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Bill to improve law education, use of people's dollars

While state Sen. Robert Adley’s populist bent often leads to eccentric legislation, on SB 549 he’s on to something good. The bill would prohibit law school clinics in the state that receive money from the state from litigating against the state or seeking damages against any individual or business or filing many constitutional challenges.

These clinics are designed for law students to gain experience in the practice of law and as a result often offer their services free to interested parties. The problem is that those who administer them at law schools and who participate can bring a very ideological view to what they do, in terms of some of the kinds of cases they pursue. As documented, the bias usually is quite liberal and incongruent with the views of the vast majority of taxpayers’ who in most cases provide the bulk of funding for these activities.

The bill’s passage would create several salutary changes. No longer would taxpayer money go to an activity that subsidizes the agenda of a few that does not represent the legal mainstream or realistically simulate the typical work that almost every lawyer will pursue. Dollars can be used far more efficiently to provide more genuine training and not in such a skewed direction.

Also, these kinds of suits with taxpayer money, because they are so far out of the mainstream, often are frivolous if not attempts with the public’s money to bludgeon an opponent into a certain action – one that pursues not an actual public interest but the private agendas of a few activists. Why should public money go to such a non-public purpose?

Finally, this would reduce waste in government and lower the cost of business. Without having to defends against nuisance suits whose bases are more ideological than real, fewer taxpayer resources (if against government) would be siphoned from real concerns and business and individuals would not have to see their own resources be diverted, enhancing individual freedom and lowering costs to consumers.

Note that the bill does not prohibit these activities by clinics, it just removes public money from funding them, leaving a wide range of cases that may be pursued using the people’s resources. If clinics drop these cases, this does not mean that causes that those of little means wish to pursue won’t be serviced adequately. As a professional duty lawyers are encouraged to take on work pro bono, and other legal aid societies exist that can be accessed for these kinds of cases. Or, clinics could refuse public funding, raise money for their operations from these kinds of donors, and continue unaffected.

There’s no reason the public should be paying for legal education those activities of it that poorly simulate what most lawyers actually will do, which serve private rather than public interests, and that end up wasting taxpayer dollars while attenuating individual freedom. Adley’s bill deserves a swift passage and enactment into law.


Anonymous said...

Adley will pass anything the chemical industries ask him to. I don't know of any case these guys have taken that was crazy. This in effect will take away the last group of lawyers who are protecting the citizens of the state. No "practitioner" can afford to take on pro bono cases like "lead contamination" by a company that won't result in money being paid. We landowners in the haynesville shale should be careful what we ask for! This is a bill to strip away the protection that land owners have against massive companies that have all the attorneys on their payroll. Not a good bill.

Anonymous said...

we've been under tort reform since Foster. This has not lead to the explosion of business that was promised, all that has happened is that industries and insurance companies continue to make out like bandits. Taking in higher premiums and paying out less--wonder why all the smart kids are leaving--Tort reform like this was supposed to keep them here. Oh well-- not the first time we have been bamboozled.

Anonymous said...

BTW, once you are a victim of malpractice caps, no pay no play, super fund money going to your out of state competitor, paying for dinners and drinks for politicians to whoo other politicians, poor education accountability,subsidizing college education through tops/taxes and then watching these kids leave the state, listening to hurricane Chris sing on the house floor about making love to a married woman, watching ethics go down the drain, and relying on empty promises of politicians who just want your vote, its amazing that we can give any credibility to the stated reason that these politicians go anything. There is always an ulterior motive that is the real reason.

Anonymous said...

"....reduce waste in government and lower the cost of business...." should not imply Louisiana is open for business and the industry will be exempt from law and regulations...once again the State will trade the health, safety and welfare of its own people in the name of the petrochemical industry and its promise of economic development..the very same disadvantaged citizens who will suffer the consequences of these industries are the ones kept from resources to hold the State accountable

Anonymous said...

If you read the bill you will see that it would eliminate ALL state funding to any university whose law clinic did, essentially, anything the oil and gas association(s) don't want them to do, such as file a suit seeking monetary damages. It is clearly aimed directly at Tulane's Environmental Law Clinic, which does not receive any direct state funding for its activities.

Amiel said...

You claim that clinical activity "does not represent the legal mainstream or realistically simulate the typical work that almost every lawyer will pursue." Actually in the 1970's and the Nixon era, legal education moved more toward clinical education as a way to school students on the ethical and strategic twists of actually being a lawyer, working with a client, and learning about how the profession is one of service and honor. Quite to the contrary of your unsupported assertion, students will not be able to participate in any administrative law hearings if the bill passes, because environmental law is practiced in front of state agencies as well as in state and federal courts. Students will not be able to practice in Federal Courts or in any case where monetary damages are claimed. For example, a student will not be able to represent a client in Federal Court when the client claims money damages because they were unable to rent because they have children or because of the color of their skin. Surely you will agree that mainstream lawyering does involve claims where money is on the line or when people feel that their rights have been violated! I know you would agree that practice with real clients, dealing with the real uncertainties of whether someone is liable or not etc. are important.

