Clinic Students Help Win Favorable Decision for Oregon Schools

Willamette University College of Law students helped win a great victory for the students and parents of the Oregon School for the Blind with the passage of House Bill 3867, which was signed into law on March 11, 2010, by Gov. Ted Kulongoski. The new measure reverses an earlier one passed by the 2009 Legislature.

House Bill 3867 requires half of the money from the sale from the Oregon School for the Blind to be used for the benefit of the Oregon School for the Deaf; the other half of the proceeds must be used to benefit visually impaired students.

The plan originally approved by the 2009 Legislature would have simply deposited all of the proceeds from the sale of the School for the Blind into the state’s general fund, where visually impaired students would be denied virtually any benefit from the sale of the property. However, Common Sense for Oregon, a nonprofit advocacy group, hired Canby, Ore., attorney Tyler Smith to challenge the sale of the property where the Oregon School for the Blind property is located.

Smith served as lead attorney for the plaintiffs on the lawsuits, which included five descendents of the original property donor, two former students and one former faculty member. According to Smith, “the new legislation will eliminate the need for the current lawsuits and make the cases moot.”

A graduate of Willamette University College of Law, Smith was aided on the cases by several students enrolled in the school’s Clinical Law Program during the fall 2009 semester. “Willamette students conducted important background research, such as researching title and property documents,” he explained. “They also examined statutory laws to determine how they had changed over time.”

Smith credited the students with tackling a number of difficult concepts. “They were able to help out a lot. I knew I could give them several different pieces of the puzzle and could trust they’d give me back great research and memos.”

Willamette's Clinical Law Program enables students to represent real clients in actual cases and transactions under the close supervision of law faculty. The program includes specialized clinics in business law, trusts and estates, sustainability law, child and family advocacy, law and government, and international human rights.