SMU legal center will help victims of crimes against women

A new legal center at Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law will help 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, which was named in honor of Nancy Ann Hunt’s late father.

Hunter was a judge in western Missouri for 38 years. In 1965, he was appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson, becoming the youngest federal judge in the United States.

Throughout his career, Hunter advocated for judicial merit selection and public education concerning the U.S. federal and state judicial system.
“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,” Nancy Ann Hunt said. “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.”
It’s estimated that more than 1.3 million women in the United States are victims of domestic violence each year.

Under the supervision of law faculty, Dedman Law students working in the Hunter Legal Center will provide services such as protective orders and agreements for divorce, custody and child support. They will also help with credit and housing issues.

“Ray and Nancy Ann have recognized the great need for free legal assistance to some of our community’s most vulnerable members,” SMU President R. Gerald Turner said. “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.”

The Hunter Legal Center will develop partnerships with organizations such as Genesis Women’s Shelter and New Friends New Life.

The Judge Elmo B. Hunter Legal Center for Victims of Crimes Against Women will expand the law school’s legal assistance programs, which include the W.W. Caruth Child Advocacy Clinic and clinics in civil law, criminal justice, federal taxpayer representation, small business issues and consumer advocacy. Dedman was one of the first law schools in the country to provide such services to the community, dating to 1947.

“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.”
Caren Prothro, chair of SMU’s board of trustees, said the Hunter Legal Center is an example of the Hunts’ commitment to service. “Through their leadership, Nancy Ann and Ray live out the values of Judge Elmo B. Hunter in caring greatly about the welfare of individuals and turning that concern into action.”