Dallas Hall on the Southern Methodist University Campus in Dallas, Texas (Photo: Jeffrey Beall via Wikimedia Commons)
The Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law is launching a center for victims of domestic violence, financed by a $5 million donation from university alumni Ray and Nancy Ann Hunt.
The center will house a clinic through which law students will represent clients in matters including protection orders, divorce, child support and housing. It also will focus on victims of sex trafficking.
“As a result of this program, participating law students will enter the legal profession with a deeper understanding of the victims of exploitation, trafficking and abuse and what they need for their lives to be restored,” Nancy Ann Hunt said. “Their suffering may be hidden from sight and may be uncomfortable to acknowledge publicly. But through the availability of free legal services, we hope they will feel empowered to come forward and obtain help.”
Administrators plan to work with existing community organizations in the Dallas area, including the Genesis Women’s Shelter for domestic violence victims and New Friends New Life, which assists sex trafficking victims.
SMU follows the University of Texas School of Law; the University of Houston Law Center; and St. Mary’s University School of Law in establishing clinics where students represent domestic violence victims.
SMU’s center will be named the Judge Elmo B. Hunter Legal Center for Victims of Crimes Against Women. Hunter was Ann Hunt’s father, and he served as a state and federal judge in western Missouri for 38 years. Earlier, Hunter was one of four founders of Kansas City firm Shook, Hardy & Bacon. He died in 2003. Neither of the donors attended SMU’s law school.
The Hunts are longtime supporters of SMU. Ray Hunt is chairman of oil and gas company Hunt Consolidated Inc., has served on the university’s board of trustees and helped bring the George W. Bush Presidential Center to SMU. Ann Hunt, a former elementary school teacher, sits on the board of New Friends New Life.
“As typical of the Hunts, they have acted with generosity and insight to fill the need, while also expanding educational opportunities for law students to make a difference in this important area of the law,” SMU president R. Gerald Turner said.