The official blog of the WVU Clinical Law Program

Veterans Law Clinic Group Photo

WVU Law Clinics Serve Homeless Veterans at 2016 Stand Down

On September 29, 2016, the WVU Law Clinics provided legal services to homeless and unemployed veterans at the 2016 Veterans Stand Down. Stand Downs are typically one- to three-day events providing supplies and services to homeless Veterans, such as food, shelter, clothing, health screenings and VA Social Security benefits counseling. Veterans can also receive referrals to other assistance such as health care, housing solutions, employment, substance use treatment and mental health counseling. They are collaborative events, coordinated between local VA Medical Centers, other government agencies and community-based homeless service providers. This year’s Stand Down, which was sponsored by the Clarksburg VA Medical Center, was held at the Morgantown National Guard Armory.

Students from the Veterans Advocacy, General Practice, Child and Family Advocacy and WV Innocence Project gathered at the Armory to provide legal outreach services to local homeless veterans throughout the Stand Down. “I am proud that so many WVU Law clinical students—many of whom are not enrolled in the Veterans Advocacy Clinic—volunteered at the Stand Down and came out to provide support and services to our veteran neighbors most in need,” said Associate Professor Jennifer Oliva, an Army veteran who Directs the Veterans Advocacy Clinic. In the military, a “Stand Down” afforded battle-weary soldiers the opportunity to renew their spirit, health and overall sense of well-being. Today’s “Stand Downs” afford the same opportunity to our homeless veterans – an often invisible population exceeding 100,000 former servicemembers.


WVU Veterans Advocacy Clinic Receives $10,000 National Grant Award

On September 29, 2016, the Washington, DC-based Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program awarded the WVU Veterans Advocacy Clinic (VAC) a grant in the amount of $10,000 to advocate on behalf of veterans in need of comprehensive legal services throughout the state of West Virginia. Commander David H. Myers presented the grant award to the VAC at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center’s 2016 Veterans Stand Down. Commander Myers, a Navy Veteran and former Navy judge advocate, currently serves as the Consortium’s Director of Case Evaluation and Placement.

Demonstrating its commitment to veterans across the state, the West Virginia College of Law has expanded its Veterans Assistance Project from a practice area within the General Clinic to a stand-alone Veterans Advocacy Clinic (VAC). The VAC is staffed with eight student attorneys and directed by Associate Professor Jennifer Oliva, a graduate of the United States Military Academy and an Army veteran. Under Professor Oliva’s leadership, the VAC has develop a partnership with the Veterans Consortium in which the clinic students represent veterans before the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC) and the Veterans Consortium provides the clinic with client referrals, training, mentoring support and grant opportunities.

Incarcerating US Panel

Screening of "Incarcerating US" and re-entry panel

Last week, I was fortunate enough to attend a film screening of the documentary Incarcerating US, an event sponsored by the Black Law Student Association and WVU Law’s American Civil Liberties Union chapter. The film explored many aspects of the American criminal justice system, but focused primarily on our nation’s growing prison problem. With a prison population of 2.3 million people, the United States of America has the largest prison population in the world today. While the United States represents only about 4.4 percent of the world’s population, our nation houses 22 percent of the world’s prisoners. These statistics should alarm us all.

Incarcerating US attempted to explain the causes of American prison overpopulation by highlighting the failures of two major policies crafted during the 1970s – the “War on Drugs” and the implementation of mandatory minimum sentences. The film featured a multitude of persuasive examples that argued that the “War on Drugs” unjustifiably shifted the attention of law enforcement investigation from high-level drug producers and suppliers to common drug users. Further, by statutorily requiring judges to sentence drug offenders to a mandatory minimum sentence, the film argued that the legislature removed the ability of judges to evaluate sentencing on a case by case basis. Coupled together, these two policies resulted in the increase of non-violent drug offenders being sentenced to lengthy prison terms in numbers that have grown exponentially over the past forty years.

City of Weston gets technical assistance to deal with dilapidated structures

WESTON — The city of Weston has started the tedious but important process of cleaning up its dilapidated structures, according to city and WVU officials.

“Weston is far along in tackling their community blight,” said Luke Esler, project manager of the Northern West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Program, whose organization is providing technical assistance to the city for this effort.

Nathan Maxwell