Archive for News and Developments

Immigrant Advocacy Groups Win Small Victory for the Undocumented in Alabama and Georgia

by: Ashley Matthews

On the heels of a California Assembly resolution in favor of granting a law license to an undocumented immigrant who was brought to America as a child, a federal appeals court has blocked several provisions of Alabama and Georgia’s controversial immigration laws. The American Civil Liberties Union, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the National Immigration Law Center all supported the decision. However, police in both states are still allowed to check the citizenship of criminal suspects who they suspect are undocumented immigrants. As reported by CNN:

The U.S. Supreme Court waded into this debate in June, when it ruled by a 5-3 vote to uphold the authority of the federal government to set immigration policies and laws while weighing in on legislation in Arizona that helped kickstart the debate.

The court, however, did allow one of the most controversial provisions of that state’s law to stand: letting local and state police check a person’s immigration status while enforcing other laws.

The rulings Monday resembled that high court ruling in many respects, with the appeals court judges’ Alabama decision even quoting U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority ruling on the Arizona.

“Although (illegal immigration) is a problem that gives rise to unique issues in our nation, we must be mindful that individual states ‘may not pursue policies that undermine federal law,'” the three judges said.

One provision the court assessing the two state’s laws did let stand, as the Supreme Court had in the Arizona case, is to allow law enforcement to check the immigration status of those suspected of a crime.

This was one of only two provisions in the Georgia legislation, known as HB 87, that the federal appeals court considered.

The other would institute three crimes for “interactions with an ‘illegal alien’.” These are knowingly transporting such a person “while committing another criminal offense,” “concealing or harboring” an undocumented person and lastly “inducing an illegal alien to go into” Georgia, according to the appeals court ruling citing the state’s legislation.

The federal court struck down this aspect of Georgia’s law, known as Section 7, on Monday.

“We are … convinced that Section 7 presents an obstacle to the execution of the federal statutory scheme and challenges federal supremacy in the realm of immigration,” the court explained as part of its reasoning.

Four provisions of Alabama’s law were blocked by the appeals court judges on Monday, while three still stand despite the federal government’s arguments.

Local and state authorities in Alabama are not allowed to stop undocumented immigrants from looking for work, and are unable to prohibit employers who hire undocumented workers from taking state tax deductions for wages. In addition, Alabama authorities cannot characterize hiring an undocumented worker as a “discriminatory practice”.

Although this seems like good news for immigrant advocacy groups, there is still a long way to go. For instance, even if an undocumented immigrant provides police with a valid driver’s license, their citizenship may still be questioned. Fueled by the upcoming presidential election, this debate is sure to continue capturing the attention of local and national media outlets as well as immigrant advocacy groups.

Leave a Comment

Public Interest News Bulletin – August 24, 2012

By: Steve Grumm (with an assist from John Kapoor)

Happy Friday, ladies and gents.  An important housekeeping item: the PSLawnet Blog is becoming the PSJD Blog.  We are relaunching our PSLawNet public interest jobs database as PSJD, effective 8/27.  The blog will move from https://pslawnet.wordpress.com to http://blog.psjd.org (link not active yet).  Those of you who receive from me a weekly email message about this bulletin will continue doing so.  Launching PSJD, which will offer an even better jobs database and career center for the public interest community, represents an exciting transition.  We look forward to all that’s new, but just as much look forward to our continued daily blogging.

Some nonprofit news before the public interest news.  This Nonprofit Quarterly post came to my attention this week.  Entitled “A Too-sad Truth about the Nonprofit Sector,” the post laments the culture of martyrdom which many nonprofits take on.  This can manifest itself in unreasonably low salaries and a shortage of office resources to work efficiently.  Many of the best nonprofit law offices, in my experience, tend to emphasize “law office” over “nonprofit” in terms of how they operate and present themselves to the world.  Of course the recession has made funding scarce, and many organizations are struggling just to keep afloat now.  Nevertheless, some executive directors argue that they will only go so far in keeping staff salaries down and skimping on infrastructure expenses because they will not sacrifice quality of service.  It’s a very difficult balance to strike for nonprofits.  And this debate is always worth having because it brings out some terrific ideas and solutions from organizations with starkly different cultures.

