PSJD Public Interest News Digest – December 2, 2016

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

Happy Friday and welcome to December! Access to justice is on everyone’s mind this week with multiple articles on grants, reports, and the use of legal tech to bridge the justice gap.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Massachusetts receives access to justice grant;
  • UK Labour Party commissions access to justice commission – interim report published;
  • Real-world examples of tech bridging the access to justice gap;
  • Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division and the Jacksonville Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Section launch Youth on Solid Ground Pro Bono Project;
  • USC Gould School of Law offers new public interest law certificate;
  • An interview with Upsolve’s founders;
  • New Mexico judge finds public defender in contempt amid funding crisis;
  • White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable issues first annual report;
  • Articling students at Legal Aid Ontario vote to unionize;
  • Michigan program allows people to resolve some legal issues online;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

November 24, 2016 – “Massachusetts has been awarded a $100,000 grant to develop a strategic plan for improving access to justice for people who cannot afford attorneys.  The grant will be used to identify gaps in services currently offered and to design programs to address the unmet civil legal needs of indigent people on housing, consumer debt and family law issues. The grant is being provided through the Justice for All project of the National Center for State Courts. Massachusetts is one of seven states to receive a Justice for All grant. Earlier this year, the National Center for Access to Justice ranked the Massachusetts court system second in the nation for services provided to people without lawyers.” (Boston Herald)

November 25, 2016 – “Deficient public legal education, high court fees, and the failure to embrace technology have deprived a growing number of people access to justice, a new think tank has said as it unveiled a set of proposals intended to fill the gap left by the near-disappearance of legal aid. In its interim report published this morning, the U.K.’s Lord Bach’s Commission on Access to Justice proposes to enshrine minimum standards in law, along with the introduction of legal education in the school curriculum and a central online portal for claims. Other proposals include the reform of legal aid eligibility criteria, a ‘polluter pays’ scheme to fund court fees, the integration of legal advice across public services and increased funding for legal advice centres.” “While not formally adopted as Labour policy, the report, overseen by the former justice minister Lord Bach, was commissioned by Jeremy Corbyn and the previous shadow justice secretary, Lord Falconer. Aimed at developing future policy for the Labour party, the authors hope to build a broad consensus for improving access to the courts. The report quotes the current lord chief justice, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, as saying: ‘Our justice system has become unaffordable to most.'” The report has some interesting ideas that transcend a particular country. (Solicitors Journal)(The Guardian)

November 28, 2016 – Above the Law has a regular series called “This Week in Legal Tech.” This week, contributor Robert Ambrogi has a nice summary of the ways in which LSC’s Technology Initiative Grants are making a difference in the real world. He also highlights the LSC, Pro Bono Net and Microsoft supported state access to justice portal pilot project. RFPs are being accepted now for the project. (Above the Law)

November 28, 2016 – “The Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division and The Jacksonville Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Section have launched the Youth on Solid Ground Pro Bono Project to assist children and their families. Temporary relative custody and guardian advocacy are the two legal mechanisms that can help ensure Florida children can enjoy the stability of having committed family members authorized to act on their behalf. They provide family stability for children and make a positive difference in their lives and – equally important –  these opportunities provide attorneys who volunteer time and expertise practical training in the courtroom and experience in uncontested matters. Due to limited budget resources, legal services staff attorneys must focus on more critical and complex legal matters, such as cases involving domestic violence, foreclosure defense, bankruptcy, housing and discrimination. The project provides assistance for families that are unrepresented in the areas of guardian advocacy and temporary relative custody.” (Jacksonville Daily Record)

November 28, 2016 – “The USC Gould School of Law offers a new public interest law certificate for students with social justice aspirations and interest in working in the nonprofit or government sectors after graduating. Students can choose courses focusing on key areas of nonprofit and government law, taking on an in-depth writing project and working on real-world problems through clinics, practicum courses or externships. ‘Our students have a long history of commitment to public service, but now they can direct their interests to an organized curriculum and leave law school with a certificate on their transcript that shows that commitment,’ said Professor Clare Pastore, a member of California’s public interest community who oversaw the development of the certificate. Alumni serving as mentors will help students navigate a career path, offering connections to public service opportunities or summer jobs, along with advice about postgraduate fellowships and courses. A speaker series and events focusing on public interest law, nonprofit and government sector jobs, postgraduate fellowships and building community will round out the year.” (USC News)

November 28, 2016 – Forbes has a good piece on Upsolve and an interview with its founders.  Upsolve is a Brooklyn-based nonprofit that improves consumer access to Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection through an online platform that guides users with routine cases through the bankruptcy process.  (Forbes)

