By Deanna Howes Spiro, Director of Communications, Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities
What makes a Jesuit law school different from other law schools? Our students are committed to finding God in all people and all things. From guiding undocumented individuals through immigration clinics led by the University of San Francisco, to providing legal representation for students with disabilities through the Education Project at Loyola University New Orleans, our students are living out the Jesuit mission across the country, every day.
In this issue of Connections, we feature the mission-focused programs at our law schools and reflections from two current deans and one dean emeritus. Jacob Rooksby, J.D., Ph.D., dean of the Gonzaga University School of Law, writes: “We approach education with a view toward educating the whole person, recognizing that attorneys, first and foremost, are people in a constant state of formation, seeking to improve themselves and the world around them. We see this sensitivity displayed in the close relationships forged between our faculty, staff and students. The potential to impact lives, inside as well as outside of the classroom, is what draws me and many of my colleagues to work in Jesuit legal education.”
Our Jesuit law schools serve as beacons of hope for vulnerable individuals across the country and around the world. We thank our deans, faculty and staff for their advocacy and for showing our students how to be people (and lawyers) for and with others at all times.
By Vincent D. Rougeau, J.D., Dean, Boston College Law School
In October, Bryan Stevenson, the acclaimed criminal defense lawyer and author of the best-selling book, Just Mercy, spoke at Boston College about his work with death row inmates in Alabama. What becomes clear when you hear him speak, or read what he has written, is his unwavering commitment to the dignity of the incarcerated and the condemned. As he wrote in Just Mercy, he was compelled to speak out about “how easily we condemn people in this country and the injustice we create when we allow fear, anger, and distance to shape the way we treat the most vulnerable among us.”
Stevenson’s work, and his passion for reminding us of the humanity of the marginalized, is intimately linked to the Jesuit values that animate the study and practice of criminal law at Boston College Law School. These ideals include forming men and women as lawyers who understand that a passion for justice must include a fierce moral commitment to the needs of the least of those among us, including those charged with and convicted of crimes. Indeed, as they have done for the past ninety years, Boston College Law School scholars and teachers remain committed to those values as they make the case for reforms in the criminal justice system in books, journals, classrooms and public policy.
A prime example of these principles in action exists in our five-year-old Center for Experiential Learning, which has been expanding its programming and putting increasing numbers of our students in the field armed not only with practical skills to get a job, but also with a passion for justice and working for the common good. Boston College Law School offers many such opportunities, all designed to encourage reflective discernment through the consideration of a broad range of perspectives. As Associate Professor Rev. Frank Herrmann, S.J., puts it, “These endeavors are in keeping with the Jesuit universal apostolic preference of walking with the poor in the mission of reconciliation and justice.”
One concrete way of walking with the poor is through the work of our many criminal law-related clinics, all of which serve the low-income or the indigent. These include the Criminal Justice Clinic, which includes defender and prosecution programs, and the Boston College Innocence Program, which has engaged students in several successful exonerations. And in 2015, BC Law Professor Francine Sherman presented a game-changing report, Gender Injustice: System-Level Juvenile Justice Reforms for Girls, one in a long string of persuasive efforts coming out of the Juvenile Rights Advocacy Project, which she founded at BC Law some two decades ago.
Undocumented migrants have become one of our society’s most marginalized groups, and Boston College Law School’s clinics have notched some significant victories for people caught in the web of contradictory laws and policies governing immigration. For example, students in the Ninth Circuit Appellate Program, which advocates for non-citizens with criminal convictions in federal immigration cases, have argued twelve cases. Eight have been successful and five of the opinions have been published. After a nine-year battle, the Post-Deportation Human Rights Project was instrumental in the return of a Honduran man to the United States, who had been deported in error for a minor drug offense.
None of these outcomes would have been possible without the leadership and mentorship of a faculty committed to and animated by the Jesuit concept of education in which the idea of helping others is central. In the Jesuit tradition, the goal of “being educated” involves not only service to oneself, but also service to community—particularly the destitute, the imprisoned, and those on the edges of society.
