Monday, September 23, 2019
Cross-posted from the CLEA series on Social Justice in Legal Clinics.
Each member of the CLEA Social Justice Issues Committee has been writing or soliciting projects to highlight in this series. For my contribution this semester, I reached out to my friend, Prof. Sarah Gerwig-Moore, now the academic dean at Mercer University School of Law, who founded the Mercer Habeas Project. This year, Brian Kammer, former director of the Georgia Appellate and Resource Center, assumed its leadership. They contributed this good report on the clinic’s work:
The Mercer Habeas Project was created in 2006 by Professor Sarah Gerwig-Moore, who was hired in that year to help create and teach in Mercer’s experiential learning program. The State of Georgia provides no right to counsel in post-conviction matters, so the clinic was created to help fill a void in legal services and because of Mercer’s particular strengths in legal writing. The course operates as a capstone clinic in which students put to use skills and prior coursework in constitutional law, criminal procedure, appellate practice, evidence, client counseling, and legal writing. A core value is to visit, spend time with, listen to, and partner with clinic clients—to provide client-centered representation and creative, attentive advocacy.
Most of the clinic’s cases involve entering and providing counsel in pro se criminal or habeas cases pending in the Supreme Court of Georgia. Since 2006, the Clinic has represented more than 80 clients, including dozens of oral arguments, court hearings, parole petitions, and appellate briefs (and often a number of those vehicles in cases over long periods of time). Over the years, the clinic has had major successes in areas of due process, affirmative defenses, provision of effective assistance of counsel, and access to the courts (including provision of effective translators in court proceedings). The students' work has been recognized with two "Case of the Year" Awards from the Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and in SCOTUSblog's "Petitions We're Watching." Sarah Gerwig-Moore was the 2013 recipient of the AALS Clinical Legal Education Section's Shanara Gilbert Emerging Clinician award, in large part because of her work with this clinic.
The clinic has also weathered some hard losses, especially given the difficulty of overcoming procedural hurdles and statutes of limitation in older cases. Students and faculty have helped clients walk out of prison and rebuild their lives, packing suitcases with essentials and bringing them to the Greyhound Bus station. And students have stood vigil outside the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison while faculty witnessed their clients’ wrongful executions.
The Project provides client-centered representation, which means we spend a lot of time in prison with our clients—and then talking and processing about those visits in local food joints. The work doesn’t stop when students leave the classroom, and it is not uncommon for students to work on our cases over weekends and breaks. Prison visit days start early in the morning. Whether or not the clinic sees a positive outcome of its cases, an intentional focus of the clinic is reflection upon systemic injustices in how poor people are charged in and treated by the criminal system.
When Professor Gerwig-Moore moved into the role of Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in summer 2019, Mercer brought in Brian Kammer, former director of the Georgia Appellate and Resource Center, a nonprofit focusing on post-conviction litigation in Georgia’s capital cases. He brings with him more than twenty years of experience in habeas and appellate litigation, as well as a fresh perspective on the future of student work in the clinic.
Saturday, September 21, 2019
The CLEA Committee for Faculty Equity and Inclusion (Profs. Deborah Archer of NYU, Sameer Ashar of UCLA, Caitlin Barry of Villanova, G.S. Hans of Vanderbilt, Derrick Howard of Valparaiso, Alexis Karteron of Rutgers, Shobha Mahadev of Northwestern, and Jeffrey Selbin of Berkeley) have published this essay in the Clinical Law Review.
The piece calls on law schools to continue to improve demographic diversity among clinical faculties and calls for more research to better understand hiring and other dynamics.
The demographics of clinical law faculties matter. As Professor Jon Dubin persuasively argued nearly twenty years ago in his article Faculty Diversity as a Clinical Legal Education Imperative, clinical faculty of color entering the legal academy in the 1980s and 1990s expanded the communities served by law school clinics and the lawyering methods used to serve clients in significant ways that enriched legal education and the profession. They also broadened clinical scholarship to include deconstructions and reconstructions of clinical teaching, offered crucial role modeling and mentorship to students of color, and helped to elevate cross-cultural communication and multiracial collaboration as core lawyering skills.
Professor Dubin catalogued these contributions while pointing to data that showed that clinical faculties remained overwhelmingly White, and he urged law schools to recognize the urgency of diversifying clinical faculty. While there has been some research and scholarship devoted to the gender composition of clinical faculties, to our knowledge, there has been no substantive reexamination of the importance of racial composition since Professor Dubin’s article in 2000, nor any examination of clinical faculty diversity beyond race, ethnicity, and binary gender.
The Clinical Legal Education Association created the Committee for Faculty Equity and Inclusion to draw attention to the crisis of diversity among clinical faculties, and to urge law schools to take proactive steps to remedy this longstanding failure. This Essay from the Committee assesses what progress has been made since Professor Dubin’s intervention and interrogates historical trends in the racial and gender composition of clinical faculty from 1980 to 2017, using existing data.
We found that there has been limited progress on racial and ethnic inclusion in clinical law faculties. While the total percentage of people of color has grown from 10% to 21%, the inclusion of Black, Latinx, and Indigenous faculty has been largely stagnant. Black clinical faculty members reached 7% of all clinical faculty in 1999 and have never exceeded that percentage. Latinx clinical faculty representation, at 5%, is the same as it was in 1981. Indigenous faculty have never constituted even 1%. Overall, White faculty continue to hold nearly 8 out of 10 clinical faculty positions.
With regard to gender, whereas women were underrepresented among clinical faculty in the 1980s, women now outnumber men in clinical faculty positions by nearly 2 to 1. Given that women remain underrepresented in law faculties as a whole, this seemingly positive development in the gender composition of clinical instructors nonetheless raises concerns about internal status inequities and the clustering of women faculty members in non-tenured positions with lower salaries and less job protection, including on clinical, legal research and writing and library faculties. Therefore, this trend may be a cautionary tale for the inclusion of other underrepresented groups moving forward.
Acknowledging the limitations of existing data, we offer recommendations for future data collection that would recognize more inclusive identities and backgrounds. We suggest that future research assess job satisfaction and sustainability of faculty positions for people from historically disadvantaged groups to ensure that we are not just providing access to clinical law faculties, but also offering equitable and supportive working environments. New research will be crucial to developing a more meaningful understanding of inequities among clinical faculty, and to assessing equity and inclusion beyond descriptive representation.
We conclude with a discussion of best practices for inclusive clinical faculty hiring and suggestions for future initiatives that may make the profession more accessible. Looking back on Professor Dubin’s arguments, we are disheartened by the lack of subsequent scholarship on clinical faculty diversity, particularly with regard to racial and ethnic representation. We are concerned that it reflects a degree of complacency with structural racism at our own institutions and a failure to recognize the dissonance between the values we promote in our lawyering and our participation in maintaining barriers to the profession. We hope this Essay will disrupt that complacency and revive Professor Dubin’s arguments for a diversity imperative, which are even more resonant in the current moment.
