Notre Dame Law School’s Exoneration Justice Clinic is now part of the Innocence Network, a coalition that brings together lawyers and organizations working to end wrongful convictions in the United States and around the world.
The Innocence Network’s board of directors voted March 18 to admit ND Law’s Exoneration Justice Clinic to the coalition of 70 member organizations.
Notre Dame Law Professor Jimmy Gurulé, who serves as director of the Exoneration Justice Clinic, said the formal connection to other exoneration efforts will bring new opportunities to help clients, educate students, and work to change the justice system.
“The Exoneration Justice Clinic will now be able to leverage the extensive legal and technical expertise and resources of the members of the Innocence Network to assist in litigating our wrongful conviction cases,” Gurulé said. “This is good news for our innocent clients.”
The Innocence Network helps connect potential clients with wrongful conviction attorneys and organizations. It also brings together lawyers involved in these institutions, giving them the opportunity to share resources, management support, toolkits, training tools, and consultations for grants, among other benefits.
The Innocence Network began unofficially in the late 1990s, when the organization’s two co-founders encouraged law professors across the U.S. to create innocence clinics that would represent men and women with compelling claims of innocence. By 2000, there were 10 programs that met in Chicago for what would be the first Innocence Network Conference, now held annually each spring.
In 2015, the Innocence Network was formally established with 15 members. Today, the coalition consists of 70 member organizations, including a dozen from outside the U.S. The coalition includes organizations affiliated with law schools and other educational institutions, public defender offices, pro bono sections of law firms, and independent nonprofits.
“Our membership in the Innocence Network is a recognition of the substantial progress the clinic has made in a short period of time and its growing reputation among innocence clinics and organizations nationwide,” Gurulé said.
Established in 2020, the Exoneration Justice Clinic is one of Notre Dame Law School’s six clinics providing opportunities for legal experience to law students. The clinic marked its first exoneree, Andy Royer, in July 2021. Prior to 2020, a student organization and an externship program provided wrongful conviction work at the Law School.