Legal Dose Pro Bono Week Special Reports

October 31, 2012

This week the Legal Dose is bringing you three Pro Bono Week Special Reports.

Special Report 1 features an interview with Professor Cindy Adcock, Director of Experiential Education at the Charlotte School of Law. She discusses the focus on experiential education as well as many ways students can get involved in the course offerings.

Special Report 2 features an interview with 2012 Charlotte Law graduate and former Civil Rights Clinic member, Isaac Sturgill. During this report Isaac shares his journey through experiential education and how it helped him get his first job at Legal Aid.

In Special Report 3 we close out Pro Bono week by speaking to several of the special guests on campus at Charlotte Law: Professor Gene Nichols, Erik Ortega and Cait Clarke. As the Access to Justice Symposium looked at the Civil Gideon movement, we got many looks at how people nationwide are impacting the movement.

Thanks for listening!

One in the “Win” Column: Virginia Bar Proposes Ethics Opinion on Release-Dismissal Agreements

October 24, 2012

On October 2, 2012, the Virginia State Bar’s Standing Committee on Legal Ethics responded to the Civil Rights Clinic’s inquiry with a draft Legal Ethics Opinion effectively banning the routine use of release-dismissal agreements and providing for the highest legal and ethical scrutiny in those circumstances where use of a release-dismissal agreement will be allowed.  Virginia is one of the first state bars to draft an opinion based on the Clinic’s inquiry, and one of the first the Clinic has reached out to, that has based its opinion on its Rules of Professional Conduct.  The Standing Committee on Legal Ethics based its Opinion on Town of Newton v. Rumery, a plurality decision of the United States Supreme Court which found the use of release-dismissal agreements to be permissible, and Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct 3.8(a), which forbids a prosecutor from filing or maintaining charges that s/he knows is not supported by probable cause, and 3.4(i), which forbids the presentation of criminal charges solely to obtain an advantage in a civil matter.

The Committee stated in its Opinion that the Rules of Professional Conduct already effectively ban the practice through Rules 3.8(a) and 3.4(i).  The Committee stated that “to maintain the charge [without probable cause] pending agreement to or negotiation of a release-dismissal agreement would itself violate Rule 3.8(a).”  The Committee also stated that a prosecutor would violate Rule 3.4(i) “if charges were initiated or trumped up in order to coerce a defendant into accepting a release-dismissal agreement.”  Although the Committee concluded that there was no need for a per se ban on release-dismissal agreements, the Committee did state that the use of release-dismissal agreements would be subject to intense legal and ethical scrutiny, as set forth in Rumery.

By tying the use of release-dismissal agreements to these rules and banning the routine use of release-dismissal agreements in dismissing charges, Virginia has joined with the likes of South Carolina, Indiana, Connecticut and others to prohibit the use of release-dismissals in criminal cases.

You can view the proposed opinion online here. A PDF version can be downloaded here.

By Jordan Dupuis

Road To Successful Re-Entry: From Inmate to Taxpayer

October 23, 2012
  • Who: Hosted by Charlotte Community Justice Coalition
  • What: Panel discussion about Re-entry issues in North Carolina featuring individuals from all aspects of the Criminal Justice System.
  • When: October 25, 2012; 5:30pm-8:00pm
  • Where: Charlotte School of Law, Suttle Ave. Campus, Rm. 106

As a part of the larger, two-day Access to Justice Symposium at Charlotte School of Law, the Charlotte Community Justice Coalition (Coalition) will host a panel to educate students and community members about Re-Entry.  I had the opportunity to speak with Professor Cindy Adcock, Director of Experiential Learning & Associate Professor at Charlotte School of Law and a member of the Coalition, about the group and the upcoming panel discussion.

On their website, the Coalition provides the following statement: “The CHARLOTTE COMMUNITY JUSTICE COALITION (formerly the Charlotte Coalition for a Moratorium Now) advocates for effective, humane, and restorative solutions to pressing dangers and stressors in our community, such as crime, mental illness, and poverty. CCJC seeks to be a catalyst in bringing to bear the combined power of organizations and stakeholders in support of initiatives designed to enhance community justice in the Greater Charlotte area.”

Professor Adcock describes the Coalition as “an umbrella group,” designed to identify and coordinate different participants in the Charlotte community to tackle the myriad issues related to the Criminal Justice system.  What started as a group focused exclusively on obtaining a moratorium on the death penalty in North Carolina has expanded to include a vast array of criminal justice initiatives, including individuals’ successful reintegration into society following incarceration.

What is “re-entry?”  Re-entry refers to a convicted offender’s transition from life in prison (or jail) back into the community.  Successful re-entry describes the individual becoming a law-abiding and contributing member of society. (See Bureau of Justice Assistance for more information)

Education about and access to resources are vital components of successful re-entry.  Barriers to successful re-entry, including employment, often result in recidivism. The Coalition is devoted to community education as well as developing practical solutions to many criminal justice issues.  The Road to Successful Re-Entry event will focus on educating attendees on the statistics and realities regarding re-entry as well as identification and discussion of practical considerations moving forward.  Panelists will represent all branches of the re-entry process, including (as posted on Rufus):

  • Henderson Hill, Executive Director, Federal Defenders of Western North Carolina (Moderator)
  • Greg Forest, Chief U.S. Probation Officer, U.S. Probation, Western District of North Carolina
  • Rev. Dr. Madeline McClenney-Sadler, Founder/President, Exodus Foundation
  • Erik Ortega, LifeWorks! Program Director, Center for Community Transitions
  • James M. Talley, Jr., Of Counsel, Horack Talley
  • Jamal Tate, Founder, Man Up: A Minority Male Mentoring Program
  • Derek Wilson, Adult Program Manager, Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office

The Civil Rights Clinic is especially excited about this event.  Members of the Clinic will be attending to learn more about the Re-Entry Process and how our projects may provide an avenue for successful Re-Entry to formerly incarcerated individuals.  Additionally, students enrolled in PEP II can receive double credit for attending (see Rufus for more information).

