Michigan Law offers a wide array of classes for students interested in children's law. In addition to clinical offerings focused on developing trial and appellate skills in child welfare and juvenile justice cases, the Law School has a number of doctrinal courses and seminars in the field.
Child Advocacy Law Clinic (CALC)
See CALC's homepage for a description and more information.
Children and the Law
This course examines the legal relationships among children, family, and the state, primarily in the context of issues over which juvenile courts traditionally have jurisdiction. Particular attention is given to the interplay and often conflicting interests of children, parents, and the state. The class looks at how the law divides responsibility for children between parents and the state, and considers how the balance should be drawn. Additionally, the law and policy governing parental rights, child abuse and neglect, foster care, adoption, and education are studied.
Family Law Litigation Practicum
Lawyers representing clients in legal proceedings involving children, such as divorce, custody, or child protection cases, face unique challenges. They must learn to interview and counsel clients in emotional distress. They must zealously advocate for their client's wishes while remaining sensitive to the needs of the child, whose best interests remain the court's paramount concern. This dynamic complicates strategic decisions that have to be made regarding the presentation of the case, including filing motions, calling and questioning witnesses, making objections, and negotiating with other parties. Additionally, they must learn to work with actors, foreign to other civil proceedings, such as the Friend of the Court, mediators, social workers, and guardians ad litem.
This course, which will be held in the Washtenaw County Courthouse, will familiarize students with essentials of advocacy in these unique cases. Focus will be given on building a case theory, developing skills such as interviewing and counseling clients, negotiating with opposing counsel and pro se litigants, working with third parties and experts, and drafting pre-trial motions and trial briefs. Additionally, students will work on applying traditional trial skills (opening statements, closing arguments, questioning witnesses) to children's law cases. Each week, students will practice these skills through simulations and receive feedback from the professors. Students, in thinking about creative advocacy, will also reflect on and critique the legal standards applied in these cases. Throughout the course, the importance of professionalism and legal ethics will be emphasized. The course will culminate in a mock trial, which will be videotaped for the purposes of evaluation.
Juvenile Justice Class
This course focuses primarily on the application of criminal law and criminal procedure to minors. It addresses how the criminal law dealt with juveniles before the establishment of the first juvenile court; the history of the juvenile court; the introduction of due process principles into juvenile delinquency proceedings in the 1960s and the counter-reformation which followed; procedural protections afforded to minors and how they differ from procedural protections in place for adults; and the role of counsel in representing a juvenile charged with delinquency. In addressing these issues we will consider legal doctrine, sociological and psychological theories as to why youth violate the law, and criminal justice policy and recent discoveries in adolescent brain development and their impact on criminal responsibility and culpability. Finally, the course will consider dispositional options available to courts and will explore which of those are most effective in reducing further law breaking.
See attached sample syllabus.
Juvenile Justice Clinic
See the clinic's homepage for a description and more information.
Seminar on Legal Representation of Children
This seminar will consider how best to define, organize, and evaluate legal representation of children, ranging in age from birth to 18, in cases of alleged child abuse or neglect where children are in foster care or face the risk of foster care. We will invite some of the leading scholars and practitioners to consult with us as well as youth who are or have been in the system. Our questions will include: What should be the duties and responsibilities of the child's representative in civil child protection proceedings? Who should represent the child in such proceedings—a lawyer alone, a social worker, a multidisciplinary team? How should the child's representative accommodate the child's wishes in setting the goals of the advocacy? What does the child representative do that makes a difference in a child's life? What organizational structure best delivers legal services for a child?