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Community Lawyering Clinic Open House Highlights Student Advocacy

3L Lauren McCulloch talks about mediation training.

April 26, 2016

On April 20, the Community Lawyering Clinic hosted its third annual open house to celebrate another year of fruitful collaboration with residents of Powelton Village and Mantua, where the clinic provides direct legal services, training and referrals. The open house provided a platform to share another aspect of the CLC mission: enabling clinic students to work with Philadelphians toward broad, systemic change.

Before sitting down for a meal with community members, students gave presentations on projects they undertook during the semester, which addressed employment discrimination, medical transfers for inmates, water access and conflict resolution.

“This is really the capstone of the students’ year, where they get to show you what they’ve done,” said Professor and Clinic Director Rachel López.

3Ls Cassandra Fitzgerald-Black and Sam Scavuzzo, who launched a Right to Water Initiative, filed a report with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights titled “Needless Drought: The Water Deficit for Low Income Philadelphians” after being contacted by several Powelton Village and Mantua residents who live without running water in their homes. Their advocacy was featured in an investigative report by NBC10.

Copies of the latest CLC publication, the 62-page “Do It Yourself (DIY) Philadelphia: A Guide for How to File an Employment Discrimination Claim,” were distributed at the open house. 3L co-authors Ryan McCarthy and Shaina Hicks reminded attendees that Philadelphia employers cannot legally ask about an applicant’s criminal record during the application process because of the city’s “Ban the Box” ordinance. They also spoke about working with the Philadelphia Commission of Employment Relations to make sure the law is implemented effectively.

Frances Conwell takes part in discussion during reception.

Kristen Parker and Brittany Dyer Rossner, who tackled a Terminal Care Project, argued that criteria for the medical transfer of seriously ill inmates in Pennsylvania, where the elderly are expected to make up one-third of the prison population by 2030, need to be reformed to help more people. Their advocacy is being documented in a film by UPenn students, and the 3Ls are building a website that will share the stories of prisoners who are sick in prison and not getting the help they need as well as their families and of people who have successfully petitioned for early release to a nursing home, hospice care provider or family care.

3Ls Lauren McCulloch and Jasmine Smith continued the Community Resolutions Institute project set in motion by ’15 alumna Tamara Sharp, using mediation as a tool to help Powelton Village and Mantua residents resolve conflict within the community, avoiding some of the time and cost of the court system. Additionally, they are creating mediation training and certificate programs for adolescents and adults and they will start a youth mediation program at the middle school that will open at Drexel University’s Dornsife Center in the fall.

Frances Conwell, a Wynnefield resident who grew up in Mantua, heard about the Community Lawyering Clinic from a friend and attended the open house to find out more about the CLC’s estate planning services. “I didn’t realize they were doing such good projects,” she said.