The work of the Compassionate Release and Parole Clinic, the brainchild of Father Herrmann, proves the point. Students prepare petitions for release on compassionate grounds for Massachusetts inmates who have been diagnosed to be within 18 months of death or are so physically or mentally incapacitated that they should not remain in prison. All incarcerated men and women are indigent. Very few lawyers are available to represent them in these critical post-conviction matters.
Similarly, the Prison Disciplinary Clinic opens students’ eyes and hearts to the plight of the incarcerated. As BC Law Magazine reported last year, the students represent inmates facing disciplinary action for everything from smuggling drugs into prison to instigating fights. Punishments include transfer to a higher security prison, loss of visitation rights or, as happened to one inmate, losing his right to make phone calls for 60 days for leaving medicine outside of a lockbox. Some infractions can earn the maximum punishment, being placed in solitary confinement. One student who participated in the clinic observed that “a lot of lawyers and lay people would be shocked by the type of evidence that is cited to support some of the charges.”
Win or lose, the students make an important contribution to the people they are representing. Being able to interact on a human-to-human level makes inmates feel that they are being heard and have worth. Kari Tannenbaum, who teaches the clinic, told BC Law Magazine that that recognition is a kindness to prisoners. “Most of the clients are serving life sentences. Their dignity is taken away in different ways,” she explained.
The two newest criminal law programs at our experiential center, the Compassionate Release and Parole Clinic and the Prison Disciplinary Hearings Clinic, are at the heart of what criminal law and professional responsibility expert Professor Michael Cassidy described in his 2018 essay “Catholic Social Thought and Criminal Justice Reform.” “Our society has become alienated from the ideals of love, mercy, and the opportunity for redemption emphasized in the Gospels and pastoral teachings,” he wrote. “Refocusing on these values can serve as a critical focal point for our national debate on criminal justice reform.” In this way, Professor Cassidy links us back to the words of Bryan Stevenson, and demonstrates how our Jesuit, Catholic values are shared by many of our fellow citizens who are working to create a more just society for all.
In the end, who we are and what we do as a Jesuit, Catholic law school is rooted in human dignity. As the former Superior General of the Society of Jesus, the late Rev. Pedro Arrupe, S.J., noted, “our prime educational objective must be to form men [and women] for others . . . who cannot even conceive of a love of God which does not include love for the least of their neighbors; men [and women] completely convinced that a love of God which does not issue in justice is a farce.”
By Bill Ong Hing, Professor of Law and Migration Studies, University of San Francisco
“What are the Sharpies for?” my student Cristina asked Luis, the volunteer coordinator at Al Otro Lado, as he handed us materials for use at the El Chapparal border crossing in Tijuana, Mexico. Luis replied, “You must explain to every parent with a child that the Border Patrol might separate them from each other. The Sharpie is for writing the parent’s name and cell number on the child’s arm or chest in case of separation.”
Earlier this year, the University of San Francisco’s (USF) Immigration and Deportation Defense Clinic’s staff and students spent five days volunteering in Tijuana, making presentations on asylum law and procedure, and advising dozens of so-called “Caravan” members who were huddled at the United States / Mexico border after fleeing the violence that pervades the Northern Triangle of Central America. Through word of mouth, countless migrants have heard about these presentations and consultations at Al Otro Lado, a legal services organization serving indigent deportees, migrants and refugees in Tijuana, that relies almost exclusively on volunteers.
As a result of recent changes to the immigration process, counseling the migrants on how border patrol and asylum officers conduct “credible fear interviews” is critical: only after passing this screening test will a migrant be allowed to apply for asylum.
