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Law Clinic receives grants to expand outreach

January 14, 2011

The Stuart H. Smith Law Clinic and Center for Social Justice in the Loyola University New Orleans College of Law is the recipient of two local grants totaling more than $87,000. The grants were given to the Workplace Justice Project in the clinic, which educates, advocates and litigates for low-wage workers in the greater New Orleans area.

The clinic received $67,700 from the Baptist Community Ministries of New Orleans and $20,000 from the IMPACT 2010 Program at the Greater New Orleans Foundation. The grants will allow the clinic to hire more staff and continue their efforts. BCM is a private foundation that provides financial support to nonprofit organizations in the five-parish greater New Orleans region. GNOF is a regional leader in promoting responsible philanthropy and equitable outcomes by connecting donors to community needs.

An influx of immigrants and low-wage workers moved to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina to help with rebuilding efforts. More than five years later, affordable legal counsel needed to protect their rights is still in high demand.

The clinic, which has recovered more than $500,000 in lost wages since 2005, allows third-year law students the opportunity to represent indigent clients under the supervision of experienced attorneys. By participating, student practitioners not only have the chance to experience firsthand what it’s like to represent clients, but they also have an opportunity to further the Jesuit ideals of scholarship and service at Loyola by providing legal representation to the needy.

“As far as rebuilding, I feel that it has to happen from the inside out. Unfortunately, it is going far too slow. This is where the clinic comes in. It offers legal services to those who are unable to afford legal counsel,” says third-year law student and clinic practitioner Joseph Moore. “Further, it helps educate workers so they can help themselves by keeping out of situations that would require our services. We would be very pleased if there wasn't a need for such a clinic, because it would mean everyone is being treated fairly. Unfortunately, that will never be the case.”

WJP director Luz Molina, the Jack Nelson Distinguished Professor of Law at Loyola, is grateful for the student practitioners like Moore that come through her clinic. A former law student and practitioner that has been instrumental in the work of the clinic is Vanessa Spinazola, J.D. ’07.

Spinazola, now a staff attorney with the Law Clinic, is also employed with the Pro Bono Project which has teamed with Loyola and the Catholic Charities’ Hispanic Apostolate to hold wage claim clinics every Thursday evening.

Workers seeking to file a complaint can come to the clinic for assistance in composing a letter to their employer seeking proper compensation. After four weeks have passed and if a satisfactory response hasn’t been received, follow up appointments are scheduled where the clinic can begin the process to recover wages through the court system.

The grants received by the WJP will also allow Molina and her team to expand their outreach. “We’ve also seen a need to make inroads to help local musicians and those working in the restaurant industry. The grants could be a catalyst to help people in need that otherwise might not have the resources to protect themselves.”

For more information on the grants or the clinics, contact Molina at 504-861-5598 or molina@loyno.edu.

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Loyola at a Glance is written and distributed for the faculty, staff, students and friends of Loyola University New Orleans. It is published by the Office of Public Affairs, Greenville Hall, Box 909, 7214 St. Charles Avenue, New Orleans, LA 70118. (504) 861-5888.

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