VLS Alumni in the News

Alumni Spotlight

The South Royalton Legal Clinic (SRLC) welcomed in the new year with a stellar spring term—a result of the exemplary work of clinical students, the Vermont Poverty Law Fellow Katelyn Atwood JD’10, and the leadership of Clinic director Jim May.

In January, the Clinic influenced an issue important to law schools nationwide by signing (along with fourteen others) an amicus brief submitted to the U.S. Court of Appeals of Veterans Claims. Katelyn Atwood JD’10, the Vermont Poverty Law Fellow working at the Clinic for the next two years, has galvanized the Clinic’s current involvement with veterans’ advocates on the national stage. The amicus brief challenges the Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs’ position that work done by law students in law school clinics is not eligible for an award of fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act. The SRLC had successfully litigated this very issue in the early 1980s before the U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont, in the context of challenges to Social Security Administration determinations.

In addition to national actions, Katelyn and the SRLC continue to advance the causes of veterans at the state level. Through the Vermont Veterans Legal Assistance Project (created and coordinated by Katelyn), veterans can access direct legal assistance, and the attorneys statewide who represent them can obtain training and networking opportunities. Clinical students earned additional success on veterans’ issues with a major victory in February before the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) and the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA.) As a result of student work under the direction of Director Jim May, The BVA reversed the DVA’s underlying merits decision allowing the discontinuance of an SRLC client’s pension benefits for over eight years due to his alleged status as a “fleeing felon,” and denying waiver of an overpayment of over $28,000. The BVA awarded full relief, and as a result, the client owes nothing to the DVA which must now pay him a substantial amount of withheld money to recoup the alleged overpayment.

In addition to these successes, the SRLC has already filed this spring a Vermont Supreme Court appellate brief, a Vermont Supreme Court amicus brief, and two substantial briefs in a pair of cases before the U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont. Clinical students continue to advance their clients’ causes already in—or destined to be in—many forums including Vermont Superior Court, family and probate divisions; the Social Security Administration; the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service; military discharge review boards; The Vermont Agency of Human Services, Department for Children and Families, Social Services Division; and U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

 

SRLC new building

Part of the new building housing the South Royalton Legal Clinic (SRLC.)

SRLC artist's rendering of new building

Artist's rendering of the new SRLC building.

 

Katelyn Atwood Jd'10 SRLC

Katelyn Atwood JD'10, Vermont Poverty Law Fellow, SRLC

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