The Average Number of Legal Problems Per Low-Income Household Has Tripled Over the Last Decade

New Report: 2015 Washington State Civil Legal Needs Study Update Reveals Troubling Justice Gap

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By: Equal Justice Coalition 

SEATTLE — Oct. 29, 2015 — A Washington Supreme Court commissioned statewide survey of more than 1,600 low-income Washingtonians discovered that seven of ten low-income individuals and families in Washington State face at least one significant civil legal problem each year, and the average number of problems per low-income household has tripled over the last decade.

Despite the growing number of civil legal problems that often implicate their most basic needs, the vast majority of low-income Washingtonians do not receive the legal help they need to solve these problems. More than three-quarters of those with civil legal problems struggle without a lawyer or any type of legal help.

Continue reading here.

Free CLE for ABA Members: From Montgomery to Ferguson and Baltimore, Lawyers as Agents of Change: The Role of the Law in the Long Arc of Justice

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Monday, November 16, 2015
1:00 PM – 2:35 PM ET

1.5 General CLE Credits

Webinar
List price $195
ABA Member Price FREE

In this month’s ABA Free CLE Series, join us as we:

  • Commemorate the 60th Anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott
  • Explore the role of lawyers and the judiciary as a participant in resolving social conflicts

Speakers
Nicole Austin-Hillery | Director and Counsel | The Brennan Center For Justice | Washington, DC
Sheila Y. Thomas | Attorney at Law | Law Offices of Sheila Thomas | Oakland, CA
Stephen F. Hanlon | Adjunct Professor | Saint Louis University School of Law | St. Louis, MO

Moderator
Paulette Brown
President | American Bar Association

Register online here.

Seminar Promotes Access to Justice for the Deaf

Deaf Seminar - Photo credit David Keane

By: Sean O’Riodan | Irish Examiner | Photo credit David Keane

“We can learn a lot from the experiences shared by the members of the Irish deaf community who participated in this research,” said Ms Harold.

“One of the most significant findings is the need to improve communication awareness amongst those who assist and support Deaf victims of crime, in order to make their services more accessible.”

Ms Harold, who has been funded by Irish Research Council to explore deaf people’s experiences as victims of crime and their interaction with the criminal justice process, said the event was very worthwhile.

Continue reading here.

For Non-U.S. Citizens, Early Release from Prison Means Swift Deportation

By: Pamela Constable | Washington Post | Photo credit: Washington Post

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Nearly one in three of the inmates being released from U.S. prisons this month as part of an effort to roll back harsh drug sentences will not be returning to the states and cities where they were arrested.

Instead, they are being deported.

They are non-U.S. citizens, who in many cases were in this country legally when they were caught selling drugs and given long sentences under the “mandatory minimum” laws that grew out of the 1980s crack cocaine epidemic.

Like the rest of the 6,000 prisoners selected for the U.S. Prison Bureau’s largest-ever mass release, each has been found by a judge not to be a threat to society. But every one of the non-citizens in the group had either received final deportation orders from immigration judges or was being reviewed for deportation before the mass release was planned, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said.

Continue reading here.

Mexico’s Supreme Court Rules that Smoking Pot is a Fundamental Human Right

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By: Christopher Ingraham | Washington Post | Photo Credit: Alex Cruz/European Press Photo Agency

Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled 4-to-1 Wednesday that outlawing the possession and use of the marijuana plant represents a violation of fundamental human rights. While the ruling does not mean that marijuana is now legal in the country — it only applies to the four plaintiffs in this specific case — it gives a tremendous amount of political space for lawmakers to introduce marijuana reform bills at the state and federal level in Mexico.

“It’s really a monumental case,” said Hannah Hetzer of the Drug Policy Alliance, a drug reform advocacy group, in an interview. “It was argued on human rights grounds, which is unusual, and it’s taking place in Mexico, the epicenter of some of the worst effects of the war on drugs.”

Continue reading here.

Clerkships, Fellowship, and Internship Opportunities for Social Justice

U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants Seeking Program Intern in Spring 2015, Due 1/5/15

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U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI), a non-governmental, not-for-profit national organization dedicated to addressing the needs and rights of refugees and immigrants, seeks interns to provide support to USCRI’s Immigrant Children’s Legal Program (formerly the National Center for Refugee and Immigrant Children). Our office is located in Crystal City, part of the Washington D.C. metropolitan area.

The Immigrant Children’s Legal Program (ICLP) assists undocumented immigrant children ages 0-18 who are in removal proceedings. ICLP screens children for eligibility for legal relief from deportation; recruits and trains volunteer attorneys; and matches children with attorneys.

For more information on the internship, click here.

Attention 1Ls and 2Ls! Litigation Judicial Intern Opportunity Applications Now Open, Due 1/9/15

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The American Bar Association Section of Litigation will begin accepting applications for its Summer 2015 Judicial Intern Opportunity Program on November 3. Applications for first-year law students will be accepted December 1, 2014, in accordance with NALP guidelines. The program is a full-time (32 hours per week), six-week minimum, summer internship program open to all first- or second-year diverse law students. Screening interviews will begin in December and will continue through the application process.  The first 500 applicants will be guaranteed at least one interview.

Please review detailed program information or frequently asked questions prior to applying to the program. Students do not need to be an ABA member to apply, however they will be required to join the ABA and the Section of Litigation if selected to the program.   Applications must be submitted by the January 9, 2015 deadline. Screening interviews will be used to better determine student qualifications.  Screening interviews will begin in December and will continue through the application process.  The first 500 applicants will be guaranteed at least one interview.  Additional applicants will be interviewed on an as needed basis.  We will make every attempt to interview students where they attend school and in person.  Students will be contacted by their assigned screener to set up the interview.

Only qualified students will be sent on for judicial interviews.  Students will be notified when they are sent on for a judicial interview.  Judicial interviews will continue until all positions are filled.  All applicants will be notified when the program or certain locations have closed for the year and all positions are filled.

The program is only open to students who have not previously participated as an intern in the program. 

For more information, click here.

Clerkship Opportunities with Institute for Justice, Preferred Submissions Before 1/9/15

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The Institute for Justice, the national law firm for liberty, is currently hiring for spring and summer clerkships.  Clerkships are a great way to get a foot in the door at IJ and make direct contributions to cutting-edge public interest litigation.  Clerks are an integral part of our team—we rely on them for help with our current casework in addition to legal research that will factor into our strategic litigation for years to come.

The application for our highly-competitive summer clerkship is live now.  Students are encouraged to apply well before the January 9th deadline.  We’ll begin interviews in early January with rolling offers until all positions are filled.  The clerkships last for 10 weeks.

Is your law school near our headquarters office in Arlington, Virginia or one of our chapter offices in Bellevue, Tempe, Austin, Minneapolis, or Miami?  Our limited number of spring clerkship positions offer students the unique opportunity to work closely with our attorneys on a flexible schedule 15-20 hours per week.  We’re accepting applications now and will conduct interviews through mid-December.

To apply, and for more information about all of our student opportunities, click here.

Attention 1Ls! Public Counsel Now Accepting Summer 2015 Clerkship Applications

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For law students who want to spend their summer practicing law in one of the country’s most prestigious public interest law settings – this opportunity is for you!

Public Counsel, the nation’s largest pro bono law firm, is now accepting applications from 2L’s for its 2015 Summer Clerkship Program. Applications from 1L’s will be accepted beginning December 1, 2014. Any questions regarding the summer program should be directed to Public Counsel Summer Program Coordinator, Sandra Madera.

For complete information on the summer program, including how to apply for a clerkship, interested students should visit Public Counsel’s 2015 Summer Clerkship Application page here

Public Knowledge Seeking Summer Law Clerks, Applications Accepted on a Rolling Basis

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Public Knowledge is a nonprofit technology policy organization. Public Knowledge promotes freedom of expression, an open internet, and access to affordable communications tools and creative works. We challenge barriers to people’s rights to fairly create, access, own, and use innovative technologies by providing resources to policy makers and the public.

Public Knowledge is currently hiring summer law clerks for 2015. Applicants must be current law students. Applicants should have a demonstrated interest in public interest technology policy, including issues arising under telecommunications, copyright, patent, privacy, and international law.

Public Knowledge is committed to ensuring that all interns are compensated for their work. We will work with exceptional candidates who do not receive funding from their schools to help secure alternate third-party sources of summer funding.

For more information, click here.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State Seeking Constitutional Litigation Intern for Summer 2015, Due 1/15/15

Americans United for Separation of Church and State

Americans United for Separation of Church and State – the nation’s leading church-state advocacy organization – is seeking first-year, second-year, and third-year law students to work as interns in our legal department in Washington, D.C. Full-time positions are available during the summer; both part-time and full-time positions are available during the fall and spring.

