Civil Rights Clinic Takes Windy City by Storm

May 17, 2014

By: Brittany Moore

This year, the Association of American Law Schools held their annual Clinical Legal Education Conference in Chicago, IL. The Conference took place from April 27 – April 30 with 703 clinical legal educators from all across the nation representing virtually every law school in attendance. The theme this year was “Becoming a Better Clinician.” On April 30th, the last day of the conference, the Clinical Legal Education Association (CLEA) presented three awards: Outstanding Advocate for Clinical Teachers, Excellence in a Public Interest Case or Project, and Outstanding Student Award.

Professor Carol Turowski, Director of Clinical Legal Education at Charlotte Law, and Professor Rocky Cabagnot, Community Economic Development (CED) Clinic Professor, nominated the Clinic for the Excellence in a Public Interest Case or Project Award for work done on the Ban The Box (BTB) project.  On April 24, 2014, CLEA announced the recipient, and the award goes to… Charlotte School of Law Civil Rights Clinic (Clinic)! Two former Clinic students, Isaac Sturgill and Cleat Walters, along with Professor Jason Huber and current clinic student Brittany Moore flew to Chicago to accept the award.  Also in attendance were Professor Emma Best, Entrepreneurship Clinical Professor, and Fernando Nuñez, Immigration Clinic Professor.

BTB began as a grassroots movement in California to remove the question from job applications asking applicants “have you been convicted of a crime?” BTB first came to Charlotte in the fall of 2009 and after four-and-a-half years of work, nine generations of clinic students, and hundreds of community supporters, the box was banned in Charlotte on March 1, 2014. [1]

Ms. Anju Gupta, co-chair of CLEA awards committee, listed other nominees and we were in awe at the other projects nominated for this award. Some of the other nominees included:

  • University of Arkansas’s Criminal Defense Clinic, for its work on the Juvenile Mandatory Life without Parole Project;
  • Harvard Law School’s Student Predatory Lending Project;
  • Loyola Law Clinic’s Community Justice section, for its litigation and advocacy work surrounding FEMA;
  • Univ. of Maryland, Francis King Carey School of Law’s Immigration Clinic for its work on the Martinez decision in the Fourth Circuit;
  • Pace Law School’s Environmental Litigation Clinic for its work on the Catskills litigation;
  • American University, Washington College of Law’s Immigrant Justice Clinic for its “Taken for a Ride” report
  • Seattle University’s Foreclosure Mediation Outreach Project; and
  • University of Nevada, Las Vegas, for its Immigration Detention Conditions Project.[2]

The Clinic is truly humbled to have been considered among these other nominees, who also are very deserving of this award. The commonality between all of the nominees is the desire, drive, and zealous effort to provide assistance and resources to those in our respective communities who need it the most.

Cleat Walters, Jason Huber, Brittany Moore, and Isaac Sturgill accepted the CLEA award on behalf of the CSL Civil Rights Clinic.

Cleat Walters, Jason Huber, Brittany Moore, and Isaac Sturgill accepted the CLEA award on behalf of the CSL Civil Rights Clinic.

Reflecting over my past year participating in the Clinic, and law school generally, I can honestly say this is the most humbling and rewarding experience. Clinical Educators at the conference sought us out to congratulate the Clinic and the local organizations that were instrumental in the success of BTB in Charlotte. Additionally, people came up to us on the street to applaud BTB. One woman came to me and said, “Congratulations,” but what she said next left me speechless. I told her thank you and how humbled we are to have this honor bestowed upon us, to which she replied, “No, I should be thanking you guys.” As much of an honor as this award is, BTB and the Clinic, generally, are still focused on the success of those in our community who face barriers without advocates to stand beside them. It is the mission of the Clinic to provide resources and zealous advocacy to those in our community who would not otherwise have a voice; this will continue to be our driving force.

I have been counting down the days until graduation since August of last year, but this honor makes graduation very bittersweet. I will truly miss the high caliber professors I have had the privilege of learning from over the past three years and some of the most wonderful colleagues I have had the privilege of working with. To those who will soon experience what a rewarding, humbling, and demanding experience anyone of the well respected clinics Charlotte Law has to offer, just keep in mind the ultimate goal is to fight for others and uplift fellow members of the community; in the end all of your hard work, tears, anxiety, restlessness, fury, and frustration will pay off in the end when your client(s) goals are finally achieved.

