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UDC Law Clinic Newsletter

Tuesday, October 17, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Joe Libertelli
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The University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law (UDC Law) has long required every student to complete two seven-credit clinics, in which our students regularly amass well over 700 hours of clinical experience apiece. Collectively, our students spend over 100,000 hours in experiential learning annually, including our community service, summer public interest fellowship, clinical, and externship programs. We are proud that our students contribute in creative and diverse ways to improve the lives of low-income residents and strengthen communities in the District.

In 2016, UDC Law was rated 6th in the nation for clinical programs (US News); #7 for Public Interest and Government Job Placement (National Law Journal); #8 for Best Schools for Public Service and an A+ rating for Diversity (PreLaw Magazine); and #2 for Older Students, #3 for Minority Students, and #4 for Faculty Diversity (Princeton Review).

In keeping with our mission to recruit and enroll students from groups underrepresented at the Bar, tuition is low—$12,000 for local residents, $18,000 for residents of the metropolitan area, and $24,000 for out-of-state students. Our students are able to start their legal careers without the burden of crushing student loan debt. Our clinics are integrated into our evening program, which makes legal training available to many who would otherwise not have the chance to pursue their professional dreams.

Building on this sturdy base, we are proud to report exciting developments in the UDC Law clinical program.

NEW FUNDING SUPPORTS NEW CLINICAL FACULTY

Overall, more than 60% of UDC Law faculty members currently or previously taught in a clinic. 2016-17 was another year of growth for our clinical program. Building on the opportunities afforded by an infusion of public and private resources over the past two years, we have broadened that base even further, adding five new tenure-track clinical faculty members and a visiting clinician to deepen our nine clinics.

With degrees in Engineering from MIT and Johns Hopkins University, a Law Degree from Harvard, and an LLM pending from the George Washington University Law School, coupled with experience in the financial and development sectors, Professor Etienne Toussaint joins national clinic mainstay, Professor Louise Howells, in the Community Development Law Clinic. Professor Toussaint’s research interests include the intersection of racial justice and community economic development, environmental justice, technology and the law, and promoting social and economic justice through transactional law practice. Students with an interest in a business-focused career, non-profit representation or community economic development now have additional in-house expertise on which to draw.

Louise Howells, Etienne Toussaint, Tianna Gibbs, Faith Mullen, Lauren Onkeles-Klein, Joe Tulman, Jacqueline Lainez Flanagan, and Norrinda HayatProfessor Tianna Gibbs, a graduate of Stanford University and Yale Law School, brings nine years of litigation, policy and court reform experience, particularly in the area of family law, to our General Practice Clinic. Professor Gibbs joins Professor Faith Mullen in directing the General Practice Clinic. Professor Mullen joined the UDC faculty after serving as Visiting Professor last year; she had spent the prior twelve years as the Co-Director of the General Practice Clinic in the clinical program at The Catholic University of America.

Together, Professors Mullen and Gibbs will continue to expand our capacity to serve low-income seniors across the clinical programs and across the District of Columbia, an effort made possible by a half-million dollar grant from the DC Council. Last year, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs honored Professor Mullen and her students for their work securing guardianships for incapacitated veterans. The ceremony was capped with a congratulatory letter from U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, Jr. in recognition of the clinic’s outstanding public service.

Visiting Professor Lauren Onkeles-Klein is directing our Juvenile and Special Education Law Clinic while Professor Joe Tulman is on leave in Geneva, Switzerland. Professor Onkeles-Klein joins the clinic after spending two years as a Practitioner-in-Residence in the Disability Rights Law Clinic at the American University Washington College of Law and 11 years at DC’s Children’s Law Center.

In addition to the most recent additions to our clinical lineup described above, students in our Housing and Consumer Law Clinic continue to engage in a range of exciting litigation efforts under the guidance of former USDOJ/Housing Attorney, Professor Norrinda Brown Hayat. Professor Jacqueline Lainez Flanagan continues to lead the Low-Income Taxpayers Clinic, convincing law students that they, too, can do a little arithmetic now and then!

