Family Justice Litigation Overview

The Family Justice Litigation Clinic represents clients in DC Superior Court cases involving custody, child support, divorce, and protection from abuse. Participating students represent a range of clients and help respond to the dearth of pro bono legal services in cases that concern critical needs and legal issues for the indigent population. Family law cases provide experience in the law, procedures, and courtroom norms of longer term cases such as custody and divorce. In addition, domestic violence cases expose students to expedited litigation in which the case travels through the system in two to four weeks and often requires collaboration with the Metropolitan Police Department, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and safety planning organizations. 

Students work in teams of two and represent several clients during the semester. They are responsible for all aspects of each case including: conducting the initial intake interview; investigating facts; drafting complaints or motions; conducting discovery; preparing witnesses; and negotiating a settlement or taking the case to trial. In every civil protection order case, students put a witness on the stand and present direct testimony in front of a judge in an ex parte Temporary Protection Order hearing. Students also become well acquainted with the courtroom and the vital services lawyers provide outside of the courtroom to support their clients and help ensure successful case resolutions. 

The Jacob Burns Community Legal Clinics were founded in 1971, and were dedicated in 1991 to acknowledge the generous support of Jacob Burns (LL.B. '24, LL.D. '70). Burns was renowned for his philanthropy, through which he "contributed significantly to the expanding boundaries of knowledge," and left an enduring legacy that improves the lives of many today. 

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