Access to Justice Headlines – February 10, 2014

Happy Monday, ATJ enthusiasts!  It’s been delightful to see so many of you at the ABA Midyear Conference here in Chicago.  Chicago.  February.  Coldest winter in three decades.  What’s not to love?

Is there any Spring down there?  (Credit: NBC Chicago)

Is there any Spring down there? (Credit: NBC Chicago)

Before the ATJ news, one item for your consideration:

  • Several years after the Great Recession, state governments confront budget surpluses: “In a year when three dozen governors are up for election, unexpectedly robust revenues from taxes and other sources are filling most state coffers, creating surpluses not seen in years and prompting statehouse battles over what to do with the money.  After so many years of sluggish revenues, layoffs and draconian service cuts, governors and legislators are eager to use the newfound money to cut taxes, restore spending or, in some cases, pay down debts or replenish rainy-day funds for future recessions. But though revenues are improving, lawmakers are likely to find that there is not enough to pay for everything they want to do, experts say.” (New York Times)

The ATJ news in very, very short:

  • the need to boost legal aid funding in New Mexico
  • LSC announces FY 2014 grant allocations
  • What an “ATJ hackathon” is and why you should pay attention
  • Georgia high court’s new Chief Justice highlights civil justice gap
  • ATJ solutions in Canada may begin with self-help support
  • Ohio’s first law-practice incubator
  • NY state bar continues its opposition to pro bono  practice rule changes
  • NC’s ATJ Commission releases report on legal aid’s economic benefits
  • Immigrant Justice Corps launching in NYC with $1.3m foundation gift
  • TX ATJ Foundation hits the big 3-0
  • NC legal aid groups are part of successful Medicaid expansion push
  • News from the ABA’s Legal Access Job Corps
  • In MA, big push from bar, court, and legal aid to boost the latter’s state appropriation
  • Speaking of MA, highlighting the return on investment in civil legal aid
  • PA Bar’s Board of Governors endorses the creation of an ATJ Commission
  • AZ practice rule change will permit some CLE credit for pro bono service
  • MUSIC!

The summaries:

