Pro-Bono Mercer Law program set to begin its thirteenth year

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Pro-Bono Mercer Law program set to begin its thirteenth year

“I have seen the difficulties in balancing both sides of the scales,” current participant Randall Edwards says. “I have learned that while the roles of criminal defenders and prosecutors appear only adversarial, they are in fact both tasked with ensuring a fair balancing of our justice system.”

“I have seen the difficulties in balancing both sides of the scales,” current participant Randall Edwards says. “I have learned that while the roles of criminal defenders and prosecutors appear only adversarial, they are in fact both tasked with ensuring a fair balancing of our justice system.”

Ian Henshaw

“I have seen the difficulties in balancing both sides of the scales,” current participant Randall Edwards says. “I have learned that while the roles of criminal defenders and prosecutors appear only adversarial, they are in fact both tasked with ensuring a fair balancing of our justice system.”

Ian Henshaw

Ian Henshaw

“I have seen the difficulties in balancing both sides of the scales,” current participant Randall Edwards says. “I have learned that while the roles of criminal defenders and prosecutors appear only adversarial, they are in fact both tasked with ensuring a fair balancing of our justice system.”

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The fall semester of 2019 marks the 13th year that students from Mercer Law will participate in the Habeas Project. The Habeas Project was founded by Mercer Law’s current dean of students, Sarah Gerwig-Moore, and has since been taken over by Brian Kammer. This project gives Mercer Law students the opportunity to work with incarcerated Georgians who are facing habeas corpus cases. 

Kammer signed onto the project after Gerwig-Moore transitioned to the role of associate dean of academic affairs in July, according to a press release by Mercer Law.

Prior to becoming the new director, Kammer had experience in both state and federal law, having worked for 23 years in the Georgia Resource Center, a firm dedicated to providing free representation for death-sentenced prisoners in habeas corpus proceedings. 

According to the Wex Legal Dictionary, habeas corpus cases — Latin for “that you have a body” — are those in which prisoners have the opportunity to bring their cases to court if they feel that their imprisonment is unconstitutional due to mishandling of their case in court. All individuals have a right to competent and fair representation in court.  

“The kind of people that the clinic represents are the poor, people who have come from very deprived backgrounds and those who are in need of assistance,” Kammer said in a phone interview with The Cluster. 

The clinic, since its conception in 2006, has assisted with over 90 cases in Georgia and won over half of them. The clinic is the only one of its kind in the state of Georgia to handle habeas corpus cases on a pro-bono basis. 

 The clinic has been an ideal opportunity for Mercer Law students to gain not only real-world experience but also a brand new perspective within their legal careers. 

“I have seen the difficulties in balancing both sides of the scales,” current participant Randall Edwards said in an email to The Cluster. “I have learned that while the roles of criminal defenders and prosecutors appear only adversarial, they are in fact both tasked with ensuring a fair balancing of our justice system.”

The selection process for the program begins during the spring semester, and students are admitted based on their resumes and cover letters. 

“The students are going to be encountering people who really need their help and perhaps people who have come from circumstances that perhaps the students themselves are not familiar with,” Kammer said. “The potential for professional and personal growth is very high. I think it really gives the opportunity for students to both develop real practical, professional legal skills but also in the context of helping people who really, really need help.”

Students within the program are eager to gain more legal experience as well as an opportunity to help the community around them. 

“I have been fortunate enough to find opportunities and support within the Habeas Project and Mercer University School of Law,” Edwards said. “To develop my skills as an attorney while being able to ponder the big questions: ‘who can I help? How can I help?’”

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