Law Schools

Md. Senate Wants Law School Clinic to Name Clients or Lose $250K in Funding

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Some Maryland senators are so incensed about a pollution lawsuit filed by an environmental legal clinic at the University of Maryland School of Law that they are threatening to withhold $250,000 in funding unless the students reveal clients in other suits.

The state senate has approved budget language withholding the funds unless the school lists all environmental plaintiffs represented in the last two years, according to an editorial by the Baltimore Sun’s Second Opinion blog and the Washington Post’s Maryland Politics blog.

The clinic’s controversial lawsuit names as a defendant poultry producer Jim Perdue, who is “is making noises about moving some of his business out of state,” the Second Opinion blog says.

“If lawmakers were genuinely curious about the law school clinics, they might have made a phone call before they started taking the school’s budget hostage,” according to Second Opinion.

“If they had, they’d discover the clinical law program is ranked sixth in the nation by U.S. News & World Report and that it provides an invaluable service as the largest provider of free legal advice to the state’s disadvantaged,” the editorial says. “It should be regarded with pride rather than suspicion; all Maryland law students are required to do some pro bono work on behalf of the community, a rarity in academia.”

ABA President Carolyn Lamm said in a statement (PDF) that the proposed legislation intrudes on the attorney-client relationship.

“Clients seeking assistance from law school clinics or other nonprofits providing legal services to the disadvantaged—as in the population generally—may be concerned about the ramifications of the release of confidential client information, even if that sensitive information is not formally subject to the attorney-client privilege,” Lamm said. “This could result in their not seeking and receiving the legal assistance that they need.”

Additional coverage:

Baltimore Sun: “Lawmakers threaten to stall UM funding over poultry-farm lawsuit”

Last updated April 1 to include Lamm’s statement.

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