Clinical Programs Newsletter

Clinical Programs Newsletter: Wednesday, November 12, 2014


Tamar Birckhead I’m thrilled to introduce the first edition of the UNC Clinical Programs Newsletter. UNC Clinical Programs, which was created in its current form in 1980, consists of five clinics and seven full-time faculty members. As you will see in the entries that follow, our program may be small, but it is rich in quality and innovation. Each year, we offer approximately 60 third-year law students the invaluable opportunity to learn both theory and practice while providing much-needed legal assistance to under-represented individuals and organizations. Our students operate as the ‘first chair’ in all their cases and matters. While they are closely supervised by experienced faculty who offer them comprehensive support and guidance, students learn to use their own professional judgment to provide legal representation to real clients.

UNC Law clinic students represent clients with a wide range of legal problems, and they handle litigation, transactional, and policy matters from beginning to end. They have the opportunity to reflect on the practice of law, to consider how to balance the demands of the clinic with other law school and personal commitments, and to develop the foundation for a meaningful professional life. Their law school education is greatly enhanced by the bonds they develop with their clients and the knowledge they gain about the relationship between law and social justice. For many students, participation in the Clinic is their most meaningful experience during law school.

Some of the current cases and projects handled by our Clinical Programs include the following:

Civil Legal Assistance Clinic

  • Students represent a community based affordable housing organization. Through a series of “know your rights” workshops, students provided legal advice to members of the organization on their rights as renters residing in a foreclosed property and the legal protections that exist to prevent landlords from enacting retaliatory evictions against tenants who engage in organizing activities.
  • Students are currently representing a family of four whose landlord knowingly rented them an apartment suffering from severe but latent mold. The mold became visible soon after the family moved into the premises, spreading over the walls, furniture and clothing. The children and their parents then developed respiratory and other medical problems. Clinic students attempted to negotiate with the landlord but when that was unsuccessful filed an action for monetary and injunctive relief. The family has evacuated due to the dangerous conditions but they remain committed to ensuring that the landlord repair the building. Clinic students are in the midst of discovery, and just last week did a superb job deposing the head of maintenance.

Community Development Law Clinic

  • Students have had the gratifying experience of working with several returning nonprofit clients. The clinic guided the formation of these organizations in the recent past and helped them apply for 501©(3) tax exempt status. The organizations have become so successful that they are growing rapidly and now seek the CDL Clinic’s advice about how to launch new chapters across the region and the country.

Consumer Financial Transactions Clinic

  • Students represent vulnerable consumers on cases involving foreclosure, predatory lending and unfair debt collection. Students are currently representing clients in active litigation before the District and Superior Courts. Students are also researching compliance with North Carolina's legislation prohibiting predatory practices by third-party debt buyers. In collaboration with state and national consumer advocacy groups, the students’ findings are being presented to federal regulators as they consider new rules for the debt buyer industry.

Immigration Clinic

  • In addition to representing victims of rape and domestic violence who are eligible for U Non-Immigrant Status, students are also representing the Clinic’s first unaccompanied minor from Central America who is eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status and for whom the students will appear in both North Carolina Family Court and Immigration Court. To prepare for their work, students started off the year with an intensive training on interviewing and counseling skills as well as a legal overview of immigration options for undocumented victims of domestic and sexual violence and unaccompanied minors. Guest speakers this semester have included researchers from the UNC School of Social Work, social workers from local domestic violence agencies, and prosecutors from the Orange and Chatham County District Attorneys offices.

Youth Justice Clinic

  • Students have represented dozens of children who are charged with criminal offenses (misdemeanors and felonies) in the juvenile delinquency courts of Orange, Durham, and Wake counties. They have also represented children in long-term school suspension hearings and appeals.
  • With the invaluable assistance of Jason Tuell, an MSW student from N.C. State University who is completing his fieldwork with us this year, law students have been able to provide holistic representation to their young clients and their families. Among the services that Jason Tuell has provided are the following:
    • Consulted with student attorneys in order to help them identify the client’s personal strengths, interests, and motivations relevant to the case
    • Performed assessments and provided referrals for services that clients may be interested in pursuing during or at the conclusion of their case
    • Drafted a biopsychosocial assessment of clients that were used by the student attorney during the course of representation (e.g., detention, disposition, review of probation)
    • Helped the student attorney facilitate interactions between clients and community resources that included formal services, community programs, and informal supports
    • Helped student attorneys understand any diagnosed disabilities of the client and advised them of services related to those disabilities
    • Assisted student attorneys in reviewing school documents (academic assessments, discipline reports, individual education plans, etc.)
    • Assisted the student attorney in advocating with the client’s school to obtain an individual education plan and/or to ensure compliance with the plan
    • Visited clients held in detention or placed out-of-home in order to provide emotional support.
    • Accompanied student attorneys to case-related meetings at school, court, or at a client’s home

