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.