Congrats to the public-spirited lawyers at my old law firm, now called WilmerHale, for spending almost $1 million worth of pro-bono time to free an innocent man — without DNA evidence. Read all the details at TalkLeft, Court Frees NY Man After 26 Years “Compelling Innocence” Case. It is hard not to agree with the conclusion:
How many other innocent persons are languishing in our prisons because of withheld evidence, lying snitches, faulty eyewitness testimony, false confessions, junk science, lab fraud, ineffective counsel and other reasons not able to be discerned by DNA evidence, which either never existed or was not preserved — or because they don't have the means to retain dedicated counsel like those the Innocence Project found for Mr Bozella?
In addition to not making me look bad — indeed, making me look nice — I especially liked the conclusion of the piece,
The recession has created a huge need for legal services. And it has created a glut of laid off or unemployed lawyers. But matching the attorneys to the work is difficult because it is tough to pay off law school debts by helping low income families fight off foreclosure proceedings. Miami’s programs aren’t going to fix that fundamental disconnect between the cost of law school and the need for legal services.
But the school has taken a nice step in the right direction. The fellowship stipend might not be much, but it is infinitely more valuable than lip service.
ATL is best known for ribbing or even bashing lawyers and law schools…and the commentators in its threads are ferocious on a good day, and worse otherwise. (Indeed, the first comment on the article reads, in full, “Suck it.”)
Nice quotes from Yolanda Paschal, one of our great Fellows, from Carolina Lombardi, a senior attorney at Legal Services of Greater Miami Inc., and a few words from me. I'm glad that our program is getting some recognition. As the article says, the foreclosure defense problem is enormous, the legal resources available are puny compared to the need, and we at the law school are trying to do something about it.
Whether and how we can repeat this year's effort, however, still depends on what sort of funding we can raise for it. Fund raising is very very tough in the current economic climate. Our current plan is to shift away from giving fellowships to graduates and instead ramp up on a student-staffed housing-related clinic that might even be housed downtown. In a perfect world, I'd like to do both the clinic and the graduate Fellowships, but the funding is not yet in hand to make that possible.
Incidentally, the legal defense for borrowers that I mentioned in the the TIME article — that parties foreclosing sometimes don't actually know who owns the note — is featured in a column in today's NYT, Gretchen Morgenson's If Lenders Say 'The Dog Ate Your Mortgage'. In other cases there are different meritorious defenses, but it takes a trained person to identify them. And then no doubt there are the cases where people really will lose their homes no matter what you do; the point is to figure out which case is which rather than just give up. And that takes a lawyer.
Video by the Progressive Change Campaign Comission. It gets a nice shot in at Olympia Snowe, too. She deserves it since her stand seems entirely unprincipled and driven by fear of her caucus.
One thing, though: although an Obama campaign white paper did mention the public option, he really didn't campaign on it. Indeed, Obama's somewhat cautious health care policy was one of the reasons why I wasn't a bigger fan in the primaries. The problem with Obama's policies here is, to me, more one of consistent timidity rather than going back on a pledge. And then there's Rham too…