Friday, September 3, 2010

UM Law Dean deciding on Student Practice

Ms. Irma Russell has been at the remodeled UM Law School for a little over a year now. Since she has arrived, a question has been put to her: "Are your students Lawyers?".

In the case Shapiro in front of the Montana Supreme Court in 1996, it was determined that practice while a law student was eligible for a Jefferson Co. Montana candidate for County Attorney. It seems that since 1975 when the state's highest court adopted an order for the Student Practice Act no one in the state is currently willing to uphold it; not the Attorney General, not the District Courts, and the question to Ms. Russell is: will the UM Law School?

The American Bar Association (ABA), gives permission for the UM Law School to have a clinic, that is, allow students to practice prior to passing the Montana Bar Exam, and swearing an oath to uphold the Montana and US Constitution. The ABA is being mute on the issue, although they could pull the plug on UM's clinic program--thereby not allowing students to practice.

The Montana Attorney General, and a prominent Missoula law firm keeps citing the "The Student Practice Rule" (which does not exist) in court pleadings. The Student Practice Act ensures supervision of law students by competent licensed attorneys at all times. The problem is, UM grads are bragging on Linkedin accounts of being student prosecutors, with "independent" experience which is prohibited by the aforementioned Act.

So the issue goes back to Dean Irma Russell: will you allow your students to violate a court order, which carries jail time for criminal contempt of court for violating The Student Practice Act (order # 12982)? One of the other aspects of this issue is the public nature of the University of Montana Law School, and the Dean deferring and delaying acting on, meeting with public stakeholders, or making policy for University of Montana Law Students as their Dean.

No comments: