Thursday, April 22, 2021

CLEA 2021 Awards for Outstanding Advocate for Clinical Teachers and Excellence in a Public Interest Case or Project

From the CLEA Awards Committee, announcing the 2021 CLEA Awards for Outstanding Advocate for Clinical Teachers and for Excellence in a Public Interest Case or Project, plus those receiving honorable mention:

The CLEA Awards Committee is thrilled to announce that Bob Kuehn, Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Clinical Education at Washington University in St. Louis School of Law, is the recipient of the 2021 CLEA Award for Outstanding Advocate for Clinical Teachers. CLEA is equally thrilled to announce that the Irwin County Detention Center Project (a collaboration of six schools’ clinics) is the recipient of the 2021 CLEA Award for Excellence in a Public Interest Case or Project. 

Outstanding Advocate for Clinical Teachers: 

Bob Kuehn’s many contributions to clinical legal education and his tireless advocacy for and on behalf of clinical teachers makes him more than deserving of this award. Organizationally, Bob has been on the Board of CLEA, serving as its president in 2011; he is the co-founder and vice president of the Center for the Study of Applied Legal Education (CSALE); and he has served on several AALS committees advancing clinical education and the status of clinical faculty. Bob is also very well known for advocating for the protection of the academic freedom rights of clinical faculty through his work on the AALS Clinical Section’s Political Interference Group and many journal articles and essays. In addition, Bob has authored articles debunking myths about clinical legal education including empirical evidence that: taking clinical courses does not negatively affect bar exam outcomes; universal clinical legal education is feasible and affordable; and clinical education is not responsible for high law school tuition. Bob has also been an active participant in planning conferences and speaking at national and regional conferences, especially about CSALE data.  

For over thirty years, Bob has been dedicated to the field of clinical legal education through his teaching and service. Bob started teaching in the clinical legal education program at Tulane University School of Law in 1989, where he taught in and directed the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic until 1999. After visiting at the law schools of Washington University, University of Michigan, and University of Utah, Bob joined the faculty of the University of Alabama School of Law in 2001, where he was the Associate Dean for Skills Programs and taught both in-house clinical and externship courses. Bob then joined the faculty at Washington University School of Law in 2009, where he has taught in-house clinical and externship courses and has been the Associate Dean for Clinical Education.  

Through his work, Bob has made invaluable contributions advancing clinical pedagogy, teaching, and the implementation of effective clinic and externship courses. On almost every issue affecting clinical legal education, Bob has been a spokesperson through his organizational work, scholarship, and speaking. 

Excellence in a Public Interest Case or Project: 

The Irwin County Detention Center Project addresses the welfare and legal rights of women detained by U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement at the Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC) in Ocilla, Georgia. These women were subjected to non-consensual, medically unindicated, or invasive gynecological procedures at ICDC, many of which amounted to sexual assaults. They suffered severe retaliation when they tried to speak out about these procedures, including actual or attempted accelerated deportation.  

A group of six law school clinicians and clinics formed to help these women: Professors Sabi Ardalan (Harvard Law School); Jason Cade (University of Georgia School of Law); Fatma Marouf (Texas A&M School of Law); Elora Mukherjee (Columbia Law School); Clare Norins (University of Georgia School of Law); and Sarah Sherman-Stokes (Boston University School of Law). Aware of the magnitude of the challenge, they elicited collaborators that included non-profits, private firms, legislative advocates, and community organizers.  

The Project’s advocacy includes a federal class action on behalf of 14 of the women and others similarly situated, immigration proceedings, administrative complaints, and legislative advocacy. The clinics have won stays of deportation for most of the plaintiffs. The Project’s efforts have resulted in the release of nearly all 80 women in ICDC, as well as over 200 men. The work has generated national media coverage and elicited a crucial intervention from 100 members of Congress. Overcoming barriers of geography, access, and the pandemic, the clinics’ work exemplifies the use of multi-faceted strategy and collaborative practice to address a shocking injustice. 

Honorable Mentions

The CLEA Awards Committee received numerous outstanding nominations and determined that the following nominations merited an honorable mention. 