Wednesday, September 18, 2019
Tulane Law is thrilled to announce that we are hiring for a director and professor of practice to lead a soon to be established First Amendment Clinic. The Stanton Foundation, created by a longtime president of CBS News, has committed nearly $1 million to cover the full operating costs of the new clinic. To learn more about our plans, please read recent news about this initiative.
To apply, please submit materials here: https://apply.interfolio.com/68076. The description of the position and qualifications are listed below. Tulane Law also is hiring for a director and professor of practice for a newly established Immigrants’ Rights Clinic, and applicants for that position can apply here: https://apply.interfolio.com/63659, and read more about the position at the end of this email.
Director of Tulane Law First Amendment Clinic & Professor of Practice
Tulane Law School seeks highly qualified applicants for a full-time position as Professor of the Practice of Law leading its newly created First Amendment Clinic. The position would begin during the 2020-21 academic year, starting on July 1, 2020, and would be on the non-tenured faculty track, with an initial appointment of three years.
The candidate who fills the position will have primary responsibility for developing the new First Amendment Clinic; engaging in case selection, litigation, and other advocacy to promote the clinic's mission and goals; supervising clinic students in all aspects of the clinic’s work; teaching a related subject-matter seminar or course; convening an advisory committee of First Amendment faculty experts; and managing development activities in support of the clinic. As a Professor of the Practice of Law, the successful candidate will participate in and vote at faculty meetings and serve on faculty committees within the School of Law.
Qualifications for the position include:
- A J.D. degree from an ABA-accredited law school and a strong academic record;
- Experience in First Amendment and/or Constitutional matters;
- Licensed bar membership in good standing in any one of the 50 states;
- 5 years of post-J.D. legal experience; and
- A proven record of (or clear demonstrated potential for) successful teaching and professional engagement.
- Candidates who teach in a law school legal clinic, who have prior experience supervising or teaching law students, or who have prior experience supervising attorneys in the area of First Amendment and/or Constitutional law matters are strongly preferred.
To apply, please complete the application form here https://apply.interfolio.com/68076.
Tulane Law School is committed to faculty diversity and welcomes expressions of interest from diverse applicants. To learn more about the law school, visit our website at https://law.tulane.edu.
Inquiries about the clinic should be directed to Professor Catherine Hancock email@example.com, the chair of the First Amendment appointments committee.
Director of Tulane Law Immigrants’ Rights Clinic & Professor of Practice
TULANE UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW seeks highly qualified applicants for a full-time professor of practice position leading its newly created Immigrants’ Rights Clinic. The position would begin during the 2020-21 academic year, starting on July 1, 2020, and would be on the non-tenured faculty track, with an initial appointment of three years.
The candidate who fills the position will have primary responsibility for developing the new Immigrants’ Rights Clinic; engaging in case selection, litigation, and other advocacy to promote the clinic's mission and goals; supervising clinic students in all aspects of the clinic’s work; teaching a related seminar course; and leading development efforts in support of the clinic.
Qualifications for the position include:
• A J.D. degree from an ABA-accredited law school and a strong academic record;
• Experience in immigration and/or immigrants’ rights matters;
• Licensed bar membership in good standing in any one of the 50 states;
• 5 years of post-J.D. legal experience;
• A proven record of (or clear demonstrated potential for) successful teaching and professional engagement.
• Candidates who teach in a law school legal clinic, who have prior experience supervising or teaching law students, or who have prior experience supervising attorneys performing immigration work are strongly preferred.
Monday, September 16, 2019
Jennifer Lee Koh: Reflections on Elitism After the Closing of a Clinic: Justice, Pedagogy and Scholarship
Read this important, insightful essay from Prof. Jennifer Lee Koh. She reflects critically on the ecosystems of legal education and the importance of legal clinics in all kinds of law schools. For access to justice, a better profession, and more vibrant public life, we need law schools serving communities and states that are not "elite," that exist on every plane of our unfortunate hierarchies.
I began my teaching career at Faulkner Law, a regional, newly accredited, relatively small law school, in a state with great needs and fewer resources. Faulkner had a real, valuable commitment to clinical legal education, because the clinics were important to students who needed to be practice- and client-ready for their communities and because clinics advanced its faith-driven mission to serve its communities. In many regional, "unranked" law schools, clinics are more important than ever in preparing great lawyers to serve their neighbors and clients.
Prof. Koh's essay and her experience at Western State is important. We all should reckon with the gravitational effects of elitism and its pursuit.
Here's the essay at SSRN and its abstract:
In this Essay, I reflect upon my experience directing the Immigration Clinic at Western State College of Law for nearly a decade, including my decision to close the Clinic after financial crisis put the law school’s ability to continue operating in serious jeopardy in the Spring of 2019. The Essay focuses on the themes of pedagogy and the viability of non-elite law schools, teaching and doing social justice in the clinical context, and the integration of theory, doctrine and practice in legal scholarship. By memorializing a portion of the Clinic’s work, the Essay seeks to give voice to stories that might otherwise go unheard during a time of institutional crisis. In doing so, I hope to disrupt the easy narratives that may otherwise dominate our understanding of Western State’s record and offer a perspective on the value of clinical legal education and clinic scholarship at non-elite law schools.
Monday, September 9, 2019
SAINT LOUIS UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW is a Catholic, Jesuit institution dedicated to student learning, research, community engagement, social justice, and service. Located in the city of St. Louis, the School of Law has a nationally recognized and award-winning clinical program through which students represent both individual and group clients in litigation, administrative, advocacy, and transactional matters. The School of Law is looking for someone to join the clinical program in a full-time clinical law faculty position. More information about the clinical program is available here: https://www.slu.edu/law/experiential-learning/legal-clinics
The successful candidate will direct all aspects of an in-house law clinic (including the classroom component, student supervision, and client selection) and may teach one or more additional courses. Candidates should have appropriate expertise and relevant practice experience in the area of law they propose to be the focus of the clinic. In their application materials, candidates should include a one-page description of the clinic they propose to teach as well as an explanation of how the proposed clinic will meet the needs of both the School of Law and the larger community.
We welcome entry-level and lateral candidates. Candidates should have distinguished academic and practice records, as well as an understanding of clinical teaching methods. A J.D. is required. Qualifications also include admission to the Missouri Bar, eligibility for reciprocity, or a willingness to sit for the first Missouri bar examination after being hired. The successful candidate should have at least three years of recent law practice experience. Ideally, candidates will also have experience and training in clinical teaching methods, either through prior experience as a clinical faculty member or through supervision of law students in other settings.
Please apply online at https://jobs.slu.edu/.
Inquiries should be addressed to:
Brendan D. Roediger
Chair, Clinical Faculty Appointments Committee
Saint Louis University School of Law
100 North Tucker Boulevard
St. Louis, MO 63101
Saint Louis University is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer. All qualified candidates will receive consideration for the position applied for without regard to race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, military/veteran status, gender identity, or other non-merit factors. We welcome and encourage applications from minorities, women, protected veterans, and individuals with disabilities (including disabled veterans). If accommodations are needed for completing the application and/or with the interviewing process, please contact Human Resources at 314-977-5847.
Wednesday, September 4, 2019
Cross-posted from CLEA's series on Social Justice in Legal Clinics.
