Access to Justice Headlines – November 18, 2013

Happy Monday, ATJ Enthusiasts!  I hope you enjoyed the weekend.  I did, but my thoughts this morning are with those in Illinois who were affected by a powerful storm system which brought high winds and some tornado activity.  Well, there is a great deal of news to cover today so I’ll spare you my normal, introductory ruminations and get right into it.  So, here we go….

The news in very, very short:

  • Q&A with Brennan Center’s DC Director
  • ATJ & Civil Gideon happenings in PA
  • Ditto, MD (new self-help videos & a Civil Gideon Task Force)
  • the national civil legal aid “communications hub” rolls out
  • ABA’s Dialogue magazine includes IOLTA and lawyer-referral news, and more
  • Justice Entrepreneurs Project, a new incubator, launches here in Chicago
  • the latest on LSC’s data initiative
  • NYC program to provide counsel to all facing deportation proceedings rolls out
  • Boost in attorney registration fees will aid Missouri legal aid providers
  • The importance of civil legal aid in supporting Superstorm Sandy victims
  • Legal aid provider’s role in helping people navigate new healthcare options
  • A remembrance of longtime Legal Aid of Western Michigan director, Michael Chielens
  • Q&A with Harvard clinician and longtime legal aid lawyer Jeanne Charn
  • Proposal to generate more IOLTA revenues for legal aid hits temporary hurdle in GA
  • LSC announces new Technology Initiative Grants (TIG) for 33 projects nationwide
  • NY’s rocky ride toward mandatory pro bono reporting
  • Pro bono and public interest awards from Washington DC’s public interest bar association
  • Back to NY: corporate counsel support measures to make it easier for them to do pro bono
  • ABA piece on how local and state bars are pro bono innovators
  • Pro bono “emeritus” program rolled out earlier this year in the Hawkeye State
  • The successes of the Service to Soldiers Legal Assistance Referral Program at Cooley Law School
  • Ditto, Pitt Law School’s Elder Law Clinic
  • Law deans in DC move to allow more students to do clinical work
  • Arguments for and against a pre-admission pro bono requirement in Maryland
  • MUSIC all the way from Canada!

The summaries:

Access to Justice Commission News & Related Developments

  • 11.7.13 – our latest ATJ Newsmaker Q&A features Nicole Austin-Hillery, Director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s DC office.  Nicole works at the intersection of ATJ and civil rights work.  So we asked a bit about that, and about her favorite civil rights reading.  We also got a great DC restaurant recommendation from Nicole, and yours truly offered one to boot.