In conclusion, the Clinic is very honored to have this distinction bestowed upon us, but we would like to extend and share this award with all of those in the community who were instrumental in the success of BTB. Those who deserve to be recognized for their hard work are: Erik Ortega of the Center for Community Transitions and the Center as a whole, Councilwoman Lawanna Mayfield, All of Us or None, Changed Choices, Pasta Provisions, Democracy NC, Action NC, Charlotte Community Justice Coalition, and the hundreds of Charlotteans who provided continuous support. Finally, City Manager Ron Carlee and the City of Charlotte, thank you for Banning the Box, you have made a difference in this community and have proven we are all in this together.

 

[1] For more information about BTB, please visit http://cslcivilrights.com/page/2/

[2] Past Recipients can be found at http://www.cleaweb.org/PIA


L.A. Clippers Owner Tips Off Public to Prevalent Racial Issues

April 30, 2014

By Professor Christie Matthews

Los Angeles Clippers owner, Donald Sterling’s, recent racist comments have ignited public outcry– and rightly so.  The private conversation, recorded by his black and Latina girlfriend, revealed a man with bigotry so deep yet so conflicted that he seemingly demands that his girlfriend “whitewash” her ethnic heritage and disassociate herself publicly from blacks and other minorities.  Sterling allegedly says his girlfriend can meet with blacks and sleep with blacks but not take pictures with them or bring them to Clippers games. When she protests, he allegedly calls his girlfriend naïve and “stupid” as to the ways of the world when it comes to race, even as she responds that she can’t help it if she cannot be racist in her heart.

Now most fair-minded and good-hearted people can see Sterling’s viewpoints for what they are—offensive, ugly, detestable—particularly so because he is an owner in a league comprised of over 80% minorities, minorities who help fatten his bank accounts.

But do we recognize the exchange between Sterling and his girlfriend for what it really represents? Is this conversation not simply a microcosm of the much more mammoth issue of race relations in America? On the one hand, there are those with good intentions that eschew bigotry and hatred, and as such are more reluctant to recognize that racism is alive and kicking in 2014.  On the other hand, there are still those, many in positions of power, who embody a Plessy v. Ferguson mentality—the 1896 case in which the Supreme Court ruled “separate but equal” was Constitutional and in doing so confirmed that there is a property right to whiteness.  Is it that Sterling’s comments are reflective of this ugly truth– being white has value still today—better job opportunity, higher pay, less police intrusion, greater perceived intelligence and competency?

Most of us prefer to view Sterling’s viewpoints as atypical, aberrant, the juice from a bad apple. Yet studies show that nearly everyone has racial bias, even if subconsciously, and that racial bias plays out in many spaces—on the job, in the courtroom, and in the political arena, to name a few.  Is it that Sterling is simply tapping into what most of us would see if we dared lift the veil of post-racial propaganda and eschewed the color-blind approach evidenced in such court decisions like Shelby County v. Holder, which eliminated pre-clearance requirements for election law changes?  Is it that Sterling is simply reflecting the harsh reality—race, and racial associations, do still matter, and that those in power are not blind to its effects on their reputations and, in turn, their pockets?

Of course, I am not saying that there is any excuse whatsoever for Sterling’s comments.  He has rightly been subject to swift and harsh discipline by the league—a lifetime ban and a $2.5 million fine. But I am saying that the real injustice will be for us to write him off as pathological and allow ourselves to be lulled into believing that these types of racists comments don’t continue to take place across America.  Racist views are prevalent, deep-seated and complex.  Perhaps the Sterling controversy can best be used as a catalyst for examining our own internal biases in order to realize racial progress.