By Shanta Trivedi, Clinical Teaching Fellow, Bronfein Family Law Clinic
In May 2019, University of Baltimore Bronfein Family Law Clinic (“UB FLC”) and the ACLU of Arizona jointly filed an amicus brief in the Arizona Supreme Court in support of Juan P., a Mexican father fighting to get his son out of foster care in the United States and back to his family in Mexico where he belongs.
The UB FLC represents indigent clients in custody, visitation, divorce, and other family law proceedings and engages in litigation regarding important family law issues. It also partners with community organizations to tackle larger systemic issues through advocacy, education, and legislative work. The fundamental, constitutionally protected liberty interest in the care, custody, and control of one’s children is a core principle of the UB FLC’s work and the community it serves. Juan P’s case was particularly compelling because it presented significant and timely issues of child custody and child welfare law that have broad implications for many children and parents, particularly during the ongoing family separation crisis at the Southern border.
Juan P’s son, S.P., was born in the United States. When S.P. was only a year old, Juan P. was deported and S.P. returned to Mexico with his father to live with his father and siblings. The following year, S.P. came to the United States to visit his mother in California. Juan P. had daily contact with S.P. for several weeks until S.P.’s mother abruptly ceased contact. Despite repeated attempts to contact the mother and find out his son’s whereabouts, Juan P. was unable to locate them. Unbeknownst to Juan P., S.P.’s mother had moved to Arizona and had been embroiled in child welfare proceedings where she had been found an unfit parent. S.P. was placed in the custody of the Arizona Department of Child Safety (“DCS”) and ultimately with a foster family.
Juan P. only learned that his son was in foster care the next year and immediately contacted DCS to seek his son’s return to Mexico. Shockingly, instead of returning the child as required by law, DCS filed a motion to terminate Juan P’s parental rights. That motion was ultimately dismissed without a hearing, but the Arizona Court of Appeals twice denied reunification based on concerns that S.P. had bonded with his foster family and reunification with his biological family might cause him harm.
Juan P. through his attorneys at the Maricopa County Office of the Public Advocate (“OPA”) filed a petition for review in the Arizona Supreme Court. UB FLC students Nathan Adams, Nell Fultz & Henry Lloyd, under the supervision of Clinical Teaching Fellow, Shanta Trivedi and Clinic Writing Instructor and Assistant Professor, Cheri Levin, researched and drafted a supporting amicus brief in conjunction with the ACLU of Arizona.
The brief argued that, under the 14th Amendment’s Due Process Clause, Juan P. had a fundamental liberty interest in the care, custody, and control of his son. The brief asserted that the state had no compelling interest in interfering with the parent-child relationship unless the parent was deemed unfit. In this case, the lower court had explicitly found Juan P. to be fit on more than one occasion. Thus, the state was unconstitutionally infringing on Juan P.’s fundamental right to parent his son.
The brief also argued that, overall, the child welfare system disproportionately affects children of color and that this case was just one example of a larger systemic problem. Prejudice against minorities pervades the child welfare system, impacting which children are removed and which families are reunified. While this bias is often implicit, in this case it was overt and unapologetic. DCS had placed S.P. with a foster family who did not speak Spanish and repeatedly violated court orders requiring the child to receive Spanish lessons so that he could better communicate with his father and siblings in Mexico. Worse, DCS had made disparaging remarks about Mexico on the record in arguing why S.P. should remain with his foster family. The brief asked the court not to sanction such open and hostile discrimination.
While the petition was ultimately denied, the students gained legal research and drafting experience and had a wonderful experience collaborating with a community partner. Most importantly, they learned a larger lesson: family separation isn’t just happening at the border. Legal systems within this country separate families every day. And Juan P., like the thousands of other parents separated from their children is continuing his fight.
Monday, September 2, 2019
The CLEA Elections Committee (Melanie DeRousse, Benjie Louis, Shobha Mahadev and Lynnise Pantin) is soliciting nominations through October 1, 2019, of individuals to serve on the CLEA Board starting in January 2020. This year, there are several Board positions open. All positions require a three-year commitment. I am attaching a memo prepared by the CLEA Elections Committee, which sets forth the activities and responsibilities of CLEA Board members in more detail. Current CLEA members are invited to nominate themselves or other CLEA members as candidates for one of these open positions. The committee also encourages "new clinicians" (defined as clinicians with fewer than 6 years of experience) to run for the CLEA Board. Our Bylaws create a separate election process for candidates identified as "new clinicians," to ensure that the identified "new clinician" candidate who receives the greatest number of votes will be assured a place on the Board.
The Committee strongly encourages CLEA members to nominate individuals from groups that are currently underrepresented within the leadership of various clinical institutions, including CLEA, the AALS Section on Clinical Legal Education, and the Clinical Law Review. The nomination process is simple. Nominate yourself or someone else by contacting the chair of the CLEA Elections Committee, Lynnise Pantin, firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are nominating yourself, please include a paragraph or two about why you are running and a link to your faculty profile, which will be included with the election materials to be sent later in the fall. If you are nominating another CLEA member, there is no need to include such a paragraph; the name alone will suffice, and the Elections Committee will contact the nominee for further information. If you have less than six years of clinical teaching experience and wish to be identified as a "new clinician" candidate, or if you want to nominate a candidate for the "new clinician" category, please indicate that as well.
Although the process of nomination is easy, our Bylaws set a strict deadline for receiving nominations. All nominations must be received by October 1, 2019. If you have questions about the CLEA Elections process, please feel free to contact Lynnise Pantin at email@example.com.
Wednesday, August 21, 2019
Via Prof. Terry Kelly:
University of Arkansas at Little Rock
William H. Bowen School of Law
Assistant Professor of Clinical Education (R96904)
The UA Little Rock, William H. Bowen School of Law seeks an Assistant Professor of Clinical Education (R96904) to develop and direct its new Veterans Legal Services Clinic. The Clinic will provide free and low-cost legal representation to Arkansas veterans seeking VA disability benefits or reconsideration of discharge status.
The Clinic Director also will design and teach a weekly class, plan outreach events, design continuing legal education programs, and develop future funding opportunities. This position currently is funded for five years with possibility for continuation dependent on funding.
Candidates must hold a J.D. from an accredited law school and be either a member of the Arkansas bar in good standing or capable of admission to the Arkansas Bar within one year of hiring. Salary and rank are commensurate with qualifications.
Three years of litigation experience is preferred, along with VA accreditation, practice in veterans’ benefits, clinical teaching experience, and experience supervising other attorneys.
This is a 9-month, full-time position. This position is not eligible for tenure, but upon completion of certain requirements, the Clinic Director will be eligible for promotion to Associate Professor of Clinical Education, with a three-year term, and subsequent promotion to Professor of Clinical Education, with a five-year term that is presumptively renewable depending on Clinic funding.
For more information, please refer to https://ualr.peopleadmin.com/postings/8689.
Interested parties should apply online with a curriculum vitae, together with a cover letter indicating teaching and scholarly interests and three references. Applications will be considered until the position is filled.