On a lighter note, the annual “Mindset List” for this year’s incoming college class is out.  The list looks at how an 18 year-old would view the world in light of what has, and hasn’t, happened during her lifetime. The list, while a little weak this year compared to its predecessors, succeeds at making me feel old if nothing else.  Funny to think that an incoming college freshman might see Bill Clinton only as a grandfatherly, elder statesman as opposed to, well, any of the many the other things Bill Clinton’s been.  

Okay, the week’s access-to-justice and public interest news, in very brief:

  • Legal Services Corporation board chair on the community’s funding woes and the latest LSC newsletter;
  • law school clinic at Santa Clara U. is sued by law firm for, well, operating;
  • legal services providers in Nevada receive $1.2m from mortgage foreclosure class-action settlement funds;
  • when fiscal woes plague nonprofits in the justice system, local communities suffer;
  • prosecutors moonlight to 1) supplement income and 2) perpetuate Irish-American stereotypes;
  • maybe prosecution work is for the dogs;
  • North Dakota’s economic boom is straining the both the civil and criminal legal-aid camps;
  • Think Progress thinks about LSC cuts;
  • DOJ petitioned to think about how its crime-fighting spending affects all players in justice system;
  • would narrowing the definition of “pro bono” lead to lawyers handling more poverty law cases?
  • the rise of, and importance in, pro bono from Chicago-area in-house counsel;
  • more needed from pro bono lawyers and the justice system is strained by increased numbers of low-income litigants;
  • a Texas County signs on for multi-county capital defense cost-sharing program;
  • Michigan goes online to help pro se litigants;
  • 10 tips for getting hired into a public defender’s office;
  • a NY State county wants to go from paid staff defenders to an assigned-counsel system to save $;
  • Deferred Action participants should be wary of those offering legal services.
  • Music!

The summaries:

  • 8.23.12 – LSC board chair John Levi writes about the legal services funding shortages in Michigan and throughout the U.S.: In Michigan, LSC funds six programs with 29 offices across the state. These offices, both in Michigan and nationwide, are increasingly overwhelmed with requests for help. Nearly one in five Americans — 63 million people — now qualify for LSC-funded civil legal assistance because they live at or below 125% of the federal poverty guideline. That is an all-time high. As demand has been rising, the combined funding for LSC programs from federal, state, local and all other sources has dropped from $960 million in 2010 to $878 million in 2012.  As a result, legal service programs are turning away more and more people who seek help — 50% or more according to recent studies.  More than 21% of the state’s population now qualifies for LSC-funded civil legal assistance. Resources from LSC and other funders, however, have dropped dramatically. Projected overall funding for the six LSC grantees in Michigan for 2012 is $19.6 million — a decrease of nearly 24% from 2010 funding levels.”  (Op-ed in the Detroit Free Press.)
    • On a related note, LSC’s 8/21 edition of “LSC Upates” covers likely job cuts at grantee organizations, a recent board meeting, promoting access to justice through technology, LSC’s receipt of grant funding to improve data collection(!), and other odds/ends
  • 8.23.12 – “A Los Angeles law firm claims in court that Santa Clara University’s pro bono law center is practicing law for poor people illegally.  The Brachfeld Law Group sued Santa Clara University and Scott Maurer, supervising attorney for the university’s Katharine and George Alexander Community Law Center, in Superior Court.  Brachfeld claims that the Community Law Center improperly uses Maurer’s law license to collect attorneys’ fees, which Maurer shares with the university.  (Story from the Courthouse News Service.)
  • 8.23.12 – some of Nevada’s share of national mortgage foreclosure class-action settlement funds will go to legal services.  Legislators approved a one-year, $11 million plan.  (There is more for appropriation in future budget cycles.) Of this $11 million, “…nearly $1.2 million will go to Nevada Legal Services and the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada to provide assistance to homeowners.” (Article from the Nevada News Bureau.)
  • 8.22.12 – when fiscal woes plague nonprofits like Jacksonville Area Legal Aid and the Jacksonville Justice Coalition, which offers support services to crime victims, the entire Jacksonville community suffers.  (Story from the Florida Times Union.)  
  • 8.21.12 – having grown up in northeast Philadelphia, I can say with certainty that there’s nothing unusual about a guy named Colin working behind a local bar. What is unusual is when he’s an assistant district attorney.  The Philadelphia Inquirer looks at the ends local prosecutors go to when they struggle financially on civil-servant salaries.
    • It’s noteworthy that their public defender counterparts have it worse.  From an Inquirer story in June: “An experienced assistant [DA] in Philadelphia, one with seven years on the job, can make $65,000 yearly.  A public defender with exactly the same experience makes a lot less: $51,500.”

