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Rutgers Law School-Camden would get a $16 million facelift, and expand its academic space by 50 percent, under a Camden, N.J., revitalization package Gov. James McGreevey proposed Thursday. The $175 million proposal for Camden includes $11 million for three projects at the law school: construction of a new academic building and a dormitory, and renovation of the 31-year-old existing building, according to Dean Rayman Solomon. He says the university would have to provide a dollar-for-dollar match of the $11 million. The package, which needs legislative approval, also includes $5 million for land acquisition for the academic building, Solomon says. If the legislature passes the package soon, he says, construction could begin next summer on the new building. It would house classrooms, a mock trial courtroom and additional space for the school’s clinics and pro bono programs. The new academic building would be constructed on the site of a parking lot across Fifth Street from the existing law school, which covers 112,000 square feet over six floors. The new dormitory would be a block away on Cooper Street. The infusion of aid to the law school is part of McGreevey’s plan to turn Camden into more of a college town, along the lines of New Brunswick. The revitalization plan also includes funds for hospitals, police, public transit, demolition of vacant buildings and work-force training. Solomon says the aid to the law school would help enhance the surrounding areas. Because of the additional dormitory space, more students would live nearby, leading to more business for local stores and restaurants. Moreover, he says, Camden residents would be helped by the expansion of the clinics. The school has no moot courtrooms and must use facilities at the nearby U.S. District Court and Superior Court in the evening when judges are not there, says Solomon. “What it does for us is, programmatically, ensure we have the facilities to do what needs to be done and what we want to do,” Solomon says. “In addition, one never wants to be in a position of losing students because of facilities.” Solomon says the school’s admissions statistics do not suggest applicants are heading elsewhere, but nonetheless he adds that law schools at Rutgers-Newark, Seton Hall, Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania have much newer buildings than does Rutgers-Camden. In addition, Villanova University is planning a new law school facility. The law school’s enrollment will remain at 750 students. Two areas especially in need of space at Rutgers-Camden are the clinical and pro bono programs, says Mary Beth Daisey, assistant dean for external affairs at the law school. Facilities for clinical and pro bono programs lack client meeting rooms, forcing students to use empty classrooms or administrators’ offices to confer with clients, says Daisey. The school’s pro bono programs, where students get course credit for working with clients under faculty supervision, include a civil practice clinic, a clinic for parents of special education students, an elder law clinic and a clinic for parents of Camden’s LEAP Charter School. The school’s pro bono program, in which students work alongside practicing attorneys, includes a bankruptcy project, a domestic-violence project and a mediation project. Two new clinics are forming, one focusing on immigration and the other serving former tenants seeking their security deposits from landlords, says Daisey. The law school’s international student group has been trying to get the immigration clinic going for several years but tight facilities make it harder to start new programs because organizers must scrounge for space, says Daisey. A new facility would provide space for even more new clinical programs, she says. The revitalization package is likely to face close scrutiny in the Legislature in light of the state’s fiscal problems, says David Rebovich, a political science professor at Rider University. Because the package’s many facets have an impact on areas such as health care, education and law enforcement, however, it’s likely to have a broad constituency, according to Rebovich. He predicts the legislature will pass a version of the bill after the $175 million price tag is cut. “It’s hard to imagine it going through exactly as proposed,” Rebovich says.

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