Statement of ABA President Lamm Re: Louisiana Senate Bill 549 to Restrict Law School Clinic Activities
WASHINGTON, D.C., May 12, 2010—The legal assistance provided by law school clinics to members of the public who cannot afford to hire lawyers when crises strike is an immense contribution to the health and well-being of communities and ensures our citizens of access to justice to protect the most basic rights.
In Louisiana, students working for clients through law school clinics help them obtain housing, a critical and fundamental need in ongoing struggles to recover from Hurricane Katrina. They help victims of domestic violence escape abuse and rebuild their lives. They represent minors confronting difficult family problems. And they work to preserve clean air and water, an especially relevant concern given the events now taking place just off the shores of coastal Louisiana.
Yet the Louisiana legislature is preparing to debate SB549, a bill that would effectively cut off that source of legal assistance to the state’s citizens. The American Bar Association recognizes that environmental, family, housing and other public policy concerns are complex. But eliminating these legal assistance programs could have significant consequences for the clients and the state as a whole.
We urge the state legislature to consider that these law clinics represent the people of Louisiana who have very real and immediate problems but few resources to solve them. Depriving the poorest citizens of these vital services is an affront to their dignity, and for many, diminishes their very means of survival.
The American Bar Association commends the students in Louisiana’s law schools who stand ready to help people who have no other recourse, and urges the legislature to welcome their contribution to making legal assistance available to the state’s neediest citizens, not thwart those students working to solve people’s problems. SB 549 should be withdrawn.