Clinic Students Notch Successes During Spring Semester

Experiential Learning Helps Immigrant Father, Autistic Child, Other Clients
Legal Aid Justice Center

Several Law School clinics are conducted in collaboration with the Charlottesville-based Legal Aid Justice Center. Photo by Julia Davis

June 15, 2021

During the spring semester, students in clinics at the University of Virginia School of Law reunited an immigrant father of five with his family, secured educational assistance for an autistic child and drafted a U.S. Supreme Court amicus brief, among other accomplishments.

Virginia’s 22 clinics, many of which involve working directly with clients, offer students experience handling legal problems. The clinics are often conducted in collaboration with the Charlottesville-based Legal Aid Justice Center.

The following is a sampling of some of this semester’s good news and advocacy on behalf of clients:

  • With client approval, Jess Feinberg ’21, Emily Hockett ’22, Meredith Kilburn ’22 and Nikki Wolfrey ’21 of the Civil Rights Clinic reviewed incarcerated clients’ reports and documents from the Virginia Department of Corrections, with the goal of evaluating pandemic response and prisoner health care at the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women. Their analysis helped shape a February status report to the court overseeing a health care settlement agreement at the prison.
  • The Criminal Defense Clinic handled 38 misdemeanor cases in the spring, successfully getting about one-third of the cases abandoned or dismissed through negotiation and pretrial communication. An additional 18% were negotiated to be taken under advisement for potential dismissal if the defendants fulfill terms ordered by the court. Collectively, over half of all cases could result in dismissals for clients.
  • Erik Hensley ’21 and Matt Salit ’22 of the Health and Disability Law Clinic represented a client with cystic fibrosis in a disability hearing before an administrative law judge. They won disability and back pay for their client, and the judge invited Hensley and Salit to stay after the hearing to compliment their performance.
  • The Immigration Law Clinic handled a difficult bond case. Lisa Bennett ’21, Katie Carpenter ’21 and Ana Tobar-Romero ’21 investigated, and Carpenter argued for the client’s release at the Arlington immigration court. The judge ordered a low bond, and the client is now able to be reunited with his family in Charlottesville, where he has been living with his five children for more than 20 years.
  • Marliese Dalton ’22 and Wesley Gibbs ’22 with the Youth Advocacy Clinic advocated for their 10-year-old client with severe autism to receive additional services in school. They led negotiations with the school system’s attorney, and the child now has a personal aide, robust data collection, COVID-19 educational recovery services and biweekly meetings to assess progress.
  • Ian Tomesch ’21 with the Economic and Consumer Justice Clinic helped a client avoid paying over $12,800 to a debt buyer after defaulting on their contract. The clinic also worked with the Student Borrower Protection Center to research state-based legislation and enforcement options, as well as represent clients burdened by student loans.
  • The Nonprofit Clinic worked on legal concerns for several organizations, including Aging Together, Main Street Petersburgh, Live Arts, Here to Stay Wintergreen, Meals on Wheels, Fauquier Free Clinic, Claudius Crozet Park and the Hailie Selassie Education Fund.
  • The First Amendment Clinic filed an amicus brief in Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L. at the U.S. Supreme Court in support of a high school student who was suspended for exercising free speech off campus. Colin Lee ’21 and Blake Page ’21 worked with attorneys at Gibson Dunn to draft the brief, in which the clinic represented a group of academics who challenged the effectiveness of employing zero-tolerance policies to combat bullying. 

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