Recalling the famous injunction in Shakespeare’s King Henry VI — “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers”–Prof. Bennett Gershman devotes his latest blog entry on the Huffington Post to political attacks against law school clinics, in which law students represent real clients under supervision from attorneys.
For example, Gershman writes:” Oregon lawmakers, angry because students were suing the timber industry, threatened to shut down the entire state law school, but axed the environmental law clinic instead. Other states — including Pennsylvania, Colorado, Iowa, Idaho, Arizona and New Jersey — have threatened to cut off funding to stop the students’ litigation. Louisiana drastically limited the kinds of cases that students can litigate. Students in Illinois were forced to testify against an inmate they were seeking to exonerate. And several states, including Maryland and New Jersey, have tried to force students to divulge confidential client information.”
According to Gershman, today there are approximately 1,200 clinics in virtually all the country’s law schools. Yet environmental law clinics take the brunt of the political attacks. “Representing a family at risk of losing their home through foreclosure, or a battered woman, are likely not viewed as controversial cases, and would not encounter much political opposition. Suing big companies for polluting air and water, however, raises hackles, and it is here that the political battles are being fought nationally.”