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Louisiana lawmakers have yet to debate legislation that would rein in law clinics around the state, but an industry group backing the legislation isn’t waiting to play hardball. The Louisiana Chemical Association has urged members to impose “recommended sanctions” against Tulane University, whose environmental law clinic is the primary target of the proposed bill. In a memorandum sent to its 61 corporate members, the association advocated that they stop making donations to the university, stop matching employee donations to the school and curtail recruiting there. “This bill is the culmination of years of frustration with Tulane and its support for its environmental law clinic not only on the part of the chemical industry but other business and chamber groups as well,” the association wrote. “The [association] Board of Directors voted to actively engage the clinic by targeting Tulane itself, which gives cover to its out-of-state, student want-to-be lawyers and their job killing lawsuits.” The association also suggested contacting Tulane donors and telling them that environmental law clinic intentionally stirs up lawsuits, and enlisting the help of Gov. Bobby Jindal, the Chamber of Commerce, the state’s congressional delegation and others to oppose the clinic. “The bill is just one of several ways to deal with the problem and they are not mutually exclusive,” association President Dan Borné wrote in an e-mail response to questions from The National Law Journal. “The university flies cover for a unit that attacks state agencies and kills jobs, and one way to make sure the other units of the university understand the depth of this problem is to cut off corporate support and recruiting. Not every company will take this tack, but if enough do it might incent the deans of other Tulane units to confront the university head-on about its support for the law clinic.” Attacking one of the state’s premier educational institutions makes no sense for the business community, said Adam Babich, director of Tulane’s environmental law clinic. “It’s like cutting off your nose to spite your face,” Babich said. “This university is one of the crown jewels of Louisiana. To try to harm Tulane because you don’t like the fact that citizens are entitled to lawyers is wrong. It’s irresponsible to try to shortcut the system just because you don’t like the way a number of lawsuits have gone.” Stephen Griffin, the interim dean at Tulane University Law School, said that the association’s attacks against the environmental clinic have gone on since at least 2004. They aren’t likely to make much of a difference, he said, as they have been unsuccessful in the past. “Dan Borné seems to be on some kind of personal quest to bring down the clinic,” Griffin said. “This has been going on a long time.” Griffin said he was concerned about the proposed bill, which was introduced earlier this year by State Sen. Robert Adley. The legislation would prohibit any law school clinic at a public or private university that receives state money from suing a government agency or seeking monetary damages from an individual or business. State funding would be cut at colleges and universities that house clinics that file such lawsuits. Although it would pertain to all law clinics in the state, Adley said, he wrote the legislation in response to Tulane’s environmental law clinic, which has a history of legal victories against prominent companies and government agencies. The clinic has hurt local businesses, and taxpayer funds should not go toward organizations that sue the government, Adley argued. The regulation of the practice of law is a matter for the Louisiana Supreme Court, not state lawmakers, Griffin insisted. Furthermore, the proposed bill would hit more than Tulane’s environmental law clinic — clinics around the state would be hemmed in, he said. Griffin called the enforcement element of the bill “draconian.” The law school receives almost no public funding in the first place, and the environmental law clinic’s activities are paid for through tuition and private donations. However, Tulane receives millions in state funding primarily for medical services for citizens and medical research, and it doesn’t make sense to cut that funding because of the activities of the environmental law clinic, he said. The bill was originally slated to go before the Louisiana Senate’s Commerce, Consumer Protection and International Affairs Committee on Wednesday, but that hearing was pushed back to May 19. Adley said that he was considering amending the bill to focus on clinics that sue the state and businesses, although Griffin said it was unlikely that the thrust of the bill will change much. Legal educators from around the country have come out against the bill. The Society of American Law Teachers, the Clinical Legal Education Association and the Association of American Law Schools all have sent letters to Louisiana lawmakers opposing the legislation, Griffin said. American Bar Association President Carolyn Lamm on Wednesday issued a statement commending students who work in law clinics and urging Adley to withdraw the bill. “We urge the state legislature to consider that these law clinics represent the people of Louisiana who have very real and immediate problems but few resources to solve them,” Lamm wrote. “Depriving the poorest citizens of these vital services is an affront to their dignity, and for many, diminishes their very means of survival.” The Louisiana State Bar Association opposes the bill. Another complication could arise from the massive oil spill that threatens the Louisiana coast and is wreaking havoc to the state’s fishing industry. The Times-Picayune columnist James Gill wrote on Wednesday that, “with oil lapping our shores, nobody in Louisiana would be idiot enough to advance such a proposition.” Griffin said that the oil spill could prove a factor if the bill reaches the floor of the state’s House of Representatives. “It this gets out of committee, it’s going to occur to many in the House that this is a bad time to be going after an environmental law clinic. I think that’s going to help us.” As Borné sees it, the oil spill is irrelevant to the debate over Adley’s bill. “Tulane and many of its supporters nationwide are trying to connect the two issues,” he said. “Of course, our bill has absolutely nothing to do with the oil spill.…We will try to focus the committee’s attention on Tulane’s long history of suing Louisiana businesses and agencies.”

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