Environmentalists concerned about Northwest Jax development; Jax Area Legal Aid; Explore Jax Core; Daytona 500

The Jacksonville City Council unanimously approved a development in rural Northwest Jacksonville that’s promising to bring as many as 3,000 housing units, commercial opportunities and recreation.

The nearly 1,500-acre parcel between Acree, Plummer and Old Kings roads is surrounded by conservation areas and a mitigation bank.

Local developer Corner Lot owns the property. The agreement with the city requires developers to preserve wetlands, but environmental activists say the area should be protected.


  • Hanna Holthaus, Florida Times-Union reporter.
  • Alexandria Mansfield, Florida Times-Union reporter.

Jax Area Legal Aid

Having clear title to one’s home is often crucial to saving it, whether the threat is from potential foreclosure or a natural disaster. That’s because without a clear title, the homeowner can’t negotiate with lenders or access federal aid, including disaster relief from the Federal Emergency Management Agency or housing assistance through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Jacksonville Area Legal Aid helps families avoid a potential foreclosure and access federal aid after a loved one passes away by helping them clear title through probate. Many people with lower incomes don’t realize they need this help.

Guest: Carol Miller, attorney with Jacksonville Area Legal Aid.

Explore Jax Core

It’s Black History Month, and you can learn more about Jacksonville’s rich Black heritage by taking a tour through the Urban Core on a six-person low speed electric vehicle with Explore Jax Core.

Guest: Yolanda Copeland, founder and CEO of Explore Jax Core.

The Great American Race

Thousands of fans watched as the 75th NASCAR season kicked off at the Daytona 500 over the weekend.

Guest: Josh Torres, WJCT News sports analyst.

Read the rest

Legal comment: Does compensation for closing coal-fired power plants count as state aid?

The General Court of the European Union recently found that, before authorising state compensation for the early closure of a coal plant, the European Commission should have first examined whether it was state aid. The Commission must now examine if such compensation merely offsets a damage or constitutes state aid, the implementation of which requires prior approval.

The Netherlands had enacted a law prohibiting the use of coal to produce electricity. The prohibition is progressive, depending on the efficiency of a plant and its use of renewable sources. Under the law, coal-fired power plants that would be disproportionately affected by this prohibition compared to other plants are entitled to compensation. This was the case for the Hemweg coal-fired power plant owned by Vattenfall that had to close in the very short term because it did not produce any electricity from renewable energy sources. On 20 December 2019, the Netherlands paid €52.5m to compensate Vattenfall for early closure.

Hemweg-8 power plant. Image: Vattenfall/Jorrit Lousberg

Absent any state aid notification by the Netherlands, the Commission started to investigate the draft law under state aid law. The Commission decided on 20 May 2020 that, although a judge would probably decide that the state must compensate such early closure, it was not sure that Vattenfall had a right to compensation of €52.5m and hence, that the compensation was not state aid. However, it declared the compensation compatible with the internal market, and authorised it.

Decision challenged

The Netherlands challenged this decision before the Court because the Commission failed to examine the presence of state aid.

The Netherlands claimed that the Commission can only authorise a measure if it qualifies as a state aid pursuant to the Treaty and the regulation on the procedural rules in State aid control (procedural regulation). The Commission answered that

Read the rest

Yellen says legal obstacles remain on seizure of Russian assets to aid Ukraine

Feb 27 (Reuters) – U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on Monday that Russia should bear the costs of damage caused by its invasion of Ukraine, but there are “significant legal obstacles” to confiscating major frozen Russian assets.

Yellen, speaking to reporters by phone during a surprise trip to Kyiv, said the the United States would study Ukraine’s calls to impose sanctions on Russia’s nuclear energy sector, but needed to be “mindful” of potential consequences of such an action on Western allies.

Yellen said the United States and its allies were discussing strategies to ensure that Russia pays for the devastation that its war, now in its second year, with estimates in the hundreds of billions of dollars and growing every day.

Washington has confiscated assets used in criminal activity but central bank and other large pools of assets frozen by sanctions are another matter.

“We have on this small scale, seized assets, but there are certainly legal challenges in doing more than that,” she said.

The United States and Western allies have seized more than $300 billion in Russian central bank foreign currency assets frozen by sanctions. The assets are held abroad, with a significant portion at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, but remain under Russian ownership.

Some European officials have called for their full seizure and Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said he and Yellen had discussed the issue earlier on Monday.


Russia’s nuclear energy sector has thus far escaped several rounds of sanctions, partly because a number of countries, including France, rely on Russia’s Rosatom for uranium supplies.

“We want to deprive Russia of revenue. We also need to look at potential consequences of the sanctions for ourselves and our partners,” Yellen told reporters.

She also repeated that the United States has warned

Read the rest

Israeli ministers approves bill to let Benjamin Netanyahu keep legal aid

Israeli Cabinet ministers advanced a bill on Sunday that would allow Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to keep a large donation he received from a relative to pay for his legal bills as he fights corruption charges.

