College of Law http://law.gsu.edu Public law school in Atlanta GA Mon, 24 Apr 2017 20:48:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://aeadmin1.gsu.edu/?v=4.6.1 To Fix Confirmation Process We Need to Face the Truth About SCOTUS http://law.gsu.edu/2017/04/24/fix-confirmation-process-need-face-truth-scotus/ Mon, 24 Apr 2017 20:45:17 +0000 http://law.gsu.edu/?p=209335 As the dust settles over the bitterly partisan confirmation battles over Judge Garland and Justice Gorsuch, there is a large consensus that the Supreme Court is a damaged if not broken institution. Liberal commentators have been speculating, for the first time in 85 years, about the possibility of a Court packing plan the next time… more »

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Neil Gorsuch

Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court Neil Gorsuch, left, takes the Oath of Office from Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, right, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Monday, April 10. Gorsuch’s wife Louise holds the Bible. AP Photo

As the dust settles over the bitterly partisan confirmation battles over Judge Garland and Justice Gorsuch, there is a large consensus that the Supreme Court is a damaged if not broken institution. Liberal commentators have been speculating, for the first time in 85 years, about the possibility of a Court packing plan the next time the Democrats hold both the Congress and the presidency. The Editorial Board of the New York Times recently worried that the politics surrounding who nominates and confirms future justices could “shake the court system and American jurisprudence to its core.” Even Chief Justice John Roberts lamented this week that that it will be “very difficult … for a member of the public to look at what goes on in confirmation hearings these days …and not think that the person who comes out of that process must …share that partisan view of public issues and public life.”

In light of Justice Gorsuch’s refusal to answer any meaningful questions at his confirmation hearing, as well as the GOP’s stonewalling of Judge Garland, it is tempting for Court watchers, as well as the chief justice himself, to blame the confirmation process for the current despair over the Court. But that leap is a serious mistake. The main reason the confirmation process is broken is that the way the public and the Senate view (or at least talk about) the Supreme Court is at odds with reality. Before we can fix the confirmation process, we need to have a more honest conversation about the Court itself.

The Supreme Court has been a largely political institution since 1803. I do not mean that the justices make decisions just like other politicians. They do not because that have more independence than elected officials who must try and please the voters by often making false promises about what they intend to accomplish in the future or by painting a distorted picture about what they decided in the past. The Justices don’t, and shouldn’t, have that pressure.

By “political”, I mean that the justices resolve cases, both important front-page controversies and less publicized back-page ones, through a combination of personal preferences, life experiences, partisan politics, and values writ large, where traditional legal norms play only a marginal role in generating (as opposed to explaining) their decisions.

The fiction that prevents us from having a meaningful confirmation process is the repeated falsity that law plays a primary role in the Court’s decisions. It is that myth that allows Justice Gorsuch, and all the other recent nominees to the Court, to say that they should not reveal their preferences when being vetted for the highest Court in the land. That pattern has turned the process into a “charade” as Justice Kagan once wrote or “Kabuki Theater” as Joe Biden once said.

The justices are not like other judges (even other life-tenured judges) who apply legal rules against the backdrop of an appellate or reviewing court. The justices are free to and actually do change those rules and overturn prior decisions when they feel it is important enough to do so. That freedom, as well as the fact that the justices handpick their cases, which are among the hardest our country has to offer, explain why the exercise of personal discretion rather than the application of formal legal materials best explains the justices’ responsibilities.

If our politicians could openly speak these truths about the Court, and if the justices honestly and transparently explained that their personal preferences play a major role in deciding constitutional law cases, the public’s and the media’s dialogue about the Court would be greatly improved. We need Supreme Court justices of great character, intellect, and abilities precisely because the job comes with so much discretion and independence.

If the public accepted that the justices are free to decide cases as they think best largely unencumbered by prior law, we could have a more realistic conversation about proposals to improve the confirmation process that would better gauge the quality of the nominees and their personal and political preferences. For example, some states and European countries have judicial qualification committees that do a much better job vetting judges than the hopelessly partisan Senate Judiciary Committee. Moreover, given the role that personal values play in the Court’s decisions, the Senate should require nominees to answer real questions about their values and their political (and legal) perspectives if they want to ascend to the bench.

