University of Maryland Law Students Weigh in on Clinical Program Funding Controversy

We posted yesterday about a battle brewing between Maryland state legislators and the University of Maryland School of Law’s clinical program.  (We got to refer to the poultry industry as “Big Chicken,” which was enjoyable.)  Today, a letter from two Terrapin law students appears in the Baltimore Sun.  In it, the students urge that the legislature hold off on its efforts to condition funding for the school on the release of information about clinic program clients. 

[The clinical program is] the state’s largest public interest law firm, and we try to do great things for people in need… [W]e handle the types of cases other lawyers might want but cannot afford to take, as well as the ones that others could accept but don’t want to touch. Not only do we take tough and sometimes unpopular cases, but we do a fantastic job for our clients. All of this is not just our opinion but that of the national legal community, which is probably why our clinical law program is consistently ranked among the very best in the country by US News & World Report in its annual law school rankings.

Why is our clinic’s shoestring budget under direct attack? Why is a portion of our state funding being conditioned on us releasing client information in exchange for desperately needed funds? Why did this punitive piece of legislation work its way into the budget bill so late in the legislative session, and only three weeks after the environmental clinic filed a law suit under the Clean Water Act against alleged polluters?

We ask that legislators to take this proposal off the table for now and give us and our peers in the legal community time to state the case for the clinic’s need to have professional independence, if not for our sake, then for the people’s sake. When the interests of needy Marylanders hang in the balance, a more thorough discussion is deserved.

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