by Gretchen Kell
The new International Human Rights Law Clinic at Boalt Hall opened Feb. 3 with a dedication lecture in Booth Auditorium followed by a ribbon-cutting ceremony in the clinic offices on the 3rd floor of the adjacent Simon Hall.
Through the clinic, law students, clinical faculty and volunteer attorneys provide free legal services to individual clients and investigate charges of human rights abuse both nationally and internationally.
"The International Human Rights Clinic is part of Boalt's new Center for Clinical Education that will dramatically increase clinical opportunities for Boalt students," said Professor Eleanor Swift. "When Dean Kaye asked me to chair Boalt's clinical program committee, she made the opening of an in house clinic that would serve real people one of her top priorities. We have now realized this vision for bringing Boalt into the mainstream of clinical education."
Patty Blum, a lecturer-in-residence, will direct the clinic. Blum is an authority in immigration and refugee law. The clinic's staff attorney is Laurel Fletcher, a Boalt lecturer and specialist in human rights.
The new clinic carries on Boalt Hall's historical commitment to human rights and public service. Housed in the law school's newly renovated facilities, the clinic is the
newest opportunity and the first offered in-house-for Boalt students to work with clients in a supervised setting. "Top law schools across the country have legal clinics in which students work with clients as a complement to traditional classroom education," said Dean Herma Hill Kay."
Approximately 20 students each year will represent individual refugees who are seeking political asylum in the United States in proceedings before the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. Two of the clinic's first clients are from the African nations of Congo-Brazzaville and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Students also will examine the trafficking of persons into the United States and proposals for legislative response, analyze the labor rights of migrant agricultural workers and investigate mass deportations into Haiti of Dominican Republic citizens of Haitian ancestry. The clinic will collaborate with prominent human rights groups.
It is supported financially by the UC Berkeley Human Rights Center and the Sandler Family Supporting Foundation, the Koret Foundation and a partnership grant from the law firm of Brobeck, Pheger & Harrison, LLP. Attorneys from the Brobeck firm will provide pro bono service to the clinic, which aims to train a new generation of skilled human rights' lawyers and advocates.