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CLAS Supported by Congressman Moran in a Second DoD Appropriation

On Christmas Eve last month, the Department of Defense (DoD) executed a modification to the original grant DoD made to the Clinic for Legal Assistance to Servicemembers (CLAS) over two years ago. As explained by Professor Joseph Zengerle, who founded CLAS in 2004, the original grant, executed in August 2006, was due to the efforts of Congressman Jim Moran (D-Va.), a passionate supporter of the clinic who represents Virginia's Eighth Congressional District that includes Arlington, where the George Mason University School of Law, to which CLAS belongs, is located. The original grant to CLAS was a part of the DoD Appropriation Act for Fiscal Year 2006.

Moran was also instrumental in securing support for CLAS in the DoD Appropriation Act for FY09, signed by the president last September, which provided the basis for the grant modification.  Moran is a senior member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee. Zengerle noted Moran's philosophy regarding defense matters as supporting both the infrastructure for a strong national defense and the military personnel who fight our wars, with a special focus today on the human element of the families at home standing behind the troops deployed in harm's way.

CLAS provides help to active-duty members of the armed forces and their families in civil cases in which there is manifest injustice or as to which the expense of retaining counsel would impose an undue hardship. Since CLAS began, it has received hundreds of applications and has represented scores of clients. They have come from all five armed services, including a number who have been wounded in Iraq, and students under supervision have assisted them in litigation, adjudication and negotiation regarding consumer protection, administrative law, family law, bankruptcy, landlord-tenant, contract, military law and entitlement matters in federal and state forums. For an example of a recent CLAS victory in a Virginia trial court of particular help to an Army wife,  whose husband is in Iraq, and her baby, see http://www.law.gmu.edu/news/2008/clas_trial_win.

CLAS remains unique in American legal education, while having inspired other law schools, advised by Zengerle, to adopt clinics to assist veterans. CLAS has enrolled about 100 students, of whom ten percent have graduated to join a JAG Corps. The George Mason clinic has also received significant financial and in-kind support from the Commonwealth of Virginia and private donors, including foundations, individuals and dozens of law firms. President Bush, DoD and congressional leaders have expressed their support for CLAS in writing.

As Moran said:  "I'm proud to support CLAS, a cutting-edge legal services program benefitting our nation's servicemen and women. For over five years, CLAS has provided expert legal assistance to soldiers facing difficult circumstances off the battlefield. It's a tradition of conscientious excellence that brings honor to George Mason and all the professors and students who participate."