The University of Chicago News Office
May 8, 1996 Press Contact: Sabrina Miller
(773) 702-4195

Mandel Legal Aid Clinic Expands Community Efforts

A Chicago woman is charged with manslaughter in the deaths of two children inadvertently left in her car during the scorching heat of last summer. This is not a case most attorneys would leap at defending, but it is just the kind of case that made Randolph Stone take notice.

“I thought this was a good case for students to be involved in, because they would have a chance to see how the justice system works in a complicated case," said Stone, director of the Mandel Legal Aid Clinic at the University of Chicago Law School. “We aren’t looking for controversial cases, but sometimes the most interesting cases for students are controversial. Our goal is to serve the community as well as provide good experience for law students.”

For Stone, Chicago’s Public Defender for 3 1/2 years, the case held the two most critical elements for clinic participation: a complicated legal case, and a big question of what justice means in action. The manslaughter case, which is still pending, is staffed by 3 students in the Law School, and professional staff.

It is an example of the myriad cases taken on by the students and faculty at the Law School through the Mandel Legal Aid Clinic and other programs. One of the first legal clinics in a U.S. law school, the clinic, together with the Law School’s other clinical programs, have taken on complicated and often controversial cases in Illinois for nearly 40 years–free. To help celebrate its 40th birthday, the clinic will get a new building because of a $3 million gift from Arthur Kane, an alumnus of both the University of Chicago College’s and its Law School.

The building will be an addition to the current building at 1111 E. 60th St. and will help continue the work of the clinic, said Douglas Baird, Dean of the Law School. “Art Kane’s extraordinary generosity will ensure the continued excellence of the Law School and its clinical programs,” he said.This past year, the University of Chicago Law School was named Public Interest Law School of the Year by the American Bar Association because of its long-standing commitment to the community. Law School groups and organizations spent more than 94,000 hours in public-service activities during the 1994-95 academic year, said Ellen Cosgrove, Dean of Student Affairs at the Law School. Clinic programs are so popular that students typically are selected through a lottery system. The Law School’s clinical programs include: * The Mandel Legal Aid Clinic, which has 80 students working an average of 12 hours a week each on issues such as child-support enforcement. * The Neighbors program, in which more than 90 students each year participate in community outreach. Students are involved in projects such as Big Brothers and Little Sisters as well as tutoring programs and assistance at day-care centers and centers for the elderly. * The MacArthur Justice Center, which is currently working on cases to ease long delays in criminal-appeal cases in Illinois and seeking clemency for older prisoners caught in a “twilight zone” of sentencing laws. * The Immigration & Refugee Law Society, a student-organized program involving about 30 students that primarily represents individuals in deportation hearings. * The Clemency Project, a council consisting of lawyers, activists, law students and formerly incarcerated women that files clemency petitions on behalf of battered women throughout the state. In 1994, Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar released four women whose petitions for clemency were filed by this group. Current applications for eight women this year are still pending with Edgar. * Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, a group of students who prepare income tax returns for individuals and families making less than $15,000 a year. * Street Law, an organization of 65 students who address Hyde Park-area high schools on leading legal issues of interest to young people. * The Chicago Law Foundation, an organization of nine board members and 26 volunteers that raises money for grants to law students who want to work for a public-service organization. Baird said the importance of public interest work at the school goes well beyond numbers of hours in legal-assistance work. The Law School seeks to give all its students a firm grounding in the law as a learned profession, he said, not just a legal toolbox.

“We want to teach our students to live well in the law,” Baird said. “We want them to know that practicing law at the highest level–whether as a corporate lawyer or a public defender–means doing interesting and important things that, in the end, make the world a better place. Lawyers by tradition have invested time and energy in activities that advance the public good. Such commitment is an integral part of being a lawyer of the first rank, regardless of the kind of practice one has.”
Last modified at 03:50 PM CST on Wednesday, June 14, 2000.

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