This position is subject to a pre-employment criminal background check. A criminal conviction or arrest pending adjudication alone shall not disqualify an applicant in the absence of a relationship to the requirements of the position. Background check information will be used in a confidential, non-discriminatory manner consistent with state and federal law.
The University of Arkansas at Little Rock is an equal opportunity affirmative action employer and actively seeks the candidacy of minorities, women and person with disabilities. Under Arkansas law, all applications are subject to disclosure. Persons hired must have proof of legal authority to work in the United States.
Tuesday, August 20, 2019
Cross posted from CLEA's series on social justice advocacy in legal clinics:
EVICTION CRISIS: A CALL TO ACTION - by Judith Fox
Matthew Desmond is instrumental for bringing the devastating effects of eviction to the public in his award-winning book, Evicted. The praise is well deserved. While those of us in the clinical world have been all too aware of the issues, Desmond has given us platforms unlike any in the past. People in power are now listening and we should make our voices heard. Matthew Desmond’s research had identified South Bend, along with Fort Wayne and Indianapolis, as one of three Indiana cities whose eviction rates placed them in the top twenty cities in America with the most evictions. This is the time for bold action.
For the past twenty years, my clinic students and I have battled against a particularly bad slum lord in our community. He was the ultimate Teflon-man. He rented properties he did not own. He rented properties that were not only in bad shape, many had been condemned by the city and issued with demolition orders. Spurred on by the call to action, we decided it was time to put an end to these practices once and for all. We set up a careful strategy, working side-by-side with local governmental entities and not-for-profits not only to stop this particular bad actor, but to combat the systemic issues that allowed him to continue for decades. Our first target: the lax Indiana laws that allowed this man to rent such deplorable properties.
It is illegal in Indiana to rent a property that does not comply with housing codes, there is just no effective way to enforce that obligation. My students and I worked with the city of South Bend to draft the Rental Safety Verification Program (RSVP), an ordinance that requires every rental home in South Bend to be certified safe. My students brought their clients to hearings, testified to their experiences and met with local advocates, including landlords. In the end, the ordinance passed. We are now assisting families who have been displaced because the home they rented is not habitable. Our parallel efforts with the Indiana legislature were not so successful, but we will be back this year to try again.
The second target of our efforts were the small claims courts that handle most of the evictions in our community. Looking closely at the cases our targeted slumlord was filing, we noticed some peculiar things. He did not own many of the parties he was renting. The L.L.C. he was using, was not a valid company. In one case, he used the L.L.C. of a competitor! We thought this must be anomalous, considering this man’s history. It was not. We were appalled to discover how many landlords and rental companies were filing evictions using fictitious names. We began challenging every eviction on standing grounds, and won. As a result, the court instituted a local rule requiring parties in eviction to document their right to bring the case to court. Our slum lord has not brought an eviction case since.
We had shown a light on eviction hearings and our new crop of Magistrates began to do the same. They began to question why St. Joseph County allowed landlords to post their property as opposed to the cash bond required by State law. This is significant because, in Indiana, there are essentially two proceedings in an eviction. There is an immediate possession hearing which is quick and usually does not afford a tenant much of a chance to defend herself, followed more than a month later by a trial. If someone is evicted in the immediate possession phase, even if they win at trial, they have already been displaced. A landlord must post a bond at the immediate possession stage to reimburse a tenant wrongfully convicted. A tenant can post an equivalent counter-bound to stay in the home pending trial. The St. Joseph County courts were allowing the bond to be the rental property, completely precluding the posing of an equivalent counter-bound. That practice too has ended.
Our next target is the lax enforcement of licensing laws. Federal and state law requires leasing agencies and others who buy and sell property or rent property they do not own to be licensed. We discovered that almost none of them are. Again, we have systematically began to file counterclaims using our state UDAP laws. So far, these challenges have incentivized settlement in nearly every instance.
We have made real progress in a year, but we are far from done. This semester my students have teamed with the ACLU, Professor Florence Roisman at I.U. McKinney Law School and a Notre Dame Student chapter of the Roosevelt institute to do a court watch study of evictions across Indiana. Anyone who has ever witnessed these hearings knows that the due process violations are mind-boggling. We intend to shine a light on those practices. The ultimate outcome will surely be a white paper and perhaps litigation.
Eviction is an issue facing clients throughout our clinical programs. Ann Juergens, Mitchell Hamlin Law School, recently reached out to the clinical community to suggest that we join forces across states to collaborate on solutions. Ann and I will be giving the opening plenary at the Midwest Clinical Conference being held in October at the Michigan State Law School to formally begin this conversation. This is no less than a call to action. Whether you can come to Michigan in October, or simply want to send us an email, we welcome the entire clinical community to this issue. The clinical community had a tremendous impact on homeowner’s rights during the foreclosure crisis. It is time to turn our eyes to eviction. As Michael Desmond has so eloquently said, eviction is not a symptom of poverty, it is a cause. Clinical programs are uniquely placed to meet the challenge and make a dent in this crucial social justice issue.
Judith Fox, Clinical Professor, Notre Dame. Judith Fox and Linda Fisher, recently released The Foreclosure echo: How the Hardest Hit Have Been Left Out of the Economic Recovery (Cambridge, 2019).
Wednesday, July 24, 2019
LOUISIANA STATE UNIVERSITY, PAUL M. HEBERT LAW CENTER seeks to hire a full-time faculty member with security of position to direct the Immigration Law Clinic as part of LSU Law’s Clinical Legal Education Program. The Immigration Law Clinic is a fully in-house, one-semester, 5 credit clinic in which students represent non-citizens in their defensive proceedings before the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) and affirmative applications with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Applicants should have a J.D. from an ABA-accredited law school, superior academic credentials, substantial experience in Immigration practice and be admitted and in good standing in a U.S. jurisdiction. Prior clinical teaching experience and fluency in Spanish is preferred.
The Paul M. Hebert Law Center of LSU is an Equal Opportunity/Equal Access Employer and is committed to building a culturally diverse faculty. We particularly welcome and encourage applications from female and minority candidates.
Applications should include a letter of application, resume, references, and teaching evaluations (if available) to:
Melissa T. Lonegrass and Christina M. Sautter
Co-Chairs, Faculty Appointments Committee
c/o Pam Hancock (or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org)
Paul M. Hebert Law Center
Louisiana State University
1 East Campus Drive
Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70803-0106
Tuesday, July 23, 2019
CLEA: Social Justice in Legal Clinics: The Nonprofit and Small Business Clinic at New York Law School
Cross posted from the CLEA series on Social Justice in Legal Clinics.
A post by Anna G. Cominsky, Visiting Associate Professor of Law and Supervising Attorney at New York Law School
Social justice is an integral part of Associate Professor of Law Gowri Krishna’s Nonprofit and Small Business Clinic at New York Law School. “I think of my clinic broadly as a social justice clinic,” Krishna says, “We support people and organizations that work towards economic, racial, social, and environmental equity.” Students in the yearlong Clinic provide transactional legal assistance to nonprofit organizations and small businesses. Under close faculty supervision by Krishna, students interview and counsel clients; plan and strategize on matters; research relevant questions of law; draft correspondence, memos and legal documents; manage client relationships; and negotiate agreements. Students take primary responsibility for work with multiple clients on a variety of matters such as entity formation, governance, contracts, intellectual property and regulatory compliance.
