Ds Scholarship

Experiential learning immerses Penn State Law students in career realities

Law school innovations include DA’s veteran mentorship program

For third-year law student and Army veteran Dan Clarke, the idea to establish a veteran treatment court in Center County came through the requests of local servicemembers and veterans who wanted to provide a legal mechanism to address veterans involved in the criminal justice system.

Clarke works as a research assistant for Michele Vollmer, the law school’s associate dean for clinics and experiential learning and director of the Veterans and Servicemembers Legal Clinic. They began meeting with local veterans, lawyers, and members of the Penn State community more than two years ago to identify the issues facing veterans involved in the criminal justice system.

Through 2020, Clarke and a group of veterans and advocates worked collaboratively with Center County District Attorney Bernie Cantorna to establish what would become the Center County Veterans Mentorship Program and the DA’s Veteran Treatment Track

Initiative. Following months of research and discussions with surrounding county courts, judges, and courts established in other states, the team aship program that assists veteran mentors in the tasks necessary for them to succeed in their treatment track.

“Working as a research assistant was crucial because it gave me my initial experience in dealing with real people and their issues, going beyond the textbook and experiencing what it’s like to practice for the benefit of people I get to know and work with,” Clarke said.

Clarke added that Penn State Law continues to provide him with support and access to a wide-ranging network of professionals to inform decision-making on the veteran mentor program.

“The talent pool and community resources Penn State affords are second to none when it comes to starting up a program designed to help a potentially vulnerable segment of our population,” he said.

Steering national security simulations

Carter D. Westphal, a juris doctor candidate for the Class of 2022, said the simulations in the National Security Law II course taught by Vice Admiral Houck exposed him to the realities of how authorities respond to national security threats.

“Vice Admiral Houck lets students take the wheel as they navigate the interplay between national security law, politics and policy – ​​a task that becomes less daunting after repetition and weekly feedback,” said Westphal, who hopes to interact with international, national security, and cyber-related legal experts as part of his US Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps appointment after graduation.

National Security Law II has been characterized as a groundbreaking course that provides students with opportunities like a Feb. 15 planned simulations in which each group will meet with a “US president” – a role played by Mary Beth Long (Penn State School of International Affairs professor of practice and former US assistant secretary of defense for International Security Affairs) and retired US Navy Admiral , Craig S. Faller (former commander of the US Southern Command).

In the simulations in National Security Law II, students replicate legal practice in the national security environment, simulating legal issues as they arise in situations of competing domestic and international political interests, with considerations paid to challenges like time constraints and potential mass consequences.

Students involved on issues from Supreme Court to solar energy to insurance law

Penn State Law professor of practice and director of the Trial Advocacy Program, Christopher C. French, recently co-authored the release of the sixth edition of the book “Insurance Law in a Nutshell” (West Academic Publishing) which examines the fundamentals of insurance law.

Third-year juris doctor program students Garvey McKee and Emory Robertson assisted French on the project. Penn State students also assisted French with his recently released 2021 edition of his insurance law treatise, New Appleman Pennsylvania Insurance Law.

Penn State Law in University Park clinics also include the Civil Rights Appellate Clinic, which gives students a place to focus on appellate advocacy, develop research skills, draft briefs, assist in case selection, develop substantive legal positions, and plan appellate strategy.

Civil Rights Appellate Clinic students recently worked under the guidance of Penn State Law Professor Michael Foreman, the clinic’s director, to file a petition for a writ of certiorari with the US Supreme Court in a case that seeks to clarify the rights afforded to servicemembers under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act.

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