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May 12, 2010

Statement of ABA President Lamm Re: Louisiana Senate Bill 549 to Restrict Law School Clinic Activities

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 12, 2010—The legal assistance provided by law school clinics to members of the public who cannot afford to hire lawyers when crises strike is an immense contribution to the health and well-being of communities and ensures our citizens of access to justice to protect the most basic rights.

In Louisiana, students working for clients through law school clinics help them obtain housing, a critical and fundamental need in ongoing struggles to recover from Hurricane Katrina.  They help victims of domestic violence escape abuse and rebuild their lives.  They represent minors confronting difficult family problems.  And they work to preserve clean air and water, an especially relevant concern given the events now taking place just off the shores of coastal Louisiana.

Yet the Louisiana legislature is preparing to debate SB549, a bill that would effectively cut off that source of legal assistance to the state’s citizens.  The _ recognizes that environmental, family, housing and other public policy concerns are complex.  But eliminating these legal assistance programs could have significant consequences for the clients and the state as a whole.

We urge the state legislature to consider that these law clinics represent the people of Louisiana who have very real and immediate problems but few resources to solve them.  Depriving the poorest citizens of these vital services is an affront to their dignity, and for many, diminishes their very means of survival.

The _ commends the students in Louisiana’s law schools who stand ready to help people who have no other recourse, and urges the legislature to welcome their contribution to making legal assistance available to the state’s neediest citizens, not thwart those students working to solve people’s problems.  SB 549 should be withdrawn.

Comments (4)

  • holston4116
    6:18 PM May 13, 2010

    Where can i find legal adviced?

  • ABANow Editor
    9:33 AM May 14, 2010

    In response to holston4116: At http://www.findlegalhelp.org click on your state for links to lists of lawyer referral agencies, commercial directories and other resources, or free legal assistance providers in your state. The site also links to special resources for individuals facing foreclosures, and FAQs about hiring, using and paying a lawyer, self-help, finding free legal help, accessing legal information and legal terms.

  • Anonymous
    1:50 PM May 14, 2010

    Elder Law Students Help Patient Win Her Appeal
    February 03, 2010

    Pacific McGeorge Elder Law Clinic students scored a significant victory recently when an administrative law judge ruled that their client was not financially responsible for a large bill incurred after being improperly discharged from a hospital.

    Anne Caruana, ‘11, Ryan Cronin-Prather, ‘11, and Sarah Chesteen, ‘11, along with Elder Law Clinic team leader Cheryl Robertson, ‘10 represented an 83 year-old woman in her appeal of a proposed discharge from a long-term acute care hospital. Her Medicare HMO doctor recommended transfer to a skilled nursing facility. When our client’s family appealed on her behalf, the hospital sent a bill for close to $150,000.

    “Our successful appeal involved an enormous amount of work,” said Professor Melissa Brown, the clinic’s supervising attorney. “It included the preparation of a pre-trial brief, which raised procedural and substantive due process issues, motions for production of documents and witnesses, declarations, offers of proof, requests for the issuance of subpoenas, the analysis of complex statutes, policy and case law, the review of thousands of pages of medical records, and the preparation and presentation of both expert and lay witnesses. The federal administrative law judge adopted our theory of the case and among other findings, concluded that the notice of discharge was inadequate.”

    During a two-day adversary hearing back in late October 2009, the Pacific McGeorge students introduced documentary evidence and conducted direct and re-direct examinations, as well as responding to hearsay objections. Attorneys for a medical group, an HMO, and a skilled nursing facility comprised opposing counsel.

    “As the Elder Law Clinic continues to grow (from two students in the Spring 2008 semester to 10 in the Spring 2010 semester), the breadth and quality of our cases grow as well,” Brown said. “Clinical work such as this is the perfect experience for our students, combining counseling, advocacy, ethics and professional growth. Not to mention, a very grateful client who is now being cared for in her own home.”

    http://www.mcgeorge.edu/Newsroom/News_Archive/2010_News_Archives/Elder_Law_Students_Help_Patient_Win_Her_Appeal.htm

  • Disgusted
    2:52 PM May 24, 2010

    Why is it the legal aid facilities don’t work with people who are being deprived of their inheritances? or even the law schools pro bono clinics everything is civil rights violations, discrimination’s, and elder issues I don’t have any money to pay an estate lawyer 250-350 dollars an hour to get the anywhere from 100,000 to one million that is due to me cant get help or answers,plus I am above the poverty level but I’m not going to sell my house to pay for a lawyer especially when I know I’m right, I just need some questions answered …..why do i have to pay 200-500 to sit with a lawyer for a couple of hours free consultations (half hour) aren’t even long enough in duration to even explain what’s going on!