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2008 July - August

Race-Conscious Community Lawyering

Practicing Outside the Box

By Tammi Wong

When developing a race-conscious practice while working with nonwhite client communities, attorneys should consider adopting a community-laywering approach to their advocacy. Through collaboration, attorneys can help diverse population groups build their own resources and capacities to advance their own interests in a self-directed manner. A recent project with the Hmong community in California illustrates how community lawyering can be the best way for an advocate to provide legal assistance in a culturally competent manner.

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Displaced Workers and Their Search for Support in a Broken Bureaucracy

By Steven D. Schwinn

Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) offers workers and farmers various benefits to support them through periods of trade-induced job displacement. Obtaining TAA begins with filing a petition with the appropriate government office. After that point many petitioners are met with the mismanagement that permeates TAA programs. Displaced workers must have access to counsel to help them navigate the programs and litigate on their behalf if necessary.

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Massachusetts Health Care Reform

Are We There Yet?

By Victoria Pulos

Massachusetts’ health care reform law has been in place for slightly more than two years, and, as consensus grows on the need for health care reform, states and advocates are looking to Massachusetts for lessons. The program has apparently succeeded in reducing the number of uninsured state residents by requiring coverage and making subsidized plans available. However, costs are exceeding projections, and cost control is a growing challenge as the state’s economy moves into recession.

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A Challenge for Lawyers

What We Must Do to End Poverty and Reduce Inequality

By Peter Edelman

Looking ahead from 2008, we see both opportunities and challenges to which everyone in the advocacy community must respond. We must face and reverse the U.S. economy’s profound flaws that have become more entrenched as “good” jobs have disappeared. These economic changes have exacerbated racial disparities, especially the circumstances of young African American men, a huge proportion of whom are ensnared in the cradle-to-prison pipeline. The full-time advocate and the private bar must recognize each other’s strengths and collaborate.

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Housing Choice Voucher Termination Hearings

Best Practices for Public Housing Agencies

By Eric Dunn, Ashley Fluhrer Greenberg & Anisha Sundarraj

Public housing authorities administering Section 8 housing assistance vouchers are authorized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development regulations to create their own program rules in their administrative plans. Advocates should ensure that local administrative plans contain policies and procedures for voucher terminations that are fair and comport with due process. Best practices taken by public housing authorities across the country protect the rights of subsidized housing tenants through every stage of a voucher termination hearing.

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The Imprimatur of Buckhannon on the Prevailing-Party Inquiry

By Gill Deford

The Buckhannon Board and Care Home v. West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources decision in 2001 eliminated the catalyst theory (by which a plaintiff was deemed a prevailing party if the lawsuit caused the defendant to change its policy) and established that a judgment on the merits and a consent decree would confer prevailing-party status. However, much remained unclear about determining when a plaintiff had prevailed. Since then, the federal courts have devoted an extra ordinary amount of time and effort in clarifying this question, with varying results. Understanding how courts have applied the basic Buckhannon concepts and the decision’s applicability in the preliminary-injunction and postjudgment contexts helps plaintiffs’ attorneys resist defendants’ efforts to use Buckhannon to prevent a fee award.

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Human Rights and the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women

A Strategy for Local Implementation

By Youmna Chlala & Chivy Sok

The first local human rights ordinance in the United States was the San Francisco Cedaw (Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women) ordinance signed into law in 1998. Ten years later, WILD (Women’s Institute for Leadership Development) for Human Rights, a key organizer of supporters of the ordinance, evaluates the effects of the ordinance’s implementation on the San Francisco community.

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Increasing Automation in State Computer Systems

Preventing Technological Barriers to Successful Public Benefits Administration

By Anne H. Chen

States are increasingly relying on computer automation to administer their public benefit programs to the extent that eligibility can be determined more by software design than by caseworkers. New computer systems in several states have created serious barriers for applicants, and designing technology that works accurately across benefit programs has proven to be a challenge. Advocates should anticipate these problems and intervene early when states are considering adoption of new technology to administer benefit programs.

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Third-Party Beneficiary Claims

Recent Cases Against Private Parties and Local Agencies

By Rochelle Bobroff & Harper Jean Tobin

State courts across the country vary widely in their response to third-party beneficiary claims against private parties and local agencies funded by federal or state monies. Contract law generally can help enforce rights of individuals who receive services from private parties and local agencies under federal and state contracts unless the contract specifically excludes third-party rights. Advocates need to seek out cases to make it more possible for third parties to enforce claims against state or federally funded contractors.

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