Thanks to the extraordinary generosity of renowned D.C. malpractice attorney Jack H. Olender, UDC Law saw a significant expansion in the capacity of both its Immigration and Human Rights Clinic and  Legislation Clinic to serve low-income people and the public interest last year. As a result of the transformative, multiyear commitment by the Jack and Lovell Olender Foundation, UDC Law has added outstanding professors in two clinics and conferred the title of “Jack and Lovell Olender Director” upon the directors of each clinic. Both clinics have since successfully expanded the breadth and depth of their legal services and training and opportunities offered to our students.

Kristina Campbell, Jack Olender and Lindsay Harris
Legislation Clinic students and faculty at the US House of Representatives Education and Workforce Committee

Professor Kristina M. Campbell is the Jack and Lovell Olender Director of the Immigration and Human Rights Clinic at the UDC David A. Clarke School of Law. Professor Campbell was joined last year by outstanding teacher, lawyer, and activist, clinic Co-Director Professor Lindsay M. Harris.

Professor Marcy Karin serves as the Jack and Lovell Olender Director of the Legislation Clinic at the UDC David A. Clarke School of Law. Professor Laurie Morin directs her new Gender Justice Project in collaboration with the Legislation Clinic.

The offerings and expertise of our clinical program are enhanced by the teaching of six candidates for an LL.M degree in Clinical Teaching, Social Justice, and System Change. Each LL.M candidate takes a two-year course in clinical teaching and scholarly writing from Associate Dean Matt Fraidin, and a course in System Change from Professor Edgar Cahn, founder of our predecessor school, the Antioch School of Law, as well as of UDC Law and author of the watershed article, The War on Poverty: A Civilian Perspective, 73 Yale L.J. 1317 (1964) (with Jean Camper Cahn). Current LL.M candidates include Saba Ahmed (Immigration and Human Rights Clinic), Natasha Bennett (General Practice Clinic), Monica Bhattacharya (Legislation Clinic), Jerome Hughes (Community Development Clinic), Jasmin Mize (Housing and Consumer Law Clinic), and Megan Newman (Low-Income Taxpayers Clinic).

EXPERIENTIAL REQUIREMENTS AND OPPORTUNITIES

Students on Service Learning trip in Karnes, Texas
Students on Service Learning trip in Mississippi

Our rigorous, mandatory clinical program is the cornerstone of the School of Law’s experiential program. We maintain a broad array of additional opportunities for students to have meaningful client contact, work in low-income communities and represent individuals and groups. As part of their first year Law & Justice course, taught by Distinguished Professor Dr. Edgar Cahn, every student must complete 40 hours of law-related pro bono work. Some students use the opportunity to obtain early experience related to a “pathway” they are considering for more intensive study; virtually all take from their community service experience a broader understanding of the possibilities open to lawyers for achieving social change.

As they become more skilled, students have additional opportunities to assist underserved communities. For example, our spring break service learning trips last year took students to the Mississippi Delta to work on education-related advocacy with the Mississippi Center for Justice in Indianola and to a Texas detention center to assist detained women and children secure bond as they awaited their asylum hearings. Other students traveled with Professors Norrinda Brown Hayat and Jasmin Mize to Cuba, where they explored Cuba’s housing laws and policies in the second year of an innovative partnership with the University of Havana School of Law. These experiences teach life-long lessons. As one student reflected, “I now realize that the community has to own their problems as they have to be a part of the decisions since they are the ones that have to ultimately live with the result.”

UDC Law funds summer public interest fellowships for every rising 2L and many rising 3Ls interested in working full time over the summer for a public interest, public service, or public policy placement. An elective externship program reinforces students’ clinical experiences with real-world opportunities. All are tailored to providing legal services to underserved persons and communities in areas of fundamental need, basic human rights, and access to justice.

