About the Youth Justice Clinic Section
The Youth Justice section teaches student practitioners the substantive law, procedure, and practical lawyering skills needed to advocate for the special education rights of students with disabilities and to defend youth in delinquency proceedings. Student practitioners represent parents of special education students in disputes over eligibility, discipline, services, accommodations, education in the least restrictive environment, and other issues related to the student’s right to a free and appropriate public education. Clinic students gain valuable experience with negotiation and client-centered representation advocating at Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings and other meetings at the school level. Many of the clinic’s special education cases also require formal dispute resolution involving mediation, the drafting and filing of administrative complaints, and litigation before administrative tribunals. The clinic also defends youth accused of delinquency in juvenile court at all phases of proceedings, from first appearance through trial and disposition. Clinic students advocate for the youth’s expressed interests while providing a high-quality, holistic defense. Students interested in careers as criminal defense attorneys will benefit from this clinic by developing trial skills and knowledge of criminal law and procedure in addition to learning the specialized skills and procedures specific to the representation of youth in delinquency proceedings. This section also offers to engage in policy work on pressing reforms related to juvenile justice, educational rights, and other areas of youth justice.
The Youth Justice section has filed and litigated 10 administrative complaints on its special education docket. This includes 6 requests for due process hearings before the Division of Administrative Law. Student practitioners prevailed in the only matter that went to trial, resulting in the reversal of the expulsion of a high school student. Clinic practitioners have also been able to settle 5 of these cases with favorable terms for their clients while 3 are still pending. Through its litigation work, the clinic has been able to get 5 different students, including a preschooler, back into school and has obtained hundreds of hours of compensatory education for its clients. Many of the settlements also require schools to contract with outside experts to provide intensive behavioral supports and services for the students. The clinic's special education advocacy in formal dispute resolution proceedings provides a much needed service for the community. In the last year for which data is available, there were only 14 requests for due process hearings for the year in the entire state of Louisiana. By the end of this school year, the clinic anticipates having filed at least 8 requests for due process hearings, far more than any other organization or firm in the state.
Supervised by Professor Hector Linares
Enforcing Equitable Environments
Also in the Fall of 2022, students conducted an expedited due process hearing before an Administrative Law Judge to challenge the illegal expulsion of a student with disabilities to an alternative school. After a trial involving multiple witnesses, including an expert witness presented by the clinic, the tribunal issued a written decision finding in favor of the parent and ordering the student's immediate return to his regular high school. The Youth Justice Clinic is dedicated to and passionate about creating equitable environments in education.
Providing Relief for Youth
After Hurricane Ida, Youth Justice clinic students challenged the city's emergency evacuation policy for detained youth after the city illegally evacuated youth in its juvenile detention center to an adult prison. After litigation that involved interlocutory appellate victories at the level of both the intermediate appellate court and the Louisiana Supreme Court, clinic students were able to secure a Consent Judgment guaranteeing that only other licensed juvenile facilities would be used as evacuation sites during future emergencies.
Justice for Juveniles
In the Fall of 2022, the Youth Justice section of the law clinic filed a federal civil rights suit seeking an injunction and class-wide relief after the state announced plans to move youth in the custody of the Office of Juvenile Justice to a facility on the grounds of the notorious Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. Although the preliminary injunction was not granted, clinic students remain actively involved in ongoing litigation efforts to obtain permanent relief.