Campus News

Public interest law conference will explore practical ways to solve poverty

B.J. Bernstein

The third annual Working in the Public Interest law conference will explore practical approaches to solving poverty through the law. Speakers include Yale University’s Steven Wizner and B.J. Bernstein, Atlanta attorney and Fulton County Daily Report’s 2007 “Newsmaker of the Year.” The conference will be held April 4–5 at the law school and is open to the public; however, registration is required.

“This conference seeks to bring together eminent practitioners in their respective fields, as well as students and faculty, to discuss practical approaches to lawyering that can best serve the underprivileged,” said Nandi F. Campbell, third-year law student and conference organizer. “We hope to provide participants with dynamic and creative ways to combat poverty through the vehicle of law.”

The conference will include panel discussions and roundtables on such topics as civil liberties; race and the criminal justice system; decriminalizing mental illness; funding public defender systems; the media’s role in the law; immigration; lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered youth in state-sponsored institutions; environmental justice; and women’s reproductive rights. 

There also will be a moot court exposition on Civil Gideon that will explore whether the Constitution requires a lawyer for poor people in civil cases involving fundamental legal needs, such as shelter. A panel of “judges” will hear oral arguments, discuss those arguments and then field questions from conference participants. 

The conference will begin April 4 at 5:30 p.m. with a keynote address by Wizner, the Douglas Clinical Professor of Law at Yale University’s Law School and supervising attorney. Wizner has authored numerous articles on legal education, legal services, ethics, juvenile justice and poverty law.

Following Wizner’s speech, Phylliss J. Holmen, executive director of Georgia Legal Services and member of the American Bar Association’s Presidential Task Force on Access to Civil Justice, will receive the 2008 WIPI Lifetime Achievement Award.

On April 5, after more than a dozen panel and roundtable discussions, the closing keynote speech will be delivered by Bernstein, who specializes in criminal law.

She has handled a number of high profile cases and has represented Genarlow Wilson, the rapper DaBrat and one of the Gold Club defendants, to name a few.

The conference is free for UGA students and faculty. All other attendees will be required to pay a fee. Continuing legal education credits for attorneys will be available.