CWRU law clinic to represent victims of human trafficking and sexual assault

Case Western Reserve University School of Law, with a grant from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, will launch a human trafficking law clinic in which students, under faculty supervision, will represent victims of human trafficking and sexual assault.

Professors Judith Lipton and Maureen Kenny will serve as co-directors of the Human Trafficking Project, which will provide legal services to survivors of human trafficking, and education and awareness to service providers, educators, students and the general public on this important issue.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for our students and the law school to take the lead in an area that is a growing legal, societal and humanitarian concern in Ohio, nationally and globally,” Lipton said. “Human trafficking is a $150 billion per year industry—the second-largest worldwide criminal industry behind drug trafficking.”

Lipton said the state grant will support the creation of a Human Trafficking Law Clinic. Meanwhile, the grant enables Case Western Reserve law students to immediately represent victims of human trafficking through the Criminal Justice Clinic.

Participating law students will:

  • Work with court personnel to identify victims of human trafficking.
  • Represent individuals in pending criminal charges related to their victimization.
  • Help seal records of criminal convictions related to victimization.
  • Help in court proceedings related to the prosecution of a human trafficker by providing information and support to victims serving as witnesses for the prosecution.

The grant also will help the law school prepare brochures and offer other educational information to increase awareness of the dimensions of human trafficking to law students, social service providers and the general public.

Ohio’s human trafficking grants are the result of a marked increase in federal Victims of Crime Act funding.

“We are so very pleased that the Attorney General’s Office has provided this grant enabling us to expand our services to support these survivors,” said law school Co-Deans Jessica Berg and Michael Scharf.

Traffickers practice coercion, fraud and force to victimize young people and adults of both genders, Kenny said.

Kenny also serves on the board of the Renee Jones Empowerment Center, a Cleveland social service agency that works with women and girls to rebuild their lives after exposure to poverty, homelessness, teen pregnancy, domestic violence and drug-abuse.

“The trafficker befriends vulnerable girls and gives them attention,” Kenny said. “The girls often are runaways, foster youth or those who come out of a detention center. The traffickers use girls for profit. It gets to a point where the women or girls don’t know any other way of living. It’s just what they do to survive.”