A second round of Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law students have been dispatched across the state this summer to assist rural county judges through a judicial clerkship program, despite setbacks caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
For the second year, selected students at the Indianapolis law school have the chance to experience the practice of law in rural communities by participating in the Supporting Rural Justice Initiative. The effort is a partnership established last year between the law school and the Indiana Supreme Court, aimed at introducing students to different facets of rural and smaller-city practice.
Indiana Court of Appeals Judge Melissa May helped bring the program to IU McKinney after it initially began at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law in Bloomington. Indiana Chief Justice Loretta Rush and COA Judge Edward Najam developed the idea for the program.
Through the program, students are given the chance to assist trial court judges with research, drafting motions and opinions, and learning about courtroom practice and procedure.
IU McKinney students who were selected for the 2020 program include Jacob Amstutz, Huntington County; Brianna Parker, Henry County; Amy Chassuel-Mahon, Clinton County; Ryan Graves, Tipton County; Kaleb Salisbury, Fountain County; and Jimmy Sedam, Vermillion County.
“I was very pleased that the program was not only continued but expanded in 2020, even as COVID-19 was limiting many other opportunities for our students,” IU McKinney Professor Joel Schumm said. “We had an incredibly strong applicant pool and were wowed during the interview process. The students have been enthusiastic in their work for the judges and the opportunity to delve into issues that affect rural counties.”
Each student taking part in the initiative receives three academic credits with 100% tuition and fee remission, as well as a $4,000 stipend for completing a minimum of 200 hours of work over the summer.
Chassuel-Mahon, a 2L Illinois native, has spent her summer in Clinton County working alongside Judge Brad Mohler. She said that while serving in the program, much of her “substantive education has finally clicked.”
“For years we learn law in the abstract, and while it makes sense there’s nothing like seeing the concepts applied in real life to truly understand them. I have an entirely new level of confidence that my knowledge base will provide the skills necessary to practice as soon as a I graduate,” Chassuel-Mahon said.
Sedam, a 2L from Indianapolis, has been working with Vermillion County was placed in Vermillion County Judge Jill Wesch, an experience he describes as “great.”
“I have had the opportunity to complete a lot of tasks and projects for the judge, which has provided a practical education that I wouldn’t have otherwise gotten from a textbook or classroom,” Sedam said. “There is something about becoming a lawyer that inherently creates this tension in you to do something big for and in the world around you, and that tension may be greater now more than ever. I look forward to seeing what lies ahead.”