All of this is unlikely, maybe even impossible, as long as we continue to adhere to the myths that nominees espouse both in their confirmation process and then, once affirmed, in their judicial decisions. Their tired and inaccurate clichés that “the law made me do it,” or “I will do my best to follow the law,” are shallow statements that should be removed from public life for Supreme Court justices. Our current chief justice, who claimed during his confirmation hearing that the justices are just like umpires who call balls and strikes but don’t decide who wins the games, has written legal decisions imposing his personal views on voting rights, affirmative action, campaign finance reform and federalism (among many other issues) that are far removed from constitutional text and history but accurately reflect his personal values. It is unconscionable that he hid (and was allowed to hide) those values when he testified in front of the Senate.

Some scholars question whether the public would retain faith in the Justices if we openly discussed how much discretion they possess to rule how they want. But our collective belief in checks and balances and the separation of powers justifies a third branch of government with veto power over state and federal legislation even if those decisions sound more in discretion than law. In any event, that is how the Supreme Court has operated for hundreds of years. Until we truly accept that the Supreme Court of the United States at its core is a political not legal institution, the confirmation process will continue to be the “charade” Justice Kagan labelled it over 20 years ago.

This article was originally published on Dorf on Law Blog and Newsweek. Read the original article.

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Law Week Volunteer Project Emphasizes Commitment to Public Service http://law.gsu.edu/2017/04/24/law-week-volunteer-project-emphasizes-commitment-public-service/ Mon, 24 Apr 2017 19:56:16 +0000 http://law.gsu.edu/?p=209297 A group of Georgia State Law students, faculty and staff helped local charity Caring for Others as part of the inaugural Law Week Community Service Project, which concluded Law Week 2017. Volunteers gathered at Caring for Others at 8:30 a.m. April 8 to start packing the various food items donated by the more »

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A group of Georgia State Law students, faculty and staff helped local charity Caring for Others as part of the inaugural Law Week Community Service Project, which concluded Law Week 2017. Volunteers gathered at Caring for Others at 8:30 a.m. April 8 to start packing the various food items donated by the Atlanta Community Food Bank. They continued working through the late afternoon, helping to load the grocery-filled bags into the cars of families in need.

Student Bar Association President Darlene Childers (J.D. ’17) organized the volunteer project as a way to highlight the importance of serving one’s community, and to start a Law Week tradition.

“It helps underscore Georgia State Law’s commitment to public service and giving back to the community,” she said. “My hope is that doing a community service project will become an annual addition to Law Week.”

Associate Dean for Student Affairs Kelly Cahill Timmons praised Childers for coordinating the event. “Darlene is a great example of someone who finds ways and time to give back despite a busy schedule,” Timmons said. “She recognizes the importance of community service, and through organizing these projects, encourages her peers to give back also.

“We emphasize the importance of participation in service projects because it helps our students grow to be great public servants in whatever path they take in their careers,” Timmons said.

The service projects also serve as an opportunity for faculty, staff and students to engage outside the classroom, Childers said. Many participants brought their children to work alongside other volunteers throughout the day.

“It was a great chance to meet and volunteer with great people,” said Jongwon Lee (J.D. ’20). “I’m an evening student and have had little chance to interact with day students.”

Lee said he brought along his 7-year-old daughter because participation in community service is a tradition for them.

“We immigrated from Korea 10 years ago and have no other family in the U.S. My daughter always asked to see her grandparents, cousins, or sibling during major holidays,” Lee said. “So, we decided to make our own family and do something for them. Every year, we participate in ‘Hosea Feed the Hungry’ during Thanksgiving and Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and we ‘adopt a senior’ on Father’s and Mother’s Day and Christmas.”

Lee said volunteering at Caring for Others reminded him of a Korean proverb, which states ‘When you share food with another person, he is your family.’

“I found the College of Law is a great family when we did something for underrepresented people,” Lee said. “I also thought about when I came to the U.S. and had nothing, and the local community adopted us. I feel that I found a great family in the College of Law, and I’m a proud member of my new family.”

Childers organized two previous community service projects with Caring for Others, an international human services organization seeking to eradicate poverty through feeding, educating, clothing and housing individuals and families around the world.

“It’s a wonderful organization, and I am inspired by the work they do,” Childers said.