IMPACT ON CLIENTS

A sample of the work of the nine clinics underscores the wide range of skills students develop, the breadth of substantive areas and legal processes to which students are exposed, and the significant benefits they bring to underserved communities.

Criminal Law Clinic students at DC Superior Court
Professor Tom Devine testifying

During 2016-2017, for example, students:

- Restructured loans and resolved a variety of financial challenges for several housing cooperatives that provided homes to 57 families;

- Helped a tenant association acquire and renovate dilapidated rental housing and convert it to a cooperative for residents;

- Represented non-profits that provide services to incarcerated youth, offer job readiness training for asylum seekers and enable child care workers to form their own businesses;

- Increased financial stability for clients by securing critical subsistence benefits;

- Reduced intra-family tensions by helping clients resolve significant custody battles;

- Prevented homelessness and improved housing conditions for low-income District individuals and families;

- Worked in coalition with other housing advocacy organizations to protect low-income tenants threatened with displacement due to gentrification pressures;

- Secured asylum protection for clients and their family members by conducting full-blown trials;

- Kept children in appropriate educational environments by vigorously contesting illegal suspensions and denials of needed accommodations;

- Served as legislative counsel for a non-profit client’s successful advocacy effort to enact legislation to remove the DC sales taxes on feminine hygiene products and diapers;

- Assisted over 100 low-income taxpayers and secured almost $50,000 in refunds and a reduction of approximately $400,000 in tax liabilities, penalties and interest;

- Expunged criminal records, enabling clients to regain a foothold in society by opening opportunities for employment, housing, and education;

- Avoided criminal convictions for clients; and

- Secured protection against retaliation for government and corporate whistleblowers.

Students recognize the invaluable benefits of their intensive clinical experience. One student called her opportunity to litigate a complex housing case “priceless.” Another explained that “[y]ou hit the ground running in this [Tax] Clinic. It functions like a real law firm. . . . the clients are real people with real problems; you are their lawyer. I can’t underscore how rewarding it was to hear a client say ‘I think I’ll finally get some sleep tonight’ after getting some good news about his case.”

LEADERSHIP IN THE ACADEMIC AND LEGAL COMMUNITIES

Our clinical faculty blend scholarship and activism. Following the election of 2016, the School of Law convened regional clinicians to explore the implications of the election for clients and to start to imagine how clinical programs could engage students in meaningful responses to the threats the new administration posed to civil rights, liberties, and anti-poverty efforts. The “clinicians summit” was attended by over 85 faculty and staff from seven area law schools and explored issues ranging from criminal justice reform to the impact of Administration policies on small businesses, healthcare, and protections for survivors of violence and trafficking.

Students at Chasing Liberty Symposium

In February 2017, Professors Lindsay Harris and Kristina Campbell spearheaded “Chasing Liberty: Family Detention Symposium,” which brought together over 250 advocates, law students and academics from across the country fighting to end the detention of immigrant families seeking asylum. Attendees left the day-long conference educated by the courageous advocacy of their peers and inspired to engage students creatively in this often life-saving work.

Legislation Clinic Professor Laurie Morin is spearheading our next major symposium which will examine gender justice in light of our new political landscape. Titled “Nine Months Post-Inauguration: Moving Beyond Resistance,” the program will again bring together academics, activists, and students to set the stage for development of an action plan to press for global gender justice.

We look forward to continuing to nurture opportunities to bring together academics, community members, students, policymakers, and other stakeholders to blend scholarship with activism.

In Conclusion...

We are proud of these accomplishments and of our continued role in preparing our students to become effective and creative advocates for the marginalized or oppressed. As the District of Columbia’s public law school, the success of our program depends on our ability to secure public and private funding and attract a highly diverse student body. We rely on our “family” - of students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends – to help us spread the word of this excellent and continually improving program!


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