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From Laura Rovner, Ronald V. Yegge Clinical Director and Associate Professor of Law…
Since 1904, the law school’s clinical programs have given students the opportunity to learn about lawyering skills in the real world of clients who face a variety of issues for which they might not otherwise have legal representation. At the same time, the clinic provides students the opportunity to learn and practice these skills under the supervision of clinic faculty who work to ensure that all students obtain valuable educational experiences. Working in the clinic is one of the most exhilarating and gratifying experiences of our students’ law school careers. It is spectacular to watch them grow into skilled and dedicated attorneys.
University of Denver Sturm College of Law, Civil Rights Clinic, Decoteau v. Raemisch
On June 29, 2016, U.S. District Judge William Martinez approved a settlement agreement in Decoteau v. Raemisch. This class action lawsuit, litigated by student attorneys and professors with the University of Denver Sturm College of Law Civil Rights Clinic, as well as attorneys at the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center (CREEC), resulted in the provision of outdoor exercise for prisoners at Colorado State Penitentiary. For over twenty years, the close custody prisoners who occupy CSP – the vast majority of whom were held in conditions of solitary confinement – were only permitted to exercise in a cell similar to their living cell, with a narrow slit of a window that opened directly to the outdoors. As a result, these prisoners went months, years, or even decades without feeling the rain or sun. As a result of this case, which arose from an earlier individual lawsuit also litigated by the Civil Rights Clinic and CREEC (Anderson v. Colorado), the Colorado Department of Corrections will construct three outdoor exercise yards at CSP. The outcome in Decoteau has meaningfully contributed to the advancement of civil rights, because a group of students, their clinic professors, and a small civil rights nonprofit – along with the incarcerated men who served as named plaintiffs and constituted members of the class – took on the Colorado Department of Corrections, ultimately obtaining for some 500 prisoners the ability to exercise outdoors.