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AIDS LEGAL PANEL CUTS STAFF, CASES The San Francisco-based AIDS Legal Referral Panel on Wednesday announced a huge reduction in legal services, including a 40 percent cut in staff. The 21-year-old agency said its action, effective May 31, was due to the federal government’s recent 12 percent cut in Ryan White CARE Act funds for San Francisco. ALRP’s entire 2004 CARE funds, anticipated at $265,000, were eliminated. “These funding cuts are far deeper than anyone in the San Francisco AIDS community ever expected,” ALRP Executive Director Bill Hirsh said in a prepared statement. Staff layoffs include the agency’s director of client services, a housing attorney, an immigration attorney and the office manager. Hirsh said the ALRP had 10 employees, one of them part time. The public interest firm also announced that almost 1,000 clients would lose access to legal counsel in cases involving eviction, immigration issues, insurance and employment discrimination. To offset its losses, the ALRP launched a “We Still CARE Campaign” fund-raising effort, and announced it already had received more than $100,000 in pledges. “Now more than ever,” said Kathleen Morris, co-chairwoman of the board of directors, “ALRP will be relying on our panel of volunteer attorneys, and our individual and institutional donors.” — Mike McKee NEW JERSEY INMATES SUE OVER MAIL POLICY NEWARK, N.J. — Three state prisoners are challenging a policy adopted after the 2001 anthrax attacks of opening mail from their lawyers — and allegedly reading and copying it — before delivering it to them. While prison officials have always inspected legal correspondence for weapons and contraband, mail from lawyers has traditionally been opened in the presence of the prisoner so the client knows it isn’t being copied or monitored. After the anthrax attacks, however, the Department of Corrections instituted a new policy to guard against mail threats: The mail would be inspected in a separate facility at the prison, resealed with evidence tape and signed by an inspector, and delivered and unsealed again in the prisoner’s presence. The policy’s most significant impact is on public defenders, who form the major contingent of counsel to convicted criminals. In a case awaiting a decision from U.S. District Judge William Walls, Allah v. Brown, 02-5298, three prisoners at the Eastern Jersey State Prison in Rahway claim that the policy is an unconstitutional chill on lawyer-client communications. According to the suit, one of the plaintiffs — convicted drug dealer Jamaal Allah — came to suspect his lawyer’s mail was being monitored in February 2002. — New Jersey Law Journal

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