Clinical Programs Newsletter

Clinical Programs Newsletter: Friday, August 25, 2017


Clinical Programs faculty.
Clinical Program faculty members.

UNC Clinical Program’s mission is to equip students with the skills and habits of mind to be ethical, empathetic, thoughtful, and zealous advocates. We aim to teach students to think critically and to act constructively in addressing society’s legal needs. Working in the flagship public law school for the state, we take seriously our responsibilities to serve all North Carolinians, particularly those otherwise unable to afford legal assistance. Members of the UNC Law faculty who teach in the Clinic make significant legal and policy contributions to the intellectual life of the law school, the university, and the state. This issue of the UNC Clinical Programs newsletter demonstrates the commitment of the students, staff, and faculty toward actualizing our mission during the 2016-2017 academic year.

Casework News

Civil Legal Assistance Clinic

The Civil Legal Assistance Clinic (“Civil Clinic”) had a banner year. Between August 2016 through April 2017, students in the Civil Clinic represented clients and organizations in a range of civil matters involving employment discrimination, substandard housing conditions, fair housing issues, and wage and hour issues, to name a few. A representative sample of the work done by Civil Clinic students includes representing two clients who alleged that they were discriminated against by their employer on the basis of the race, gender, and national origin in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The students drafted a complaint, drafted discovery requests, drafted a mediation position statement, and ultimately resolved the case on behalf of the clients during a mediation. 

Civil Clinic Students Kaylan Meaza and Rhian Mayhew pose with Clients after successful mediation
Civil Clinic Students Kaylan Meaza and Rhian Mayhew pose with Clients after successful mediation

Consumer Financial Transactions Clinic

The Consumer Financial Transactions Clinic at UNC School of Law spent the year representing individuals in their disputes with federal agencies, formal and informal lenders, automobile companies, housing authorities, and credit reporting agencies. This year was particularly interesting as student attorneys wrestled with the intersection of consumer protection and immigration, finding that immigration status made our clients particularly vulnerable to financial fraud and abuse. Challenges aside, the clinic boasted important successes this year. Students obtained a settlement for a client who was the victim of an automobile seller and lender’s unfair and deceptive practices, secured public housing for a client fighting inaccurate credit reporting issues, filed suits against a landlord and a personal lender for violations of state consumer protection laws, and counseled clients on creating LLCs and trusts to protect their financial interests. The CFT Clinic also developed critical relationships, referral sources, and information resources to be able to tackle issues related to student debt, including representing three student borrowers in their pursuit of student debt relief from financial obligations related to defunct educational institutions.  

Community Development Law Clinic

Community Development Law Clinic Students in this two-semester clinic provide general corporate and transactional counsel to North Carolina nonprofit community development organizations. They work on a wide and ever-changing variety of legal matters including federal, state and local taxation, land-use planning, zoning compliance, employment law, state licensure, contract negotiation and drafting, risk management (including the review of existing insurance policies and the drafting of liability waivers), and corporate formation, restructuring, and merger. Professor Kelley supervised the work of the CDL Clinic throughout the 2016-2017 academic year. Over the course of the year, the students represented twenty-two clients on a variety of legal matters. A representative example of the work done by CDL Clinic students this year includes  assisting an organization that uses sports as a tool for community building and education for at-risk youth in converting from a for-profit LLC to a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation. 

Immigration Law Clinic

As is always the case in the Immigration Clinic, students represent some of the country’s most vulnerable persons in one of our most politically-charged, bureaucratic, and un-navigable systems. With this year’s administration change and resulting dramatic changes in immigration policy and enforcement, students had to monitor day-to-day shifts in Executive mandates and analyze the implications for advising and representing their clients and then counsel their clients or adjust their representation accordingly. Despite the immigration system being especially challenging to maneuver this past year, our students skillfully dealt with the developing landscape. They represented and gave voice to low-income noncitizens from Central American and African countries, all of whom were victims of severe trauma. Students filed applications for five victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or other crimes to gain lawful status and work authorization, applications for two clients to become lawful permanent residents, and an application for one minor who was a victim of neglect to derive citizenship. Additionally, they helped two families seeking asylum gain work authorization and increased stability while their asylum cases are pending. Students presented one of the asylum cases before the Immigration Court in Charlotte, a notoriously difficult bench, taking responsibility for all aspects of immigration defense litigation and preparing clients for trial. Students in the clinic also got to see the successful outcomes of clients from years past whose applications were finally processed and approved this year, granting work authorization, lawful status, or permanent residency to half a dozen other families who had been victims of trauma.

