On Tuesday, Nov. 27, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights Vanita Gupta delivered the twenty-sixth annual Joseph L. Rauh, Jr. Lecture to a rapt audience at the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law (UDC Law).
The event reunited Gupta, who served as head of the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice during one of the most consequential periods for the division, with her former colleague Jonathan Smith, ’84, who served as Chief of the Special Litigation Section under Gupta’s leadership.
The interview-style conversation showcased Gupta’s profound knowledge and experience as a leading-edge civil rights litigator over the course of the wide-ranging discussion on the present landscape for civil and human rights in America. Throughout the evening, Gupta offered penetrating insight into rapidly-changing areas of law ranging from asylum law and constitutional structures to state-level bail reform and voting rights initiatives. Drawing on her experience as the chief civil rights prosecutor for the United States, Gupta weighed in on numerous, complex issues currently undergoing litigation and offered a hard-hitting critique of the Trump administration’s efforts to straitjacket the Department of Justice’s ability to investigate and prosecute civil rights violations and compromise the agency’s independence.
The Rauh Lecture: A Lasting Legacy
Chair Emeritus of the D.C. School of Law Foundation B. Michael Rauh opened the event with brief remarks on the history of the Foundation and the legacy of his late father Joseph L. Rauh, Jr., the liberal lion, civil liberties attorney, and founding member of the law school’s Board of Governors in whose honor the Rauh Lecture was established in 1993.
Rauh commended the selection of Gupta as this year’s Rauh Lecturer saying she “would lead the country in the good fight against” the current administration’s efforts to roll back civil and human rights protections, and he exhorted the many practicing lawyers and up-and-coming attorneys in the audience to stand ready to aggressively litigate for the protection of our democracy at her side.
“The Next Move”
UDC Law Acting Dean and Professor of Law John Brittain then took to the stage to introduce Gupta and Smith to the audience. Dean Brittain – who is himself a prominent civil rights litigator who has achieved many landmark victories for school desegregation during his decades-long career – celebrated Gupta’s remarkable perseverance and skillful leadership of the Civil Rights Division to secure groundbreaking victories for fair housing, voting rights, and police accountability in the federal courts despite “unremitting opposition” from a partisan Congress.
Dean Brittain singled out as a high watermark of her tenure the division’s successful investigation and prosecution of police departments in Ferguson, Missouri, Baltimore, and Chicago. The groundbreaking investigations produced consent decrees with historic limits on racially-motivated policing and civil rights abuses that remain in force to this day. He went on to praise Gupta for choosing to join The Leadership Conference after leaving the Justice Department, saying that “Instead of ‘cashing out’ on her long record of public service after leaving the Justice Department, she doubled down” by joining the historic organization, which has coordinated the lobbying efforts on behalf of every major civil rights law since its founding in 1950.
Noting that Gupta and Smith, as Chief of the Special Litigation Section, shared leadership on the Justice Department’s civil investigation of the Ferguson, Missouri Police Department following the death of Michael Brown, Dean Brittain highlighted that the living room-style conversation offered listeners a rare opportunity to see this historic Justice Department “team in action.” “It’s like we’re together in a conference room in the Department of Justice,” said Dean Brittain, “and we’re planning the next move.”
“Gamechanger:” voting rights and ballot access
Jonathan Smith, who worked under Gupta’s leadership of the Civil Rights Division, opened the conversation-style portion of the lecture with high praise for Gupta’s “extraordinary career.” Smith recounted Gupta’s multiple and precedent-setting court victories, including her landmark litigation challenging wrongful convictions in Texas as an entry-level attorney with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and extending through her criminal justice reform work and litigation at the ACLU challenging the detention of immigrant families in for-profit facilities.
For her part, Gupta praised the “extraordinary legacy of public service” that the Rauh family represents and its continued support of UDC Law, saying “the civil rights community is deeply indebted to all of you.”
With the stage set, the audience listened in rapt attention as Smith kicked off the discussion with a question about the 2018 midterm elections, asking Gupta what the Democratic takeover of the U.S. House of Representatives means for the civil rights agenda. Gupta responded that the election was, first and foremost, a “huge win for democracy” as a practical matter, because it restored a much-needed check in Congress after two years of one-party rule.
Gupta also emphasized the importance for civil and human rights in America of the election of several “first-ever” officials to Congress, including the first Muslim and first Native American women elected to Congress, and the historic number of women representatives in the House. She hailed the result as “a massive win for civil and human rights” with far-reaching implications.
Gupta also stressed the wave of progressive state-level ballot initiatives approved by voters. Gupta singled out the Florida initiative restoring voting rights to 1.4 million people convicted of a felony as a “gamechanger,” noting that it is “the single largest expansion of the franchise since the enactment of the Voting Rights Act in the ‘60s.”
In the wake of Charlottesville and constant attacks on immigrant families, Gupta described the November election results as a reaffirmation that “Americans will show up at the polls for the kind of country they want and the kind of country they deserve.”
