The P. Michael Mahoney Chapter of the Federal Bar Association (based in Rockford) awarded a $2,500 grant to Northern Illinois University’s Prisoners' Rights Program.
The project allows third year law students to represent prisoners who believe their constitutional rights have been violated. Marc Falkoff is Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor of Law. He says the students work for more than a year on major casework under the supervision of a local attorney. This includes interviews with their client, assembling expert witnesses, and preparing pre trial memos.
“And ultimately, quite possibly bringing a case all the way to a jury trial, which is something that is pretty much unheard of for a law student,” he said.
Falkoff says the program requires significant commitment from the students, but provides invaluable experience and legal aid.
“When you take on a case like this as a lawyer or as a proto lawyer, you’re doing more than just fulfilling requirements for your graduation checklist," he said. "You’re meaningfully helping to represent someone whose rights are on the line, so we do what needs to be done.”
The program handled three cases last year in federal court. Falkoff hopes to expand this to four or five cases if the College can secure additional funding.