The memory of a domestic violence victim will have a lasting impact on the University of Georgia School of Law as an anonymous donor has pledged $1 million to support the school’s Family Justice Clinic and create a Distinguished Law Fellowship, both bearing the victim’s name – Jane W. Wilson.
Wilson, a resident of rural Northern Georgia in her early 30s, was shot and killed by her second husband of just three days during August 1976. Her two young children, aged 10 and 8, witnessed the homicide.
By making this gift to the law school, the donor hopes to help “others similarly situated – in particular, victims and families who often find neither help nor hope.” The intention is to place an emphasis on “avoiding domestic violence and its consequences” for families through education and resources including “legal representation so as to provide both meaningful assistance and precious hope to victims and their families.”
School of Law Dean Peter B. “Bo” Rutledge said the school is both humbled and honored by this gift. “We will work hard to honor the memory of Mrs. Wilson and help those affected by domestic violence. This donation will fund and expand essential legal work in a field that is often not discussed until something horrific occurs. This gift will help provide tomorrow’s legal leaders the knowledge, experience and resources to combat family violence.”
The law school’s Family Justice Clinic – which opened in 1998 under the name Family Violence Clinic – provides survivors of domestic violence in Athens-Clarke and Oconee counties with direct representation as well as legal and extra-legal support free of charge. The clinic will now operate under the name Jane W. Wilson Family Justice Clinic and employ a post-graduate fellow to assist the clinic’s current director – clinical assistant professor Christine M. Scartz – in managing “litigation on behalf of victims of intimate partner violence and abuse” and educating law students who work in the clinic.
This donation will also fund the Jane W. Wilson Distinguished Law Fellowship, a prestigious full-tuition-plus scholarship that will be awarded to an academically accomplished student with an interest in serving victims of domestic violence and other family justice issues.
The law school’s Distinguished Law Fellowship program, modeled after UGA’s Foundation Fellows initiative, was established in 2016 by a catalytic founding gift from The John N. Goddard Foundation. These fellowships offer law students full-tuition scholarships, professional development support and opportunities to meet some of the country’s top legal leaders. With the Wilson gift, the law school now boasts more than one dozen of these elite scholarships.