3L Tax Clinic Student Brendan Valentine volunteers at a VITA site
As we approach the tax filing deadline, we report that, as a pro bono project spearheaded each year by Janet R. Spragens Federal Tax Clinic students, this spring, nearly 50 WCL student volunteers are preparing tax returns for low-income taxpayers throughout the District of Columbia, Montgomery County, Maryland and Northern Virginia in conjunction with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. Student volunteers complete twelve hours of training and certification before preparing taxes at their respective volunteer sites. On average, students commit to volunteering twenty hours during the spring semester. The project was coordinated this year by 3L Michelle Ramos Domingue.
“Out of the WCL pro bono programs I have participated in, VITA has been the most rewarding,” said Brendan Valentine, a third year law student and VITA volunteer. “VITA is a program that fits naturally with WCL students and our commitment to public service and it is a program I am very proud to be a part of.”
Students also volunteered in tax outreach programs with the Office of Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton.
In November of 2013, Prof. Binny Miller was appointed to the Maryland Bar Admissions Task Force. The task force is reviewing all of the requirements for admission to the Maryland bar, including hot button issues concerning skills requirements and character and fitness issues. The Task Force will study the issues and provide a report to the Maryland Court of Appeals, the highest court in Maryland.
At American University Washington College of Law there are four annual faculty scholarship awards. This year, two of them went to clinicians. In addition, there is one university-wide scholarship award and that, too, went to one of our clinical colleagues. We are proud of their achievements, particularly sweet because, like all of our clinicians, they directly supervise a full complement of students in our in-house clinic. Each of them is adept at balancing the difficult work of being a clinical teacher with their commitments to scholarship and service in the cause of justice.
Richard (Rick) Wilson won the Pauline Ruyle Moore Scholar Award for his article, Omar Khadr: Domestic and International Litigation Strategies for a Child in Armed Conflict Held at Guantanamo, SANTA CLARA JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL LAW V. 11, no. 1 (2012).
Susan Bennett won the Egon Guttman Casebook Award for Susan Bennett, Brenda Bratton Blom, Louise A. Howells & Deborah S. Ken, Community Economic Development Law: A Text for Engaged Learning (Carolina Academic Press 2012).
Jenny Roberts will receive the 2014 University Faculty Award for Outstanding Scholarship, Research, Creative Activity, and Other Professional Contributions. This important award “requires distinction as a scholar as documented through publications, invited lectures and papers, performances or shows, leadership in professional societies, work on editorial boards, membership in prestigious professional organizations, references, quotes or appearances in the media, or other kinds of selective positions of leadership.” Additionally, Prof. Roberts was just appointed Associate Dean for Scholarship, effective Fall 2014.
Clinic students Diana Navas and Jacqueline Zamarripa, meet their advocacy partner, Osman Kargbo of Dignity Association Sierra Leone.
Geneva, Switzerland: The International Human Rights Law Clinic participated in the UN Human Rights Committee’s review of Sierra Leone’s commitment to implementing its obligations under the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) on March 11th-12th. In preparation for the State’s first review, clinic students Diana Navas and Jacqueline Zamarripa, under the supervision of Practitioner in Residence Shana Tabak, worked with several Sierra Leonean organizations to prepare a collaborative shadow report on the violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in Sierra Leone. The shadow report can be found online here.
While in Geneva, Navas and Zamarripa met one of their Sierra Leonean partners for the very first time. Together, they participated in an informal meeting with Committee members and also gave a formal oral presentation on the contents of their shadow report.
During the two-day review, the Committee expressed serious concerns about a wide range of issues occurring throughout Sierra Leone. Despite the absence of Sierra Leone’s delegation to properly address each concern, civil society organizations discussed the appalling prison conditions, the widening impunity gap for security officers accused of unlawful killings, the lack of diversity of the Constitutional Review Committee, the failure of the state to abolish the death penalty, and the violence perpetrated against persons on the basis of their actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. The review focused extensively on civil and political rights, and served as an eye opener to the progress Sierra Leone has made as well as the significant challenges that persist in addressing these rights.
Members of the Sierra Leone civil society group with International Human Rights Law Clinic supervisor, Shana Tabak.
Group picture of the Sierra Leone NGO group, including Osman Kargbo of Dignity Association, Mambu Feika of Prison Watch Sierra Leone, Ibrahim Tommy of the Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law, Valerie Tucker of IPAS and clinic students, Diana Navas and Jacqueline Zamarripa from the International Human Rights Law Clinic.
Text and pictures courtesy of Diana Navas and Jacqueline Zamarripa.