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Students Win Outstanding Advocate, Outstanding Brief at South Texas Mock Trial Challenge http://law.gsu.edu/2017/04/20/students-win-outstanding-advocate-outstanding-brief-south-texas-mock-trial-challenge/ Thu, 20 Apr 2017 17:32:47 +0000 http://law.gsu.edu/?p=209099 Three Georgia State Law students, Lacey Wheeler (J.D. ’17), Ryan Brown (J.D. ’17) and Brandon Reed (J.D. ’18) fared well in the South Texas Mock Trial Challenge, the country’s largest invitational mock trial competition, held March 2-April 2 in Houston. Brown won the Outstanding Advocate award and Reed’s brief was named Outstanding Brief. The… more »

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Three Georgia State Law students, Lacey Wheeler (J.D. ’17), Ryan Brown (J.D. ’17) and Brandon Reed (J.D. ’18) fared well in the South Texas Mock Trial Challenge, the country’s largest invitational mock trial competition, held March 2-April 2 in Houston. Brown won the Outstanding Advocate award and Reed’s brief was named Outstanding Brief. The team beat out five schools and advanced to the semifinals.

“Winning Outstanding Advocate was a great personal honor and something that I have been working for the past two years,” Brown said. “I am proud of our team for making the semifinals in such a competitive competition.”

Brown also competed in the Carolina Classic Mock Trial Competition last year, advancing to the quarter finals, and the William Daniel National Mock Trial Championship last semester with Wheeler.

This was Reed’s first competition. “It was a great surprise [to win Outstanding Brief],” Reed said. “You hear about certain schools doing well on the brief every year, and it was a great opportunity to put Georgia State’s name in there as a school that’s out to win the trophy.”

The competition problem dealt with breach of fiduciary duty, battery, and unjust enrichment claims stemming from the taking of stem cells from the plaintiffs’ child for research without consent.

“The problem was a time-crunch,” Reed said. “We only had four weekends to prepare. I wrote the brief over the first week. And then the team practiced about six hours each day on Saturday and Sunday up until the competition.”

The brief problem dealt with phantom damages and the collateral source rule as a subset of the main competition problem.

“For example,” Reed said, “if a plaintiff has an insurance provider, that insurance provider will have a negotiated rate with a hospital. Therefore, the plaintiff’s medical charges will be lower than the amount they were billed.

“A defendant could benefit from arguing that the reasonable damages associated with the medical costs are the negotiated rate,” Reed said. “The purpose of the brief was to argue on the plaintiff’s behalf that these negotiated rates are collateral benefits. Thus, they are not admissible nor are they allowed to lower the defendant’s potential liability.”

Reed also served as a witness for the team.

The team was coached by Tom Jones and Cheryl Champion (J.D. ’93).

“Cheryl and Tom both spent countless hours coaching us, investing their time in us, and simply teaching us,” Brown said. “[These awards] are the school’s, STLA’s, and most importantly they belong to the instructors like Tom and Cheryl because without them there is no chance we would have won anything.”

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The Henry J. Miller Distinguished Lecture Series http://law.gsu.edu/2017/04/17/henry-j-miller-distinguished-lecture-series/ Mon, 17 Apr 2017 20:50:02 +0000 http://law.gsu.edu/?p=208947 The Henry J. Miller Distinguished Lecture Series is supported by the Loridans Foundation and is named for Henry J. Miller, a partner with Alston & Bird for more than 50 years.

The late Henry J. Miller was a magna cum laude graduate of Emory University and a 1929 graduate of the Harvard University Law School. He was… more »

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The Henry J. Miller Distinguished Lecture Series is supported by the Loridans Foundation and is named for Henry J. Miller, a partner with Alston & Bird for more than 50 years.

The late Henry J. Miller was a magna cum laude graduate of Emory University and a 1929 graduate of the Harvard University Law School. He was admitted in the same year to the Georgia Bar and became associated with the law firm that was the predecessor to Alston & Bird.

During his distinguished career, Miller served as both counsel to and director of the C&S National Bank. He also served on the board of directors of the Atlanta Gas Light Co. and the American Southern Insurance Co.

From 1973 to 1976, Miller was one of the three-member committee that reviewed amicus briefs for the American Bar Association. In 1980, he was designated Amicus Curiae of the Supreme Court of Georgia “in recognition of his distinguished service and contribution to the improvement of the administration of justice.” In 1998, Mr. and Mrs. Miller endowed the Ben F. Johnson Jr. Chair in Law at the Georgia State University College of Law, in honor of the college’s founding dean.

With his death on Feb. 9, 2000, the College of Law lost an eminent scholar and benefactor. Henry J. Miller’s legacy continues to live in his role as mentor to generations of Atlanta’s professional community.