The bill is part of a proposed overhaul of Israel’s legal system by Netanyahu’s new government. The plan has drawn fierce protests for over two months in Israel, the largest seen in years.

Netanyahu has been on trial for charges of fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes for almost three years. He denies wrongdoing and says the accusations are part of a “witch hunt” orchestrated by a biased media, law enforcement and justice system.

Last year, Israel’s high court ordered Netanyahu to pay back around $270,000 given by a late cousin to cover the legal expenses for him and his wife Sara.

On Sunday, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved a bill that would let public officials accept donations for legal or medical bills, despite vocal objection by the country’s attorney general that it would promote corruption.

A committee in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, also advanced bills to curtail the Supreme Court’s power of judicial review and give parliament the ability to override high court decisions.

Netanyahu’s allies say these changes are needed to reduce the power of unelected judges. But critics say they will eliminate checks and balances, concentrate power with the ruling majority and defang the Supreme Court.

Those bills will now be brought before parliament for the first of three votes required to be passed into law.

Read the rest

Judge slams Legal Aid for abandoning accused

Article content

A Brantford man accused of attempted murder found an unlikely ally in an Ontario Court judge as he was sentenced instead on one count of aggravated assault.

Article content

Barry Foster Kelly, 33, admitted to getting into a fight with an acquaintance and stabbing the man repeatedly on Oct. 21, 2021.

The man was treated at a trauma centre for cuts into his chest, including one that was 10-centimetres long and entered his chest cavity.

But Justice Gethin Edward said Kelly ended up being “abused by the criminal justice system” and he laid the blame squarely at the feet of the Legal Aid Ontario.

“Early on, the accused wanted to change lawyers,” said Edward.

“These were serious charges, so it’s not unusual for an accused to realize they need more experienced counsel, yet there was nothing but radio silence to the accused from Legal Aid.”

At one point, the judge said, the case brought Kelly back to court every week for updating. Finally, a Toronto area lawyer, Darren Sederoff, stepped in and made an application to get special funding to handle Kelly’s case.

Article content

“Hope is often the only thing that keeps you going in custody, particularly with the conditions at Maplehurst,” said Edward.

“The accused lost that hope due to the way he was treated by Legal Aid and that counts for something, in my view, as far as mitigation.”

The judge added that the delay kept Kelly in pandemic conditions when COVID was more of a concern, time when he was triple-bunked and locked down for months.

Edward said Kelly has no related record, and had waived his right to a trial despite the victim being “currently out of touch with the police” and not ready to testify against him.

There was also no evidence

Read the rest

Haverhill Arranges for Free Legal Aid for Residents; Program Aims to Address Housing Issues

Free legal help is now available to low-income and other vulnerable Haverhill residents with housing and other issues.

Mayor James J. Fiorentini said Tuesday the city developed and is paying for the program staffed at the Haverhill Citizen’s Center by local lawyers from Northeast Legal Aid. The program kicks off today, March 8, and will run Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, from noon to 4 p.m., at the Citizen’s Center, 10 Welcome St., room 13 on the lower level.

The mayor said he has been working on getting the program up and running for several months as part of a package of proposals to address the need for more affordable housing and support residents struggling with rising rental prices.

“When a landlord dramatically increases the rent or is threatening eviction, many times low-income individuals and families don’t have the means for legal advice or help,” Fiorentini said. “There are a lot of heartbreaking stories out there right now, and this is a program where people can go to get help.”

Northeast Legal Aid has been providing free legal services to the poor, indigent and underrepresented for 50 years. The organization offers free legal services for civil cases including housing matters, especially tenant/landlord issues, as well as elder law, family law, consumer protection, disability benefits and education advocacy.

Residents may reach Northeast Legal Aid by calling 978-458-1465 or visiting

Read the rest

Criminal legal aid decline resumes | News

New government contracts reversed a downward trend in the number of providers doing criminal legal aid work, government figures reveal – however, numbers have started to fall again.

After telling the House of Commons justice select committee in January that the number of providers and duty solicitors had increased since new crime contracts came into force last October, justice minister Mike Freer was asked to provide the figures demonstrating the increase, which would enable the committee to see the data in context and examine the trend over time.

The figures are provided in correspondence published by the committee last week.

In April 2021, there were 1,090 providers – a figure that gradually drops to 1,039 in September 2022. In October 2022, when the new contracts came into force, the number rose to 1,141. However, it fell the following month and stood at 1,127 In January 2023.

Dolgellau village centre, Gwynedd, Wales

The new contracts reversed a downward trend in office numbers. There were 1,589 offices in April 2021, gradually falling to 1,499 in September 2022. The following month, when the new contracts began, the number of offices rose to 1,774. However, it fell the following month and stood at 1,700 in January 2023.

