Spring 2016 Child Advocacy Clinic Student Attorneys
at the Henry Wade Juvenile Justice Center
Fall 2015 Chief Counsel
Courtney Clay and Bethanie Livernois
Because SMU Dedman School of Law has numerous clinical programs, and a finite number of spaces in each, students are selected for the clinics through a lottery system.
Students use a form to indicate which clinics they prefer. The student may rank each clinic one through seven based on which clinic he or she would most like to enroll. Students are selected through a random drawing and placed into the clinic that they ranked the highest until each clinic is full. Third year students are given priority in the lottery drawing. If a student is not selected for a clinic, the student’s name will be placed on the waiting list for one or more of the clinics. The Caruth Clinic routinely has a waiting list.
A clinic information session is held each semester before class registration where each of the clinics offers an explanation of the course. This meeting also allows students to learn what will be expected of them as a student attorney in each clinic.
ACADEMIC CREDIT AND STUDENT ELIGIBILITY
The Caruth Child Advocacy Clinic is a 5 credit course open to second and third year law students. Students are eligible to enter the clinic lottery if they have already completed 1/2 of their hours for graduation (45 hours). Students on academic probation are not eligible to enter the lottery.
Evidence is a prerequisite for the Caruth Child Advocacy Clinic.
The Clinic’s capacity is 8 students per semester in the fall and spring semesters. The child advocacy clinic is not offered during the summer.
Students enrolled in the Caruth Child Advocacy Clinic attend an intensive orientation before the semester commences. A segment of the orientation is geared specifically toward interdisciplinary training. The subjects covered during the mandatory orientation include an overview of child welfare cases, the role of the guardian/attorney ad litem, and professional responsibility issues.
ASSIGNMENT OF CASES
The Caruth Child Advocacy Clinic is appointed in a dual role as guardian ad litem and attorney ad litem (“GAL/AAL”) by the Dallas County Juvenile District Courts. Each student attorney is assigned 1-2 cases during the semester and may work with another student attorney depending on the complexity of the case.
During the semester, there are bi-weekly classes that focus on child advocacy law and the core practice issues relevant to it. The classes cover applicable federal and state law, procedural and ethical issues involved in the legal representation of children, and litigation skills (oral and written advocacy, drafting pleadings, interviewing and counseling, mediation, and trial preparation).
The class component of the clinic is extremely interactive, with the class discussing how legal concepts apply to real cases being handled by the student attorneys. To enhance the learning process and prepare students for upcoming court proceedings, students also engage in mock court situations, such as making oral presentations in the form of voir dire, opening and closing statements, direct examinations, and cross-examinations.
Dr. Matthew Cox, M.D., Co-Director, REACH Clinic -- Children's Medical Center
Dr. Kenneth Graves, Ph.D., Salesmanship Club of Dallas, Inc.
Michael Kotwal, Assistant District Attorney
Throughout the semester, various professionals from other disciplines come to speak to the students about how their field intersects with the child welfare system. Child and family psychologists, a CASA advocate, public defender, assistant district attorney, mediator, pediatrician, social workers, special education expert, and forensic interviewer are among the many that provide interdisciplinary lectures. They provide insight about how their work impacts the students’ cases and explain how the students can utilize their knowledge to better represent the child client in the legal process.
Cross-cultural lawyering is also focused on throughout the semester so that student attorneys will develop a set of behaviors, attitudes and policies that will enable them to understand their client’s world and behavior as the client understands it, as well as work professionally with clients and families from different cultures.
SUPERVISION OF STUDENT ATTORNEYS
Each week, students attend a tutorial with the director to review what is going on with the client and the case. The tutorials serve as a time outside of the classroom for the director to provide guidance to the student attorney and evaluate how the student attorney progresses in his role as GAL/AAL. Most of the fieldwork done by the students is unsupervised, except in complicated cases or cases with extremely serious abuse issues. Students are graded on a variety of factors, including class participation, case analysis, oral and written advocacy, client counseling and professionalism.
Student field work includes: interviewing child clients and their family members; investigating the facts of the removal with the Department of Family and Protective Regulatory Services, Child Protective Services (“DFPS-CPS”); interviewing health care professionals, school officials, day care workers, and the police; monitoring family services; attending meetings with DFPS-CPS; conducting home studies on potential relative placements for the children; observing the children while in foster care and during parent/child visitation; advocating for various services for the children; and working with Court Appointed Special Advocates (“CASA”).
Clinic Director, Diane Sumoski, with Child Advocacy Class, touring the Henry Wade Juvenile Justice Center, where the students handle their cases.
Students represent their clients at all hearings, mediation proceedings, and trial under the supervision of the director. Students give recommendations to the court as to what action is in the best interest of their client. If a case goes to trial, students sit as first chair attorneys. Several students have participated in lengthy jury trials and trials before the bench.
Students have the opportunity to participate in two to three court proceedings each semester.
The clinic works with the UT Southwestern Department of Pediatrics REACH (Referral and Evaluation of Abused Children) Program, which is the medical program for evaluation of abused and neglected children located at the Children’s Medical Center of Dallas (“CMC”). Child Maltreatment Grand Rounds are one hour seminars provided once a month to doctors, nurses and other professionals in the child welfare arena at CMC about specific types of child abuse and other related issues such as domestic violence and child internet pornography.
During the course of a semester, clinic students attend Grand Rounds. The students are able to learn what medical professionals actually see when an abused child and his family come to the hospital. The seminars are an open forum to learn and discuss how doctors and nurses should assess suspicious injuries to a child and how families respond to medical inquiries and intervention by the Department of Family and Protective Services.
CHIEF COUNSEL AND SUMMER FELLOWSHIPS
Students who have completed the clinic are eligible to apply for the position of Chief Counsel for any semester following their completion of the clinic course. Chief Counsels serve as mentors to the following semester’s child ad students, assist in file management, preparation for hearings and trial, and conduct ongoing clinic research. Chief Counsels earn 2 to 3 credit hours for the semester and receive a grade.
Summer Fellowships are available with the Caruth Child Advocacy Clinic for students who have completed their second and third year in law school. It is not required that the student complete a semester in the clinic prior to being a fellow. The fellowships are paid positions, and the hours that a student works are flexible.
The fellowships offer the students the opportunity to assist with the representation of children in ongoing cases, conduct research, and assist in planning seminars/symposiums.
Spring 2015 Chief Counsel
Barbara Makowiecki and Megan Simpson