Advances in Transgender Rights in Vietnam! Parliament Adopts New Legislation

Vietnam: Positive Step for Trangsender Rights – Vietnamese Parliament Adopts New Transgender Legislation

HRW

By: Human Rights Watch

On November 24, 2015, the Vietnamese National Assembly approved a bill to legalize sex reassignment surgery and to introduce the right to legal gender recognition for transgender people who have undergone such surgery.

The law allows people who wish to undergo gender affirming surgeries to do so in Vietnamrather than abroad, and to subsequently change the gender marker on their official documents. This constitutes a small, but significant step toward recognition of transgender people’s rights, Human Rights Watch said today.

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Thousands Mourn Kurdish Human Rights Lawyer Killed in Turkey

Photo of Thousands Mourning at Tahir Elci Funeral

By: Ayla Albayarak | Wall Street Journal | Photo credit: Reuters

Tens of thousands of mourners gathered on Sunday to bid farewell to a prominent human rights lawyer whose shooting death delivered a setback to hopes of bringing an end to months of political violence that has swept through Turkey’s Kurdish region.

Tahir Elci, one of Turkey’s leading advocates for Kurdish rights, was killed Saturday after making an appeal for an end to clashes between Kurdish militants and state security forces.

Mr. Elci was shot during a clash on a narrow street in Diyarbakir, the Kurdish majority city in southeastern Turkey that has been one of the central battlegrounds for renewed clashes since a two-year-old cease-fire collapsed in July.

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Employers and Workers Grapple with Laws Allowing Marijuana Use

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By: G.M. Filisko | ABA Journal

On June 15, 2015, the Colorado Supreme Court was the ultimate buzzkill.

When the state’s residents passed a referendum in 2012 legalizing recreational marijuana use—long after the state sanctioned medical use in 2000—few had any idea that Coloradans who partook in the bud would end up jeopardizing their livelihood.

That’s exactly what the court permitted inCoats v. Dish Network. The case pitted a quadriplegic licensed to use medical marijuana against his employer. The court held the state’s “lawful activities statute,” which generally prohibits employers from firing employees for engaging in lawful activities off the job, applied only to activities lawful under Colorado and federal law. Because marijuana is illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act, its use isn’t lawful—and can remain a valid basis for termination in the state.

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Supreme Court Ruling Could Spark More Unintentional-Discrimination Cases

Eva Paterson

By: Stephanie Francis Ward | ABA Journal | Photo of Eva Paterson; Photo credit: Eva Paterson

A recent U.S. Supreme Court opinion that addressed unconscious discrimination in a low-income housing case could have far-reaching effects on future civil rights and criminal cases involving implicit bias.

The June 2015 opinion (PDF) dealt with a claim against the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs. It alleged that the department disproportionately gave tax credits to developers of low-income housing in minority inner-city Dallas neighborhoods, while denying the credits in suburbs with large white populations. The Inclusive Communities Project brought the case, alleging that the state agency’s actions led to segregated housing, in violation of the Fair Housing Act.

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Attentions Law Students! Limited Funding Available for Equal Justice Works Career Fair! Apply Now!

Equal Justice Works Career Fair Limited Funding Support for UW Law Students

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As noted in the CommonGoodUW.org blog, UW Law students can request up to $450 in reimbursement for the cost of attending the Equal Justice Works Conference and Career Fair October 23-24, 2015 in Arlington, VA.  Priority in selection will be given to students who have secured interviews and to 3Ls.

Application Procedure & Deadlines for UW Law:

To apply for funding please email Dean Storms at mestorms@uw.edu and provide a resume and a brief written statement describing why EJW career fair attendance will be useful for you. If you have applied for or secured an interview during the career fair please include this information.

Monday, October 5, 5:00 p.m.: deadline to apply for travel funding

Friday, October 9, noon: students to be notified of funding awards

Please note: the stipend will reimburse up to $450 of documented travel expenses.  Receipts are strictly required.

The Return of the Debtor’s Prison

Empty Pockets

By Anthony D. Romero | Huffington Post | Photo Credit to Huffington Post

The debtors’ prison was supposed to be a thing of the past–a relic of the colonial era that was outlawed by the United States government nearly two centuries ago. More recently, the Supreme Court ruled that jailing people who lack the means to pay criminal justice fines or fees–a modern-day form of debtors’ prison–is unconstitutional. Ultimately, debtors’ prisons are not only illegal, they are counterproductive: incarceration strains limited public resources and can have devastating consequences on the lives of the poor.

Nonetheless, in the wake of the recent economic recession, cash-strapped state and local governments have aggressively targeted poor individuals who have already served their criminal sentences. The March 2015 U.S. Justice Department’s report on Ferguson, Missouri, provides a horrifying glimpse of what can happen when governments treat the poor as mere revenue sources.

