Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts (PMC)
Volunteer Engagement Coordinator
Project Goal: • Provide much-needed civic education to people who would not otherwise receive it. • Be a portal that communities can use to draw attention to what is not working for them in the judicial system. • Empower people to be their own judicial advocates going forward. • Through PMC Watches™, gather firsthand information about how judges and judicial administrators are interacting with the public. • Through PMC Listens™, act as a liaison between the community and other legal services providers, directing individuals to much needed services they would not be aware of otherwise.
Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts (PMC) is a statewide nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring a fair and impartial judicial system. PMC functions as a court watchdog, identifying and speaking out on issues that impact the public’s confidence in our courts, and then working proactively and cooperatively to reform and modernize the judiciary. We serve as a highly respected information hub for the public, policymakers, the legal community, the courts and the media.
Address Two Penn Center, Suite 1140
Total number of Agency Staff Members 3
Agency Budget $645,000
The fellow’s duties and responsibilities:
- Identify neighborhoods with high court use and community leaders in those neighborhoods, and schedule introductory meetings to ensure the programming is consistent with the communities’ needs.
- Develop and implement a comprehensive volunteer initiative, which includes recruiting, training, and managing teams of student and attorney volunteers to staff the “PMC in the Community” outreach programs.
- Serve as a recruitment liaison for law schools, universities, and professional associations.
- Conduct research and devise program-specific training curricula for volunteers, and ensure that assignments are mutually beneficial to PMC and the volunteers.
- Ensure that volunteers are provided with benefits in exchange for their time, such as school credit when applicable, the opportunity to attend networking events, etc.
- Assume responsibility for volunteer staffing calendars and outreach mechanisms for volunteer-staffed projects.
- Participate in programming and manage programming evaluations.
Skills/qualifications a fellow should have to succeed in the position:
- Experience in human relations or grassroots organizing and mobilization desired.
- Interest in Pennsylvania’s judicial system and commitment to social justice.
- Ability to interface effectively with diverse individuals and institutions.
- Demonstrated experience in managing small teams.
- Detail-oriented approach to team building and maintenance.
- “Can-do” attitude; strong interpersonal and writing skills.
Specific community need that the Philly Fellow will address:
Improving access to courts, lawyers, legal information for the poor and marginalized is not just in the interests of ‘justice’ in the abstract, but is fundamental for tackling poverty.1 While Philadelphia’s population is growing in numbers and diversity, the city currently reports the worst poverty rate, 26%, of the ten largest U.S. cities.2 It is, therefore, understandable that approximately 1.9 million Pennsylvanians qualify for legal aid each year. A recent study indicated that nationally one in every two individuals who qualify for and actually seek assistance from legal aid programs is turned away because of a lack of resources. The study also verified that at least 80% of the legal needs of the poor go unmet.3 Considering the poverty-crime connection and the correlation between the ability of low-income individuals to obtain and use resources and public services, there is a real need for direct community education about the judicial system to affect this imbalance. PMC’s Philly Fellow would be part of a team launching PMC in the Community™, a multi-faceted program designed to increase community access to court-related information, and simultaneously to allow our team to understand better how the judiciary is not working well for individuals, that is targeted to areas with a high percentage of court users, i.e., communities of poverty and high crime rates. 1.Open Democracy, https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/kate-donald/vicious-circle-of-poverty-and-injustice 2. U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, 2014, One-Year Estimates© 2016, The Pew Charitable Trusts 3.The Public Interest Law Center, http://www.pilcop.org/civiljusticecoalition/
How the new capacity created by this fellow will help strengthen the community and alleviate the problem:
PMC’s new community outreach initiative will be coordinated by the Philly Fellow. PMC currently does not have staff capacity to begin the programming in any significant way. As noted above, the program is intended to reach low-income individuals directly where they live and work and will not rely on them to know how to reach us when they need information and guidance on court related issues. We believe that providing education for all citizens about the judicial system is our responsibility. By increasing understanding of the judicial system and how to navigate it, we will be improving access to the courts for many low-income individuals who must represent themselves in this complex system; we can help to fill the gap that exists between the legal needs of Philadelphia’s poorest communities and formal legal aid available to them by providing educational resources for the poor and marginalized. The Philly Fellow will be instrumental in this critical system by implementing the programming while creating a feedback loop which will, in turn, help us to learn firsthand what barriers are preventing people from full and equal participation in the courts. Gathering and assessing this valuable feedback will guide our future advocacy and programming work.
