Baylor Law School plans to expand its clinical programming through its new Trial Advocacy Clinic with a $60,000 grant from the Cooper Foundation of Waco.

Under the supervision of the Trial Advocacy Clinic director Josh Borderud, third-year Baylor law students represent low-income Waco-area residents in municipal citation cases that are set for trial, primarily in Waco Municipal Court.

This legal representation will seek to reduce the occurrence and impact of fines, surcharges, license suspensions, warrants, and other consequences that can keep local residents from obtaining and maintaining employment and meeting their obligations.

The Trial Advocacy Clinic grew out of the Veterans Clinic, where students have represented veterans in litigation matters under the supervision of Baylor Law faculty and staff attorneys since 2012. With the hire of Borderud in 2016 as a full-time attorney to direct the Veterans Clinic and other clinical programs, the capacity to expand student litigation opportunities increased.

The Cooper Foundation grant will provide funding for the expansion of the Trial Advocacy Clinic. This is the first grant awarded to Baylor Law to assist low income-citizens in the Waco area, regardless of military service. With the grant distributed over a three-year period, the funds, designated for clinic personnel, will enable the clinic to grow.

“Since there is no constitutional right to a court-appointed attorney in municipal citation cases, most people are forced to represent themselves,” Borderud said. “With this generous grant from the Cooper Foundation and our partnership with Waco Municipal Court, we will further prepare our students for the practice of law by meeting this need and representing those who could not otherwise afford a lawyer.”

In the inaugural trial for the clinic, recent graduate Lena Proft and third-year student Renson Abraham represented a single mother of five facing an unsecured child citation. Utilizing their State Bar of Texas temporary trial cards, they cross-examined two police officers, questioned the client and her daughter on direct examination, and delivered the closing argument. The judge was moved by their presentation of sympathetic evidence and fined the mother only $1 and then cut her court costs in half.

The Trial Advocacy Clinic joins the ranks of other Baylor Law clinical programs that give law students practical experience in solving the legal problems of those in need, including the Veterans Clinic, the Immigration Clinic and the Intellectual Property Law & Entrepreneurship Clinic.

For more information on the Baylor Law School Trial Advocacy Clinic, contact clinic staff at 254-710-4244 or Trial_Clinic@baylor.edu.

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