Skip to main content

Valerie Johnson’s Win for Her Client: A Civil Litigation Clinic Success Story

Part-time student Val Johnson (’11) joined the Civil Litigation Clinic to gain a real-life perspective on the law while maintaining her outside job.  But at heart, Johnson was drawn to the Clinic because of its service-based approach to legal practice.  Little did she know the experience would change lives – including her own.

Clinic Director, Professor Kathleen McKee, assigned Johnson her first case, a disabled man who had been denied SNAP benefits. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), administered by the Department of Social Services, provides funds to needy recipients to purchase food.
 
Johnson’s interest in the case grew as she got to know her client.  “I realized he was a very hard worker.  This wasn’t someone who was taking advantage of government services,” she said.  Her client needed food to take with his disability medication, food his SNAP benefits provided. Johnson gave her client a list of local churches and food banks to use until his benefits could be reinstated.

SNAP recipients undergo a periodic verification process to maintain eligibility, and Social Services determined that Johnson’s client’s income exceeded the allowable amount.  “My client had received SNAP benefits in the past, but for this particular period he was denied even though nothing had materially changed in his case,” Johnson said.
 
Reviewing his case, Johnson found that her client’s income had been misappropriated on his verification paperwork.  She also realized that the verification rules were so complex that the average person may not understand them, much less someone with a disability.
 
At the hearing Johnson requested to correct the error, Social Services asserted that the verification process had not been completed by Johnson’s client.  Johnson said her client was never notified by the agency. 
As a novice litigator wanting to help, Johnson was surprised and relieved by the ruling in her client’s favor.  The hearing officer ordered Social Services to repeat the verification process to determine her client’s income. “I’m confident my client will receive back benefits,” said Johnson.

Johnson’s victory helped her client become food secure and exposed a weakness in the welfare system.  It also changed her perspective and her vocational direction.  She now hopes to do similar litigation or to improve the welfare process by helping government agencies review their policies related to people in positions like her client.   “This experience taught me to be compassionate and not judge where a person is, and to be sincere in my efforts to help,” said Johnson.  “I’m confident the practical experience will be helpful as I transition into my legal career.”


- By Kristy Morris

Popular posts from this blog

Regent Law Trains Lawyers Called to Fight for Social Justice

As Regional Legal Coordinator with Freedom Firm in Maharashtra, India, Evan Henck ‘07 helps unravel the complex legal and social difficulties that come with prosecuting sex trafficking.
Evan’s virtual journal entry below depicts the sobering reality of the sex trade even as it celebrates the Freedom Firm’s recent progress. It originally appeared in the 2010 Spring/Summer edition of “Brief Remark”, Regent University School of Law’s new biannual publication.
From giving papers at a national human rights conferences and training human rights attorneys, to subsidizing summer internships within the nascent Center for Global Justice, the Regent Law community is committed to furthering the cause of justice at home and abroad.
If you feel called to the legal profession and to the fight for social justice, a Regent J.D. might be for you. Learn more here.

Jan. 16 2010
Maharashtra, India
In January an informant phoned Suresh Pawar, a human rights activist with the Freedom Firm in Maharashtra, India,…

Congresswoman Michele Bachmann Speaks at Regent Law Chapel

Raising nearly 30 children has provided Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann with negotiating skills that serve her well in the nation's capital. Bachmann, a passionate advocate for foster care and adoption, visited Regent University on November 20 as part of the university's recognition of National Adoption Awareness Month.

Bachmann and her husband, Dr. Marcus Bachmann, are the parents of five biological children and 23 foster children. She shared their story as parents and also their connection to Regent during a special law chapel for students, faculty and staff.

"It's been a marvelous experience for us. Being foster parents has allowed us to teach our biological kids that they're not the only kids in the world," Bachmann said. "Our foster care kids have been able to see what a picture of an imperfect 'normal' family is like. And we saw the beauty and worth in them.

"Twenty-three times, we've seen these kids graduate from high sc…

Regent Law Dean Appointed to Board of Governors of the Virginia Bar Association

On Saturday, January 21, the Virginia Bar Association (VBA) inaugurated its statewide representatives for their 2017 term.

Regent University School of Law (LAW) Dean Michael Hernandez was among those new leaders as he accepted his appointment as a representative by the Board of Governors of the VBA.

Hernandez will represent law schools on the VBA board for a minimum of a one-year term. He is the first Regent LAW faculty member to be appointed to this distinction.


“It is an honor to serve as the sole law school representative on the Board of Governors and a privilege to be a part of this accomplished group of prominent attorneys.  I am excited to work with the other Board members to build on and continue the standard of excellence that the VBA has upheld since it was founded in 1888,” said Hernandez.

“The other members of the Board of Governors are the most accomplished lawyers in Virginia, and the Board is collegial and committed to the highest standards of professionalism,” …