  

  • 8.21.12 – I’m a sucker for a story about a pooch in a law office.  “A new four legged volunteer is working at the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s office. It’s part of an innovative pilot program, to provide emotional support to crime victims and witnesses.
    Malvern is a two-year-old, highly trained service dog.  District Attorney, Joyce Dudley, has been working to get a dog…into her office as…to provide a calming presence and create a more compassionate environment for victims and witnesses of crimes within Santa Barbara.  Over the next few months he will work in the D.A.’s office.”   (Story from KEYT.)
  • 8.21.12 – unforeseen consequences. North Dakota’s economic boom is straining both the civil and criminal legal aid camps. On the civil side, stakeholders are dealing with “an increase in demand for Legal Services lawyers— …requests for help have shot up at least 50 percent in the last year—that coincides with a series of budget cuts. Federal funding, which accounts for about 60 percent of the organization’s annual spending plan, shrank by 5 percent in 2011 and 14 percent in 2012, leaving the agency with a budget of about $1.6 million this year.”  On the criminal side, a state bar task force’s “final report, which the bar association’s board of governors adopted on August 16, draws the bleak conclusion that the widening gap between the indigent defense commission’s resources and the demand for its services has put the agency on the verge of a ‘constitutional crisis’.”   (Story from the American Lawyer.  Ho-hum; the PSJD Blog noted this back in July.)  
  • 8.20.12 – Two national defense attorney groups are asking the Department of Justice to better analyze how proposed criminal laws and crime-fighting strategies might add additional costs to the rest of the justice system [including indigent defense].  The Nat’l. Assoc. of Criminal Defense Lawyers joined the…National Legal Aid and Defender Association in passing a resolution this month that calls for the DOJ to conduct “justice system impact statements” statements on future policy changes. The resolution suggests the DOJ could fund the studies through its criminal justice grant programs.  The American Bar Association adopted a similar resolution more than 20 years ago, but the NACDL and NLADA resolution also asks DOJ for impact statements for the grants it distributes to local police and prosecutors.”  (Story from the Blog of the Legal Times.)
  • 8.20.12 – would narrowing the definition of “pro bono” lead to more volunteer lawyers handling poverty law cases and providing direct representation to low-income clients?  The Pro Bono Institute’s Esther Lardent doesn’t think so: “The reality is that choosing pro bono work is often a matter of blending personal interest with client need. Restricting personal choices will not increase poverty law pro bono. It is, rather, far more likely to reduce the total amount of pro bono and the percentage of lawyers who undertake it.  Our goal should be to educate lawyers about the unparalleled need for legal services to the poor. We should put, as our Pro Bono Challenge and American Bar Association Model Rule 6.1 do, a special emphasis on poverty law pro bono (which led to 58 percent of total Challenge law firm hours devoted to pro bono focused on poverty), and review and revamp the processes for referring, accepting and handling pro bono matters for the poor to make them more appealing and more efficiently undertaken.”  (Full piece in the National Law Journal.)
  • 8.20.12 – the rise in, and importance of, in-house pro bono in Chicago: “As more people have turned to them for help, Cabrini Green, like an increasing number of Chicago nonprofits offering legal services to low-income people, has sought help from new allies. Though legal nonprofits traditionally have recruited volunteers from the hallways of Chicago’s big law firms, they have begun courting lawyers who work in the legal departments of the region’s corporate giants, including McDonald’s Corp., Exelon Corp., Abbott Laboratories, Caterpillar Inc. and Allstate Corp.”  (Full story from Crain’s Chicago Business.)  
     