Most of our work was done at the offices of Al Otro Lado from 10 AM to 5 PM, but our day started earlier at 7 AM at the El Chapparal, where migrants were told to report to see if their name and number had been called off of a waitlist that the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol had created with the help of Mexican officials. We reported there as well, but in spite of the best efforts of Al Otro Lado, most migrants had not received advice on what to expect when being interviewed by Border Patrol and asylum officials. We were there to give quick one-on-one consultations—and to offer Sharpies—to those whose names were called.
This work in Tijuana is just an example of a one-week assignment that our Immigration and Deportation Defense Clinic students experience during an average semester at USF Law. In other semesters, our students have worked for a week at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement family detention center in Dilley, Texas. This semester, we intend for our students to return to Tijuana or Nogales, along the Arizona border.
These one-week assignments are a break from the regular work that our Immigration and Deportation Defense Clinic students are typically engaged in. Each semester, we have six to eight students in this particular clinic, who are usually assigned to work with two clients under the guidance of the clinic’s supervising attorney, Jacqueline Brown Scott. The vast majority of our clients are desperate, having fled gang, cartel or domestic violence.
The clients are primarily from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, and more than half are unaccompanied minors who traveled to the United States without a parent. More than half of our clients also hail from rural parts of California, such as the Central Valley or Sonoma, places where we have intentionally dedicated our resources to serve under-served populations.
We apply for asylum for the family units (usually in the immigration court) because they were arrested by the Border Patrol when they first arrived. We also apply for asylum for unaccompanied minors, but minors get to apply at the asylum office first, rather than in the immigration court. For the minors, we also seek a separate relief—Special Immigration Juvenile Status—which requires a state court procedure.
The students at the clinic spend countless, patient hours with our clients, many of whom suffer from PTSD. They have helped many clients such as Alberto, a teenager from Guatemala, win asylum. Alberto’s friend, Eddie, was attacked and beaten up badly for refusing to join the notorious 18th Street Gang. Afterward, Eddie hid at his mother’s house and stopped playing soccer with Alberto because the gangsters were always at the field looking for him. His family reported this to the police and within two weeks, Eddie was shot and killed. Then the gang came after Alberto, threatening to kill him if he did not join, so he fled to the United States.
Relentless and ruthless gang intimidation is often what causes our clients to flee their home countries. Julia fled El Salvador after refusing to dance with a gang member at a community event. He wanted her to be a gang “girlfriend”; days later, the gang member drove his car right at Julia, knocking her unconscious and causing internal injuries and permanent damage to her right leg.
Although I was already engaged in pro bono cases with student assistance, the Immigration and Deportation Defense Clinic officially started in January 2015, soon after the surge of children and family units from Central America in Spring 2014. However, after a new administration came into the White House in January 2017, immigration enforcement intensified, and increased student interest in immigration law ensued.
In Fall 2017, we started an Immigration Policy Clinic, where eight to ten students are engaged in different types of cases and issues each semester. These include Board of Immigration Appeals cases on behalf of previously unrepresented detained clients, through a program coordinated by the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, and post-conviction criminal cases involving clients facing deportation, who need to go back into state court to modify guilty pleas to avert deportation. Working with pediatricians and child psychologists, Immigration Policy Clinic students have also developed an innovative presentation to the children of immigrants who fear that their parents might get deported. Through stories and examples, children are introduced to concepts of immigration law and enforcement.
At a time when migrants fleeing violence have been demonized, and threats of raids strike fear in immigrant communities, law students at USF provide a ready source of energy, determination and commitment to provide access to justice for the victims of anti-immigrant rhetoric and enforcement. They are ready to do much more than scribble the cell numbers of parents on migrant children who face separation from their parents at the border.
All photos courtesy of Bill Ong Hing.
By Jacob Rooksby, J.D., Ph.D., Dean and Professor, Gonzaga University School of Law
To me, the hallmark of a Jesuit education is St. Ignatius of Loyola’s call to “go forth and set the world on fire.” Our students are rays of light who bring passion and energy to the world around them.