Distinguished Miller Lecturers

  • Akhil Amar, Yale Law School
  • Ian Ayres, Yale Law School
  • Lynn A. Baker, University of Texas School of Law
  • Elizabeth Bartholet, Harvard Law School
  • Cherif Bassiouni, DePaul University College of Law
  • Derrick A. Bell, New York University School of Law
  • Lillian R. BeVier, University of Virginia School of Law
  • Erwin Chemerinsky, University of California Irvine School of Law
  • Robert C. Clark, Harvard Law School
  • Talbot D’Alemberte, Florida State University College of Law
  • Peggy Cooper Davis, New York University School of Law
  • Drew S. Days III, Yale Law School
  • Walter E. Dellinger III, Duke University School of Law
  • Ronald M. Dworkin, New York University School of Law
  • Richard A. Epstein, University of Chicago Law School
  • Stanley Fish, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Lisa Foster, U.S. Dept of Justice’s Office for Access Justice (former director)
  • Stephen Gillers, New York University School of Law
  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court of the United States
  • Linda Greenhouse, Yale Law School
  • Geoffrey C. Hazard Jr., University of Pennsylvania Law School
  • E. Dick Howard, University of Virginia School of Law
  • Nathaniel R. Jones, Retired, United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit
  • Pamela S. Karlin, Stanford Law School
  • Herma Hill Kay, University of California Berkeley School of Law
  • Anthony McLeod Kennedy, Supreme Court of the United States
  • Randall L. Kennedy, Harvard Law School
  • Alex Kozinski, United States Court of Appeals, 9th Circuit
  • Anthony T. Kronman, Yale Law School
  • Mark Lemley, Stanford Law School
  • Lawrence Lessig, Stanford Law School
  • Ellen R. Saks, University of Southern California
  • Sanford V. Levinson, University of Texas School of Law
  • Glenn C. Loury, Brown University
  • John O. McGinnis, Northwestern University School of Law
  • Carrie J. Menkel-Meadow, Georgetown University Law School
  • Robert F. Nagel, University of Colorado Law School
  • Sandra Day O’Connor, (Retired) Supreme Court of the United States
  • Carol M. Rose, Yale Law School
  • Edward L. Rubin, Vanderbilt University Law School
  • Elyn Saks, University of Southern California
  • Antonin Scalia, Supreme Court of the United States
  • Frederick Schauer, University of Virginia School of Law
  • Hal S. Scott, Harvard Law School
  • Kenneth W. Starr, Pepperdine University School of Law
  • John Paul Stevens, (Retired) Supreme Court of the United States
  • Nadine Strossen, New York Law School
  • Kathleen M. Sullivan, Stanford Law School
  • Walter J. Wadlington, University of Virginia School of Law
  • Patricia McGowan Wald, (Retired) United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit
  • Jeremy J. Waldron, New York University School of Law

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Class of 2016 http://law.gsu.edu/2017/04/15/class-of-2016/ Sat, 15 Apr 2017 12:08:31 +0000 http://law.gsu.edu/?p=208813 For the Class of 2016, Georgia State Law has detailed ABA employment data.

Employment Report 2016 ABA Employment Summary

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For the Class of 2016, Georgia State Law has
detailed ABA employment data.

Employment Report

Back to Career Services  | At a Glance 

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‘Investing in Your Future’ Series Touts Importance of Philanthropy, Civic Engagement, Social Justice http://law.gsu.edu/2017/04/14/investing-future-series-touts-importance-philanthropy-civic-engagement-social-justice/ Fri, 14 Apr 2017 17:47:34 +0000 http://law.gsu.edu/?p=208764 A new lunch and learn series, “Investing in Your Future,” instructs students on how to develop their professional identity through the vehicles of philanthropy, volunteering, civic engagement and promoting social justice.

Investing in Your Future: Stepping Up:Promoting Fairness and Social Justice When: Noon, Tuesday, April 18 Where: Room 342

The third installment in the series, “Stepping Up:… more »

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A new lunch and learn series, “Investing in Your Future,” instructs students on how to develop their professional identity through the vehicles of philanthropy, volunteering, civic engagement and promoting social justice.

Investing in Your Future: Stepping Up:Promoting Fairness and Social Justice

  • When: Noon, Tuesday, April 18
  • Where: Room 342

The third installment in the series, “Stepping Up: Promoting Fairness and Social Justice,” will be at noon Tuesday, April 18, in Room 342. Catherine C. Henson (J.D. ’89) will moderate the discussion with panelists Andrea Young, executive director of the Atlanta ACLU; Professor Lauren Sudeall Lucas, director of the Center for Access to Justice; and Jack Hardin of Rogers & Hardin. Panelists will discuss the attorney’s privileged role and responsibility in civil society, especially helping those less fortunate.

