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Community Service 2012

Thursday, September 20, 2012   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Karen Forman
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Two weeks before the traditional curriculum begins, all first year students participate in the Law and Justice course designed and taught by Dr. Edgar S. Cahn, co-founder of the Antioch School of Law and UDC-DCSL professor. The course introduces students to the School of Law's educational philosophy and it’s Community Service Program. Each year, Dr. Cahn begins the class by asking students to share with their classmates the response they gave on the law school's application about a significant form of injustice to which they had been subjected. Students learn that their personal knowledge of injustice is a shared asset they bring to a profession that historically draws individuals from privileged and insular backgrounds. During the course, students are introduced to legal analysis and to case briefing in the context of issues that affect historically under-served populations. Practicing attorneys are invited to describe their political, media and legal strategies. At the conclusion of the course, students are matched with faculty advisors and 2nd and 3rd year student mentors who guide them through 40 hours of pro bono local legal community service that is performed during the first year of law school. Through the Community Service Program, students are introduced to Washington, D.C., its issues, and a cross section of policymakers and individuals who make the District of Columbia and its programs work. Here are a few highlights of student’s experiences:

 

Amendment to DCMR drafted by UDC-DCSL first year student Dominick Mecca to be introduced to DC Council

Dominick Mecca
Dominick performed his community service in the chambers of Councilmember Marion Barry, serving residents of the District of Columbia and Ward 8 in particular. A disabled woman, who is the primary caretaker of her elderly mother, also disabled, contacted the Councilmember with a problem. The daughter/caretaker drives to her mother’s home daily. Mother does not drive. Although the daughter/caretaker has a reserved handicapped parking space in front of her home, there was no place for her to park near her mother’s home. Currently a resident must have a driver's license in order to apply for a reserved (handicapped) parking space. Dominic drafted an amendment to the DCMR which would allow individuals like this constituent's elderly mother, who does not have a driver’s license, to apply for a reserved space in front of their home to be used by a care-giver, or one who provides them with transportation.

 

As A Youth Court Judge Latoia Williams-Dyson Asks Each Young Person To Identify Goals For Their Future And Develop A Plan To Get There


LaToia Williams-Dyson believes the juvenile justice system must provide victims with a sense of justice and provide juvenile offenders with opportunities to develop skills to avoid the mistakes they made in the past. Youth Court was a natural fit. Youth Court is a diversion program for juveniles charged with misdemeanors. Based on theories of restorative justice, the sentence seeks to make the victim whole and also focus the needs of the offender (a juvenile charged with shoplifting may be required to participation in a Youth Education for Shoplifters Program, write a letter of apology to the shop owner and serve as a youth court juror for his/her peers). After many hours of training, Latoia had the opportunity to serve as a Youth Court Judge. In addition to ensuring an appropriate sentence for each young person that who came before the court she asked them to identify goals for their future and develop a plan to get there. Latoia is impressed with the community’s commitment to the Youth Court Program and plans to stay involved though out law school.


Inspired by work at the Quality Trust for Individuals with Disabilities, Johan Fatemi and his Classmates Start the First Disability Rights Group at the School of Law

Jehan Fatemi
Johan Fatemi performed his Community Service at the Quality Trust for Individuals with Disabilities. Quality Trust is an organization that focuses on ensuring that individuals with developmental disabilities are treated with dignity and that they enjoy all the legal rights and benefits that are accorded to them by the law. In preparation for a community education session, Johan researched D.C’s Adult Guardianship Law, a highly restrictive legal action that removes some or all decision-making authority from a person. Johan was impressed that Quality Trust’s approach was to advocate for the least restrictive level of support that may work for an individual. "Quality Trust sees the inherent value in disabled individuals and cautions against the discounting of someone’s worth merely because that person may differ in abilities.”

Inspired by the themes of economic and social justice from the Law and Justice curriculum and his work at Quality Trust, Johan and a few other classmates founded UDC-DCL’s Disability Rights and Advocacy Society, the first disability rights-oriented group recognized by the School of Law. Their mission is, in part, to promote legal advocacy to resolve or ameliorate issues and challenges facing the developmentally-disabled and to work with other disability rights advocates within the District of Columbia to heighten community awareness and to create a network between advocacy organizations.