Americans United has a diverse litigation and amicus curiae practice addressing a wide variety of church-state issues. We challenge religious activities in the public schools, public financing of religious institutions, and government-sponsored prayers and religious displays. We defend women’s, LGBT, and other civil rights against religion-based discrimination and deprivation. Most of our cases involve novel, cutting-edge First Amendment and other constitutional issues.

The duties of legal interns include assisting with ongoing litigation by conducting legal and factual research and writing; drafting demand letters to resolve constitutional violations without filing suit; and analyzing potential new cases. Legal interns may also draft pleadings, briefs, or discovery.

For more information, click here.

Sierra Club in Portland, Oregon Seeking Chapter Director

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Founded by legendary conservationist John Muir in 1892, the Sierra Club is now the nation’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization — with more than two million members and supporters. Our successes range from protecting millions of acres of wilderness to helping pass the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Endangered Species Act. More recently, we’ve made history by leading the charge to move away from the dirty fossil fuels that cause climate disruption and toward a clean energy economy.

The Chapter Director, implements policies and programs adopted by the Chapter Executive Committee.  Manages the staff budget and operations of more than one of the following operational areas: conservation and legislative program, fundraising, volunteer development and member services, budgeting and financial management, and media relations.

For more information, click here.

Legal Foundation of Washington Seeking Education Director, Open Until Filled

The Legal Foundation of Washington (LFW) seeks an Education Director to staff the Equal Justice Coalition and support our efforts to maintain and increase public funding for civil legal aid at the federal, state and local levels. The Education Director works closely with the Access to Justice Board, a core workgroup, an advisory council, stakeholder organizations, and more than 3000 friends of equal justice that include lawyers, judges, community leaders, law students and members of the public committed to making equal justice for all a reality in Washington state.

The Education Director educates the public, elected officials and the media about the importance of civil legal aid for low-income people. The Education Director works closely with key partners, stakeholders and our Olympia-based lobbying team to develop and implement communication strategies, education efforts, and media outreach to preserve and increase funding for civil legal aid in Washington. The work is challenging and fast-paced, and requires someone who works well both on a team and independently.

For more information, click here.

Attention 3Ls! American Constitution Society Seeking 2015-2016 Law Fellow

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The American Constitution Society for Law and Policy (ACS) seeks a talented recent law school graduate to fill a position in ACS’s national headquarters. The Fellowship will begin in September 2015 and end in August 2016. The Fellow will serve as part of ACS’s Department of Policy Development and Programming staff, which is led by a group of experienced attorneys who coordinate and facilitate ACS’s rapidly expanding output of innovative, highly relevant legal and public policy work. He or she will work with the Department staff to implement an ambitious multi-year effort to engage scholars, practitioners, public officials, and law students in the articulation and dissemination of a progressive vision of the Constitution, law, and public policy.

The Fellow will have the opportunity to work on a range of progressive issues that are reflective of the ACS Issue Groups, which include Access to Justice; Criminal Justice; Economic, Workplace and Environmental Regulation; First Amendment; Separation of Powers and Federalism; Constitutional Interpretation and Change; Democracy and Voting; Equality and Liberty; and Judicial Nominations.

For more information, click here.

Attention 1Ls and 2Ls! National Lawyers Guild Offering 2015 Haywood Burns Memorial Fellowship for Social and Economic Justice, Due 1/12/15

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The Haywood Burns Fellowships are designed to encourage students to work in the NLG’s tradition of “people’s lawyering.” The program exists to help students apply their talents and skills to find creative ways to use the law to advance justice. Burns Fellowships provoke law students to question traditional notions of how one must practice law and to provide a summer experience that will enrich and challenge them.

Over the years, the Summer Projects program has expanded to place hundreds of students with public interest organizations working to protect and further the civil rights of oppressed people in the United States. Although providing legal work under the direction of their attorney-organizers is important, the primary mission of the summer projects is to strengthen each student’s long-term commitment to promote justice and equality. Fellows have worked with groups to provide legal, political, and educational support on a wide variety of issues, including voting rights; union democracy; workplace health and safety; the death penalty and prison reform; lesbian/gay/bisexual/trans rights; defense of protesters from police harassment and criminal sanctions; and international human rights.

For more information, click here.

Social Security Overpayments Creates Serious Hardships, Volunteering is Good for You, Updates from Local Civil Legal Aid Orgs, Plus more

‘I was Overpaid by Social Security’

overpaid-social-security-620xaRebecca Rivetto had received disability payments for four years for her autistic son. Now the Social Security Administration is asking for it all back.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney)- photo courtesy Rebecca Revetto

Americans dealing with injuries, mental illnesses and other impairments are being notified out of the blue that they’ve been overpaid by the Social Security Administration and now owe thousands of dollars.