Quisha Mallette
Immigration Law Clinic student Quisha Mallette was inducted into UNC School of Law's Davis Society in part because of her work in the year-long Immigration Clinic.

Intellectual Property Clinic

In this two-semester clinic, students conduct searches of proposed trademarks and service marks, evaluate proposed marks against the rights of other mark owners, and prepare opinions and make strategic recommendations based on the same. Students file and prosecute trademark applications at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”), and research and prepare any required responses to office actions issued by the USPTO. During the 2016-2017 academic year, the third year of the IP Clinic, Clinic students represented 24 new clients in trademark matters and 5 existing clients in new or ongoing trademark matters. The work completed for these 29 clients in the IP Clinic in the 2016 -2017 academic year includes: 38 trademark searches and opinions on proposed marks; 21 new trademark applications with a total of 25 claims; 5 trademark applications initially filed pro se and moved into the clinic program; 12 responses to actions required by examiners, including responses for 2 applications initially filed by pro se and moved to the clinic program; 3 of the 12 total responses required written arguments (to date 1 of 3 arguments submitted against a 2(d) refusal has persuaded the examiner to allow the application; 1 submitted against a 2(d) refusal was rejected; and 1 argument submitted against is 2(e) is pending examiner action).

Intellectual Property Clinic Students Visit the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

Sexual and Domestic Violence Clinic

In the 2016-2017 academic year, students in the Domestic and Sexual Violence Clinic worked with survivors of domestic and sexual violence in several venues on diverse cases. In state court, students represented clients in numerous protective order hearings in Orange and Chatham County District Court, worked on various stages of several high-conflict child custody matters involving child abuse and intimate partner violence, and represented a victim of domestic violence in a complicated equitable distribution case. Additionally, students worked on a Title IX matter, representing a victim of sexual assault in university proceedings.

Youth Justice Clinic

Students in the Youth Justice Clinic (“YJC”) represent children and youth in school exclusion, juvenile delinquency, and criminal cases. Students in the Youth Justice Clinic provided holistic, zealous representation to over forty North Carolina low-income young people. Students represented several middle and high school students facing long-term suspension and improper denial of special education services. Along with individual case work, YJC students worked on several policy projects aimed at breaking the link between school problems and criminal involvement. They assisted YJC director, Professor Barbara Fedders, in a coalition of advocates seeking to redraft the memorandum of understanding between a local public-school administration and the sheriff's department to focus on avoiding arrests for minor disciplinary incidents. Anticipating the change in the age of juvenile jurisdiction, they worked on a policy report aimed at demonstrating to policymakers that interventions outside of the juvenile court are more effective than prosecution at addressing and preventing youthful misbehavior.

Youth Justice
Professor Barbara Fedders and students in the Youth Justice Clinic

Veterans Legal Assistance Project

The Veterans Legal Assistance Project launched in spring 2017 to represent veterans in discharge upgrade and veterans benefits applications. Students represented two veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder who were discharged from the military with a less-than-honorable discharge. If their applications for discharge upgrades are granted, the clients will become newly eligible for veterans benefits, including health care and compensation for their service-connected PTSD. The Project also accepted a referral from the Veterans Pro Bono Consortium, which gave students the opportunity to draft an appellate brief in support of a North Carolina veteran’s widow’s application for survivor benefits. Finally, students drafted and filed a complaint in federal district court on behalf of a veteran alleging that the government erred when it refused to increase his disability rating despite the VA’s determination that he was significantly more disabled than the military acknowledged at the time of his discharge. Future students will continue the representation in upcoming semesters.  

Programs Updates

Carolina Law launched a new Veterans Legal Assistance Project in the spring of 2017

The Veterans Legal Assistance Project, funded by an Equal Justice Works grant, opened its doors at Carolina Law in the spring of 2017. The VLAP offers legal assistance to low-income veterans in the community. “We’ve decided to focus on serving veterans for whom a less than honorable discharge is a barrier to benefits or to civilian employment,” said Jessica Marsden, Equal Justice Works fellow and instructor of the Veterans Legal Assistance Project. The Veterans Legal Assistance Project focuses on veterans who are currently excluded from Veterans Affairs (VA) health and disability benefits because of their discharge status. When a member of the armed forces is released of his or her obligation to serve, he or she is assigned a discharge. Military discharges include honorable discharges, general discharge under honorable discharge, other than honorable discharge, bad conduct discharge, dishonorable discharge, and entry-level separation. The military discharge status determines which benefits are available to the veteran. “Most veterans are honorably discharged but the number of people getting other than honorable discharges has gone way up in the post-9/11 period,” Marsden said. “There are a lot of folks who have been discharged from the military and are not getting benefits for serious service connected injuries.” Students participating in the clinic represent veterans in discharge upgrade applications and in claims for benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. “It’s not going to be an experience where you are going to court every week,” Marsden said. “But you have the chance to go through a detailed paper record, hopefully gain experience working with experts, gain experience interviewing your client, gain skills around working with trauma survivors, and gain writing skills.”