The Clinic is comprised of seminar and fieldwork experience for both fall and spring semesters. During the fall semester, twice-weekly seminars focus on substantive areas of law, ethics and lawyering skills. Students prepare for and lead case rounds in which they discuss issues raised in and reflections on their fieldwork
Clinic clients range from start-ups to more mature entities. Clients generally come from or benefit low-income communities, and all are unable to afford market rates for legal services. “We represent nonprofit groups and small businesses on non-litigation matters such as entity structure, formation, governance, contracts, leases, etc. The nonprofit organizations have varying missions that aim to improve the lives of and build power for the most vulnerable in some way, whether it is providing preschool programs for children in public housing, training immigrants for jobs in the culinary sector, or developing affordable housing policies (a sampling of this past year’s clinic clients).”
The Clinic helps students explore and understand a new economic system, commonly referred to as the solidarity or cooperative economy, which is a movement to build a just and dependable economy. “Many of the small businesses we assist are ones that fit into the solidarity economy. They value democracy and cooperation and operate their business according to these principles. Transactional lawyers adapt existing legal structures and create new ones to meet their clients’ goal of prioritizing labor over capital. They counsel clients on governance structures that offer democratic participation by all of the workers in a business. This type of legal work is cutting-edge, requiring attorneys to think creatively and lawyer in novel ways. Law school clinics, nonprofit legal services, and private law offices should seek and embrace opportunities to support a more democratic economy.”
This is a critical time in our history. Clinics, like Krishna’s, now more than ever have the ability to promote social justice by training future lawyers. The Clinic helps prepare students for work with organizational clients and introduces students to opportunities for transactional lawyers to further economic, environmental, racial and social justice. “My hope is that by getting to know their clients and their clients’ broader objectives, students will sharpen their critical thinking and creative lawyering skills and consider their role in effecting social justice.”
Friday, July 12, 2019
Sunday, June 30, 2019
I’m a Southern lawyer, and that suggests a double pedigree in storytelling. My mom was an English teacher for years, and she jokes that Southerners always start their stories at the very beginning. “Let me tell you about this hilarious self-deprecating thing that happened yesterday, but first I have to tell you about the family trees and life-stories of every single person involved in my otherwise pithy anecdote.” We don’t need better editors; we just take our time.
That legacy led me to a deeply rooted love of literature and storytelling as a craft (and an English minor). I’ve written about that before on this blog. When teaching law students how to be great advocates, I often teach the elements of narrative, rhetoric, and storytelling. In class, we talk about narrative structure: setting, character development, rising tension, conflict, climax, resolution, and the rest. We talk about Aristotle’s elements of ethos, pathos, and logos. We talk about the Hero’s Journey and other Joseph Campbell ideas.
These ideas are powerful elements of advocacy, negotiation, counsel, and communication in every context. I deploy them in trial, appeals, representation in mediation, negotiations, and policy advocacy. Creating good stories is an essential skill that we too often neglect in legal education.
One my favorite experiences as a law teacher has been teaching Law and Literature. Through novels, short-stories, essays, poetry, plays, and film, the students and I examined narrative forms and elements, the structure of arguments and rhetoric, the use of literature to understand and critique the law, and the law’s presence in our cultural consciousness. My students joked that it should have been called Atticus Finch and the Law, but that’s because we were in Alabama and had a vested interest.
But like a lot of Southern lawyers, I really want to write novels, not just teach about them. Atticus is just barely fiction to me.
After we moved to California, my wife, who constantly encourages this dreaming, pointed me toward the Writers Program at UCLA Extension. I took a course, and it reignited my hope and drive to write. I started a story in 2015 without a clear sense of its destination. That story has evolved in various iterations since then, and I have tested it in traditional markets and with a lot of generous readers. I was never quite ready to launch it into the world until recently.
I took the fiction writing course to exercise the craft that I discuss often in law school classes. The end is a novella that I am publishing this summer myself via Kindle Digital Publishing. It’s a little bit gut-wrenching to share creative writing with the world, but trying circumstances in our world have prompted me to share it.
The story began as a short-fiction exploration of one of my parental nightmares but became something bigger. It became a story of war, displacement, fear, refugee struggle, exploitation, and love. It quietly demands justice for children, girls, and women shattered by the arrogance of great powers. It looks to the anonymous lost to recover our souls in an era of gross bigotry and violence.
Thank you for reading. Our stories define us and explain us to ourselves. They may be the most powerful tool we have for justice and peace.
Tuesday, June 25, 2019
Via Prof. Julia Belian:
International Intellectual Property Clinic Director
University of Detroit Mercy School of Law seeks applicants for a tenured or tenure-track position to teach in and direct the International Intellectual Property Law Clinic starting with the 2020-21 academic year.
The International Intellectual Property Law Clinic is certified by the USPTO for both patent and trademark law and serves the burgeoning creative and entrepreneurial community in Detroit. In 2012, the USPTO chose Detroit as the location for its first satellite office because Detroit and its surrounding communities are home to one of the largest concentrations of intellectual property attorneys in the United States. Part of a growing Intellectual Property program at Detroit Mercy Law, the International Intellectual Property Law Clinic hosts the annual International Patent Drafting Competition, which is held at the Elijah J. McCoy Midwest Regional USPTO each February. The Competition attracts teams from law schools across the United States and Canada. Detroit Mercy Law also offers an on-line Certificate in Law - Intellectual Property. This non-JD program meets the needs of professionals and organizations for knowledge of intellectual property and cybersecurity laws.
Have a law degree and strong academic background.
Demonstrate either a record of or potential for both teaching excellence and high scholarly achievement.
Be either a registered patent attorney, a patent agent in good standing with the USPTO, or a licensed attorney in good standing with the highest court of any state.
Ideal candidates will also possess at least three years’ experience (within the past five years) prosecuting patent applications before the USPTO. Applicants with some experience teaching in a law clinic are preferred, and applicants who are excited about continuing to grow our Intellectual Property Law program, in addition to directing the existing Clinic, are of particular interest.
Applicants should send a cover letter with a current CV and any additional supporting materials (or any questions) to:
Professor Julia Belian, Chair of Faculty Recruitment
University of Detroit Mercy School of Law
651 East Jefferson
Detroit, Michigan 48226
Materials will be accepted via email or regular mail. Review of applicants will begin in July 2019 and will continue until the position is filled.
About Our Program of Legal Education
Detroit Mercy Law offers a unique curriculum that complements traditional theory- and doctrine-based course work with intensive practical learning. Students must complete at least one clinic, one upper-level writing course, one global perspectives course, and one course within our Law Firm Program, an innovative simulated law-firm practicum. Detroit Mercy Law also offers a Dual J.D. program with the University of Windsor in Canada, in which students earn both an American and a Canadian law degree in three years while gaining a comprehensive understanding of two distinct legal systems.