Reflections with CSL Graduate Josh Goodman

April 28, 2014

Josh Goodman, an attorney with Fisher Law Group PLLC, reflects on his time at Charlotte School of law. Hear his thoughts on applying to law school and taking the bar exam in Part 1 of Gatlin Groberg’s interview on The Legal Dose.

http://cslcivilrights.podomatic.com/entry/2014-04-28T16_55_24-07_00

To learn more about Josh and Fisher Law Group, click the link below.

http://www.fisherlawgrouppllc.com/joshua-w-goodman/


Civil Rights Clinic Veterans Bring Home Awards

April 23, 2014

We would like to acknowledge the following former members (if there is such a thing) of the Civil Rights Clinic for their outstanding achievements at the 2013-2014 CSL Awards Ceremony:

Isabel Carson

Practice Ready Clinical Award

Steven A. Bimbo Leadership Award

Hailey Hawkins

National Order of Scribes

Dean’s Leadership Award

Emily Ray

National Order of Scribes

CharlotteLaw Scholar/Author Award

You made us all proud and we cannot wait to see what the future holds for each of you as scholars, leaders, and advocates!


Charlotte Law Gives Students $10,000? Sign Me Up!

April 19, 2014

By: Brittany Moore

Many students are aware Florida Coastal and Charlotte Law (“CSL”) are owned by the same parent company—InfiLaw. However, what most students don’t know is that Florida Coastal and Charlotte Law are pioneers of a new program: The Assured Outcomes Partnership (“Program”). Currently, Florida Coastal and Charlotte Law are the only two law schools in the nation with a program like this.

What is the Assured Outcomes Partnership? It is a Program where a student may receive $10,000 if they meet the requirements of the Program and fail the bar exam twice. The Program at CSL applies to students who take either the North or South Carolina Bar Exam.

I will admit, when I first heard of this Program, I was a little mad; actually, very mad. It made me mad because I equated this Program to incentivizing people who fail the bar exam twice, while those who pass the Bar get nothing more than a pat on the back. I also assumed my tuition was going towards paying students who do not pass the Bar. Because I had such an intense initial reaction, I wanted to find out more about the Program, so my opinions would be more informed. To learn more, on February 10, 2014, I met with Assistant Dean Odessa Alm of Student Success, head of the Program.

Prior to joining CSL in 2013, Dean Alm served as the Director of Academic Success at Florida Coastal (her alma mater) for nine years. Dean Alm designed a comprehensive academic success and bar prep program at Florida Coastal during that time. Dean Alm said the purpose of the Program is to help students who utilize all of the resources available to continue to work towards a successful path to passing the bar. Dean Alm stated, “I don’t want anyone to get $10,000.00.” At first this statement shocked me because initially I thought the Program would result in numerous students receiving the money while bar passage rates at CSL declined., However, Dean Alm stated she believed in the effectiveness of the bar passage programs offered by CSL and, because of that belief, the students who follow the Program will have more resources available to help them pass the bar.

In order to qualify for the program, the student must obtain an acknowledgement form from Dean Alm and submit it to her. The student must also meet the following requirements:

  1. Attend 75% of the voluntary Charlotte Law Academic Success (CPAS) workshops offered during the student’s first and second year at CSL;
  2. If placed on academic probation or academic alert status, the student complied with all probationary or alert status counseling requirements;
  3. Score greater than 50% on the Multistate Bar Examination Preview (MBEP) at the end of your first year of law school or score greater than 55% on a subsequent attempt at the MBEP;
  4. If you earn a first year law school G.P.A. of less than 2.31, you must successfully pass course equivalents of Remedies, Real Estate Finance and Family Law;
  5. Complete the 3-day Kaplan Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) course during the bar season immediately prior to your first and second Bar exam attempts;
  6. Attendance rate of 100% at Operation PASS Workshops during the bar seasons immediately before the first and second Bar exam attempts;
  7. Complete 100% of the Operation PASS Essays during the bar season before your first and second attempts, and timely submit the essays for feedback;
  8. Successfully complete the Carolinas Distinctions or MBE Strategies course with a grade of C or better;
  9. Been enrolled in a commercial bar review course/BEAR (CSL Bar Exam Advanced Review) before the first and second attempts at a bar exam; and
  10. Provide CSL with written permission to access the first and second attempted bar exam scores and essays.

That is quite a list. The Program requires student participation beginning in their first year. So, sorry upper-classmen, we can’t participate. However, a student’s failure to comply with all requirements disqualifies them from the Program. Now, I can see why Dean Alm doesn’t think a student will reach the $10,000; because the Program is set up to require interested students to complete requirements the Bar Passage Program at Charlotte Law thinks a student should be doing anyway in order to pass the bar. If the student complies with all of the requirements, passing the bar exam within two attempts is obtainable.