Legal Aid Funding & Service Delivery

  • 11.15.13 – those rascals down the street at the Chicago Bar Foundation have launched an incubator program.  From Crain’s Chicago Business: “A privately supported legal-industry incubator designed to link underemployed young lawyers with ‘modest means’ clients who don’t qualify for free legal services was unveiled today….  Participating lawyers in the Justice Entrepreneurs Project, whose numbers will grow to 30 next spring, spend the first six months of an 18-month program working through local legal aid organizations to provide free services while developing their own paying clientele. They’re getting stipends of about $1,000 a month from local law schools and, after six months, will pay nominal rent for incubator space.”  This project has been a long time in the planning, so big congrats to my CBF friends.
  • 11.12.13 – at the recent Nat’l. Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA) Annual Conference, Legal Services Corporation President Jim Sandman led a very popular program called “Using Data to Improve the Delivery of Legal Services.”  The reason I know the program was popular is because it took place at the same time as a program I was part of, and I watched as dozens of people walked past my program’s room to attend the LSC session.  NO BITTERNESS, THOUGH.  Anyway, the LSC program offered an update on a large-scale initiative to make data gathering and analysis more useful tools in how legal aid program assess client needs, deliver services, and evaluate the effect of service-delivery.  LSC has made available the slideshow from that program.  (This webpage renders better in Firefox than in Internet Explorer, for me.)
  • 11.8.13 – “New York City through the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP) is launching the nation’s first program that provides legal services for detained immigrants facing deportation.  The…program is funded through the NYC council and is available for NYC immigrants who cannot afford legal counsel and are facing deportation.  NYC is committing an initial investment of $500,000 for the program which is expected to help nearly 200 immigrants out of 900 detained indigent immigrants in NYC annually….  The one-year pilot program will be administered by the Vera Institute of Justice; they will oversee the program, coordinate legal services and analyze data emerging from the pilot. The program commenced on November 6, 2013.” (Story from the Hispanically Speaking News site.)
  • 11.8.13 – the “[Missouri Supreme Court] said Friday that it had approved an additional $30 annual fee to be paid by lawyers starting in 2014. The fee is expected to generate at least $750,000 [which will fund the state’s civil legal aid providers.]” (Story from the Associated Press.)
  • 11.8.13 – “Many people who suffered the wrath of Superstorm Sandy have spent the last year trying to make sense of a bewildering array of aid programs, fighting with their insurance companies, and scrambling to keep up with mortgage payments even as they make costly repairs.  Now the New York Legal Assistance Group, an organization that has worked hand-in-hand with storm victims to try to make the arduous road to recovery a little easier, is doing all it can to get charities, grantmakers, and government to think about legal aid almost in the same way it thinks about the Red Cross: an essential nonprofit service that starts work right after a disaster strikes.” (This story, which ran originally in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, was picked up by the Christian Science Monitor.)
  • 11.7.13 – I imagine this is happening elsewhere, but here’s an example of a legal aid provider – Legal Aid of North Carolina – contracting with a county government to help people navigate the new healthcare marketplace.  If LANC has people who can write code and…oh, I don’t know…manage a large-scale online commercial database, that may be helpful too.  (Story from the Jacksonville Daily News.)
  • 11.7.13 – Michael Chielens, the longtime Legal Aid of Western Michigan executive director who passed away in early November, is remembered here on the MLive news website.
  • 11.7.13 – this Harvard Law Record Q&A with Jeanne Charn of the school’s Delivery of Legal Services Clinic runs from her work during legal aid’s early days to her critique of the Civil Gideon movement.
  • 11.5.13 – “An already agitated State Bar of Georgia Board of Governors halted a proposal Saturday requiring lawyers to establish client trust accounts at banks that agree to offer competitive interest rates….  [B]ut supporters of the measure [to raise funds for civil legal aid providers] say that no one appeared to oppose the requirement in acrimony.  ‘For most people I talked to, it was a question of timing,’ said State Bar Secretary Rita Sheffey, who is vice chair of the newly formed Civil Legal Services Task Force, which made the proposal. ‘Most said they would likely fully support it, but they just got a copy of the proposal on Thursday.’  Bar President [Charles Ruffin], who appointed the task force this fall to find ways to raise funding for [legal aid] agencies, said the proposal will come back before the board during its mid-year meeting in January. If authorized, it would go to the state Supreme Court for final approval.  (Article from the Daily Report.)
  • 11.4.13 – from a media release: “The Legal Services Corporation (LSC) today released a list of 33 projects nationwide that will receive Technology Initiative Grants (TIG) funding in 2013.  The grants will support a variety of initiatives, including “legal triage” tools to guide self-represented individuals through complex legal procedures, online support for pro bono attorneys, and improved access to legal assistance for people in remote areas.”

Pro Bono

  • 11.8.13 – a Brooklyn Eagle article looks at how New York’s move toward mandatory pro bono reporting – and the future possibility of public disclosure of those reports – has rankled some attorneys in the private bar.  (On a related note this Nov. 5 Law360.com piece, to which I don’t’ have access beyond an abstract, notes that “A former New York bar president…raised the threat of a lawsuit against state court administrators and the state’s top judge over changes to pro bono rules.”)
  • 11.8.13 – the Washington Council of Lawyers, which is DC’s voluntary public interest bar association, has announced its annual pro bono/public interest awards.  The announcement shows up in ATJ Headlines because I want to highlight that the Council’s “Government Pro Bono Award” recognizes a public sector lawyer who goes out of her way to render pro bono service.  So much pro bono recognition energy is directed at lawyers in private practice.  All well and good, but I love efforts to praise government pro bono champions, who can be overlooked because they otherwise work in relatively insular, regulatory practices.  So, big props to the US DOJ’s Jay Owen, whose day job is in antitrust practice.  I’m on the Council’s board, and in meeting past award winners I’ve been astonished at how much pro bono work government lawyers do for low-income clients.
  • 11.5.13 – “In-house counsel groups and nearly 40 chief legal officers from corporate law departments are endorsing a proposed rule that would allow in-house counsel who are not licensed in New York to represent pro bono clients.  Under the proposed rule, registered in-house counsel could appear before any tribunal or court in the state, without the need to seek pro hac vice admission, associate with a legal services provider or work under the supervision of a New York-licensed attorney. They would remain prohibited from making appearances other than in pro bono matters.  The Association of Corporate Counsel, the ACC’s three chapters in the state and 38 New York chief legal officers wrote a combined letter in support of the rule, which was proposed by the Advisory Committee on Pro Bono Service by In-House Counsel.” (Article from the New York Law Journal.)
  • November, 2013 – here’s a piece from the ABA’s Bar Leader magazine on how local and state bar programs promote innovation and an increasingly diverse array of programmatic approaches to help attorneys provide pro bono service to low-income clients.
  • Earlier this year a new pro bono “emeritus” program rolled out in the Hawkeye State: “the Iowa Supreme Court adopted rules to establish an emeritus attorney license status.  The emeritus rule became effective on March 1, 2013.  The emeritus license is available to lawyers working with an approved legal aid organization on a pro bono basis.  Questions and answers about emeritus status in Iowa are posted on Iowa Legal Aid’s website.