The Detroit Mercy Law Clinical Program is one of the oldest in the United States, having opened our doors as the Urban Law Clinic in 1965. Today, we offer eleven clinics, including the Criminal Trial Clinic, Environmental Law Clinic, Family Law Clinic, Federal Pro Se Legal Assistance Clinic, Housing Law Clinic, Immigration Law Clinic, Juvenile Appellate Clinic, International Intellectual Property Law Clinic, Trademark and Entrepreneurial Clinic, Veterans Appellate Clinic, and Veterans Law Clinic. Each year our clinics represent more than 1,000 clients and provide more than 20,000 hours of free legal services.
Detroit Mercy Law is located one block from the riverfront in Downtown Detroit, within walking distance of federal, state, and municipal courts, the region’s largest law firms, and major corporations such as General Motors, Quicken Loans, and Comerica Bank. The School of Law is also uniquely situated two blocks from the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, an international border crossing linking Detroit with Windsor and Canada.
Detroit offers a dynamic variety of culinary, cultural, entertainment, and sporting attractions. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DO4J_PC1b5M and learn more at https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/20/travel/detroit-michigan-downtown.html.
Michigan’s largest, most comprehensive private university, University of Detroit Mercy is an independent Catholic institution of higher education sponsored by the Religious Sisters of Mercy and Society of Jesus. The university seeks qualified candidates who will contribute to the University's urban mission, commitment to diversity, and tradition of scholarly excellence. University of Detroit Mercy is an Equal Opportunity Affirmative Action Employer with a diverse faculty and student body and welcomes persons of all backgrounds.
Monday, June 3, 2019
CLEA: Social Justice in Legal Clinics: CUNY Law Clinic Explores the Intersection of Disability, Aging, Immigration, & Family Law
Cross posting from CLEA and its series on social justice work among law school clinics:
By Julia Hernandez and Joe Rosenberg
Reimagining our clinical practice. After a short hiatus, CUNY Law School’s Disability & Aging Justice Clinic (a/k/a Elder Law Clinic), resumed its practice in the Fall of 2018 as an evening clinic open to both day (full time) and evening (part time) students. The clinic’s teaching team—Julia Hernandez, Joe Rosenberg, and Liz Valentin—reimagined the clinic in order to incorporate our varied expertise, recent projects, and also to respond to the current political climate in which marginalized and vulnerable communities are increasingly under attack.
As a result of this process, we decided to highlight our work with immigrant families, and to connect the intersections among the seemingly disparate practice areas of aging, disability, family, and immigration law in order to assist families in harnessing the law for protection and self-determination. We also intentionally used technology to facilitate and advance our work, and prepare students for “Lawyering in the Digital Age” through the use of a paperless case management system, video conferencing, and projects to create guided interview applications.
Initial reading assignments at the intersection of our practice areas. To introduce the students to how we conceived of our clinical practice, we assigned several short readings (hyperlinked at the end of this post) to discuss during our first class to provide background on the following themes:
- Race, poverty, & social justice
- Aging, disability, guardianship, & decision making autonomy
- Immigration, families, & guardianship of children
- Technology, privacy, liberty, & the law
Building on a project created to support undocumented parents. CUNY Law’s Planning with Parents (PWP) Project was created in response to the “enhanced” immigration enforcement following the November 2016 Presidential election. The PWP Project’s primary focus is on helping undocumented parents understand their rights and options for protecting family members in case the parents are detained or deported. The PWP Project works with immigrant families at risk of deportation and/or separation through several methods of engagement with local immigrant communities. The project has served as a resource for information to advocates and families through know your rights workshops, legal clinics, trainings, and limited legal representation.
Goals of the project. Beyond providing a laboratory for skills development or apolitical legal services, our aim was for students to explicitly engage the political dimension of lawyering with those excluded from the dominant social structure—in this case, undocumented immigrants—and to center those politics in their work. We identified and drew upon the main goals of the PWP Project:
- Arming families with knowledge. At community events and individual meetings, students developed expertise with legal tools families can use to proactively protect against deportation and to plan for minor children or differently abled family members in the event of detention or deportation.
- Using advance planning tools to support family self-determination. Students counseled families and advocates on temporary care of children, designation of a guardian, New York power of attorney, and other legal forms, assisting with execution of these documents for families who chose to do so. Students used their knowledge and expertise to bring our legal clinics into the digital age: we abandoned our paper based intake and legal forms and transitioned to using digital interactive PDF documents that are populated with answers to questions. Based on this experience, students collaborated with a developer to create a guided interview application that can be used by advocates to inform clients about advance planning and create legal documents.
- Representing children to stabilize immigration status.The PWP Project involved family law, lifetime planning, and immigration law. Guardianship across a broad spectrum—for minors and for adults who need support in making decisions due to mental health, cognitive, and age related issues—was a common thread of the project. With our students, this led us to represent children in Special Immigrant Juvenile Status cases to obtain Legal Permanent Residency and protect against deportation. This work is done in local Family Courts and with USCIS, the federal administrative body for immigration benefits.
Making connections across practice areas. By situating the PWP Project in this clinic, we exposed students to the intersectional nature of legal problems politically and socially marginalized clients face and themes that bridge practice areas. We put our experience in preparing advanced planning documents traditionally used in the disability and aging context, to work for immigrant parents and their children through temporary care of children, designation of a guardian, New York power of attorney, and other legal mechanisms. We expanded our representation to immigrant minors, who needed a guardian appointed in Family Court in order to apply for permanent residence status. Students drew connections among the different systems of guardianship for children, differently-abled adults, and elders, and explored power structures at play, who the different types of guardianships benefit, and ways in which they empowered or damaged the family, both individually and collectively.
Understanding the meaning and utility of law through the lens of those subject to it. One of our goals as a clinic is to help students understand clients—and their broader communities—as authoritative interpretive bodies. This bi-directional feedback helps students broadly envision different legal realities together with their clients. We facilitated this by structuring our clinic to empower and center the experience of students (our “clients”) in order to model how we wanted students to relate to their clients. Part of our motivation was to maximize the learning experience of our students—most of whom worked during the day and had to make the time for law school. We organized our clinic seminars in ways that enabled us to teach theory, doctrine, and practice primarily through individual and group supervision and highly structured student-led rounds. We hope our clinical practice will guide students as radical lawyers for social justice in whatever practice area they pursue.
Initial Readings Assigned for Clinic Seminar:
Race, poverty & social justice
Aging, disability, guardianship, & decision making autonomy
(Read pp. 10-17 until Findings & Recommendations): Beyond Guardianship: Toward Alternatives that Promote Greater Self-Determination For People with Disabilities (National Council on Disability, March 22, 2018)
Immigration, families, & guardianship of children
Kaye, The Kids are Citizens. The Parents Are Undocumented. What Now? (L.A. Times, March 10, 2017)
When Immigrant Detention Means Losing Your Kids (NPR, December 8, 2017)
Lovett et al., Undocumented Parents Facing Deportation Can Name a Guardian for Kids Under New Law (N.Y. Daily News, June 27, 2018)
Technology, Privacy, Liberty, and the Law
What Do We Care So Much About Privacy?
