Get to Know Us: HLI Faculty & Staff
Meet Eren Sutherland: MHSL Adjunct Professor and Staff Attorney for Minnesota Disability Law Center
Tell us about your background and role at the MN Legal Aid.
During law school, I provided pro bono representation in immigration and health policy matters via the legal clinic at the University of Iowa College of Law. After those experiences, I was very committed to working on immigration issues, and hoped to work on policy matters at some point in the future. Luckily, after my partner and I moved to Minneapolis, I connected with Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid’s Immigration Law Project and worked on a unique contract to assist defendants represented by the Hennepin County Public Defender. Many of my clients had mental health diagnoses and I developed skills for working with clients experiencing crisis.
As I became more experienced as an attorney, I was drawn to the work done by the Minnesota Disability Law Center (MDLC) because it encompassed wide-ranging policy work and impact litigation on behalf of people with disabilities. Since I began working at MDLC, I have been honored to work to protect the rights of people with mental health disabilities in a range of issues, including: assisting with class action litigation aimed at helping folks living in group homes live in more community-integrated settings; representing clients in discrimination claims with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights; policy work on issues relating to civil commitment and competency in criminal proceeding; monitoring our service providers to ensure quality of care and safety for folks with disabilities; among others.
Tell us about your new course Mental Health and the Law, and why it’s important.
As lawyers, we encounter issues that intersect with mental health in various areas of our practice – competency/capacity in civil, criminal matters, discrimination under state and federal law, regulation of health care facilities, civil commitment, etc. I wanted to present some of these topics with a focus on the rights of people with disabilities and the development of these rights via law and policy. I also want to present this course from the perspective of the disability justice movement, which means I am attempting to approach it with intersectional analysis on race, gender, sexuality, etc.; access; community support; autonomy; and flexibility as cornerstone values. Finally, as a lawyer with mental health disabilities, I have continuously attempted to create self-awareness so that we are not talking about “those other people” when we are, in fact, talking about ourselves.
What do you like best about teaching as an adjunct professor?
I love the students! They are incredibly engaged and thoughtful. Being a part of the HLI program is also great because so many students already have interesting professional, personal, and volunteer experience in fields relating to mental health from around the country. I am learning so much about issues the students are passionate about in their home communities. Also, I have always loved learning and education. I became a lawyer, in part, so that I would get to learn and be challenged for the rest of my professional life. So, I am just thrilled to get to be part of law school education from the teaching side.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of teaching?
The most rewarding thing so far has been the students who have told me that they have identified new areas of legal practice that they are interested in pursuing! I have also really appreciated the opportunity to turn the focus inward on the practice of law to discuss issues relating to “character and fitness” bar examination questions and the ADA, along with providing students with skills and resources for building a resilient practice.
Healthy Dose of Good News
Sarah Nation, 3L MHSL Student — Making a real difference for people in the community through our Health Law Clinic
Tell us about your experiences with the Health Law Clinic and the work you’ve done for people in the community.
My two semesters in the Medical-Legal Partnership Clinic have impacted me profoundly. It is one thing to read about health inequity, issues of health care accessibility, and social determinants of health. It is another to see firsthand the impact of America’s unjust health policies. Many clients face housing instability, and food insecurity, and many clients are immigrants who experience daily stress related to their immigration status. These factors and others greatly affect the health and wellness of our clients and have provided me with greater insights regarding state and federal health policies. It has made me a more informed citizen and significantly guided my participation in the democratic process.
How has your experience as a law student been affected by your participation in the Health Law Institute?
My participation in HLI has illustrated how the many facets of health law – liability, compliance, insurance, or social benefit programs – are interconnected and are major forces behind access to health care in our community. For instance, health justice, and in the alternative health injustice, touches everyone in society in both overlapping and distinct ways.
Additionally, it’s been a huge benefit to have my health law courses taught by a group of professors with such diverse interests. Whether it bet Professor Hermer’s keen observations about health coverage and access, Professor Colombo’s practical approach to ensuring compliance, Professor Pope’s bioethical considerations, or Professor Acosta’s attention to administrative law and social determinants of health, each has enriched my education in different ways and ensured a well-rounded academic experience.
What are your plans following graduation?
After graduation, I will be studying for the bar (of course)! On a more exciting note, I plan to take time to travel and explore the world before I begin my professional legal career.
In a few words, what are you most proud of as a student at MHSL
It is hard to pick one thing I am most proud of from my time at Mitchell Hamline, but a few that come to mind include overcoming my fear of public speaking and appearing in front of a judge while in the health law clinic. I am also very proud of the friendships I have formed with my peers – we encourage each other, push each other, and have fun together.
What’s something that people might not know about you?
When I was younger, I really wanted to be a magician. In pursuit of this, I attended two weeks of intensive magic class. As it turns out, I lacked a certain finesse it takes to be a good magician.
Events & Opportunities
This HLI symposium was well attended and underscored that effectively challenging food insecurity requires multi-level, equitable access to better nutrition, health resources, education, earning potential, and ultimate well-being.
If interested in viewing the recorded symposium, email the Health Law Institute!
Faculty & Staff News
Congratulations to the HLI faculty and staff on their accomplishments in August, September, and October of 2022! Follow the links to view their most recent presentations, publications, events, panels, and media highlights.
Health Care Compliance Certificate Program
This fall we welcome a new cohort of students from all around the United States; from California to Florida to Massachusetts and more, we’re excited to be working with such an incredible group of working professionals.
Gain a competitive advantage in one of the hottest job markets by obtaining your Health Care Compliance Certificate through our 11-14 credit program, completely online! More information and application details for J.D. students and for working professionals.
Health Law Institute’s Rankings
The Health Law Institute at Mitchell Hamline School of Law was awarded an ‘A’ in PreLaw’s Back to School issue! Health Law rankings are located on page 42. Read the full article!
Mitchell Hamline School of Law’s Health Law Institute was ranked nationally by U.S. News & World Report for 2023.
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This quarterly newsletter includes information about upcoming events, courses, certificates, and student, faculty, and alumni news. It’s a great way to stay up to date and involved with Mitchell Hamline School of Law’s Health Law Institute.