Monthly Archives

March 2013

Community, Diversity, Faculty Perspective

American Violet: A Dialogue on the Intersection of the War on Drugs, Federal Sentencing Policies, and Race

Dr. Artika Tyner
Director of Diversity
Community Justice Project: Clinical Law Faculty
 

On February 13th, the University of St. Thomas School of Law Black Law Student Association, Multicultural Affairs Committee, and Office of Diversity sponsored a CLE program titled: “American Violet: A Dialogue on the Intersection of the War on Drugs, Federal Sentencing Policies, and Race.”

Mr. Jabari Barner (2L), President of BLSA, introducing the panelists.

Mr. Jabari Barner (2L), President of BLSA, introducing the panelists.

We were pleased to have a wonderful turn out as community members, high school students, law students, and faculty came out in support and to learn about the issues surrounding race and sentencing for drug convictions. We began by watching the film American Violet, which is based on the true story of a police raid in Hearne, TX in 2000.

The film follows a young Black woman named Dee Roberts, on her journey to clear her name after she is indicted for drugs based one person’s uncorroborated testimony, despite the fact that no drugs were found in her apartment or on her person. The drug charges against Dee are eventually dropped, however she is also approached by an attorney from the American Civil Liberties Union who wants her to be the lead plaintiff in a class action lawsuit against the people who were responsible for her arrest, in particular, the District Attorney. The film continues with Dee’s internal battle against what she feels is easiest (dropping the civil rights lawsuit) and what she feels is right (fighting for justice). Dee decides to pursue the lawsuit and the film ends with the case settling out of court in Dee’s favor, with the dismantling of the drug task force that arrested her in the first place and winning fight against the oppressive nature of the criminal justice system.

Professors Levy-Pounds and Osler providing remarks during the community dialogue.

Professors Levy-Pounds and Osler providing remarks during the community dialogue.

After the film, Professors Mark Osler and Nekima Levy-Pounds led a panel discussion on their scholarly research and professional experiences with the disparate impact of War on Drugs and Federal Sentencing Policies on African American people. Professor Osler was actually portrayed in the film as the professor at Baylor Law School who recommended a former student of his, a resident of Hearne, to assist the ACLU with this case. Continue Reading

Faculty Perspective

A New Location for UST’s Interprofessional Center for Counseling and Legal Services

IPC logoProfessional schools in American universities offer discipline-specific clinical services and training in law, psychology and social work. The Interprofessional Center for Counseling and Legal Services at the University of St. Thomas is among the first in the country through which faculty, staff and students from law, psychology and social work collaborate to help clients in need. At the same time, students from all three disciplines gain practical experience working on real cases, learning skills that will serve them well in their future careers.

Through the IPC, students from the School of Law, the Graduate School of Professional Psychology (a school of the College of Education, Leadership and Counseling) and the University of St. Thomas/St. Catherine University School of Social Work can help people and communities who face complex legal, psychological and social issues but lack the resources to pay for the professional services they need.

Under the guidance of the center’s faculty and fellows, law students represent and assist underserved populations of the Twin Cities in nine practice areas: elder law, immigration, community justice, consumer bankruptcy, bankruptcy litigation, federal commutations, federal appellate, misdemeanor defense and nonprofit organizations. The social work and psychology clinics are supervised by licensed faculty from their respective schools. With extensive client interaction, the center provides unparalleled opportunities for experiential learning. Student connection to clients is deep, and the work is often intense. Through their work, students develop a distinctive link to the community that is in harmony with the University of St. Thomas mission.

In the center, students from all three schools frequently work together, learning the collaborative skills critical to successful practices. Problems addressed range from health care issues to political asylum to bridge building with community stakeholders and problem solving in distressed communities. At the same time, these students are learning the practical skills that will serve them well throughout their careers.

In June 2012, the center moved to its new location in Opus Hall on the Minneapolis campus. In addition to raising the IPC’s visibility both in the university and the community, the new space will facilitate even more of the interprofessional collaboration that is the center’s hallmark.

IPC co-directors for blogPatricia Stankovitch, Virgil Wiebe & George Baboila

 Co-directors,
Interprofessional Center for
Counseling and Legal Services