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Thomas & Mack Legal Clinic

October 17, 2014

Confronting Invisible Punishments: The Collateral Consequences Project

Clinic students Geordan Logan and Keely Perdue
are bringing immigration law into Las Vegas
criminal practice.
After people are convicted of crimes and serve their sentences, they often discover that there are a myriad of other, invisible consequences that flow from criminal convictions, including impacts on child custody, parental rights, access to employment and housing, and the accrual of debt. For noncitizens, there is a danger of post-sentence detention by immigration authorities, followed by deportation. Because of these hidden collateral consequences, even minor crimes can shatter families and hobble individuals.

In the Collateral Consequences Project (CCP), students in the Thomas & Mack Clinic are at the frontlines of innovating new ways for lawyers to help their clients understand these invisible punishments, to avoid them through creative plea negotiating, and to be better prepared for the challenges they will face after conviction. Working with the Clark County Public Defender and other community partners, Clinic students are positioned to not only learn how to practice law, but to change the way law is practiced.

The Immigration Clinic has made the intersection of local criminal justice and federal immigration enforcement a primary focus. Clinic students consult with public defenders on cases involving immigrants to ensure that non-citizens know the immigration consequences of any plea bargain offered by prosecutors, and to help defense attorneys propose alternatives that meet the State’s objectives without a risk of deportation. Students in the Immigration Clinic have represented clients of the Public Defender in their immigration cases, and, as a pilot project this fall, are representing immigrants in misdemeanor cases in Las Vegas Justice Court.  Working with the National Immigration Law Center, students also helped persuade the Clark County Sheriff to change a policy that prevented immigrants from being released on bail.

In the Community: Thomas & Mack Legal Clinic One of Seven Organizations in the Nation to Receive Justice AmeriCorps Grant to Serve Immigrant Children

For immigrant children, immigration court is a daunting place and having a lawyer can mean the difference between staying here or being deported. Children are not entitled to appointed counsel in immigration court, and few, if any, can afford counsel.  In Las Vegas, children in immigration court will now get counsel through a new grant sponsored by the Justice Department and the Corporation for National and Community Service, which administers the AmeriCorps national service programs.

A Laboratory for Scholarship: Immigration Clinic Advocates for Rights of Mentally Incompetent in Removal Proceedings

The Immigration Clinic is at the forefront of advancing the rights of mentally incompetent individuals in deportation proceedings.  In addition to providing representation to mentally incompetent clients, the Clinic is actively shaping the legal landscape on issues of mental competence through scholarship and leadership in helping implement national-level policies. 

Clinic Connections: Lucy Flores JD ’10: Legislative Externship Paves the Way to a Career in Politics

Some students catch the political bug in law school. For Lucy Flores (BSL 2010), the legislative externship was a stepping-stone on her pathway to a political career. As a 2L in 2009, Flores participated in the legislative externship, which is offered every odd year during the biennial Nevada Legislative Session. A year later, Lucy graduated and successfully ran for the Nevada Assembly in 2010.  This fall she is a candidate for Nevada Lieutenant Governor.

Small Business and Nonprofit Legal Clinic

Student attorneys in the inaugural Small Business and Nonprofit Legal Clinic have embarked on a range of client projects, including forming a nonprofit that mentors children who have lost a guardian, representing a company that provides translations of self-help legal forms, and helping a nonprofit address the problem of unlicensed elder care facilities. In addition, the clinic helped the Kenny Guinn Center for Policy Priorities apply for tax-exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service.  The Guinn Center is a nonprofit, bipartisan, "think-do" tank that provides analysis of critical policy issues facing the state of Nevada. The Guinn Center was awarded tax-exempt status in August 2014.

Juvenile Justice

Students in the Juvenile Justice Clinic are extending their representation of their clients to include post-disposition work. By maintaining our close relationships with our clients during this crucial phase, we are able to assist them with, among other things, school disciplinary matters and compliance with conditions of probation, and thereby minimize recidivism.

Appellate Pro Bono

This fall law students are earning pro bono service hours handling pro bono appeals in the Nevada Supreme Court. Professor Anne Traum, who directs the Appellate Clinic and was instrumental in expanding the Nevada Appellate Pro Bono Program, recruited students to volunteer to work on the cases under the school’s Partners in Pro Bono Program, which pairs law students with attorneys handling pro bono cases. In September eight law students were paired with eight experienced appellate lawyers to handle pro bono appeals from around the state.  Having this one-on-one opportunity to work with an experienced lawyer is a valuable practical experience for students, who can get certified as student attorneys and handle most attorney tasks under supervision.  Student who complete sixty hours of pro bono service earn “Pro Bono Honors” on their transcript.

Mediation Clinic

The Mediation Clinic continues to work in partnership with Clark County's Family Court and the Neighborhood Justice Center where students mediate divorce and small claims cases.  In addition, Mediation Clinic students are engaged in projects to educate the legal community about different kinds of mediation and are also developing mediation training materials for mediators of small claims cases.