Thomas & Mack Legal Clinic Celebrates 15 Years

October 02, 2014

This fall, the Thomas and Mack Legal Clinic celebrated its fifteenth anniversary with a very special event honoring philanthropist Joyce Mack and Professor Mary Berkheiser, who has been named the inaugural Joyce Mack Professor of Law. The celebration brought together two extraordinary women who built this law school and its clinical program from scratch.

Joyce Mack and the Thomas and Mack families were early backers of UNLV at its founding in the 1950’s, and key supporters in the creation of its law school and legal clinic decades later. The Thomas and Mack families remain steadfast and generous supporters to the law school and its clinic, having built the Thomas & Mack Moot Court Room in 2007, in which the event was held, and endowed the Joyce Mack Professorship

Professor Berkheiser, who is founding faculty of the law school and started the clinical program, directs the Juvenile Justice Clinic and teaches and writes about criminal law and procedure. Professor Berkheiser is a beloved and inspiring teacher and impactful scholar whose work on juvenile right to counsel and punishment informs her clinical teaching and advocacy. In her clinic, she has skillfully integrated multidisciplinary practice so that clients get the educational and social support services they need, separate and apart from their legal defense.

The event featured an inspiring conversation with special guest Patricia Puritz, Executive Director of the National Juvenile Defender Center. Ms. Puritz lauded the Juvenile Justice Clinic’s unique role as an advocate for children and a change-agent within Nevada. Most strikingly, she observed, the Clinic was responsible for legislative changes in 2001 that firmly guaranteed children the right to counsel, and in 2012, the Juvenile Justice Clinic led a successful campaign to end routine shackling of children in Clark County during court proceedings. These two issues – guaranteeing the right to quality counsel and ending routine shackling – are central goals of juvenile justice advocates at the national level. The fact that the Juvenile Justice Clinic has been successful in effectuating such changes locally speaks to Professor Berkheiser’s leadership, her inspired and dedicated students, and the special role of the law school in this state.

The keynote was followed by a lively panel discussion moderated by Professor Anne Traum, Associate Dean for Experiential Legal Education, which explored the re-emergence of juvenile justice as specialty field and strategies for advocating reforms. Expert commentary was provided by the following panelists: Professor Berkheiser; David Tanenhaus, James E. Rogers Professor of Law and History; and Assemblyman Jason Frierson (JD ’01).