Duty solicitor data shows there were 4,446 in April 2021, falling to 4,361 in October 2021, 4,222 in April 2022, and 3,813 in October 2022, when the new contracts came into force. However, the number climbed to 4,023 in January 2023.

Freer said in his letter that duty solicitor numbers are fixed when new rotas are issued and are not adjusted until the next rota is prepared. Where a duty solicitor leaves mid-rota, the provider retains the slot until the next rota. Rotas normally last six months, but run for three months at the beginning of new contracts to allow anyone who

Read the rest

Legal aid: Society seeks permission to challenge Raab in court | News

The Law Society has asked the High Court for permission to challenge the government’s actions over criminal legal aid reform – declaring that it will do everything in its power to secure a fair deal for solicitors.

Society president Lubna Shuja said Chancery Lane was left with no choice but to seek permission to bring a claim for judicial review after the government rejected a proposal of independent mediation.

The solicitors’ representative body is seeking a judicial review over the government’s response to the independent criminal legal aid review, which was led by Lord Bellamy, who is now a justice minister.

The review, published towards the end of 2021, recommended an immediate 15% uplift for solicitors and barristers. The government published its final response to the review a year later and said solicitor firms would see a total fee increase of around 11%.

By contrast, last July, the government laid a statutory instrument implementing a 15% uplift in legal aid fees for criminal barristers, which would apply to new cases from 30 September. A few weeks later, to halt the criminal bar’s industrial action, the government agreed to apply the 15% uplift to the vast majority of cases in the Crown court backlog.

Last month director of public prosecutions Max Hill KC secured extra cash from HM Treasury to restore parity between prosecution and defence fees. Criminal Bar Association chair Kirsty Brimelow revealed in a ‘Monday Message’ update that the lord chancellor was supportive of the CBA’s argument to increase prosecution fees.

Hill is believed to have received £30m to restore parity between prosecution and defence fees. Shuja told the House of Commons justice committee in January that £30m was needed to fill the gap between the government’s offer to solicitors and the review’s 15% recommendation.

Shuja said today: ‘The

Read the rest

Boss of legal aid giant to face SDT on false document charges | News

The former director of one of the country’s biggest legal aid firms will appear before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal later this month. A decision to prosecute John Blavo, who headed national firm Blavo & Co Solicitors Ltd, was published by the Solicitors Regulation Authority today. 

John Blavo will appear before tribunal more than seven years after his firm was shut down

Blavo is alleged to have provided or facilitated the provision of falsified documents to the Legal Aid Agency relating to client files, medical reports and tribunal decisions. It is further alleged that in 2015 he was involved in producing false documents.

The SRA also alleges that Blavo encouraged or gave instructions for the falsification of documents on two client files between 2013 and 2015.

The allegations are subject to a hearing before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal and are as yet unproven. Blavo’s hearing is listed for three days, starting on 13 March.

The SRA’s notice states that the decision to prosecute Blavo was made in December 2018. It is not clear why the case has taken so long to come before the tribunal.

It is now more than seven years since Blavo & Co, which had 18 offices across the country, was shut down by the regulator at a cost of around £800,000. The Court of Appeal ruled in October 2018 that the SRA could pursue Blavo for the money spent shutting down his firm.

Later that same year, the High Court ruled found it was ‘more likely than not’ that ‘systemic fraud’ had taken place in claims by the firm for legal aid.

Mr Justice Pepperall said Blavo should be liable to the lord chancellor over what the judge described as an ‘endemic’ culture of dishonesty. His lawyer had called the allegation that he dishonestly obtained a large percentage of the firm’s turnover ‘inherently implausible’.

John Blavo was admitted to the roll in 1997

Read the rest

Domestic abuse survivor takes UK justice ministry to court over legal aid | Domestic violence

A single mother and domestic abuse survivor is taking the Ministry of Justice to court this week after being refused legal aid because she was deemed to have no dependents, even though she had applied for the funding to enforce a child custody arrangement.

Susie (not her real name) and her abusive ex-partner initially shared custody of their son equally, but when he breached their agreement, limiting her access, she applied for legal aid to assert her rights.

However, in a decision her lawyers say has wider ramifications for domestic abuse survivors, the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) decided that as her son was not presently living with her, he was not her dependent. The result was that she was not deemed to have costs relating to him which meant the LAA found that her disposable income was too high to qualify for legal aid.

Susie, who is training to be a healthcare professional, said: “I’m trying to get him back from somebody I know is alcohol dependent, so already as a mother, I am super stressed. To then find that actually, I have to tick a box to say I have no child … It’s almost kind of slapping you in the face again.

“It’s just awful because he’s not my dependent according to the LAA, but he is. I want him to be with me because I don’t want him to be in that situation.”

Susie said she lived in a “constant state of anxiety” with her partner, who would abuse her verbally and physically when he had been drinking, and that she still suffered from night terrors. She said she “escaped a relationship which was incredibly abusive; only to be further abused by a legal aid system which vilifies those who are trying to make a home for

Read the rest