University of Idaho College of Law Public Interest Law Group

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Swamp Tour by Carole Wells

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Jetta Hatch and I decided to be adventurous or adventuresome (something to do with adventure) and signed up for a swamp tour on Saturday morning. We were picked up by a van at our hotel and headed off to pick up the rest of our adventurous crew.

First we picked up David from Germany who was in New Orleans attending a physics’ conference. Next we picked up Claudia from Germany who was in New Orleans attending a physics’ conference. Finally we picked up Guido from Germany (but now lives in Switzerland) who was in New Orleans attending a physics’ conference. It was a large conference and none of them knew each other. They were very polite and did not speaking German in our presence. This was even after I told them that I love to speak French in the presence of non French speakers. It turns out that David also spoke French and Claudia spoke Russian. So, with Jetta’s Russian, we were quite a multicultural group.


When we arrived at Jean Lafitte’s swamp tour we were directed to our boat, a barge type vessel with plenty of walking space. The captain gave us a few pointers: keep hands and feet inside the barge, beware of overhanging branches and, most importantly, if we fall in the water, we are on our own. He suggested that we swim over to the bank. He made it clear that he will not be jumping in to rescue us.


We learned that alligators can eat turtles, shell and all – apparently their first stomachs have a killer acid that dissolves turtle shells. We also saw marsh cypress trees and their “knees”(roots) that help to keep the tree afloat.


By far, the most exciting part of the tour was seeing the large alligators snap at the “marsh”mallows that the guide threw in the water and the opportunity to hold a two year old alligator. It felt cool and smooth and had a very strong tail. Thankfully its mouth was taped shut with electrical tape and we were told to hang on to its strong tail so that it would not get away.


The trip was fun and the weather was great. All in all, a great swamp tour!






Written by jrdo410

March 20, 2008 at 1:56 pm

Idaho Volunteer Lawyers Program

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I felt excited and nervous as I prepared to go into the Idaho State Bar office on Monday morning. The Idaho Volunteer Lawyers Program staff was supportive and welcoming, so I was soon put at ease in their office. They seemed genuinely happy to have Sarah and me in the office. Our supervisors were helpful and immediately put us to work.

My task at the IVLP was to research and crystallize the Idaho Uniform Probate Code in Title 15. Many of the calls received at the IVLP are about estates and probate procedures, so I expanded an existing memo that elucidated this area of law for future use on the IVLP website. It was a creative process to anticipate the kinds of scenarios and questions that the average person might have about creating and contesting a will. The research took me in a myriad of directions, from conversations with the DMV about transferring title to inherited vehicles to the Idaho Bureau of Health Policy and Vital Statistics for how to procure a death certificate. I re-phrased the Code’s “legalese” in ways that a non-lawyer could easily understand. I learned about an area of law that is less exotic, but no less important, than other areas of law. It made me realize how integral estate law is in the lives of everyday people.

On Wednesday night, Sarah and I assisted with a workshop for divorce and child support orders. I mainly did child support calculations while Sarah assisted an attorney with a divorce case. This was especially rewarding, since it brought me from legal theory and into the practice of law. I was able to have some conversations with area attorneys about their work and research. There was also a satisfaction about getting to help real people complete their necessary legal work. There was a tangible look of relief on their faces as they walked out the front door with their notarized orders.

I would recommend the Idaho Volunteer Lawyers Program to any law student looking for a placement. The work will vary from week to week, and the staff at the Idaho State Bar loves working with students. I am looking forward to doing some more volunteer work with them the next time I am in Boise.

For more information, visit

Lacey Rammell-O’Brien

Written by jrdo410

March 19, 2008 at 9:41 pm

Posted in Boise, Uncategorized

MDA Phase II Program – Deadline Today

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The Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) has been given federal money to distribute to the people of Mississippi. The Homeowner Assistance Program is one of the plans set up to help determine the allocation of these funds, with up to $150,000 granted to homeowners. Applications for the MDA Phase II program are due this Saturday, March 15. Many people need help filling out the application. Others have turned in their applications and haven’t heard back yet, so they wonder if everything is working correctly. Some have already heard back with disparaging news: either they didn’t receive any money or the money they received isn’t enough.

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Written by jrdo410

March 15, 2008 at 9:23 am

Track II Update – Biloxi Vietnamese Population Helped by MCJ and Boat People

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Anna and Erika outside a MEMA cottage

Imagine navigating a maze of bureaucracy in the aftermath of a storm. Your house is destroyed, gas and food prices are through the roof. What federal and state grants are available to you? How do you know if you are eligible?


Now imagine trying to navigate this bureaucratic maze in a foreign language. Beyond hello and goodbye, you have almost no English skills whatsoever.

This is exactly what many Vietnamese immigrants are going through right now in Biloxi, MS. There are about 4,500 Vietnamese living in Biloxi right now. Biloxi’s total population is around 50,000, pre-Katrina.

Today I spoke with a Vietnamese man who was living in a mobile home before the storm. His home and everything he owned was destroyed, including all of his tools for work.


Thankfully, there is an organization that can help bridge the information gap. Boat People SOS “Meeting Urgent Needs Today, Empowering Vietnamese Communities for Tomorrow.”


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Written by jrdo410

March 12, 2008 at 6:58 pm

Track III update- where’s my title?

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The track III group is providing information to individuals in order to dispel myths about their grant eligibility. Do they qualify or not, and what information is needed? Unfortunately many people have been given faulty information or are just unaware about what financial resources are available to them.

So today we headed down to Waveland, MS, about 45 minutes from Biloxi. And yes, people still need support and resources. We interviewed people with a wide variety of needs: anything from looking to recoup their losses from contractor fraud to people still trying to prove legal title to their lost property deeds.

After work we all met up to eat some authentic gulf coast cuisine, crawfish and hushpuppies. We all would like to thank the mystery person who picked paid $10 of everyone’s tab.


Written by jrdo410

March 12, 2008 at 2:57 am

Mississippi Center for Justice Day 1

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FEMA Trailer_________MCJ Office__________ Closed Store_________ Housing

After spending the first two nights in New Orleans, we arrived in Biloxi at 8:30 this morning. From what I have seen of the city thus far, it is basically a few large casinos surrounded by severely run down neighborhoods. Most of the trees appear dead and have no leaves. The area looks thoroughly depressed.


We spent most of the day learning about the situation here in Biloxi and getting an overview of what we will be doing for the rest of the week. I wasn’t aware of the details of the storm before today. The eye of Katrina came directly over this area, causing a 30 foot high storm “surge” to crash into the Gulf shore. This surge flooded houses over 12 miles inland. As one of our supervising attorney’s put it today – “New Orleans was a bad situation because the faulty leaves failed. In Biloxi, the storm surged caused most of the damage, and many homes outside the “flood plain” were totally flooded.”


We also received a history of Mississippi Center for Justice and a description of current activities from attorneys John Jopling, Reilly Morse, and Crystal Utley. We had a great lunch with the students from Roger Williams, about 20 of us in total, at a nice Vietnamese restaurant – Long Kim’s. After lunch, we received more in depth instruction on the projects we were going to be working on.

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Written by jrdo410

March 11, 2008 at 3:55 am

More Photos – Fundraising at St. Mark’s

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St. Mark’s in Moscow made a very generous donation to the trip in exchange for us taking some old carpet out of their basement.  Thanks to St. Mark’s, Anne-Marie, and everybody that helped with the clean up.


Written by jrdo410

March 5, 2008 at 7:24 pm

Posted in Uncategorized