The CLEA Awards Committee is thrilled to announce that Ian Weinstein (Professor of Law at Fordham Law School) and Sheila Bedi (Clinical Law Professor at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law) are recipients of the CLEA Award for Outstanding Advocate for Clinical Teachers.
CLEA is equally thrilled to announce that the University of Maine School of Law’s Refugee and Human Rights Clinic and Cornell Law School’s Death Penalty Program are recipients of the CLEA Award for Excellence in a Public Interest Case or Project, and an Honorable Mention is being awarded to the Georgetown Juvenile Justice Clinic and Initiative’s Ambassadors for Racial Justice Program.
The 2022 CLEA Awards will be presented at the AALS Conference on Clinical Legal Education on Thursday, May 12, 5:15-6:15 pm Eastern. We look forward to celebrating the remarkable award recipients and our clinical community!
Outstanding Advocate for Clinical Teachers: Ian Weinstein
CLEA’s Outstanding Advocate for Clinical Teaching Award recognizes those who have served as a voice for clinical teachers and contributed to the advancement of clinical legal education. Ian Weinstein, Professor of Law at Fordham Law School, has enthusiastically advocated for clinics since he was a clinic student and fellow at New York University and Georgetown. At Fordham, he helped Jim Cohen and others build a robust program under the visionary leadership of then Dean John Feerick. For more than 35 years, he has been devoted to his students, has fought passionately for his clients, and has stood shoulder to shoulder with his colleagues to advance our work.
Long a leader at Fordham, in 2009 Ian joined the CLEA Executive Committee and worked with Claudia Angelos, Kate Kruse, Robert Kuehn and many others to oppose the weakening of key rules supporting clinical faculty and to support the expansion of experiential education. Clinical legal education needed a defense lawyer on the team, and he stepped up.
Ian is also a co-convenor of the Stephen Ellmann Clinical Theory Workshop series with Deborah Archer, Donna Lee, and Richard Marsico. They continue Steve’s commitment to supporting clinical scholarship and fostering community. Ian’s scholarship includes work on client counseling and clinical pedagogy as well as criminal law and access to justice. Starting from the experiences of clients and students, he foregrounds a central aspiration of clinical legal education – the pursuit of social justice by intentional lawyering. Although he may play the contrarian and cynic, Ian’s unabashed faith in his students, his colleagues, and the clinical method is contagious.
Outstanding Advocate for Clinical Teachers: Sheila Bedi
Sheila Bedi, Clinical Law Professor at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, is the founder of the Community Justice and Civil Rights Clinic, which concentrates on developing and executing legal strategies that target racism and violence in our criminal justice systems. Her work focuses on ensuring that federal litigation strategies are responsive to and driven by the communities most affected by over-policing, mass imprisonment, and other forms of repression and social control.
Sheila’s work founding the Boyd-Barnett Fellowship Program, a first-of-its-kind program that allows organizers to take classes with law students, has created a platform for students to learn about how clinics can help build power in local communities. Sheila models client-centered movement lawyering as she works hard to reimagine and further clinical education and make clinics relevant to and responsive to the needs of Chicago’s Black and brown communities.
Sheila regularly delivers presentations about her innovative approach to legal education, advancing the role of clinicians and clinical education, including at law schools in Chicago and at clinical and other conferences. She also unites litigators and clinicians to address prisoners’ rights. She is a deeply committed mentor to younger clinicians and clinicians-to-be, particularly women of color. Sheila’s scholarship also reflects her values and her work; she is a co-author of the only casebook on the Law of Incarceration and has published in multiple journals.
Congratulations, Sheila and Ian!