November 30, 2016 – “A district attorney in southern New Mexico is petitioning the state Supreme Court to order public defense attorneys back to work on behalf of criminal defendants who cannot afford legal representation. District Attorney Dianna Luce on Wednesday confirmed her request for the Supreme Court to intervene, citing more than 200 instances in which the Law Offices of the Public Defender has sought to withdraw its attorneys in magistrate and district court cases in Lea County. ‘What we’re seeking is for the public defenders to do their statutory duty,’ she said. ‘The public defenders have selected only Lea County to stop accepting new felony cases … claiming a lack of attorneys and a lack of funding.’ Chief Public Defender Ben Baur said his agency’s attorneys previously declined to accept cases and continue to ask to withdraw in some instances because increased caseloads and limited funding are making it impossible to provide effective legal assistance. In October, the agency’s annual budget was reduced by 3 percent amid far reaching state spending cuts. Earlier this week, a New Mexico judge fined Baur and found him in contempt for failing to provide lawyers to defendants who couldn’t afford them. Lea County District Judge Gary Clingman imposed a $1,000 fine in each of five criminal cases in which the public defender’s office failed to make an appearance. Clingman told Baur that he could purge the contempt finding by following his statutory duty to represent defendants.” (The Washington Times)

November 30, 2016 – “The Justice Department today issued the first annual report of the White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable (WH-LAIR) to President Obama.  The report, entitled ‘Expanding Access to Justice, Strengthening Federal Programs,’ documents the significant steps that the 22 federal agency members of WH-LAIR have taken to integrate civil legal aid into programs designed to serve low-income and vulnerable people.  The Attorney General and the Director of   the White House Domestic Policy Council (DPC) co-chair WH-LAIR.” “‘The White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable has become indispensable in helping the federal government establish partnerships with legal aid providers that push federal programming forward and ensure that essential services reach the communities that need them most,’ said Cecilia Muñoz, White House DPC Director and WH-LAIR Co-Chair.” (Justice News)

November 30, 2016 – “Articling students employed by Legal Aid Ontario have voted to unionize with The Society of Energy Professionals. LAO articling students become the second group of legal professionals to join The Society following the October vote of LAO staff lawyers. Articling students are excited to have representation in the workplace that understands their professional obligations and can help them achieve better working conditions.” (CNW)

December 1, 2016 – “If you’ve ever gotten a traffic ticket, you know it’s a hassle if you decide to fight it. Getting to court, waiting for your case to be called and presenting your side can take hours. You may even need to miss a day of work. But if you live in some parts of Michigan, you might be able to go to court without actually going. A growing number of courts have adopted a software program called Matterhorn, which enables individuals to resolve a handful of legal issues online, at any time, even the middle of the night. Ohio has started using the technology, and other states are looking into it as well.” “Courts using Matterhorn determine what types of legal issues will be resolvable online and what types will require an in-court appearance in their jurisdictions. Some Michigan courts have opted for online traffic ticket resolution only, while others have ventured into misdemeanors and warrant resolution.” (ABA Journal)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

Deepa Mattoo is the latest recipient of the Community Leadership in Justice Fellowship from the Law Foundation of Ontario, a non-profit organization that funds other groups to provide education and initiatives on access to justice. Mattoo, the current director of legal services at the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic, says that while she’s very excited for this opportunity to conduct research around the relationships between race, gender and immigration status under this year-long fellowship, she also feels “very humbled.”

During her time as a fellow, Mattoo’s research will specifically focus on racialized women who have precarious immigration status, as they face violence and barriers in accessing supports and legal services. She’ll team up with the University of Toronto’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, academics from the law and sociology faculties and the Rights of Non-Status Women Network for this undertaking. “The goal of this project is to create a network of individuals who would work with me in reviewing the intersectionality, but to also create solid tools for service providers to provide services and assistance to the women who are going through these experiences of violence and going through the experiences of precarious immigration,” she says. (Legal Feeds)

Music Bonus! 

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Administration Change: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

The federal government has changed administrations since the beginning of our nation. However, this change in administration is unique in many ways, and is causing questions and concerns among those who seek a career in government or are currently in federal service. The most prevalent question I’ve been asked in the past month is, given my ideological beliefs or views on certain issues, should I enter federal service, or should I remain if I’m already there?

What should you do if you’re contemplating these questions? First, there is no “right” answer.  What you do is dependent on many personal factors and whether you’re deciding on an internship or a permanent position. In talking with individuals who have made these decisions during a political transition, one thing is clear – no matter what administration is in office, there will always be a need for reasoned and principled attorneys in the federal government. Another point often raised is that the government is like a large ship – it changes course slowly. So, for instance, if you’re considering an internship, you might not see any significant difference in your agency of choice in the short-term. A third item to consider is the difference between ideology and government service at its most basic level. There are frequently ideological differences between administrations, but you will find career federal government attorneys continue to serve across administrations.  One reason is the idea that giving back to the community is the duty of every lawyer, and federal service is a way to fulfill that duty. If you plan to make federal service a career choice, you may decide that you don’t want to wait to begin.  If you’re already a government attorney, you may take the long view, and decide to stay in order to “have a say” in actions this administration takes. It is sometimes the career employee, and not the political appointee, who can have the most affect on policy implementation.