 

By Listening to the Community the Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee Focuses On Policy Change


Noha El Maraghi volunteered in the legal department of the Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. Although the organization has been in existence for many years, the rate of anti-Arab activity has increased markedly since 9/11. While conducting intake, Noha spoke to people subjected to racist insults, humiliation, and harassment. Callers were Arab and non-Arabs who looked Middle Eastern. Many had been in the United States for generations. It was initially disheartening for Noha to realize that racist behavior was not usually actionable. She learned that by listening to many voices in the community the Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee could identify emerging trends, and then select a particularly poignant example to bring to the public’s attention and focus on policy change.

 

Kathryn Blevins Reaffirms her Commitment to Work for a Real Safety Net for Homeless Families

Kathryn Blevins
While conducting intake for Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, Kathryn Blevins met Ms. S, who was seeking shelter for herself and her 14 children and grandchildren. Ms. S. had previously accepted shelter from a "friend” so she and her children wouldn’t have to sleep on the streets. After discovering that the "friend” molested two of her children she left immediately. Again homeless, Ms. S sought shelter through DC centralized intake services. She had gone that route before, but was unable to submit certain documents because she couldn’t get in touch with caseworkers. Finally approved for public housing, there were no units large enough to house her and her family. She couldn’t even find temporary shelter unless the temperature dropped below freezing overnight. Ms. S and her family had no one and nowhere to turn. Kathryn feels strongly that the system must be reformed to provide a real safety net for families.

Before law school Kathryn worked in an administrative capacity processing applications for SSI benefits. She was told repeatedly not to care about the people behind the claims. Kathryn refuses to give up her sense of compassion and justice. Kathryn’s community service experience affirmed her conviction to become an attorney for the homeless.

 

Royale Simms Credits the Skills She Learned in Her First Year Writing Course to Become A Change Agent for Homeless Persons


Royale Simms is a seasoned volunteer. In high school she volunteered in food drives, in college as an intern with the NAACP, and after college with AmeriCorps. Her strategy was to focus on the desired outcome (pounds of food collected, number of voters educated, number of volunteers recruited), and work hard. She was almost always successful. Royale did her community service at SOME (So Others Might Eat), a community-based organization that provides food, clothing, and health care and helps to help to break the cycle of homelessness by offering services, such as affordable housing, job training, addiction treatment, and counseling, to the poor, the elderly and individuals with mental illness. Royale’s work at SOME was different than all of her past volunteer experiences. She worked as hard as ever but focusing on the outcome was no longer enough. She had to look at the possibilities of what could be accomplished under the law. She used her emerging analytical skills to look at how existing laws affect the homeless. Royale credits the skills she learned in her first year writing course to become a change agent for homeless persons served by SOME.

 

Good Lawyering Requires Looking at the Underlying Web of Issues Causing an Immediate Problem

Sean Brown
Sean Brown worked with Suspending Suspensions in DC Public Schools, a project of the Juvenile and Special Education Law Clinic’s Took Crowell Institute for At-Risk Youth. During training, he learned the specifics of the suspension process, but an issue that kept arising was the unmet special education needs of many of the students. When these needs went unaddressed, both academic performance and behavior often decline, leading a student into the school disciplinary system. Sean saw that schools are often reluctant to provide costly special education services. He learned that a broader and more robust use of the Medicaid program can pay for some health-related benefits including eyeglasses, psychological, or speech-language pathology services, with minimal D.C. budget implications since the Medicaid money is subsidized by the federal government.

Medicaid policies were not a connection Sean would have initially associated to the problem of school discipline. Through community service Sean learned that while addressing the immediate issue at hand, good problem-solving and therefore good lawyering requires looking at the underlying web of issues that may contribute to a problem.