Law School Pro Bono/Public Service

  • 11.15.13 – a look at Cooley Law School’s “Service to Soldiers Legal Assistance Referral Program”, which has grown notably in scale and scope: “Initially, the program worked…with soldiers from a Marine reserve unit in Michigan, but it quickly expanded as more…requests for assistance came from the Michigan National Guard.”  The program has referred over 600 cases and has more than 200 attorneys on its volunteer roles.  “Many Cooley Law students volunteer their time with the program. The program also is connected with JAG officers, although service members do not need to be referred by a JAG officer to receive assistance….  The Michigan National Guard estimated the program’s value so far at $2.8 million for the services performed….  In addition to the assistance the program provides service members, it has also published, in partnership with the Michigan State Bar Foundation, the Michigan Judges Guide to the Service Members Civil Relief Act, and will be publishing the Michigan Judges Guide to Military Family Law Matters.”  (Story from the Grand Rapids Business Journal.)
  • 11.11.13 – the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette looks at Pitt Law School’s elder clinic, which has just benefited from a $1 million gift: “It’s no secret that Allegheny County has one of the oldest populations in the country. According to 2012 census figures, 16 percent of the county’s residents are over 65.  The clinical education program at Pitt fits not only demographically, but also aligns with the school’s community service mission, the law school’s dean, William Carter, said.  A recent $1 million anonymous gift will allow the clinic to not only help elderly residents, but also give law students entering a historically difficult job market needed expertise, he said.  ‘Having those additional resources will allow us to expand our programming,’ Mr. Carter said…. Pitt’s clinic is able to handle only between 80 and 100 low-income elderly clients each year, since it has 16 to 20 students each year….”
  • 11.11.13 – “[T]he District of Columbia’s six law schools have joined forces to push for the first major overhaul of rules governing student practice in D.C. in decades.  Law school[s]…argue that existing rules are outdated and cumbersome. The proposed changes are aimed at streamlining how students are certified to work in clinical programs and expanding the type of work covered under the rules, from appearing in court…to advising nonprofits and small businesses on tax law and contracts….  Chief Judge Eric Washington of the D.C. Court of Appeals said the court, which oversees the local rules of practice, supports updating the rules but is open to feedback from the bar and the public. The court published the proposed changes in late October and is accepting comments through the end of December.” The potential pushback could come from attorneys whose fee-paying practices include client communities that could be served by clinicals.  (Story from the National Law Journal.)
  • 11.7.13 – in a Baltimore Sun op-ed, a University of Baltimore School of Law administrator (and former prosecutor) argues for instituting a pro bono requirement as a precondition to getting a Maryland law license, a la New York’s “50-hour Rule”.

MUSIC!  This week, lords and ladies, let’s travel northward to the great Canadian province of Ontario.  Sarah Harmer is a Canuck chanteuse whose work I’ve admired since hearing it on Philadelphia’s WXPN way back in 2000.  I was a 1L that Fall, and I drove a fancy 1991 Honda Civic with a fancy tape deck.  The tape deck was itself quite selective about what it allowed me to play.  It got to a point where the only accepted tapes were a copy of Husker Du’s punk gem “New Day Rising,” and one of Sarah Harmer’s rootsier “You Were Here.”  Coulda been worse.  Anyhow from the Harmer album here’s the beautiful “Lodestar,” which starts off delicately and builds to a powerful finish.

Have a great week.

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