“Despair is the luxury of the privileged”
The conversation shifted to the state of federal civil rights enforcement in the country, as Smith asked Gupta whether the new Congress can reverse the erosion of agency civil rights enforcement authority at not only the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division but also at civil rights sections across the government, including the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services.
Gupta responded with a laundry list of potential targets for congressional oversight in what she referred to as the administration’s “systematic effort” to dismantle civil rights enforcement authority encompassing “underenforcement at the Department of Education, the systematic withdrawal of guidances, the slowdown and lack of enforcement of laws that Congress enacted and gave to these federal agencies the mandate to enforce.” Expressing hope for improved oversight in the new Congress, Gupta stressed the important role the House can play in bringing the public’s attention to the “deeply important and historic role that the federal government has played in ensuring the protection of vulnerable and marginalized communities through its civil rights enforcement across agencies.”
Fair and independent courts are “fundamental” to democracy
Bringing the conversation around to the topic of the Senate’s role in confirming judicial nominees to the federal bench, and the Republican party’s continued control of the chamber, Smith asked Gupta what lessons she learned from The Leadership Conference’s effort to block the confirmation of now-U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and other judicial nominees based on their records of opposition to civil rights and anti-discrimination measures.
Speaking to the history of The Leadership Conference, which she now leads, Gupta emphasized the importance of coalitional organizing to preserve the independence of the federal judiciary, which has for decades served as “a backstop against some of the most egregious excesses of the other two branches of government.”
In what she termed the “shocking” and aggressive reshaping of the federal courts in the past two years with the confirmation of “extremist nominees the likes of whom the Senate has never seen before,” Gupta signaled the dangerous and long-lasting consequences posed by these lifetime appointments, saying “my children, and probably their children, are now going to reap the seeds of what has been sown the last two years and unfortunately what is likely to continue the next two years.”
Gupta reflected that “the fight for fair courts has not been taken seriously enough” because “we often think about our issues in silos.” She emphasized how The Leadership Conference centers the importance of the foundational structures of democracy because “the fight to preserve the structures of our democracy – like the census, like the courts, like voting rights – are so crucial because everything else we care about, the courts directly have a say-so on.” The implications for civil rights litigators are dire, she added, with many civil rights litigators likely to avoid resorting to the Supreme Court to pursue alternative strategies for reform such as legislative advocacy and passage of state-level ballot initiatives.
“You can’t be a civil rights lawyer and have despair”
Predicting that the next two years will witness the Trump administration successfully filling all vacancies in the federal courts, Smith questioned “what, other than despair, can we do to change the dynamic and hold the Senate accountable.”
“You can’t be a civil rights lawyer and have despair,” Gupta said without missing a beat, adding that civil rights lawyers are almost by definition attorneys who battle against despair. “Hopelessness is an excuse for the privileged, so we don’t have the privilege of being hopeless. We must fight back.”
Gupta described the sweeping losses for civil and human rights witnessed in the past two years, saying “there is a still a deep and profound racism in this country, that has emboldened racism in the corridors of power,” but she rejected hopelessness and complacency outright. She identified the growing power of local and community-based groups organizing for progressive causes as reason for hope.
Sessions’ last act “another slap in the face of the Civil Rights Division”
Smith turned next to the “last act” of former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to issue a memorandum that straightjackets the Civil Rights Division’s historic work on police reform by restricting the division’s ability to pursue consent decrees through investigation and prosecution of patterns and practices of police misconduct.
Calling the move “another slap in the face of the Civil Rights Division,” Gupta noted that the memorandum targets the very work that was the major focus of her tenure at the Justice Department. She argued forcefully that the memorandum flies in the face of the statutory mandate given to the agency by Congress in 1994. The memorandum restricts approval of such consent agreements to political appointees, requires evidence of violations beyond unconstitutional behavior, and imposes an arbitrary “sunset” date on such agreements in place of court oversight and proof that the police department or law enforcement agency has improved the very practices governed by the agreement.
Gupta criticized the policy as “demoralizing” to the Justice Department’s career attorneys and “a real blow to civil rights enforcement around the country.” Nevertheless, Gupta found reason for hope, citing that the existing consent decrees previously filed with Article III judges remain in force and cannot be unilaterally revoked. She also lifted up the “extraordinary work” of state attorneys general, local mayors, and police department officials who have stepped into the gap to locally negotiate the measures.
“Despite the gutting of the Justice Department’s civil rights enforcement, the good news is there still is a lot of momentum on criminal justice reform, and we need to build on the powerful advocacy locally and at the state level to continue forward,” recommended Gupta.
Ballot access, the census
With a nod to her earlier remarks on the importance of shoring up fundamental structures that preserve American democracy like the federal courts, Gupta turned next to the ongoing battle over ballot access and the census.
Gupta surveys the six ongoing court battles over the Trump administration’s proposed “citizenship question” in the coming census that threatens to systematically undercount communities of color as a result of the chilling effect the change would have on mixed-status families. Gupta described the efforts of The Leadership Conference to unwind the move at the policy level and to increase funding of local efforts to organize for an accurate census count. She exhorted the audience to connect up with The Leadership Conference to get plugged in to local efforts.