University of Alabama Domestic Violence Clinic 

Between 2017 and 2020, the University of Alabama School of Law Domestic Violence (DV) Clinic, under the supervision of Professor Courtney Cross, represented Geneva Cooley, an elderly survivor of domestic violence, who had been sentenced to life without parole for drug trafficking in 2002. As a result of the DV Clinic’s advocacy, Ms. Cooley was resentenced from life without parole to life with the possibility of parole in 2019. The case was the first of its kind and paved the way for several other prisoners to be released. Following resentencing, the DV Clinic successfully represented Ms. Cooley at her parole hearing, and she was released to a transitional home in Alabama. Though Ms. Cooley lived in Alabama, her entire family lived in New York. Through a collaboration with St. John Law School’s Consumer Justice for the Elderly Clinic, Ms. Cooley was able to regain ownership of a family property in New York City and finally returned home to New York in Fall 2020. 

University of Detroit Mercy Federal Pro Se Legal Assistance Clinic  

The University of Detroit Mercy Federal Pro Se Legal Assistance Clinic provides limited scope representation to low-income non-prisoner pro se litigants who have civil cases pending or to be filed in the United States District Court, Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division. The Clinic operates under Administrative Order of the Court, and prior to its opening on January 18, 2018, low-income pro se litigants were without free legal assistance options. The Clinic has assisted over 500 individuals and provided more than 10,000 hours of free legal services to date. The Clinic is housed at the Eastern District’s courthouse in downtown Detroit but has operated remotely since March 2020, due to the Court’s pandemic restrictions.  

Duke Law School’s Wrongful Convictions Clinic 

Duke Law School’s Wrongful Convictions Clinic helped secure the release of Ronnie Long, who had spent 44 years in North Carolina prisons for a rape he did not commit. The State convicted Mr. Long by suppressing favorable evidence, including results of tests on evidence from the crime scene that did not implicate him, evidence that ultimately exonerated him. Numerous students worked with clinic faculty on the case over the course of five years, culminating in a hearing before the entire Fourth Circuit that was argued virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The case attracted significant national and regional media attention and helped to further highlight the many persistent injustices of our system of criminal law, particularly those suffered by Black men. Mr. Long was the ninth client exonerated through the work of the Wrongful Convictions Clinic since it was founded in 2008. 

Florida State University College of Law Forced Child Labor Project

In response to the UN declaring 2021 the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labor, Florida State University College of Law created the Forced Child Labor Project, which advocates against forced child labor in international supply chains. The goal of the Project is two-fold: 1) to educate the legal community of the pervasive practice of forced child labor in goods we consume; and 2) to enforce Section 307 of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930 which prohibits the importation into the United States of forced child labor goods. Please view: Cocoa and Valentine’s Day Video:

University of Nebraska College of Law Tenant Assistance Project 

The Tenants Assistance Project (TAP) was developed to change and improve the representation paradigm that exists in landlord-tenant cases. Since the Project began a year ago, more than 60 Lincoln-area attorneys and several dozen senior-certified law students from the University of Nebraska College of Law have ensured that every tenant that appears for an eviction hearing and seeks assistance is provided legal representation. Law students Alan Dugger, Tessa Lengeling, Sarah O’Neill, and Amy Sonnenfeld have all made significant contributions to the Project, and in doing so have helped many low-income families in the Lincoln community. 

West Virginia University College of Law Immigration Clinic 

The West Virginia University College of Law Immigration Clinic is fighting to represent and empower a long-underserved immigrant population. There is only one other full-time immigration practitioner for a statewide community of 30,000 foreign-born residents and their families, so the Immigration Clinic is bridging the gap through a uniquely holistic legal practice, community education and resources, and systemic advocacy. The clinic is also working to build a local immigration bar from the group up, by facilitating attorney mentorship, developing a CLE certificate program, and recruiting law students who will commit to local immigration practice. 

The 2021 CLEA Awards will be presented at the AALS Conference on Clinical Legal Education on Friday, April 30, 12:00-1:00 Eastern. We look forward to celebrating our clinical community! 

The CLEA Awards Committee

Anju Gupta (Rutgers-Newark) 

D’lorah Hughes (Irvine) 

Praveen Kosuri (Pennsylvania)
Perry Moriearty (Minnesota)
Kele Stewart, Co-Chair (Miami)
Jane Stoever, Co-Chair (Irvine)

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