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Establishing the White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable

UN Peace Justice and Strong Institutions

By Director Lisa Foster of the Office for Access to Justice

“Providing meaningful access to justice is a national responsibility and a moral charge.  I am delighted by President Obama’s action to expand legal aid resources for Americans in need, and excited for all that the White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable will achieve as it works to advance opportunity, promote equality, and ensure justice for all.” – Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch

What do 20 federal agencies, the United Nations, and civil legal aid have in common?  Plenty, according to President Obama who recently issued a presidential memorandum formally establishing the White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable (LAIR).  The presidential memorandum was announced by Roy Austin Jr., Deputy Assistant to the President for Urban Affairs, Justice and Opportunity as well as Ambassador Samantha Power, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations at an event held on the eve of the UN’s Sustainable Development Summit in New York.  The event highlighted the inclusion of Goal 16 in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  Goal 16 calls for the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, for access to justice for all and for the building of effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.  With Goal 16, the international community has recognized that access to justice is essential to sustainable development and necessary to end poverty.

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Pro Bono Gives Solos Experience and Satisfaction

Jill Metz

By Kevin Davis | ABA Journal | Photo of Jill Metz; Photo by Wayne Slezak

When Chicago attorney Jill Metz started practicing as a solo attorney in the early 1980s, she decided she would always make time to do pro bono work.

Though she needed to get her practice off the ground and earn a living, Metz volunteered five to 10 hours a week for the People’s Law Office in the Uptown neighborhood, doing criminal defense work and housing law for the mostly poor clientele.

Recent news stories have exposed that major law firms donate only 0.1 percent of their proceeds to legal aid for low-income people, making the contributions by lawyers like Metz even more crucial for impoverished clients.

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Attention Spanish-Speaking 2Ls and 3Ls!  International Human Rights Pro Bono Opportunity! EarthRights International Seeks 2L or 3L for Remote Litigation Support

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EarthRights International seeks a 2L or 3L for remote litigation support.  The time commitment is 9-10 hours per week.  No prerequisites, but experience with U.S. litigation is a plus.  The position requires proficiency in Spanish.  The volunteer will work closely with one of the attorney’s at EarthRights International with regular weekly check ins.

The volunteer will be conducting factual and U.S. legal research to assist ERI in developing a transnational injunctive strategy against a mega development project in the Amazon that poses a high risk of environmental and human rights abuses.

To apply, send a cover letter, resume and writing sample to Maryum Jordan, maryum@earthrights.org.  The application deadline is rolling until the position is filled.

Want Direct Client Experience and Make a Difference? Applications Now Being Accepted for Bridging the Gap/Moderate Means Program- Due 10/19

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Bridging the Gap provides legal referrals for low and moderate income individuals as a part of the WSBA Moderate Means Program.

Bridging the Gap is a UW Law in-house pro bono program. The goal of the program is to increase access to civil legal services for people of moderate means who cannot afford an attorney but make too much money to qualify for traditional free legal aid services. The program is focused in the areas of Family, Housing and Consumer law.

Law students serving as Bridging the Gap volunteer interns interview potential clients by telephone to collect information and evaluate their cases. Qualifying cases will be referred by interns to participating attorneys who have agreed to represent clients for a reduced fee. After completing training, Bridging the Gap interns will be expected to commit to a minimum of five hours a week for the duration of fall and winter quarters (one hour is a weekly staff meeting).

Benefits to students:

  • Hands-on experience interviewing clients;
  • Training in substantive legal issues, issue-spotting, interviewing skills and ethics;
  • Instruction on how to use the Legal Server database, which is used by most of the civil legal aid organizations in Washington State, and many other states;
  • Supervision and mentoring by experienced attorneys;
  • The satisfaction of helping low and moderate income individuals who otherwise might not receive any legal help at all;
  • Time spent volunteering for Bridging the Gap counts for recognition with the Pro Bono Honors Society.

Upper level students (2L, 3L and LLM) may participate in training for the program now (fall quarter) and begin interviewing clients in November. 1Ls can train now and begin interviewing clients in January.

To apply for the program, submit a letter of interest and resume to Ann Spangler at spangler@uw.edu by October 19, 2015.

Wayfind Microenterprise Clinic and Nonprofit Law Clinic – UW Law Student Volunteers Needed- Application Due 10/20

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Assist pro bono transactional lawyers at either microenterprise clinics or nonprofit legal clinics by taking client interview notes and drafting the client “work plan” which summarizes the legal advice given by the attorney. 

Wayfind provides free business legal services for nonprofit organizations and low-income microentrepreneurs.  Wayfind pro bono attorneys assist non-profit organizations with a range of legal matters including real estate, tax, non-profit governance, and intellectual property.  Wayfind pro bono attorneys also help low-income microentrepreneurs at legal clinics on legal matters including review of contracts, operating agreements and leases, business entity selection, intellectual property matters including publishing and trade name, and adding people to a partnership.

Wayfind hosts different types of legal clinics for its two client populations: non-profit organizations and microentrepreneurs.

For more information, click here.

