IU Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Advancing Rights and Justice through Live-Client Learning Experiences

The principles of the rule of law – equality, equity, inclusion, rights, and strong institutions – are embedded throughout the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and especially (SDG) 16, which aims to “promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions at all levels”. However, SDG 16 is not an isolated objective. In fact, as the International Development Law Organization (IDLO) and other global human rights advocacy organizations have demonstrated, SDG 16 drives the success of other rights and justice-related SDGs.

The IU Robert H. McKinney School of Law at IUPUI is a champion of the rule of law and its faculty, students, and live-client learning experiences are advancing access to justice, combating inequalities, and promoting social inclusion by embracing the vision of the 2030 Agenda and reaching the targets of its goals. The rule of law is relevant to all three dimensions of sustainable development: economic, social, and environmental. By providing stable and transparent legal regimes, the rule of law encourages economic development, a target of SDG 1 (No Poverty) and SDG 8 (Decent Work & Economic Growth). By ensuring equal opportunity and equitable access to basic services, the rule of law also promotes social development, a target of SDG 10 (Reduce Inequalities). By strengthening laws to protect the environment and ensure proper management of natural resources, the rule of law ensures environmental sustainability, a target of SDG 13 (Climate Justice), SDG 14 (Life Below Water), and SDG 15 (Life on Land).

The IU McKinney School of Law and its faculty not only provide students with the training necessary to practice law, but also work with and support students in efforts to help others while doing so. The School, faculty, and students stress the importance of giving back and working with the people and communities of which they are a part. One way that students and faculty realize this dedication is through the various live-client clinics offered at IU McKinney. These Law School Clinics provide students with tangible counsel-client experience in areas of appellate proceedings, immigration law, civil practice, and re-entry assistance – all areas of the dimensions of the rule of law necessary for rights and justice in sustainable development. Two clinics in particular coincide and complement each other in the areas of rights and justice for previously incarcerated citizens: the Civil Practice Clinic (CPC) and the Re-entry Assistance and Community Help (REACH) Clinic.

McKinney law students and professor sitting around a table discussing one of the clinic cases

The CPC and the Legal Expungement Advice Program (LEAP)

Carrie HaganDirected and facilitated by Clinical Associate Professor Carrie Hagan, the CPC provides legal representation and brief advice and service to low-income clients on a variety of general civil matters, including housing and expungement. Shelter, or housing, is a basic human right, yet access to housing remains a consistent barrier to those existing the carceral or prison system. Through their advocacy and representation work, CPC students are helping citizens find and retain adequate housing as they re-enter the community, a clear indication of the clinic’s important efforts in achieving targets in SDG 1 (No Poverty), SDG 8 (Decent Work & Economic Growth), SDG 10 (Reduce Inequalities), and SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities & Communities). More from the UN SDGs and the targets of adequate shelter, affordable housing, and ending homelessness around the globe can be found here.

Professor Hagan and CPC students participating in these live-client experiences also work to advise citizens with criminal records through expungement processes so to help lessen the burdens these individuals face while striving to meet their basic needs after repaying their debt to society. For many, a criminal record becomes a deadweight that hinders an adequate quality of life, making it challenging and, in some cases, nearly impossible to attain housing, employment, and education – factors necessary for the justice, equality, and social inclusion entrenched in the SDGs. To assist in alleviating this affliction, the CPC clinic has partnered with Goodwill of Central and Southern Indiana to create the Legal Expungement Advice Program (LEAP). LEAP is designed to provide resources for citizens to get back on their feet and achieve a better, fulfilling life moving forward. With the help of students and Goodwill staff members, program participants develop paths to success that involve setting career and financial goals, while being offered any necessary services, such as temporary emergency assistance, housing, childcare, and transportation, during the expungement process.

The support and services provided though LEAP demonstrate the IU McKinney School of Law and CPC clinic’s dedication to the rule of law found within the dimensions of the SDGs. While the partnership with Goodwill highlights the program’s observation of SDG 17 (Partnerships for Goals), LEAP is realizing the targets of SDG 8 (Decent Work & Economic Growth), SDG 10 (Reduce Inequalities), and SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities & Communities), all while valuing SDG 16 (Peace, Justice, & Strong Institutions) and its regard for the importance of social justice and human rights.

Read more about LEAP

The Re-Entry Assistance and Community Help (REACH) Clinic

Lahny SilvaExpungement is an option for those re-entering society after they have been charged, convicted, and incarcerated for a crime. Complementing the Law School’s CPC clinic is the Re-Entry Assistance and Community Help (REACH) clinic, which provides mentor advocacy to newly released probationers’ reintegrating into society. Students also offer outreach to the greater Indianapolis community where they provide brief service and advice to their clients in areas of employment, licenses, and additional re-entry-related matters. In line with the principles of SDG 17 (Partnerships for Goals), the mentor advocacy component of this clinic is an innovative collaboration between the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Indiana, the Indiana Federal Community Defenders, the United States Probation Department, Goodwill Industries, Inc., and Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law.

Additionally, prior to the severe restrictions imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, REACH students partnered with IUPUI’s Black Law Students Association and community partners to present an annual in-person Re-Entry Job and Resource Fair to provide advice and public service recommendations to citizens recently released from the carceral system. In Spring 2019, the fair hosted nearly 400 students, alumni, and community members. Faculty and staff from the IU McKinney School of Law were on hand to make sure everyone that attended received the assistance they needed. In 2020, the fair reached its fifth consecutive year, providing advice and suggesting services to attendees virtually due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The fair, which hopes to resume in-person as pandemic restrictions ease, is organized by IU McKinney Professor and head of the REACH clinic, Lahny Silva, in partnership with Professor Hagan. Even with the hurdles presented by the global pandemic, the students of the CPC and REACH clinics remain determined to offer the services necessary for community re-entry. Services offered at the fair have included resume reviews, expungement information and advice, driver's license information, child support, help with food assistance, health insurance applications, and voter registration.

Similar to the CPC, the REACH clinic inspires progress towards a society that embraces the elements of social justice and human rights found in SDG 16 (Peace, Justice, & Strong Institutions) and throughout the targets of the other 16 goals for global transformation.

Confronting Barriers to the Human Right to Housing - Making the World a Better Place with the SDGs

Allyson Crane, a student in IUPUI's McKinney School of Law, presented the school's work with SDGs as a part of the 2022 IUPUI International Festival - IUPUI SDG Day.