There are resources to help you sort out the factors that will guide your decision. Your best resource is always your Career Development Office. The experts there can help you talk through the factors that will influence your decision-making.  They also have the expertise to counsel and support you throughout the process. Faculty and staff, particularly adjunct faculty, can also have great insight and on the ground experience with political transitions. Alumni who are or have been government attorneys are also a great resource.  They have been there during a political transition, know what to expect, and can illustrate some of the advantages and pitfalls. Your career development or alumni office can put you in touch with an alum who can help you navigate these questions. For example, Harvard Law School Bernard Koteen Office of Public Interest Advising has kindly shared some of their alumni reflections on political transitions.

And seek out opinions from experts from the entirety of the political spectrum. Below are some of the discussions on what it might mean to serve or not to serve in a Trump administration.

Just Security, an online forum for the rigorous analysis of U.S. national security law and policy, has a series of posts on the “ethical and legal dilemmas of serving in the Trump administration.” (Just Security)

“Who Will Serve in the Trump Administration?” by Amy Davidson, November 21, 2016 (The New Yorker)

“The Dilemma of Serving in a Trump Administration” by Daniel W. Drezner, November 14, 2016 (Washington Post)

“The Chess Clock Debates: Is There a Duty to Serve In Trump’s America?” by Clara Hendrickson, November 21, 2016 (Lawfare)

Ultimately, whether you stay or go will depend on your individual moral and ethical compass. Lawyers are critically important at this time, and whether inside or outside the government, public sector lawyers may be the most critical need of all.

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Job’o’th’Week (Fellowship Edition)

Help Wanted

Photo: Brenda Gottesman – CC License

Veterans Legal Corps Fellow

The Organization 

The Veteran Advocacy Project provides free civil legal services to low-income veterans, with a focus on those living with Post Traumatic Stress, Traumatic Brain Injury, and substance use issues. We are partnered with VA hospitals, health clinics, and local veterans’ groups to reach servicemembers where they are. While our attorneys tackle the legal challenges, our advocates ensure that our clients are connected to appropriate social services. With a dedicated team, the project allows veterans to achieve the stability needed to regain their health and rebuild their lives.

The Position

The Veteran Advocacy Project seeks a law graduate to serve as an AmeriCorps Fellow for the 2016-2017 program year. This fellowship is available due to a partnership between Equal Justice Works and AmeriCorps through which legal assistance is provided to veterans and military families across the nation. This program is available to all, without regard to race, color, national origin, disability, age, sex, political affiliation, or religion.

Ready to apply? See the full post on PSJD.

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – November 23, 2016

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

Happy Thanksgiving!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Report documents criminalization of homelessness;
  • State courts get grant to expand access to justice;
  • University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law opens new legal clinic;
  • British Columbia’s indigenous child welfare system gets overhaul;
  • Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma partners with Cherokee Nation;
  • Thompson Rivers University Faculty of Law offers legal technology course unique in Canada;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

November 17, 2016 – “The Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic at Yale Law School has released a new report titled ‘Forced into Breaking the Law’: The Criminalization of Homelessness in Connecticut. The report examines how Connecticut’s homeless residents face the threat of criminal sanctions for simply existing. The report also documents how Connecticut city ordinances, such as those prohibiting loitering, panhandling, and sleeping in public, punish people for performing necessary, life-sustaining functions, which effectively criminalizes homelessness itself. It further outlines how the criminalization of homelessness violates state, federal, and international law. The release of the report coincides with National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week and the launch of the national ‘Housing Not Handcuffs’ campaign, organized by the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, which aims to end the criminalization of homelessness.” (Yale Law School Today)

November 18, 2016 – “The New York state court system has received a $100,000 grant from the National Center for State Courts and the Public Welfare Foundation to develop plans to improve the access to the courts for unrepresented or under-represented New Yorkers. Under the ‘Justice for All’ grant, the state Office of Court Administration said Thursday it will work with judges, the business community, private firms, bar associations, civil legal services groups and others to devise a strategy for better access to justice. OCA officials said Wednesday the plan will be developed by the state Permanent Commission on Access to Justice, which is chaired by Helaine Barnett, the former president of the Legal Services Corporation, and will use a day-long convocation and other events to gather input from stakeholders.” “The Public Welfare Foundation said $100,000 grants also went to Alaska, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Massachusetts and Minnesota.” (New York Law Journal)(subscription required)

November 18, 2016 – “A new free legal clinic sponsored by the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law in partnership with LDS Charities will provide legal services to underserved communities. The new Community Legal Clinic: Sugarhouse is part of the law school’s pro bono initiative program, a noncredit volunteer program that allows students to build real world problem-solving skills to serve their community. The program has a three-part mission: to provide skill building legal opportunities under the direct supervision of attorneys; to develop placements where alumni can volunteer, network and serve as mentors to law students; and to demonstrate the professional responsibility of those in the legal profession to provide pro bono legal services to the underserved in the community who otherwise would not have access to the justice system.” (The University of Utah News)