Excellence in a Public Interest Case or Project: University of Maine School of Law’s Refugee and Human Rights Clinic
The University of Maine School of Law’s Refugee and Human Rights Clinic (RHRC) undertook a multi-year, multi-faceted project investigating the problematic practices of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service’s Boston Asylum Office (BAO), as described in the project report: Lives in Limbo: How the Boston Asylum Office Fails Asylum Seekers. RHRC students, working under the supervision of RHRC Founder and Director Professor Anna Welch and her colleague Adjunct Professor Erica Schair-Cardona, drafted the Report in collaboration with project partners ACLU of Maine, Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project, and Dr. Basileus Zeno of Amherst College.
The BAO has a stunningly low approval rate for affirmative asylum petitions. Denials at the BAO delay the resolution of meritorious petitions by several years, causing further trauma to asylum seekers and requiring their family members abroad to remain in danger. The RHRC’s BAO project included litigation in U.S. District Court to compel government production of documents in response to a Freedom of Information Act request and a comprehensive qualitative and quantitative investigation into the BAO’s practices and policies.
The Report, which received local and national media coverage (including Human Rights First), details findings from analysis of documents and data received as a result of the FOIA lawsuit, as well as hours of student interviews with asylees, asylum seekers, former asylum officers, and immigration attorneys. It exposed several systemic problems with adjudication of affirmative asylum applications across the country, including bias, a culture of distrust toward asylum seekers, and violations of their due process rights.
Excellence in a Public Interest Case or Project: Cornell School of Law’s Death Penalty Program
The award to Cornell School of Law’s Death Penalty Program honors the work of the Capital Punishment Clinic, the International Human Rights Clinic, the Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide, and the Death Penalty Project, representing the efforts of Professors Sandra Babcock, John Blume, Sheri Johnson, and Keir Weyble, and generations of their students, alumni, community partners, and clients. The faculty have collectively devoted more than 100 years to the defense of people facing the death penalty, leveraging law school and university resources to provide enduring support to individual clients and to the capital punishment abolition movement in the United States and around the world. They have worked not only to overturn convictions and death sentences of individual clients, but also to assist and train capital defense attorneys in dozens of countries, conduct groundbreaking empirical research and scholarship, and promote ever-higher standards of defense practice both in the United States and abroad. Countless alumni have gone on to work in criminal defense or in the capital punishment field as a result of their clinic experience, and many continue to collaborate with the faculty and current students.
Honorable Mention: Georgetown Juvenile Justice Clinic and Initiative’s Ambassadors for Racial Justice Program
Through the Ambassadors for Racial Justice program, co-founded by the Georgetown Juvenile Justice Clinic and The Gault Center (formerly the National Juvenile Defender Center), youth defenders across the country receive the resources and training they need to battle racial injustice. In response to the tremendous racial disparities they have witnessed during the Clinic’s many decades of work, faculty, staff, and students began to incorporate data and research on implicit racial bias and the traumatic effects of policing on youth of color into their legal arguments and written pleadings. Ambassadors for Racial Justice was conceived as a way to extend the impact of the Clinic’s racial justice advocacy beyond the walls of the law school.
During the year-long program, an annual cohort of ten Ambassadors gathers for weekend-long retreats and monthly webinars covering topics such as incorporating data in advocacy, strategies to end the criminalization of normal adolescent behavior, and probation reform. Additionally, each Ambassador develops a capstone project aimed at legislative advocacy, training, coalition building, litigation strategy, or community education in their state.
Now in the program’s third year, the Ambassadors spread across 19 states and advance justice for youth of color by serving as mentors to other defenders and sharing motions through Defend Racial Justice for Youth: A Toolkit for Defenders. In the words of one Ambassador, the program equips defenders to “fight a system that thrives on the insidious corroding thread of dehumanizing and caging children of color,” and “disrupt everything… that says …our kids’ lives don’t matter.”
We are inspired by our award recipients and look forward to celebrating our clinical community on May 12th.
The CLEA Awards Committee
- Anju Gupta
- D’lorah Hughes
- Tameka Lester
- Serge Martinez (co-chair)
- Esther Park
- Thiadora Pina
- Jane Stoever (co-chair)