iEvidence: How the Smartphone Can Improve Adjudication

By: Ragan Morrison, Spring 2019 HeLP Legal Services Clinic Intern

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video must be worth a novel.  There are many cases where a recording of an event may prove decisive in a legal proceeding—whether it’s footage of a traffic intersection or from a police body-cam, a video will often tell a judge or jury just about all they need to know.  This is not a new phenomenon, but the explosive proliferation of mobile devices today means there is ever more footage of people’s daily lives, including times that may be of significance in a future legal controversy.

Courts have been adjusting to this reality, and the value of this evidence can be even greater in the more informal setting of an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meeting at a school or a disability benefits hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).  We in the HeLP clinic have already encountered instances where children’s classroom behavior is recorded by teachers on their phones, and we hope to use footage like this in certain cases to help prove the disability of the child and get them the financial assistance they need and deserve.

Continue reading

“It’s a marathon, not a sprint!”

By: Gino Butler, Spring 2019 HeLP Legal Services Clinic Intern

For those who always have a plan, who are always organized, and who acknowledge that they can work on time management, not even they can escape the disease known as stress. Stress is inevitable! So, what happens to us physically and mentally when things go awry?

Common effects of stress can include, but are not limited to, headaches, muscle pain, fatigue, sleep deprivation, anxiety, irritability, and depression. Stress can even alter your behavior, resulting in overeating or undereating, angry outbursts, and social withdrawal.

Being in professional school and even with writing this blog post, I am not immune to stress either. Life is bound to put expectations, time limits, and pressure upon a person no matter what. I recall a time during my undergraduate years where I was so busy one week, I had exams, meetings, daily routine tasks, and I was getting ready for a big event I had been planning since the summer. I reached down to tie my shoes and when I tried to stand back up properly, I almost fell down. I was lightheaded and could not sustain my balance. In sitting down, taking a break, and answering concerned questions from my peers, I discovered that I had not consumed a meal or snack in three days. How could this be? For me, this sounded absurd, I could not think of going one day without eating. However, life’s external expectations, time limits, and pressure had been internalized. The things I had going on that week were my driving force. I wasn’t in control.

Continue reading

Clinics HeLP Foster Interdisciplinary Growth

By: Lauren Newman, Spring 2019 HeLP Legal Services Clinic Intern

Under the supervision of clinic faculty, HeLP Clinic students have the opportunity to work on cases involving childhood disability, housing conditions, education, access to healthcare, or even the drafting of wills and advance directives. However, the law students are not on an island; in the clinic, they get to work across several disciplines and gain insight from physicians, medical students, and even administrative law judges. One such opportunity is during a biweekly meeting where law students can present their cases to the full group of practitioners and get advice on how to best move forward with their cases and help their clients. In addition to helping the clients, this experience additionally fosters growth for both the law students and medical students.

Continue reading

Be Careful What You Ask For; You Just Might Get It

By: Whitney Woodward, Spring 2019 HeLP Legal Services Clinic Intern

The pinnacle moment in the HeLP Legal Services Clinic at Georgia State University College of Law is the opportunity to actually represent a client at a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). As one might imagine, the probability of a hearing being scheduled during the one or two semesters students participate in the Clinic is fairly low. Not all Clinic cases are ripe for hearing work since the Supplemental Security Income process through the Social Security Administration (SSA) often takes years to materialize into an appeal that warrants a hearing. Additionally, some Clinic clients never make it past the research and investigation phase with their HeLP legal interns due to a lack of evidence or effective legal arguments in their cases. Therefore, when, as a legal intern, one is given the opportunity to represent a client at an upcoming hearing, most students jump at the chance. While the experience is second to none, students must be ready for the work and responsibility that immediately lands in their laps and be willing to exhibit flexibility as they work with ALJs running their courtrooms in their own unique ways.

Continue reading

Medical-Legal Partnerships: Working to Address Problems in Health Literacy

By: Katie Broyles, Spring 2019 HeLP Legal Services Clinic Intern

Most commonly, medical-legal partnerships (MLPs) are recognized for their vision to improve low-income patient and client situations by addressing the social determinants of health via both a medical and legal lens. However, most MLPs today are operating to solve a number of additional healthcare access and population problems for providers and patients behind the scenes. One of these problems is that of health literacy in low-income patients and clients. Health literacy is defined by the Department of Health and Human Services as the “degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions.” A recent study found that “[m]ost American adults – 53 percent – have intermediate health literacy…they can perform ‘moderately challenging’ activities, like reading denser texts and handling unfamiliar arithmetic,” but about 20 percent have only “basic” health literacy that could cause problems, and 14 percent have scores “below basic” on the National Assessment of Adult Literacy. In addressing the social determinants of health at the outset of a physician-patient or attorney-client relationship, MLPs work to examine possible risk factors for low health literacy that may be causing initial problems in a patient or client’s case, such as low health plan compliance rates, lower percentages of advanced screening or usage of preventative care services, difficulty finding access to healthcare resources or services, or failure to use resources or services they are aware of altogether. In aiming to resolve these underlying issues, MLPs help to provide a long-term solution to the patient or client, in turn improving low-income population health and long-term health literacy.

Continue reading

Hope for the Homeless

By: Laura Trejo, Spring 2019 HeLP Legal Services Clinic Intern

In December of last year, Sesame Street introduced its first homeless character, a Muppet named Lily. Lily and her parents are temporarily staying with her teacher while her parents struggle to find stable housing. Unfortunately, homelessness is a reality for millions of children across the country. More than 2.5 million children in the United States are currently experiencing homelessness. During the 2016-2017 school year, Georgia had an estimated youth and children homeless population of 38,474, with 732 students still unsheltered. Of students who had a nighttime residence, 3,499 were in shelters, 6,700 were in hotels or motels, and 27,543 were “doubled up,” a term that refers to a situation where individuals are unable to maintain their housing situation and are forced to stay with a series of friends or extended family members.

Continue reading

Stuck Between a Financial Rock and a Hard Place

By: Whitney Woodward, Spring 2019 HeLP Legal Services Clinic Intern

The HeLP Legal Services Clinic at Georgia State University College of Law is an experience like no other. Law students, those individuals mired in classroom learning and drudging through the painful experience of law school finals, lucky enough to find the HeLP Clinic are given the opportunity to practice law via the Student Practice Rule under the direct supervision of a Georgia licensed attorney. Unlike the hundreds of pages of already decided cases to read or the countless hypotheticals posed to students in a traditional law school course, the HeLP Clinic provides students with cases for real people with real issues and real deadlines. The HeLP Clinic’s clients are low-income families with children being treated in the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta system, and who have some sort of legal problem(s). The issues handled in the HeLP Clinic are often heavy, but with such heaviness comes a law student’s burning desire to work incredibly hard for these families in need.

Continue reading