“Starting in law school, it’s important to try to understand how people from all walks of life perceive and interact with the justice system – and to make a non-negotiable commitment, early on, to devote some time to using one’s skills as a lawyer to serve those in need,” Lucas said. “Regardless of whether you go on to work full time in the public interest or engage in pro bono work while in the private sector, there are always ways to give back – and to use the power of the law to change people’s lives.”

The series kicked off in February with Henson, who founded the nonprofit Georgia School Council Institute, as one its panelists along with Jennifer Hartz, owner of Corporate Hartz, a leading provider of corporate social responsibility consulting services, and Tim Phillips, general counsel for the American Cancer Society. Associate Professor of Law Cass Brewer moderated the discussion, which focused on how charitable work provides attorneys with opportunities to develop and expand their legal knowledge and experience as well as to cultivate a strong, positive public image. Panelists discussed how their philanthropic activities in the legal and corporate arenas positively influenced their careers.

Henson, who began her career as a corporate litigator, said one simple volunteer act redirected her career to something she finds more meaningful. As a volunteer with her children’s parent-teacher association, she helped raise money to pay for various school necessities.

“Through that involvement, I began thinking of the school nearby that did not have the same social and economic resources,” she said. That motivated her to become an advocate for meaningful parent involvement in public education, and she was eventually appointed to the state board of education as part of the school reform movement.

Similarly, one experience motivated Phillips to give back more. He assisted an elderly woman with a fairly simple case, which got a good result, he said. The woman later sent him a thank you letter.

“I kept the letter, and I realized that this is why I do what I do,” he said.

There is more to practicing law than putting time down on a sheet and getting paid, Phillips said. Lawyers should strive to put their skills to use in a manner that elevates more than themselves.

While in law school, students should also start to think about what talents or skills they have they can develop more, such as legal writing, that they can use to help others now and in the future, Hartz said.

Hartz shared how she became involved with Hands On Atlanta, where Atlanta corporations adopt certain areas of the city to assist with various projects. After winning an award for her work as head of corporate social responsibility at Home Depot, Hartz started her own consulting business, which works with individuals in personal philanthropy development in addition to companies.

The panelists advised law students how they can become involved in philanthropy while still in school. They encouraged students to reach out to scholarship donors to understand their motivations for giving back, to consider how skills learned in law school could be used for volunteer activities, and to apply for internships and externships with organizations that are focused on charity and philanthropy.

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Serving & Learning Focus of Spring Break Projects Through Center for Access to Justice http://law.gsu.edu/2017/04/12/spring-break-serving-learning/ Wed, 12 Apr 2017 14:45:43 +0000 http://law.gsu.edu/?p=208606 It’s a little after 3 p.m. Tuesday, March 14, the first Tuesday of spring break. The Fulton County Magistrate Court clerk just read the dispossessory calendar call. Her instructions: “when your name is called, answer ‘plaintiff, defendant, landlord or tenant.’”

A woman runs in after the call. She is out of breath and proceeds to… more »

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Spring break service project

Georgia State Law students tour Medgar Evers’s home in Jackson, Mississippi.

It’s a little after 3 p.m. Tuesday, March 14, the first Tuesday of spring break. The Fulton County Magistrate Court clerk just read the dispossessory calendar call. Her instructions: “when your name is called, answer ‘plaintiff, defendant, landlord or tenant.’”

A woman runs in after the call. She is out of breath and proceeds to sit next to a man on one of the cold wooden benches occupying the courtroom. She’s late, but it’s OK because the man answered “tenant” on her behalf a few moments earlier.

The judge begins his speech, a speech he has given in some form numerous times. He asks those whose names were just called to please stand up. Other than a group of 12 Georgia State Law students, almost everyone in the room rises. The judge informs those standing that they failed to provide a legally sufficient defense in their answer to the eviction notice they received.

The woman who came in late looks over at her partner — her eyebrows raised, she appears afraid of what the judge will say next. The judge proceeds to read excerpts from the tenants’ answers: “my mother was sick, but I will have rent next week;” “I lost my job and am trying to find a way to pay rent;” “my sister and her kids moved in with me, and I have to buy more food.”

The judge then proceeds to say that, while the court sympathizes with people’s difficult circumstances, the law does not make exceptions. These tenants have no legal defense to eviction.