Level of community involvement in the fellow’s project:
The Philly Fellow will be central to the implementation and success of our project. In collaboration with PMC leadership, the Philly Fellow will identify those communities in the Philadelphia region with the highest percentage of court users, and then collaborate with community organizations in those areas to develop specific opportunities for conducting our educational sessions. Our intent is to reach people in their own neighborhoods at places where local issues are discussed, such as community and senior centers, places of worship, and recreational centers. The Philly Fellow would be meeting with leaders of those organizations and be present for all of the programming. Forms of outreach may include: • Conducting workshops on citizens’ rights and expectations within the criminal justice system. • Providing resources about local diversion courts for citizens who may not be aware of them. • Educating citizens about what to expect from jury duty. • Offering strategies for self-represented litigants navigating the court system.
The organization’s experience operating anti-poverty programming of this nature:
While PMC has never explicitly developed any anti-poverty initiatives, we have spent the last 28 years fighting for judicial reform and transparency. In order to sharpen and refine our mission, we believe that is imperative to develop programming which reaches out to underserved and impoverished communities and which takes into account the persistent link between poverty and court use. Going forward, we want to nurture a broad coalition that includes not only lawmakers and lawyers, but also community leaders and ordinary people, so as to be sure our recommendations and interventions serve all Pennsylvanians and work in concert with anti-poverty and social justice programs fighting for fairness and equal access to justice. PMC’s President & CEO has experience in other nonprofits that can inform our programming here, and a PMC has a wealth of relationships and respect in the community that will take us very far. Our broad range of civic partners, including, but not limited to, the Women’s Law Project, Community Legal Services, Juvenile Law Center, Support Center for Child Advocates, Committee of 70, Women Against Abuse Legal Center, Friends of Farmworkers, Chamber of Commerce, League of Women Voters, NAACP, as well as state and local bar associations, will be an asset to us when developing and implementing this new programming. Our partners and our personal experiences have confirmed that people who reach out to us for advice are generally members of the poorest communities. In addition, legal aid organizations often reach out to us for comprehensive information about current topics facing Pennsylvania’s courts that may impact their clients, including the needy, victims of domestic violence, victims of child abuse and neglect, people with disabilities, members of the LGBT community, homeless individuals and their families, low-income Pennsylvanians living with HIV/AIDS, farmworkers, senior citizens, and other categories of individuals in need of legal help.
Fellow orientation plan:
Substantive Orientation/Training • Shadow the President & CEO for the first week in the office to gain a general understanding of the work of PMC. • Hold introductory meetings with staff to outline the Fellow’s role and arrange for shadowing opportunities with other staff members. • Review policy and procedures materials, along with information on PMC’s history, mission and vision. • With CEO, review all of PMC’s past programming materials on the judicial system, as well as new educational materials developed by other organizations, to finalize the PMC Shares™ materials. • With CEO, hold introductory meetings with leadership of community organizations with whom PMC will be working. Administrative • Review PMC’s policies on use of telephones, internal communications, social media, and office culture. • Discuss system for tracking Fellow’s time. • Distribute Work Plan, which includes board and staff meetings, observance opportunities, and participation in any community collaborations, relevant task forces, outreach events, etc.
Name and title of the fellow’s immediate supervisor: Maida Milone; President & CEO
Plans for supervision of the fellow:
PMC’s President & CEO will provide direct supervision for the Philly Fellow, although the Fellow would work in collaboration with other PMC staff.
Will fellow be working at the same address listed above?
Will the fellow have their own…
Office? Fellow will share
Desk? Fellow will have their own
Computer? Fellow will have their own
The approximate percentage of time the fellow will work…
As a team member in a group setting 30%
As a team leader in a group setting 30%
Will the fellow be expected to travel as part of the position? Yes
If so, how often and where? Travel within the city of Philadelphia to neighborhood centers, approximately 4 times a month.
Will the fellow need the following to carry out the position…
A driver’s license? Yes
Their own car? No