Sunday, April 4, 2010
This story has been burning up the legal academic blogosphere for a couple of weeks. Although the U of M website is reporting on a compromise bill introduced on Friday that drops the threat to end funding to the environmental law clinic unless the school reports on the clinic's activities, the fight is not over yet. If you haven't already done so, you can contact Professor Peter A. Joy, <firstname.lastname@example.org>, at Washington U. St. Louis and I'm sure he'll be glad to add your name to the petition that's been circulating.
Today the New York Times picked up the story, "Law School Clinics Face a Backlash," noting that the problem faced by the UM environmental clinic is threatening other public law school clinics around the country.
[The Maryland legislature's proposal to cut funding to the UM environmental clinic], which is likely to be sent to the governor this week, comes in response to a suit filed in March by students accusing one of the state’s largest employers, Perdue, of environmental violations — the first effort in the state to hold a poultry company accountable for the environmental impact of its chicken suppliers.
Law clinics at other universities — from New Jersey to Michigan to Louisiana — are facing similar challenges. And legal experts say the attacks jeopardize the work of the clinics, which not only train students with hands-on courtroom experience at more than 200 law schools but also have taken on more cases against companies and government agencies in recent years.
“We’re seeing a very strong pushback from deep-pocket interests, and that pushback is creating a chilling effect on many clinics,” said Robert R. Kuehn, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis, citing a recent survey he conducted that found that more than a third of faculty members at legal clinics expressed fears about university or state reaction to their casework and that a sixth said they had turned down unpopular clients because of these concerns.
But critics say law clinics are costly, unaccountable and often counterproductive to states’ interests, especially as they have broadened the scope of their work. The debate has raised larger questions about academic freedom at state-financed law schools and the role lawmakers should have over decisions at those schools.
You can read the rest here.
I am the scholarship dude.