Law Student Chris Brown Wins Clinical Legal Education Association Outstanding Student Award

Christopher J. Brown 3L received the fifth annual Clinical Legal Education Association (CLEA) Outstanding Student Award in April for his work in the Community Development Law Clinic . At UNC School of Law, the recipient is selected based on excellence in clinical work, particularly in development of the attorney-client relationship; in case planning and development; efficiency and reliability in time management; polished oral and written communications; overall significance of casework contributions and contributions to the clinical community at large.

Brown was a student in the Community Development Law Clinic, a two-semester clinic in which third-year students provide corporate and transactional counsel to North Carolina nonprofit community development organizations. He also spent the last two and a half years working as a research assistant for the Immigration Clinic and the Civil Legal Assistance Clinic. “Chris has done an outstanding job in the CDL Clinic,” said Thomas A. Kelley III , Paul B. Eaton Distinguished Professor of Law and acting director of the Clinical Programs . “He has worked on several different projects, including one that's richly complicated and requires him to work collaboratively with Vietnamese Buddhist clients for whom English is a second language. At several points throughout the representation, the client has posed additional questions, sometimes on matters that fall outside my and the CDL Clinic's usual areas of expertise. Each time, I asked Chris if he wanted to take on the extra work even though I was not able to give him a lot of guidance. Each time, he volunteered to do the extra work and found helpful answers to the client's questions.”

Christopher Brown

Faculty Awards

Professor Erika Wilson Selected for The Yale/Stanford/Harvard Junior Faculty Forum and Awarded The James H. Chadbourn Award for Excellence in Scholarship

Professor Erika Wilson
Professor Erika Wilson

With many Southern school districts no longer supervised by federal courts regarding desegregation, some suburban districts are essentially re-segregating by withdrawing from county school systems and creating independent systems.

“The New School Segregation,” a paper on the issue by UNC School of Law associate professor Erika Wilson  , was among those chosen for discussion at the prestigious Yale/Stanford/Harvard Junior Faculty Forum at Yale Law School June 28-29. Papers are selected by a jury of scholars.

Wilson’s paper notes, “The secessions almost always result in the seceding municipality having a predominately white…and affluent school system, while the remaining county-based school district has a higher percentage of minority and poor students,” she says.

Her article was published by the Cornell Law Review in the fall of 2016.  

“I hope the paper shines a light on the ways in which certain local government structures and policies, though facially race-neutral, exacerbate racial segregation in schools,” Wilson says. “I also hope the paper can be used to help change the way we think about the benefits and burdens of municipal control of schools, particularly in the South, given the South’s sordid history with racially segregated and unequal schools.”

Regarding Wilson’s invitation to the forum at Yale, Carolina Law professor and associate dean for faculty development Holning Lau  says, “Being selected to participate is a highly prestigious honor… It’s also a great accomplishment for Erika to have two articles accepted for publication by top journals within a few weeks of each other this past semester.”  

In the spring of 2017, Professor Wilson was awarded The James H. Chadbourn Award for Excellence in Scholarship for her article The New School Segregation. The award honors a single faculty member's distinguished law journal article each year.

Professor Beth Posner, director of the Domestic and Sexual Violence Clinic, was awarded the 2016 North Carolina Association of Women Attorneys’ Gwyneth B. Davis Public Service Award

Professor Beth Posner
Professor Beth Posner

Each year, the North Carolina Association of Women Attorneys presents the Gwyneth B. Davis Public Service Award to attorneys to promote the participation of women attorneys in the legal profession and the rights of women under the law.

 “I feel very honored to be recognized by this organization. I have been a long-time member of the NCAWA, and I always encourage my women law students who plan to practice in North Carolina to join the organization as both as students and upon graduation. The NCAWA has a proud tradition of mentoring young women lawyers, promoting women in the judiciary, and encouraging pro bono work on behalf of women’s and other civil rights issues,” Posner said. 

