New Veterans Legal Clinic aims to protect and serve
Robert Muth has a simple mission: He protects and serves those who protect and serve.
Muth joined USD’s School of Law faculty in July 2012 as the supervising attorney for the school’s new Veterans Legal Clinic.
The clinic is staffed by third-year USD law interns who, under Muth’s supervision, provide a range of free legal assistance to veterans, some of whom are in disputes with other institutions over the use of GI Bill funds associated with education loans.
“In many cases, schools target the most vulnerable veterans — those who may be disabled or are suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD),” Muth says. Before coming to USD, Muth was a litigation associate at a civil litigation firm. He got his start, however, with the Marine Corps, where he became a captain and judge advocate.
The son of a police officer in the Chicago suburb of Schaumburg, Muth graduated from Northwestern University and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 2002. The Marines put him in the reserves and sent him to law school at Duke University. In 2006, he was sent to Camp Pendleton in San Diego and from there deployed for 13 months to Fallujah, Iraq, where he served as the senior defense counsel for the Marine Corps.
He oversaw a wide range of high-profile matters, including cases involving allegations of mis-handling of classified information and war crimes such as the killings in Haditha. Muth served in the Marines until 2009 and was named the Defense Counsel of the Year, Navy-Marine Corps Trial Judiciary, Western Judicial Circuit in 2008–09.
Both his training as a lawyer and his experiences as a Marine give Muth the perspective he needs to help those who come to him for help.
The USD clinic attempts to help veterans who have used their one shot at GI benefits for programs that don’t meet their educational needs — and to reach out and educate others so they don’t make the same mistake. The clinic identifies and pursues claims. Legal services range from providing advice to representing student veterans in litigation, arbitration and other forms of dispute resolution.
“We are unique,” Muth says. “There’s no other service like this in the nation.”
Andrew Legolvan, a third-year law student, is one of Muth’s interns. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 2005, straight out of high school, and served until 2009 as an aviation electronics specialist, most recently on the USS Nimitz. He is no stranger to the GI Bill. The Navy paid for his bachelor’s degree in business from the University of LaVerne. Once he was honorably discharged, he decided to use the GI Bill to pursue his law degree from USD.
“My parents didn’t have the money to send me to school,” Legolvan says. “I didn’t like the idea of taking out loans so I joined the Navy. It was a great experience. I got an undergraduate degree, I’m getting a law degree and I have trade skills.”
Legolvan says he’s not too different from the clients he serves.
“I can sympathize with these veterans,” says Legolvan. “Our goal is to reach out and educate them before they choose a school, help them figure out what’s right for them and look over enrollment agreements because they slip a lot of fine print in there.”
But not if the Veterans Legal Clinic can get the word out to vets before they sign on the dotted line.