Duquesne University School of Law

Veterans Clinic

Year-Long Graded Course

 

Credits: 6 Credits (3 classroom credits, 3 non-classroom credits)

 

Enrollment: 8 Students

 

Clinic Hours to Be Completed: 280 Hours (Minimum of 10 Hours per Week)

 

Class Meeting Time: Wednesday 4 - 5:40 p.m.

 

Class Location: Tribone Center for Clinical Legal Education, Room 201

 

Office Hours

Professors Kunz and Rago: Wednesday 2 - 4 p.m., Room 203/305

 

Students are interviewed by the supervising attorneys for admission to the clinic

 

Students must be available for court on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month from 8 a.m. - 4 p.m.

 

Daniel Kunz, Esq.

Adjunct Clinical Professor, Supervising Attorney

 

John Rago

Associate Professor of Law, Directing Attorney 

The Veterans Clinic provides assistance to veterans accepted into the Veterans Court of the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas. Eligible students are certified by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania to appear in court.

Now in its third year, the clinic trains law students in a holistic approach to the law focusing on the problem-solving philosophy and recidivism-reducing techniques. Many of the clients served suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injuries and other mental health disorders and/or addictions. The students prepare and present cases for disposition and stay in touch with the clients to ensure that the veterans are following court-ordered treatment plans offered as alternatives to incarceration.

This year, the clinic began to use a simulation, called “hearing voices training," to help students understand specific challenges faced by people with psychiatric disabilities. Students also began to visit the HOPE Pod in the Allegheny County Jail and the Veterans Service Unit located at State Correctional Institution, Pittsburgh, both of which prepare veterans to reenter the community.                   

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Veterans Clinic in the News

Judge Zottola swears in Duquesne Law grad

Judge John Zottola personally swore in to the Pa. Bar Theo A. Collins, L'15.

Collins, a veteran himself, was an active member of Duquesne Law's Veterans Clinic. The ceremony took place in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas' specialty court, where Judge Zottola presides. 

Duquesne's Veterans Clinic named among top 15 in country

PreLaw and National Jurist magazines have named Duquesne University School of Law's Veterans Clinic as one of the 15 most innovative clinics in the nation. Read the Duquesne University news release.

Pa. Senator calls on Pa. to extend veterans courts

Pa. Senator Rob Teplitz (D–Dauphin) has a bill calling for the creation of veterans courts in every county of the state. In this interview Teplitz details the benefits of the specialty courts and highlights the work of Duquesne University law students in the Allegheny County Veterans Court.

Read the WESA-90.5 FM feature

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Veterans Court offering second chance to those who commit

This Pittsburgh Business Times feature discusses the work of Veterans Court of the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas and notes Duquesne law students' service to the court. "The Veterans Clinic goes to the heart of our mission as a law school and a university," Dean Gormley says. 

Read the Pittsburgh Business Times story

November 7, 2014 

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Pittsburgh Tribune-Review study notes Duquesne's Veterans Clinic saves taxpayers' money

A recent Pittsburgh Tribune-Review study of the Veterans Court of Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas notes that keeping veterans out of jail saves local taxpayers a significant amount of money each year. Judge John Zottola estimates the specialty court saves taxpayers "thousands of dollars each," in part because Duquesne University School of Law's Veterans Clinic represents indigent veterans for free.

Read the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review story,

November 9, 2013

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"Duquesne University Law Clinic Provides Legal Aid to Veterans"

With the opening of the new Tribone Center building for its clinical legal education program, Duquesne University's Law School aims to provide easier access and expanded services to people who need but can't afford legal representation, says Stars and Stripes. This article, which was originally published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, quotes Clinical Legal Education Director Laurie Serafino. 

Stars and Stripes 

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

September 23, 2013

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"Duquesne Student Attorneys and Veterans Court Forge Unique Partnership"

MEDIA RELEASE

November 19, 2012

Veterans who have been charged with crimes are receiving additional assistance thanks to a partnership between the Duquesne University School of Law's Veterans Clinic and the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas' Veterans Court, both of which are pioneers in the service that each organization provides.

"Duquesne University has one of the first criminal law veterans clinics in the nation," said Laurie Serafino, director of clinical legal education and associate law professor at Duquesne. "Our student attorneys work with an experienced, supervising attorney to represent individual veterans who are charged with crimes. The students prepare and present cases for disposition in the Court of Common Pleas and stay in touch with veterans to ensure they are following court-ordered treatment plans. The School of Law clinic is providing a vital service to veterans and to the community."

By being a partner of the Veterans Court, Duquesne's Veterans Clinic hopes to save Allegheny County tax dollars while helping keep the recidivism rate low for Western Pennsylvania veterans.

"The role of Duquesne's clinic in Veterans Court is to protect and preserve the rights of our veterans as they journey through the criminal justice system and attempt to regain their lives," said the Hon. John Zottola, director of the Veterans Court, which is based on a model used for drug treatment and/or mental health treatment courts.

One of the only of its kind in the nation, the Veterans Court was launched in 2009 to assist veterans in the criminal court system. Participants in the Veterans Court often have physical, social and mental health problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder or addictions. Substance abuse or mental health treatment is offered as an alternative to incarceration.

The Duquesne student attorneys will work within the Veterans Clinic for a full academic year to provide continuity for the veterans. Daniel Kunz, the clinic's supervising attorney, supervises the students and leads them in rigorous course work related to criminal process and procedure, probation and parole, and ethics issues. Debra Barnisin-Lange, senior assistant district attorney, serves as the prosecutor for this specialty court and co-teaches the classroom component of the course.

"As a member of the armed forces myself, I see that most-if not all-truly want to do better and just need the structure and support system offered by the staff and programs of veterans court to succeed," said student attorney John Woodruff, 2nd Lt. USMC, who participates in the Veterans Clinic.

The School of Law's Clinical Education Program serves the community by providing good counsel, trains students in the actual practice of law and promotes the rewards of public service. The Veterans Clinic is one of 13 clinical and externship opportunities offered through the program.