As a Jesuit law school, we at Gonzaga University are committed to harnessing our students’ passion and helping to shape it so that they can go out and be change agents through their work as attorneys. Our mission is to light the fire and watch it grow.
We approach education with a view toward educating the whole person, recognizing that attorneys, first and foremost, are people in a constant state of formation, seeking to improve themselves and the world around them. We see this sensitivity displayed in the close relationships forged between our faculty, staff and students. The potential to impact lives, inside as well as outside of the classroom, is what draws me and many of my colleagues to work in Jesuit legal education.
Shortly after my arrival to Gonzaga, we reflected on a statement that would best embody our humanistic identity. Passion into Practice is now the mantra that guides our thinking about the work we do here at Gonzaga Law School. But a statement alone doesn’t get the job done. We live out this mission every day in many ways:
Service to the community is a touchstone of legal education. Our students fulfill public service requirements in order to graduate, and most engage in substantial pro bono work during their time as Zags. Opportunities abound through our clinical legal education program, which was one of the first of its kind in the nation back in the 1970s. Students serve local elderly populations through our Elder Law Clinic and tribal clients through our Indian Law Clinic. And this year, in conjunction with Catholic Charities of Eastern Washington, we are thrilled to launch our Immigration Practice and Policy Clinic, allowing us to serve marginalized individuals in times of need, while also recognizing the Church’s call to action on issues surrounding immigration, a pressing concern of our times.
Our Center for Civil and Human Rights is our signature platform for social justice education and action at Gonzaga Law School. In addition to academic programming in the realm of social justice, the Center coordinates student engagement in the community through such programs as the Moderate Means Project, in which law students match low-income clients with practicing attorneys willing to provide legal representation at low cost. It also features a jurist-in-residence program, whereby students learn from former or current judges on such topics as Civil Rights Lawyering.
Our newest academic program is the Center for Law, Ethics & Commerce. Recognizing that attorneys who do well must also do good, the Center focuses its programming on fostering dialogue on how the worlds of law, business and ethics can and should work together for the common good. We believe there is a need to train business-minded students to be sensitive to the ethical dimensions of commerce. This unique Center positions us well to do just that.
Our commitment to educating students to change the world extends literally across the globe. We use our campus in Florence, Italy as the site of educational programming for law students in our successful summer study program, which attracts students beyond Gonzaga. There, we host an annual human rights symposium—an academic event that draws leading international scholars to exchange ideas for the benefit of students. Last year’s topic was “Freedom of Expression as a Human Right.” In summer 2020, in recognition of the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote in the United States, the theme is “Women’s Rights as Human Rights.”
Through generous benefaction, we were recently able to commission a substantial piece of art from a local artist, Ben Joyce, for permanent display in the entrance to our building. Fittingly called Go Forth, the piece symbolizes our students’ attachment to place through the roots they are establishing in Gonzaga Law, and the unfolding potential of what and who they are becoming.
A Jesuit legal education expands the mind while nourishing the soul. We are proud of the work we are doing at Gonzaga Law School. For an institution over 100 years old, we are excited as we know the best is yet to come.
Contributed by the Loyola University New Orleans College of Law
Christopher* is a third-grade student in the New Orleans Public School system, who has been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and has experienced significant trauma. He is struggling in school both academically and behaviorally. Christopher’s mom has been trying for years to get him the services and supports he needs in school. She has asked school administrators to have Christopher evaluated for special education services and provided letters of support from his doctors, but has gotten no response. Meanwhile, Christopher continues to struggle and the school responds to his behavioral problems by suspending him or calling his mom to pick him up early. The result is that Christopher has fallen further and further behind, academically.
Christopher’s challenges are by no means unique. The New Orleans school system has long been one of the lowest-performing school districts in the nation, and the city’s most vulnerable children face even higher barriers to receiving a high-quality education. Black students are suspended at three times the rate of white students. Students with disabilities face serious obstacles enrolling in school and receiving the special services that they are entitled to under federal law.