Posner earned her undergraduate degree from Bryn Mawr College with honors, an MA in Comparative Literature from the University of Pennsylvania, and her JD with honors from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

Most of Posner’s career has been in the area of women’s advocacy and domestic and sexual violence. Following graduation from law school, she coordinated and oversaw statewide domestic violence initiatives for what was then Legal Services of North Carolina and then spent three years practicing indigent criminal defense with the North Carolina Office of the Appellate Defender. From 2003-2013 Posner was a managing attorney with Legal Aid of North Carolina and adjunct professor at UNC School of Law. She was appointed to her current faculty position in 2013. At Carolina, Posner has taught in the Immigration and Civil Clinics. She also founded the Domestic and Sexual Violence Clinic in which students represent plaintiffs in state court in domestic violence protection order cases as well as complainants in Title IX sexual misconduct matters.

Posner is an advisor for several student groups and pro bono projects involving domestic violence, sexual assault, family law, and reproductive justice. In 2014, she was awarded UNC School of Law’s Faculty of the Year Pro Bono Publico Award.

In addition to her teaching at Carolina, Posner teaches nationally as a faculty member for the ABA Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence. In North Carolina, she regularly provides substantive technical assistance to domestic violence and family law attorneys and coordinates and participates in trainings for lawyers, advocates, students, and social services providers on issues related to domestic violence and sexual assault.

Recent Faculty Publications

Professor Kaci Bishop

Kaci Bishop
Professor Bishop’s scholarship focuses on legal education and pedagogy, including embracing failure as a learning tool and confronting bias and stereotyping in teaching advocacy and narrative reasoning. Her following scholarly article is forthcoming:
  • Framing Failure in the Legal Classroom: Techniques for Encouraging Growth and Resiliency , Ark. L. Rev. (forthcoming 2018).   

Professor Kate Sablosky Elengold

Kate Elengold

Professor Elengold’ s research interests lie at the intersection of race, gender, and poverty. Her scholarship explores the contours of antidiscrimination law, with a particular emphasis on fair housing. She is currently working on a project that considers the possibility, benefits, and drawbacks of pursuing discrimination claims through a consumer law frame. Her scholarly article published during the 2016-2017 academic year and forthcoming article is as follows:

  • Clustered Bias, 96 N.C. L. Rev. (2017) (forthcoming)

She also published the following opinion piece in the popular press during the 2016-2017 academic year:

Professor Barbara Fedders


Professor Fedders’s research agenda focuses on juvenile justice, education, and children's rights. Recent and forthcoming articles include:

  • The Anti-Pipeline Collaborative, 51 Wake Forest L. Rev. 565 (2016)
  • Schooling at Risk, Iowa L. Rev. (forthcoming 2018)

She also published the following opinion pieces in the popular press during the 2016-2017 academic year:

Professor Thomas Kelley

Tom Kelley

Professor Kelly’s Clinic has represented numerous charities that have gotten into property tax disputes with local governments. Typically, these organizations are federally tax exempt 501(c)(3) corporations, but they are told by local governments in North Carolina that they are insufficiently charitable to qualify for local property tax exemption. A forthcoming article will explore the differences between the federal, state, and local definitions of “charitable” and will call for more clarity and consistency so that nonprofit organizations can better plan for their fiscal futures.

In addition, in December of 2016, Professor Kelley delivered a paper at a Law and Society conference in Cape Town, South Africa. While there, he networked with numerous South African legal scholars, including several clinic teachers from South Africa’s premier law faculties.

Professor Kathryn Sabbeth

Kathryn Sabbeth

Professor Sabbeth’s research agenda focuses on public interest lawyers, public law litigation, and access to justice. Her article published during the 2016-2017 academic year and forthcoming articles is as follows:

  • Housing Defense as the New Gideon , 41 HARV. J.L. & GENDER (forthcoming 2017)   

Professor Erika Wilson

Erika Wilson

Professor Wilson’s research agenda focuses on the intersection between education, race, and law. She is currently working on an article that discusses the pernicious racialized effects of destructive localism, using the wave of school district secessions occurring throughout the South as an example. Her articles published during the 2016-2017 academic year and forthcoming articles are as follows:

