scales - logo
April 2015 Update
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia  
facebook  Twitter Logo  LinkedIn Logo  Donate Button 

School Funding Lawsuit Moves Forward
Petitioner Sheila Armstrong walks with her sons by a closed school in Philadelphia

On April 21st the Commonwealth Court issued a 12-page decision in our school funding lawsuit. The Court believes its hands are tied by prior Pennsylvania Supreme Court precedent which says the courts do not have a role in ensuring the legislature complies with its constitutional obligation to adequately and equitably fund schools. While we are disappointed, we are not surprised by this decision, and we will file an appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court by the end of May. If you would like to support this lawsuit and want to learn more, please join us for a monthly call hosted by our partners at Education Voters. Click here to learn more and to register.




Oral Argument set for May 5 in Medicaid Right to Know Case
PA Supreme Court, from
In Pennsylvania, many low-income children who are enrolled in Medicaid never get to visit a dentist. Through our decades of litigation experience in other states, we know that one root cause for this problem is that dentists are not receiving appropriate reimbursement rates from state government and health insurance companies to treat children enrolled in public insurance programs. Now we are trying to get the information through the state's Right to Know Law to see if this is true in Pennsylvania. Because the Department of Human Services and the insurance companies that operate Medicaid claim this information is secret, we have had to go to court to get access to these reimbursement rates, which are paid for by taxpayer dollars and account for 30 percent of the state's general fund budget. Now the case is before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which will hear argument on May 5th in Harrisburg. Click here to learn more about this work

Thank You Spring Interns!
Just a few of our many interns and volunteers this semester
We couldn't possibly accomplish all we do without the help of our interns and volunteers. We are especially thankful for the students, paralegals and professionals who volunteered with us this spring. Here's what one of our interns had to say about his experience. 

"My experience at The Public Interest Law Center has been, undoubtedly, the most fulfilling part of my first year in law school. While law school may help teach you many skills, it can never adequately mimic real practice. The Public Interest Law Center was able to fill that gap and give me a taste of the life of a public interest lawyer. At the Law Center, I was able to work with stellar public interest attorneys, research and apply law to real litigation, and even attend hearings and client meetings. In addition, I received a crash course in education law and an understanding of just how important education law is to the lives of children and parents." -- Andrew D'Aversa, University of Pennsylvania, class of 2017

Food Policy Advisory Council Mayoral Forum
FPAC Mayoral Forum
The Food Policy Advisory Council (FPAC) held a mayoral forum attended by nearly 100 people on April 12. The forum was a culmination of a 10-month process in which a food policy was created and vetted with the Philadelphia mayoral candidates. Staff attorney Amy Laura Cahn was appointed in 2013 to serve on this council. Click here to learn more about the Food Policy Advisory Council's food policy platform.

Marc Topaz, Board Member of the Month
Marc Topaz
Congratulations to our April board member of the month, Marc Topaz! Marc is a partner at Kessler Topaz Meltzer & Check, LLP, and a co-chair of our 2015 Annual Event Committee. Marc and his firm have been longtime supporters of the Law Center, both financially and in terms of pro bono support. Of his work with the Law Center, he said: "Our firm got involved with supporting The Public Interest Law Center around five years ago because we really believe in its mission of taking on matters that have an important social purpose...Serving on the board has been incredibly fulfilling. I leave every board meeting inspired by the work the Law Center is doing." Congratulate him by liking our Facebook post dedicated to him

Florida Medicaid Case Moves Forward Despite Recent Supreme Court Decision
stethoscope_dr_pad.jpgThe court took several steps toward a final decision this month in our Florida Medicaid case after hearing from counsel on two critical issues. First, after asking both parties to submit briefs on the effect of a recent Supreme Court case, the Court decided that the Supreme Court case impacts only one of our claims and that our remaining claims are viable. The 5-4 Supreme Court decision at hand eliminated the rights of providers to sue under a powerful Medicaid provision that requires states to pay doctors and dentists serving people enrolled in Medicaid an amount sufficient to attract enough providers to give people enrolled in Medicaid the same access as people with commercial insurance. Along with Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP, we filed an amicus brief in that case on behalf of the American Medical Association and other professional associations.

Second, attorneys for Florida's Medicaid agencies claimed that the facts painstakingly described in the Court's December 2014 order were stale. At the Court's invitation we and our co-counsel from Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP assembled declarations from doctors, dentists and experts showing the serious problems documented in the court's order still exist. The court is still deciding on next steps. Click here to learn more about this case.

Disproportionality Project Update
Law Center staff and clients at oral argument in our Blunt case in 2013
Nationwide, a disproportionate number of African American students are identified as needing special education because of their race. In Pennsylvania, it is legally acceptable to have four times as many African American students as white students identified as needing special education. Here in our area, we encountered this issue in the Lower Merion School District, and we began representing children who were erroneously placed in special education classes. Unfortunately our case was recently dismissed and our clients denied the right to appeal. We are now assessing other ways we can continue our advocacy in this area.

Advocating for Election Administration Reform
We are advocating for voting reforms that will protect every citizen's right to vote, promote a more engaged and informed electorate, and ensure that every vote is counted as cast. We are focusing on online voter registration, National Voter Registration Act compliance, updated electronic voting machines, no-fault absentee voting, early voting, and same-day voter registration. So far, we have joined a coalition, sent a letter to Governor Tom Wolf and his transition team, and we have met with the Secretary of State. Click here to learn more about our advocacy.

Follow us on Social Media and Further Reading
What you see here is only a portion of the work the Law Center has done over the past month. You can read more about our work below, but make sure to follow us on social media for daily updates!

facebook   Twitter Logo   LinkedIn Logo

Andrew Huggins, The Table Spread
More news:


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Hosted by
May 7-9, 2015

Friday, May 15, 2015, 6:00 - 8:00 P.M.

Hosted by the Center for Community Progress
May 19-21, 2015

Hosted by the American Society of Medical Association Counsel
Monday, June 8, 2015, 2:00 - 6:30 P.M.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015, 6:00 - 8:30 P.M.

Support the Law Center's work today!  Click here to donate.