The consequences are dire. Some researchers estimate that approximately 15 percent of New Orleans youth are out of school and out of work, furthering the cycle of poverty in the community.
Loyola University New Orleans College of Law is responding to these challenges through the Education Project, launched in 2018. “Children of color, children with disabilities, and children from low-income families are the least likely to get the services they need to succeed and are disproportionately disciplined and pushed out of school,” says Davida Finger, Clinic Professor and Director of the Project. “The mission of the Education Project is to protect the rights of these students, break these harmful cycles, and ensure that all New Orleans students have equal access to a quality education.”
Through the Education Project, Loyola law students, working under the supervision of experienced clinical faculty, provide free legal representation to students who are facing suspensions and expulsions, as well as students with disabilities who require special educational services in order to succeed in school. Sara Godchaux, a 2012 Loyola Law alum who has joined the Education Project as a Staff Attorney, explains, “Legal assistance for students and parents is critical for breaking the cycle of school push-out and ensuring that all students have access to equitable educational opportunities. We know that students facing school push-out or other issues related to access for special education services have a much better chance of staying in school and succeeding if they have a strong advocate helping them.”
The Education Project is the latest innovation of Loyola’s Stuart H. Smith Law Clinic and Center for Social Justice, which has been ranked 23rd in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. The Loyola Law Clinic serves low-income people in many different areas, including immigration, juvenile law, criminal defense, family law, housing and employment. The Education Project, which is the first program of its kind in the South, allows the clinic to provide an even greater range of legal services in the local community, and prepares a new generation of attorneys to respond to these needs of New Orleanians.
“As a Jesuit school, we are deeply embedded in our community,” explains Dean Madeleine Landrieu. “Those connections allow us to identify vulnerable and under-served populations and create new programs, like the Education Project, to fill the gaps. Of course, our ultimate goals are both to inspire within our students a desire to serve and to give them the tools to do so.”
Through the Education Project, third-year law students at Loyola, under the supervision of clinic attorneys and professors, are working with Christopher and his mom to get him the help he needs to be successful academically, and to hold his school accountable to its legal obligations. Clinic students have retrieved and reviewed his educational disciplinary records and represented him at school hearings and meetings. By offering individual legal support for Christopher, and other students like him, the Education Project aims to push for systemic improvements in the provision of special education services in New Orleans schools. Finger says, “By helping students like Christopher, we are helping our community. Every student deserves to receive a quality education.”
Contributed by the Office of Communications at Saint Louis University School of Law
The Jesuit mission of being men and women for and with others can be found throughout the curriculum and student activities at Saint Louis University School of Law, but it is felt most directly in the SLU LAW Legal Clinics. The four separate Legal Clinics serve as a pro bono, full-service law firm where students work directly with clients who could not otherwise afford legal representation in civil litigation, criminal defense, entrepreneurship and community development, and human rights.
After the 2014 death of Michael Brown and the ensuing protests in Ferguson, MO, the clinics sought to systemically reform the municipal court system in the St. Louis region, which had become ripe with corruption and predatory practices preying on the region’s poorest residents, by representing the protesters. They faced backlash from some lawyers and judges who worked within that system, but remained steadfast in their decision to work for racial justice.
Jessica L. Ciccone, director of communications at SLU LAW, recently sat down with two of the clinics’ professors and the dean emeritus of SLU LAW, who served at a time when living the mission of the law school was not always done easy. They reflected on their work and explained how they apply the Jesuit mission to the classroom and the courtroom.
John Ammann, McDonnell Professor of Justice in American Society, served as a director of the litigation clinic, where he focused on issues of unemployment, geriatric parole, Medicaid access, clemency and municipal court reform. After nearly three decades in the Legal Clinics, with two spent as director, he retired in Summer 2019, but continues to work on cases with students.
Brendan Roediger, director of the litigation clinic, focuses his practice on landlord tenant issues, civil rights and municipal court reform. He was recently profiled by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for his legal efforts in the protest movement in Ferguson and beyond.