  • 8.19.12 – with the number and needs of pro se litigants rising, and with the civil legal services community weathering a severe funding storm, much is needed of pro bono advocates throughout the U.S.  (Full story from Associated Press.)
  • 8.19.12 – in Texas, Angelina County is set to participate in the Regional Capital Defender Program.  Participation in the “shared-cost, multi-county” program is expected to save money on providing indigent defense services to those facing capital chartges.  (Story from the Lufkin Daily News.)
  • 8.17.12 – Warren County is seeking to request permission from the New York State Mandate Relief Council to contract with lawyers to perform legal services for the indigent rather than having the work handled by its own county office in which the attorneys are county employees. The county estimates this change, if authorized, will save $200,000 annually.  (Story from the Post Star.)
  • 8.16.12 – After implementation of the Obama Administration’s “Deferred Action” program for unauthorized immigrants who arrived in this country as youth, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., is renewing warnings to those immigrants to guard themselves against scam artists posing as immigration attorneys. He suggests asking questions about the attorney’s background and qualifications and calling the New York State Unified Court System’s Attorney Registration Unit to see if the individual is accredited before hiring them to ensure that they are in fact qualified to perform that kind of work. Many scam artists will take thousands of dollars from immigrants while offering little if anything in return.  (Here’s Mr. Vance’s press release.)

Music!  That Beloit Mindset List has me thinking about the college years.  So let’s travel to the 1990s for Boulder, CO’s own Big Head Todd and the Monsters.  (The man does in fact have a physically big head.  Not sure about his ego.)  “In the Morning” is one of my favorite songs -and it’s a pretty love song, tempo notwithstanding – from the under-appreciated album Stratagem.

Leave a Comment

Coming Soon: PSLawNet Launches New Website and Name!

PSLawNet is debuting a new look this fall! Next week, on Monday, August 27th, PSLawNet will become PSJD – a revamped site that will retain all of PSLawNet’s content while adding easier navigation, enhanced searching, and new tools for job-seekers and employers. PSJD will be found at http://www.psjd.org (not live yet).

PSLawNet users will be able to log in to PSJD with the same PSLawNet login information they have always used, and our job-seeker “email alerts” will continue uninterrupted. For our faithful blog readers, we’ll be moving to blog.psjd.org (not live yet). The current PSLawNet blog URL will redirect you as well.

We at NALP (who administer the PSLawNet/PSJD site) are very happy to launch this next-generation career center as a free resource for the public interest legal community!

For more information contact me, the PSLawNet PSJD Fellow, at amatthews@nalp.org, or Steven Grumm at sgrumm@nalp.org. You may also reach us at 202.296.0076.

Leave a Comment

Big News: PSLawNet’s Becoming PSJD! We’re Getting a New Name, New Website & Everything!

By: Steve Grumm

We’ve got great news for law students and lawyers on public interest career paths, as well as the organizations that hire them.  On August 27th, PSLawNet will become PSJD, a redesigned website that retains all of PSLawNet’s content but that adds easier navigation, enhanced searching, and new tools for job-seekers and employers alike.  PSLawNet users will be able to log in to PSJD with existing PSLawNet login credentials, and our job-seeker “email alerts” will continue uninterrupted.  We at NALP (who administer the PSLawNet/PSJD site) are very happy to launch this next-generation career center as a free resource for the public interest legal community.  As of August 27 PSJD will be found at http://www.psjd.org (not live yet).   

For blog readers, this means that we’ll be moving to blog.psjd.org (not live yet).  But this blog URL will redirect you as well. 

For more information contact me at sgrumm@nalp.org, or PSLawNet PSJD Fellow Ashley Matthews at amatthews@nalp.org.  You may also reach us at 202.296.0076.

Leave a Comment

Should We Narrow the Definition of Lawyer Pro Bono? Will That Lead to More Poor People Being Served?

By: Steve Grumm

Environmental stewardship is important.  It’s also great to provide legal work that supports the arts.  Who doesn’t want to support the arts?  But by including such activities in how we – the legal community – define pro bono, are we lessening the odds that pro bono lawyers will take on poverty law cases and provide direct legal assistance to poor people?  A recent Pro Bono Institute report shows that law-firm pro bono on poverty-law matters is down. 