After my interview with Dean Alm, my feelings about the Program did change a little. I no longer feel like the program is a “waste of tuition” or a program that would be subject to abuse by students. However, I am still concerned that some students may seek and find loopholes that will circumvent the purpose of the Program in assisting students pass either the NC or SC Bar Exam. After the interview, my opinion changed; now I agree with Dean Alm. If a student complies with all of the requirements, and puts the time and effort into the Program then it is less likely a student will receive the $10,000. My new outlook is that the Program will actually increase CSL’s bar passage rates, in which case both the school and the students win.


Brittany Moore and Dean Alm Discuss the Assured Outcomes Program

April 11, 2014

In the latest episode of The Legal Dose, Dean Odessa Alm discusses Charlotte Law’s Assured Outcomes $10,000 reimbursement strategy.  Assured Outcomes reimburses students who have failed the North Carolina or South Carolina Bar Exam twice, despite their adherence to the school’s B.E.S.T. Bar Pass Program.  Click the link below or to the right to learn more.

http://cslcivilrights.podomatic.com/


On Approved Financing

March 27, 2014

Part I: How Credit and Credit Scores Work and What You Can Do to Improve Your Credit Score

By Gatlin Groberg

Nobody carries cash anymore. We just don’t do it. Charging your purchases on credit cards instead of pulling out dollar bills for them is the social norm and has been for quite some time. However, have you ever asked yourself how that practice is affecting your credit?

To understand credit, you must first understand what it affects. For example: employers may look at an individual’s credit history to determine whether or not to offer them a job, a landlord may deny housing to an individual with negative remarks in their credit history, and bar examiners – that means you, law students – may determine eligibility to practice law based upon a person’s credit history.[1] One of the requirements for law students in applying for the bar is submitting an affidavit attesting to their character and fitness; most state bars include “financial responsibility” as a factor in determining character and fitness for bar passage.[2] Recently, the Ohio State Bar considered an applicant’s high credit card debt as a factor in denying his eligibility to practice law – the Ohio Supreme Court later affirmed the state bar’s decision.[3] There are countless stories of people being denied qualification for an apartment because of a past late payment, or denied a job because of a bankruptcy. Credit is not only an issue that affects your finances, but can cross over into every other area of a person’s life.

Understanding how credit works and using that information to maintain good credit and a high credit score can prevent the denial of housing, employment, and yes, even entrance into the legal profession. It also establishes trust and accountability to anyone viewing your credit history. This article is the first in a three part series about how credit works, the policies behind credit, and what changes to those policies are being contemplated for the future.

WHAT IS “CREDIT?”

When a person talks about their “credit,” they’re probably either talking about their credit history or their credit score.  It’s important to understand that a person’s credit history and their credit score are entirely different concepts that interact with one another, but in other ways have little to do with each other. Under most contexts, a credit history is a personal history of the money that has been lent to an individual. A credit history shows all the different credit related accounts a person has, how long they’ve had those accounts, and how they’ve either positively or negatively used the money that has been lent to them (i.e., made payments on time, high balances, etc.).

On the other hand, a credit score is something else entirely. A credit score is a numerical risk assessment of how likely an individual is to repay the money that has been lent to them. A credit score is generated by a private company and generally ranges from 300 to 800.[4] The higher the credit score, the less potential risk to the lender. The lender may be willing to give an individual with a higher credit score a lower interest rate or a higher credit balance. Conversely, the lower the credit score, the more risk there is to the lender. The lender may give an individual with a lower credit score a higher interest rate or cap the amount of money they’ll be willing to lend.

One of the trickiest things about credit scores is that there are many different companies generating their own credit score brand.[5] That’s right; there is not a sole credit score out there. This is important to understand because the difference in two separate credit scores may be confusing until you realize that they’re generated by separate companies. In the next segment of this series, I’ll give some examples of the companies that generate credit scores; which include the three major credit reporting agencies.

Now that we know what credit and credit scores are, let’s answer how a credit score is calculated.

HOW IS CREDIT CALCULATED?