I recommend that you actually speak with some LSU Law faculty before making such an absurd assertion like the bill somehow will provide better training. This bill bans any suit against the government, any suit claiming enforcement of rights guaranteed by the Constitution of Louisiana, any suit for money and it effectively takes students out of Federal Court and out of administrative proceedings.

Finally, you have the money trail all wrong. Clinical clients must be at or near poverty. Just let them sue with their own money you say? Please reconsider your position based on the facts.

Anonymous said...

The only ideologue pushing an agenda around here is Jeffrey Sadow. The clinics DO NOT represent the "liberal" "ideological view" of clinic administrators. Clinics represent CLIENTS and the interests of the clients. You removal of the poor clients interests from your analysis shows just what you think of them. And your shocking suggestion that envtl stewardship is not in the public interest shows just how delusional you are. Removing envtl safeguards will not make us all rich, it will cause only the slightest of slivers of money saved in the very short term for some company, and at the very large public long-term expense of all the consequences of pollution - cancer, birth defects, asthma, and a whole spectrum of ailments. Not to mention ruining this state's great wilderness for hunting, fishing and outdoor activity. What gives them the right to put carcinogens in our body without simple, inexpensive safeguards? We can have BOTH robust economic growth and a healthful envt.

A healthful envt is not something whose sacrifice makes us all rich. Tulane's envtl clinic represents clients that object to only a tiny fraction of one percent of all pollution permits in this state - the worst of the worst. The negative effect of envtl stewardship on Louisiana is nearly imperceptible in terms of economics in the short term, yet in the long term we'll all be much better off. You prefer the tiny sliver of immediate, but small, profit gratification to the longer-term and much larger wealth that comes with a healthful envt and conservatively managed natural resources. You're just myopic. Your position has more to do with hatred of liberals than it does of any understanding of economics.

To suggest that clinic students are encroaching on "individual freedoms" and preventing lower costs to consumers is similarly ridiculous neocon sloganeering. When a polluter belches carcinogens into a neighborhood and the citizens defend themselves, it is NOT the citizens who are "encroaching on freedom" of the polluter, it is the polluter encroaching on the freedom of the citizens by subjecting them to carcinogens. Duh! How can you get that backwards?! Louisiana has some of the worst envtl enforcement and the worst pollution in the country, and our state citizens suffer some of the worst cancer rates and health effects as a consequence. Yet YOU think that MORE carcinogens in the envt will somehow suddenly make us richer and “freer” (whatever the fuck that means).

Anonymous said...

Also, your suggestion that these are "nuisance suits whose bases are more ideological than real" is the sort of dishonest remark I'd expect from you. Tell that to the clients whose ability to breathe clean air is at stake whether that is not a "real" consequence and just some lofty theory advocated by some professor somewhere. Tulane's clinic has been wildly successful, even in front of a pro-industry state court system. The clinic only represents clients with strong cases, and their constant success shows that they are not "nuisance" suits. That's just some neocon garbage you peddle to your fellow cocooned ideologues because they'll believe anything if they put their mind to it. The garbage you spew on this bill is unsurprising considering how your blog reveals how powerful your imagination is as you conjure up hysterical cartoon images of liberals as violent anti-freedom monsters. Judging from the tenor of your posts, it appears you believe Shreveport is surrounded by the modern liberal equivalent of the swarming mongol hordes of Ghengis Khan. If someone mentions the EPA, I’ll bet you start imagining pitch-fork wielding environmental fascists hell-bent on destroying the world. It must be a scary world you live in.

News flash: The public interest is served by good envtl stewardship, not by pouring carcinogens into our environment and reckless abuse of the land we have to pass on to future generations. If you can't figure that out by yourself than god help you.

And how will this adley bill "improve law education" by removing critical experience-building legal work by law students? Your job as a neocon is obviously to state the opposite of reality. Employers look for clinic experience when hiring attorneys. This bill kneecaps Louisiana students and IMPEDES their ability to get a good legal education, not “improve” it.

For anyone who would like the antidote to the poisonous propaganda peddled by dishonest charlatans such as Jeffrey Sadow, read this:

And don't get me started on the oil spill and you stupid simpleton "free-market" militants. Lets see the smug Professor Sadow explain to us exactly how the unfettered "free market" would have prevented the BP oil spill from occurring.

Cicero said...


I've never read your blog before, so I apologize if I'm missing the bent.

Other commenters have already debunked both your premise that law clinics have political agendas and your conclusion that killing them makes cost/benefit sense for Louisianans. However, by making these claims as if they were truths requiring no evidence at all, you attract the criticism easily.

Again, I apologize if that is the point of the blog.

As a recent Tulane Law graduate and former student attorney at their Environmental Clinic ("TELC"), I can tell you that TELC's leadership is so *apolitical* that it would choose to accept and zealously defend industrial clients.

The questions do not change based on the client: (1) Is there a non-frivolous argument; (2) Are there resources sufficient to fully pursue the case; and (3) Soes this case provide a learning opportunity for the student attorneys assigned?

On that last point, Jeffrey, I'm sure you'd agree. These nascent lawyers would learn worlds representing those same clients TELC has earned its ABA-honored reputation defeating in court.

Here's hoping that happens someday, and that any appetite legislators may have for this fight dissipates like a chemically-treated sheen of oil.