Smith’s next question asked Gupta what can be expected form state legislatures around the country with regard to gerrymandering and voter suppression. Citing several state-level ballot initiatives during the midterm election that took the politics out of redistricting with the establishment of independent commissions, Gupta called for similar efforts in other states. She went on to describe the “phenomenal work” of groups such as the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and The Leadership Conference’s All Voting is Local campaign, which are fighting voter suppression at the local level around the country and pushing for same-day registration and early voting initiatives, but she warned that full ballot access will only be secured with the restoration of the Voting Rights Act and other reforms, like automatic voter registration, same-day registration, and early voting.
With the event drawing to a close, Dean Brittain returned to the podium to preside over a lively question and answer session with the audience covering critical issues such as the nationwide spike in hate crimes, local opportunities in the District to combat voter suppression and protect the census, and the potential for further action to limit or remove judges confirmed to the federal bench.
Dean Brittain concluded the powerful dialogue and led the audience in a round of applause before presenting Gupta with the UDC Law Dean’s Cup in appreciation for her contribution to the law school. He praised Gupta’s “powerful remarks” and seemingly “encyclopedic knowledge” she showed on the issues, calling her “an inspiration.”
Dean Brittain also lauded the “steadfast support of the law school and its critical mission” by Smith, who was UDC Law’s Associate Dean for Clinical Programs before transitioning to become the Executive Director of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs. A catered reception followed, courtesy of the D.C. School of Law Foundation, offering guests an opportunity to speak with Gupta and other members of the UDC Law community.
About Vanita Gupta
Vanita Gupta is president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the nation’s premier civil and human rights coalition. An experienced leader and litigator who has devoted her entire career to civil rights work, prior to joining The Leadership Conference, Gupta served from 2014 to 2017 as Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General and head of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division under President Barack Obama. As the chief civil rights prosecutor for the United States, Gupta oversaw a wide range of criminal and civil enforcement efforts to ensure equal justice and protect equal opportunity for all during one of the most consequential periods for the division.
Prior to joining the Justice Department, Gupta served as Deputy Legal Director and the Director of the Center for Justice at the ACLU. She began her career as an attorney at the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund. Gupta earned her J.D. from the New York University School of Law, where she has also taught a civil rights litigation clinic.
About the Joseph L. Rauh, Jr. Lecture
The annual Joseph L. Rauh, Jr. Lecture series serves as a dedicated forum at the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law (UDC Law) in which leading members of the bench or bar speak directly to the people of the District and the law school community on issues of vital importance to the practice of law in the public interest.
Established in 1993 in honor of the late civil liberties attorney and founding member of the law school Board of Governors Joe Rauh, some of the nation’s most respected civil rights and public interest figures, including then-U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, sitting U.S. Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Sonia Sotomayor, and many others, have delivered the Rauh Lecture. The Rauh Lecture, which is open to the public and free of charge, includes a catered reception at the conclusion of the event courtesy of the D.C. School of Law Foundation.
About the UDC David A. Clarke School of Law
The University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law (UDC Law) has the largest clinical requirement of any U.S. law school, providing more than 100,000 hours of legal services to thousands of D.C. residents each year through our nine legal clinics and robust experiential programs. UDC Law has garnered a No. 2 ranking by the National Law Journal (2018) for government and public interest job placement and No. 8 for Best Clinical Training Program by U.S. News & World Report (2019). For more information, please visit www.law.udc.edu.
Watch the lecture in its entirety on the UDC-TV YouTube channel here.
Almost 400 guests attended the 2018 Annual Gala of the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law (UDC Law) on Wednesday, June 6th, held in the beautiful Independence Ballroom of the Grand Hyatt Washington hotel. The event raised over $500,000 to support UDC Law’s Summer Public Interest Fellowship Program and Scholarship Funds. The UDC Law community of alumni, supporters, faculty and students turned out in force to honor outgoing Dean Katherine “Shelley” Broderick and Tony West, Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer of Uber Technologies, Inc., for their outstanding commitment and service to the public interest, diversity and justice.
Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, University of the District of Columbia (UDC) President Ronald Mason, Jr. , Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh, Ward 4 Councilmember Brandon Todd, D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, Senior Advisor to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser Beverly L. Perry, Chair of the UDC Board of Trustees and Partner at Ballard Spahr LLP Christopher Bell, President of the Legal Services Corporation James Sandman, former U.S. Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, family of the late D.C. Councilmember and namesake of UDC Law David A. Clarke, Carole Clarke and son Jeffrey Clarke, and Jon Bouker, Board Chair of the D.C. School of Law Foundation and Partner at Arent Fox LLP, were among those in attendance to celebrate the District of Columbia’s only public law school and the extraordinary community of faculty, staff, students and alumni committed to the public interest. The event showcased the work of students and faculty in UDC Law’s Housing and Consumer Law Clinic and Community Development Law Clinic, part of UDC Law’s nationally-recognized clinical program, and the outsized impact that D.C.’s only public law school has on the community.