“You have seven days,” the judge states. All those standing have seven days to move out or await the marshal to force them out, leaving their belongings on the curb. The crowd disperses.

A few brave souls linger to ask questions. Every Tuesday and Thursday at 3 p.m., dozens of people are told they no longer have a home. They have seven days to pack up their lives and move out.

Jackson, Mississippi

Meanwhile, two states away, a Mississippi court judge calls the court to order. The Jackson municipal courtroom is dark and imposing. The air is stuffy. The seats are hard and uncomfortable, like church pews. Dim fluorescent lights buzz up above. Voices echo from the front, where black marble columns stand as barriers to the seated crowd.

A man in a jumpsuit utters one word, “Guilty,” and is ushered away. The next man takes the podium. His attorney, a public defender, steps away from his side. He has to take a phone call. The second prisoner is ushered away.

A third man takes his place at the podium. He tries to explain himself to the judge, but is silenced by his public defender. “You shut your mouth.” This is what passes for justice in Jackson, Mississippi. In the back of the courtroom sit five Georgia State Law students from Atlanta, watching wordlessly.

Spring Break Service Project

Georgia State Law students engaged in criminal court observation at the municipal court in Jackson, Mississippi.

The students crossed state lines with a purpose: to spend spring break in Mississippi courtrooms, investigating constitutional violations against those accused of crimes. Specifically, the group was documenting whether low-level offenders, often people of color living in poverty, were given access to legal representation.

The Sixth Amendment guarantees the right to counsel, and later cases, including Gideon v. Wainwright, make clear that right applies equally to those who cannot afford to pay for an attorney. As the law students learn, however, these laws are often subverted by prosecutors, judges and public defenders faced with untenable caseloads, many of whom appear to sacrifice integrity for pragmatism.

“The trip to Jackson opened my eyes to issues that many of us never have to deal with but definitely exist,” said Nick Nesmith (J.D. ’18). “We witnessed people in poverty, the disabled, and the elderly representing themselves in court and almost always pleading guilty. I became aware that the right to counsel is essentially only made available to a narrow group of people, and even then is often trampled upon by those in positions of power.”

The Mississippi Spring Break experience revealed to the students something many already know and others might be surprised to learn: that the kind of justice you receive is often based on your skin color, your ability to speak English, your age and your income.

“I would highly recommend this trip to my fellow law students,” said Virginia McMillan (J.D. ’19). “It provides an immersive experience in the Mississippi justice system, and an opportunity to form deep bonds with your fellow law students, all within the boundaries of a city with a rich civil rights history.”

The law students were tasked with observing municipal and county courts in the Jackson area. What they saw were predominantly low-income people of color being herded through an assembly line, often without a lawyer. Half of the courts they visited had no public defender present at any time during their observation. Each day, the students witnessed dozens of defendants enter guilty pleas, often negotiated one-on-one with a prosecutor. The defendants were placed in a powerless position.

Although the reality the students observed was disheartening, they gained a great deal from the experience. The hospitality of Mississippians, the collegiality and openness of many of the judges and lawyers, and the firsthand observations of the inner workings of a variety of courtrooms were invaluable.

The students’ documentation of Mississippi court proceedings is part of a larger project intended to bring awareness to these issues, and will hopefully bring about much needed change. Heartened by the dedication and resolve of people working to ensure and increase access to justice, the students returned to campus with a newfound awareness all their own.

Alternative Law Spring Break

While most law students spent spring break relaxing or catching up on schoolwork, the 17 students who participated in the Center for Access to Justice’s inaugural Alternative Law Spring Break devoted their week to learning about a new area of law, either landlord-tenant law in Atlanta, or criminal law in Jackson, Mississippi. Many undergraduate students participate in alternative break trips, and several law schools across the county organize pro bono service trips, but this was the first year the college offered the opportunity.

Spring Break service project

Atlanta participants engage in a ‘Know Your Rights’ Clinic at Thomasville Heights Elementary School.

“I participated in two Georgia State sponsored trips last year, but they were geared toward undergraduates,” said Atlanta trip co-leader Andrew Navratil (J.D. ’18). “We wanted to create an opportunity specifically for law students to do pro bono legal work.”

Through the Center for Access to Justice and Georgia State’s Office of Civic Engagement, Atlanta trip co-leaders McKinley Anderson (J.D. ’18) and Navratil, along with 10 fellow students from every class year and the LL.M. program, worked with the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation (AVLF) to provide free legal services to low-income tenants.

