Maryland Carey Law launches Justice for Victims of Crime Clinic

Madeline Ziegler ’22 is one of the 12 students taking the clinic this spring.

The University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law has added to an already extensive list of options for fulfilling its public interest graduation requirement—the Justice for Victims of Crime Clinic. Established in fall 2020, the clinic gives student attorneys the opportunity to represent clients who are survivors of crimes, including physical and sexual assault, intimate partner violence, gun violence, robbery, hate and bias related crimes, and police-perpetrated and retaliation crimes, in a range of civil proceedings.

According to second-year law student Madeline Ziegler ’22, the experience is helping shape her future. “It’s been rewarding to work with a real person, with real human stakes behind the work, and realize that the work you’re doing really matters to the person in front of you,” says the Pennsylvania native, who joined the clinic at the beginning of the spring semester.

For Ziegler, that person in front of her is a woman who is both a victim of domestic violence and an immigrant. The transformative work is to help her client get a U Visa, which ensures a special immigration status for victims of certain crimes who have suffered mental or physical abuse and are helpful in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity. To put together a persuasive case for the visa application, Ziegler is conducting extensive client interviews and gathering evidence from state and local officials proving that her client cooperated in a criminal investigation.

“This experience has solidified that whatever career path I take, I will always have a strong commitment to public interest work,” says Ziegler. “There is so much work that needs to be done.”

The case Ziegler is working on is one of 18 currently in process at the clinic. Eleven other student attorneys like Ziegler are engaged in work including breach of fiduciary duty and conversion claims; advocating for a trafficking victim in the foster care system; expunging the record of a gunshot wound victim; representing a juvenile serving a life sentence currently being victimized in prison; and assisting an undocumented minor who was sexually assaulted by a family member as she navigates the criminal prosecution process as a victim and witness.

Students are supervised by Lila Meadows ’15, who founded the clinic in cooperation with the UMB Rebuild Overcome and Rise (ROAR) Center at the law school. ROAR is an interdisciplinary center helping crime survivors access legal, social work, health, and mental health resources that aid in their recovery.

“ROAR and the Justice for Victims of Crime Clinic are perfect partners,” says Meadows, who, as a student, participated in Maryland Carey Law’s Gender Violence Clinic, where she also has taught. “Combining forces, we are building a practice serving clients who otherwise may not be able to access justice and helping future lawyers challenge deep-seeded societal beliefs about who is entitled to claim victimhood.”

Students in the clinic also get practice in policy advocacy during Maryland’s legislative sessions. Some are currently working on written testimony to support bills that will extend the right to counsel in immigration proceedings as well as legislation that would allow child victims of sexual abuse to bring civil suits against their abusers that are currently barred by the statute of limitations.

During the pandemic, the clinic has operated remotely. In the post-COVID future, Meadows plans for a more robust collaboration between the clinic, ROAR, and community organizations to comprehensively support victims of violence from the outset of victimization and to support violence prevention work that is already occurring across the city. 

“By attacking this problem early on and from multiple angles,” says Meadows “we hope to challenge the inequitable distribution of victim resources and create meaningful recovery opportunities for Baltimore City crime victims.

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