August 31, 2021

As we start to emerge from the surreality of a year and a half of remote, pandemic existence, a racial reckoning, a failed dangerous insurrection to overthrow American democracy, and the uncertain impact of the surging of newer and more virulent strains of COVID, we write jointly to offer thoughts and observations on the state of our clinical programs and where we are headed in this fluid and tumultuous social moment.  

First, we have been inspired by the response and perseverance of our students, clinical faculty and staff in finding new and creative ways to serve our clients and client communities both on our usual case projects and matters on our dockets, as well as on new and unique matters generated by the times. For example, the Domestic Violence Clinic, led by Professor Victoria Chase launched a new statewide hotline in lieu of their formerly court-based outreach work.  
Building on its Covid-based early release victory in the New Jersey Supreme Court, the Criminal and Youth Justice Clinic, led by Professor Laura Cohen, continued with additional advocacy in the other branches of state government to secure release from detention for youths with health conditions vulnerable to Covid. The Civil Justice Clinic, led by Professor Norrinda Hayat, organized a twitterstorm and variety of other virtual advocacy efforts to help establish and extend the state’s moratorium on evictions in light of Covid’s economic consequences.

Second, the clinical faculty, led by Professor Jennifer Rosen Valverde, initiated an Anti-Racism clinical work group, which convened and met regularly after participation in the intensive, week-long, "Undoing Racism" workshop facilitated by the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond in January 2021. The Clinical Anti-Racism working group seeks to advance anti-racist principles in clinical teaching and all operations and practices. 

Third, we are launching a statewide Anti-Eviction initiative with the support of a more than $2 million appropriation to help address the onslaught of anticipated eviction proceedings in New Jersey when the state eviction moratorium comes to an end. 

Rutgers Law School in Camden will be hiring a visiting clinical professor for an 18-month appointment to start in January 2022 to transition the Mortgage Foreclosure Clinic into a holistic Housing Justice Clinic. A staff attorney is also being hired to assist Professor Anne Mallgrave in launching a new pro bono project to connect tenants with rental assistance and to apply for dismissal of their eviction cases under new statewide legislation. The appropriation also will fund several post-graduate and student fellowships to develop a corps of well-trained community-centered housing advocates. 

In Newark, a similar program will led by Professor Norrinda Hayat and the Civil Justice Clinic. That program will launch an eviction immersion project containing multiple components, including a project focusing on community organizing, community education and outreach to avert eviction actions.  Professor Charles Auffant and the Community Transactional Lawyering Clinic will work on another initiative focusing on eviction-diversion non-profit capacity building to develop longer-term community institutional infrastructure to maintain and further advance eviction diversion work. The clinic work also will involve eviction defense lawyering, community legal education and other forms of anti-eviction advocacy, including post-graduate community lawyering and a housing-advocacy-focused fellowship program, modelled in several respects after the historic OEO/LSC-based “Reggie” fellowship program in collaboration with Essex-Newark Legal Services.    

Fourth, this past year, the Rutgers Law School full faculty voted overwhelmingly to adopt a unitary tenure track for all clinical faculty. This vote supports full equality for clinical faculty and a full embrace of clinical education as central to the school's mission in both locations. All new clinical faculty hires will be on the unitary tenure track and a process for the voluntary transition to the tenure track for current clinical faculty is expected to commence no later than July 1, 2022. 

Fifth, Rutgers law school’s top leadership is now also inclusive of and guided by live-client clinical faculty with continued clinical and client-based obligations in each location, for the first time. The law school’s new leadership has been substantially bolstered by promotion of Newark Immigrant Rights Clinic Director, Anju Gupta to Vice Dean in Newark, and Camden Domestic Violence Clinic Director Victoria Chase to Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in Camden,  

Finally, we share some of our notable additional accomplishments in the past year in this Newsletter and look forward to a safe return to in-person operations this academic year.    

Rutgers Law Media Contacts:
Mike Sepanic (Camden); Elizabeth Moore (Newark)

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