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UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA

JAMES E. ROGERS COLLEGE OF LAW


November 10, 2021

UPCOMING EVENTS

Nov 12

Jenckes Trial Competition

4:30 p.m., Rm 164

Nov 17

Pitt Speaker Series w/ Jill Lepore

Nov 30

LawCats Live: Huerta Scholarship Edition

Greetings,


Veterans Day inspires today's feature on the work of our Veterans' Advocacy Law Clinic and profile of one of Arizona Law's outstanding student veterans, Jessica Smedley (3L).


Before we turn to the feature, there's something else to celebrate. It was wonderful to be together again for Homecoming and Reunion Weekend—live and in person! Enjoy images from the Lifetime Achievement Awards and 2020 graduation in today's edition, with more great Homecoming snapshots next week.


Until the footnotes,


Marc

FEATURE

The Veterans' Advocacy Law Clinic

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Clinic and community members celebrating Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame award to Director Kristine Huskey earlier this year.


The Veterans' Advocacy Law Clinic, led by Clinic Professor and Director Kristine Huskey, provides pro bono legal services to those who have served in the United States military. The Clinic helps veterans by removing legal barriers that hinder the transition from military service to civilian life. It is the only law school clinic in Arizona whose clientele is exclusively veterans and service members and the only non-profit program in Arizona that focuses exclusively on the legal needs of veterans. 


The Vet Clinic assists veterans in four areas: veterans treatment courts, on disability benefits compensation cases, discharge upgrade and correction of military record cases, and through a robust intake and referral program.


Professor Huskey's Clinic Update


In the last year, our greatest accomplishment is that the Veterans Clinic continued to thrive despite the pandemic! As both an educational entity and a legal service provider, the Vet Clinic has traditionally operated in person, with its focus on educating and helping people—students and veterans. The pandemic forced us to move to a new virtual and hybrid world. We had to rethink and recreate how we had previously been operating. We had to react and pivot quickly, have flexibility and patience, draft entirely new operational manuals and guidelines, accommodate students and clients who struggled with technology, childcare, and COVID in family members or themselves, and be on alert for the general mental health of ourselves, students, and clients. Despite all that, the Vet Clinic survived and continued to effectively help a great number of veterans and teach students. 



Clinic Fellow Lori Lewis and students Jessica Smedley and Garrett Hable in Vet Court with Judge Semone.


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In the two local veterans treatment courts, the Vet Clinic acts as the public defender, representing veterans who have been charged with a misdemeanor and have been diverted to a treatment program. Over the last year, our students participated in fifty-six (56) half-day court sessions, representing around 160 veterans in the program. Approximately 80% of our clients graduate from a court treatment program and have their charges dismissed. 


While we are proud of our success as demonstrated by the number of clients we represent and our many graduates, we are equally proud of the human connections we make in the context of our work. In particular, when veterans graduate from veterans treatment court, they are often effusively positive about their time in the program.


One recent client, who was in court due to a domestic violence charge, then received another DV charge while in the program. Though the prosecutor wanted to terminate him from the program, our law students advocated for him to stay in and continue his treatment. When he graduated, the client wrote to Clinic Fellow, Lori Lewis, who supervises our veterans treatment court practice: 

“I truly, honestly, can’t thank you enough for everything you’ve done and continue to do for me. Your organization has allowed me to see a better me, not only for my family but for myself. I can’t imagine being any less. I’m so grateful for your entire staff and I like to think I’ve become close with many of you. This is life changing for me.”

The Vet Clinic also represented three veterans on discharge upgrade cases, which are administrative cases before a U.S. Dept. of Defense military board where we advocate for the veteran’s discharge status to be upgraded. We successfully filed lengthy applications for two of our veteran clients and hope to hear positive news in the next year.


In the third case, our client is a female veteran who deployed and while serving in Afghanistan was subject to MST (military sexual trauma). When she returned stateside, she suffered from PTSD and anxiety, ultimately leaving the Arizona Army National Guard with an Under Other Than Honorable discharge. Her status precludes her from receiving much-needed benefits and services from the VA. In 2017, Vet Clinic students filed an application to upgrade her discharge, which, under statute, should have been decided “expeditiously” and with consideration of her service-caused PTSD. Despite repeated communications with the DOD Board regarding her pending application, the Board took four years to issue its decision. Due to the extraordinary delay, several procedural and substantive errors, we plan to seek review of the Board’s decision in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona. Students Alexander Bledsoe (3L), Emmanuel Bonilla (3L, veteran), and Jessica Smedley (3L, veteran) are currently working on the case, and we hope to file a Complaint on our client’s behalf this fall semester.


The Vet Clinic continued its service of providing telephonic intakes and referrals to the many veterans and family members who contacted the Clinic requesting legal assistance. So far in 2021, we fielded over 100 inquiries from veterans who sought legal assistance. UA undergraduate interns, Kennedy Frost and Garrett Dawson (ROTC and AZ Army Nat’l Guard) helped veterans with their requests, doing research and finding them appropriate attorneys and non-profit organizations for matters such as family law, employment, landlord/tenant, consumer issues, and other various civil issues.

 

Law students, Alexander Bledsoe, Garrett Hable (3L), Malcolm Hale (3L), Hannah Peterson (3L), Jessica Smedley, and Mario Rios (’21, veteran) took the Vet Clinic in the spring semester this year. Alex, Garrett, and Jessica worked in the Clinic this summer, representing clients in veterans treatment court and on the DOD administrative case. All three returned for the fall semester and were joined by Emmanuel Bonilla, Michael Enderle (3L, veteran), Melissa Mitchell (3L), Eryn Ruechel (3L), and Jeremy Thompson (2L, veteran).


