Professor Backus Bringing more Pro Bono Opportunities to OU Law

August 29, 2014 | By Jessica Jones

For OU Law Professor Mary Sue Backus, this summer has meant cultivating more pro bono opportunities for students.  She has attended trainings for two separate pro bono programs, The Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program and the Clemency Project 2014.

The Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program provides veterans and other VA claimants with free attorney representation in appeals before the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. The claimants are veterans who have been previously denied by the VA’s Board of Veterans’ Appeals.  The Program evaluates court appeals for merit and recruits and trains attorneys to represent those with meritorious claims.  The Veterans Consortium consists of four veteran service organizations: The American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, the National Veterans Legal Services Program, and Paralyzed Veterans of America. The Executive Board of the Consortium is composed of representatives from the four veteran service organizations and members of the private bar.

Clemency Project 2014 launched in January to provide pro bono assistance to federal prisoners.  Had these inmates been sentenced today, they likely would have received shortened sentences. Clemency Project 2014 members are currently collaborating to recruit and train attorneys on the prisoner screening process.  It is composed of the Federal Defenders, the American Civil Liberties Union, Families Against Mandatory Minimums, the American Bar Association, and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, as well as individuals active within those organizations and other lawyers wishing to participate in this volunteer effort. 

For each of these projects, Professor Backus will serve as the lead volunteer attorney and plans to enlist the aid of students on her cases.

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