Clinic: Children's Rights - Skills
Students in the Children's Rights Clinic represent allegedly abused or neglected children in Travis County District Court as student attorneys ad litem in cases in which the state seeks custody or termination of parental rights. Appointment of the Clinic as attorney ad litem complies with mandatory Texas law. Two very experienced family law attorneys, Clinical Professor Charles Childress and Clinical Professor Leslie Strauch, supervise the representation of clients by the student attorneys ad litem. Although the supervising attorneys must sign all pleadings drafted by the students and accompany them at a court hearing, deposition, and trial on the merits, the student attorneys sit "first chair" at hearings and depositions, and are expected to research and prepare the case as the attorney in charge. If the case goes to final hearing, student participation varies from partial to total. Each student is assigned several cases and will have multiple opportunities to appear in court during the semester, primarily on Monday and Friday. Most of the court appearances involve pre-trial matters or short hearings before a judge. On regular occasion students participate in a short bench trial; in some instances a trial to a judge or jury of several days' duration will occur. Students also participate fully in mediation sessions. In addition, in representing clients students meet with a wide variety of persons, including medical and mental health professionals, teachers, foster parents, social workers, attorneys, layperson CASAs, volunteers who serve as guardians ad litem, and police officers. The class meets in "boot camp" the first week of the semester, twice weekly during the first half of the semester to focus on substantive law, procedural techniques, and ethical issues, and once per week thereafter. In addition to the classroom component, each student should expect to average about 8 to 12 hours per week on the clinic. The weekly workload varies considerably, depending upon the stage of litigation of each particular case. Students are required to travel to see their child clients. These client visits sometimes include trips outside of Travis County. Prerequisites. There are no substantive or procedural law prerequisites for the course. Students must meet Texas requirements for the participation of qualified law students in the trial of cases under rules promulgated by the Texas Supreme Court, have completed 43 credit hours, and not be on scholastic probation. Students receive six hours of credit per semester on a pass/fail basis. There is no paper or final exam.
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Childress, Charles G