A new legal center in SMU’s Dedman School of Law will provide services for the victims of domestic violence, sex trafficking and other crimes against women.
Ray L. and Nancy Ann Hunter Hunt have committed $5 million to create the Judge Elmo B. Hunter Legal Center for Victims of Crimes Against Women, named in honor of Mrs. Hunt’s father. The late Judge Hunter was a distinguished Missouri state and federal judge and longtime advocate of merit as the determining factor in the selection of judges.
“Ray and Nancy Ann have recognized the great need for free legal assistance to some of our community’s most vulnerable members,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “As is typical of the Hunts, they have acted with generosity and insight to fill the need, while also expanding educational opportunities for law students to make a difference in this important area of the law. We are grateful for the generosity of Ray and Nancy Ann Hunt, who carry on a tradition of thoughtful giving to SMU and numerous other institutions.”
Under the supervision of law faculty, Dedman Law students working in the Hunter Legal Center will provide legal services such as protective orders; divorce, custody and child support agreements; as well as assistance with credit and housing issues. Using a holistic approach, students will gain experience with the myriad needs and complexity of issues that victims encounter and will see the human faces behind related legal issues.
“We are honored to name this Legal Center after my father, whose main interest as a judge was the well-being of individuals through fair treatment and protection under the law,” said Nancy Ann Hunt. “As a result of this program, participating law students will enter the legal profession with a deeper understanding of the victims of exploitation, trafficking and abuse and what they need for their lives to be restored. Their suffering may be hidden from our sight and may be uncomfortable to acknowledge publicly. But through the availability of free legal services, we hope they will feel empowered to come forward and obtain help.”
An estimated 1.3 million women are victims of domestic violence each year. It also is believed that incidents are under-reported by victims out of fear or concern that there will be no remedies for their plight. Estimates are that more than 300,000 individuals, including children, are trafficked in the sex industry in the United States each year. The average age for entering the sex industry is 13.
“Dedman Law’s clinical education program is central to our mission of providing outstanding legal education and public service, along with developing professional responsibility,” said Julie Forrester, interim dean of the Dedman School of Law. “The clinics are among the programs that keep Dedman Law in the forefront of legal education, which must evolve to meet emerging needs. The Judge Elmo B. Hunter Legal Center for Victims of Crimes Against Women underscores our commitment to equip our law students not only to practice law, but also to become community leaders well-informed about societal issues.”
This latest gift counts toward the $1 billion goal of SMU Unbridled: The Second Century Campaign, which to date has raised more than $844 million to support student quality, faculty and academic excellence and the campus experience. The campaign coincides with SMU’s commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the University’s founding in 1911 and its opening in 1915.