UC Hastings Wins US Embassy Grant to Support Law Clinic Development in Haiti

Three people stand in front of banner
US Ambassador to Haiti Michele J. Sison (center) Photo courtesy U.S. Embassy in Haiti

In a milestone move that is intended to invigorate clinical legal education in Haiti, the US Embassy has awarded twin grants, one to UC Hastings College of the Law and the other to l’École Supérieure Catholique de Droit de Jérémie (ESCDROJ), a law school located in Jérémie, Haiti.

The grants come as the country rolls out initiatives aimed at modernizing its legal system. Among those initiatives is support for the country’s only known currently operating law school legal aid clinic, which is based at ESCDROJ. The clinic represents the vision of ESCDROJ graduate Roxane Edmond-Dimanche, with ESCDROJ Professor and former Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow Yvon Janvier serving as the inaugural clinic supervisor.

“These grants provide a fresh opportunity for UC Hastings and ESCDROJ to simultaneously build on their longstanding relationship and support the rule of law in Haiti,” said UC Hastings Professor Richard Boswell, who, along with Professor Karen Musalo and ESCDROJ Dean Jomanas Eustache, helped establish the relationship between the two law schools nearly two decades ago.

“We are thrilled to have this opportunity to partner with the U.S. Embassy and ESCDROJ to advance clinical legal education in Haiti,” said UC Hastings Chancellor and Dean David Faigman.

Professor Kate Bloch, who has worked for almost a decade with colleagues in the U.S. and in Haiti to help establish the ESCDROJ clinic (known as “CRAALE”), will be leading the UC Hastings efforts under the grant. “We are deeply honored to join our project partners in advancing the goal of making CRAALE a model of clinical legal education in Haiti and in supporting CRAALE’s mission to represent indigent pretrial detainees in the Jérémie prison,” Bloch said.

The grant supports two exchanges. In the first exchange, UC Hastings and CRAALE faculty, students, staff, and graduates will participate in a symposium hosted at UC Hastings exploring clinical legal education. Subsequently, participants from the first exchange will train law students and aspiring lawyers in Haiti as part of a second exchange in Haiti. The overall goal is to share with legal educators in Haiti common methodologies used in clinical legal education.

“The exchanges should also forge and strengthen ongoing connections that will continue to yield benefits for years to come,” added UC Hastings Lecturer Jessica Vapnek, who will also support the grant from the UC Hastings side.

The partnership comes at an opportune time, as Haiti recently achieved its decades-long goal to develop updated Criminal and Criminal Procedure Codes, which dated back more than 150 years. The hope is that the new procedural requirements will help reduce the country’s high rates of prolonged pretrial detention.

Through a variety of approaches, the US Embassy is seeking to “ensure that Haitian citizens have access to a functioning and fair justice system,” said Michele Sison, US Ambassador to Haiti, in her speech last week announcing the award of the grants. Special thanks go to U.S. Embassy Public Affairs Counselor Jeanne Clark, whose commitment to clinical legal education helped make this partnership possible.

UC Hastings is delighted to work with our partners toward these goals. “This partnership can play a fundamental role in enhancing the sustainability of CRAALE as it aims to become a leader and role model for clinical legal education throughout Haiti,” Bloch said.