Michael Wolff, dean and professor emeritus, served as dean of SLU LAW from 2012 – 2017. During that time, the national spotlight helped to create a movement for racial and social justice in the city of St. Louis and beyond. Wolff is also the former chief justice of the Missouri Supreme Court and began his career as a legal services lawyer in Saint Paul, Denver and Rapid City, South Dakota.
On Practicing the Mission in the SLU LAW Legal Clinics:
John Ammann: Generally speaking, we represent the poor and the disadvantaged, and my view is that we win the minute we accept that person as a client. If we represent the poor and the disadvantaged, whatever the outcome, we have won because we have shown someone God’s love and care through our actions for even a brief time. So I think it is a victory whatever the court result is.
Brendan Roediger: When I was a new lawyer, and I was trying to be a “do-gooder lawyer,” I thought that I needed to find the type of law that allowed you to do good, and be a social justice and public interest lawyer. And I met this lawyer who I looked up to, who had done a lot of important civil rights work and he said, ‘It has nothing to do with what you do, it is who you do it for.’ Any area of law, just do it for the right people. To me, the mission for the law school is to serve the poor; it is that simple.
Michael Wolff: When you represent a particular client or group of clients, you are unsettling some other people. Because obviously you don’t get to do social justice for free. It is going to cost somebody something, usually somebody who has done wrong to our clients or some institution or some government who has disadvantaged the clients. And so in that sense, you are pushing back against very established, economically comfortable people and institutions.
A Jesuit law school is uniquely positioned to withstand that kind of pressure.
On Living the Mission When It’s Not Easy:
Ammann: We have taken some extreme criticism over the years. We took criticism over our representation of people against municipalities like Ferguson. And if you worried about that [kind of] stuff, you could never get anything done.
Roediger: Mike Wolff made an important intervention when things were really difficult, [when] some people who represent certain systems — municipal courts and other systems — felt under attack. Mike entered at this really important moment, and in part he entered because he was getting calls from people saying ‘Hey, get these people under control.’ Mike said ‘No, these are clients. Our clinic professors and students are representing actual human beings who have a desired outcome, and those human beings are poor and fit within our mission. They are going to advocate for them.’ And I think as much as it was the right intervention for all sorts of tactical reasons, it was also a very good reminder to me.
Wolff: That mission is also consistent with the ethical rules for lawyers. Prominently, a lawyer does not let an outside party control the advocacy that a lawyer does on behalf of his client. Every lawyer has been taught that, some of them have forgotten. And they sometimes need to be reminded.
On Teaching the Mission:
Wolff: Being a lawyer is sometimes hard and sometimes it’s lonely. If [students] are engaged, even for a brief time in law school, on behalf of some cause that really has implications…you become sensitized to it, and so you remember that.
Ammann: I like to say that I am the highest paid chauffeur in the city of St. Louis because my job is over when I drive the students to the women’s prison — that is all I have to do. I arrange the visit, we drive the four hours to meet with our clients who are there, and God does the rest. The students come out, they are hugging the women, and the women are in tears and the students are in tears. They have made that human connection. And the students come away from meeting women who have been convicted and say, ‘Why is this woman in lockup?’ All that I really have to do is put the students in the right place: prisons, homeless shelters, courtrooms. To put them where they can find God’s presence.
Roediger: I think students come to the clinic excited to change the world. And I think they imagine that law is one of the ways that [they] can do that. But I think the most meaningful moments are not the first time a student is in front of a judge or the first time that a student is doing something “important,” but walking into a courtroom and seeing sixteen black men shackled together. For the first time, it dawns on students that this is the system that they are entering. The practice of law in the United States means proximity to this sort of oppression and that we bear some responsibility.
By Deborah Lohse, Associate Director of Media and Internal Communications, Santa Clara University
Santa Clara University School of Law is best known for its national ranking in technology law. What is less well-known is that the curriculum—for tech-law students and others—comes to life through a lens of social justice.
