This spring, students in the Suffolk Law Clinical Defenders Program developed three outreach projects that paid real-life dividends to their clients.
The first, a book drive for the Nashua Street Jail in Boston, came about after the students visited the jail during their clinical orientation. “All the students noticed the library at the jail was pretty sparse and in need of some new books,” said Dennis Toomey JD ’09. So Toomey, along with Adam Sansolo JD ’09, spearheaded a drive to collect hundreds of books from Suffolk Law students and faculty as well as defense attorneys around Boston. Nashua Street Jail Librarian Marianne Kimball later sent a thank-you note to Sansolo and Toomey, writing, “We have nominated you for superhero status for replenishing our very depleted library shelves.”
Two other clinical students, Rebecca Chernin JD ’09 and Ben Farrell JD ’09, developed a calendar distribution program after noticing clients in the mental health court of the Boston Municipal Court (BMC) were having trouble with court schedules. “We thought the best solution would be to donate small pocket calendars to make it easier for these clients to be able to make their next court date,” said Farrell. With the blessing of Judge Patricia Bernstein and BMC Chief Justice Charles R. Johnson, the clinical students bought approximately 200 pocket calendars for distribution; the program was funded in its entirety by Suffolk Law faculty and administrators. Chernin said the project sent a positive message to her clients. “It showed them the system is trying to help them, even with something as small as a calendar,” she said.
Chernin and Paul Lonardo-Roy JD ’09 also spent the spring semester updating a complex brochure from the National Lawyers Guild’s Street Law Project. The brochure educates recipients on basic criminal procedure and their legal rights; the two students edited the document to reflect recent changes in the law and to make it more reader-friendly.
“I am extraordinarily proud of the students and the Suffolk Law community for each of these efforts,” said Professor Christopher Dearborn, who supervises the clinic. “They stem from a desire not only to contribute to the delivery of justice, but also to recognize the basic humanity of the underprivileged members of society.”