April 20, 2007

People's Law School set for April 30-May 1 at SIUC

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE — The SIU School of Law at Southern Illinois University Carbondale will give the public the chance to attend free legal classes, including a panel discussion by legal experts on streamlining the Illinois Criminal Code.

Subjects for the annual People's Law School include: consumer rights with checks, credit cards and debit cards; living wills and powers of attorney; and obligations of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

The classes are evenings on Monday, April 30, and Tuesday, May 1. The School of Law historically participates in a variety of outreach activities to commemorate Law Day, which is May 1. Pre-registration is accepted up to the day of the event.


Media Advisory

Reporters and photographers are welcome to cover the legal classes and the Clear Commission panel discussion. For more information, contact Alicia Ruiz at the SIU School of Law at 618/536-7711.


There are nine courses available, in addition to legal experts explaining recommendations of the Criminal Law Edit, Alignment and Reform (CLEAR) Commission. The panel discussion is set for 6 p.m., Monday, April 30.

The People's Law School is another way for area residents to utilize the law school, Dean Peter C. Alexander said. The classes are designed to help educate the general public about various areas of the law and "expose them to the very fine teachers we have at the law school," Alexander said.

"It helps the public realize that we are not isolated at the law school," he said. "Our services are available to them, and the information we have to share is not just shared with our students; we make time to educate the public, and I think that is very important. We want to be good community citizens and Law Day is an opportunity for us to do that."

Alicia Ruiz, the law school's director of communications and outreach, said the event moved to two evenings to allow for more classes. Another hope is people who are busy on Saturdays – when previous Law Day events were held – will be able to attend.

Attorneys will be able to answer general questions about specific topics.

A class dealing with parents' concerns with special education focuses on the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which provides certain rights to students with disabilities and certain obligations for school districts, said associate law professor Thomas C. Britton. The act is an issue that school officials and parents of children with disabilities struggle with, said Britton, who is also director of the law school's graduate legal studies program.

The panel discussion on proposed criminal code changes — to make it more readable and consistent — is designed to explain the recommendations and listen to suggestions, commission spokesman Jim Bray said.

The last major overhaul of the state's criminal code was in 1961, and the code is now three times as large, he said. Pending legislation in the Illinois Senate and Illinois House of Representatives looks to reorganize and reduce the criminal code's size by one-third. Panelists include Kathryn Saltmarsh, co-director of the Clear Initiative, and currently legislative liaison for the Office of State Appellate Defender, and St. Clair County State's Attorney Robert Haida, a commission member.

This is the third public forum on the proposed changes. The University of Chicago Law School hosted one forum; a second forum is April 27 at DePaul University School of Law.

To register for a free class, call 618/453-8858, or email lawrecep@siu.edu.

Here is a schedule of events, the topic, and faculty members participating in People's Law School 2007:

Monday, April 30

  • 6 p.m. — Consumers' Rights: Checks, Credit and Debit Cards. Professor R.J. Robertson, Jr.
  • 6 p.m. — What to Do if You Can't Afford an Attorney. Self-Help Legal Center coordinator and staff attorney Heidi E. Ramos.
  • 6 p.m. — CLEAR Commission Panel Discussion on Illinois Criminal Code revisions.
  • 7 p.m. — Traffic/DUI Law. Professor William A. Schroeder.
  • 7 p.m. — Buying and Selling Real Estate; Avoiding Mortgage Pitfalls. Associate Dean Wenona Y. Whitfield.

Tuesday, May 1

  • 5:30 p.m. — Pro Se Divorce Class (Self-Help Legal Center). Self-Help Legal Center coordinator and staff attorney Heidi E. Ramos.
  • 6 p.m. — Living Wills and Powers of Attorney. Professor W. Eugene Basanta.
  • 6 p.m. — Vicarious Liability Issues for Business Owners. Professor Paul E. McGreal.
  • 7 p.m. — Parents' Concerns with Special Education. Associate Professor Thomas C. Britton.
  • 7 p.m. — Financial Literacy. Dean Peter C. Alexander.