We are lucky to have the assistance of volunteer attorneys helping to teach and supervise our students: Michelle Bowen (’15, veteran), Jon Leitenberger (’17, veteran), Robert McManimon (Eller ’22, veteran), Dayna Michael (’17, veteran), and Anna Caruso.


We are truly grateful to have the support of the entire College of Law community, which helps us to help those who have served. 

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Professor Huskey and students Jessica Smedley and Garrett Hable.

3L Jessica Smedley Serves Veteran Community Through the Veterans' Advocacy Law Clinic

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Third-year JD student Jessica Smedley is originally from San Diego, California, and served in the United States Navy for a little over six years. She spent most of her time at the Office of Naval Intelligence in Washington, DC, as a Master-at-Arms, which she says technically refers to military police, with her work predominantly in explosive safety and training.

 

As a veteran, why did you choose the University of Arizona for Law school? 

University of Arizona is generally known for being a veteran-friendly school. I read a lot about the law school's Veterans' Advocacy Law Clinic when doing my research on potential programs, which I actually referenced in my personal statement when I later applied. Because I knew I wanted to become a trial attorney, I wanted to attend a school where there was no shortage of advocacy opportunities. There are more practical advocacy opportunities at this law school than anyone could ever do in three short years, so I definitely got what I asked for!


Can you tell us about your experiences with the Veterans' Advocacy Law Clinic?

Being a veteran is a big part of my identity, and military service really solidified my passion for helping others. I really felt like my experiences in the Navy could help me relate to other veterans, no matter where they are on their journey back to the civilian world. I applied to the Clinic so I could be a better advocate and cheerleader for struggling veterans, and both Professor Kristine Huskey and Professor Lori Lewis have empowered me to do both in meaningful ways, both in and out of the courtroom. 


I represented quite a few veterans in the Regional Municipalities Veterans Treatment Court, but one particularly....cantankerous client stands out. She was facing animal cruelty charges, and she really wanted to go back to "trial court" so she could fight them. I knew it likely wouldn't end well for her based on how animal cruelty statutes are written, so I encouraged her to participate in the Veteran Treatment Court instead so she could get her charges dismissed without risk of conviction. After a few hours of counseling her, she agreed to stay with the program, and she ended up graduating within a matter of months with all charges dismissed. At the end of the day, that client needed education more than a fine or sentence. Teaching folks how to "be better" without slamming them with a criminal record—that kind of diversion is how we keep folks from coming back to the wrong side of court!

 

Are you part of any other student groups or extracurriculars? 

Beside my role in the Clinic, I am currently working as the Udall Prosecution Fellow. My experience in the Clinic—especially working as defense counsel in Veteran Treatment Court—has helped me become a more competent, caring, and ethical student prosecutor.


Representing veteran offenders opens your eyes to the many reasons why people offend: mental health struggles, homelessness, drug and alcohol abuse, financial strain, toxic family dynamics, and grief, to name just a few. Of course, these are not problems unique to veteran populations, so developing a compassionate understanding of these factors translates well in other trial environments, whether you pursue defense or prosecutorial work. In addition to being a Fellow, I am the Chair of the Philanthropic Committee for the Arizona Law Women's Association and a Note & Comment Editor for the Arizona Journal of International and Comparative Law. Outside of school, I'm an avid equestrian—and I will not hesitate to show you my many pictures of my horses!

 

What are your plans after graduation?

I am hoping to work as a prosecutor with the Yavapai County Attorney's Office in Prescott, Arizona. It's a sleepy little mountain town with a significant veteran population, as my husband and I discovered. Because I've been working in a prosecutor role, I am limited in how I can directly represent veterans, but that doesn't mean I can't advocate for them as an agent of the State. Prosecutors are the gatekeepers for diversion programs and rehabilitation-based plea offers, and can have a big influence on what kinds of leniency the court affords to particularly vulnerable populations. I think this gatekeeping function is vital to reducing recidivism in our communities, especially for military-connected offenders who may need that extra bit of encouragement to engage with resources at the VA or through other community-based programs. The more veterans can effectively reintegrate into their communities "back home," the more likely they can lead productive and fulfilling lives.

AROUND THE COLLEGE

2021 Lifetime Achievement Awards Celebrated During Homecoming Weekend

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We gathered to celebrate this year's awardees, Justice Frank X. Gordon, Jr. (’54), Judge Raner C. Collins (’75), and Dee-Dee Samet (’63).


Thank you to everyone who joined us. 


Read more about each awardee.





Judge Raner C. Collins

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Dee-Dee Samet

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Justice Gordon's daughter Candy Lander

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IN THE NEWS

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Congratulations to the class of 2020 LawCats who had the chance to walk across the stage and be recognized for their academic achievements during last week’s Commencement celebration. For the first time in 100 years, graduates celebrated in front of Old Main, a fitting tribute to the uniqueness of this year’s event.


Help us in congratulating, once more, the following LawCat participants: Alec Beamish, Alexa Martinez, Shilpita Sen, Sandra Joncic, Xavier Segura, Benjamin Richards, Peter McFadden, Ojas Patil, Sameehan Phatak and Paige Wells.


@uarizonalaw, Facebook

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Facial Recognition as a Less-Bad Option

Lawfare, authored by professor Jane Bambauer


White House Biding Its Time in Fight Over Shot-or-Test Mandate

Bloomberg Law, quoting professor Tessa Dysart


On our website:


Q&A with "Cybersecurity: An Interdisciplinary Problem" Author Derek Bambauer


We are proud and honored by the presence of our members of the Arizona Law community who are veterans, including alumni, faculty, staff, and students.


And we are grateful that the Veterans' Advocacy Law Clinic can provide invaluable assistance to veterans in our broader community.


Warmly,

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