Monday, May 20, 2019
First: congrats on securing a legal internship! Just getting to this place proves your intelligence and drive. You have your foot in the door, and now is the time to do good work for your supervisor, learn about a new area of the law (while evaluating whether it’s for you), and earn a positive recommendation (or even a job)! The effort starts now.
One point you might find challenging is that you and your supervisor (not to mention your clients) may have different ideas about what working efficiently looks like—or even what the role of an intern entails. It’s always best to clarify in person if you have any concerns. Here is a list that can serve as a general guide to office etiquette and summer work. When in doubt, however, check with your supervisor.
- Always be on time. Clarify your start and end hours a few days before you begin the internship, and leave home early to make sure you make it there— even if traffic is horrible or you spill coffee on your new dress shirt.
- Speaking of dress shirts, dress for court on the first day unless your office has told you otherwise. Even if the office ends up being casual, it’s better to overshoot this mark than to undershoot it.
- Always be courteous and friendly to office support staff, as well as to your supervisors and fellow interns. Administrative staff were there before you arrived and will be there after the end of your internship. Their expertise and feedback can help you have a better experience.
- Always bring a notepad and pens to meetings with your supervisor(s), colleagues, and clients. If the matter is important enough to call a meeting about, it will be important remember what is discussed and decided—especially if it involves an assignment for you.
- Use situational awareness and courtesy when asking a supervisor or colleague to meet with you. Are they on the phone, typing furiously, and looking stressed? Is the door closed? It’s generally a good idea to knock on the doorframe and ask, “Is now a good time?” before just walking into someone’s office. If the door is closed, email and ask to schedule a time.
- You will often be asked to work on projects that are unfamiliar to you. When you first get an assignment, clarify as much as you can with your supervisor. Then make your best effort before you return with further questions. There is a balance here: no one wants to see you labor on your own only to find you were confused or didn’t have the information you needed to make real progress. On the other hand, you should try to find answers to your questions before running to your supervisor every five minutes. Try these resources as you begin your work:
- Online legal research databases (search relevant key terms, statutes, court rules, and cases)
- The office’s brief or motions bank (or the file of a similar case or project)
- Google or Wikipedia (if only as a start)
- Be friendly and be yourself, but also be cautious about using jokes to break the ice when you’re nervous. This is often when we make errors in judgement about what's appropriate under the circumstances.
- Most supervisors will not judge you for what you don’t know coming in, but coachability is key. Stay curious about how to improve. Always recognize the authority of your supervisor’s strategic and legal decisions, but don’t be afraid to ask for further feedback.
- Be very clear about your start and end dates, any vacation time, and your daily schedule. It’s best to have this conversation in person and then to confirm in email so your supervisor can have a record to refer to.
- Never discuss office or client matters with anyone outside the office. Even if it is positive, don’t post client news to social media without express permission from your supervisor.
- Likewise, strictly limit your time spent on social media or your phone during work hours. Never text or scroll during work meetings-- and beware of even having your phone out during a meeting (the temptation to check is often too much for all of us).
- Take advantage of every opportunity to join outside meetings, happy hour gatherings, and socials—especially if your supervisor suggests it. You will make contacts this summer who will become friends and colleagues for the rest of your career.
- Keep a journal. Even if this office or area of law won’t be where you build your career, enjoy it and integrate the lessons you learn into your life of practice.
- For far more detailed discussions of work habits, office etiquette, and internships, enroll in an Externship class at your law school.
Most of all, stay engaged and learn what you can this summer—and enjoy this time as much as you can!
Thursday, May 9, 2019
Continuing CLEA’s series of posts on social justice issues in clinical legal education, here is a post from Eve Rips, Policy & Legislation Clinical Teaching Fellow at Loyola University Chicago School of Law.
Since its founding in 2010, the Legislation & Policy Clinic at Loyola University Chicago has partnered with the Statewide Youth Advisory Board (SYAB) for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services to help translate the policy priorities of young adults in foster care into legislative or administrative change. The SYAB is comprised of 14 to 21-year-old leaders from across Illinois who are interested in advocating at a state level for the wellbeing of their peers in the child welfare system. Starting in 2018, Clinic students have been working with the SYAB to help the group build their own policy agenda.
For students in the Clinic, the project presents a unique opportunity to get to learn first-hand about the issues that matter most to youth in the child welfare system. Students who participate in the project are continually blown away by the maturity and thoughtfulness displayed by Youth Advisory Board members, and by the extent to which the youth leaders prioritize the needs of future generations in making decisions. The project also provides students with the opportunity to learn by teaching: in reflecting on how best to convey complicated information to youth, Clinic students develop a deeper understanding of the material they themselves are learning.
Social justice is often discussed as both a process and an end goal. One of the biggest challenges for students working with the SYAB has been thinking through how to build a process that supports full and equitable participation of youth members. In particular, the project has required careful deliberation about the role of law and policy experts in working with youth leaders. Students have struggled with questions like:
● How can we present youth with data on topics they are interested in without inadvertently steering them toward our own vision for policy change?
● How should we move forward in helping youth leaders if the group wants to work on an issue that we think would be difficult to address through legislative or administrative change?
● What is the right balance between moving meeting agendas forward and giving youth leaders space to respond emotionally to topics that may be connected to personal trauma?
Students built out a deliberate and intensive process for helping the SYAB set their policy agenda. In Spring of 2018, students sat down with youth members to discuss questions and concerns about the laws and policies that impact the lives of youth in care. Those conversations led to the creation of a Frequently Asked Questions Guide for the SYAB, which provided answers to top questions and identified areas where new laws or policies might be needed. In Fall of 2018, students discussed the Guide with youth members, and led a brainstorm focused on asking “what would a better world look like?" Students used what they learned from that discussion to build a list of open-ended “questions to consider” for SYAB members, such as “how can the Department of Children and Family Services better ensure that youth preparing to age out of care can afford to live on their own?” and “what would youth want interactions with their guardians ad litem to look like, ideally?” Finally, in Spring of 2019, students met several times with a small “working group” of SYAB members to workshop policy ideas and finalize a list of potential priorities that they brought back to the full Youth Advisory Board for a vote.
Clinic students stressed that the project required high levels of flexibility and patience in learning how to engage meaningfully with young leaders. Meetings changed times frequently, students started researching one topic only to find youth attention shifted by the next meeting, and many felt that the project moved slowly. When considering her experience working with the SYAB, Patricia Martin, a current 2L, reflected that, “things can take longer when you work with youth. These are sensitive subjects that affect their peers - that sometimes meant we got off topic or struggled to think about when to cut off emotional discussions. But I think this is reflective of how policy making happens in reality, especially when you’re working with others to narrow priorities to an agenda.”
In the end, though, students felt the experience taught them a unique and critical set of skills related to how to be a thoughtful policy partner to populations with experiences very different from their own. Justin Sia, also a current 2L, explained, “the project helped me build my skills in empathy. The more I met with the youth, the more I understood what works in connecting with this group.” Ultimately, Sia reflected, “being an advocate involves working to get on the same page, stepping into their shoes, and thinking carefully about how to make information as accessible as possible.”
