UB School of Law’s BLSA Chapter Plans ‘Night Without a Home’ to Educate Students About Homelessness

On Friday, Nov. 22, in observance of national Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, the University of Baltimore Black Law Students Association will host an overnight event to allow students to experience the conditions of homelessness (lack of heat and shelter) and hear from both homeless individuals and organizations that assist the homeless in Baltimore City.

Night Without a Home graphicThe event, called “Night Without a Home,” will welcome individuals who are currently homeless or who have been previously, to speak about their journeys. In addition, says student organizer Autumn Lee, representatives of local organizations that serve the homeless will be available to discuss the services they provide and ways in which students can get involved. Those organizations are the Homeless Persons Representation Project, Maryland Legal Aid, Health Care for the Homeless, Housing Our Neighbors, and the Mayor’s Office of Human Services’ Homeless Services Program.

The students will gather on Gordon Plaza, at Maryland Avenue and Mt. Royal Avenue, at 6 p.m. and will remain there until 6 a.m.

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Water Affordability Bill, Fought for by UB School of Law’s Community Development Clinic, Passes City Council

A bill that will update Baltimore’s antiquated billing system for water passed the City Council on Nov. 18 and is headed to the desk of Mayor Jack Young, who introduce the measure a year ago and has promised to sign it. The Water Accountability and Equity Act, which grants discounted rates according to a customer’s income and provides easier ways to dispute bills, is a result of years of effort by students in the UB School of Law Community Development Clinic, in collaboration with other member organizations in the Baltimore Right to Water Coalition.

Professor Jaime Alison Lee

Professor Jaime Alison Lee

Clinic students have used various avenues to advocate for more affordable water and more transparency in the Department of Public Works (DPW), which manages the water system, says Prof. Jaime Alison Lee, director of the clinic. This includes presenting research to the Coalition, partnering with churches and community groups to present ‘know your rights’ workshops to city residents, representing individual clients with water bill disputes, and writing up client testimony to support the passage of legislation at the state level.

The bill makes low-income city residents eligible for credits based on their income. It also creates an Office of Water-Customer Advocacy and Appeals within the DPW, bringing necessary oversight to an outdated billing system that has been a frustrating source of errors and confusion for years.

“The Customer Advocate would review whether customers are being unfairly denied support from the Hardship Fund and similar programs, including water bill discounts for the elderly and the ill, and the reimbursement program for sewage backups,” Lee said in a press release from Food and Water Watch. “Just as importantly, the Advocate would also increase transparency and propose systemic changes at DPW to help ensure that these programs aren’t just empty promises, but are actually used to improve the lives of Baltimore City residents.”

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Students in UB School of Law’s Immigrant Rights Clinic Practice Creative Advocacy at SCOTUS DACA Hearing

On November 12, 2019, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments concerning the possible end of DACA: Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The University of Baltimore School of Law’s Immigrant Rights Clinic students and faculty traveled to the Supreme Court to participate in a rally supporting DACA and other forms of immigration protection. This account was written by students Joanna Choi, Megan Connolly, Emma Dorris, Daniyal Husain, Magdala Norton, Georges Tchamdjou and Kevin Zelaya, with contributions from Prof. Elizabeth Keyes. Clinical Teaching Fellow Nickole Miller also accompanied the group.

After spending much of the semester immersed in immigration court litigation for specific clients, this trip was a culmination of a unit on creative advocacy, where the students considered and developed strategies beyond their individual client cases to think about the issues that affect our clients.

Background: What is DACA?

At the Supreme Court

Students and faculty from the UB Immigrant Rights Clinic traveled to Washington, D.C. for the Nov. 12 arguments on DACA before the Supreme Court.

DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, is a form of administrative protection whose purpose is to protect eligible immigrants who came to the United States when they were children from deportation. Although DACA does not provide official legal status or a pathway to citizenship to these individuals, it does allow them to be “lawfully present” without the threat of deportation and apply for driver’s licenses and work permits. Currently, around 750,000 young adults in the United States benefit from the DACA program.

In 2012, President Obama issued the DACA executive order as a response to Congress’ failure to provide any relief for immigrant youth. On September 5, 2017, Attorney General Sessions stated that the Trump administration was ending the DACA program. This decision meant that over time, 750,000 young adults brought to the U.S. as children who qualify for the program, would become eligible for deportation and lose access to affordable education and work permits.

Attorney General Sessions asserted that “the executive branch, through DACA, deliberately sought to achieve what the legislative branch specifically refused to authorize on multiple occasions. Such an open-ended circumvention of immigration laws was an unconstitutional exercise of authority by the Executive Branch.”

After the Trump administration ordered an end to DACA in 2017, plaintiffs across the country filed several lawsuits against the termination of DACA. Federal appellate courts have ruled against the administration, allowing previous DACA recipients to renew their deferred action, and the Supreme Court granted certiorari to review the legal challenges.

