Charlotte School of Law Launches Homelessness Prevention Clinic

September 1, 2015

The Charlotte School of Law has created a new practice ready program designed to assist low income individuals facing eviction. The Homeless Prevention Clinic (HPC) would be a joint venture of the Charlotte School of Law (CSL) and Legal Aid of North Carolina – Charlotte (LANC).
The purpose of the HPC is three fold. First, the HPC will advance Charlotte School of Law’s public service mission pillar by representing low-income tenants in Mecklenburg County both in court and through providing legal advice in order to avoid evictions, for which there is an overwhelming need. In Mecklenburg County, approximately thirty-seven thousand (37,000) small claims actions are filed every year and about ninety-five percent (95%) of those actions appear to be summary ejectment of residential tenants. The vast majority of tenants in these actions are not represented by counsel. In addition, only a small percentage of these cases are appealed to district court (465 appeals in 2011, 577 appeals in 2012, and around 590 appeals in 2013). The local homeless services agencies reported increases of between 21% to 36% in homelessness among families with children each year from 2009 to 2013.

The LANC-Charlotte office receives around 20 to 40 new calls per day from tenants threatened with eviction. Currently, the LANC-Charlotte office only has three full-time staff attorneys, one paralegal, and a part-time call screener to handle eviction cases. Due to the large volume of calls and limited resources available to LANC, the LANC-Charlotte office is sometimes forced to close intake for tenants in conventional housing and only accept calls from tenants who receive federal rent subsidies. Tenants who receive a rent subsidy are far more likely to become homeless when facing an eviction because being evicted will almost always result in those tenants also being terminated from the subsidy program that they rely on to pay their rent.

Second, the HPC will assist Charlotte School of Law’s commitment to producing practice ready, public interest law students by creating a rigorous academic experience that will teach them the substantive and procedural rules of landlord-tenant laws; teach them about the federally subsidized housing programs; and expose students to interviewing skills, case analysis, evidentiary strategy, negotiation, trial preparation, and representation of clients in administrative hearings and trials.

Third, the HPC will provide CSL the opportunity to develop an extensive and long-lasting partnership with LANC that will expand opportunities for both organizations to advance meaningful change in the community for low/no income tenants.

CSL has hired Brian O’Shaughnessy to teach and supervise the HPC students which began in the fall semester of 2015. Prior to joining CSL, Professor O’Shaughnessy served as a Staff Attorney for 4 years at the Winston-Salem office of Legal Aid, where he frequently represented low-income tenants in administrative hearings, small claims and district court, negotiated settlement agreements with landlords, and conducted community outreach on landlord-tenant issues. He also served a one-year fellowship in the Gastonia office of Legal Aid following his graduation from the Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law at Campbell University in 2010, where he also practiced landlord-tenant law. While in law school he participated in the Elder Law Clinic. “I benefited greatly from my Clinic experience while in law school, and I look forward to working with the Clinic students to not only help them develop their litigation skills in furtherance of CSL’s commitment to producing practice ready lawyers, but also to share my passion for helping the most vulnerable members of our community.”


CSL Professors Address Cultural Competency At Upcoming Conference

August 24, 2015

Professors Cabagnot, Matthews, and Nunez will present “Taking a Look under the Hood – A Race and Law Scholar Helps our Clinics Fine Tune our Cultural Competence Training” at the upcoming Southern Clinical Conference in Memphis, Tennessee on October 23, 2014. The theme of this year’s Southern Clinical Conference is “Confronting Issues of Race and Diversity in Clinical Legal Education.” Their presentation represents the Charlotte School of Law’s dedication to engaging issues of race and diversity in clinical legal education. While clinicians have talked to each other about how to address these issues, this presentation will bring the insights of Professor Matthews, a race and law researcher/scholar to bear upon the workings of our clinical program. After reviewing Professor Cabagnot and Nunez’s clinical programs, Professor Matthews will provide her findings and collaborate with our clinical faculty to enhance our program’s ability to confront issues of race, diversity and privilege in the law school clinical atmosphere.


Civil Rights Clinic Job Posting

June 1, 2015

The Charlotte School of Law, an ABA-accredited law school, invites applications for a full-time, clinical fellow teaching position, beginning August 1, 2015, in the Charlotte School of Law Civil Rights Clinic (CRC).  The CRC provides opportunities for students to engage in litigation and public policy advocacy concerning a variety of civil rights and public interest issues in a rigorous and well supervised program.   The CRC’s recent work focuses on assisting individuals with criminal convictions obtain Certificates of Relief (judicial declarations that a person is rehabilitated) and Ban the Box policy advocacy, both in the public and private sector.   The CRC is a national award winning clinic that is part of Charlotte School of Law’s diverse clinical and experiential education opportunities.  Potential applicants can read about the CRC’s work at www.cslcivilrights.com.

