Equal Justice Journal – August 3, 2015

Sunrise in Wilson, Wyoming
Sunrise in Wilson, Wyoming

Greetings and Happy Monday, ATJ Enthusiasts!  I overheard, yesterday, some locals bemoaning the blazing hot temperatures out here.  It was 83 degrees with no humidity.  I almost looked at them and, as the kids say, LMAO’d.  There are many things I miss about the seven years I spent in Washington, DC, but August humidity is not one of them.  Wherever you are, I hope that you’ll get some time to relax as the summer winds down.

Fo(u)r your consideration, before the ATJ news:

  • In a New York Times op-ed, two staffers from the Urban Justice Center’s Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project wonder about a refugee/asylum process that prevents some asylum seekers from getting the benefits of legal counsel.  “Why Can’t Refugees Get Lawyers?”
  • “[Nonprofit] funders who fail to help their grantees tell their stories through social media, film, websites, traditional media, and/or other communications platforms are missing a major opportunity to advance their goals.” A recent Arabella Group webinar, entitled “Why Investing in Media is Critical to Successful Advocacy”
  • Legal educators are cautiously optimistic that the 2015-16 academic year will mark the low point for law school enrollment, and that the number of applicants next year will start to recover from a five-year slide  (National Law Journal)
  • Congrats to Mississippi ATJ Commission ED Tiffany Graves, “who has been selected as a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation.”  (Clarion-Ledger)   Good stuff, Tiffany.

Okay, the ATJ news, in very, very short:

  • Some Canuck resources on Limited-scope Representation
  • A Voice for Civil Justice talks Civil Justice Gap on WNYC
  • Joint law school practice incubator launching in MD; one in MA soon
  • Wisconsin legislature, at last, approves some civil legal aid funding
  • A small NJ legal aid society faces closure
  • NY’s ATJ Commission has gone to permanent status
  • Legal aid as a critical support to DV victims, and a money-saver for society at large
  • (Some) FL lawyers: “Hey, Supreme Court, let us pay extra bar dues for legal aid!”
  • LSC invests big in Midwest disaster recovery
  • Obama plan to expand Wifi access could have legal aid implications
  • Would a national bar exam narrow the justice gap?
  • In addition to Midwest disaster relief, LSC launching Rural Legal Justice Corps
  • Medical-legal partnerships (MLPs) are growing and growing
  • Music!

The summaries:

  • 7.31.15 – Peach State Pro Bono Guru – not his official title -Mike Monahan flagged this suite of resources for Canadian lawyers providing limited-scope services.  The webpage is framed as providing info to help lawyers limit potential liability, but all the same there is valuable info there to help lawyers best serve clients.  (PracticePro)
  • 7.28.15 – on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show: “In more than 70% of civil cases today, people who can’t afford legal representation end up going to court alone. Martha Bergmark, Executive Director of Voices for Civil Justice, explains why access to counsel is a make-or-break issue for many families, and advocates for increased funding for legal aid programs.” (Link to the 19-minute conversation on this page)
  • 7.27.15 – “The University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law and the University of Baltimore School of Law are launching an incubator to help recent graduates launch solo practices while serving low-income clients.  The schools developed the project with the help of the Maryland State Bar Association, which is providing $50,000….  Earlier this month, Boston College Law School, Boston University School of Law and Northeastern University School of Law announced plans for a joint incubator in early 2016, partially funded by an [ABA] grant. More than 30 law schools host incubators or similar legal residency programs, according to the ABA.” (National Law Journal)
  • 7.27.15 – Finally!  Wisconsin leaves the very small “Our State Won’t Legislatively Fund Civil Legal Aid” club. “Governor Scott Walker signed Wisconsin’s 2015-17 state budget into law, including a provision that appropriates $500,000 in each year of the biennium for civil legal aid services to abuse victims.” Congrats to the WI ATJ Commission – who announced this news – and their allies.  Now it’s just the FL and ID legislatures that don’t fund legal aid in any way/shape/form.
  • 7.27.15 – “in New Jersey, the Legal Aid Society of Monmouth County could close its doors come mid-September without a badly needed infusion of cash….  The IOLTA Fund of the Bar of New Jersey was hit worse than similar funds nationally after seeing revenues drop 83 percent, from a high of $52 million in 2007 to $8.6 million last year.”  (Asbury Park Press/USA Today)  The Legal Aid Society of Monmouth County actually didn’t get any IOLTA funding during the last grant cycle, due to the diminished funds.
  • 7.23.15 – “Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman has made permanent the task force he created in 2010 to highlight the unmet legal needs of low-income New Yorkers and to push for higher spending on civil legal services.  Lippman announced Wednesday that he has added a new Part 51 to the Rules of the Chief Judge to create the Permanent Commission on Access to Justice.  The order says the commission will continue with the charge given to the task force five years ago: to “assess the nature, extent and consequences of unmet civil legal need,” to collect data and issue annual reports, and to encourage more public spending and pro bono contributions by lawyers to respond to the problem.” (New York Law Journal)
  • 7.21.15 –  “A report released Tuesday is proposing a simple way to reduce domestic violence: Give victims free lawyers….  With one in four women in the U.S. estimated to become victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime, this dynamic has major economic repercussions. As the report notes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that domestic violence costs the U.S. at least $9.05 billion each year.  Providing free or subsidized legal representation to victims, the report concludes, may reduce domestic violence and would be cost-effective as it would likely result in lower associated health care and legal costs.”  (Huffington Post)  Here’s the Institute for Policy Integrity’s report.
  • 7.20.15 –  “Hundreds of Florida attorneys are urging the state’s top court to reconsider a decision that gutted efforts to raise money for needy Floridians seeking legal help….  Miami lawyer and former Supreme Court Justice Raoul Cantero filed a motion for rehearing.  He prompted justices to consider two additional points. First, they have the authority to mandate the fee increase. Second, they can defer ruling on the issue until a later point instead of rejecting the petition entirely.” (Orlando Sentinel)
  • 7.16.15 –  “Legal Services Corporation awarded Iowa Legal Aid $367,000 to develop mobile technology designed to help people better reach legal aid programs after a disaster.Iowa Legal Aid, which has a branch office in downtown Council Bluffs, will partner with Pro Bono Net to adapt its mobile template for an application that provides disaster-related resources to clients and attorneys. In addition, Iowa Legal Aid will create a multi-component toolkit for use by other legal aid organizations across the country.” (The Daily Nonpareil.)
    • If you’re wondering what a “nonpareil” is, the word has Latin roots and means “having no equal.”  I like your moxie, Council Bluffs, Iowa.  I like your moxie.
  • 7.15.15 – Very important for rural legal-aid work, which could increasingly be performed remotely with Internet-based tools (an example from here in WY).  “President Barack Obama has unveiled a new initiative as part of his pledge to expand high-speed broadband access to all Americans. [T]he president on Wednesday introduced ConnectHome, a pilot project to help ‘close the digital divide’ by bringing broadband to poorer communities.” (NBC News)
  • 7.13.15 – a thought-provoking piece asking whether more state participation in the Uniform Bar Exam could help narrow the justice gap by making it easier for lawyers to practice in underserved locales.  “The Uniform Bar Exam is a nationalized test with a portable score to all of the states that have adopted the test. While the UBE is not a nationally portable law license, it is an opportunity to apply for admission without having to sit for an additional full bar exam.  Sixteen states, most recently including New York, have now adopted the test.” (Lawyerist)
  • 7.10.15 – 7.10.15 – “[In addition to disaster-relief funding], Legal Services [Corporation] Board Chair John Levi will…also announce that LSC is funding a new Initiative, the…Rural Summer Legal Corps, which will launch in the summer of 2016. Equal Justice Works, a nonprofit that recruits and trains public service lawyers, will administer this program, providing outreach to law schools around the country to select 30 exceptional law students who want to serve LSC civil legal aid providers in rural locations.”  (Media release)
  • 7.8.15 – “A lawyer as part of the health care team? It’s not as strange as it sounds….  There are now 273 hospitals and health centers in 36 states partnering with civil legal aid agencies and law schools to…remedy the social barriers that affect the health of vulnerable people. And in April, more than 400 doctors, nurses, social workers, lawyers and public health professionals gathered for the 10th annual MLP Summit to discuss the next frontier for these cross-sector partnerships. The vision: moving from one-on-one interventions to detecting and addressing systemic inefficiencies in clinics and public policies that impact population health.” (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation)

Music!  Annually in my neck of the Idaho woods, the Grand Targhee Bluegrass Festival takes place up at the local ski resort.  One of this year’s featured bands is Lake Street Dive, and here’s “Bad Self Portraits.”  Enjoy and have a great week.

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