The Institute’s Esther Lardent weighs in on the question, and decides that narrowing “pro bono’s” definition will not lead to more/better work on behalf of low-income clients.  Writing in the National Law Journal, Lardent argues:

Whatever the reason for the downturn, would a definition of pro bono limited to legal services for the poor solve the problem and result in more low-income clients served? I believe it would not. Lawyers make a pro bono commitment for many reasons, but one major impetus for many is a personal commitment to a particular legal problem or client demographic. Lawyers who are passionate about international human rights and the rule of law, protecting civil liberties or ensuring a sustainable environment for future generations understandably want to use their skills to pursue their passion. Business lawyers who are averse to litigation are unlikely to take on adversarial matters on a pro bono basis when they would not do so for paying clients. The reality is that choosing pro bono work is often a matter of blending personal interest with client need. Restricting personal choices will not increase poverty law pro bono. It is, rather, far more likely to reduce the total amount of pro bono and the percentage of lawyers who undertake it.

Our goal should be to educate lawyers about the unparalleled need for legal services to the poor. We should put, as our Pro Bono Challenge and American Bar Association Model Rule 6.1 do, a special emphasis on poverty law pro bono (which led to 58 percent of total Challenge law firm hours devoted to pro bono focused on poverty), and review and revamp the processes for referring, accepting and handling pro bono matters for the poor to make them more appealing and more efficiently undertaken.

Leave a Comment

PSLawNet Public Interest News Bulletin – August 17, 2012

By: Steve Grumm (with help from John Kapoor)

Happy Friday, dear readers.  The week’s most well-travelled public-interest news item deals with a Legal Services Corporation announcement that its grantee organizations may cut 8% of attorney and support staff positions as those organizations struggle with depleted funding sources.  There’s a tendency, I think, to take some comfort in the idea that the worst of the Great Recession has passed (notwithstanding the precariousness of the present recovery).  But the longer-term fiscal challenges spawned by the recession are in some ways hitting the legal services community hardest now.

At best, one may hope that LSC funding can creep back into the high $300 millions, given budget-cutting propensities on Capitol Hill.  IOLTA funding is dependent mostly on interest rates, which remain at historic lows as policy-makers hope that loose credit will contribute to economic stimulus.  And legal services providers who had financial reserves have by and large exhausted them at this point.  There is less federal money, a whole lot less IOLTA money, and the rainy-day funds are dry.  Not a pretty picture.

Sorry to begin on a down note. There is some good public-interest news below.  Before moving into that, here are two other interesting items:

  • a PAC for nonprofits.  From the Chronicle of Philanthropy: “CForward, a political-action committee that was set up last year to promote candidates who pledge to stand up for nonprofits, has made its first endorsements.  They include five contenders for state legislatures and one each for city council, mayor, and the U.S. House of Representatives ‘Our choices are not based on any single issue, or geography, gender, or political party,’ the group said in a statement. With governments cutting budgets across the country, it looked for candidates that would ‘promote our role in creating jobs, attracting investment dollars and maintaining the civil society required for traditional business to thrive’.”
  • the ABA Journal’s annual Ross Essay contest, announced yesterday, is looking for haiku poetry.  Frequent readers of this weekly blog – all six of you – may recall that just two weeks ago I graced the blog’s pages with my haiku about a baseball player trade.  Sadly, and somewhat unfairly in my view, the ABA is looking only for submissions on themes of: “Innovation, Inspiration, Law Practice, On Being a Lawyer or the U.S. Supreme Court.”  Haiku’s tough.  It is not easy to condense thoughts into seventeen syllables.  (Guess how many syllables that previous sentence was.  Yes!)

On to the public interest news.  The week in very short:

  • the New York State 50-hour pro bono requirement for attorney licensing is back in the news again;
  • funding in NYC for legal services providers to assist illegal immigrants with the federal “Deferred Action” program;
  • an increased pressure on already-strained Florida public defenders;
  • the job-cuts forecast from LSC;
  • bill introduced in Michigan to create indigent defense commission;
  • two good-news items on law school clinics (NOLA and NC);
  • funding for a pro se assistance attorney in the Gem State;
  • the development of Boston’s alternate adjudication track for nonviolent, homeless offenders;
  • an editorial on how the NOLA public defender’s office has weathered a fiscal storm;
  • OLAF (one of my favorite legal services acronyms) releases its 2011 annual report. 

