The Denver Post
The first time Keenan Jones, an aspiring attorney, met with a client, it involved a bit of travel.
Down 110 miles of Interstate 25, past tall gates fringed in razor wire, through a rigorous security screening and into a concrete room, where, behind a glass partition, sat a man just about no attorney in the country wanted to represent.
His name is Mohammed Saleh. He was convicted in connection with the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and locked up in the federal Supermax prison because the government considered him so dangerous. He had filed a lawsuit challenging the conditions of his incarceration.
And Jones, then a 22-year-old second-year law student at the University of Denver, was, for all intents and purposes, his lawyer.
"The Constitution has to be something that protects us in our hardest times, not just when things are great," said Jones, now in his last year at the law school. "I like the idea of being involved and making sure the Constitution is protecting even the most hated and the most despised."
Jones had another reason, though, for taking the case. As part of a group of students working with DU's Civil Rights Clinic, he was gaining the kind of real-world legal experience that can't be found inside a lecture hall. Students at the clinic, with supervision from law professors, basically act as real attorneys. They research cases, conduct depositions, file motions and argue before judges.
The clinic is one of several hands-on legal programs at DU. While the approach has been in place at the school for decades, the Civil Rights Clinic got its start in 2004, when professor Laura Rovner joined the DU faculty.
Rovner said that in learning about Colorado courts, she came to believe there was a need for prisoner-rights attorneys. But because so few lawyers generally take such cases, the field was ripe for a student clinical program.
Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?
Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.
If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.
Saturday, November 26, 2011
The Denver Post