The Legislation Clinic, offered in fall 2013, will provide students with an opportunity to observe and participate in many facets of the legislative process and policy advocacy. The clinic is intended to expose the student to the policy issues, legal analysis, drafting, and political process required to successfully advance a proposal through the legislative process. Prior experience with child welfare is not required.
For many years the Child Advocacy Law Clinic (CALC) has engaged in occasional legislative advocacy for child welfare reforms. (Child welfare includes legal and policy issues regarding child maltreatment, children in foster care, and suspension and termination of parental rights.) Over many years, CALC has served as legislative counsel for various clients, including reform commissions, organizations, and individuals. In one instance we served as "of counsel" to the Michigan Lt. Governor's Office and worked on a package of bills she was supporting.
Most recently, Prof. Don Duquette championed a bill stemming from the notorious "Mike's Hard Lemonade Case" in which a seven-year-old boy was placed in foster care for three days because his father, a classics professor at the University of Michigan, inadvertently gave him a Mike's Hard Lemonade at a Detroit Tigers game. That legislation dramatically improves the decision-making process between the Michigan Department of Human Services and the courts and provides appropriate due-process protections for the child and parents. In 2012, that bill ultimately passed both houses of the Michigan legislature unanimously.
We are now formalizing this occasional legislative advocacy in a separate clinical offering. The clinic will identify policy-reform issues that seem ripe for action but might require the boost of research, drafting, developing relations with stakeholders, and collaboration with supporting legislators that law students might do. We may have specific clients for whom we would serve as legislative counsel. Students will first jointly select projects for the semester based on a preliminary list of topics and clients generated by Prof. Duquette. To learn about the process and challenges, we will hear from various speakers early in the semester including the Legislative Service Bureau, government officials, lobbyists, stakeholders, and our clients. We will travel from time to time to Lansing to meet with legislative leaders and staff. Students will draft legislation in partnership with our clients, stakeholders, and the Legislative Service Bureau, and identify legislators willing to introduce the appropriate bills.
The legislative process is deliberate (slow) but if one or more of our projects moves quickly enough, clinic students will work in partnership with our clients to bring about the introduction of bills drafted, develop oral and written testimony, identify additional witnesses, shepherd their bills through the committee process, and work to get the bills ultimately adopted.
The Legislation Clinic is offered for three credits and is graded; eight students may enroll. The formal meeting time is Tuesday from 12:55 to 2:25 p.m. The Legislation Clinic appears to qualify for New York's pro bono requirement.
Prof. Don Duquette