Applicants must have a JD degree from an ABA-accredited law school and be currently licensed and engaged in the practice of law for the past two years in North Carolina.  Preference will be given to applicants who have a desire to pursue a clinical teaching career, strong academic records and writing ability, a demonstrated commitment to public interest law, and potential success as teacher.   Salary is commensurate with experience. Charlotte School of Law offers a full benefits package. For more information about Charlotte School of Law, please visit www.charlottelaw.edu .  The successful candidate will have a one year appointment, renewable for a second, depending on performance.

Application Instructions:

To submit a job application for this opening, please visit www.charlottelaw.edu , select the  “About” dropdown, click the “Join Our Team” link, enter 3561 into the Requisition Number field or search by job title (Keywords section), and click the “View Jobs” button.  Single click on the job title and click the “Apply” button. Follow application prompts.

Applications should include a resume or curriculum vitae, a cover letter explaining your interest in the position, and contact information for two references.  In order to receive priority consideration interested individuals must submit their application by June 22, 2015.

 


Citizens Review Board & Professor Huber Spotlighted in Observer

May 22, 2015

On May 15, 2015, our very own supervising attorney (and soon-to-be an Associate CSL Dean for Experiential Education!), Jason Huber, and the Clinic were spotlighted in the Charlotte Observer for our work with Charlotte’s Citizens Review Board (CRB). As our faithful readers are probably aware, the CRB has been a long-standing project here at the Clinic.

The Observer shares the story of David Dardon-Strickland who states that his home was illegally searched by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) officers. The charges officers cited him for after the search were eventually dropped, but his allegations of police misconduct were never addressed. Until now.  The CRB voted to have the first hearing under the new structure that the Clinic, Professor Huber, and other community leaders advocated for and the City Council adopted.

Professor Huber is quoted: “If we get down the road and we see … the results are still the same, then there may need to be some more changes,” Huber said. “I think it’s important to be patient and let the new system play itself out and then take a hard look at the results.” Congrats to the Clinic and Professor Huber for all of their work on this thus far!

To access the article, click here.


Congrats to new CSL Grad & Clinic Alumna, Edith Hinson!

May 21, 2015

Edith Hinson, CSL Class of May 2015 and Spring 2015 Justice Leaguer, has recently been offered admission to Georgetown University Law Center to pursue her Advanced Law Degree. Edith will matriculate this August, and graduate in May 2016 with her LLM with a concentration in Human Rights. Edith plans to thereafter continue serving the underserved through devoting her practice of law to the areas of indigent criminal defense and humanitarian immigration.


A Woman’s Choice

May 19, 2015

By: Jessica Petitt

Photo Courtesy of Redbloggy.com.

Photo Courtesy of Redbloggy.com.

It is unquestionably apparent to young girls, and women alike, that one of the most influential persons of this generation is Beyoncè. She remains one of the many females who advocate for women’s equal rights with empowering songs that allow her to be defined as a true feminist. According to Beyoncè, feminism is a person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes. In today’s society, many believe that to be considered true feminist a person must be a pro-choice advocate for women and their reproductive rights. According to the Feminist Women’s Health Center, pro-choice is defined as a way to support self-determination, to make decisions free from judgment, and the responsibility to your self with the freedom to decide to take control of your own life process. Discussions concerning abortions and pro-choice advocates have surfaced since the monumental Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, 93 S.Ct. 705 (1971).

In Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court legalized abortions for the first three months of a woman’s pregnancy. According to the Supreme Court, the ability for women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the Nation has been facilitated by their ability to control their reproductive lives. Ever since this ruling, states have attempted to restrict women’s reproductive rights even further. This has become apparent with a newly enacted law in Tennessee criminalizing women who use narcotics while pregnant. [1] Even more recently, on March 31, 2015, North Carolina also proposed a bill that would allow pregnant women’s rights to be restricted. Specifically, North Carolina moms could soon face jail time for drug addictions that occur while pregnant, just as they now do in Tennessee. For many lawmakers, the big issue is the daunting task of balancing a woman’s right to bodily integrity with society’s interest in ensuring healthy pregnancies, and whether punitive approaches will foster–or hinder– healthy outcomes for women and children.

Bill Specifics

According to North Carolina General Statutes § 14-34.11, under this bill a woman may be prosecuted for assault for the illegal use of a narcotic drug, while pregnant, if her child is born addicted to or harmed by narcotic drug and the addiction is a result of her illegal narcotic use.[2] The law allows for an affirmative defense if the woman actively enrolls in an addiction recovery program before the child is born, remains in the program after delivery, and successfully completes the program, regardless of whether the child is born addicted to or harmed by the controlled substance. If this legislation is passed, it becomes effective December 1, 2015, and applies to offenses committed on or after that date. This bill calls into question the widely debated discussion of whether drug addictions are to be defined as health issues or criminal acts.

Health Issues vs. Criminal Acts

As a result of these new drug policies, many feminist activists believe women’s civil and human rights are under attack. To many, it seems as if legislators are now combining health issues with criminal issues. There tends to be a consensus in the medical community that addiction is a public health issue, and that treating drug use in pregnancy as a crime undermines the health of both women and children. According to the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, the punishment of pregnant women is typically targeted at vulnerable, low-income, and women of color who are all among those with the least access to healthcare or legal defense.

