Veterans Law Clinic’s New Director Looks to Provide a Model for Other Law Schools
Web Editor - Published: November 10, 2010
"We want Veterans Law Clinics to be just as common at law schools as other clinics,” says Associate Professor Justin G. Holbrook, the new Director of Widener Law’s Veterans Law Clinic, who recently took over from Taishoff Professor of Law Thomas J. Reed.

Professor Reed founded the Veterans Law Clinic in 1997 as the Veterans Assistance Program, the first clinical program for disabled veterans at a law school within the United States. The program became known as the Veterans Law Clinic in January 2006, although student interns – working with attorneys on behalf of indigent veteran clients – have been a part of the program since its start. Professor Holbrook believes that the school’s Veterans Law Clinic can be a “center for excellence” that shares its experience and knowledge with other schools looking to start veterans clinics of their own.

In his capacity as Director, Professor Holbrook has been working with the Delaware State Bar Association to facilitate communication and cooperation on veterans issues. He hopes that the increased contact will lead to more Delaware attorneys providing pro bono representation for veterans needing help with their disability benefits claims. As part of those outreach efforts, the clinic is working to set up a continuing legal education program in the near future to train interested Delaware attorneys.

2010IVeteransDay Clinic bookPromoIn addition, Professor Holbrook recently contributed a chapter entitled “Veterans Courts and Criminal Responsibility: A Problem Solving History & Approach to the Liminality of Combat Trauma,” to a forthcoming book entitled Young Veterans: Promoting Resilience Through Assessment, Treatment and Advocacy. The book – edited by Widener Law Professor and Public Interest Resource Center Director Sydney Howe-Barksdale along with Adelphi University School of Social Work Associate Professor Diann Cameron Kelly and Dr. David Gitelson, the Director of Social Work at the VA Hudson Valley Health Care System in New York – focuses on the needs of servicemen and women transitioning between active duty and civilian life.

Professor Holbrook’s chapter details the movement among local and state courts to create special courts for veteran criminal defendants with mental health or substance abuse issues. Using a treatment model similar to drug courts and mental health courts, veterans courts focus on rehabilitation over punishment by acknowledging the unique challenges veterans face. “For anyone who has served in the military or has family members who have served in the military, these are important issues,” says Professor Holbrook.

Professor Reed also contributed a chapter to the book, entitled “The 21st Century Veteran and the 19th Century Pension Code: Why the VA Claims Process Is a Steam Engine in an E-Universe.” Young Veterans: Promoting Resilience Through Assessment, Treatment and Advocacy is scheduled for an April 2011 release from Springer Publishing.

Professor Holbrook joined Widener Law in the summer of 2010, replacing Professor Reed as Director of the Veterans Law Clinic. As a former active-duty Judge Advocate in the U.S. Air Force, Professor Holbrook deployed twice in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, and was responsible for advising in-country commanders on operations law, fiscal law, military justice, foreign claims and civil law. He has served overseas in Okinawa, Japan, and is currently a reservist in the U.S. Air Force JAG Corps. Professor Holbrook holds a law degree from Harvard Law School.