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In an effort to entice more young lawyers into performing habeas corpus work, Temmy Ann Pieszak, the chief of the Public Defender’s Habeas Corpus Services in Connecticut, has helped create a habeas clinic in conjunction with Yale Law School. Pieszak said that through an agreement with the school’s Prison Legal Services clinic, she is working alongside Brett Dignam, clinical professor of law at Yale’s Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization, in getting students involved with state habeas cases for two semesters. Pieszak said the agreement, for the current and fall semesters, would expose more students to habeas practice during law school while opening “the door for future cooperative ventures” with Yale. “If students are exposed to habeas practice during law school there will eventually be a greater number of lawyers who will not shy away from habeas work based upon unfamiliarity with the procedure,” Pieszak said of expanding the pool of lawyers willing to work as special public defenders. “Habeas is an area of law a little off the beaten path. Because of that there are fewer lawyers willing to jump into this area.” Pieszak said through the clinic she and Dignam have accepted up to eight students to work on four habeas cases, where the students research, prepare and present the cases under the experienced attorneys’ supervision. Yale teaching fellow and attorney Karen Kithian Yau will also help supervise the students, Pieszak said. Pieszak said that in the clinic students will work on conditions of confinement claims, as well as challenges to conviction, in cases that “have broader implications than just a single client” and cases in which the “appearance of counsel would be a service to the court.” Among the cases chosen for the clinic are two claims concerning medical care in prison, including an inmate claiming the Department of Correction failed to provide adequate medical treatment for Hepatitis C. In the latter case, Pieszak said the client would greatly benefit from having students research the case as well as having access to Yale’s resources for medical testing and expert testimony, which would be paid for by Yale. Last month members of the Public Defender Services Commission approved a proposal by Pieszak, requesting her involvement in the program. A third case that will be handled by the students, Pieszak said, deals with a claim of improper classification as a sex offender based upon unverified information concerning a youthful offender disposition. Pieszak declined to comment further on those cases. However, another case selected for the habeas program, regarding time credits for prisoners working to transcribe books for blind students, was a consolidation of five similar cases appointed to the law school’s clinic. According to Dignam, the clinic is representing five pro se inmates, all of who are trying to get work time credit, and pay, for a seven-day job they all performed.

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