The Little Law School That Can
UDC President Ronald Mason, Jr. gave opening remarks praising Dean Shelley Broderick’s two decades of leadership and reflecting on the powerful impact UDC Law has had on the University community and to the people of the District. “We are all hard at work transforming UDC into an advanced system of higher learning where our students aspire, accomplish, and take on the world.”
Jon Bouker, D.C. School of Law Foundation Chair, then took the stage to welcome the crowd and describe the critical role of the Foundation in raising private funds to support UDC Law’s students and programs, saying “Your support makes it possible for students who could not otherwise afford to attend law school to get a law degree,” while “giving back to the community, by providing 400 hours over the summer to government agencies, judicial chambers, and non-profits serving poor and vulnerable people.” He then introduced a five-minute video depicting UDC Law‘s mission and featuring members of the law school community.
Dean Shelley Broderick stepped up to the podium and remarked that, no matter how many times she views the video, “I can’t get through it without weeping. I so hope that you see what I see—a special law school that enables our students to practice law, promote justice and change the lives of D.C. residents.” She brought the audience to its feet with a rousing speech on the journey of the “Little Law School that Can” over nearly five decades, as it has held fast to its core mission to graduate students from groups traditionally underrepresented at the bar and to provide legal services to low-income District residents through its clinical programs.
Public School, Public Interest
The dinner service transitioned into a video presentation featuring UDC Law students and faculty in the School’s Community Development Law and Housing and Consumer Law Clinics. The presentation highlighted the important work of UDC Law’s clinics on the fiftieth anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, which was the subject of the School’s two-day symposium “FHA@50: Renewing Our Commitment to Housing Equity.”
Several of the UDC Law students featured in the video then took the stage. Jason Diggs (’18) spoke about his work in the Community Development Law Clinic providing transactional legal services to community organizations and small businesses to increase community control and ownership of District resources. “I was raised by a single mother with three pretty rambunctious boys in a public housing project in southeast Virginia. I saw her win, I saw her lose, but I never saw her quit,” said Mr. Diggs. “In that clinic, I met people just like my mom, people with amazing stories, but difficult challenges. But now I had the privilege to offer them support—and hope—for social justice.” Mr. Diggs, who took a well-deserved break for the evening from his preparation for the bar exam, plans to practice housing and community development law. During the summer of his first year, Mr. Diggs was awarded a Rauh Summer Fellowship to serve with the Virginia Legal Aid Society where he represented low-income clients in civil matters including eviction defense. He went on to receive a Freddie Mac Fellowship in the summer of his second year, working as a judicial law clerk in HUD’s Office of Hearings and Appeals. His last semester, Mr. Diggs was an extern at Manna, a non-profit, affordable housing developer in D.C., working alongside Director of Project Development Rozanne Look (’82).
LaNise Salley (’19), who spent last semester as a student attorney with the Housing and Consumer Law Clinic, will continue on as a Rauh Summer Fellow at the clinic focusing on securing critical repairs for low-income D.C. renters. Ms. Salley emphasized the importance of UDC Law’s scholarship programs, saying “On behalf of myself and the family I’ve created here at UDC Law, thank you.” Last summer, Ms. Salley was selected as an Equal Justice America Summer Fellow and provided legal services to low-income D.C. residents in debt collection matters at Tzedek DC, an independent public interest center housed at UDC Law. Ms. Salley’s success as a summer fellow led Tzedek DC to retain her as an intern during the fall semester and feature her in a documentary highlighting the organization’s work.
Theo Wilhite (’19), a “double firebird” who served as student representative on the UDC Board of Trustees as an undergraduate, spoke powerfully about how he overcame a host of challenges to become a UDC Law student, saying “I got my life back and today I am not a victim. I am a victor, and I hope to take my lived experiences to continue to advocate for persons who find themselves in similar situations.” Mr. Wilhite spent his semester as a student attorney in the Housing and Consumer Law Clinic, where he represented low-income District residents and advanced the clinic mission to preserve and expand quality affordable housing. Mr. Wilhite spent last summer as a Rauh Summer Fellow working in the office of D.C. Councilmember Robert White and the D.C. Office of Planning, assisting in community development matters. He is currently a District Leadership Program fellow, working at the D.C. Office of Planning exploring the intersection of equity and land use. Mr. Wilhite is the incoming President of the Student Bar Association for the 2018-19 academic year.
Keilah Roberts (’19) decided to come to law school after her family faced eviction from her childhood home when she was a teenager, having watched her family of seven struggle in the civil court system without legal representation. “Fortunately, this case was handled by none other than the first lawyer I knew, my mother. Our lawyer, my mother, doesn’t have a law degree, a college degree or even high school diploma. But nonetheless she is still the fiercest advocate I know. Armed with my mother’s courage to defend others, I applied to law school.” This past semester, Ms. Roberts was a student attorney with the Community Development Law Clinic, where she provided transactional legal services to D.C.-based housing cooperatives and other community organizations. Ms. Roberts was awarded a Rauh Summer Fellowship in the summer of her first year, interning with the Honorable Zuberi B. Williams of the Sixth District Court of Maryland. This summer, Ms. Roberts will join the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau as a student attorney.