One 33-year-old veteran began receiving Social Security disability payments after his left foot was amputated following an explosion in Iraq in 2007. After going through rehab for his prosthetic leg, he began working full-time for a defense contractor in 2009. As soon as he started collecting a paycheck, the veteran, who asked to remain anonymous, reported his roughly $100,000 annual salary to the Social Security Administration.

When recipients of disability benefits reenter the workforce, they have a nine-month trial period in which they continue to receive benefits. Once the trial period ends and their earnings exceed a certain level — currently $1,040 a month — the payments are supposed to stop. And that’s exactly what happened in his case.

But then, last July, he noticed a $75,000 deposit in his checking account. Three days later, a letter arrived from the Social Security Administration saying it had reinstated his benefits because he had not been “gainfully employed” during the past three years. Continue reading here.

Thanks to the folks at Seattle Community Law Center for sharing this article!

A New Frontline/ProPublica Report Sheds Lights on Assisted Living and Elder Law Issues

Elderly, At Risk and Haphazardly Protected _ Life and Death in Assisted LiviDid you know that in Minnesota and 13 other states, the administrators of assisted living facilities don’t need to have high school diplomas? Or that in California, assisted living facilities housing as many as 200 seniors need no more than two workers on the overnight shift? The workers are not required to have any medical training, and one is allowed to be asleep.

A special report from ProPublica and FRONTLINE finds that even though increasing numbers of assisted living residents are seriously ill and require complex care, regulations for assisted living lag far behind the reality in many states — and assisted living operators face few consequences for even the most serious lapses.

Why?  Our special report is here. It’s the latest installment in our investigation of assisted living in America — and it’s something you won’t want to miss.

Report Concludes that Volunteering is Good for Your Health

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A national survey of 3,351 adults conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of UnitedHealth Group demonstrates that volunteering is good for your health. 

It’s no secret within the nonprofit sector that volunteers are often the difference between “make” and “break,” the special sauce that keeps an organization moving forward, delivering against its mission, serving its constituents. From hands-on volunteers to skills-based volunteers to the volunteer leaders who serve on boards, it’s almost impossible to calculate the value that those who give back add to the sector. So it’s nice to know that those who volunteer benefit from the experience as well.

A national survey of 3,351 adults conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of UnitedHealth Group demonstrates that volunteering is good for your health. Here are some of the takeaways from this research:

  • Volunteers say they feel better—physically, mentally and emotionally—than non-volunteers
  • Volunteering helps people manage and lower stress levels
  • Volunteers feel a deeper connection to communities and others
  • Volunteers are more informed healthcare consumers and are more engaged and involved in taking care of their own health

If you work with volunteers—or if you are one yourself—those first three points are probably not very surprising. The fourth is perhaps a bit unexpected, but the report includes some interesting data around this topic, including people who report that volunteering helps them cope with a chronic illness and/or helps them take their minds off their own problems. Survey respondents who volunteer scored better than those that don’t on nine well-established measures of emotional well-being. Read more here.

Columbia Legal Services and Pro Bono Partners File Suit Against Yakima Hospital Over Charity Care

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Together with Sirianni Youtz Spoonemore Hamburger, Columbia Legal Services has filed a lawsuit seeking access to healthcare for low-income Yakima area residents.

By Molly Rosbach, Yakima Herald-Republic.

In violation of state laws, Yakima Regional Medical and Cardiac Center and Toppenish Community Hospital have been deterring patients from seeking charity care, shifting the burden onto other area hospitals, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday against the hospitals’ parent corporation.

The lawsuit in Yakima County Superior Court alleges a “severe imbalance” when it comes to charity care in Yakima County, using state figures that show Regional’s total charity care cases numbering 385 for 2011 compared to 28,503 for Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital.

Toppenish Community and Regional are owned by Health Management Associates (HMA) of Naples, Fla., which is the sole named defendant.

Charity care is for patients who cannot pay all or part of their hospital bill, and is typically a tax write-off for the hospital. Read the full story here.

News from Eastside Legal Assistance Program

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By Stan Kehl, Executive Director

As the King County Budget process unfolds, I’ve been looking at the need for legal services for DV survivors. I’ve always known that we only scratch the surface in meeting this need, but the numbers I have recently received drove the point home. Domestic Abuse Women’s Network would refer 75 to 100 more survivors a month who would benefit from assistance on their family law cases. The King County Protection Order Advocates would refer an additional 100 to 120 survivors a month to ELAP, if we had the capacity to serve them. Lifewire, formerly Eastside Domestic Violence Program, would refer 15 more clients with critical health and safety needs to our ELAP DV Staff Attorneys each month, if we had the capacity. 