November 21, 2016 – “The Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) is making 85 recommendations to change BC’s indigenous child welfare system. It’ll now focus on improving family life by bettering family support services, legal help, early intervention services, and funding. Grand Chief Edward John has been a special adviser with Minister of Children and Family Development Stephanie Cadieux on indigenous children in care, permanency and early years since September 2015. He says one of the report’s main priorities is returning child welfare responsibilities to indigenous communities. ‘To me, a major part of the solution is right there. The children are never the problem. It’s everything else that’s around them and how do we do that and how do we bring them home? The essence of the report is to do that.’ Other central focuses from the report include reducing the need for indigenous children and youth going into care, bettering support services, legal aid, equitable funding formulas between the provincial and the federal government, and easier access to early intervention services. There will also be more Ministry of Children and Family Development staff with First Nations communities. 40 recommendations are already in the works or are being included in future plans. These include a commitment to regular regional meetings with Metis and First Nations leaders, a stronger indigenous voice within the Youth Advisory Council, more indigenous social workers within MCFD, and more education on services. Putting the remaining recommendations into effect will take a little bit more work. The ministry says addressing the remaining ones will require a ‘significant injection of funding – often in co-ordination with the federal government. Alterations will also need to be made to existing legislation.'” (MYPRINCEGEORGENOW)

November 21, 2016 – “Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma (LASO) received a grant from the federal AmeriCorps program as part of the President Barack Obama administration’s investment in tribally-sponsored AmeriCorps programming. Through this project, LASO AmeriCorps members will deliver civil legal assistance to improve health, according to a media release. ‘A person’s health can be significantly impacted by social problems like domestic violence, denial of public benefits, or unsafe or substandard housing, just to name a few; these are issues that may have a civil legal solution,’ said Michael Figgins, executive director of LASO. ‘By partnering with the Cherokee Nation, LASO attorneys can identify issues impacting health that might have a civil legal solution. Working together, caregivers and attorneys can holistically address problems and help ensure better overall health outcomes for patients.’ The three-year grant will fund four attorneys who will work with Cherokee Nation to identify and treat Social Security Disability and aging-related problems.” (Muskogee Phoenix)

November 21, 2016 – “A Thompson Rivers University Faculty of Law professor passionate about innovation and access to justice is blazing a trail on the Canadian legal education landscape. Assistant Professor Katie Sykes has developed a new and unique law course—one of the first of its kind offered in Canada—that teaches students to use technology to automate the application of legal knowledge by developing apps that can be easily used by anyone. The course is called Designing Legal Expert Systems: Apps for Access to Justice. ‘It’s about taking legal knowledge and rules as a series of decision-making trees and translating that onto a tech platform that creates an app,’ explained Sykes. Using a software the law school has licensed from US-based legal technology firm Neota Logic, the students will work with non-profit ‘client’ organizations to develop the type of app, problem it will solve, and types of users. ‘Students will make a tangible, meaningful impact by developing a platform that allows quick and convenient access to legal information in language that is easy to understand,’ said Sykes.” (infonews.ca)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

Everyone has a favorite Thanksgiving tradition.  But where do our traditions come from?  Here is an interesting history of Thanksgiving with all the trimmings.  History.com

Music Bonus!  Happy Thanksgiving!

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*Special Edition* Job’o’th’Week (N. Dakota Water Protection Attorney Positions)

Help Wanted

Photo: Brenda Gottesman – CC License

Criminal Ground Coordinator

An attorney based on site at Oceti Sakowin who will work with experienced mass defense lawyers and local lawyers to implement and coordinate criminal representation and an effective mass defense strategy. Compensation is available and will be commensurate with both experience and need.

  • Assign tasks to on-site attorneys including jail advisements, meet with Public Defender’s (PD’s) office, jail visits
  • Work with Court Support Coordinator to maintain arrestee database, evidence database, arrestee listserv, and assist with arrestee meetings
  • Work with the Remote Volunteer Coordinator to assign criminal cases to attorneys, to assign research and drafting tasks and oversee motions/a brief bank
  • Coordination with local lawyers, PD
  • Coordination/negotiation with law enforcement
  • Coordination with Tribal entities
  • Coordinate with Oceti Sakowin, Red Warrior, Sacred Stone and other camps and organizations on-site such as Honor the Earth and the Indigenous Environmental Network
  • Work with communications coordinator to keep remote legal team updated and on public messaging
  • Supervise Legal Observers as appropriate
  • Report to Water Protector Legal Collective (WPLC) Criminal Liaison on WPLC Board

Apply by November 26, 2016 to:

Water Protector Legal Collective at waterprotectorlegalhiring@gmail.com

Please include “Criminal Ground Coordinator” in the subject line of your email.