The Day of the Oral Arguments

The day of arguments arrived, with gray clouds covering the sky in Washington, D.C., making for an ominous background. While the attorneys for each side were delivering oral arguments to the justices, crowds of people gathered outside in raincoats and huddled under umbrellas before the Supreme Court. People of all ages, nationalities and backgrounds gathered from all over the United States, including California, New York, and Texas. Some walked 250 miles as a demonstration of their support of immigrant rights. Strangers joined together in carrying signs and cheering in one voice, in protest of the elimination of DACA. The scale and magnitude of the protest was evident.

The energy of the rally was infectious. Even in the rain and the cold, groups of high school students stood outside playing the drums, saxophone and tuba. Senators and Representatives from various states came to support the rally, while journalists and the media attempted to capture the energy of the crowd. News reports stated that there were likely several thousand people present, including Dreamers, immigration lawyers, law students and ordinary Americans who believe Dreamers should be protected. The large crowds required the assistance of Capitol police and Secret Service agents to ensure that people were safely exercising their First Amendment rights.

Speakers shared their personal stories and experiences about growing up in the United States without status. They described the sacrifices of their parents who worked long, arduous hours so that their children can achieve the “American Dream.” DACA enabled such dreams to become a reality. Speakers galvanized the crowd by sharing their personal stories. One speaker shared how his dream of becoming a Harvard-educated doctor materialized because of DACA. Speakers also shared how DACA allowed them to enjoy simple benefits often taken for granted, such as bank accounts, driver’s licenses, and Social Security numbers.

Rallies as Creative Lawyering

A rally like this provides a tool for change. It brings together people with similar aspirations, and is a way to have people’s voices heard. The more voices can be heard, including the voice of the legal community, the more they can have an impact on changes in the law. The individuals affected by the DACA program, along with their families, were all motivated to share their stories, not be afraid of who they were or how they entered the U.S., or where they are from. They shared the same values, a common past and a common path to becoming documented immigrants.

The rally was not solely limited to actual DACA recipients; it was open to anyone who believes in the purpose of DACA, in Dreamers, and in their right to remain in the United States. Lawyers had center stage inside the court, but outside the court, it was the community members and organizers across the nation whose voices mattered, and we—future attorneys—were there in support of them.

A goal of the Immigrant Rights Clinic is for us to understand the legal principles governing immigration laws, and to be able to zealously advocate through creative lawyering within the limits of legal standards. Simply put, as attorneys, we must sometime think outside of the box. Similarly, rallying serves the purpose of justice by aiming for social change. Rallying for a position you stand on is a tool that can bring forth change in a system that appears to disfavor the disadvantaged.

Even when we left the protest and were walking back to the train station, we saw more Dreamers who continued to pour out of Union Station making their way to the protest. It was incredibly powerful to see these Dreamers unite people across the nation to advocate that Dreamers too, despite legal status, are Americans at heart. We were inspired to be a small part of a massive national movement that is insisting that we have a new conversation about who belongs in America. As sign after sign that day said, for the Dreamers and their families, Home Is Here.

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UB School of Law Student Organizations Lead Children’s Book Drive for Local Elementary School

Two student organizations, Parents in Law School (PILS) and Student Insurance Law Association (SILA) have partnered to donate children’s books to Fort Worthington Elementary School in east Baltimore. They are collecting books in a drop box by the 6th floor Affinity Room until Wednesday, Nov. 27.

“As someone who found law interesting mainly through my love of reading, simply teaching someone to read or passing on a love of stories has a broader application,” says Jessica Blumberg, a 3L who is the founder and president of SILA. “Technology is irreplaceable in business and work, but as time goes on it seeps into our time of relaxation. It is our responsibility to pass to the next generation the love and beauty of reading and writing.

“I am a reading partner at Fort Worthington Elementary and I love it! My student is very motivated to improve her reading level. After each lesson, every child can pick a book to take home and grow their home library. Often, there is no variety to choose from.

“Once a well-known classic, Corduroy, was available. My students eyes lit up! I knew at that moment I wanted to try to find as many classic books as I could to add to their libraries,” Blumberg says.

Magdala Norton, left, and Jessica Blumberg with some of the children's books they have collected.

Magdala Norton, left, and Jessica Blumberg with some of the children’s books they have collected for Fort Washington Elementary students.

Magdala Norton, a 3L who is president of PILS, says the organization was formed to create a community of support for parents who are in law school. “Law school has its challenges, and when you pair the demands of law school with the demands of parenting, it may seem impossible to balance both. However, it is not! Through PILS,” says Norton, “other parents in law school will know that there are other law students, similarly situated, who are able and willing to lend a helping hand to their fellow classmate.

“PILS wanted to support the book drive because one of PILS’ missions is to give back to the community, and what an amazing way to give back!,” says Norton.

“We decided to give back to the community to increase literacy in Baltimore elementary schools and do our part to teach Baltimore’s future lawyers, and maybe UB’s future students, to read. Through my experience I’ve seen how much kids love to read — all they need is for us to find the books,” says Blumberg.

“In life insurance there is an allocation technique to fund policies called “find the money.” Here we implemented a “find the books” strategy! The books were in many ways available — they just needed to be reallocated and distributed to the kids in need.”

