Youth, Education and Justice Clinic

Course Description

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, and Disability Rights Maryland who are committed to expanding and enhancing the representation of children removed from school for disciplinary reasons. We represent children at school meetings, superintendent conferences, appeals to the respective school boards, 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. While most of the representation involves the parole process, student attorneys also represent clients in 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. A key component of our lawyering is storytelling. We strive to tell the stories of who our clients were, who they are, and the distances they have traveled over their decades of incarceration.
  • To round out the community lawyering role, student attorneys engage legislative and advocacy projects at the local and state levels that aim to keep children in school, decriminalize normal adolescent development, decriminalize youth more generally, and provide individuals serving life sentences for crimes they committed as children or young adults a “meaningful opportunity” to be released from incarceration. Our legislative advocacy work comprises a significant portion of the spring semester, which is when the Maryland General Assembly is in session.

    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, families, and communities
  • the disproportionate impact of these laws, policies, and practices on Black (particularly Black girls) and Brown schoolchildren, and schoolchildren with different abilities
  • adolescent brain science
  • growing up and growing old in prison
  • redemption/reclamation
  • 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 youth and criminal legal systems and as key markers of our incarcerated population), trauma and stigma (as entry points to the youth 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 uprooting 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 responding 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. As a five-credit clinic offering, student-attorneys in this clinic are required to average 13 hours per week of clinic work in addition to time spent in the seminar. 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 plan to have a job, an internship, or participate on a trial team or moot court team while enrolled in this clinic, you are required to meet with Professor Pinard before enrolling. We need to ensure that you will be able to meet your clinic obligations. If you have any questions in this regard, please meet with Professor Pinard before enrolling.

    All students enrolled in spring clinic will be required to attend in-person clinic orientation on Friday, January 10, 2025, in addition to any clinic-specific orientation that the professor may schedule.

    Current and Previous Instructors

    Key to Codes in Course Descriptions

    P: Prerequisite
    C: Prerequisite or Concurrent Requirement
    R: Recommended Prior or Concurrent Course

    Currently Scheduled Sections

    CRN: 28373

    • Spring '25
    • 5
    • 405
    • Tues: 9:50-11:50
      Thurs: 9:50-11:50


    • Michael Pinard

    • Enrollment Limit: 8

    Satisfies Cardin Requirement