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Juvenile Justice Clinic Celebrates 40th Anniversary with Leadership Changes and New Initiatives

June 8, 2015 —

Professor Wally Mlyniec Professor Wally Mlyniec
Professor Kristin Henning Professor Kristin Henning

Just a few years after the Supreme Court extended the right to counsel and procedural due process to children in its landmark case In re Gault, Georgetown University Law Center created one of the first law school-based clinics specializing in children’s issues.  Now, 40 years later, the Juvenile Justice Clinic is marking its anniversary with leadership changes and new initiatives. 

“It is a pleasure to celebrate this milestone for the Juvenile Justice Clinic. The Law Center students who participate in this program provide an invaluable service to the local D.C. community while developing critical lawyering skills,” said Georgetown Law Dean William M. Treanor. “We are deeply grateful to Wally Mlyniec for his tireless efforts and superb leadership over these 40 years, and we are delighted that Kris Henning has agreed to fill this important role.” 

Georgetown Law Professor Wally Mlyniec, who has led the clinic since its inception, is stepping down as director and will become senior counsel. He will continue to teach and supervise students and advise the clinic and the newly created Georgetown Juvenile Justice Initiative. He will also retain his duties concerning the Law Center’s property and city-wide affairs. Law Center Professor Kristin Henning, currently the co-director of the Juvenile Justice Clinic, will become its director, effective July 1, 2015. 

A number of programs are being launched as part of the new Georgetown Juvenile Justice Initiative. The clinic is taking the lessons it has learned and applying them to training juvenile defenders. It has established a trial practice group for juvenile defenders in D.C., and is hosting, along with the National Juvenile Defender Center, an annual one-week intensive training program for juvenile defenders from across the nation. The clinic is also developing new practicum courses for the Georgetown Law curriculum on post-commitment advocacy, as well as on various policy initiatives. In addition, it is providing resources for defenders who wish to seal juvenile records and offering technical assistance and training throughout the mid-Atlantic region in partnership with the Mid-Atlantic Juvenile Defender Center.  Finally, it will be expanding its assistance to emerging juvenile justice clinics and public defender offices.

Founded at Georgetown Law by Professor and former Dean Judith Areen, the clinic sought to fulfill the mandate of the Gault decision by expanding the legal rights of children and ensuring that children are protected from maltreatment by their parents and the government. Under close faculty supervision, students in the clinic represent youth charged with misdemeanor and felony crimes in the District of Columbia. Clinic students also occasionally represent clients in special education and school disciplinary hearings. Almost 3,000 clients have been represented by students and fellows since the clinic’s founding. The clinic is one of 17 courses offered as part of Georgetown Law’s nationally recognized clinical legal education program. 

Mlyniec is the Lupo-Ricci Professor of Clinical Legal Studies at Georgetown Law. He teaches courses in wrongful convictions and clinical pedagogy, and assists with the training of fellows in the Prettyman Legal Internship Program. He was associate dean for clinical education and public service programs from 1986 to 2005. Mlyniec is the author of numerous books and articles on juvenile and criminal law and on clinical teaching, and is the recipient of several awards, including the William Pincus Award for his contributions to clinical legal education and the Stuart Stiller Award, Robert Drinan Award and the Gault Award for his commitment to legal service in the public interest. He has consulted for law schools and social work schools and lectured at schools and programs around the world. He has served as the chair of the ABA Juvenile Justice Committee and the board of directors of the National Juvenile Defender Center. Mlyniec has also played a leading role in the architectural development of the Law Center’s campus and is the author of Construction Notes: Transforming a Campus in Washington, D.C. 

Henning came to the Law Center in 1995 as a Stuart-Stiller Fellow in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice Clinics. In 1997, she joined the staff of the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, where she served as lead attorney for the juvenile unit from 1998 until returning to Georgetown in 2001. She has been active in local, regional and national juvenile justice reform. In 2005, Henning was selected as a fellow in the Emerging Leaders Program of the Duke University Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy and the Graduate School of Business at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. In 2006 and 2007, she traveled to Liberia to aid in juvenile justice reform. In 2008, she was awarded the Shanara Gilbert Award by the Clinical Section of the Association of American Law Schools for her commitment to justice on behalf of children and service to the cause of legal education, and in 2013, she was awarded the Robert E. Shepherd, Jr. Award for Excellence in Juvenile Defense by the National Juvenile Defender Center. Henning has published a number of articles on the role of juvenile defense counsel, confidentiality, victims’ rights, racial justice and other contemporary issues in the juvenile justice systems. She is also the lead author of the Juvenile Training Immersion Program, a national training curriculum developed by the National Juvenile Defender Center for juvenile defense attorneys.   

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