Youth, Education and Justice Clinic

Student-attorneys in the Youth, Education and Justice (YEJ) Clinic represent schoolchildren excluded from school through suspensions, expulsions and other means, as well as individuals serving life sentences for crimes they committed as children or as emerging adults. We assume a community lawyering role in this clinic. Community lawyering involves individual representation, legislative and other forms of collective advocacy, community education and research.

Our individual representation entails opposite ends of the “school-to-prison pipeline.” This pipeline refers to the connections between exclusionary school discipline and interaction(s) with the juvenile/criminal legal systems.

  • On one end, student-attorneys represent children in Maryland who have been excluded from school through suspension, expulsion and other forms of school pushout. The YEJ Clinic is a member of the Maryland Suspension Representation Project (MSRP). The MSRP involves lawyers from the Public Justice Center, the Maryland Office of the Public Defender, Disability Rights Maryland and the YEJ Clinic who are committed to expanding and enhancing the representation of children who are removed from school for disciplinary reasons. We represent children at superintendent conferences, appeals to the respective school board and appeals to the Maryland State Board of education.

  • On the other end, student-attorneys represent adults who have been incarcerated for decades, serving life sentences for crimes they committed when they were children or young adults. Student-attorneys represent clients in the parole process as well as related post-conviction processes. Much of our lawyering is focused on the brain science that has developed in the years and decades following our clients’ convictions and sentencing. In a series of cases, the U.S. Supreme Court has relied on the brain science to hold that children are less culpable than adults. This brain science also applies to young adults. Another key component of our lawyering is storytelling. We strive to tell the stories of who our clients were, who they are and the distance they have traveled over their decades of incarceration.

To round out the community lawyering role, student-attorneys engage policy and legislative advocacy projects at the local and state levels that aim to keep children in school, decriminalize normal adolescent development and provide individuals serving life sentences for crimes they committed as children or young adults a “meaningful opportunity” for release.

To help us contextualize the issues that impact our clients, the YEJ Clinic explores and analyzes several issues of critical importance, including:

  • law enforcement interactions with children
  • law enforcement presence in public schools
  • fourth amendment issues in public schools
  • the various types of school exclusion, including out-of-school suspension, expulsion and other forms of school pushout
  • the impact of school pushout on schoolchildren, their families and their communities
  • the disproportionate impact of these laws, policies and practices on Black schoolchildren (particularly Black girls), Latinx schoolchildren and schoolchildren with different abilities
  • the brain science
  • growing up and growing old in prison
  • the impact of overcriminalization and incarceration on individuals, families and communities
  • Through all aspects of our work we examine issues of race, gender, intersectionality and poverty (as departure points from school, as entry points to the juvenile and criminal legal systems and as key markers of our incarcerated population), trauma and stigma (as entry points to the juvenile and criminal legal systems, as end points of justice-involvement and as related to children pushed out of school and individuals serving life sentences) and lawyering strategies aimed at both realizing relief for individual clients and changing the systems that have led to mass discipline, mass criminalization and mass incarceration.  

    Because this clinic assumes a community lawyering model, some aspects of our work will unfold as the semester approaches and progresses. A key part of a community lawyer’s role is to respond to emerging events that cannot be predicted in advance. As a result, no two semesters have been the same.

    This clinic includes a seminar component that meets twice weekly and is a five-credit offering. Student-attorneys in this clinic are required to average 17.3 hours per week. If your schedule prohibits you from fulfilling this time commitment or otherwise prevents you from meeting your clients’ needs, please do not register for this clinic. If you have any questions in this regard, please meet with Professor Pinard before enrolling.

Key to Codes in Course Descriptions
P: Prerequisite
C: Prerequisite or Concurrent Requirement
R: Recommended Prior or Concurrent Course