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CGJ Intern Update from Julianna Battenfield

By September 9, 2016December 16th, 2019Internship Grant Program
Julianna interned at South Carolina Legal Services (“SCLS”) in Greenville, South Carolina. SCLS represents any individual below 150% of the federal poverty level in legal matters within their priorities, including domestic violence, adoptions, immigration petitions, and other areas where an injustice must be remedied. 

Adoption, Immigration, Worker Fraud, OH MY!

I started my position as a law clerk at South Carolina Legal Services (SCLS or Legal Services), a legal aid clinic that assists the poor with legal services, on July 5, 2016. Within a week, I had written the pleadings for an adoption case, an immigration petition, a contracts case, an employment fraud case, and more!

I took this position this summer because (A) I wanted to learn everything I could about civil law; and (B) I love the mission of SCLS. SCLS represents anyone below 150% of the federal poverty level (as long as their case fits within their guidelines) with whatever type of legal help they need. For example, one of my mentor attorneys specialized in obtaining birth certificates and IDs for people who either had never received one or who had lost it and no longer had any proof of ID.

The lack of ID leads to many troubles for the individuals, including the inability to obtain employment, housing, access their bank accounts, and more. It’s actually a bigger problem than one might expect. Thankfully SCLS exists to help those individuals access the system, fill out the documents, and sometimes negotiate with the Office of Vital Records at DHEC.

I was pleasantly surprised to find out where the office was! Before law school, I worked at another firm on Main Street in Greenville, SC and would always drive past the SCLS building on my way to my job. I always thought the building was beautiful but I never knew what it was. Then, after I felt led to pursue an internship at SCLS, and indeed after I had already obtained it, I found out the location of the building and concluded that my admiration for the building was not a coincidence.

Legal Services has multiple offices around the state of South Carolina; our office represented Greenville County, Oconee County, Anderson County, Pickens County, and Abbeville and Laurens—effectively, the Tenth, Thirteenth, and Eighth circuits. Subsequently, we spent quite a lot of time in the car driving to court in various locations! I witnessed multiple family court cases, attended a divorce clinic put on by one of the attorneys for victims of Domestic Violence (the only type of divorce SCLS helps out with), attended multiple mediations, and even went to Bankruptcy Court in Columbia.

My favorite case thus far was one of the adoption cases. A pair of grandparents decided to adopt their granddaughter because neither the mother nor the father were in the picture. I had the incredible privilege to write the pleadings, meet with the clients (the grandparents), and attend the Final Hearing where the little girl officially became their daughter. It was extremely moving. And SCLS funded the adoption free of charge for the couple.

Excuse me, Jail Guard, Open my Door, Please.

The second half of my internship was more research and writing oriented—although I did continue to attend hearings and mediation sessions.

The most interesting case that I worked on involved a man who attempted to renege on a contract he had made for a vehicle. The plaintiff was in his 20’s and the defendant was pushing 100.

The vehicle was used, and a police officers said that the man purchased a car because in South Carolina, buyers do not have the right to renege on a contract for a used car like they do for other items.

In an unexpected twist, shortly after the man filed his complaint, he got himself thrown into jail in another state for life without parole.

Hence, my legal question became, “Does a prisoner have the right to an Order of Transport if he is the plaintiff in a civil case and the lawsuit is not in the state he is in?”

The research process took me all over the place because although I initially concluded, “NO,” it was almost impossible to find a legal document saying so. I did find an answer eventually (which may turn into a law review article later!). Who knew it would be so difficult to find out what rights prisoners have in state prisons . . . .

I then did a research project on intrastate child abduction by a parental unit and read almost every case in the state of South Carolina involving alimony.

Overall, my experience at SCLS was phenomenal, eye-opening, and educational.  My mentor attorneys, Charlotte and Tamika, specialized in family law (representing victims of crime), adoption, housing, employment, and other areas.  I could not have asked for better mentors. They let me draft pleadings, meet with clients, send out and subpoena documents, attend hearings, and more—and I learned more than I could have possibly imagined from them.

This post was written by a Center for Global Justice student intern.  The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of Regent University, Regent Law School, or the Center for Global Justice.