Experiment on K Street
The apartment was almost uninhabitable. A sewage backup that had caused one tenant to vacate the building was making life miserable for the family that lived upstairs. Water had flooded a common stairwell and a foul odor wafted through the air. The noxious aroma was so pervasive in the family’s second bathroom that it had to be closed off completely. For nearly two months the landlord did no maintenance or repair work to remedy the problem.
But this family was lucky. They found a legal services lawyer who helped them learn about their rights under the District of Columbia’s housing law and wrote a letter demanding immediate action from the landlord. Within 24 hours, the situation was under control.
Most people aren’t so fortunate. According to a report prepared by the D.C. Access to Justice Commission, approximately 100,000 people in the District lack access to legal representation in civil matters. Approximately 97 percent of defendants in landlord-tenant court represent themselves, and more than 98 percent of plaintiffs in both child support and domestic violence cases have no lawyer. Nationwide, the numbers are much the same. Millions of Americans cannot pay for legal services when they need them.
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Saving the Children
Allie Federoff (L’14), now a staff attorney at the Children’s Law Center, will never forget the client she represented in Georgetown Law’s Juvenile Justice Clinic during the 2013-2014 school year: a 17-year-old mother who was arrested for stealing diapers and baby wipes from a grocery store. A full-time student with no history of drug use, the girl had no relationship with her parents, no support from the six-month-old baby’s father and was living with a relative who was allegedly spending the benefits that should have gone to her child. “She didn’t have any money and she didn’t have any adult to help her,” Federoff says.
With her client charged with second-degree theft and shoplifting, Federoff had to consider whether to go to trial or to take a plea offer, which meant pleading to one of those two misdemeanors. “We did our ‘pros and cons’ chart, which we do with all of our clients in the clinic; the store had a clear surveillance video, so going to trial would have meant pretty clearly losing. We ended up pleading to shoplifting.”
The girl received six months’ probation, during which time Federoff concentrated on helping her in other areas of her life: getting Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Social Security benefits switched to her own name when she turned 18, connecting her to a diaper bank and Bread for the City, creating a budget, helping her look for an apartment. “I was happy to have gotten to know her, but it still makes me incredibly frustrated and angry to think that she got into the criminal justice system basically because of her poverty,” Federoff says. “Does she steal diapers or does she let her child go without? Obviously I would not condone stealing, but at the same time, I don’t know what many people would do if they were in her position.”
Since 1973, thousands of young people charged with delinquency in the District of Columbia have been represented by more than 600 current and former students of the Georgetown Law’s Juvenile Justice Clinic, founded by Professor Wally Mlyniec (L’70) and former Dean Judy Areen. More recently, the work of the clinic has benefited from the leadership of Professor Kristin Henning (LL.M.’97), who took over the director role from Mlyniec on July 1.
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The Power of Service
It has made things so much easier,” says one Opportunity Scholarship recipient. “At the end of the day … contributions really do make a difference.”
The generosity of alumni “opens doors for people,” says another.
A third says that the donor’s investment in her education “means the world to me.”
In the following article, you will meet three Opportunity Scholars, deserving, high-merit law students who are benefiting from the generosity of three Georgetown Law alumni.
You will also meet three donors, whose gifts of $30,000 ($10,000 a year for three years) provide some of our most qualified J.D. candidates with access to a Georgetown Law education.
These alumni give to help students and honor loved ones. They give because they believe in the power of service to a greater good. They give because the experience they had at Georgetown continues to inform and enrich their lives and careers. They give because once someone helped them, and it made all the difference.
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Faculty Article: Parenthood: Sacred Trust or Sacred Right?
By Jeffrey Shulman
There are good reasons why the right to parent has not enjoyed a fundamental status in the law. To begin with, the right to parent is not one, but many, things — a bundle of different interests, each implicating the authority of parent and state in different ways and to different degrees. No surprise, then, that “[f]ar from the absolutist’s assumption of strict scrutiny for every incursion, the Court’s cases reveal a willingness, at least implicitly, to tailor the nature and strength of judicial scrutiny to the facts of each family privacy controversy.”
Yet all parental rights cases have one thing in common that even more emphatically cautions against strict scrutiny: They involve a third party, and one who is unable to defend its own interests. Other liberty interests establish a constitutional shield against governmental impairment of individual rights, but conflicts involving parental rights — Justice John Paul Stevens made this important if, one would think, self-evident point — “do not present a bipolar struggle between the parents and the State over who has final authority to determine what is in a child’s best interests.”
The interests of the child — who may well need the protection of the state, not protection from the state — and the state’s interest in the child invariably affect the legal reckoning.
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To Hell and Back: A Career Prosecutor Reflects on the Aurora Theater Shooting Trial
Alumni Essay by Rich Orman (L'91)
When I went to law school at Georgetown, I never thought that I would do criminal law. I thought maybe I would do transactions. Maybe environmental litigation. After a few years in practice, I found that I wanted action. I wanted to be in the courtroom. So I took a different path, and have been a prosecutor since 1997. I have prosecuted everything from “dog at large” to sexual assault to murder. But my life as a prosecutor, and the memory of my career as a lawyer, will be defined by one case and one case only: the Aurora Theater shooting case.
I have handled many murder cases. I have been to gruesome crime scenes, and I thought that I had seen the worse that humanity had to offer. Nothing in my experience prepared me for July 20, 2012. That was the worst day in the history of my city — Aurora, Colorado. On that day a man entered the Century 16 theater — a theater I had visited many times to watch a movie — armed with an assault rifle, a shotgun, a handgun and over 700 rounds of ammunition. He aimed to kill 400. By happenstance or dumb luck or the intervention of divine providence (who can know which?), his rifle jammed. He “only” killed 12, and he “only” injured about 70 others.
When I was asked to be part of the team that would prosecute this case, I volunteered without hesitation. I knew the pain, the heartache and the deprivations that would be involved, but any prosecutor who would not want to take a case like this with every fiber of his being should find another line of work.
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