2019 CLEA Award for Outstanding Advocate for Clinical Teachers
The CLEA Awards Committee has selected the late Stephen J. Ellmann as the winner of the 2019 Award for Outstanding Advocate for Clinical Teachers. Over a highly distinguished law teaching career that spanned 35 years, Steve was the consummate scholar of clinical legal education, putting clinical legal scholarship on the map at a time when non-clinicians doubted its legitimacy. He engaged deeply with the process of lawyering and the ethical obligations of lawyers, writing a number of influential articles and co-writing a textbook on interviewing and counseling. As the founder and long-time convener of the Clinical Legal Theory Workshop at Columbia and New York Law Schools, Steve nurtured the development of scholarship by numerous clinicians, prodding presenters with his probing questions in a manner that was both incisive and supportive. He served as an important mentor to countless colleagues. Steve was a critical advocate for expanding experiential education at New York Law School and was a key faculty player in the law school’s extension of long-term security of position to its clinicians. He was a multi-talented advocate and academic, producing two books on the fight for social justice in South Africa, the last completed shortly before his untimely death, and addressing issues of national security and emergency powers in post-9-11 New York City. Steve’s combination of brilliance, fierce advocacy, and personal kindness make him a worthy recipient of this award.
2019 CLEA Award for Excellence in a Public Interest Case or Project
The CLEA Awards Committee is thrilled to announce that the Legislation Clinic at the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law is the recipient of the 2019 CLEA Award for Excellence in a Public Interest Case or Project.
Menstrual products are necessities of life, but low-income women, girls, and other menstruators are often forced to risk unsafe and low-quality menstrual products or go without them entirely, especially if they are in schools, shelters, and correctional facilities. The problem is compounded by a lack of uniform policy. No comprehensive federal law guarantees access to quality, affordable menstrual products, and only a handful of state and local governments have addressed affordability and access to these critical supplies.
In May 2018, the UDC Law Legislation Clinic captured this reality when it released a groundbreaking report, Periods, Poverty, and the Need for Policy: A Report on Menstrual Inequity in the U.S. The launch of the report marks the culmination of a two-year-long partnership between the Legislation Clinic and Bringing Resources to Aid Women’s Shelters (BRAWS), a nonprofit that distributes new menstrual products, bras, and underwear to schools and more than 45 shelters serving women and girls in the greater D.C. area.
Since BRAWS retained the clinic in 2016, the partnership secured several reforms, including the repeal of D.C.’s “tampon tax,” funding for the D.C. repeal, and passage of a Virginia law mandating that correctional facilities provide free menstrual products to inmates. “Before the Legislation Clinic, we had made little progress with our advocacy efforts,” said Holly Seibold, BRAWS’ Founder and Executive Director. “We have accomplished extraordinary feats in such a short period of time. We were able to overcome insurmountable obstacles, such as a stigmatized topic, and became a credible, key player in public policy.”
The CLEA Awards Committee received numerous outstanding nominations and determined that the following nominations merited an honorable mention.
Albany Law School Immigration Clinic’s Detention Outreach Project. Over this past summer, over 300 immigrants who had come to the southern border seeking asylum were unexpectedly sent to Albany County Jail. Within hours, Professor Sarah Rogerson began pulling together an emergency legal response to assist the detainees in preparation for their credible fear interviews with ICE. This incredible effort drew the attention of the media and government officials, ultimately resulting funding for legal services at the jail. In the end, over ninety percent of the clients represented were given permission to apply for asylum in the U.S. Professor Rogerson’s leadership and the volunteer efforts of other Albany clinicians, Professor Mary Lynch and Professor Nancy Maurer, and staff members Julina Guo and Amanda Nazario, helped to change of lives of hundreds of asylum seekers.
The Florida State University Public Interest Law Center’s Juvenile Solitary Confinement Project, led by Professor Paolo Annino and Fellow Caitlyn Kio, has applied a multi-faceted approach in advocating the abolition of placing juveniles in solitary confinement in Florida for the last five years. Using their own research and data, JSCP students engage with legislators, lobbyists, heads of state agencies, and other officials to reform Florida’s laws and policies to improve the lives of children. Through the hard work of the JSCP and its allies, juvenile solitary confinement reformation has been propelled from a non-starter in Florida’s legislature to a realistic statewide reform.
The Fordham Law School Clinic’s “Driver Suspension” Project is a collaboration of the Federal Tax Clinic and Legislative Policy Clinic, led by Professors Elizabeth Maresca and Elizabeth Cooper. Over 24,000 New Yorkers had suspended driver’s licenses because of an inability to pay back taxes they owed. The two clinical professors joined forces (and clinics) to carve out a hardship exception to the NYS Tax Law in order to stop “punishing the poor.” For nearly two years, they and their students used direct legislative advocacy efforts to write a bill, get it sponsored, give oral testimony and speak with over 100 legislators to amend the statute. On March 31, 2019, the hardship exception was signed into law by the governor and the legislature.
The Maryland Juvenile Lifer Parole Representation Project is a working group comprised of the University of Baltimore School of Law’s Juvenile Justice Project, the Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law’s Innocence Project Clinic & Clemency Project, and the American University Washington College of Law’s Criminal Justice Clinic and interested non-profits and law firms. Clinicians at these law schools include Jane Murphy, Lila Meadows, Sandy Ogilvy and Binny Miller. The group came together to respond to a critical and unmet need for legal representation for people serving life sentences in Maryland’s prisons for crimes committed as juveniles. As of April 2019, the project has recruited 53 attorneys who are currently representing 29 clients sentenced to life as juveniles. Several clients have moved forward to the risk assessment phase of parole, a step required before release. Project attorneys are also responsible for the release on parole of two juvenile lifers, the first two since 1995.
The Tulane Law School Women’s Prison Project serves incarcerated women trapped in a criminal justice system that first failed to protect them from violence, and later failed to consider the role of abuse in crimes they were accused of committing. Through clemency, parole, and post-conviction cases, Project students challenge Louisiana’s draconian sentencing for women who kill an abusive partner or co-offend under the duress of one. The Project also advocates for criminal justice reform on issues affecting incarcerated survivors of abuse through legislation, targeted litigation, education, and training.
Please join us in congratulating all of these inspiring individuals and clinics. We hope to see you at the AALS Clinical Conference in San Francisco, where we will formally present the awards.
The CLEA Awards Committee
Anju Gupta (Co-Chair)
Jane Stoever (Co-Chair)