PSJD Public Interest Weekly News Digest

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Here is the last weekly News Digest from PSJD!

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Happy Friday everyone!  Summer officially begins tomorrow, but it’s been HOT here for some time.  I just visited Fredericton, NB, where it was absolutely beautiful.  Thank you to all my Canadian hosts for a wonderful trip!

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: If you know someone we should honor, drop me a line.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Montgomery Co, AL gets a public defender office;
  • Cleveland, OH firm launches pro bono veterans clinic;
  • NC House & Senate slash budget for legal services;
  • Canyon Co, ID appoints first chief public defender;
  • IN task force created to increase free legal aid;
  • GA public defender system sued;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: June 23 is UN Public Service Day;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

June 12, 2014 – “Aylia McKee is building Montgomery County’s first Public Defender’s Office from the ground up.”  “The state committed $2.2 million to fund the office, including salaries, benefits and office supplies. The Montgomery County Commission has provided the historic Greil mansion next to the county courthouse on Lawrence Street to house its staff.”  “McKee is currently looking to hire seasoned attorneys who will work as her deputy attorneys in the Public Defender’s Office. She hopes to have her key staff in place by the end of next month.  At full capacity, the public defender’s office will have a staff of about 30 people, with between 16-18 attorneys.  McKee does not yet have a set date when the office will start taking cases.”  “The public defender’s office will be phased in to the courtrooms in Montgomery County and as the office takes on more cases, the contract attorneys will be phased out. But McKee says there is still going to be a lot of work and responsibility for private attorneys. They will be needed to help handle any conflict cases or cases with multiple defendants.”  (WSFA)

June 12, 2014 – ”McDonald Hopkins, working with the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland and the Veterans Administration Community Referral and Resource Center, has developed a new initiative to provide free legal advice and referrals to low-income veterans in need of help. This unique collaboration – conceived by Anne Owings Ford and R. Jeffrey Pollock, co-chairs of the firm’s Pro Bono and Public Service Committee – is the first of its kind in Cleveland, and connects low-income veterans with our volunteer lawyers to deliver direct legal advice and recommend a course of action. The inaugural Clinic, held May 7, 2014, was a rousing success.”  (Digital Journal)

June 12, 2014 – “The state Senate budget proposes to cut more than $2 million in legal aid funding, which could make it more difficult for North Carolina’s poorest residents to defend their rights.  Under the Access to Civil Justice Act, a portion of court filing fees are given to legal aid groups in North Carolina—$1.8 million per year. The Senate’s budget bill cuts this funding. The Senate budget also eliminates the Access to Civil Justice Grant, which provided more than $670,000 to legal services in North Carolina last year.”  “While the Senate’s proposed budget eliminates funding both from filing fees and the direct grant, in the House’s proposed budget, funding from filing fees is restored while the Access to Civil Justice Grant is eliminated.” (Indy Week)

June 12, 2014 – “The Canyon County Board of Commissioners has appointed Tera A. Harden as the county’s first chief public defender.  Harden will officially start her new role in July so she will have time to build her staff before the county’s new in-house Public Defender’s Department officially goes into service on Oct. 1. The Public Defender Department will be housed in the newly built Canyon County Administration Building in Caldwell.”  (Idaho Statesman)

June 16, 2014 – “An Indiana Supreme Court task force plans to submit recommendations next week for how to increase the amount of free legal services Hoosier attorneys donate to the poor.  The Supreme Court has already decided against mandatory pro bono services, instead asking a task force to suggest ways to implement mandatory reporting of pro bono hours.”  “The task force is also looking at other administrative issues, including how to define pro bono work.   The justices will make the final decision on how to implement the requirement.”  (Indiana Public Media)

June 16, 2014 – “A former Middle Georgia public defender has filed a whistle-blower lawsuit that alleges breakdowns at all levels of the state’s indigent defense system.  The lawsuit, filed Monday, said that public defenders in the Towaliga Judicial Circuit were forced to work in unsanitary and dilapadated offices and carry crushing case loads. The plaintiff, Jim Kight, who worked as a defender in the circuit for eight years, was fired in retaliation last year after he complained about the conditions, the suit said.”  (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:  The UN Public Service Day intends to celebrate the value and virtue of public service to the community; highlight the contribution of public service in the development process; recognize the work of public servants, and encourage young people to pursue careers in the public sector.  The United Nations Public Service Day 2014 theme is, “Innovating Governance for Sustainable Development and Well-being of the People.” (United Nations)

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