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*Guest Blog Post* Colleen Gibbons Tells a Heartwarming Story About Defending Animal Rights

The holidays are quickly approaching and Colleen Gibbons wanted to share a wonderful story about a case that she worked on with an animal advocacy program. Read her post below.
“In the summer of my 1L year, I attended a special CLE on a new planned Legal Animal Advocacy Program organized through my local bar association.  The program assigned attorneys to animals removed from owners charged with animal cruelty.  The assigned attorney visits the animal and provides affidavits as to its health and well-being throughout the ongoing investigation and court process.  I was the only student in attendance, but I wanted to participate, so I approached one of the presenters after the meeting.  He hadn’t considered student involvement, but he thought it made sense.  With that, we organized the Animal Advocacy group of student volunteers.
Photo courtesy of Colleen Gibbons

Photo courtesy of Colleen Gibbons

The program officially began the following spring, and I was the first student assigned to work with an attorney.  Our dog was an emaciated pitbull named Bully, who had lived the first two years of his life confined in a crate.  He was starved by his owner, and kept in his own filth, which initially left him unsocialized and very sad.  The attorney and I did the initial evaluation, which involved talking to the technicians and spending some time with the dog.  As Bully’s case continued, he stayed at the local shelter, and he began to heal.  The attorney and I knew he needed us, so we went to visit him almost daily.

Bully’s owner had signed surrender papers, but because of his history of starvation, Bully wasn’t  ready to be adopted.  He had to get healthy, and be trained to learn that he didn’t have to be possessive of his food and treats.  Bully needed someone willing to care for a scared and sad (but very smart) pitbull.

We found a trainer who specializes in dogs that need this kind of help, and then started a GoFundMe.  We raised over $1500 in under 24 hours!  And just over two months after he arrived in the shelter, Bully left with the trainer.  Bully was renamed Teddy, and spent the next 60 days learning appropriate dog behaviors.

But Teddy still didn’t know how to live in a house.  We found a local dog rescue organization willing to sponsor him as a foster dog, so long as we could provide the foster home, so Teddy came to live with me, my two dogs, and my cat.  When Teddy first arrived, pretty much everything was new and an adventure.  Eventually he became accustomed to a routine that included daily long walks, romps in the backyard, and nightly snores on the couch while I did my school work.

After two months in my home, the perfect family applied for Teddy: a mom and a dad, with another young dog to play with. The family  knew Teddy’s history, and was willing to work with him to allow him to get settled and become a member of the family.  Teddy finally got his forever home.

Teddy with his forever parents. Image courtesy of Colleen Gibbons.

Teddy with his forever parents. Image courtesy of Colleen Gibbons.

Teddy’s legal case was ongoing through all of this; at each court appointment the attorney and I would prepare a report on Teddy’s progress, which we submitted to the judge and attorneys.  The judge would read each report as he considered the facts presented to him.  To date, Teddy’s case has not been closed.

The attorney animal advocate program is ongoing, and students continue to be paired with attorneys.  Each case is different, but each dog entering the program has attorney advocates to follow up and make sure the pet’s story is told.  Teddy is alive and well thanks to the attorney advocate program, and thanks to this program, I get to tell his story.”

Colleen Gibbons is a 3L at Syracuse University College of Law and is the College’s Pro Bono Fellow.  She is a self-proclaimed Dog Lady.  You can reach her at cmgibbon@syr.edu

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – November 18, 2016

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

Happy Friday!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Give lawyers tax incentives to represent the indigent;
  • The National Law School Veterans Clinic Consortium launched;
  • Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office announces Legal Assistance for Our Veterans grant opportunity;
  • Why a federal hiring freeze is not such a good idea;
  • OPM to launch CyberCareers.gov;
  • Non-profit launches pro bono expungement program;
  • Student loan forgiveness under a Trump presidency;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

November 10, 2016 – An opinion piece by Chandra Bozelko and Jaime Lathrop makes an interesting proposal – provide tax breaks on pro bono work to incentivize attorneys to take on criminal defense cases. The indigent defense crisis is particularly acute in Louisiana, where public defenders are each handling more than 1,000 felony cases a year.  “Congress often uses the tax code to promote social welfare, such as a tax break for low-income housing construction or hiring people with criminal records. Congress also alters the tax code to stimulate economic growth, perhaps by making it easier to take business deductions. It makes sense to use the tax code to protect people’s constitutional rights and their personal security by amending it in a way that delivers legal representation to those who need it.” (The Times-Picayune)

November 11, 2016 – “The National Law School Veterans Clinic Consortium (NLSVCC) announced that it has formally launched operations to foster best practices to pro bono veteran advocacy programs at law school legal clinics nationwide. The Consortium aims to establish a long-term collaborative relationship among member institutions to help advance positive systemic change for veteran legal advocacy services such as applying for disability benefits, addressing civil legal needs and assisting in Veteran Treatment Courts.” “NLSVCC is a collaborative effort of the nation’s law school legal clinics dedicated to addressing the unique legal needs of U.S. military veterans on a pro bono basis. The Consortium’s mission is, working with like-minded stakeholders, to gain support and advance common interests with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, U.S. Congress, state and local veterans service organizations, court systems, educators and all other entities for the benefit of veterans throughout the country. For more information, visit http://www.nlsvcc.org.” (Business Wire)