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UB School of Law Prof. Audrey McFarlane to Speak on Panel About Ongoing Segregation in Baltimore

Author Lawrence Lanahan‘s recent book, The Lines Between Us: Two Families and a Quest to Cross Baltimore’s Racial Divide, chronicles the history of segregation in Baltimore and why it stubbornly persists today. From the 1968 Fair Housing Act to the 2015 death of Freddie Gray and beyond, Lanahan describes efforts to desegregate the Baltimore region and eradicate poverty in west Baltimore.

As Baltimoreans “cross the lines” in his book, the theme of self-determination is a steady refrain. During the attempted revitalization of 1990s Sandtown, for example, and during the protests following Gray’s death, neighborhood leaders in west Baltimore tried to ensure that their communities maintained control of their own destiny.

Prof. Audrey McFarlane

Prof. Audrey McFarlane

Lanahan will discuss his book at the Pratt Central Library at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 20 with three Baltimoreans whose lives and work have attracted them to this issue.

Audrey McFarlane is the Dean Julius Isaacson Professor of Law and associate dean of faculty research and development at the UB School of Law. McFarlane studies the intersection of economic development with race, place and class. Her latest article, The Properties of Integration: Mixed Income Housing as Discrimination Management (66 UCLA L. Rev. 2019), looks at the impact of discriminatory preferences on the development of affordable housing.

Sandtown resident Antoine Bennett is the founder of Men of Valuable Action, a leadership development program in west Baltimore. From 2007 to 2012, he was the co-director of New Song Urban Ministries, which worked closely with followers of the Christian Community Development movement who moved into west Baltimore to live in solidarity with the poor.

Dayvon Love is the director of public policy for Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, where he has worked for nearly a decade years to advance the public policy interests of black people. As interest in west Baltimore intensified after the death of Gray, Love and other community leaders created Baltimore United for Change, a hub to connect people to grassroots activists with long histories in Baltimore communities. Love is the author of Worse Than Trump: The American Plantation and co-author with Lawrence Grandpre of The Black Book: Reflections from the Baltimore Grassroots.

Learn more about the event here.

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UB School of Law Prof. Gregory Dolin Soon Heads to Palau to Serve on the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court

Plenty of faculty take sabbaticals to explore areas of academic interest. But beginning in January 2020, Prof. Gregory Dolin will begin an entirely new phase of his legal career, as he dons robes to serve in the Judiciary of the Republic of Palau, population 21,503.

Palau is an island nation in the western Pacific consisting of approximately 340 islands. It’s a presidential republic that exists in so-called free association with the United States, which provides defense, funding and access to social services. Its economy consists mostly of tourismagriculture and fishing.

Prof. Gregory Dolin

Prof. Gregory Dolin

Dolin applied for the position last April, in response to an email from UB School of Law Dean Ronald Weich that asked, “Anyone interested in a change of scenery?” and provided a description of the opportunity. The government of Palau likes to hire U.S.-trained attorneys for terms lasting between one and three years. Dolin was appointed in July by Palau’s president and will be an Associate Justice of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court.

“It’s going to be a new and interesting experience that will give me a wider perspective on law and the justice system, and how people interact with it,” Dolin said. While the judiciary generally follows a model of American jurisprudence, he said, “There is an interesting interaction between common law and statutory law with traditional tribal law.”

Dolin received his J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center in 2004. He also has an M.D. from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, and an M.A. in philosophy and social policy from George Washington University. He will leave the United States in late December, do some traveling in Europe and Asia, and take the oath in Koror, Palau on Jan. 7, 2020.

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Need Help Handling Life’s Challenges? The UB Student Assistance Program is at Your Service

There are times when all of us have felt overwhelmed by challenges, whether they are financial, social, or we’re just not doing so well at coping with everyday life. The stress of trying to balance our studies with work and family responsibilities–while meeting our own personal needs–can produce major anxiety. Or we might need help with an emergency, like caring for a sick relative, or handling an unexpected legal issue.

illustration of girl under stressThe Office of Student Support is here for you. The Student Assistance Program (SAP) is now live and available for all UB students. The program provides free access to short-term therapy, crisis counseling, financial planning, legal assistance, eldercare and childcare. Students can access the services 24/7 by calling 1.800.327.2251. You will be connected with a Student Care Coordinator who is a master’s-level clinician. The hotline is free to use and confidential. The fact that you sought services will not be reported in a future background check.

You can also access the SAP online portal at www.portal.bhsonline.com. Log in with username UBALT.

For more information, contact the SAP directly or reach out to the Office of Student Support’s Clinical Case Manager, Tony DuLaney, LCPC, at 410.837.5159. The Clinical Case Manager works closely with Assistant Dean of Students Paul Manrique to connect students with on-campus and off-campus resources in an effort to encourage holistic student success.

Tony DuLaney’s office is located in Academic Center 111. You can also always begin by reaching out to Dean Manrique, who is located in the Dean’s Suite in Room 711, or by email at pmanrique@ubalt.edu.

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