Attention Spanish Speakers Interested in Family Law & Equal Justice! Pro Bono Opportunity with the King County Bar Association Family Law Program

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The Family Law Programs of the King County Bar Association’s Pro Bono Services promote family safety and equal access to the legal system by assisting domestic violence survivors, children at risk of abuse or neglect, and clients facing barriers to accessing the courts due to language, disability, and other factors. The Kinship Care Solutions program provides pro bono representation in nonparental custody actions, and the Self-Help Plus program provides pro se assistance in uncontested dissolutions and parenting plan actions. The programs have expanded to help unaccompanied children from Central America who have been abused, neglected or abandoned by a parent and who may be eligible for protective immigration relief called Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS). Volunteer attorneys assist caregivers and family law members with family law actions in order to obtain court findings that may be used in the SIJS process.

This position will provide experience in practical legal skills such as client interviewing, legal issue spotting, case development, and working with immigrant clients. In addition, the intern will learn substantive and procedural aspects to family law practice and exposure to immigration law. This position is unpaid but can be sponsored for academic credit if available through the student’s school.

For more information, click here.

Attention 1Ls and 2Ls! International Human Rights Pro Bono Opportunity!

Liberty scales

An international corporate accountability and human rights NGO seeks a first- or second-year law student for a short-term unpaid legal internship to begin immediately.  Working closely with the NGO’s attorneys, the intern will conduct legal research and analysis to support litigation in U.S. federal court regarding environmental and human rights violations committed abroad.  The work will be completed remotely and on the intern’s own schedule as long as agreed-upon deadlines are met.  We estimate an initial commitment of 10-20 hours of work in the next month, with the possibility of additional assignments depending on how the matter proceeds.  Please submit a writing sample and a CV to Chris Benoit at chris@coylefirm.com. Applications accepted on a rolling basis.

Attention 3Ls, Recent Grads and Project Based Fellowship Applicants!

UW Law

Did you just submit an EJW or other project based fellowship application? Here’s another opportunity to get your innovative project up and running. Apply for the Berkeley Law Foundation Fellowship! Application due January 15. UW Law students have been past recipients!

For complete info, click here.

How Do You Integrate Pro Bono Into Your Legal Career?

The Need for Pro-Bono Programs at Law Firms

By Legal Solutions Blog

Meeting Image

Lisa Dewey, DLA Piper’s full-time Pro Bono Counsel and Partner since 1999, advises and represents individuals and public interest organizations across the country and around the world. Recently, she spoke about the need for pro bono programs at law firms and DLA Piper’s overall strategy.

Why should law firms (of all sizes) implement a pro bono program?

The obvious answer is that it’s the right thing to do, and it’s our ethical obligation as lawyers. As such, law firms should do everything they can to support pro bono work and, when possible, to create an infrastructure that supports those efforts and the projects that have the most local impact.

Continue reading here.

Avvo founder tells lawyers to ‘get rid of UPL’ if they want innovation and access to justice

Photo of Mark Britton

By Lorelai Laird | ABA Journal

At the close of the first day of the ABA’s House of Delegates meeting, the House’s Committee on Issues of Concern presented talks that were “intended to be provocative.”

The talks, entitled “Issues of Concern to the Legal Profession” in the day’s program, grew out of the research of the Commission on the Future of Legal Services. That commission was created last year by outgoing ABA president William Hubbard to address the problems created by the rise in pro se litigants, the ongoing lack of court funding and the rise of technology to fill some of those gaps.

Continue reading here. Photo credit Kathy Anderson, Photo of Mark Britton.

People of Color Travel Stipend Application Now Open for National Lawyers Guild Law for the People Convention in Oakland, Due 9/15

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The United People of Color Caucus (TUPOCC), the National Student Vice Presidents, the Anti-Racism Committee, the Legal Workers Committee, and the National Office (NO) of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) are pleased to announce, once again, the availability of travel stipends for those who self-identify as a law student of color, a recent graduate of color, and/or a legal worker of color to attend the annual NLG Law for the People Convention in Oakland (October 21-25). – (Register now on the NLG website).

This year priority will be given to law students, legal workers and recent graduates of color but depending on availability of funds lawyers with a demonstrated financial need will also be considered.

The application deadline is midnight PST on September 15, 2015. Applicants may use the online application. LGBTQIA, and persons with disabilities are particularly encouraged to apply.

For more information, click here.

Washington State Bar Association Board Seeks Input on Final Report Addressing Governance Task Force Recommendations

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The Board of Governors has completed its year-long review and discussion of the Governance Task Force Recommendations, which were developed through an 18-month, in-depth review of the WSBA’s governance. The Board’s final report is scheduled for adoption at the Sept. 17-18 Board meeting in Seattle.

The Board is seeking comments on the final report. All comments will be included in the public session Board materials and must be received by Sept. 2, 2015. Please email your comments to governance@wsba.org.

Need Tips on Your Resume, Blogging, Combatting LGBT Bias? Check Out These Resources!

Teaching law students to blog : Interview of Law Professor Dr. Silvia Hodges Silverstein

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