November 11, 2016 – “Utilizing $355,000 funds received by the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office (AGO) from a settlement with Sprint and Verizon, the AGO is pleased to announce the Legal Assistance for Our Veterans grant opportunity.  The Legal Assistance for Our Veterans grant is designed to fund legal aid groups, legal clinics, or nonprofit organizations who will focus on helping Massachusetts veterans, including those with a less than honorable discharge status, gain access to veterans’ services, including, but not limited to: discharge status upgrades, health benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare system, housing & education assistance, general legal representation, and veteran-specific employment.” (Mass.gov)

November 15, 2016 – President-elect Trump has called for a federal hiring freeze in his first 100 days.  Here’s a good look at why that might not accomplish his goals and create additional problems.  Columnist Joe Davidson suggests that Trump read “Recent Government-Wide Hiring Freezes Prove Ineffective in Managing Federal Employment” prior to imposing any freeze. “Published by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in 1982, this report examines hiring freezes imposed by former presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. In addition to having ‘little effect on Federal employment levels,’ the GAO said, those freezes ‘disrupted agency operations, and in some cases, increased costs to the Government.'” He also makes good points about the long recovery for the federal government after a freeze. (Washington Post)

November 15, 2016 – “Several new tools from the Office of Personnel Management are coming soon to help agencies better recruit and hire new talent, particularly top cybersecurity professionals. The administration is in the process of creating CyberCareers.gov, a new website aimed at reaching federal managers, current employees, job seekers and academic organizations and students.” The new site will include privacy positions, which will be directly relevant for law students. The site will launch in the December to January time frame.

And USAJobs.gov updates will continue in 2017. “After a year of iterative updates designed to improve the user experience, OPM’s next major update to the federal jobs portal will focus on new tools for agency hiring managers and human resources specialists. The next iteration will be ready by February 2017, said Michelle Earley, program manager for USAJobs.gov.” These updates will help agencies better mine USAJobs for candidates and make better recruitment decisions. (Federal News Radio)

November 15, 2016 – “PPG Foundation, a freshly launched national non-profit group based in New York, announces the launch of its pro bono criminal record expungement program specifically targeted at those with non-violent marijuana offenses called: Clean Slate. Created to provide much needed assistance for those seeking re-entry into the workforce, the Clean Slate Program will work directly with persons often faced with limited opportunity, or quick dismissal, once their criminal history has been revealed. Currently partnered with Portland, Oregon-based law firm Green Light Law Group, a pioneering firm focused on the expanding field of Cannabis Law, PPG Foundation is aligning other leading Cannabis Law Firms across the country to further expand the program outside of its Oregon launch. To complete the restoration process, PPG Foundation will continue to work with businesses – inside and outside of the Cannabis industry – to sponsor applicants in need of expungements. The program, whose applicants’ convictions must meet specific state criteria, will provide pro bono expungements on both a first come first served basis, as well as via a monthly lottery where winners are chosen at random.” (PRNewswire)

November 16, 2016 – While we are firmly in wait-and-see mode regarding loan forgiveness and the new administration, this National Law Journal article is a good summary of where we are and what we might expect. (The National Law Journal)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

The Legal Aid Society (New York City) recently honored Goodwin Procter LLP and firm client IBM with its Pro Bono Publico Award for an innovative corporate pro bono project – the Citizenship Clinic held in April 2016. For this initiative, 10 IBM lawyers joined forces with 10 lawyers from Goodwin to assist eligible, legal permanent residents with becoming U.S. citizens. Citizenship is important because it encourages civic participation and enables people to become more active members of their communities and society at-large. It also enables residents to vote, and to apply for federal jobs, grants and scholarships. During the citizenship clinic, the lawyers helped 20 clients fill out their naturalization applications. For Goodwin, the initiative was championed  by litigation partner Calvin Wingfield.

Senior Pro Bono Manager Carolyn Rosenthal and Business Development Specialist Carrie Gilman were also honored for their commitment to pro bono with individual Pro Bono Publico Awards. (Goodwin Updates)

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

Summer 2017 Legal Internship

The Organization: 

The Georgia Resource Center is a 501(c)(3) non-profit law office in Atlanta dedicated to providing free, high-quality representation to death-sentenced men and women in their state and federal habeas and clemency proceedings. The Georgia Resource Center is responsible for ensuring that all of Georgia’s death sentenced prisoners have meaningful and vigorous representation at this critical stage of death penalty case review.

