Law Clinics Under Attack

From: 
Center for Campus Free Speech
What's happening: 

The New York Times recently wrote an article on a new legislative attack on academic freedom.[1] In two states, Louisiana and Maryland, legislators have introduced bills to restrict the cases and clients that law clinics at public universities can take on. These bills come hot on the heels of two high profile public interest lawsuits filed by clinics at the University of Maryland and Tulane.

Law clinics provide important hands-on training for law students at public universities across the nation. Challenges to the academic freedom of these law clinics are not new. Research from Professor Robert R. Keuhn at St. Louis University found that more than a third of faculty at law clinics expressed fears about university or state reaction to their casework and a sixth had turned down unpopular clients because of these fears.[2] But the two bills currently being considered are the first time that legislators have directly tried to restrict the opportunities afforded law students through these clinics. Both of these bills have been introduced at the behest of industries that have recently been the targets of lawsuits from public law clinics.

In Maryland the state senate tacked a provision onto a routine budget bill threatening millions of dollars of funding for the University of Maryland if its law clinic did not disclose information about its clients and finances. While our allies in Maryland were able to get the state assembly to remove this amendment, some of these provisions appear to have been reinserted in the final draft bill.

In Louisiana, State Senator Robert Adley has introduced a bill to prevent public law clinics from litigating against government entities, corporations, or individuals unless approved by the state legislature. The bill, being promoted by oil and gas companies, comes on the heels of a suit from the law clinic pushing for better enforcement of the Clean Air Act.

Both of these bills are attempts by powerful interests to restrict what amounts to course content and take control of those decisions out of the hands of faculty members. This legislation shows us that while Horowitz and his Academic Bill of Rights may have fallen out of style with the opponents of the academy, the attack on the free exchange of ideas is not over.

What you can do: 

The Center For Campus Free Speech and its partners are mobilizing in Louisiana and Maryland to oppose these two measures. If you are in one of those states and would like to help this effort you can contact Program Directo Adam Gaya at adam@campusspeech.org.