Music! Lightnin’s Blues

This guy doesn’t so much play a guitar as unite with it.


Equal Justice Journal – August 10, 2015

High Up in the Tetons

Greetings and Happy Monday, ATJ Enthusiasts!  I’d been posting these digests every other Monday, but I’m returning to a weekly schedule to keep their length more manageable. They were turning into tomes, and I feel strongly about keeping your Mondays tome-free.  I care about you.

This is something of a Gulf States Edition, with a handful of offerings from Florida, Louisiana, and Texas.  Two items for your consideration, then the ATJ news:

  • 8.8.15 – “FOR decades, policy makers have treated poverty as a sign of helplessness and ineptitude. The worse off the neighborhood — the higher the rate of poverty, crime, and juvenile delinquency — the less influence it would have over its future. Social service agencies conducted ‘needs assessments’ rather than asking residents what would strengthen their community….  To improve poor neighborhoods, the people who live there must have a hand in deciding their own fate. That approach works well in Houston…”  Continue reading this New York Times op-ed to learn about Neighborhood Centers.
  • 8.4.15 – “About 50,000 vets are homeless in America. In 2009, then-Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki declared that all of them would have housing by this year. At the time, even inside the VA that goal was considered aspirational at best. But last year, cities across the country said it was looking achievable. New Orleans was the first to declare, in January, that the city had done it. (Jump to the bottom to see how your state stacks up.)”  (NPR Morning Edition)

Okay, the ATJ news in very, very short:

  • Specialty license plates as a legal aid fundraiser(?)
  • Loyola Law (NOLA) incubator to make big expansion
  • Pro Bono Institute highlights reports on legal aid’s economic benefits
  • In DE, new legal aid director prefers “health law” firm branding over “poverty law”
  • ABA rejects proposal to allow pay for law student externships
  • LSC president Jim Sandman interview with Bloomberg
  • U.S. Congressman Kennedy visits MA legal aid, offers thoughts on justice gap
  • ABA’s Dialogue magazine looks at legal-aid leadership transition, funding in AR, etc.
  • Woody Guthrie music!

The summaries:

  • 8.7.15 – as Florida’s legal community debates whether bar dues should be upped in order to fund civil legal aid, here’s a…novel…proposal from Florida Bar member who opposes a dues hike: “My proposal is that the Bar apply for a specialty license plate with annual proceeds of $25 per tag going to a legal-access fund…. There are more than 18 million registered vehicles in the state of Florida….  Lawyers could buy the tag if they wished, and no doubt many would. But so could millions of nonlawyers.” (Orlando Sentinel op-ed)
  • 8.7.15 – in NOLA, Loyola Law’s practice-incubator program got a ~$120,000 cash infusion: “With the generous support of the Womacs’ gift, the Incubator Program will now run as a two-year experience for program attorneys. The Womacs’ gift extends the length of the program, provides the stipends to program attorneys for their pro bono work, and supports the two year Incubator Program for the next three years.” (Loyola media release)
  • 8.6.15 – a Pro Bono Institute blog post highlights several state-level reports – many of recent vintage – which measure legal aid’s positive economic impact. “[M]ost analyses have focused on common measures, such as the value of federal benefits obtained for legal aid clients. The studies also examined secondary and less tangible gains, such as the economic multiplier effect, which measures the increased economic activity resulting from economic inflows into a state. Increased federal benefits and wages give recipients greater spending and purchasing power, thus stimulating general economic activity and promoting growth.  Finally, studies documented the state savings associated with funding legal services for low-income citizens.”
  • 8.3.15 – in Delaware, Community Legal Aid Society’s new exec. director, Daniel Atkins, is hoping that some re-branding will pay funding dividends:  “[H]e plans to look for more funding options, such as civil filing fee add-ons or leftover money in class action suits….  Atkins hopes to find alternative partnerships and funding sources by reframing the work CLASI does. Instead of considering itself a poverty law firm, it will start to consider itself a health law firm.  This is because many of the issues the firm addresses, such as domestic violence and homelessness, impact people’s health.” [Emphasis mine]  (Delaware Online/The News Journal)
  • 8.3.15 – “Law students won’t be allowed to receive both pay and academic credit for externships this year after all.  The [ABA’s] Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar on Friday declined to eliminate its ban on such arrangements, citing vociferous opposition from clinical law professors.” A lot of voices were heard during the debate.  Equal Justice Works, for instance, supported lifting the ban, as did the ABA’s Law Student Division.  The Clinical Legal Education Association, however, strongly opposed making the change.  (National Law Journal)
  • 7.31.15 – LSC President Jim Sandman was interviewed by Bloomberg last month.  Sandman cited inadequate legal aid funding as the main problem in trying to narrow the justice gap.  Also: ” We need more and better [DIY] resources, particularly online. We need to relax regulatory barriers that impede competent paraprofessionals in assisting people who can’t afford counsel. We need to simplify the legal system to make it more user-friendly for people who don’t have counsel. The system is far more complicated than it needs to be, especially in areas of law affecting the necessities of life for people who can’t afford a lawyer.” (Bloomberg BNA)
  • 7.28.15 – forgot to put this one in last week’s edition: U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy III, whose been a strong voice in support of civil ATJ, visited a Massachusetts civil legal aid office.  He identified two causes of the civil justice gap: “drastically cut” LSC funding and laws that seem great on the legislative drafting block not working well for vulnerable people in those laws’ actual implementation.”  (Taunton Gazette)
  • The most recent edition of the ABA’s Dialogue e-magazine, which focuses on civil legal aid, pro bono, and related issues, is out.  Two articles I flagged are:

Music!  A few years ago Woody Guthrie’s daughter reopened his archives in Okemah, Oklahoma, allowing in a handful of songwriters to dig up old, unpublished Guthrie material and bring it to life.  Four fellows – Jay Farrar of the band Son Volt, Jim James of My Morning Jacket, Will Johnson of Centro-matic, and Anders Parker of Varnaline – formed a sort of ad hoc band called New Multitudes.  They released an album, the songs of which contain Guthrie lyrics that the New Multitudes folks put to music.  Here’s a Farrar offering, “Careless Reckless Love.”

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.

Equal Justice Journal – July 13, 2015

Cubbies baseball!
Cubbies baseball!

Greetings, Access to Justice Enthusiasts, from my Idaho home!  I’ll never tire of writing that.  So unlikely, the places to which life escorts us.

I regret that Idaho has no baseball park as beautiful as the one featured above.  This picture of the newly-renovated Wrigley Field comes from ATJ kingpin Robert “Chicago Bob” Glaves.  Bob scored himself one outstanding seat for the weekend’s Cubs/White Sox battle.  I’m still getting used to that Jumbotron resting upon Wrigley’s decades-old foundations.  But as big-screen TVs go it sure ain’t bad.

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

  • From Governing magazine: “An Urban Institute report…presents a detailed picture of how [income] inequality affects entire neighborhoods, showing stark disparities across communities within regions.”  I didn’t know what that last phrase meant, either.  The methodology focuses on larger metro regions, not just urban neighborhoods.
  • Legal advice from your electronic device: “Larry is a service from…Lawtrades…designed to give [subscribers] near-instantaneous legal help whenever [needed].  All you have to do is send Larry a text message…and you’ll get a personalized response, specific to your situation and where you are.  Larry is part automated and part human….” (Lifehacker)
    • Ed. note: with due respect to our flesh-and-blood Lawrences, they’re calling this thing “Larry”?!
  • “The upper level of the legal profession in the [U.S.] remains predominantly white and male. Underrepresented Americans can’t afford their so-called ‘equal justice under law.’ Law school costs are not going down.  Deborah Rhode explores these and other problems in her new book, ‘The Trouble With Lawyers,’ published this month.”  (National Law Journal)  Rhode is known by many in ATJ circles because of her research on pro bono.
  • “End of the corner office: D.C. law firm designs its new space for millennials,” from the Washington Post.  The profiled law firm is Nixon Peabody.

The ATJ news in very, very short:

  • FL high court: no bar dues hike to support legal aid
  • American Lawyer & Pro Bono Institute release their annual pro bono reports
  • More FL: welcome, Florida Justice Technology Center
  • More on the American Lawyer’s recent “Justice Gap” report
  • CT’s legal aid providers can no longer fund their poverty-law lobbying arm
  • Ropes & Gray secures pro bono class-action settlement, uses the funds to support more public interest work
  • ABA Center for Pro Bono’s recent blog series on business law pro bono
  • New reports from up north on serving self-represented litigants
  • Arkansas high court and ATJ Commission seeking comments on unbunding and use of unclaimed client funds
  • Five civil legal aid myths debunked
  • Don’t forget SCOTUS’s huge Fair Housing Act decision
  • Music!

Continue reading