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Businesses Targeted by Law School Legal Clinics Hit Back

Perdue In March, law students in the legal clinic program at University of Maryland School of Law sued chicken supplier Perdue and farmers it contracts with for allegedly polluting the Pocomoke River by allowing chicken waste to flow to the Chesapeake Bay.

Perdue's response? According to an article this weekend in The New York Times, Jim Perdue, the company's chairman, went to the state legislature in Annapolis to ask lawmakers for help, and got a prompt response. On Friday, Maryland lawmakers reportedly debated a measure "to cut money for the University of Maryland’s law clinic if it does not provide details to the legislature about its clients, finances and cases."

The Maryland legal clinic is not alone in being challenged this way. The NYT reports that schools in other states, including New Jersey, Michigan and Louisiana, are facing similar challenges that jeopardize the work of the clinics. On the other hand, critics say, such challenges are justified because law clinics are costly, unaccountable and often counterproductive to states' interests.

The issue seems to boil down to the extent to which taxpayers should be footing the bill for clinics to take sides in controversial issues involving the state, such as the death penalty. One possible solution to this in Louisiana may be a bill forbidding law students at clinics that receive public money from suing government agencies, companies or individuals for damages unless exempted by the Legislature. "There is no reason that tax money should pay for these law students to act like regulators,” said one Louisiana state senator.

Still, the move against law school clinics hasn't gone unchallenged some big names in the legal community. ABA President Carolyn Lamm and Stephen Sachs, former Maryland attorney general and U.S. Attorney for Maryland, have spoken out against the Maryland suit.

(For a little more clucking about the chicken suit controversy, don' t miss the comment section of The Volokh Conspiracy's post on this story).

Posted by Bruce Carton on April 5, 2010 at 11:57 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

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