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MSU College of Law



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MSU Law Clinic Sues to Ease State Prison Restrictions on Lawyer Visits

East Lansing, MI — Michigan State University College of Law Professor Daniel Manville is seeking to remove barriers to confidential meetings between attorneys and inmates in a lawsuit filed this week against the Michigan Department of Corrections.

Manville, who directs the Law College’s Civil Rights Clinic, filed the class action lawsuit in response to MDOC restrictions on attorneys’ visiting hours and their ability to have private meetings with inmates.

In June 2011, MDOC ended its long-standing practice of allowing lawyer visits from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. Lawyers now must meet with inmates during standard visiting hours. Most prisons allow visits from either 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. or from 2:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.; visits are not allowed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Limited exceptions are allowed for “extenuating circumstances,” with prior approval.

According to Manville, the new restrictions create an unreasonable hardship for attorneys. “In the past, an attorney from Detroit could leave at 8 a.m. and meet with different clients at three or four prisons by the end of the day,” he says. “Under the new rules, it now takes two or three days for an attorney to accomplish what previously could be done in one.”

The lawsuit also alleges that prison officials are interfering with lawyers’ ability to speak confidentially with clients and witnesses by denying access to private meeting rooms. “This is an extremely important issue,” Manville says. “Prisons now are telling attorneys that they must sit in the regular visiting room, surrounded by other inmates, prison staff, and visitors who can overhear your conversations.”

The case, Civil Rights Clinic v. Washington, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan on Monday, May 28, 2012.

The Civil Rights Law Clinic at MSU College of Law represents civil rights litigants in federal court, with a focus on assisting those who are incarcerated in Michigan prisons. The clinic is one of several practice areas within the MSU College of Law Legal Clinic—a high-energy, small law firm environment in which students apply their knowledge of the substantive law to real-life situations under the guidance and supervision of licensed attorneys. The growing roster of Legal Clinic practice areas also includes Chance at Childhood, First Amendment Law, Housing Law, Immigration Law, Plea and Sentencing, Small Business and Nonprofit Law, and Tax Law. Student clinicians provide an important service for the betterment of the community while discovering their niche in the field of law.

Michigan State University College of Law, a leading institution of legal education with a long history of educating practice-ready attorneys, prepares future lawyers to use ethics, ambition, and intellect to solve the world's problems. As one of only a few private law schools affiliated with a major research university, MSU Law offers comprehensive interdisciplinary opportunities combined with a personalized legal education. After 100 years as a private and independent institution, the affiliation with MSU has put the Law College on an upward trajectory of national and international reputation and reach. MSU Law professors are gifted teachers and distinguished scholars, its curriculum is rigorous and challenging, and its facility is equipped with the latest resources—all affirming MSU Law's commitment to educating 21st-century lawyers.


Law College Building
648 N. Shaw Lane, Room 320
East Lansing, MI 48824

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