The Clinical Center: Academia Serving Society

The Clinical Center: Academia Serving Society

During their years of study at the Faculty of Law, the students attend classes discussing laws, ideas and the thoughts of different philosophers, judges and scholars. As the French philosopher Albert Camus pointed out, "There always comes a time when one must choose between contemplation and action." The Faculty of Law's Clinical Legal Education Center, directed by Dr. Einat Albin, offers students a chance to move between the spheres of contemplation and action, to put ideas into practice, and to participate in hands-on legal action. Legal field work also provides an opportunity to assess where the law is meeting the needs of reality and where it shows failures or inadequacies. This is not only vital for understanding the practice and limitations of law, but also yields important insights that help the students gain more from all their courses in the faculty.


These insights can in turn encourage change in the law. A wide range of clinics relating to diverse fields of law is offered, and new clinics are introduced each year. In this issue, we focus on the activities and innovations in two of the clinics offered in the new academic year.


The Legislative Consultation Department

The Civil Justice Clinic has changed its format this year. Attorney Hagit Borochovitz, one of the clinical teachers last year, was particularly impressed by a project that began with a position paper prepared by Chaim Avraham, one of the students who worked in the clinic. Chaim, aged 26 from Jerusalem, recalls: "The idea was the direct result of one of the cases I was involved in. A convicted rapist had evidently smuggled assets out of Israel in order to avoid paying compensation. Similar cases were also mentioned during conversations in the clinic. I wanted to try to find a solution to the problem faced by victims." It emerged that the State of Israel has not established a public mechanism for compensating the victims of criminal offenses (along the lines of the mechanisms used to compensate the victims of road accidents and acts of hostility). As a result, if offenders smuggle out their assets, the victim will be unable to secure compensation, even if this has been ruled in their favor in an individual claim.

The essence of the clinics' role is to enable students to apply the theoretical knowledge they have acquired in the practical world. "This year," Attorney Borochovitz explains, "we chose to take this position paper and translate it into practice. We recruited a team of four students: Efrat Gidron, Lahan Sarid, Oren Ron and Yishai Rivlin. The team prepared a paper that eventually became a proposal to amend the Criminal Victims' Rights Law." Borochovitz adds that this entailed a protracted process. "We undertook extensive legal research, including comparative law, brainstorming, in-depth reflection, and consultation with professionals in relevant fields from the Faculty and elsewhere."
Chaim Avraham: "The idea was the direct result of one of the cases I was involved in. A convicted rapist had apparently smuggled assets out of Israel in order to avoid paying compensation… I wanted to try to find a solution to the problem faced by victims."

Lahan Sarid, one of the students in the team, highlights the complex nature of the task. "It wasn't easy to find a mechanism that secures the victim's right to compensation while avoiding disproportionate injury to the defendant's right to property." With this in mind, the mechanism included in the proposed law establishes that a warning notice may only be recorded on any of the defendant's assets at the indictment stage. Despite the intensive work involved, Lahan warmly recommends that students participate in the clinic's work: "From my own experience, the work on this project was one of the most meaningful things I have ever been involved in. I was originally attracted to the clinic because I wanted to work with victims, but the combination of this field and the field of damages law opened up interesting new vistas for me. I worked with a very diverse group of people, and the clinical staff really deserve credit for the amazing way they steered the process." Attorney Borochovitz adds that the next stage of the process will include efforts to interest Members of Knesset in advancing the proposed law and securing the amendment of the existing legislation.


The Innocence Project – A First in Israel

This year, the clinic is launching Israel's first-ever Innocence Project to provide representation in applications for retrials. Attorney Manny Salomon, who is supervising the project, notes that the inspiration for the initiative came from the Innocence Project founded in the US. "Our goal was to try to secure the acquittal of prisoners by means of DNA tests that were not available at the time of their trial," Attorney Salomon explains. "The US Innocence Project developed on the basis of clinics in various faculties of law. Today, it is an independent body that has managed to secure the acquittal of around 300 prisoners."


Some positive developments have also been secured in Israel in this field, particularly since the establishment of the Public Defender's Office. Attorney Salomon recalls that, prior to 2001, the picture was extremely bleak. At the time, only the attorney general could submit an application for a retrial. "This was a problematic arrangement, given the inherent conflict of interests it entailed. The unfortunate result is that, to date, the attorney general has only submitted one application for a retrial," Salomon adds. The Baranes affair, when a defendant was convicted of murder and only acquitted after a lengthy public and legal struggle, led the Public Defender's Office to initiate a legislative amendment enabling any person to request a retrial. "These are complex and protracted proceedings that require personnel and budgets that are simply not available," Salomon explains. "Accordingly, the Public Defender's Office announced the establishment of the Innocence Project. Several private law firms agreed to handle one such case each a year." However, the current situation is still unsatisfactory, and intensive work is needed both in terms of representation and on the level of policy advocacy. The Innocence Project that is being launched this year seeks to meet this need. Eight students from the Criminal Justice Clinic are participating in the project. Attorney Salomon highlights the wide range of issues the students will address: "The students will supervise retrial cases from the moment the application is received. They will comb the evidential material carefully in an effort to collect, discover and expose evidence and flaws that can secure a retrial. They will also help represent the case before the Supreme Court when it hears the application." Attorney Salmon also mentions a further aspect of the students' work: "The students will help promote various proposed laws relating to the field of retrials, as part of an effort to reduce the factors that lead to false convictions and to provide a simple and rapid legal course for implementing the right to a retrial and for correcting judicial distortions."


Attorney Salomon believes that the justice system cannot be complete without a control mechanism that can help improve the judicial process and reinforce public confidence in the courts. "The project is beginning in our clinic, but in the future we hope that the other universities and colleges will also open clinics." Looking further ahead, Salomon concludes: "Eventually, the vision is that the project will become a strong and independent body."

Attorney Manny Salomon: "The students will supervise retrial cases from the moment the application is received… and will also help represent the case before the Supreme Court."