Neighborhood Law & Policy Clinic
The Neighborhood Law & Policy Clinic is a "reentry" clinic that bridges the divide between the worlds of civil and criminal justice. In the poorest sections of the District, up to 20% of residents are incarcerated or under the control of the criminal justice system at any given time, and up to 75% of residents have criminal records. The Clinic steps in after criminal punishment has been meted out, and represents individuals in a range of civil and quasi-criminal matters that promote their successful reintegration into society, often after long periods of incarceration. The Clinic advocates for all individuals with criminal histories, including taking on parole eligibility hearings in federal prisons, and also by accepting cases that attack the collateral consequences of criminal records, such as barriers to employment and housing. Every student who participates in this Clinic will handle one or two cases, either in a federal or local administrative tribunal, or in D.C. Superior Court. Students may also engage in policy advocacy on prisoner reentry issues in front of rulemaking bodies and the D.C. Council.
The clinic serves the legal needs of prisoners, parolees, and ex-offenders, and accepts representation of a variety of different cases. This is an intensive litigation clinic and students will be responsible for lawyering their cases from intake to trial. Students will interview clients, develop factual and legal theories, conduct research, prepare witnesses, negotiate with opposing parties, write briefs and motions, present oral arguments, and conduct full evidentiary hearings. In preparing to represent their clients, students may travel to prisons in neighboring states, their clients' homes, and government agencies to conduct interviews and obtain relevant evidence. The Clinic also engages in local policy advocacy and students may have the opportunity to prepare white papers, collect data, draft rules and statutes, or deliver testimony at public hearings.
Students in the Clinic will learn to effectively undertake the responsibilities of lawyers, and to consider the possibilities and limits of the lawyer's role. They will be challenged and encouraged to think through strategic decisions at every stage of the client representation or policy work. Given the range in the Clinic's caseload, students will learn how to utilize different statutory and regulatory frameworks to craft factual narratives and legal arguments, and will become familiar with the ways in which different tribunals adjudicate disputes.