“The participants worked closely with clients,” Anderson said. “As law students, we often forget the cases we read are about real people—people who deserve empathy and compassion.”

Atlanta

The Atlanta students began the week by volunteering at AVLF’s Saturday Lawyer Program, where volunteer lawyers meet with potential clients facing eviction or sub-standard conditions. Throughout the week, students followed up on the clients’ cases, conducting interviews, documenting housing conditions, researching legal issues and drafting demand letters under AVLF lawyers’ supervision.

“It was disheartening to see the coldness and at times uncompromising rigidity within our legal system, which seems to land the hardest on those in most need of reprieve,” Charles Theodore (J.D. ’17). “But I was also encouraged, as we had the opportunity to learn and work alongside organizations, such as Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation and Legal Aid Society, that are dedicated to helping those less fortunate navigate a legal system that can be costly and intimidating.”

Students also spent significant time in Magistrate Court observing mediations and hearings and helping clients answer their dispossessory notices at the Georgia Law Center for the Homeless Answer Clinic.

The Atlanta students also met with a Magistrate Court judge, talked to volunteer attorneys and heard from the Atlanta Legal Aid Society about the unique challenges facing tenants in public housing. Over lunches and dinners, the students discussed what they were experiencing and learning.

“No one should have to live in subpar conditions because they are poor, or have a criminal record, or are part of a minority group,” said Katelyn Stadtlander (J.D. ’19). “There is no excuse for making someone live in conditions that are dangerous to their health or put their safety in jeopardy.

“This trip opened my eyes to the large community of individuals working to help people every day. This trip was inspiring on so many levels, and I truly recommend that everyone apply, whether you want to pursue a career in public interest or not. Everyone can benefit from this eye-opening experience.”

The Mississippi trip students had a similarly immersive week, observing criminal proceedings in a variety of state courts, documenting what they witnessed and meeting with public defenders to learn about low-income defendants’ experience in criminal court. The students also visited the home of Civil Rights activist Medgar Evers and toured some of the sites making up the rich history of the Civil Rights Movement in Jackson.

“The inaugural group of Alternative Law Spring Break participants seems to have been profoundly impacted by their experience, whether in Atlanta or Jackson,” said Darcy Meals, the center’s assistant director. “Not only were they able to deepen their understanding of a particular area of substantive law, but they also saw how legal principles operate to impact clients’ lives. That insight is an invaluable part of a complete law school education.”

The Center for Access to Justice plans to organize another pro bono service trip over spring break 2018.

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Julio Perez-Bravo (B.A.’15/J.D.’18) http://law.gsu.edu/2017/04/07/julio-perez-bravo-b-15j-d-18/ Fri, 07 Apr 2017 15:55:00 +0000 http://law.gsu.edu/?p=208091 Julio Perez-Bravo (B.A. ’15/J.D. ’18) was born in Santa Clara, Cuba. He majored in political science at Georgia State University, and has an interest in employment law. In his free time, Perez-Bravo likes to exercise and listen to music.

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Julio Perez-Bravo (B.A. ’15/J.D. ’18) was born in Santa Clara, Cuba. He majored in political science at Georgia State University, and has an interest in employment law. In his free time, Perez-Bravo likes to exercise and listen to music.

Law Week 2017 

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Tanya Washington, professor of law http://law.gsu.edu/2017/04/07/tanya-washington-associate-professor-law/ Fri, 07 Apr 2017 15:22:38 +0000 http://law.gsu.edu/?p=208144 Tanya Washington, professor of law, earned her J.D. from The University of Maryland School of Law and clerked for then Associate Judge Robert M. Bell on the Maryland Court of Appeals. In addition to her tenured position at Georgia State Law, Washington is a former adjunct faculty member at Howard University Law School where she… more »

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Tanya Washington, professor of law, earned her J.D. from The University of Maryland School of Law and clerked for then Associate Judge Robert M. Bell on the Maryland Court of Appeals. In addition to her tenured position at Georgia State Law, Washington is a former adjunct faculty member at Howard University Law School where she served for more than 10 years.

It affects people’s lives.

Law Week 2017 

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Dodson: Reforming Criminal Justice System Starts with Addressing Racism Within It http://law.gsu.edu/2017/04/07/dodson-reforming-criminal-justice-system-starts-addressing-racism-within/ Fri, 07 Apr 2017 14:57:27 +0000 http://law.gsu.edu/?p=208285 The criminal justice system is racist, and until that is addressed, we will continue to have a system that doesn’t work, said Marissa McCall Dodson, the public policy director for the Southern Center for Human Rights, during the Law Week 2017 keynote.

