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Established through a generous donation by Georgia Law alumnus Marlan Wilbanks, we are the nation’s first legal clinic dedicated to representing survivors of child sexual abuse. CEASE opened its doors in January 2016 as a part of the University of Georgia School of Law, providing second and third-year law students with the opportunity to gain experience in the practice of law while serving a crucial need in the community. The impetus for the clinic, a new Georgia law, House Bill 17, known as the Hidden Predator Act, went into effect July 1, 2015 and extends the statute of limitations allowing survivors of child sexual abuse to file civil suits against perpetrators. 

Marlan Wilbanks

Marlan B. Wilbanks is a founding partner of Wilbanks & Gouinlock, LLP. Prior to founding this Firm, he was with the firm of Harmon, Smith, Bridges & Wilbanks and then Wilbanks & Bridges since graduation from the University of Georgia School of Law in 1986. While at Harmon, Smith, Bridges & Wilbanks, Marlan spearheaded the Firm’s efforts to achieve national recognition involving qui tam litigation or “whistleblower” suits, as they are more commonly known. In whistleblower suits, the firm represents individuals who have come forward with information concerning fraudulent acts that have been committed against the Government (federal or state).

Wilbanks, who was recognized by the Taxpayers Against Fraud Education Fund as the 2014 Lawyer of the Year, is the second Georgia Law alumnus involved in the DaVita Healthcare Partners false claims settlement agreement who has chosen to make a significant investment in training for future attorneys.

"The passage of the Hidden Predator Act signaled a desire by our state's elected leaders to open the doors of justice to the survivors of child sexual abuse," Georgia Law Dean Peter B. "Bo" Rutledge said. "We are honored to expand our public service footprint and help those in society who too often remain voiceless. In addition, this opportunity gives our students the chance to serve as advocates for those in our state without access to adequate legal resources. The generosity of Marlan Wilbanks will not only fund the initial phase of this transformative clinic, it will change the lives of the families touched by these crimes and shape the paths of bright aspiring attorneys."

Marlan and his wife and kids have resided in Atlanta since 1986. Marlan is actively involved in children’s causes such as Voice Today, Camp Kudzu, Prevent Child Abuse and he has been active in the Big Brother Program in Atlanta for over 12 years. 

CEASE Clinic Staff

Emma Hetherington, Director

Emma Hetherington is the Director of Georgia Law’s Wilbanks CEASE Clinic. Hetherington earned her bachelor’s degree from Emory University and her juris doctor cum laude from Georgia Law. Before joining the law school’s faculty, she worked as the principle attorney at The Hetherington Firm, where she represented individuals in child welfare dependency proceedings and special education cases. She also served as a guardian ad litem for children in foster care and represented survivors of child sexual assault and exploitation. Her other previous legal experience includes serving as the Managing Attorney for the Georgia Law Center for the Homeless and as a Senior Child Advocate Attorney for the DeKalb County Child Advocacy Center.


Sarah Ehlers, Administrative Assistant

Sarah Ehlers joined Georgia Law in 2015 as an Administrative Associate and Spanish interpreter for the Family Violence Clinic, the Community Health Law Partnership (HeLP Clinic) and the Wilbanks CEASE Clinic. Prior to joining Georgia Law, Ehlers worked as a Spanish legal interpreter for the law firm Blasingame, Burch, Garrard and Ashley and taught preschool Spanish. Ehlers earned her B.A. in French and English Literature and her M.A. in Spanish Literature from the University of Virginia.



Meredith Gardial, Post Graduate Fellow

Meredith Gardial graduated from the University of Georgia School of Law in the Spring of 2016 and is Georgia Law's first ever clinical post-graduate fellow. Meredith received her undergraduate degree in history from Clemson University in 2011, and has experience in both criminal defense and civil litigation. While a student at Georgia Law, Meredith was a member of both the mock trial and moot court Executive Boards and was the winner of the Ralph J. Beaird Closing Argument competition as well as the Melvin England Mock Trial competition.  In her third year, Meredith was named the Law Student of the Year by the National Association of Women Lawyers and was inducted into the Lumpkin Inn of Court as a Pupil.

The Wilbanks Child Endangerment and Sexual Exploitation (CEASE) clinic represents survivors of child sexual abuse in tort litigation against their abusers. Students will work on all phases of litigation brought on behalf of survivors including but not limited to client intake, discovery, document drafting, client representation in court and other practical litigation skills. 

Students interested in CEASE must apply to enroll. Eight students will be accepted each semester. Students accepted to the CEASE clinic register for a weekly 2-hour (2 credit) seminar on child sexual abuse and general litigation skills. Time and place of the seminar is based on accepted student availability. Students must also register for a minimum of 2 additional credits, and up to 4 additional credits, for clinical hours. Each credit equals 5 hours of work in the clinic per week (2 credits = 10 hours, 3 credits = 15 hours, 4 credits = 20 hours). Preference will be given to students interested in taking the clinic for two or more semesters. Applications are be accepted for rising 2Ls and 3Ls.

CEASE also offers a summer internship and post-graduate fellowship. CEASE is currently not accepting applications. Please check back from upcoming application deadlines.