Publicized Instances of Interference in Law School Clinics

Publicized Instances of Interference in Law School Clinics





University of Mississippi 1968 Clinical professors on desegregation lawsuit are dismissed under employment policy. Court rules dismissal unlawful and employment policy is rescinded.
University of Connecticut 1971 Dean proposes that clinic cases be approved by the dean and faculty. Policy is rescinded because of American Bar Association Ethics Opinion 1208.
University of Arkansas 1975 Legislative rider states that no professor can handle or assist in any lawsuit. Court rules restriction unconstitutional.
University of Tennessee 1977 Tennessee Valley Authority pressures school to drop clinic lawsuit. Clinical professor removes case from clinic and handles case on his own.
University of Colorado 1980 Business interests are critical of clinic advocacy group working out of school. Dean successfully deflects criticism.
University of Oregon 1980 University donor criticizes clinic and withholds $250,000 gift. University president severs ties with outside sponsor.
University of Tennessee 1981 Attorney general challenges clinic request for attorneys’ fees in suit against the state. New trustees policy prohibits significant suits against the state.
University of Colorado 1981 Legislation prohibits law professors from assisting in suit against the government. Governor vetoes legislation.
University of Oregon 1981 Timber interests are critical of outside sponsorship of clinic. University president says clinic must sever ties with outside sponsor.
University of Iowa 1981 Legislation proposed that would prohibit funds for suits against the state. Legislation is defeated.
University of Connecticut 1981 Legislator threatens legislation to restrict criminal clinic. Legislation is never introduced.
University of Idaho 1982 Legislation proposed that would prohibit courses that assist in suits against the state. Legislation passes only one chamber of the legislature.
University of Oregon 1982 Opponent seeks to depose clinic and dean over funding. Court says depositions are allowed.
University of Oregon 1983 Timber interests allege clinic is illegally using public funds for private benefit. Attorney general says educational goals are a public benefit.
University of Oregon 1986 Ethics complaint alleges clinic’s selective evidence misled judge. Ethics board deems complaint without merit.
Rutgers University, Newark 1987 State claims law prohibits clinic from appearing opposite agency. Court says there is no violation of conflict-of-interest statute.
University of Maryland 1987 Governor proposes that clinic funding be contingent on not suing the state. Policy is withdrawn, but the clinic must notify the state before suing.
Northwestern University 1990 Attorney for the defense in case pressures university to withdraw and sues clinic attorney. University rebuffs pressure, and suit against clinic attorney is dismissed.
University of Oregon 1993 Legislature threatens to defund law school over clinic cases. Clinic moves off campus and operates as a public-interest law firm.
Tulane University 1993 Governor threatens to cut state funds over clinic director’s comments. University president says director has academic freedom.
Tulane University 1993 Governor asks state supreme court to investigate clinic activities. Court says there is no reason to exercise oversight.
Arizona State University 1995 Legislator threatens to cease all funding of clinics. Rider is adopted that prohibits clinic from participating in prisoner suits against the state.
Rutgers University, Newark 1997 Opponent in lawsuit challenges clinic’s right to represent citizens against the state. Court says help is not improper donation of public funds.
Tulane University 1997 Governor and industry threaten to cease university funding and donations and seek restrictions on clinic cases. State supreme court imposes limits on clinic representation.
Saint Mary’s University (Texas) 2000 Law dean is unhappy with clinic’s human-rights case against Mexico. Dean unilaterally withdraws clinic from case.
University of Pittsburgh 2001 Legislator threatens to reduce university funding because of forest suit. Budget for university prohibits use of state funds for environmental clinic.
University of Pittsburgh 2001 University threatens to cut funding and close clinic over its involvement in highway dispute. University changes stance and refuses to restrict clinic.
University of Denver 2002 Alumni attorneys complain after clinic seeks fee award in successful case. Professor ordered not to seek fees but does; his position is not renewed.
University of Houston 2002 District attorney refuses to hire students who participated in innocence clinic. After news reports, district attorney denies he discriminates.
University of North Dakota 2003 Legislator complains that clinic cannot represent clients against the state. Attorney general says nothing in state law prevents such suits.
University of North Dakota 2004 Rejected client claims bias in clinic’s case-selection criteria. Court says plaintiff is allowed to put on proof of discrimination.
Hofstra University 2006 Trustee threatens to withhold funds after clinic lawsuit against trustee’s properties. University president rebuffs attack, citing academic freedom.
Rutgers University, Newark 2008 Opponent makes public records request for clinic’s internal documents. Court says public records law does not require access to case information.
University of Michigan 2010 District attorney lists innocence-clinic students as witnesses for prosecution. District attorney drops case after witness list is challenged.
University of Maryland 2010 Legislative rider conditions funding on report of clinic’s cases, expenditures, and funding. Rider is amended to drop funding conditions and to limit required report.
Tulane University 2010 Bill introduced to strip funds to universities whose clinics sue the state or seek monetary damages. Legislation is defeated in committee after public outcry.
Adapted and reprinted with permission from Robert R. Kuehn and Bridget M. McCormack, “Lessons from Forty Years of Interference in Law School Clinics,” Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics 24, no. 1 (2010).