February 01, 2005

Law school's legal clinic adds staff attorney

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A long-time Southern Illinois assistant public defender is a new staff attorney in Southern Illinois University Carbondale's law school legal clinic.

Heidi E. Ramos will also serve as project director of the law school's Self Help Legal Center of Southern Illinois, which provides resources to people throughout the state who seek to resolve a variety of legal problems on their own. Her appointment requires ratification by the SIU Board of Trustees.

Ramos is a 1988 SIUC law school graduate, and received her bachelor's degree in political science in 1985, also from SIUC. She is a 14-year veteran of the public defender's office in Jackson County.

Ramos' experience is an asset for the clinical program and the self-help center, associate professor and clinical program Director Mary C. Rudasill said.

"For 14 years she has been the court-appointed attorney for people who cannot afford a private attorney but have criminal problems," said Rudasill, noting that Ramos is known for developing a great rapport with her clients.

"She has a lot of respect for people; she's a good listener and she represents them well," Rudasill said.

Dean Peter C. Alexander said it is important "to have another person in the clinic who can assist, and an experienced lawyer like Heidi fits the bill very nicely."

Ramos will also work well with students working in the legal clinic, Rudasill said. Ramos supervised law students who were doing externships in the public defender's office.

"We try to hire people who are exemplary lawyers because the students watch everything we do," Rudasill said. "We can't hire people who are going to short-circuit the system and not be patient with clients. I think that's the one thing we look for when we hire clinic attorneys."

In addition to working in the legal clinic, Ramos will direct the self-help legal center.

Self-help publications are on reserve and available for use and copying at the legal center, which is in the law school library, during normal library hours. For more information on services offered through the Self-Help Legal Center, go to http://www.law.siu.edu/selfhelp or call 618/453-3217.

Serving others and addressing social issues in the region are among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.