The summaries:

  • 8.16.12 – “When New York’s Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman first revealed his intention in May to require all newly minted New York lawyers to perform 50 hours of pro bono work, it looked like the burden would fall directly on New York law schools. But with details of the measure still spare, deans around the country are saying they’re worried the proposal could have a much wider impact, affecting not only local institutions but law schools nationwide and abroad that send their graduates to practice law in New York….  Some [New York-based law school administrators applauded Lippman for tackling what he has dubbed the justice gap…. Others voiced concern that the measure would pose financial and administrative burdens on their schools. Most simply asked for details, which Lippman has said he will provide in late fall after an advisory committee reports back to him with feedback from legal services providers, schools and students. As word of New York’s novel approach to pro bono has spread, deans and administrators from out-of-state schools have begun to weigh in, asking what kind of administrative and financial obligations the measure might pose for their institutions.” (Story from Thomson Reuters.)  
  • 8.16.12 – legal services providers throughout the U.S. will be assisting illegal immigrants to participate in the Obama Administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.  Here’s some good funding news out of NYC: “The New York City Council is spending $3 million on legal services for young illegal immigrants who want to apply for the right to work legally in the U.S…. Council Speaker Christine Quinn announced Wednesday that the city funding will go to the Legal Aid Society and other community-based organizations.”  (Full story from CBS Moneywatch.)
  • 8.16.12 – an increased pressure on already-burdened Florida public defenders’ offices: “Public defenders are being ordered by local courts to fill a role they haven’t had to play in decades, if ever. Jim Purdy, public defender for the circuit that includes Volusia and Flagler counties, said the local court has begun appointing his office to help death row inmates ask the governor’s office for clemency. Purdy said his office is ‘critically short on manpower…. None of the elected public defenders in the state ever remember being appointed to (a clemency hearing) until this year and many . . . have been in office for 20 to 30 years,’ Purdy said.”  (Story from the Daytona Beach News-Journal.) 
  • 8.15.12 – “The nation’s providers of civil legal assistance predict that funding cuts will leave them no choice this year but to lay off about 8 percent of lawyers and support staff, close branch offices and narrow the types of services they provide, Legal Services Corp. announced on August 15.  A survey of the 134 agencies depending on grants from LSC, the largest source of funding nationwide for civil legal aid, shows they are on pace to lay off 350 attorneys and 400 support staff this year because of budget cuts from Congress and other funding reductions….  About one of every six programs expects to close offices in 2012.” (Story from the National Law Journal.)
    • And here’s the news release from LSC.
    • Some coverage out of Colorado: “Whether Colorado’s program would be affected wasn’t immediately clear. Colorado Legal Services has seen its total budget cut by nearly 30 percent in recent years. The group has received a reprieve of sorts when the Colorado Supreme Court earlier this year approved a request for a one-time transfer of $1.5 million from the attorney registration fees fund to CLS.  However, the underlying funding mechanisms haven’t been fixed, and how to remodel that funding structure remains at the top of many bar association’s priorities.”  (Story from Law Week Colorado.)
  • 8.15.12 – in Michigan, the members of the state house introduced a bill “to create the Michigan indigent defense commission and to provide for its powers and duties; to provide for constitutionally effective assistance of counsel to represent indigent defendants in criminal cases; to provide standards for the appointment of legal counsel; and to provide for certain appropriations.”  Here’s some filing information and here’s a copy of the bill.
  • 8.13.12 – good news on the law school clinic front in both NOLA and North Carolina:
    • Four grants totaling $557,000 to Loyola University’s College of Law will help its law clinic educate and represent low-wage workers in the New Orleans area. The grants will underwrite three years of work by the Workplace Justice Project, which is part of Stuart H. Smith Law Clinic and Center for Social Justice.”  (Story from the Times-Picayune.) 
    • Elon University School of Law announced plans to open an Elder Law Clinic in the Fall 2012 semester. This clinic will serve the growing elderly population of the area in need of free legal services while simultaneously providing students with experience in the practice of elder law, an area of law that has will see exponential growth in the future.  (Story from WFMY.)
  • 8.12.12 – in keeping with the trend of trying to accommodate increasing numbers of pro se litigants in local courthouses, “Canyon County [Idaho] commissioners approved a preliminary budget Thursday that includes $60,000 from the Idaho Supreme Court to hire an attorney to help people who are serving as their own lawyer in civil cases.”  (Story from the Idaho Press-Tribune.)   
  • 8.12.12 – here’s a feature-length piece on the evolution of Boston’s “Homeless Court,” which offers an alternative adjudication system for nonviolent, homeless offenders: “Launched in late 2010, the program aims to serve the unique needs of Boston’s homeless defendants, who often find themselves cycling through the court system for minor, nonviolent offenses, or in contempt for failing to respond to court summonses they often don’t receive because they’re living on the streets. It’s a gentler form of justice, but no quick fix. Defendants…who volunteer for Homeless Court are required to make a yearlong commitment. During that time, they get mental health and substance abuse counseling and a bed at the Pine Street Inn, or, for those with more severe mental health or addiction issues, at Shattuck Hospital. Defendants without a high school diploma are offered tutoring and GED prep classes. All are required to brush up their job skills or learn new ones.”  (Full story from the Boston Globe.) 
  • 8.11.12 – in NOLA, a Times-Picayune editorial argues for more prudent budgeting by the Orleans Parish public defender’s office. Budget volatility forced large cuts in the Orleans Parish public defender’s office earlier this year. But a report commissioned by the Louisiana Public Defender Board has concluded that a lack of fiscal prudence and other management mistakes aggravated the circumstances.  But management was not the only issue.  Public defenders in New Orleans have a staggering case load. Attorneys assigned to Municipal Court each handled 2,500 cases last year. That’s more than six times the national standard of 400 misdemeanor cases.  The editorial concludes arguing for more sustainable funding streams for the defender to avoid future volatility. 
  • 8.10.12 – “The [Ohio Legal Aid Foundation (OLAF)] says it’s saved more than 2,300 homes since 2008 using both its own lawyers and volunteer attorneys in private practice. And calls for free legal help have jumped about 60 percent over those four years. But funds — which come from federal grants, donations and court fees and interest – are drying up.”  (Short piece from WKSU.  And here’s a link to OLAF’s 2011 annual report, released earlier this month.)