  • The New School Segregation, 102 CORNELL L. REV. 139 (2016)
  • Reverse Passing (w/Khaled Beydoun), 64 UCLA L. REV. 282 (2017)
  • When Diversity Fails: Social Dominance Theory and the Persistence of Racial Inequality , NAT'L BLACK L.J. (forthcoming 2017)
  • The Intransigence of Racism, CUNY Law Review (forthcoming 2017)

She also published the following opinion pieces in the popular press during the 2016-2017 academic year:

Faculty Service

Professor Erika Wilson

Erika Wilson

In February of 2017 Professor Wilson was invited to give the keynote lecture to the Board of Directors for the National Education Association. She delivered a keynote lecture on disparate discipline rates for African-American girls in public schools and implicit bias. In October of 2016, she was invited to give a lecture to the Urban Council on School Districts on her research related to gentrification, race, and public schools. In January of 2016, she helped to organize and participated in a public forum on the issues facing African-American girls in public schools and the ways in which they have been left behind. In October of 2016, she was also invited to give a talk at the Emory Law School Faculty Colloquium related to her research on Race and Destructive Localism.

Professor Beth Posner

Beth Posner

In October 2016, Professor Posner served as a Plenary Speaker for the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Violence Against Women Grantee Conference, presenting a talk entitled, The Meaning of Responsibility: How the Practical Application of our Obligation to Provide Inclusive Service Brings Meaning to Our Work.” Additionally, Professor Posner served as a faculty member for the American Bar Association’s Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence throughout the year, teaching three in-person litigation trainings in Washington, DC in the areas of domestic violence and child custody as well as a webinar, “The Civil Representation of Victims of Domestic and Sexual Violence with Disabilities, and/or who are D/deaf.” Professor Posner also edited the ABA’s Domestic Violence Litigation Manual, which will be available later this year. Locally, Professor Posner conducted numerous CLEs and trainings for North Carolina lawyers and service providers and served as a guest speaker for several classes at UNC, including a graduate seminar in the School of Public Health, an undergraduate seminar in American Studies, and a large undergraduate lecture course on race, gender, sexuality, and social justice. Professor Posner also serves on advisory panels for research projects in UNC Schools of Public Health and Social Work and funded by the National Institute of Justice and the Governor’s Crime Commission. In fall 2016, Professor Posner was awarded the North Carolina Association of Women Attorneys Gwyneth B. Davis Award for her promotion of women attorneys in the legal profession and the rights of women under the law.

Professor Tom Kelley

Tom Kelley

In May of 2017, Professor Kelley traveled to Niger to begin a research project focusing on land law in “peri-urban” areas, meaning, essentially, land that recently has been converted from farm land to suburbs. While he was in Niger, he met with several highly-placed government officials and lawyers from the small but growing private bar. Professor Kelley also gave a talk at the United States Embassy about law and culture in Niger.

Professor Kate Sablosky Elengold

Professor Kate Ellengold
Professor Kate Elengold

Professor Elengold served as the facilitator for the UNC School of Law’s two professionalism dinners, the Charlotte Professionalism Dinner and the Witt Professionalism Dinner in Chapel Hill. She also presented a CLE called “Sex for Rent” at Carolina Law’s 2017 Festival of Legal Learning. Outside of the law school, she presented a CLE for the Durham Bar Association’s Ethics Challenge, representing Carolina Law; presented a training at a CLE put on by the Legal Aid of North Carolina, NC Justice Center, and municipal human relations commissions on “Expanding the Fight Against Housing Discrimination: HUD’s New LGBTQ Fair Housing Policies and Enforcement Practice;” and is scheduled to give a training at the HUD Region IV FHAP Training on “LGBTQ and the Fair Housing Laws” in July 2017.

Professor Barbara Fedders

Professor Barbara Fedders
Professor Barbara Fedders
Professor Fedders was a featured speaker in the 2016 Ervin Constitutional Issues Forum at Western Piedmont Community College, giving a talk in the fall entitled “Beyond the War on Drugs: Why the Criminal Justice System is the Wrong Way to Address Drug Addiction.” In January of this year, she presented her research on disciplinary alternative schools at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University. This spring, she trained two separate groups of criminal court stakeholders on issues facing LGBT individuals in the courts. In May, she presented at the North Carolina Bar Association to a group of juvenile justice and education practitioners, focusing on the unmet potential of the Supreme Court decision in re Gault in delivering justice to alleged delinquents. She serves as a member of the Provost’s Committee on LGBTQ Life at UNC; in addition, she is an Advisory Board member of the Youth Justice Project as well as the local NAACP chapter’s criminal justice committee.

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