Law As Justice
Eric Holder, former U.S. Attorney General and a Partner at Covington & Burling LLP, then took the stage for the award presentation honoring his former colleague, Tony West, who was a senior official in the U.S. Department of Justice in the Obama Administration. Mr. Holder regaled the audience with tales of Mr. West’s time as head of the Civil Division and later Associate Attorney General, praising Mr. West’s relentless work ethic and deep commitment to serving the public interest. Mr. Holder described Mr. West’s many accomplishments, ranging from his leadership in the Obama Administration’s review of the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act and the ultimate decision not to defend that statute, to his leadership in the DOJ’s challenges to discriminatory immigration laws passed in states such as Arizona, Alabama, South Carolina, and Utah.
Mr. Holder also noted how fitting it is that Mr. West, a public interest champion, was honored by the nation’s preeminent public interest law school at a gala highlighting the students’ clinical work in the housing and community development area on the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, saying “There is no better man to be here for such an occasion than Tony, who brought lawsuits under the act and made fair and bias free housing a priority for the Justice Department.”
Mr. Holder also harkened back to his 2010 Joseph L. Rauh, Jr. Lecture at UDC Law, when he called for law schools around the country to follow UDC Law’s model and adopt clinical and community services as a requirement of the law school curriculum. “Given the state of our country now, and the threats to Legal Services Corporation funding, we need lawyers trained in the UDC Law clinical model, now more than ever before,” said Mr. Holder. “I renew my call for other law schools to look to UDC’s David A. Clarke School of Law for inspiration and consider adopting a serious clinic service requirement.”
Mr. Holder then introduced a video presentation which showcased Mr. West’s life and work and included congratulatory remarks from Mr. West’s sister-in-law U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), PepsiCo CEO and Chairman Indra K. Nooyi, founding partner of Kaplan & Company LLP and counsel to the Edith Windsor in the Supreme Court case United States v. Windsor, Roberta Kaplan, and Thomas Perrelli, former U.S. Associate Attorney General and partner at Jenner & Block. Mr. West also made prerecorded remarks, speaking about the support of his family and upbringing as the driving force for his life of public service and the importance of practicing law as a matter of justice. “I think about law as justice giving voice to the voiceless, hope to the hopeless. I think about law as justice helping us build a community of trust and a community of caring. That’s really the highest and best purpose of the law,” said Mr. West in the video.
Tony West, who personally donated $25,000, on top of Uber Technologies, Inc.’s $50,000 sponsorship of the event, then joined Mr. Holder on the stage and extended his thanks to his friend and mentor, saying “My onetime boss, my all-the-time brother in the pursuit of justice, thank you for your kind words, thank you for your friendship, and your guidance that you give to me every day.” Mr. West reflected on the truth of his statement, after leaving the Department of Justice in 2014, that “when the history of the Holder Justice Department is written,” history “would judge that period to be a high water mark of greatness because of Eric Holder’s unique and unflagging leadership.”
“I am very mindful on nights like this that I stand on a platform of progress built by others,” said Mr. West, noting that his success was only made possible by his family who came before him. Mr. West shared the inspiring story of his mother-in-law Dr. Shyamala Harris, who immigrated to the U.S. from India in the late 1950s to pursue breast cancer research at UC Berkeley. “When Mother Harris wasn’t making scientific strides in the lab or busy raising her two remarkable daughters as a single mother, Mother Harris was marching, and she was meeting, and she was organizing for civil rights.” Mr. West also credited his father, Franklin West, “whose birth in 1940 to a family of sharecroppers in rural Georgia didn’t hold much of a future that was much different from his family’s past, but who discovered a freedom in education that would allow him to unlock opportunities into which he’d not been born.” Mr. West’s father became the first in his family to go to college, attending Talladega College, an HBCU. “Throughout our lives in both word and countless deeds, dad instilled in us an expectation of service as part of our obligation as citizens. And when I think about the all-too-short life journeys of both Mother Harris and my dad I can’t help but think about how they embody the best of America’s great story,” said Mr. West.
Mr. West went on to explain that being a UDC Law honoree “is so humbling, so special, because you, the UDC Law School community, your teachings, your faculty, your students, your alumni, you, like Mother Harris, like my dad, you embody the best of America’s great story. You remind us that America’s true character calls on each of us to rise above and to reach out. As Bobby Kennedy said on the night before he died fifty years ago today, “We are a great country, an unselfish country, a compassionate country.” And the work this law school makes real in the world reminds us of this basic truth even when our own leaders forget. Indeed, that is when your work is most important. And those moments when we lose our way, and we forget who we truly are. So thank you UDC Law not only for this great honor but for the work you must continue to do, and we must continue to support, the work of practicing law, of promoting justice, of changing lives, because that effort builds platforms of progress on which we all can stand tall.”
