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Law School Nation: January 2018

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Law School Nation

News from law schools across the country including a new child-abuse prevention program, DACA assistance, an animal law legal clinic, and defending the rights of military veterans in Massachusetts.

Minnesota

A program that aims to help train future attorneys and legal professionals in child-abuse response and  prevention has been launched at Mitchell Hamline School of Law.

The Zero Abuse Project will be funded by a $2 million donation from St. Paul attorney Jeff Anderson, who has been a long-time litigator of child sex abuse cases. The program’s mission is to teach future attorneys and professionals to respond to child abuse through “trauma-informed care” and training.

“We believe child abuse can end, and the Zero Abuse Project is pivotal to that mission,” Anderson said. “Our law fi rm is making this commitment in the hopes that people don’t need to contact us in the future.”

The program will include a new child advocacy law clinic focused on public policy change and litigation led by Joanna Woolman, a professor at the school.

Kansas

The University of Kansas School of Law provided free legal assistance to people eligible to renew their Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals authorization before the Oct. 5 deadline set by the United States government.

The DACA Renewal Clinic helped University of Kansas students, faculty, and local residents complete and submit renewal applications that would allow them to continue to live and work in the United States without the threat of deportation.

Melanie DeRousse, associate clinical professor of law and director of Douglas County Legal Aid, said that completing and submitting the application prior to the deadline were of the utmost importance. The timeline was very short, said DeRousse, and the consequences of not getting paperwork done in time are extremely harsh in this scenario.

Texas

The first and only animal law legal clinic in Texas opened in November at the South Texas College of Law Houston. Its mission is to help organizations and attorneys involved in animal protection litigation, legislation, and policy work.

Students, guided by faculty members, are researching and analyzing developments in animal protection law. The clinic, which is the 19th legal clinic now operating at the school, focuses on animal welfare issues in Texas and the Gulf Coast region. It also maintains close connections with national and international organizations.

Massachusetts

Harvard Law School’s Veterans Legal Clinic—where students participate alongside faculty in pro bono work to help military veterans—has filed a class action suit in the Massachusetts Superior Court on behalf of an estimated 4,000 veterans who didn’t receive the state’s $1,000 Welcome Home Bonus.

The lead plaintiffs in the suit are two former soldiers from Massachusetts who were deployed to Afghanistan. Both honorably completed their enlistments before enlisting for a second time. During their second enlistments, both left the military with bad-paper discharges. Both were also diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder during that time.

Created by the Massachusetts legislature in 2005, the bonus is intended to provide extra benefits to returning veterans from the state. The Massachusetts State Treasury, which is in charge of distributing money in the program, withheld the benefi t from the plaintiffs due to the bad-paper discharges following their second deployments.

“The treasurer has violated its governing statute by failing to give due credit to these two men and others like them who honorably completed enlistments, immediately reenlisted, but later left the military with bad-paper discharges that applied only to their fi nal enlistment,” stated Dana Montalto, a senior clinical fellow at the Veterans Legal Clinic. “These veterans should be eligible for the bonus based on the service the military already deemed fully honorable.”

The clinic’s director, Daniel Nagan, added: “The treasury’s decision to deny bonuses to these veterans is especially unjust because they could have applied for the bonus after they returned from Afghanistan and were still on active duty, and the treasury would no doubt have approved their applications.”

Georgia

Students are now applying big data to the law in the new Legal Analytics Lab at Georgia State University College of Law. The lab was created in conjunction with GSU law’s business school. Its goal is to bring business and legal students and scholars together with data scientists to identify patterns in litigation and business reports to evaluate and predict future outcomes.

The lab’s real-world applications are what Director Charlotte Alexander said makes it unique. It’s currently mining corporate disclosure filings and other materials for an international insurer that provides directors and officers coverage. It’s attempting to uncover predictors of securities class action lawsuit fi lings and litigation outcomes.

It’s also working on behalf of the U.S. Department of Labor, using text mining and machine learning techniques to analyze judges’ decisions in cases where a worker’s status as an employee or independent contractor is in dispute. The goal is to learn how judges are distinguishing between the two categories of workers and predict outcomes.

Connecticut

Students at the University of Connecticut School of Law are now in the forefront of a new courtroom advocacy program focusing on abused animals.

Following a groundbreaking law that took effect in October 2016, judges in Connecticut are now permitted to appoint a law student working under supervision as an advocate for justice in animal abuse cases.

To date, the courts have assigned University of Connecticut School of Law Professor Jessica Rubin and her students six cases involving defendants accused of dog fighting, torturing cats, starving dogs, and beating dogs.

“It allows me to do things I likely wouldn’t be doing, even one or two years into practice,” said Jessica Shamailova, who participates in the program and has earned pro bono experience as a result. “I think it’s very rare that you can argue in court, even if you’re a first-year associate, and I’m grateful to get the chance so early on.”

Compiled by MATT BUCK, Indiana University Maurer School of Law—Bloomington, and DAYNA MAEDER, Florida State University College of Law.

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