Justice for Child-Victims Requires Services to Help Him or Her Heal

Teresa Cole
While working with the CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) program on behalf of young girls in custody of DC’s Child and Family Services Agency, Teresa Cole saw that even with a team of professionals working on their behalf, many girls do not see justice done, or receive services to meet their needs. This is especially true for girls who are abused by their parents or involved in sex trafficking. Teresa saw that sanctioning an abusive parent, or even arresting the pimp who trafficked a child victim, is not the only justice needed. Justice for a victim comes in healing. Services that promote healing need to be tailored to the particular child and provided over a long period of time. Teresa will continue to work with the CASA program and hopes to push for more services that are geared towards justice and healing for all child-victims.

 

 

Full List of Community Service 2012 Placements
  • Advocates for Justice in Education (AJE), Kenneth Isaacs
  • American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Kimberly Cope
  • American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Arielle Schwartz
  • Bill of Rights Defense Committee, Adam Arnold
  • CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) for the Children of D.C., Teresa Cole
  • CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) for the Children of D.C., Puja Phull
  • Central American Resource Center (CARECEN), Rosana Chavez
  • Central American Resource Center (CARECEN), Malvina De La Canal
  • D.C. Prisoners’ Project – The District of Columbia Bar, Jeff Black
  • D.C. Prisoners’ Project – The District of Columbia Bar, Gabe Whitbread
  • D.C. Superior Court, Peter Often
  • D.C. Superior Court, Veronica Sauceda
  • DC Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, David Beverly
  • DC Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, Jamie Jacobson
  • DC Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, Colleen Krizulevicz
  • DC Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, Jon Steingart
  • DC Council – Councilmember Marion Barry (Ward 8), Dominick Mecca
  • DC Employment Justice Center (EJC), Christopher Allen
  • DC Employment Justice Center (EJC), Monica Castro
  • DC Employment Justice Center (EJC), Achiya Yaffe
  • DC Superior Court Judge, Sondra Jones
  • DC Survivors and Advocates for Empowerment, Inc. (DC SAFE), Audryana Camacho
  • DC Survivors and Advocates for Empowerment, Inc. (DC SAFE), Dominic Del Corso
  • DC Survivors and Advocates for Empowerment, Inc. (DC SAFE), John Lavinus
  • DC Survivors and Advocates for Empowerment, Inc. (DC SAFE), Ryan McCoy
  • DC Survivors and Advocates for Empowerment, Inc. (DC SAFE), Jonell Henderson
  • Dr. Cahn’s "Suspending Suspensions” Group ("Medicaid” Group), Sean Brown
  • Dr. Cahn’s Special Education Initiative (for DC Tax Day), Felista Njuguna
  • Housing Organization in the District of Columbia, Kimberly Lauer
  • Maggio & Kattar, Juanita Flessas
  • Manni, Inc., Elonna Ekweani
  • Montgomery County Office of Human Rights, Carolina Ramallo
  • National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC), Leslie Valentin
  • National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC), Pegah Eftekhari
  • National Home Comers Academy, Prasant Dubey
  • Office of the Bar Counsel, Julia Gagne
  • Our Place DC. Ryan Jones
  • Phi Alpha Delta’s Annual Tax Day (Sponsored by Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton), Dana Blond
  • Quality Trust for Individuals with Disabilities, Ashley Cooks
  • Quality Trust for Individuals with Disabilities, Johan Fatemi
  • Quality Trust for Individuals with Disabilities, Clayton Vormstein-Fox
  • Quality Trust for Individuals with Disabilities, Jessica Watkins
  • Quality Trust for Individuals with Disabilities, Royale Simms
  • So Others May Eat (SOME), Dianne Wallace
  • Street Law Program, Noha El Maraghi
  • The Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Pegah Afshar
  • Time Dollar Youth Court, Jason Facci
  • Time Dollar Youth Court, Jeremy Ridgeway
  • Time Dollar Youth Court, Jonathan Webb
  • Time Dollar Youth Court, La Toia Williams Dyson
  • Time Dollar Youth Court, Nur Mannan
  • TimeBanks USA, Madeline McKeller
  • TimeBanks USA – Racial Justice Initiative, Jaime Bergerson
  • UDC-DCSL Juvenile and Special Education Law Clinic, Kathryn Blevins
  • Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, Pat Henry
  • Youth Court of the District of Columbia (Boy’s Club), EJ Madden


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