The Position: 

Interns directly assist in all aspects of GRC’s work, including interviewing witnesses, compiling life histories, visiting clients, conducting legal research, and drafting memos and briefs. Interns often have the opportunity to attend court proceedings, such as state-court evidentiary hearings and oral arguments before the Georgia Supreme Court and Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. We seek highly-motivated, public-interest-oriented law students with a passion for indigent defense and human rights to be our summer interns. Previous experience working with prisoners or individuals with mental health issues is a plus, as is professional experience prior to law school. The candidates we hire must have excellent legal writing and research skills, be at ease around all types of people, and ready for any task.

Ready to apply? Find the full post on PSJD.

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – November 11, 2016

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

Happy Veteran’s Day! We honor those who have served our nation in war and peace.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Montana’s public defender’s office hires 62 attorneys;
  • New York Legal Assistance Group’s pro se clinic opens in Southern District of New York;
  • Grant funds to help crime victims in Kentucky more than doubling;
  • Judge dismisses suit against Missouri governor over funding public defenders;
  • Connecticut public defenders join a union;
  • Judge dismisses one of two suits against Utah indigent defense system;
  • University of New Mexico School of Law launches new Natural Resources and Environmental Law Clinic;
  • Legal Services Corporation announces Technology Initiative Grants;
  • Jones Day and ABA to launch VetLex;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

November 2, 2016 – “To accommodate a budget shortfall of $3.5 million, the State Office of the Public Defender will no longer be contracting cases with local attorneys. Instead, the office will hire a total of 62 attorneys in offices across the state to handle cases previously assigned to outside counsel, OPD Chief Administrator Scott Cruse said Monday. This plan was projected to save the office $2.2 million in fiscal year 2017, according to the OPD’s mitigation plan. On Wednesday, Interim Director of the Billings’ office Doug Day said the office would no longer contract out cases to local lawyers.” “The new attorneys will handle certain cases that were previously assigned to local attorneys because of conflicts of interest or high caseloads. Day says the public defender typically paid contracted attorneys about $62 per hour. The new attorneys will be part-time and will be paid between $37 and $48 hourly. Some contract attorneys worried they may not be able to support their practices without the public defender’s cases. But Public Defender Commission member Mark Parker says the move is the best way to reduce costs while upholding the office’s mission.” (Billings Gazette)(Great Falls Tribune)

November 3, 2016 – “Pro se litigants and the docket of the Southern District will get a boost with the launch of a new clinic in Lower Manhattan that will provide free advice to litigants who can’t afford a lawyer. ‘We are very likely to see a significant impact on our pro se docket,’ Southern District Chief Judge Colleen McMahon said at a ribbon cutting ceremony Thursday. ‘So it’s not only good for the litigants, but good for the courts.’ The new clinic is staffed by the nonprofit New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG) and is run by Robyn Tarnofsky, a former litigation partner at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.” “NYLAG’s own legal clinic is used to working in conjunction with the district’s Pro Se Intake Unit and its Office of Pro Se Litigation, but the pro se clinic will operate independently from the court. The district is providing office space for the clinic on the ground floor of the Thurgood Marshall U.S. Courthouse, including a conference room, a PACER terminal, a computer for the client and office space for Tarnofsky, a second attorney from NYLAG and a paralegal. That staff will be supplemented by a pool of volunteer law firm associates “who are looking to get some client contact, which can be difficult at large firms,” Tarnofsky said in an interview.” (New York Law Journal)(subscription required)

November 4, 2016 – “Gov. Matt Bevin and Kentucky Justice Secretary John Tilley announced Thursday that grant money to help victims of violent crime is more than doubling this year – all thanks to an aggressive effort to capture federal funding and pair grants with Kentucky organizations. In total, the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet is awarding more than $14 million in grants to programs that aid crime victims, including rape crisis centers, domestic violence shelters and child advocacy centers. That’s a 127 percent increase over the $6.2 million given out last year.” (Kentucky New Era)

November 4, 2016 – “A judge tossed out the state public defender agency’s lawsuit over Gov. Jay Nixon’s budgeting authority. The lawsuit challenged the governor’s decision to withhold millions of dollars in funds from the agency that defends poor people. A Cole County judge, in a ruling made public on Friday, sided with Nixon in the lawsuit that the Missouri State Public Defender system and the state’s Public Defender Commission filed in July. The plaintiffs alleged Nixon cut their budget while no general revenue was restricted from Nixon’s own budget. The system’s director, Michael Barrett, called the move political. In August, Barrett appointed Nixon, the state’s former attorney general, to defend one of his agency’s clients in protest of the budget cut. A judge later blocked that move.” (KY3)

November 7, 2016 – “Nearly 200 attorneys who work for the Judicial Branch’s division of Public Defender Services voted to join Council 4 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). Rank-and-file public defenders voted 100-18 in favor of unionization and the supervisors’ group voted 15-3. The election took place via mail between Oct. 14 and Oct. 28. ‘We joined Council 4 to strengthen our voice on the job and to protect the vital services we provide to citizens in need of legal representation,’ Assistant Public Defender Jeffrey LaPierre said. ‘Unionizing is our path to a more secure and stable future, for ourselves and our clients.'” (CT News Junkie)