We are working on an innovative proposal to address this critical need by substantially expanding ELAP’s capacity to serve DV survivors by up to 120 to 130 DV survivors a year. We are designing a program to use what we see as unused resources, i.e. new attorneys who practice in the area of family law but have not fully established their practice yet, and non-practicing attorneys who would like to volunteer on a regular basis to keep their skill sharp. 

We will recruit new attorneys to the program and provide them with full support, including computers, phones, paralegal assistance, mentoring and training for one year while they build their solo practice. In return they will provide ELAP’s DV clients with 20 hours of legal services a week for one year. This will involve between five and eight of these attorneys each year. We will also recruit three to five experienced non-practicing family law attorneys who are temporarily staying at home, but who would like to give ten hours of their week.

In addition to providing legal services to more of the DV survivors who desperately need legal assistance, we want to train new family law attorneys in an environment which would acquaint them with working with DV survivors. We would also be forging connections with them, which we believe will lead to ongoing pro bono work on behalf of DV survivors.

If you would like to be a part of this effort, or have suggestions and ideas for this program, please contact me at stan@elap.org.

Equal Justice Coalition Funding Update

logoDuring the months of September and October, six legal aid Alliance organizations and the Equal Justice Coalition testified at all four scheduled public hearings on King County Executive Dow Constantine’s proposed fiscal year 2014 budget. The public hearings were held in Kent, North Bend, Bellevue, and Seattle.

Legal aid organizations that provided testimony, and that are supported through Executive Dow Constantine’s proposed budget are Seattle Community Law Center, Unemployment Law Project, TeamChild, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, Eastside Legal Assistance Program, and the Family Assistance Program at Solid Ground.

While we are thankful to be included in the Executive’s proposed budget, we’ve continued to meet with Councilmembers to highlight the importance of investing in our services, which collectively ensures our most vulnerable people are protected.

The County’s investment has enabled legal aid organizations to leverage support through unique partnerships that have resulted in a coordinated multiple entry point system for low-income people to gain access to the legal services they need.

Last year, the County’s investment of half a million dollars to these six legal aid programs allowed them to leverage support from volunteer attorneys, yielding over 25,000 hours of pro bono help – a sizable return on investment of about $4 million to the county.

At a time when we’ve seen a decline in federal support, and state funding has remained stagnant, King County has stepped up its support for legal services.

The King County Council’s Budget Leadership Team is currently in the process of budget deliberations. We expect the Council to announce their final proposal within two weeks.

State Civil Legal Aid Funding Protected, New UN Gender Indicators, Interactive Poverty Map & LBAW Immigation Clinic

WA Equal Jusitce Coalition Reports State Legal Aid Funding Preserved

EqualJusticeUnderLawImageState legal aid funding has been protected for the 2013-2015 biennium. The Governor signed into law the agreed upon budget that adopts the House appropriations level for the Office of Civil Legal Aid, funding OCLA and Northwest Justice Project at the same level that the Legislature provided in the 2011-2013 biennium.

At a time when budgets were slashed for many entities, this result is a huge relief. This result could not have been possible without the help of countless equal justice advocates and supporters who wrote loads of emails and made calls to legislators. As you will recall, the Senate originally proposed cuts to legal aid of about $5 million, which would have been devastating. For more about the Equal Justice Coalition please click here.

New Poverty Rates Mapping Tool

prracThe Poverty & Race Research Action Council reports a that there’s a new interactive map from the Urban Institute that graphically shows shifts in poverty rates in both urban and suburban areas from 1980 to 2010 – zoom in to see how your metro area has changed (and hasn’t changed).

To Improve Data Collection, UN Agrees on Ground-Breaking Gender Indicators

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Data collection on social and economic development has come a long way, particularly since the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) — the eight anti-poverty goals internationally agreed upon more than a decade ago. Yet, much remains to be done, particularly in the area of gender statistics, which can help to illustrate the impact development policies have on women’s lives. For example, only a little over one-third of Governments regularly generate statistics on their citizens’ access to clean water, which directly impacts the women who spend hours collecting it; and while the figures are somewhat higher when it comes to measuring violence against women, only 41 per cent of States do so regularly. [1] But very little of this data can be compared between countries because of differences in how violence against women is currently being measured. Read more here.

Immigration Clinic Flyer