CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Thursday, December 7, 2023

Ferrer & Henning on Critical Clinical Frames

Eduardo R. Ferrer and Kristin N. Henning (Georgetown Juvenile Justice Clinic & Initiative and Georgetown University Law Center) have posted Critical Clinical Frames: Centering Adolescence, Race, Trauma, and Gender in Practice-Based Pedagogy (30 Clinical Law Review 113 (2023)) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
Notwithstanding the claims to neutrality of the law and the systems and stakeholders who enforce it, social science research and the lived experience of our primarily Black youth clients reinforce how assumptions and biases – conscious and unconscious – undermine such claims. These assumptions and biases too often become the frames through which our clients and their behavior are perceived, flattening their narratives to fit more neatly into the box of “delinquent” and reinforcing existing systems of power, control, marginalization, and oppression. As a result, our job as youth defenders in the Georgetown Law Juvenile Justice Clinic is often to shift the frame through which we and others view our clients and to develop a counternarrative that advances our clients’ expressed interests.

To that end, over the last ten years, we have developed a pedagogical approach designed to prepare our students as nascent attorneys to engage more strategically in the work of frames analysis, critical reflection, and narrative reconstruction. The approach centers around the use of “pedagogical frames” or explicit schemata through which students intentionally and critically examine and interpret everything they encounter in furtherance of their clients’ expressed interests. While professors can identify different pedological frames best suited to their course and client work, the Georgetown Law Juvenile Justice Clinic uses adolescence; race; trauma; and sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression (SOGIE) as its principal frames. This essay will explain in further detail what we mean by “pedagogical frame,” how we selected our principal frames, and how we apply them in our course and client work. Ultimately, as this essay explains, this pedagogical approach seeks to translate the essence of critical legal theory into critical legal praxis and to integrate such praxis into the clinical model.

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