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GW LAW BRIEFS: LEGal clinics Update

Legal Clinics Update

Professor Anne Olesen (fourth from left) with
faculty and participants in Qatar.

As the 40th anniversary of GW's Jacob Burns Community Legal Clinics quickly approaches, the clinical program continues to advance steadily in reputation and scope. Here are a few recent highlights:

• Fall 2011 will mark the launch of GW Law's new Neighborhood Law and Policy Clinic, directed by Professor Jessica Steinberg. The clinic will provide a variety of civil legal services to indigent people living in the District of Columbia. The clinic's caseload will include matters related to housing, public benefits, and consumer issues. The clinic also will focus on the civil legal service needs of ex-offenders and on public advocacy before rulemaking entities and local government bodies.

• This winter, Professor Anne Olesen visited Qatar University College of Law in Doha as a legal specialist for the American Bar Association's Rule of Law Initiative and its Women and the Law program. Bringing her knowledge of clinical legal education to the country, she taught classes, consulted with faculty on interactive teaching methods, and participated in the launching of two women's programs. A high point of Professor Olesen's visit was her participation in a mentoring program for female law students. "I was particularly inspired by the female law students who are at the forefront of a new generation of Qatari women," said Professor Olesen. "They speak of wanting to work in law firms, to become international lawyers and criminal lawyers, to defend human rights, and to use law to help others. I was honored to work with them." For more on this story, visit the Clinical Perspectives newsletter:

After the oral argument, Jamesa Drake joined current Federal, Criminal, and Appellate Clinic students, her professors, Clinic Director and Professor Anne Olesen and Clinic co-founder Jenny Lyman, Associate Dean Phyllis Goldfarb, then-Interim Dean Gregory E. Maggs, and Visiting Professor Kelly Knepper-Stephens.

Claire Duggan

• Jamesa Drake, JD '02, an alumna of the Federal, Criminal, and Appellate Clinic, reached a milestone in her legal career in January, when she argued a Fourth Amendment issue before the U.S. Supreme Court as the respondent in the case of Kentucky v. King. Another GW Law alumna, Ann O'Connell, JD '04, an assistant solicitor general, appeared on the opposing side, arguing on behalf of the U.S. government appearing as amicus curiae. FCAC's faculty and current students were all in attendance during these GW-filled Supreme Court proceedings.

The day after the Supreme Court argument, Ms. Drake returned to her alma mater to visit the Jacob Burns Community Legal Clinics to meet with students and discuss the underlying proceedings in her client's case and the path her career has taken.

Ms. Drake, an appellate attorney for the Kentucky Department of Advocacy, reported that her yearlong clinical experience in FCAC turned her previously unformed post-graduate interests in the direction of indigent defense. After her graduation in 2002, she obtained a position with the appellate division of the Office of Public Defender Services in Salem, Ore. Within five years, she had argued more than three dozen cases before the Oregon Court of Appeals and six cases before the Oregon Supreme Court on behalf of her indigent clients. In 2007, she moved to an appellate position at the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy, arguing many cases before the Kentucky Supreme Court. She then transferred to the department's Capital Post Conviction Unit, where she now represents clients on Kentucky's Death Row.

Reflecting on her clinic experience, Ms. Drake observed, "I now have a much deeper appreciation for Professors Jenny Lyman and Anne Olesen as role models. They never disparaged opposing counsel, and they demonstrated perfectly how to fight hard for a client without bombast or hyperbole." She also said the lessons she first experienced in the clinic—about framing arguments, editing and polishing, maintaining your credibility as an advocate, and many others—remain with her today.

She later gave a talk about her experience in the Burns Moot Court Room, a place she once stood as a student.

Claire Duggan

Turning to her experience as a public defender, Ms. Drake observed that "visiting an innocent client in prison is agonizing. Visiting anyone on death row is miserable. Arguing before a high court and losing is difficult. The lows are very, very low," but "the highs are very high."

• After a highly accomplished career as a legal educator and public servant, Professor Joan H. Strand, BA '72, JD '75, director of the Civil and Family Litigation Clinic for 32 years, retired in May and was named professor emeritus of clinical law.

A much-loved figure at GW Law, Professor Strand served countless students and clients over the years, while providing extraordinary leadership to the D.C. legal community. Service highlights include a term as president of the D.C. Bar from 1999 to 2000 and several terms as a member of the D.C. Bar Board of Governors and on the D.C. Bar Foundation. She also co-chaired the family law section of the D.C. Bar and served on various family law-related committees and task forces, including the D.C. Bar's Family Law Task Force and its Children's Initiative Committee.

Professor Strand received many awards over the years. In 2008, she was recognized by the Legal Times 30th Anniversary issue as one of the 90 greatest Washington lawyers of the past 30 years. We salute her and wish her the very best as she moves into the next chapter of her life and legal career.

Law Clinic's Case Heading to Inter-American Human Rights Court

In first foray with the court, clinic fights abuse of a journalist and his family in Colombia.

GW Law's International Human Rights Clinic will litigate its first case before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights later this year—a case that aims to bring justice to a reporter who was attacked by soldiers of the Colombian National Army and forced into exile.

The case against the state by Luís Gonzalo "Richard" Vélez Restrepo and his family was sent to the court on March 2 because the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights had found that the state of Colombia had not complied with recommendations contained in the commission's merits report.

The case raises several significant issues, perhaps most significantly ones involving protections of freedom of expression under the American Convention on Human Rights and related rights protecting journalists. Special protections afforded to family and children also were violated.

"Richard is lucky to be alive, which presents the Inter-American Court with a unique opportunity to ensure justice and redress for this persecuted journalist, as well as his family," says IHR Clinic Director Arturo Carrillo. "The fact that the court will hear the case also means it is in a position to dispel the impunity that to this day, 15 years after the events at issue, protects the state agents responsible for the crimes committed."

At the time of the attack, in August 1996, Mr. Vélez had been filming a protest and documented Colombian National Army soldiers beating several protesters. Death threats against Mr. Vélez and his family followed, and they intensified when he tried to move forward judicial proceedings. After a kidnapping attempt, Mr. Vélez was forced to flee Colombia in October 1997, and for more than a year was separated from his wife and their two small children, who remained in hiding in Colombia. The family were reunited in 1998 in New York City, where they currently reside.

The GW IHR Clinic, part of the Jacob Burns Community Legal Clinics at GW Law, contends that the serious human rights violations that led to the Vélez family's forced exile remain in total impunity, as the Colombian state did not conduct serious, effective investigations to identify—much less punish—those responsible.

The IHR Clinic has been involved in the litigation of this case since it was submitted to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in 2005. Dozens of law students over the years have worked to defend the rights of Mr. Vélez and his family through a range of activities, including legal research and drafting of pleadings, as well as interviewing and counseling clients.

Professor Jones Honored for Commitment to D.C.'s Creative Community

Nick Gingold

Professor Susan R. Jones, director and supervising attorney of the GW Law Small Business and Community Economic Development Clinic, received the Washington Area Lawyers for the Arts (WALA) Lifetime Achievement Award for distinctive service to the greater Washington, D.C., creative community and for 20 years of service on the WALA board of directors. Under Jones' leadership and through the clinic's long-standing partnership with WALA, law students represent small businesses, nonprofit organizations, and artists, and engage in law and policy research on the creative community and its role in fostering community economic development.

"Susan serves as a bridge between law schools and the arts community, enhancing the quality of legal services to Washington, D.C.'s artists over many years," says Associate Dean Phyllis Goldfarb. "As a pioneer in this field, she understands the connection between arts activity and thriving communities, and instills this in her students through her clinical work."