If you are interested in more information regarding the Charlotte Community Justice Coalition, visit their website at,  If you are interested in attending the other symposium events please see the Rufus Calendar in addition to flyers around campus.

We look forward to seeing you at the panel next week!

By: Emily Ray

The Legal Dose – Episode 10

October 20, 2012

This episode of the Legal Dose features information about Charlotte Law’s annual Fall Fest event. There is also an interesting conversation about electives courses and an informative discussion about voter protection.

Give us a listen here!

Free Speech for People Amendment: A Legislative Alternative to the Judicial Decision of Citizens United

October 18, 2012

Do independent expenditures by entities, such as corporations, create corruption or even the appearance of corruption thus diluting the people’s ability to control government?  The majority of the Supreme Court answered the question in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling with an emphatic “No.”

What this ruling did, in effect, is give corporations much of the same rights to political speech as individuals.  It means that virtually all restrictions on corporate money in politics have been removed.  In a Slate article, titled The Numbers Don’t Lie, Richard L. Hasen, a leading expert on campaign finance and professor at the University of California at Irvine stated, “after Citizens United, the courts . . . and the FEC [Federal Elections Committee] provided a green light for super PACS to collect unlimited sums from individuals, labor unions, and corporations for unlimited independent spending.  The theory was that, per Citizens United, if independent spending cannot corrupt, then contributions to fund independent spending cannot corrupt either.  . . . So what was once questionable legality before the court’s decision was fully blessed after Citizens United.”

This summer the Supreme Court had an opportunity to take another look at the Citizen’s United ruling and declined.  The Montana Supreme Court upheld the state’s 1912 Corrupt Practices Act limiting independent political spending by corporations.  In a 5-4 ruling the U.S. Supreme Court voted to summarily dismiss the Montana case without oral arguments.

Montana’s Attorney General, Steven Bullock, argued that overturning the Corrupt Practices Act would “make our political process unrecognizable.”  He provided instances of not just the appearance of corruption, but actual corruption caused by this type of spending in the case.  Montana’s Supreme Court held in Tradition Partnership v. Bullock that the ban on such funding in Montana state elections was constitutional.  The U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision to not hear the case, unfortunately, proffered no rebuttal to the facts presented by Mr. Bullock and appears to have shut out the possibility of Citizens United being overturned by the current Supreme Court.

Is there anything we can do to change this unfortunate precedent? Well, yes, there is a grass roots movement to support a constitutional amendment!  The amendment, banning independent expenditures by special interest groups, has already been introduced in Congress.   Free Speech for People is helping organize efforts amongst concerned citizens to stir municipalities and other local governmental entities to call for Congress and states to act.  Their site provides an opportunity to sign a petition supporting H.J. Res. 88, a bi-partisan Congressional resolution that will amend the Constitution and overturn the Citizens United ruling.  The organization also provides resources to help you promote this amendment in your local and state governments.

The amendment process will eventually require ratification by2/3rds of the states and this grassroots effort helps to inform the electorate of the Amendment and gives representatives notification of what the People want.  According to a survey of 1,000 likely voters, 62 percent of all voters oppose the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.  In a poll conducted by Free Speech for People 82 percent of independent voters, 68 percent of Republican voters, and 87 percent of Democratic voters support the amendment.  This isn’t a political issue, this is voter’s rights issue, as Citizens United has allowed special interests to supplant the power of our founding principle of “one man, one vote” with the idea of “more money, more influence.”

For further reading, Corporations Are Not People, by Jeffrey D. Clements, and Republic Lost, by Lawrence Lessig, provide a thorough overview of the problem and its effect on our country. Also, the nationally-recognized expert in election law and campaign finance regulation, Professor Richard Hasen, will be joining the American Constitution Society for an event on Monday, October 22nd at noon.  Professor Hasen will be joining us via Skype and UNC Charlotte Professor of Political Science, Martha Kropf, will be on campus.

The time to act is now.  If you are interested in becoming part of this movement, please email Brandy Hagler,, or Cleat Walters III, for more information.

By Cleat Walters III and Brandy Hagler

First Ever Access to justice Journal Symposium is Coming to CSL

October 17, 2012

Download a PDF of the flyer here.

The Legal Dose – Episode 9

October 16, 2012

Today on the Legal Dose we have a Get to Know the Professor segment featuring Professor Victoria Taylor, who has a “first” connection to Charlotte School of Law. Then we have information about the upcoming Access to Justice Symposium and an introduction to the Civil Rights Clinic’s new Certificates of Relief project.

Listen to the episode here!

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