November 8, 2016 – “A federal judge has tossed a proposed class-action lawsuit challenging Washington County’s public defender system. The lawsuit — filed in January against the state of Utah, Washington County and several public officials — claimed the county’s current public defender system is broken, and that the attorneys who handle those contracts are overworked, underpaid and are not given the proper support to defend their clients. The two named plaintiffs, William Cox and Edward Paulus, are two Washington County men who have been assigned public defenders for their pending criminal cases. But in an order dismissing the case filed on Monday, U.S. District Judge Dee Benson ruled that because the plaintiffs’ criminal cases are not resolved, they cannot yet claim they have been harmed or that they have had ineffective counsel. The judge wrote that their claims were ‘sweeping, yet unsupported.'” “The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah filed its own lawsuit against the state in June, asking that a judge find that the current system is not constitutional. The ACLU argues in its lawsuit that the system is inadequate, underfunded and unfair to Utahns accused of crimes who rely on public defenders. That lawsuit is still pending in federal court as the plaintiffs seek class-action status.” (The Salt Lake Tribune)

November 9, 2016 – “The University of New Mexico (UNM) School of Law will open a new Natural Resources and Environmental Law Clinic (NREL) in January 2017. NREL joins the UNM Law School’s 40 year history of providing legal services to New Mexico’s communities.  It will be the fifth section of the UNM Law School’s mandatory Clinic Program, in which law students represent actual clients with supervision by faculty. NREL will provide a wide variety of legal services to underrepresented individuals, community groups, nonprofit organizations, and Indian tribes to protect, preserve, and use lands and natural resources, and improve public health and the environment of communities. The clinic provides an opportunity for law students to work on a mix of litigation, drafting laws and policy, and advising clients.  Clinic students may appear before all levels of tribal, state and federal courts, administrative agencies and the legislature.” (UNM News)

November 9, 2016 – “The Legal Services Corporation (LSC) today announced 34 Technology Initiative Grants (TIG) to 27 legal services organizations in 20 states and one territory. TIG funding supports a variety of initiatives, from building more efficient intake systems for clients seeking legal services to creating automated forms to support legal aid staff, pro bono attorneys, and self-represented litigants. The program was established in 2000. Since that time, LSC has made more than 600 grants totaling more than $57 million to civil legal aid organizations across the country.” See the full list of grantees here. (LSC)

November 10, 2016 – “Jones Day law firm has joined forces with the American Bar Association to launch a national veterans assistance program called VetLex, to match U.S. veterans and military families who need legal help with veteran service organizations and attorneys willing to offer their expertise pro bono. VetLex (VetLex.org), a combination of the words ‘veteran’ and the Latin word for ‘law,’ will be the first national network of its kind devoted to providing veterans with referrals to social service providers and pro bono or ‘low bono’ (low-cost) lawyers qualified and willing to provide those services. The program will start in a handful of pilot cities — including Cleveland — in the spring of 2017, before expanding nationally.” The initial target of the program is low-income veterans. (cleveland.com)

 

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

Janet Reno, who rose from a rustic life on the edge of the Everglades to become attorney general of the United States — the first woman to hold the job — and whose eight years in that office placed her in the middle of some of the most divisive episodes of the Clinton presidency, died on Monday at her home in Miami-Dade County, Fla. She was 78. Her sister, Margaret Hurchalla, said the cause was complications of Parkinson’s disease, which was diagnosed in November 1995.  Click on the link to read more about her amazing life and career. (The New York Times)

Music Bonus!  A special video in honor of Veteran’s Day.

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Job’o’th’Week (Fellowship Edition)

Help Wanted

Photo: Brenda Gottesman – CC License

Elder Law Fellow.

The Organziation:

For many years, Columbia Legal Services has represented some of the most marginalized people in our community. We use every legal tool available on their behalf. Our role to serve people and use advocacy that might otherwise not be available makes our work an integral part of the Washington Alliance for Equal Justice. As a proud member of the Alliance, our vision of justice is when people have the necessary tools and opportunity to achieve social and economic justice, a more equitable and inclusive society is possible. Through large-scale litigation, policy reform, and innovative partnerships, our lawyers and staff work in furtherance of our mission. The ideal candidate for any position at Columbia Legal Services will be able to articulate their role in the achievement of that vision.

The Position:

Columbia Legal Services seeks a one-year Elder Law Fellow to support its practice on behalf of low-income clients and to advance systemic reform. Areas of practice on behalf of seniors will include public benefits, guardianship, housing, and access to medical or mental health services. A willingness and ability to learn these areas is critical to success.

Interested in this fellowship? Find the full post on PSJD.

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