Clinic Faculty

During the past two years, Clinic faculty have participated in an annual all-day Clinical Faculty retreat to reflect on the work of the past year and to plan for the next, and they have met monthly to hold clinical supervisory rounds and to discuss legal scholarship—their own as well as the works of others in clinical education. They have also facilitated a regular program of Clinical Programs Case Rounds for everyone in all the clinics, during which students present their casework to their peers and lead a discussion about the issues and problems raised.

In short, UNC Clinical Programs’ contributions to the client and legal communities in North Carolina and across the U.S. serve to increase access to justice, and our work is a critically important part of the public service mission of UNC Law.

Please enjoy this semester’s newsletter.

Tamar Birckhead
Director of Clinical Programs

Programs Events

Second Annual Clinical Programs End-of-Year Awards Luncheon Recognizes Outstanding Clinic Students

Professor Beth Posner and her student, Melanie Stratton Lopez

Melanie Stratton Lopez, third year law student and recipient of the CLEA Outstanding Student Award for 2014, with Prof. Beth Posner of the Immigration Clinic.

On Monday, April 14, 2014, UNC Clinical Programs held its Second Annual End-of-Year Awards Luncheon, during which the 60 third-year law students who participated in the clinic during the 2013-14 academic year were recognized as they enjoyed a catered lunch from the Indian restaurant, Mint. Read More...

Casework News

Prof. Laura Britton and CFT Clinic Students File Amicus Brief in N.C. Supreme Court Case

Prof. Britton This year, the CFT Clinic was solicited by two attorneys in Concord, North Carolina, to write an amicus brief in a case before the North Carolina Supreme Court. The case involved a mortgage transaction in which misrepresentations on the part of the mortgage agent caused the plaintiffs to incur nearly $200,000 in personal liability on a debt they would not otherwise have entered into. Plaintiffs sought damages for breach of fiduciary duty and negligent misrepresentation.


Programs Updates

USPTO Selects UNC to Join Trademark Law School Pilot Program

Prof. Devon White This semester UNC School of Law students have a new hands-on learning opportunity: providing trademark counsel to entrepreneurs in conjunction with a program of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

UNC was among 19 schools the USPTO selected this past summer to participate in the Law School Clinic Certification Pilot Program. Twenty-eight other law schools currently are involved. North Carolina Central University School of Law is the only other North Carolina school represented.

“Carolina Law students now have the invaluable opportunity to gain real-world experience in the complex area of intellectual property law,” says associate professor of law and director of Clinical Programs Tamar Birckhead. “We are preparing them to serve as the next generation of lawyers to protect American ideas and support innovation, while providing pro bono legal representation to more communities. Our participation in the program will help ensure that these small businesses will have the resources to grow, create jobs and compete in the global marketplace.” Read More...

Jason Tuell, Student Social Worker, Joins UNC Clinical Programs

NC State School of Social Work

Jason Tuell is a student social worker in his second year of the MSW program at NC State University and the inaugural fieldwork intern at UNC Clinical Programs. After graduating from UNC-Asheville in 2008 with honors, Jason spent five years working with Easter Seals UCP in their crisis intervention program, NC START, serving adults who are dually diagnosed with developmental disability and mental illness. It is within this program that Jason developed a passion for strength-based assessment and trauma-informed care. Read More...

Kellie Mannette Joins Youth Justice Clinic for Fall 2014

Kellie Mannette Kellie Mannette is a 2009 graduate of UNC Law School who is spending this semester as an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Youth Justice Clinic. Kellie spent her first two years out of law school as an Osborn Fellow with the Fair Trial Initiative. In this role, she assisted trial teams handling cases in which clients were facing the death penalty. After completing this fellowship, Kellie started a solo practice in Chapel Hill. Read More...

New Bilingual Program Assistants Join the Staff

Katie Bucrek Joan Huertas UNC Clinical Programs has the good fortune to welcome two new bilingual program assistants this semester, Katie Bucrek and Joan Huertas. Read More...

