The Terry West Civil Legal Clinic is supported by the Sarkeys Foundation. It addresses access to justice for marginalized communities in Tulsa, with a particular focus on the intersection of legal needs within these communities. While serving individual clients, students also engage more broadly with the justice system and structural access to justice barriers. The clinic explores different mechanisms of advocacy, including court observations, fact-finding and reporting, impact litigation, and legislative advocacy. Students may also create know your rights materials and presentations.
The seminar and clinic work teach lawyering skills and explore the ethical, practical, theoretical, and strategic issues around legal advocacy and the lived experiences of individuals from marginalized communities. Students gain lawyering skills, including interviewing and counseling clients, fostering a lawyer-client relationship that empowers the client, developing factual and legal arguments, drafting legal briefs, and oral argument and advocacy. They also explore issues of professional responsibility, the role of the justice system in the lives of marginalized communities, their role as lawyers within this system, and ways to advocate both inside and outside of the courtroom.
Discrimination and Implicit Bias in the Courtroom
Two advanced clinic students, Shawnee Arrington and William Woolston, created this report for the Access to Justice (ATJ) Commission in support of its proposed Anti-Discrimination Resolution. The report highlights instances of discrimination and implicit bias in Oklahoma’s courts and the need for implicit bias training for court and judicial staff. Shawnee Arrington presented the report at the April 22, 2022, ATJ Commission meeting.
Changing the Game: Eliminating Inequities in Oklahoma’s Rental Law
Growing out of their response to HB 1564, which would have exacerbated Oklahoma’s already high eviction rates, spring 2021 Terry West Civil Legal Clinic students highlighted the inequities in the current Landlord Tenant Act. Their report describes how the legislation creates a rental landscape characterized by high eviction rates, a lack of safe and affordable housing stock, reliance on eviction as a profit-making mechanism and exploitation of the law by out-of-state landlords, illustrating how these factors harm tenants, local landlords and all Oklahomans.
Leveling the Playing Field in Tulsa’s Eviction Docket
During fall 2020, students in the Terry West Civil Legal Clinic continued to explore avenues of advocacy around Tulsa’s high eviction rate. Building on the clinic’s earlier report describing access to justice barriers on Tulsa’s eviction docket, students focused on the issue of access to counsel in eviction proceedings. Their report, Leveling the Playing Field, shows that representation is essential in order to advance justice, uphold due process and ensure people are able to take advantage of relief measures linked to the COVID-19 crisis. It also points to the cost savings from access to counsel programs and highlights the toll that eviction takes not just on those who are displaced, but also on neighborhoods, communities and public resources.
Advancing Housing Justice in Tulsa
Students in the spring 2020 semester explored their role as lawyers in developing an effective advocacy strategy to address Tulsa’s high eviction rate, which ranks 11th in the country. Students observed eviction proceedings and decided to conduct an in-depth data analysis of the eviction docket to quantify the injustices they were observing. Combining their observations and data analysis, the clinic released a report highlighting procedural irregularities, access to justice barriers, power imbalances between landlords and tenants, and legal ethics concerns at the eviction docket. The report has informed broader advocacy efforts around eviction practices, courtroom processes, and legislative reforms to improve access to justice for marginalized communities.
Know Your Rights Videos and Info
Created by Students in the Spring 2021 Terry West Civil Legal Clinic: Caitlin Barrett, Austin Canfield, Sherrod Donnelly, Genny Hickman, Rachel Johnson, Edward Park, Jacob Weideman & Austin Witt
Created by Students in the Fall 2020 Terry West Civil Legal Clinic: Teiya Batien, Lauren Beatty, Quinn Fields, Christopher Stout & Kaitlyn Sweatt
Created by Students in the Spring 2020 Terry West Civil Legal Clinic: Joel Auringer, Sage Martin, Josh McCann, Alex Myers & Vic Wiener