Lt. Colonel (P) Johanna P. Clyborne, Esq.
Attorney, Brekke, Clyborne & Ribich, L.L.C.
United Stated Army War College Fellow
One’s actions show the world his or her commitment to the tenets of the UST Law School mission: integrating faith and reason in a search for truth, social justice and morality. Sometimes, I do not feel like the mission of UST Law resonates with me, but then I am reminded that nowhere in the mission does it say GOD or CATHOLIC. Reflecting on my own actions and the lives of those surrounding me, I see the myopic lens enlarge and understand that I live the Mission in Action.
After law school, I chose a work setting that allowed me to help others achieve justice and legal process while remaining true to my vocations of wife, mother and a Soldier. I will not become rich, but I practice law with my best friends, not mere colleagues, who share similar values. Through my law practice, I am committed to help people find resolutions to difficult life issues. It is more than just practicing law. It is about providing hope, comfort, guidance and every now and then a swift kick in the pants. I am more than a legal technician; I follow my moral compass to counsel people on how to improve their situation and head in a more positive direction. Sometimes a client just needs a little encouragement to take “baby steps” or the simple affirmation of “you can do it.”
by Dr. Artika Tyner
Director of Diversity, Faculty-Community Justice Project
Danielle Mkali of the Main Street Project and Artika Tyner of the Community Justice Project at the FCC advocating for prison phone justice reform
Did you know over 15,000 children in Minnesota may not have the chance to send holiday greetings to their parents? This is because these children have an incarcerated parent and due to the high costs of prison phone calls it is difficult for many of these children to remain in contact with their parents during the holiday season. The harsh reality is that a fifteen minute collect phone call received from a loved one who is incarcerated can cost up to $17. Further, these children may also miss the opportunity to visit and spend quality time with their parents since prisoners are incarcerated an average of 100 miles away from home and their families. As you can see, phone calls are truly a vital source of communication in order for families to remain connected. The Campaign for Prison Phone Justice seeks to ensure that children and families can remain in contact with their incarcerated loved ones by advocating for the costs of prison phone calls to be capped at a reasonable amount.
The high cost of prison phone calls is due to the associated commissions paid to prisons from phone companies. Prisons and phone companies enter into contracts for phone services. As a result, these phone companies pay commissions to the prisons. In Minnesota, state prisons receive 49% commissions on phone calls made from prisons which generate $1.5 million in revenue each year. In turn, families must bear the burden of choosing between accepting a loved one’s call from prison and meeting their basic budgetary needs. Many families will be forced to make these difficult decisions over the holiday season and throughout the upcoming year. To learn more about how you can help to promote strong families by supporting prison phone justice, please visit the Campaign’s website: http://nationinside.org/campaign/prison-phone-justice/
On October 9th, 2012, the University of St. Thomas School of Law hosted the Minnesota Hispanic Bar Association (MHBA) Mentorship Program Reception in the Law School’s atrium. MHBA Mentorship Program pairs Latino law students with active MHBA members in an effort to promote inclusion and diversity in the Minnesota legal community. Every fall, one of the four Minnesota law schools hosts the mentorship reception. This year was St. Thomas’ first time hosting the reception and we are happy to report that it was a big success!
Law students from all four Minnesota law schools, MHBA board members, MHBA mentors, and UST Law faculty attended to in support of the program. We were especially pleased to have Peter Reyes, President of the Hispanic National Bar Association, Beatriz Menanteau, President of the MHBA, and Lenny Castro, recently appointed District Judge, in attendance.
University of St. Thomas School of Law’s Assistant Dean for Student Affairs, Dave Bateson, spoke about the importance of mentorship, particularly at St. Thomas, and our excitement in partnering with the MHBA to host the reception. The reception served as the initial point of contact for law students to meet their MHBA mentors and also gave the participants a chance to network with other members of the Minnesota legal community.
We would like to thank the MHBA for the opportunity to host the reception at St. Thomas, the mentors and mentees for attending the program, and the St. Thomas faculty for all their help and support in helping plan and arrange the event.
Dr. Artika Tyner addressing conference participants
Every year, the National Black Pre-Law Admissions & Preparations Conference provides aspiring Black lawyers with access to resources and information to help prepare them for success in law school and a career as a lawyer. This year, the Conference was held in Houston, TX on November 2-3, and UST Law Director of Diversity Dr. Artika Tyner had the honor of presenting a lecture titled “Writing as Advocacy: Using your Legal Skills to Create Transformation.”
Dr. Tyner used real-world scenarios to engage the conference participants in learning how to write in order to facilitate public policy reform. Specifically, her presentation focused on the “School to Prison Pipeline,” and trends in the criminal charge of “Obstructing Legal Process.”
The participants drafted mock advocacy letters to their State Department of Education and City Attorneys analyzing the two issues and urging policy reform. Dr. Tyner drew upon her own experiences in advocating for civil rights and policy reform in this creative problem solving exercise by instructing her students on preparation for drafting written advocacy and factors to consider when drafting advocacy letters. We are very proud to have had Dr. Tyner represent the University of St. Thomas at the Conference and would like to thank her for leading such a beneficial workshop!
Guest blogger Carrie Burton ’08
Associate Attorney, Midwest Disability, Chicago, IL
My goal is to have the School of Law’s mission as a mind frame for my work. Every day is a new opportunity to focus on social justice and to work for a more moral and equal society.
Carrie Burton ’08, Associate Attorney, Midwest Disability, Chicago, IL
At my job, I represent people who have applied for federal social security benefits. My clients suffer from physical and mental health impairments. Often they have both at the same time. I work with them before their hearings and represent them at administrative hearings before a judge.
My clients are usually people who I wouldn’t normally have a lot of contact with in my daily life. A good number of them are homeless. Many of them are in and out of mental hospitals and a few are in prison. They are in great need of most things that provide stability; things like health care, financial resources and good health.
Any court experience is traumatic for my client. They are in front of a several strangers, discussing their most personal issues. And there are moments, usually in the waiting rooms of courts where I get nervous. That is when the moment of clarity hits me, it is going to be me and my not-well client versus one of the biggest bureaucracies in the country and I start to doubt our chances. Through thousands of pages of medical records and expert testimony and legal standards—I search, with the court, for the truth. When we win, it is such a relief. When we win it means my clients are not completely destitute and will have some health care. But sometimes the truth gets lost and we are unsuccessful. Sometimes the truth is that my client does not meet the legal standard. I don’t win every case. That is hardly the case. Sometimes at the end of the day all I can offer is a listening ear. My client knows that I have heard her story. I have told her that what she is going through is not right and not fair. So even on the days that I am not successful I am grateful that I am able to practice the law and ease the burdens of my clients, even if it is for just a minute.
Studying at St. Thomas confirmed the notions that being an attorney is an opportunity to serve my community. I love that being an attorney is interesting and engaging intellectually but more importantly it is an opportunity to stand with the disadvantaged, to be an advocate for the underserved. I hope to ensure the people I work with are treated with integrity. Working to treat all people with integrity and trying to unlock the doors of access is how I interpret the mission. And every day I live the mission imperfectly, but it is a privilege to attempt it day after day.