A Life of Service
UDC Law’s Joseph L. Rauh, Jr. Chair of Public Interest Law Wade Henderson then stepped to the podium to present the second honor of the night, recognizing outgoing Dean Shelley Broderick for her many years of service. Professor Henderson, former CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, shared his first impressions of the “one-of-a-kind” Dean when she recruited him to teach at UDC Law, speaking to “her passion, her crackling energy, and her intensity all combined with her joie de vivre and her good humor.” He praised Dean Broderick for her many years of service to a law school “dedicated to opening the legal profession to underrepresented people and to serving those most in need.”
Dean Broderick joined Professor Henderson on the stage and gave stirring remarks as she reflected on her four decades of service at the law school, saying “leading UDC Law has been the honor of my life.” Dean Broderick was recruited in 1979 to lead the Criminal Defense Clinic at Antioch School of Law, UDC Law’s predecessor, and went on to earn her M.A.T. in clinical legal education from the school. She said, “The legendary Edgar and Jean Cahn hired me at Antioch School of Law on June 9, 1979. When I was hired, Jean told me she was assigning me to the admissions committee and she said, ‘your job is to bring in 150 of the worst troublemakers you can find who want to make social change.’”
She went on to do just that. Indeed, Dean Broderick highlighted in her remarks, above all, the strength of the student body, praising “the personal qualities our graduates bring to the table—grit, resilience, passion for justice, and the ability to relate to and communicate effectively with people in poverty, people in many cases very much like their own families and friends.” She noted that last year, 41% of UDC Law’s graduating class went into public interest and government service, compared to a national average of just 16%. The National Law Journal recently ranked UDC Law No. 2 in the nation for government and public interest job placement.
Ever gracious, Dean Broderick insisted that “UDC Law is no one-man band. It is a brilliant orchestra performing at the highest level and meeting its mission.” She asked the crowd to rally behind her successor and reflected that, contemplating her many happy years serving the cause of UDC Law, “I am filled with gratitude for all of those who have served on our Board, for the University community for its embrasure of the law school, for our students, and for the legal community here in D.C., which has stepped up to support our public law school financially.” Toward the end of her remarks, Dean Broderick invited D.C. Council to renew its 50% match on funds raised and D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson indicated his support. With $400,000 raised for the evening, the D.C. Council’s match will add in nearly $100K, bringing the scholarship and fellowship funds raised to $500,000.
D.C. Councilmembers Mary Cheh, Brandon Todd and D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson then took center stage. Councilmember Cheh then presented a resolution recognizing Dean Broderick’s exemplary twenty-year tenure as dean and many contributions to the people of the District, praising her for building an institution that will continue to serve students and communities in need well past her tenure as Dean of UDC Law.
Beverly L. Perry, Senior Advisor to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, then joined the members of the D.C. Council on the stage to congratulate Dean Broderick and present the Mayor’s Executive Proclamation recognizing her service to the city and its residents.
The University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law (UDC Law) is committed to the public interest, providing more than 100,000 hours of legal services to thousands of D.C. residents each year through its nine legal clinics. With the largest clinical requirement of any U.S. law school, its top-ranked program provides students the opportunity to gain experience in both direct representation and effective community activism and policy advocacy. This commitment has led to a No. 2 ranking by The National Law Journal for government and public interest job placement and No. 8 for Best Clinical Training Program by U.S. News & World Report. The diverse student body at UDC Law boasts significant representation by women, people of color and older students.
Washington, DC—On Nov. 29, Stephen B. Bright delivered the 25th Annual Joseph L. Rauh, Jr. Lecture, titled “Race & Poverty in the Criminal Courts: The Death Penalty, Debtors’ Prisons, Mass Incarceration and Other Injustices,” to a packed house at the UDC David A. Clarke School of Law.
UDC Law Dean Shelley Broderick introduced Bright to the audience after brief welcoming remarks from DC School of Law Foundation Chair B. Michael Rauh and UDC President Ronald Mason. The interview-style conversation was facilitated by Wade Henderson, Joseph L. Rauh, Jr. Chair of Public Interest Law at UDC Law and Senior Advisor to The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. Bright and Henderson covered a range of criminal justice issues, including the impact of fines on citizens living in poverty, the arbitrary nature of death penalty application, and the trouble with attempting to predict future behavior.
“Basically debtors’ prisons”
Bright explained municipal courts are often “not about law enforcement” but “about revenue generation.” He provided examples of how seemingly small fines can add up over time, compounding the legal problems faced by people living in poverty. For someone with no income, he went on, even a fine of a few hundred dollars can be devastating. “It’s basically debtors’ prison,” Bright said, “Everything costs in the criminal justice system today.”
Before pivoting to the death penalty, Henderson and Bright outlined some measures that might improve the criminal justice system overall. Bright described a need to improve the quality of court-appointed representation, Henderson suggested better training of law enforcement personnel to help avoid implicit bias, and both men urged electing better representatives.
