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2008 January - February

Legal Aid Programs and Community Colleges

A Partnership for Higher-Education Opportunities for Welfare Recipients

By Nu Usaha, Cheryl Fong & Vickie Hay

Through state work participation requirements, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families imposed on welfare recipients tough work rules and limitations on education and training needed to obtain higher-wage jobs. The work-first mentality of some state and county staff often has resulted in staff and educational and legal aid advocates working at cross-purposes in interpreting and implementing state law regulations. Advocates from legal aid programs and community colleges in California have forged a partnership to help ensure CalWORKs recipients access to postsecondary education.

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The Crimes that Bind

The Intersection of Subsidized Housing and Criminal Law

By Hong Tran

Current or past involvement with the criminal justice system may render applicants ineligible for admission to public housing programs, including Section 8. Legal advocates should be knowledgeable about how criminal conduct, even mere accusations of such, can result in barriers to subsidized housing assistance and how these barriers may be compounded when the applicant has a mental disability or is a domestic violence victim or noncitizen. By understanding these issues, advocates can develop systemic strategies to ensure such applicants’ admission to or retention of subsidized housing.

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Negotiating Consent Decrees that Work

By Jane Perkins

Systemic poverty law cases are often settled through negotiations that lead to consent decrees that lead to orders enforceable by the court. In recent years government defendants have resisted or have sought modification or termination of consent decrees, particularly in Medicaid cases, and state legislatures have acted to discourage this form of case settlement. For these reasons, advocates should file cases only when the facts and claims are strong, the willingness to litigate is apparent, and the desired relief clearly understood; advocates should negotiate consent decrees carefully.

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Electronic Employment Verification Systems

More Harm than Good

By Tyler Moran

Requiring all employers to utilize a mandatory electronic employment verification system to determine whether a new hire is eligible to work in the United States offers pros and cons in the national debate on immigration policy. The ongoing Basic Pilot/E-Verify program reveals such weaknesses in a potential national mandatory system as database inaccuracies, employer misuse, technology limitations, privacy lapses, and discrimination against workers. Advocates should be aware of both the harmful aspects of federal, state, and local legislation creating mandatory verification systems and appropriate legal and advocates responses.

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Home Energy Costs

The New Threat to Independent Living for the Nation's Low-Income Elderly

By John Howat & Philene Taormina

Increased accessibility of home and community-based long-term care and related government funding make independent living more possible for many older Americans. High household energy prices and expenditures, however, threaten home energy security of low-income elderly people who seek to age safely in their own homes. Consumer protections that reduce arrearage rates and the shutoff of services may enhance the effectiveness of the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program and other energy programs. Various policies, such as the a “affordable energy bargain”—a model program offering long-term affordability and arrearage management options—would protect vulnerable elderly customers from the life-threatening loss of service.

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Affirmatively Litigating: “The Computer Ate My Homework, Your Honor”

What You Need to Know About the Electronic Discovery Amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure

By Greg Bass

Amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure incorporating information technology advances relevant to civil discovery became effective December 1, 2006. The rules and interpreting case law now expressly include electronically stored information (ESI) as a discrete category of discoverable information. The parties’ rights obligations under the rules differ according to whether the ESI data sought are in a “reasonably accessible” format or in a format that is considered “not reasonably accessible.” Data preservation requirements and sactions for spoliation of ESI are also set forth in the rules.

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