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Debate on Bill to Rein In Tulane Law Clinic Comes at ‘Absurd’ Time, Critic Says

Posted May 12, 2010 8:06 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Updated: A bill being debated this week in Louisiana to rein in law school clinics couldn’t come at a worse time, according to a blogger and a newspaper editorial.

The bill affects all clinics, but it is aimed specifically at the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic, the Associated Press reports. It would prevent all university law clinics that receive state money from challenging government agencies in court, suing for damages, or making constitutional claims.

The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Robert Adley, says he introduced the legislation because of complaints by chemical and oil industry lobbyists, AP says. Adley believes the Tulane clinic’s environmental suits were hurting business investment and costing jobs.

Among the bill’s critics is Mother Jones, which notes the debate is being held even as the Gulf oil spill is reaching Louisiana beaches. “The timing couldn't be more crucial—or absurd,” the publication says.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune editorial also noted the strange timing. “Try telling, say, an oysterman that a clean environment is bad for the state economy, and you can expect quite a mouthful at the best of times,” the editorial says. “But right now, with oil lapping our shores, nobody in Louisiana would be idiot enough to advance such a proposition. Well, nobody outside the state legislature.”

The Time-Picayune notes that Adley has pledged to soften the bill with amendments, but says whatever they are, “the bill deserves to be junked.”

ABA President Carolyn B. Lamm released a statement Wednesday afternoon calling for withdrawal of the bill.

"We urge the state legislature to consider that these law clinics represent the people of Louisiana who have very real and immediate problems but few resources to solve them," Lamm said in the statement. Law school clinics have helped Hurricane Katrina victims find housing and domestic violence victims escape abuse, she said. They also work to preserve clean air and water.

"Depriving the poorest citizens of these vital services is an affront to their dignity, and for many, diminishes their very means of survival," Lamm said.

Previous coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Many Law School Clinics See ‘Pushback’ Over Their Legal Work”

Updated at 2:50 p.m. to include Lamm's statement.

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