Alumni Update

Chris Heaney, Class of 2013

Chris Heaney We recently heard from Chris Heaney, who graduated in 2013, having participated in the Civil Legal Assistance Clinic. He writes: Participating in the UNC Civil Legal Assistance Clinic was one of the most challenging and rewarding parts of law school, and the best preparation I had for working at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and then finding a position with NC Prisoner Legal Services, where I started in August 2014. Read More...

Clinic Administration

Five Questions for Tamar Birckhead, Director of UNC Clinical Programs

Prof. Birckhead with clinic students
Prof. Birckhead with clinic students, Catherine Bruce and Ana Spitzley

Clinic Director, Prof. Tamar Birckhead, was recently interviewed for the new Clinical Law Prof Blog. You may read the text of the interview below.

Last month the University of North Carolina School of Law appointed Professor Tamar Birckhead as Director of Clinical Programs. Today she is the first subject of a new series for the blog, Five Questions, in which we ask professors to reflect on their work and life in the academy. Read More...

Faculty Awards

NC Law Review Symposium Highlights Clinical Programs Faculty

NC Law Review Symposium 2014 The 2014 North Carolina Law Review Symposium on "Vulnerable Defendants and the Criminal Justice System" highlighted the faculty in UNC's Clinical Programs. One of the co-chairs and coordinators of the Symposium was Prof. Tamar Birckhead, Director of Clinical Programs. Prof. Kathryn Sabbeth of the Civil Legal Assistance Clinic served as a panelist and discussed her research on the attorney's role when representing socially vulnerable defendants. Read More...

Prof. Tom Kelley's New Article on Epistemological Dissonance in a Recent Human Rights Case

Prof. Kelley in Niger Prof. Tom Kelley has a new article published in the Quinnipiac Law Review, "Apples to Oranges: Epistemological Dissonance in the Human Rights Case, Hadijatou
ani v
. Niger." It is available forfree download.

Prof. Kathryn Sabbeth's New Article, "Capital Defenders as Outsider Lawyers"

Prof. Sabbeth Prof. Kathryn Sabbeth of the Civil Legal Assistance Clinic has a new article, "Capital Defenders as Outsider Lawyers," published in the Chicago-Kent Law Review, which was written for a Symposium on Intragroup Dissent and Its Legal Implications. It is available for free download, and an excerpt from the introduction appears below. Read More...

Prof. Judith Wegner's New Article on Legal Education Reform

Prof. Wegner Prof. Judith Wegner, who teaches in the Community Development Law Clinic, has a new article published in the Journal of Dispute Resolution entitled, "Cornerstones, Curb Cuts and Legal Education Reform," which is available for free download. Read More...

Prof. Erika Wilson's New Article on Public Education, Race, and Inequality

Prof. Wilson Prof. Erika Wilson of the Civil Legal Assistance Clinic has a new article, "Toward a Theory of Equitable Federated Regionalism in Public Education," which has been published in the UCLA Law Review. The abstract appears below. Read More...

Faculty Service

Prof. Barbara Fedders, a Founding Director of New Non-Profit: Youth Justice North Carolina

Prof. Fedders Prof. Barbara Fedders is one of ten founding members of the Board of Directors of a new non-profit organization, Youth Justice North Carolina (YJNC). She also is serving as its Interim Executive Director. Read More...

Prof. Beth Posner Teaches at ABA Training Institute

Professor Beth Posner On September 9 & 10, 2014, Prof. Beth Posner served as faculty for the ABA Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence's training institute, Representing Victims of Intimate Partner Sexual Violence in Civil Litigation, in Washington DC. The Institute was designed to provide attorneys from across the country with the opportunity to enhance their skills and knowledge about providing more effective representation to victims of intimate partner sexual violence through civil litigation. The Institute focused on the range of legal remedies and advocacy possibilities available to intimate partner sexual violence survivors; incorporating trauma-informed practice in interviewing and counseling; and other litigation strategies, including crafting case theory, evidence collection, and trial advocacy.

Prof. Beth Posner Teaches Two-Day Child Custody & Domestic Violence Program for ABA

Prof. Posner In April 2014, Professor Beth Posner, who currently teaches the Immigration Clinic, conducted a two-day CLE (continuing legal education program) on "Litigation Training: Representing Victims of Domestic Violence in Custody Cases." Read More...

To learn more about UNC Law Clinical Programs, please visit You may also contact Professor Tamar Birckhead, Director of Clinical Programs, at Join our Facebook page Follow us on Twitter Follow us on LinkedIn Follow us on Instagram Follow us on iTunes U Follow us on Vimeo Follow us on Google+

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