Henderson recalled September’s The Long Game: Why the 1957 Civil Rights Act Still Matters Today at UDC Law, at which Rashad Robinson, Executive Director of Color of Change, told the audience of his organization’s plans to remain involved in the election of prosecutors. In response, Bright said, “95% of elected top prosecutors are white. That’s remarkable in a court system that’s dealing with so many people of color.”
“The Capital of Capital Punishment”
In Harris County, Texas, 127 people who have been sentenced to death have been executed. Bright said, “Harris County is the capital of capital punishment,” before putting the numbers into perspective. “That’s more than any state except Texas itself,” which, as of a Nov. 9 update to the Death Penalty Information Center, has executed 545 people, followed by Virginia with 113 and Oklahoma with 112 (Bright cited numbers from before the recent update). Bright explained that, after electing three women in succession, including current District Attorney Kim Ogg, Harris County death penalty numbers are down “dramatically,” a trend he attributes to a prosecution that better represents the diversity of the county’s population.
“Closest we get to witchcraft”
In April, Bright argued before the Supreme Court in McWilliams v. Dunn that an indigent defendant is entitled to access to an independent expert witness. In June, the Court narrowly decided for the defense, but Bright said a case like this “shows what Congress and the courts are doing to make life difficult if not impossible” for defendants who are poor. “So much of what’s going on in these cases is about procedure,” Bright said, “It’s all about ways to trip people up to keep them out of court.”
Furthermore, Bright explained, the question of whether someone might be a future danger to society is “as close as we get in court to practicing witchcraft.”
Henderson remarked, “It’s a strange new world.”
“As arbitrary as getting struck by lightning”
Henderson then turned the conversation to the inherent racial bias in application of the death penalty, citing Justice Potter Stewart’s famous proclamation from Furman v. Georgia that “getting the death penalty is as arbitrary as getting struck by lightning.”
This analogy, Bright declared, illuminated not just the arbitrary nature of the death penalty but the tendency for its application to disproportionately affect poor people and people of color. “The reason for all the problems with the death penalty was racist, white supremacy” and “the terrible way in which poor people are dealt with in this system.”
“A matter of race and place”
The death penalty, then, according to Bright’s experience is a “matter of race and place.” To demonstrate his point, he offered the startling statistic that, of over 3,000 counties in the United States, only 30 jurisdictions account for the majority of death sentences. He reiterated much hinges on the prosecutor, a reminder to the audience of the importance of paying attention to elections.
“Withering on the vine”
Before opening the floor for questions, Bright discussed the trend toward fewer death sentences, some considerations about death penalty methods, and the legacy of Gideon v. Wainwright, in which the Court ruled defendants have a constitutional right to an attorney at the state level.
On how often the death penalty is applied, Bright shed some light on a trend away from its application, going from 315 sentences in 1995 to only 31 last year. “There is some chance,” he said, “it’s kind of going to wither on the vine.”
Henderson asked if the decision in Gideon is being upheld, to which Bright lamented, “I really wish I could say ‘yes,’ but the answer is ‘no.’” Gideon, he went on, was an unfunded mandate, but the decision did not indicate how it would be paid for. “Why would the state that wants to convict, imprison, and kill a person pay to defeat that very purpose?”
Regarding the use of lethal injection and other methods to administer the death penalty, Bright discussed a return to firing squads, which he indicated would likely “be the end of the death penalty.” In sum, he reminded the audience, “You are killing people; let’s be honest about what we’re doing here.”
Questions, asked by UDC Law students, UDC faculty, attorneys, and community members, ranged from what law students can do to address the issues presented in the lecture to historical developments that have led to current trends to what lessons the United States can provide to other countries in reforming their own criminal justice systems.
The lecture concluded with Dean Broderick presenting Stephen B. Bright with the Dean’s Cup, given each year to the Rauh Lecturer. A reception followed, offering guests an opportunity to speak with Bright and other members of the UDC Law community.
About Stephen B. Bright
Stephen B. Bright has tried capital cases before juries in Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi, and argued and won four capital cases before the Supreme Court. He spent 35 years with the Southern Center for Human Rights, first as director and then as president and senior counsel. He is now Professor of Practice at the Georgia State College of Law and teaches at the law schools at Yale and Georgetown. Subjects of his litigation, teaching and writing include capital punishment, legal representation for poor people accused of crimes, conditions and practices in prisons and jails, racial discrimination in the criminal justice system, judicial independence and sentencing. He received the American Bar Association’s Thurgood Marshall Award in 1998. The Daily Law Report, Georgia’s legal newspaper, named him “Newsmaker of the Year” in 2003 for his contribution to bringing about creation of a public defender system in Georgia and “Lawyer of the Year” in 2017 for his success in the Supreme Court and pursuit of justice. His curriculum vitae and publications are available at law.yale.edu/stephen-b-bright.
The Rauh Lecture is always open to the public, free of charge, and followed by a reception.
About Joseph L. Rauh, Jr.
Joe Rauh envisioned a law school that would function as a training ground for public interest lawyers: a school where law students could learn basic skills and represent the underrepresented at the same time, a school that made dedication to public service a criterion for admission and commitment to public service a life-long responsibility. The University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law is Joe Rauh’s dream come true. A founding member of the Law School’s Board of Governors, Rauh remained one of its staunchest supporters until his last hours with us.
