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Juvenile Justice Clinic Celebrates Mlyniec, Henning and an Anniversary

June 9, 2015 —

“I remember various investigations and misadventures,” one alumna wrote of her days as a student in the Juvenile Justice Clinic. Another alum recalled his clients. But the fondest memories were reserved for those who made the clinic what it is today: Professors Wally Mlyniec (L'70) and Kris Henning (LL.M.'97).

One hundred and seventy alumni and friends of the Juvenile Justice Clinic returned to Georgetown Law on the evening of Saturday, June 6, to celebrate a long-awaited “40-ish” anniversary of the clinic, which launched during the 1973-1974 academic year. Phil Inglima (C’84, L’88) served as master of ceremonies for the celebration, which featured reminisces and reflections from Mlyniec, Henning, Dean William M. Treanor, former Dean Judy Areen, Associate Dean Jane Aiken and many clinic alumni. 

Areen recalled how the early 1970s were a changing and often turbulent time: Cambodia, Kent State, Watergate, Nixon’s resignation. Against this backdrop Areen, charged with hiring a director for the groundbreaking new clinic, chose Mlyniec, who was then just a few years out of law school. Today, he’s a leader in clinical education, the Lupo-Ricci professor of clinical legal studies and former associate dean for Georgetown Law’s top-ranked clinical programs.

Mlyniec said that Areen’s vision became “larger than [we] could imagine,” having a 40-year impact on the law, legal education, Georgetown itself and, of course, the lives of so many.

“They haunt the deepest parts of our minds…” Mlyniec said of the juvenile clinic clients, some of whom are between 50 and 60 years old today. “We don’t know what happens to them; all we can do is hope for the best.”

Thousands of young people over the years have been represented by more than 600 Georgetown Law students, including the Hon. Mary Lupo (L’74), the first student to be selected for the clinic in 1973; supporters Lynn Hiestand (L’75) and Elizabeth Weiser (C’86, L’92); 42 E. Barrett Prettyman fellows; and Lauren Dollar (L’13), the clinic’s first and current juvenile defense and policy fellow.

Former students described some of their experiences in the clinic in a video; others wrote down their memories on cards that graced the dinner tables. Representatives from 36 of the 42 clinic classes showed up in person.

“You worked hard, and I was sometimes hard on you … sometimes you won and sometimes you lost, but you always fought the good fight,” Mlyniec told the crowd. “You fought the good fight for beleaguered young children whose lives are buffeted every day from every side, children who deserve more.”

The future

Aiken, the associate dean for experiential education, made the bittersweet announcement that as of July 1, Mlyniec will be stepping down as director and assuming the role of senior counsel. Henning, who served as a Prettyman-Stiller Fellow at Georgetown Law during 1995-97 and returned to Georgetown in 2001 to co-direct the Juvenile Justice Clinic, will take over as director. 

Henning — who received a standing ovation and much praise along with Mlyniec and longtime executive assistant Wanda Duarte — described the work of the clinic going forward, including the new Georgetown Juvenile Justice Initiative to train practicing attorneys and shape policy. (For more information, click here.) “The end game is to win for all the kids,” Henning said.

As Areen noted, the actions we take today might be still sending ripples into the future 40 years later.  “I did the indispensable thing … I hired Wally Mlyniec, …” she said. “I want to wish you the joy of celebrating 40 years from now something you are working on today.”

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