To determine your credit score, most scoring models look at five key factors:[6]

  1.       Payment History

A consistent record of on-time payments can help and improve your credit score. This will show lenders that you pay your bills on time. Creditors and lenders love that! In return for consistent on-time payments, creditors and lenders are more willing to lend to you than if you had any late payments show up on your credit history. For example: If a lender looks at your credit history and sees that you’ve had many late payments with a lender or lenders, they may not be willing to take the risk of lending to you because they’re not confident that you’re going to pay them back on time. This will reflect with a lower credit score as well.

  1.       Outstanding Debt/Amounts Owed

This factor typically applies to credit cards more than anything else. High balances in relation to your credit limit can lower your credit score. Aim for balances under 30% of your credit limit. The big question creditors ask when they see high balances on credit cards is: “What happens if you’re suddenly not able to pay that credit card off?” High balances = risky behavior. Avoid it if you can.

  1.       Length of Credit History

An established credit history makes you a less risky borrower. So think twice before closing old accounts. The rationale behind this factor is that an established credit history will show lenders that others have trusted you in the past. The longer the credit history, the more trust a person has established. There is a valid argument that this factor pigeon holes consumers into never cancelling a credit card; this issue will be addressed in much more detail in the second part of this three part series.

  1.       New Credit Inquiries

When a lender or business checks your credit, it causes a “hard inquiry” and a slight ding to your credit score. The rationale behind this factor is that every time a lender looks at your credit history, that hard inquiry in and of itself becomes part of your credit history. If there are many inquiries from different lenders within a small amount of time, this may show lenders that you’re reckless in applying for credit and, in turn, a risk to lend to.  Therefore, apply for new credit in moderation.

Fortunately, there is a way to look at your score without causing a hard inquiry on your credit history. When a person checks their own credit score, this is considered a “soft inquiry.” Since the score is not inquired into by a third party for lending purposes, it will not even show up on your credit history. There are many different businesses a consumer can contact to see their credit score; one of them is the Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO). FICO generates the score model that most banks and lenders base credit approval off of.[7]

  1.       Types of Credit

A healthy credit history has a balanced mix of credit accounts and loans. This shows lenders you were able to handle a versatile amount of credit (i.e.; auto loans, credit cards, mortgages, boat loans, etc.). A versatile credit history may go a long way in getting the things that you want.

THE FICO CREDIT SCORE MODEL

Below is the FICO score model that shows how the different credit scoring factors affect your credit score. You can see payment history affects your score the most. That means on-time payments are the most important factor affecting your score.

How a FICO Score breaks down:

FICO chart[8]

Knowing the percentage each factor contributes to your overall credit score can greatly impact how you use your credit and which area of your credit you may want to concentrate on.

Part II: The Three Major Credit Reporting Agencies and Negative Items

In part two of this three part series, I’ll go into an analysis of the three major credit reporting agencies, statistics on how long negative items in your credit history can be reported, and the difficulty in getting mistakenly reported items off of your credit.

Keep reading the blog; we’ll see you again shortly!

 

[1] Lea Shepard, Toward A Stronger Financial History Antidiscrimination Norm, 53 B.C. L. Rev 1695, 1696 (2012).

[2] Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admission Requirements 2014 vii (Erica Moeser & Claire Huismann eds., 2014), available at https://www.ncbex.org/assets/media_files/Comp-Guide/CompGuide.pdf (Relevant conduct . . . [the] neglect of financial responsibilities).

[3] In re Griffin, 943 N.E.2d 1008 (Ohio 2011) (Applicant had $16,500 of credit card debt in addition to student loans).

[4] Fair Isaac Corporation http://www.myfico.com/CreditEducation/CreditScores.aspx (last visited March 17, 2014) (FICO credit scores range from 350-800).

[5] Elkins v. Ocwen Fed. Sav. Bank Experian Info. Solutions, Inc., 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 84556, 58 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 13, 2007) (“The lending industry has many different types of credit scores on the market today. Many different vendors have created them, such as Fair Isaac, the three national repositories, credit grantors, and insurance companies.”)

[6] TransUnion, http://www.transunion.com/personal-credit/credit-reports/how-credit-scoring-works.page (last visited Feb. 26, 2014) (TransUnion is one of the largest credit reporting agencies in America and one of the primary sources banks and lenders use in assessing a person’s credit history).

[7] Fair Isaac Corporation, http://www.myfico.com/crediteducation/whatsinyourscore.aspx (last visited Feb. 26, 2014).

[8]Id.


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