Photo Courtesy of Babble.com.

Photo Courtesy of Babble.com.

Dangers in the Unknown Information

Lynn Shoemaker, advocacy and issues director for Women AdvaNCe, a nonpartisan institute that advocates for women, expressed concerns that the bill would have a chilling effect on women seeking prenatal care. The concern is that women who are criminalized for their drug use will be unable to provide for their families or children if they are sitting in jail. Furthermore, many critics of the bill are concerned that this recent legislation will be a gateway for other legislation that could further impact the healthcare of women, such as regulating any medications that affect the birth of a child or the development of the fetus.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, screening for substance abuse is part of complete obstetric care and should be done in partnership with pregnant women. All women should be asked about their use of alcohol and drugs, including prescription opioids and other medications used for nonmedical reasons. If women now face the issue of being criminalized for their actions, there is a concern that they will likely hide the fact that they are using prescriptions and the mother, along with the fetus, will not receive the appropriate care that is needed. Leading medical and public health groups such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, and the American Public Health Association of the March of Dimes, all oppose punitive responses, such as the proposed criminalizing statutes, for prenatal drug use.

Slippery Slope

The question remains just how far this type of legislation will go. Advocates of reproductive rights are concerned about the law’s potential to interfere with a pregnant woman’s autonomy. There is much at stake for the reproductive rights community in its ongoing fight to protect the bodily integrity of a pregnant woman in the precarious situation of drug use. However, many reproductive rights activists state that the community has an equally strong interest, even an obligation, to work toward ensuring healthy pregnancy outcomes for these women. Is this what the Supreme Court intended to happen with reproductive rights after Roe v. Wade? When is the line crossed?

[1] Tenn. Code Ann. §§39-13-107, 2010.

[2] N.C.G.S. § 14-34.11 (2015).

 


Proximate Conviction: Why Every Young Attorney Should Listen to Bryan Stevenson

May 14, 2015

By: Jason Arter

On April 29, 2015, I had an opportunity to listen to Bryan Stevenson present a message on the injustice in America. Bryan Stevenson is the founder, and executive director of The Equal Justice Initiative. His work addresses the injustice and biases that the poor and minorities experience. Mr. Stevenson’s awards for his work are numerous. Some of the more prestigious among them are: The MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Award, The ACLU National Medal of Liberty, and the Thurgood Marshall Medal of Justice. The message of inequality among the poor, minorities, and how we as a society can change this inequality was the central theme.  The Blumenthal Spirit Square is a small theatre, but a large attendance was present on this night.

I call it a talk, but it was much more. It was conviction, determination and passion wrapped up into a charismatic delivery. It was extremely motivating, and at the end of the evening I left feeling a sense empowerment and a desire to make a change in my community. Mr. Stevenson also had a similar message at a TED talk in 2012. It was a huge honor to be able to see this similar message live, given the present circumstances in Baltimore, Maryland.

Bryan Stevenson founder and Director of the  Equal Justice Initiative. Photo courtesy of NPR.

Bryan Stevenson founder and Director of the Equal Justice Initiative. Photo courtesy of NPR.

No attentive person could have left on Wednesday night without taking something from the presentation. The presentation at its core is a message about changing the racial issues that have plagued society for 150 years. There are four basic concepts to Mr. Stevenson’s message—two of which made a lasting impression on me.

He started with the concept “proximate.” Proximate is more clearly defined as location in time, closeness, or nearness to an event. Mr. Stevenson stated that a person couldn’t really make an effective change if the proximity at which our action is made is not within a close relation to the change that is sought. Real change is not going to occur from arms length or in the periphery.

The second concept Mr. Stevenson spoke about was “conviction.” As attorneys, we rely heavily on the knowledge in our brain. We master the rules, learn to apply them correctly, and attempt to make a difference. Unfortunately, that is not enough. We must find a conviction in our hearts to find that area of the law that impassions us to make a change. As attorneys, we must marry and intertwine conviction and knowledge. When we do, we are making a change not just as attorneys, but also for society. We can overcome the crippling effects of racism, mass incarceration, and other injustices that exist within our communities.

Regardless of the view from your chair, whether prosecution or defense, we must remember the passion and conviction that has lead us to this career. We are problem solvers. We are tools for change in the positive. When, as a profession we move forward, let us remember that change is never easy. Change is always met with resistance. We must stay the course, and hold to that conviction that inspired us.

Social injustice problems can be overcome. Imagine if just one person braves the consequence and stands up for the rights of another when others are afraid, a ripple effect could occur. We would be proximate with a conviction to overcome injustice.

What is the take away? Simply this: as young attorneys we are getting ready to graduate and we are preparing to face a new profession. That said, without getting truly involved, attempting change from a distance would not be enough. As young attorneys, we must challenge ourselves to look at the underlying problems and address them. Mr. Stevenson stated that crime is a really a reaction to the underlying problems that have never been addressed. Without a closer relationship with people or our clients, the prospect of a positive change is unlikely.

Imagine if more than one person felt this way… wouldn’t our profession, and our society as a whole, be great?


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