We want to hear from you! Are you working on something exciting, innovative, or interesting that advances social justice goals? Know someone who is?
Saturday, May 4, 2019
A bell rang. I recognized it immediately as an old handheld school bell. But I was sitting in a courtroom. It made no sense.
It was in one of the most depressing courtrooms in which I have practiced with my students—mortgage foreclosure diversion court. It is a huge courtroom in an upper floor of City Hall in Philadelphia, big enough to fit over 100 people threatened with losing their home to foreclosure at one time. They sit in rows of hard wooden chairs in the center and back of the courtroom, all facing forward, uncertain of what court will mean for them that day. Each of them are now identified as debtors. Foreclosure proceedings have already been filed against them. To one side of them sit reluctant attorneys for banks and other mortgage lenders, required by the court to be there and to consider deals that will allow the debtors to stay. On another side sit housing counselors, hoping to piece together deals for the debtors using the few resources that the debtors have and that the counselors can find from outside sources. Around the outside walls sit nonprofit law firms, offering help when they can. In the front is a judicial bench, which is particularly huge due to the size of the courtroom and which towers over litigants, and many desks for court staff. The judge will not come—there is little reason for debtors to think that a judge will intervene for them at this stage. Debtors know this, as their cases are often not resolved until they have come back to this court several different days over some months, asking each time for more of a chance to find a way to settle the debt. A judge will sign off if needed. Besides, few debtors have legal arguments that will work. On this day like others, there is constant chatter in this cavernous room as cases are processed—some people learning they’ll never be able to keep their home, others given a month or two to come up with other resources.
And then, the bell rang.
At a central table, the bell ringer smiled as she looked around. Some others smiled, too, knowing what that bell meant: a deal had been reached. Maybe the mortgage had been renegotiated or the debtor had been able to catch up on the delinquency. Somehow, a debtor would keep the home. Victory for all, unless the debtor falls behind again. A happy ending, perhaps, in a court that belongs more in a Dickens novel than 21st century Philadelphia and where victories are not as common as they should be. The bell ringer smiled and moved on to the next foreclosure case.
I was reminded of this experience as I watched a similar celebration on video at a fundraiser for our local center for independent living. These centers exist to support people who have disabilities that might require nursing home care without the support services these centers find for them that allow them to stay in their homes. Among other people with disabilities they serve are people in nursing homes who they help return to the community, finding them the homes and services they need to do so. Despite the person often not having the $5000-6500 it takes to physically move someone into the community, and despite a lack of affordable housing (particularly accessible affordable housing), center workers struggle and sometimes succeed in reintegrating these people into happier independent living situation in the community. And as the video showed, when they do, they walk the halls of the agency cheering and ringing a bell. It looks and sounds like the same bell. They celebrate what they have accomplished.
With my law students, I often want to foster such celebration and don't know how. We work on cases in our clinic and often see so much that is wrong, some of which students can help make right and some of which they can’t. We work with people with severe disabilities denied government disability benefits—perhaps students help them win them benefits, perhaps not. Student watch people being evicted from their homes that landlords manage to control despite keeping them in substandard conditions—perhaps students help get this landlord to fix up their property or help tenants leave on their own terms, or perhaps we watch the more common seemingly unfair and unjust outcomes of tenants losing their homes and being saddled with debt that will preclude them from renting elsewhere. Students draft documents for people sick with terminal diseases thinking through end of life decisions with students who know the documents will be used soon—perhaps we give these people peace of mind, and perhaps we get to see the documents in action.
There needs to be time to stop and recognize victories. Bells must be rung. It is easy to see that for each win, there are many losses. But we must hear the bells. The question is how?
As I sit with my students now after victories, I ask them to reflect on the victory. I have them think about what they did and how they impacted change. I have them think about their clients’ lives with and what would have happened without our representation. After our losses, we do the same, though losses need no marker—they seem to stick with us more easily. How can I make victories not only meaningful but joyous celebrations?
I have no bell. Perhaps I need one.
Wednesday, April 17, 2019
We just wrapped the final class for the Spring 2019 iteration of the Community Justice Clinic. At the close of its fifth year, I’m feeling reflective, maudlin, and proud.
I joined the law faculty at Pepperdine in July 2013, took a year to take the bar and get a California license. For Fall 2014, I had the rare gift of launching a new clinic from scratch. I had thirteen years of experience in civil litigation, trial, and appellate practice in various forms and venues, and I was ready for a change. Through our curricular processes, we saw a need for a clinic that was not seated in litigation and for a practice that was not focused on advocacy for individuals. This process resulted in the Community Justice Clinic.
The Community Justice Clinic was an exciting departure for me professionally. The Clinic serves as general counsel for nonprofits, NGOs, religious and community organizations that are dedicated to human rights, social justice, and community economic development. We focus on clients who are part of the communities they empower or who have deeply rooted, cultural sophistication and humility among the people they serve. Our Clinic provides corporate legal services (incorporation, governance, tax exemption), policy and legal research and advocacy (studies, surveys, and projects in the field), and general legal services (leases, contracts, IP, internal policies, problem solving).
Most of our clients are at work in Southern California, but several are national. At least a third of our clients are NGOs at work globally. Our work with our clients have touched communities in Ecuador, Uganda, India, Nepal, Rwanda, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Nicaragua, Germany, China, and the United Kingdom, so far. Our policy research has addressed another dozen nations.
As clinical professors, our greatest gift is practicing law alongside brilliant, eager, creative students. They make me a better lawyer and better teacher. At the launch of the Community Justice Clinic, I started a tradition to build a monument to the students who would join this work. Being new to the West Coast and excited about our prospects, I bought a California state flag and asked the students to sign it. I confessed to them (and all the rest to come) that it might be corny and sentimental, but I wanted to mark our commitment to our community, to build a reminder of their work and our collaboration together. I wanted to remember them, and I wanted them to remember this work, these clients, their causes, and their profound power in the world as lawyers. In their moments of professional crisis, I wanted the students to be able to spot a symbol that reminds them of their commitments and capacity.
Here is the flag tonight, bearing the signatures of students across five years and ten semesters, nearly a hundred students in the Community Justice Clinic. They have served at least fifty clients on multiple matters around the world and in our neighborhood. The flag also bears the signatures of twenty more students who served several score clients in the Disaster Relief Clinic.
I’m proud to be their teacher and to practice law with them, playing a small role in their education and helping launch them into the world to serve and lead. They have done mighty work to empower our clients to make the world better. I'll post an update in Spring 2024.
Tuesday, April 16, 2019
Over the past year, a critical mass of law school faculty and staff have expressed interest in establishing an AALS Section on Community Economic Development (CED). The proposed section will provide a dynamic, collaborative environment to enhance the scholarship, activism, and direct legal work of CED-focused faculty and professional staff. Notably, the section will help bridge existing gaps between various actors in the CED universe by increasing opportunities for networking and enabling greater synergy and collaboration between scholars and experts in various substantive subjects and disciplines related to CED. Interested faculty and professional staff are invited to read the full petition and sign here.