Live client experiential learning and Gonzaga’s social justice and service mission have been central to the clinic’s identity since it was established in 1975. Students work real cases with real clients from start to finish. Clinic students have argued cases in front of federal courts, state and federal administrative agencies, tribal courts, and all levels of state court, including the Washington State Supreme Court.Supervising attorneys work closely with students as they hone their lawyering skills in client interviewing and counseling, document drafting, case analysis, litigation skills, and court appearances. For the second year in a row, Gonzaga was ranked in the top 37 of law schools for Practical Training.
General/Indian Law Clinic
The Gonzaga Law Clinic students follow through on their cases and serve their clients diligently. General Practice and Indian Law Clinic Students work on cases involving landlord-tenant law, probate, consumer protection, civil rights, criminal law, wills, powers of attorney, family law, and public benefits.Recently, one student defended a client against criminal assault charges. In preparing for the bench trial, she reviewed police body camera footage and interviewed police officers, the alleged victim, and other first responders. In conducting the entire trial for our client, she cross-examined these same people, and won an acquittal. Students in the clinic deliver results for specific clients, provide a public service for the community, and receive practical experience to help them succeed after graduation. Learn more about the General Practice Clinic and the Indian Law Clinic.
Health and Justice Project
Earlier this year, the Health and Justice Project learned that the Spokane Police Department was sending out notices that essentially required landlords to evict domestic violence victims. Working with community partners, students prepared for litigation, but first reached out to the police to see if the issue could be resolved more quickly without the added cost of litigation. Law student Stephanie Richards researched the issue and redrafted the notice to comply with state law. The Spokane Police Department adopted most, if not all, of the changes. As a result, scores, if not hundreds of domestic violence victims are being protected and both landlords and the police department are better educated about the tenant rights of domestic violence victims.
Learn more about the Health and Justice Project.
Environmental Law and Land Use Clinic
Saving neighborhoods When the 28 neighborhoods of Spokane needed legal assistance, Gonzaga University Legal Assistance was there to help. Over the past year, students from the ULA Environmental and Land Use Clinic have collaborated with neighborhoods, local community planners, and the Spokane City Council to pass an ordinance that greatly revamps notification requirements for land use modifications.
The idea for the ordinance was born in 2014, when Futurewise, a state-wide public interest planning organization, held two summits to brainstorm issues with local neighborhood leaders. At the summits, notification was identified as the chief area of concern for neighborhoods. Under Spokane law, neighborhoods are empowered to create and maintain their own standards for developments. However, neighborhoods weren’t always getting notice of land use proposals or applications, and they sometimes wouldn’t find out about a potential violation until construction had already begun. In order to fix this situation, Futurewise reached out to the clinic at Gonzaga, and asked students to research and write a municipal code ordinance.
Clinic students wrote the bulk of the ordinance and then worked with Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart to refine and focus the provisions of the ordinance. Once the revision process was complete, two students from the clinic went out on the road, presenting the proposed ordinance at neighborhood council meetings all over Spokane. At these meetings, the students presented the substance of the law, and took questions and input from community members. By June of 2015, the ordinance was ready to be proposed and enter the City legislative process. It was subjected to scrutiny by the City Plan Commission and the City Attorney’s office before it was sent before the City Council for approval. After holding a final public hearing on the ordinance, the Spokane City Council passed the ordinance on September 21, 2015, by a vote of 5-2.
The students who worked on this project were afforded an inside look at how local government works. They also learned a great deal about land use law and local planning. Law students who worked on the project include the following: Ruth Ptak, Alexander Scott, Grace King, Steven Wolfe, Andrew Woods, Abigail Hansen, Stephanie Richards, James Dalton Lewis, and Thomas Murphy-Rohrer.
Learn more about the Environmental Law and Land Use Clinic.
Clinic Alumni Spotlight
David Torres ’86
“This coming May will mark the 30th year since my graduation from Gonzaga School of Law. As I reflect back, I can easily say that my fondest memories was the year and a half spent as an administrative law clerk and later, a legal intern with the University Legal Assistance (ULA). Even more so, I am fortunate to have been trained by the original ULA team of Professors Jeff Hartje, Mark Wilson, George Critchlow, Larry Weiser and Alan McNeil. As an intern, these professors taught me how to try cases.Their first lesson was to get to know everything about your client, his/her background, life history, and understand why the case was so important to that person. They then stressed three things; preparation, preparation and preparation. As a child, my father taught me the important essentials to succeed in life; work hard, be honest and always help others. The professors at the clinic took my father’s lessons and helped me understand how they are applied to lawyers work. As a lawyer, I have taken the teachings of this wonderful law school and have applied these teachings to my life and profession. I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Gonzaga Law and the ULA for not only helping me “do well” as a lawyer, but also, for teaching me to use my talents to ‘do good.'” Read more about David Torres here.
Alex Howie came to Gonzaga Law School from Vancouver Island University where she studied Sociology and Anthropology. She wanted the dynamic, intellectual challenge that comes from a career in law and Gonzaga’s small classes and welcoming atmosphere made for a perfect fit. “I have had the opportunity to work in Gonzaga Law’s Elder Law Clinic for two semesters, electing 6 credits, clocking 24 hours of in-office time a week. Although a big time commitment, it has been one of my most rewarding law school experiences. Like most students, I anticipated a workload of wills and estates, but was exposed to a wide range of legal issues including third party custody cases, divorces, property disputes, guardianships, Medicaid spend-downs, and asset transfers. The Clinic provides a practical, ‘on the ground’ law practice forum with the added benefit of clients who have considerable free time and are able to participate enthusiastically in their representation and work around a student schedule. Above all, it’s fun to work with the elderly and hear their incredible stories. The growing elderly population desperately needs representation and the Clinic is the perfect environment to ask questions, learn what it takes to work with real clients, and connect meaningfully with them.”
Ret. Judge Jerome Leveque Our Practitioner-in-Residence program gives local attorneys (mostly those who are retired or slowing down) the opportunity to share their collective wealth of legal and professional knowledge and expertise with students. Practitioners volunteer hours of their time working with students in specific substantive areas as well as giving general tips about legal practice. After 18 years in the insurance claims industry, followed by 20 years as a litigator, Judge Leveque served as a Superior Court Judge for 10 years. He has been a Practitioner in Residence since 2003 and has also been Of Counsel with Kirkpatrick and Startzel since 2015. As he puts it,“I was 71, retired, and married practically 50 years. My wife Mary Jo retired as the director of Gonzaga Health Center several years before, hinted that if I wanted to be married for 50 more years I should think of getting out of the house. She suggested I should volunteer at a place that had smart people who might be willing to tolerate me. The clinic at Gonzaga School of Law came to mind. The only question was the ‘tolerate’. The instructors I have worked with certainly fit the smart people bill. As for the toleration matter, I’ve been there practically three years so their tolerance is nothing short of amazing. I have very little if anything to offer clinic, but they have volumes to offer me. I am aware of my good fortune every day. I not only feel good coming to the clinic I feel better each day when I leave because of the things I’ve learned and the people I’ve been with.”