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Law clinic counsels off-campus students

Karen Langley | Thursday, March 30, 2006

In hopes of clarifying the legal issues involved with off-campus housing, three third-year law students from the Notre Dame Legal Aid Clinic advised nearly 50 student audience members about signing leases and avoiding eviction Wednesday night in 126 DeBartolo Hall.

Off-campus housing became a highly publicized school issue with the passing of an ordinance to South Bend’s Disorderly Housing Ordinance during the summer and subsequent eviction proceedings against Notre Dame students in the fall.

The event, organized by student government’s Community Relations committee, accomplished one goal of the campaign platform embraced by student body president-elect Lizzi Shappell and vice president-elect Bill Andrichik, who said they would provide legal aid for students.

“I think it’s a fantastic first step and a way for [Baron and I] to end this administration and to begin Bill and my administration,” Shappell said Monday.

Nick Guzman, chair of the Community Relations committee, said the idea for the program originated over the summer and was further prompted by the autumn evictions of Notre Dame students at Turtle Creek.

“We hope to inform students so that they are better prepared to move off campus,” Guzman said. “Originally, we thought we would bring attorneys to campus to discuss these issues, but we decided having a law student perspective would be better received by undergrads.”

The Legal Aid Clinic, directed by professor Bob Jones, is Notre Dame Law School’s teaching clinic and provides poverty-law assistance and legal education under the supervision of law school faculty members.

Jones said the student presenters first met with Guzman and the Community Relations committee a month ago.

“I was glad so many people came,” Jones said. “There were some good questions. Hopefully, people are more educated about approaching off-campus rentals.”

Freshman Kristen Dold, who plans to move off-campus junior year, said the seminar helped increase students’ knowledge of their options in cases of housing problems.

“It’s good to be aware,” she said. “There are a lot of grey areas.”

Dold said students also wanted to hear more about issues of criminal law, such as specifics of students’ options in situations involving alcohol violations.

Sophomore Chris Schwarber, who will move off-campus next year, said he found information about the Disorderly House Ordinance and its amendment particularly relevant.

“[The presentation] was also good regarding the procedural part [of evictions],” he said. “I didn’t know much about that.”