to counsel. This year’s featured Concert for Indigent Defense will be simulcast across the country on www.ConcertsforIndigentDefense.org at 5p.m. central time. Musicians, national legal organizations, and a range of supporters have already pledged their support for the nationwide effort, which will be presented in 2018 as a follow-up to Concerts for Indigent Defense: New Orleans.” (Concerts for Indigent Defense)

March 8, 2017 – “The foundation of libertarian Charles Koch has given a grant of up to $2.2 million to the University of Pennsylvania Law School for research on ways to improve fairness in the criminal justice system. The funding, from the Charles Koch Foundation, will go to the Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice at the law school. The center focuses on whether the rights of disadvantaged populations are adequately protected when they interact with the criminal justice system.” (Philly.com)

March 9, 2017 – “A new lawsuit alleges the state of Missouri routinely violates the rights of people who need public defenders because of those attorneys’ large caseloads. The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri filed a class-action lawsuit Thursday alleging that public defenders cannot pay enough attention to their clients, who have been charged with crimes ranging from stealing to murder. That, the ACLU claims, violates the state and federal constitutions. ‘Every year in Missouri, tens of thousands of people are pushed through the system without having an attorney who has the time and resources to be able to provide them a defense,’ ACLU of Missouri legal director Tony Rothert said. ‘The American Bar Association puts out standards on how long should be spend on a criminal defense case, and the public defender system fails to meet that standards 97 percent of the time. It’s not just a case here and there.'” (St. Louis Public Radio)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

Exelon announced today that its legal department has been honored by Pro Bono Institute (PBI) with the 2017 Laurie D. Zelon Pro Bono Award in recognition of its efforts and leadership to provide legal assistance to those who could otherwise not afford it. The Laurie D. Zelon Pro Bono Award is presented annually to an organization that has provided exemplary pro bono service and leadership and reflects Exelon’s commitment to giving back in the communities where its people work and live. Fortune recently named Exelon to its 2017 list of the World’s Most Admired Companies, which, in part, recognized the company for social responsibility efforts such as those praised by PBI. In 2016, Exelon employees served more than 170,000 hours of community service, and Exelon companies and the Exelon Foundation donated more than $46 million to nonprofits – the largest amount ever. (Yahoo Finance)

Music Bonus! Music pick from the PSJD Fellow Delisa Morris.

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Job’o’th’Week (Experienced Edition)

Help Wanted

Photo: Brenda Gottesman – CC License

District General Counsel

The Organization

To inspire and prepare all students with the confidence, courage, and competence to achieve their dreams; contribute to community; and engage in a lifetime of learning by serving as a member of the collaborative executive leadership team which plans, directs, and coordinates action to achieve the organizational mission and strategic goals. Contribute to strategic and tactical organizational leadership by providing legal services and advice to the Superintendent, School Board and School District administrators; managing all legal matters and services; representing the school system in litigation and administrative proceedings; coordinating litigation efforts with outside legal counsel; leading policy development and revision; conducting legal research; and providing guidance on legal issues regarding state and federal regulations and laws.

The Position

Contribute to strategic and tactical organizational leadership:
  • Participate on the superintendent’s cabinet to coordinate action to achieve the district’s mission and strategic goals
  • Provide leadership and coordination of school system committees and/or task force initiatives as assigned; participate in long-range and strategic planning initiatives
  • Serve as general legal counsel to the superintendent and School Board
  • Consult with the director of labor relations in the negotiation and drafting/review of collective bargaining agreements Interpret the Minnesota Public Employee Labor Relations Act (PELRA) and collective bargaining agreements; recommend proposed modifications to existing collective bargaining agreements
  • Attend all school board meetings, including policy committee meetings, school board work sessions, negotiations strategy sessions, special meetings, and regular school board meetings
  • Coordinate defenses and responses to legal and administrative complaints
  • Plan and execute continuous improvement processes for area of responsibility; invite input and feedback
  • Demonstrate commitment to professional growth
  • Represent the school district in a positive manner at various district and community functions, at state and local organizations, and as a liaison to various partners
  • Monitor trends in education law, regulations and legislative issues, and recommend operational, procedural and policy improvements

Are you ready to head to school?  See the full-post on PSJD.

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