Leave a Comment

Bad News on Jobs with Civil Legal Aid Organizations

By: Steve Grumm

From a Legal Services Corporation release:

Washington DC – According to a recent survey conducted by the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), local legal aid programs expect to reduce staffing by nearly 750 employees in 2012, including 350 attorneys, because of funding cuts. This represents a reduction of eight percent of full-time-equivalent (FTE) positions from the end of 2011.

Nationwide, programs receiving grants from LSC reported significant reductions in funding, staffing, and operations.  Eighty-seven percent of the respondents report that their total (LSC and non-LSC) funding in 2012 will decrease significantly from 2011.  Eighty-two percent of the programs with reserves expect to use those funds in 2012 to continue operations.  One hundred thirty-three of the 134 LSC grantees responded to the survey.

As of December 2011, LSC-funded programs employed 9,185 FTE staff—including 4,360 attorneys—a reduction of 6.7 percent (661 positions) since December 2010.  Over the two-year period from 2010 to 2012, LSC-funded programs expect to lose 14 percent of their staff, including 591 attorneys (nearly 13 percent) and 320 paralegals (18 percent).   Sixteen percent of respondents expect to close offices in 2012.

Of the programs reporting decreases in their total funding from 2011 to 2012, 91 percent (87 programs) expect to serve fewer clients and accept fewer cases, and 73 percent (70 programs) will restrict the types of cases accepted.  Twenty-nine percent of programs expect to cut back services on foreclosure-related issues and services to victims of domestic violence.

There’s no making lemonade out of this.  It’s terrible news for legal services lawyers and (more signifcantly) for clients.  Nonetheless, we know that law students come to the PSLawNet Blog for info on career options.   We are still posting legal aid job listings from throughout the country everyday on PSLawNet.  So  the upshot is that you have to be the best job candidates you can possibly be in this tight job market.  Use our Job Search Fundamentals tools to work up great cover letters and resumes, and to learn how to ace interviews.

On a related note, we encourage law students to volunteer with civil legal aid providers this year.  Resources within these organizations are depleting but client demand from poor people and families continues to rise.

Leave a Comment

Older Posts »