Access to Justice Headlines – March 10, 2014

"Springtime" by Charles Conder

“Springtime” by Charles Conder

Happy Monday, ATJ Enthusiasts.  I hope that you, too, are in one of the places experiencing sudden, unseasonably warm  temperatures.  It won’t last here in Chicago but I’ll take the springtime tease.  Before the ATJ news, one item for your consideration:

  • Much is made of the burden that the Millenial Generation shoulders, entering into a post-Great Recession economy and being expected to support healthcare and other social costs that will grow as Boomers move out of the work force.  Pew’s new “Millenials in Adulthood” report provides some fascinating insight into demographic and other characteristics of Millenials between the ages of 18-33.  Study and work hard, young Millenials.  I need your Social Security pay-ins.

The ATJ news in very short:

  • Oregon bill to fund legal aid with unclaimed class-action residuals fails
  • two from Canada:
    • Legal Aid should share offices with other social services providers
    • Canadian government attorneys get more leeway to do pro bono work
  • new fellowships allow legal aid leaders to learn about intersection of healthcare and law
  • LSC and Obama Administration send legal aid budget proposals to Congress
  • state funding of legal aid providers announced in IL
  • U.N. to scrutinize U.S. civil justice gap
  • March 4 was ATJ Day in Maine
  • new law school clinic provides student support to self-represented litigants
  • LSC TIG grant funding available (March 17 deadline)
  • the “Justice Index” is launched
  • WI high court considers judicial code change to permit better communication with self-represented parties
  • a big conference on law-practice incubator programs (NY, April 3-4)
  • Mass. high court considering proposal to add ATJ as a topic on state bar exam
  • a “pro bono gap” in VA
  • new book explores practice models to serve modest-means client communities
  • MUSIC!

The summaries:

  • 3.6.13 – in Oregon the state Senate took up, and ultimately rejected, a bill that would have directed unclaimed class-action award funds to supporting civil legal aid.  In the wake of what was a contentious political battle, the Oregon State Bar president wrote a very nice op-ed, noting that the question of legal aid’s importance was not what fueled the political fires, and calling “for Oregon to seize the moment and seriously continue the funding dialogue by further examining and appreciating the vital nature of legal aid’s work….  The current system meets only 15 percent of the need for civil legal services for Oregon’s poor. This is both unjust and foolish on a policy level.”  (Full op-ed in The Oregonian.)
  • 3.5.14 – in Canada, contemplating the “co-location” of legal aid offices with other social services providers: “Co-locating community-based services provides opportunities for enhanced communication between service providers and creates a space in which families and individuals are able to efficiently attend to a number of their concerns, from getting a flu vaccine to seeking advice about debt repayment to attending parenting classes.”  (Article from Slaw magazine.)
  • 3.5.14 – Canadian Lawyer reports that some Canadian government attorneys are getting more leeway to take on pro bono cases: “Three year-long pilot schemes allowing Department of Justice lawyers to volunteer at legal clinics in British Columbia, Alberta, and Ontario have received official approval….  Under the new policy, lawyers will be [covered by malpractice insurance] to work at…three legal clinics…on specific areas of law screened by the government to minimize conflicts.”   (For a look at how government lawyers in the US approach pro bono work, here’s the ABA’s resource page.)
  • 3.5.14 – “[T]he National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services (NCMLP) and the National Legal Aid and Defender Association (NLADA) announced a new fellowship today designed to build healthcare expertise in the legal aid community.  Twenty-four senior level staff from legal aid agencies in 21 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico were selected as inaugural Fellows.”  (Here’s the full announcement and a list of the first fellows in the program, which is funded by the Public Welfare Foundation.)
  • 3.4.14 – the Legal Services Corporation and the Obama Administration send budget requests to Congress for LSC’s FY2015 appropriation.  The LSC media release.  The key stats:
    • LSC’s FY2015 appropriation request: $486 million
    • Obama Administration FY2015 appropriation request for LSC: $430 million (plus perhaps additional funding from newly proposed “Opportunity, Growth, and Security” initiative funding)
    • LSC’s current (FY2014) appropriation: $365 million
    • Context: “If funding had kept pace with inflation when compared to its 1995 appropriation of $400 million, LSC’s funding this year would be more than $600 million.”
  • 3.4.14 – “The Illinois Equal Justice Foundation (IEJF) announced awards today of over $1.3 million in grants to 13 not-for-profit organizations providing legal representation, information, and advice to Illinoisans in legal crisis. The grants range in scope from funding for web-based legal information resources and telephone advice hotlines to mediation and full-scale litigation….  State funding for civil legal aid is appropriated through the Illinois Equal Justice Act and passed through the budget of the Attorney General.”  (Full media release.)
  • 3.3.14 – United Nations scrutiny of the U.S.’s civil justice gap:  “The [U.S.] will be reviewed on March 13 and 14 for how it is meeting its commitments under [the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights]. Concerned with the civil justice gap in the United States, the U.N. … has put squarely on the agenda the question of what steps this country has taken to improve legal representation in civil proceedings for litigants belonging to racial, ethnic and national minorities, and for victims of domestic violence.” (Op-ed from the National Law Journal.)
  • 3.4.14 – March 4 marked “Access to Justice Day” in Maine.  The Justice Action Group (JAG), which ably functions as Maine’s ATJ Commission, led activities designed to boost support for legal aid within the state legislature.  JAG released “The State of Access to Justice in Maine,” a concise report offering a view of what the justice gap looks like and why it exists.  JAG put together a short manual to help its ATJ Day volunteers explain legal aid’s importance to legislators.  And Maine Supreme Court Justice Andrew Mead, a JAG member, wrote this op-ed on the importance of addressing the justice gap.
  • 2.27.14 – a University of Buffalo Law school practicum course is focused solely on its students providing support to self-represented litigants.  (U. Buffalo Reporter)
  • February 2014 – the Legal Services Corporation Technology Initiative Grant  (TIG) Program’s Request for Letters of Intent to Apply for 2014 Grant Funding has been issued.  Deadline: March 17, 2014, 11:59pm EDT.
  • 2.24.14 – meet the Justice Index!  My friends at the National Center for Access to Justice at Cardozo Law (NCAJ) unveiled the “Justice Index” – an online tool which offers a data-driven breakdown of how individual states measure up in four civil access to justice categories: number of legal aid lawyers, support of self-represented litigants, support of litigants with limited English proficiency, and support of parties with disabilities.  Here’s a media release and here’s National Law Journal coverage.
  • 2.24.14 – this Wisconsin Law Journal article is PW-protected, but the Wisconsin Supreme Court held a hearing pursuant to its consideration of a petition by the state’s ATJ Commission to amend the judicial code with guidance on how judges may interact with self-represented litigants.  Here’s the ATJ Commission’s petition with a lot of supporting documents.
  • February 2014 – a conference on postgraduate law practice incubators on April 3rd and 4th, hosted by incubator guru Fred Rooney of the Touro Law International Justice Center for Post-Graduate Education.  Details and registration info.
  • February, 2014 – the Massachusetts ATJ Commission has proposed that “Access to Justice” be added as a topic to the state’s bar exam.  The Supreme Judicial Court is now considering the proposal and is accepting public comment until March 24.
  • February, 2014 – an insightful, yet sobering, look at the amount of pro bono done in Virginia, and how much more of an impact it could be having in narrowing the state’s justice gap.  An analysis of available data suggests that “less than nine per cent of Virginia’s active lawyers rendered any pro bono legal services through an organized pro bono program, whether sponsored by a legal aid society or another organization [over a recent one-year period].”  The article, “Is there a Pro Bono Gap in Virginia?”, is running in the current edition of the Virginia Lawyer.
  • February, 2014 – interested in serving modest-means client communities?  My colleague Will Hornsby passed along word that the ABA book Reinventing the Practice of Law: Emerging Models to Enhance Affordable Legal Services has been published.

MUSIC!  Last week a TV show reminded me of one of my favorite songs from the late great Townes Van Zandt, which song is “Lungs.”  Not exactly in keeping with the spirit of warm-weather enthusiasm, but gorgeous in its own haunting way.

Have a great week.

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One thought on “Access to Justice Headlines – March 10, 2014

  1. Pingback: Great News Out of Oklahoma, Access to Justice Roundup | In Forma Pauperis

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