Battle for Independence of Law School Clinics Continues

We’ve posted quite a bit in recent weeks about legislative efforts on the state level to curtail the scope of operation of law school clinical programs that engage in litigation that is sometimes politically unpopular.  The University of Maryland controversy got a lot of press coverage, but it also shined a light on similar debates elsewhere.  For instance, several days ago, the New York Times ran a piece that touches on the Maryland controversy and zooms out more broadly to look at the proliferation of law school environmental clinic programs in recent decades, their relationships with the environmental movement, and the dust-ups that have occurred throughout the country as clinical programs have gotten involved in litigation against business interests.  The Times’s editorial board got involved, too, coming down on the side of clinical programs (noting yet another, recent controversy in Louisiana), arguing that business interests prompting legislative scrutiny of clinic activities interfere “with law schools’ freedom to decide how to educate students” and that “extracting information from clinics about the people they serve … also threatens the clinics’ relationships with their clients.”

As regards that Louisiana controversy, the Shreveport Times’s editorial board weighed in today, noting skepticism about the unintended consequences of a proposed bill that would curtail law school clinic programs’ ability to sue government entities:  “A move to hamstring university law clinics that represent poor citizens in environmental cases could also affect free legal representation related to domestic violence and juvenile justice.”

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