That’s seen in courses on broadband technology that focus on internet access for poor communities. Or, when a tech-law professor convenes dozens of people for an all-day “hackathon” using coding and legal skills to help people with criminal records get those records reduced or expunged. Or, when the High Tech Law Institute, working with the Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education, plans a seminar on whether technology’s ability to “predict” criminal outcomes might harm vulnerable populations.
“Regardless of their career path, by going through our courses, professional clinics, international programs or volunteer opportunities, our students are learning to internalize a drive to give back,” said Anna Han, interim dean of Santa Clara Law.
The popular high-tech field is just one discipline where this is happening. Recently, the Law School’s Entrepreneurs’ Law Clinic started a version of its startup legal advisory services in the heart of San Jose, CA. There, resource-challenged young entrepreneurs, who would otherwise never be able to afford legal advice, get free counsel from law students supervised by licensed attorneys.
Internationally, well over a dozen Santa Clara Law students work each year for hours inside and outside of the classroom through the International Human Rights Clinic, documenting and arguing against human rights violations in the United States and abroad. Recent work includes reports before United Nations bodies addressing human rights violations against immigrants in the U.S.; legal briefs before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in support of environmental human rights defenders and on the so-called “death penalty phenomenon“; public comments to the U.N. regarding a draft treaty in the area of business and human rights; and a brief addressing environmental and human rights violations associated with a dam in Belize, in a case before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
Santa Clara Law’s Center for Global Law and Policy has the largest law study abroad program in the country. It offers programs with a specific focus on social justice in four different locations: The Hague (international criminal justice); Geneva (international law); Sydney (forced migration and environmental law); and Costa Rica (human rights in the Americas). Twenty-two students recently completed social justice/human rights-focused externships in London, Ireland, Malta, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Sydney, Melbourne and Fiji.
Closer to home, each year, roughly 18 students take a course with Santa Clara Law’s Northern California Innocence Project (NCIP), in which they help to interview witnesses, draft and finalize briefs, or chase down new evidence to help free wrongfully incarcerated clients in California. Two former students recently joined NCIP at a San Jose court as Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Eric Geffon—himself a 1995 Santa Clara Law alumnus—dismissed the charges against NCIP client Lionel Rubalcava, who had been wrongfully imprisoned for 17 years.
“I never forgot about that case,” said former student Roujin Mozaffarimehr ’08 JD ’14, now an immigration lawyer. Seeing the criminal justice system up close at NCIP “was so important to me…(it) really solidified the feeling that I was on the right career path,” she said.
Law school leaders point proudly to the number of alumni who have turned such experiences into their life’s work. Internationally, Santa Clara Law graduates can be found in the International Criminal Court at the Hague; Kosovo Specialist Chambers and Prosecutor’s Office; International Labor Organization in Geneva; U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees; and the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights, among other organizations.
In the Bay Area, graduates who spent time with Santa Clara Law’s Katharine and George Alexander Community Law Center have gone on to leadership positions at legal services firms like the Watsonville Law Center, Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, Step Forward Foundation and more. Each year, more than 65 students get direct legal experience at the Alexander Law Center, helping community members with immigration, consumer or workers’ rights matters through community outreach and educational workshops, advice clinics and legal representation.
The easy availability of so many clinics, hands-on courses, and other opportunities to help others changes every student, said Karen Shulz, a 2010 graduate who worked at the Alexander Law Center and now runs Step Forward, an organization that helps immigrants and others who are victims of crime. Schulz knows that everyone follows a different career path after graduation. But just spending time in service with the Alexander Law Center can be life-changing, even for tech or corporate law students. “It just changes their perspective,” she said. “It may not change their career trajectory, but it’s going to change their perspective.”