“You’re more likely to be stopped, detained, arrested, you’re more likely to… more »

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Marissa McCall Dodson

“You’re more likely to be stopped, detained, arrested, you’re more likely to be charged, you’re more likely to be sentenced, you are more likely to be sent to prison, if you are black,” said Marissa McCall Dodson, the public policy director for the Southern Center for Human Rights, during the Law Week 2017 Keynote Address.

The criminal justice system is racist, and until that is addressed, we will continue to have a system that doesn’t work, said Marissa McCall Dodson, the public policy director for the Southern Center for Human Rights, during the Law Week 2017 keynote.

“You’re more likely to be stopped, detained, arrested, you’re more likely to be charged, you’re more likely to be sentenced, you are more likely to be sent to prison, if you are black,” Dodson said.

From 1970 to 2005, the U.S. prison population grew 700 percent, Dodson stated, and a disproportionate number of those inmates are black. One in three black men are under correctional control at some point in their lives, compared to one in 17 of white men.

“Unless there are people in this country that really believe African-Americans are inherently more criminal, that we must need to be policed more, we must be born this way—what else can account for this disparity?” Dodson asked. “Either you believe we set up a system that has bias against African-Americans and minorities, or [you believe] the system is working fine and reflecting the criminal behavior of our communities.”

Connecting ‘black’ to ‘criminal’ was intentional after slavery ended, Dodson said.

“To have that kind of industry wiped out completely, and to suggest that now you have to figure out how to pay for the labor that was free before, put the South in crisis,” she said.

The 13th Amendment abolished slavery and involuntary servitude “except as the punishment for a crime” – which allowed a way to pull people back into the system for free labor, she said. “So, slavery is still OK, we just have to call them criminal.”

Dodson said low level offenses, such as having a dirty license plate, which is a misdemeanor in Georgia, the war on drugs and punitive sentencing are driving forces that continue to feed into mass incarceration, which also targets the poor.

“If you can’t pay the fine, you go under correctional control,” Dodson said. “[It’s] pulling poor black people into a system to benefit not only the industries that need workers but also the government. Chain gangs and convict leasing, those are big historical pieces of our past we need to deal with in a more meaningful way today than we have been.”

Private companies operating prisons—with contracts requiring the state have a certain number of occupants—are also contributing to the problem, she said.

“What incentive is there to reduce prison populations when you have the private sector coming in and saying in order for it to be worth our while there needs to be this many people in the system?”

The more recent move to incarcerating people in their own homes through ankle bracelets and other monitoring is not a solution, Dodson said.

“We need to stop thinking probation is the answer because it’s more cost-effective,” she said. “We need to be thinking about transforming the criminal justice system to start moving people out of correctional control and getting them into communities where they have opportunities to lead productive lives.”

Nationally, one in 31 are under some form of correctional control; in Georgia it’s one in 12.

So what can be done? Fully funding public defender systems, decriminalizing minor offenses, eliminating perverse incentives, comprehensive data protection (keeping track of things such as excessive use of force in policing), are key, Dodson said.

It’s been proven that being ‘tough on crime’ doesn’t work, she said. Instead, it’s important to establish trust with and invest in impacted communities, Dodson said.

Implicit bias training for law enforcement and other sectors of the criminal justice system, including lawyers, is also essential.

“At the end of the day it doesn’t matter whether individually we think ourselves better or worse [than others when it comes to racism]—this idea around implicit bias, the idea that black people are violent or criminal or wrong, that’s not just something white people think, black people think it too. Latinos think it, Asians think it. It is the culture that exists that black people are presumed to be inferior.”

It’s time to deal with that implicit bias and realize the ways it shows up in the system, she said.

Improving access to voting and advocating for the right to vote is another action that can be taken. Six million Americans are not eligible to vote because of incarceration—13 percent of those are African-American men, Dodson said.

“Access to the polls is important,” she said. “If you are barred from voting, then opportunities you may have to affect your system, to exercise your voice, to not be marginalized in your community, all go away.”

Lawyers have an important role, Dodson said, in helping bring about these changes. She urges students to consider becoming public defenders or legal aid lawyers. If that’s not possible or an interest, take on pro bono work whenever you can, and advocate for the rights of others at the capitol, she said.

“Do not fall into thinking ‘things are just the way they are’ – hold yourself and the system accountable,” she said.

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