School of Law Promotes Social Justice, Collaborative Service
Programs involving four clinics, an environmental justice initiative, and tax-filing assistance to low-income community members demonstrate how Barry University’s Dwayne O. AndreasSchool of Law is meeting long-standing institutional commitments.
Through the clinical programs, Barry Law puts much of its emphasis on the university’s core commitments of social justice and collaborative service, said Lee Schinasi, associate professor and director of clinical programs.
Introducing the School of Law presentation at Barry’s Core Commitments Luncheon recently, Schinasi said clinical education was the primary way the school lives out its mission and meets the university’s core commitments. Clinical education, he said, involves in-house clinics, externships, and partnerships.
Orlando-based Barry Law runs clinics whose work is focused on immigration, juvenile defense, environmental and earth law, and collaborative family law.
Kate Aschenbrenner-Rodriguez, assistant professor and director of the Immigration Clinic, said students work on deportation, asylum, and reunification cases. They provide representation that clients usually cannot afford and therefore would not have, she explained.
Katherine Puzone, associate professor and director of the Juvenile Defense Clinic, said the clinic has shown clients that “they are destined for more than poverty and prison.”
The Environmental and Earth Law Clinic has developed an excellent partnership with the League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization that encourages informed and active participation in government. According to Assistant Professor and Clinic Director Rachel Deming, students and faculty support an agenda provided by the community partner.
University administrators, faculty, staff, and students attending the luncheon also learned about the Center for Earth Jurisprudence and the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program, or VITA.
Margaret Stewart, a Barry alumna who serves as director of the Center for Earth Jurisprudence, spoke briefly about the center’s role in promoting law and policy that support environmental justice for the benefit of all members of the earth community.
Founded by Sister Pat Siemen, OP, the current prioress of the Adrian Dominican Sisters, the Center for Earth Jurisprudence is celebrating its 10th anniversary. The Center was represented at the Fourth International Rights of Nature Tribunal, in Bonn, Germany, last month.
Speaking about VITA, Associate Professor Frank Schiavo, the director, noted that this program helps low-income community members to file their taxes. The students have assisted hundreds of eligible individuals and families in the preparation of accurate tax returns, he said.
Without this service, Schiavo added, VITA’s clients would need to file their taxes on their own or pay for private, third-party tax preparation services, which many can hardly afford.
Professor Leticia Diaz is dean of Barry’s School of Law, which is located in Orlando.
The annual Core Commitments Luncheon is a highlight of Barry’s Founders Week in November. The main events take place on Barry’s main campus in MiamiShores.