By Jenny Smulson, Director of Government Relations, Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities
On Tuesday, October 1, the federal government began Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20). Once again, this fiscal year has started without a resolution on any of the twelve annual appropriations bills and, as of this writing, there does not seem be a clear strategy or consensus for reaching agreement on this outstanding legislative work. While an “incomplete” is the new normal, it continues to present challenges to individuals, institutions of higher education, communities and other organizations that have received funding from the government to support their most fundamental needs.
At the beginning of the summer, we saw some signs of hope for appropriations. In June, under the leadership of Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Chair of the Labor, HHS, Education Appropriations Subcommittee, and Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY), Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the FY20 Labor, HHS, Education Appropriations bill, as well as nine of the other twelve appropriations proposals. As it was adopted before Congress had agreed to a final agreement on budget or allocations for the upcoming fiscal year, the Labor, HHS, Education Appropriations bill was somewhat aspirational. Without any imposed budget limitations, the House approved an $11.8 billion increase for the subcommittee overall, and a $5 billion increase specifically for education (providing a total of $76 billion for the U.S. Department of Education).
Soon after it passed the House, Congress adopted H.R. 3877, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019 (P.L.116-37), and set specific funding levels. This bill raised the caps on defense and non-defense discretionary (NDD) funding for FY20 and FY21, and suspended the debt ceiling through July 2021. These bipartisan budget efforts are required to circumvent the Budget Control Act of 2011, a law that set strict limits on defense and NDD spending with the goal of reducing the federal budget deficit.
H.R. 3877 allows for increased overall spending by $321 billion over two years (both defense and NDD). While this law increases the pot of money available for all NDD funding by $27 billion above the last fiscal year, it still did not provide enough to accommodate the education funding increases provided in the House-passed bill; Congress had other priorities, including NIH and those outside of this subcommittee’s jurisdiction.
With the overall spending levels set for FY20, the Senate Appropriations Chair, Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), has discretion to set specific allocations for each subcommittee. The Senate Labor, HHS, Education Appropriations bill was scheduled to be marked up in early September but was scuttled over policy-related conflicts and expected funding constraints. To the dismay of the education community, Subcommittee Chairman, Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO), released a report to accompany the Labor, HHS, Education bill, which reduced education spending by approximately $700 million from FY19. To stay within the imposed funding levels, the bill decreases education funding by reducing the Pell grant surplus (in FY19 and FY20); cutting the Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness program; and reducing funding for the Full-Service Community Schools program (a K-12 education program). Remaining education programs are frozen at the FY19 funding levels.
Certainly, the education community is concerned that federal education programs did not receive a proportional share of the $27 billion NDD increase in funding provided in H.R. 3877. AJCU is working in partnership with the Committee for Education Funding (CEF) to ask Congress to give education its proportional share of the NDD increase, and to grow our federal investment in education.
In addition to funding programs, appropriations bills often include language that sets expectations or requirements for federal agencies, including the Department of Education. The House bill includes language directing the Department to issue guidance on the Perkins Loan Program to institutions of higher education (IHE) on loan cancellation and reimbursement by January 2020. The Senate report also “strongly encourages” the Department to issue guidance within 60 days of enactment to IHEs, related to the winding down of the Perkins loan program.
Where does this leave us? With an increasingly dysfunctional federal government, it is anyone’s guess as to how this all ends, and there is constant speculation as to how FY20 will wrap up. Congressional leaders continue to meet to try and hammer out funding differences, and organizations like AJCU will continue to be engaged in advocating for increases to student financial aid and federal higher education programs. There is talk of an omnibus appropriations strategy that will combine all outstanding subcommittee bills and include increases for many programs. Alternatively, there are still whispers of a yearlong continuing resolution that would not likely allow for increases in the federal education program or within other subcommittees.
AJCU continues working to see that education programs receive adequate funding increases, and to ensure that the government stays open to help those who count on its programs and services. Please visit the AJCU Policy Corner on the AJCU website (ajcunet.edu/policy-corner) for policy news, letters and other advocacy materials.