VETERANS LEGAL CLINIC DOES THE RIGHT THING
Bob Muth was a senior at Northwestern University when he watched the horrors of 9/11 unfold on TV and decided it was time to serve his country. He was part of the first class of newly minted officers who walked into military recruiting offices in the days following the tragedy.
The Marines sent Muth (pictured) to law school at Duke University. He went on to become a captain and judge advocate in the U.S. Marine Corps, serving as the senior defense counsel for the Marine Corps in Iraq.
Muth served in the Marines until 2009, when he was named the Defense Counsel of the Year, Navy-Marine Corps Trial Judiciary, Western Judicial Circuit. He did a stint as a civil litigator before coming to the University of San Diego in 2012 to establish the School of Law’s Veterans Legal Clinic, funded during the silent phase of the Leading Change campaign.
As the clinic’s managing attorney, Muth initially oversaw second- and third-year law students who represented veterans in disputes with for-profit schools over the use of their GI Bill funds.
“They are being promised all sorts of specific things with respect to the quality of their education, the pace at which they can complete the program, their job prospects upon completion, the type of salary they can expect, the accreditation of the school, and the credentials of the people teaching and even the services provided to veterans with disabilities,” Muth says. “But the promises are empty.”
The clinic’s focus has since expanded to represent veterans seeking corrections to their military records, upgrades of their discharge status or resolution of disputes over access to medical care and disability compensation benefits.
“At any given time, we will have more than a hundred open matters,” says Muth, who also teaches a course in legal ethics and is now the academic director for all 10 legal clinics in the School of Law. “We have dual missions. One is to serve the community by providing pro bono legal assistance to those most in need. The other is to provide high quality training to law students and to ensure that they have the real-world skills needed to effectively practice upon graduation.”
School of Law students are involved in their assigned cases at every point along the way — from the initial intake to court appearances, seated at the counsel’s table next to their supervising attorney.
Some of the clinic’s clients are homeless veterans who clinic students have been able to secure medical care, disability benefits and other veterans benefits previously out of reach.
Muth explains, “It is incredibly empowering for the law students to see the difference their training and skill can make in the lives of a deserving veteran.” — Krystn Shrieve
Photo by Marshall Williams