Legal Clinics Students Achieve Victory with Gubernatorial Veto
A bill which would deny Missourians the ability to receive unemployment benefits due to activities outside of the workplace and outside of work hours was recently rejected by Governor Jay Nixon after being overwhelmingly passed in both the Missouri House and Senate.
While Nixon’s rejection received stark criticism from the Missouri business community, it is being cheered by many at SLU LAW. Three members of the SLU LAW Legal Clinics were working, alongside other advocacy groups, to stop the bill from being passed. Julie Houska (’13), Mandi Moutray (’13) and Chris Stuffle (rising part-time 5L) began working to defeat the bill while it was still in the legislature through written advocacy and meetings with legislators. When they did not succeed in that vein, the students began their successful veto initiative.
This is not the first time the Clinics have ventured into the world of legislative advocacy on behalf of their clients. They generally try to pick one or two legislative initiatives to pursue each year, last year working with Professor Sidney Watson’s class to encourage Medicaid expansion.
As the proposed bill would have had noticeable effects on Legal Clinics clients, those involved felt it was important to pursue the issue and represent their clients’ interests by attempting to stop the legislation. Professor John Ammann, clinical professor and supervisor of the litigation clinic, explained, “Most of our cases for clients with unemployment appeals are misconduct cases. The change, or lack of it, will affect dozens of our clients and hundreds of people statewide who aren't our clients.”
Ammann described the two ways that the passing of this bill would have detrimental ramification for clientele of the SLU LAW Legal Clinics.
“First, it would make many of our clients ineligible for unemployment benefits, directly effecting their economic security. Second, it is a severe invasion of privacy to have employers policing the activity of their employees outside of work time, especially if the end result is not only the loss of a job but also the loss of unemployment benefits.”
Ammann also spoke on the topic on KDHX-AM’s Collateral Damage.
The question now is will the bill stay vetoed or, due to overwhelming House and Senate support, will the Missouri legislature attempt to resurrect it in the September session. In a letter on his website, Nixon detailed why he chose to veto the measure, despite it receiving substantial support from both the House and Senate. He said he was simply unable to look past the potential for unfair denial of unemployment benefits that many rely on for survival between jobs.
“If the bill stays vetoed, it will mean the difference between being able to make house payments and car payments, or losing houses to foreclosure and cars to repossession,” said Ammann on the repercussions of such a measure.
Though the future of the measure remains murky, the SLU LAW Legal Clinics are enjoying their successful venture into legislative advocacy for now and look forward to being a continual presence on behalf of their clients.
By Maureen Brady