We consider this delay of the clinic a partial victory. Part of the delay is due to the fact that the faculty has more access to accurate information since we provided them with all of the information gleaned from our public disclosure requests. More information led to their having more concerns.
This further demonstrates that this so-called process has been quite opaque. Students feel like this is a victory for lots of reasons, including that we won’t be funding an already well-funded state agency. Some of us just don’t like the idea of helping put more people in jail, especially since our public disclosure documents showed that the clinic did not have as its goals any discussion of racial justice or racial disparities until after a student outcry, something that was misrepresented multiple times by the administration prior to our public disclosures.
Another reason we consider this a victory is that we made more information more available to people who need it to make these decisions; after that, the faculty listserve ignited with really important discussions. The administration realized that this wasn’t going to skate through anymore and so they pulled the plug on the vote the night before it was to happen. So there’s victory there, even if the struggle continues.
And simultaneously we recognize that future prosecutors want this clinic, and for various reasons, including the very important point for them that it could lead to their later employment. However, there has to be a way without a clinic that gets them the training and work opportunities that all students deserve. I would hope that even students in favor of the clinic could see that $12,000 per month to a prosecutor is not the best use of clinic funds where clinics that met unmet legal needs struggle to get by.
So is the clinic dead? Hopefully. The clinic has been shelved at least temporarily while a committee considers the Criminal Justice Track we proposed. Originally we suggested a Prosecution Track, but it has since expanded to include more future lawyers in the training and this is a good move.
Nevertheless, we are concerned with this process because the main proponent of the clinic is on this committee, and in fact chairs the committee. This has its dangers and benefits, but whatever the case, we are watching the committee closely and pushing for more student involvement therein.
This delay wasn’t just because we held a silent demo during their meeting or even because we lobbied professors; faculty themselves took the information from the public disclosure requests and serious questions were raised in their hearts and minds.
We know there are other solutions to training future lawyers that don’t involve us funding prosecution. Now the administration and students are working to find the best win-win for the students. And for our greater community in King County.
Finally, we don’t want to demonize prosecutors. They have lots of power to determine whether the ridiculous rates of racial disparities continue, so angering them is not our goal. We hope that current and future prosecutors will do all they can to change the criminal punishment system into a criminal justice system. We hope that they might understand that $36,000 per quarter is not something UW Law can pay for given the other needs in our school and our broader community.
Please follow our blog and share it widely. Contact the faculty members on the committee and let them know that this track is a much better idea than the clinic. The faculty members include:
– Prof. Maranville (chair)
– Prof. Ambrose
– Prof. Knudsen
– Prof. McCormack
– Prof. Spitzer
– Prof. Bailey