  • 2.8.14 – from an Albuquerque Journal op-ed: “This [resource shortage hitting legal aid in New Mexico] has also seriously impaired fundamental values of our democracy. A recent review provided by New Mexico Legal Aid shows that the funds available to New Mexico’s legal aid organizations from all sources, federal, state and private combined, have decreased 27.3 percent since 2009. In 2013, this resulted in an estimated 10,000 New Mexicans either being turned away or being deprived of needed more complete relief from legal aid services.”
  • 2.7.14 -the Legal Services Corporation announced its FY 2014 grantee allocation amounts.  As was well covered in January, the recent federal budget agreement offered a 7% boost to LSC’s overall Congressional appropriation.  For great details and breakdowns of the current funding picture and some historical context on LSC funding, see this page on LSC’s site.
  • 2.5.14 – The ABA Journal and Suffolk University Law School are planning…a “hackathon” in conjunction with the ABA Annual Meeting this Aug. 7-12 in Boston [which seems likely to be focused on ATJ issues]….  Lawyers and law students will work alongside developers and graphic designers in teams. Each team will work to plan and develop a Web application or mobile app over the course of the hackathon.  [T]he participants and our panel of experts will rate each of the teams’ work, and a winning team will be chosen….  If you have a problem you think we should tackle, or a data set that we can work with, please take this quick survey here and share your ideas.   (ABA Journal)
  • 2.5.14 -”The chief justice of Georgia’s Supreme Court says it remains too difficult for low-income people to access the courts. ‘Georgia’s judicial system is sound and strong for those who can afford a lawyer,’ said Chief Justice Hugh Thompson. ‘Too many Georgians can’t afford legal representation and too many go without civil legal services’.”  (Story from WABE radio)
  • 2.5.14 – as access-to-justice stakeholders in Canada, with the Supreme Court’s engagement, explore broadly-based solutions to expand ATJ, offering more support to self-represented litigants is atop the list.  And Supreme Court Justice Thomas Cromwell notes the importance of being able to untangle the intertwined legal and non-legal problems which many people face as s first step towards addressing those problems.  (Toronto Star.)
  • 2.4.14 – the Cleveland Marshall College of Law is launching Ohio’s first postgrad practice incubator: “Incoming occupants will be provided with low-cost resources, including office space, office amenities and business services.  Through a partnership with the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association, reduced-cost health and liability insurance and vendor discounts will also be available to the practitioners.  Beyond the monetary advantages, occupants will benefit from substantial guidance in the practical management of their firms and the handling of their cases….  The incubator will also have a designated coordinator who will be available as a resource, and will hold regular workshops to discuss management and related matters.”  (Here’s the full announcement.)
  • 2.3.14 – “The New York State Bar Association will retain private counsel to explore whether the state’s requirement that all lawyers disclose the hours and money they contribute to pro bono can be undone through legislation or litigation.  On a day when opposition to the mandatory reporting rule was evident during an extended discussion by the state bar’s House of Delegates, President David Schraver said Friday his group would also cooperate with local bar associations to coordinate anti-disclosure efforts and encourage lawyers to write to Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman opposing the rule.” (The Chief has delayed implementation of the public disclosure.)  It’s worth reading this New York Law Journal report because NYSBA also is debating whether the state’s pro bono rule should increase the aspirational goal of 20 annual pro bono hour per lawyer to 50.
  • February, 2014 – great stuff from NC’s Equal ATJ Commission (and friends): “A report from the UNC Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity and the NC Equal Access to Justice Commission finds the work of legal services providers across the state generated $48,775,276 in economic impact in 2012.  For more information, read the full report and executive summary.”
  • February, 2014 – the ABA’s Legal Access Job Corps launches a nifty video, “Be the Change,” to highlight not just the need, but the potential in addressing the legal aid job market’s [edited] softness by empowering law students and grads to connect with under-served client communities.
  • 1.30.14 – In NYC, the newly launching Immigrant Justice Corps will benefit from a $1.3m Robin Hood Foundation gift, which will help IJC hire 25 fellows to provide free  representation to people who are poor and facing immigration/deportation proceedings.  (New York Law Journal.)  More about IJC, from their website: “The IJC recruits talented lawyers and college graduates from around the country and partners them with New York City’s leading non-profit legal services providers and community-based organizations to offer a broad range of immigration assistance including naturalization, deportation defense, and affirmative applications for asylum seekers, juveniles, and victims of crime, domestic violence or human trafficking.”
  • 1.30.14 – big congrats to the Texas Access to Justice Foundation, which turned 30.  It will soon see its car insurance payments go down and will start thinking of a crazy Saturday night as involving more sushi and less sake.
  • 1.28.14 – in North Carolina, a coalition of nonprofits, including the legal aid community has resulted in an astounding sign-up number for the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion.  (Op-ed from the News & Observer.)  My friends at the NC Equal Access to Justice Commission note that Pisgah Legal Services, Legal Aid of NC, Legal Services of the Southern Piedmont, and Disability Rights NC all have enrollment projects.
  • Lots of coverage around efforts to boost Massachusetts’ funding of the state’s legal aid system, and the need for that funding.  The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC) has been coordinating much of the effort, which takes physical form in the “Walk to the Hill” march.
  • 1.27.14 – speaking of Massachusetts, a piece from Mass. Legal Assistance Corporation ED Lonnie Powers on the economic benefits of a healthy legal aid infrastructure:  “Securing equal justice for our most vulnerable residents not only helps them remain stable and independent, it also substantially benefits the state financially in at least two significant ways. First, it saves the state millions in avoided benefits and social services….  Second, legal aid advocacy also brings in significant federal revenue.” The Huffington Post  piece offers data and examples of this return on investment.
  • January, 2014 – “[D]uring the 2014 Midyear Meeting, the Pennsylvania Bar Association Board of Governors unanimously approved the resolution supporting the establishment of a Pennsylvania Access to Justice Commission. The resolution next goes to the PBA House of Delegates for review and final approval in May 2014. Read the resolution and background material.”  (Here’s the announcement, atop this page.)
  • January, 2014 – a practice rule change in Arizona will permit attorneys to accrue some CLE credit for performing pro bono work.  (Short version: one hour of CLE per 5 hours of pro bono service.)  Here’s an Arizona Attorney article, and here’s the amended practice rule.

MUSIC!  It’s cold everywhere except California.  So let’s go westward for “California Soul” from Marlena Shaw, which is about as good as R&B gets.  And for the sonically adventurous, here’s a kick-arse remix with crisper vocals and some hip-hop flavor, courtesy of Diplo.

Have a great week.

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