Washington, DC—Each year, The Jack and Lovell Olender Foundation recognizes law students and other national and local heroes at an awards ceremony attended by a broad cross-section of the District’s legal and community leaders. This year, on November 29th at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel, Mr. Jack H. Olender presented the Earl H. Davis Award to six UDC David A. Clarke School of Law students for their outstanding service on behalf of clients in our clinical program.
This year, Dr. Robert Peter Gale, M.D. was honored with the Peacemaker Award for his lifelong service in international humanitarian crises, from his coordination of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power accident medical relief effort in the Ukraine to his similar efforts to aid the victims of the Japanese Fukushima power station accident in 2011.
Please join us in congratulating UDC Law students Tracy Hillhouse Price, Jason Barros, Oral John, John Blake, Dora Myles and Denisha Jones, each of whom received a $1,000 scholarship.
The DC Court of Appeals has re-appointed UDC Law Dean Shelley Broderick, alum Jonathan Smith, ’84, and three members of the DC School of Law Foundation Board, Sheldon Krantz, Andy Marks and Jon Bouker, to three-year Access to Justice Commission terms.
Dean Broderick said, “I am enormously proud to serve along side of four UDC Law Board members, an alum and other social justice warriors working to make real and measurable progress ending poverty and inequality. Just this month, we helped to ensure that $4.5 million was appropriated by the DC Council to support lawyers fighting eviction on behalf of people living in poverty. This first step toward Civil Gideon will change the lives of low income families for the better.”
UDC David A. Clarke School of Law hosted its first-ever annual Gala, in the University’s new LEED platinum Student Center ballroom on June 1, 2017. The event was a spectacular success – raising nearly half a million dollars for student scholarships and summer public interest fellowships. Former Attorney General Eric Holder, Mayor Muriel Bowser, D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson and Ward 3 member Mary Cheh, judges, public interest and major law firm lawyers, alumni, faculty and law students — some 300 strong — came out to honor Leslie Thornton, Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary of Washington Gas, and the Honorable William C. Pryor, Senior Judge, DC Court of Appeals and beloved UDC Law professor for 29 years.
Welcome and School of Law Video
Dean Shelley Broderick led off the evening by thanking the lead Gala sponsor, Washington Gas, and other funders and supporters as well as the 41 members of the event Steering Committee. She then introduced UDC Law‘s mission as depicted in a five-minute video featuring members of the law school community, community leaders and friends.
Eric Holder Takes the Stage
Eric Holder then joined Dean Broderick on the stage. He began by commending the UDC Law clinical model of legal education and the many millions of hours of additional legal services that would be generated if other law schools adopted a similar service requirement of 700 hours per student. Borrowing from Bobby Kennedy’s famous words, he spoke of the “millions of ripples of hope” such service would create, enough to form a powerful “current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance” of justice, much needed particularly “in today’s troubling times of oppression and resistance.”
Mr. Holder then praised Leslie Thornton, who started her career at the DC Public Defender Service under the legendary Charles Ogletree. He observed and marveled at her commitment to service – to the public interest, to diversity, to mentoring – and wondered if she ever slept!
Mr. Holder also introduced a video in which Vernon Jordan, BET’s Debra Lee, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and Washington College of Law Professor Angela Davis paid tribute to Ms. Thornton for her storied career and her devotion to serving those less fortunate.
A Surprise Scholarship Gift of $50K from Honoree Leslie Thornton!
Ms. Thornton was visibly moved as she accepted the award from Mr. Holder and Dean Broderick. She described Dean Broderick, another former criminal defense lawyer for many years, as “a sister from another mother” and gave thanks to her family, friends and colleagues in attendance. She then pledged to personally donate fifty thousand dollars for scholarships in honor of the DC Public Defender Service Class of 1983, which itself had contributed $10,000 for scholarships in her honor, and thanked them for coming together, so many years later, and for donating to UDC Law in support of her recognition.
Kind Words of Appreciation from D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser
After dinner, Mayor Bowser came bearing gifts – handsome “appreciation” plaques for each honoree. She extolled the importance and virtues of UDC Law, describing how students and graduates help to build the fabric of the DC Community. By way of example, she commended the Dean for her 2016 service in helping to draft a new constitution for the state of New Columbia. She referenced the UDC Law Review’s recent DC Democracy in the Time of Trump Symposium, which brought together District officials, nonprofit organizations, and the media to discuss strategies to protect, defend, and extend democracy under the Trump administration. She spoke of her many experiences as a DC Councilmember, and later as Mayor, with UDC Law students, faculty and alumni, so many of whom are hard at work in all walks of District government life and an integral part of the struggle for full democratic rights. We later learned that the Mayor had such a good time that she looks forward to coming back next year for the Second Annual UDC Law Gala!
Surprises Keep on Coming!
Dean Broderick returned to the stage and, wiping away tears, announced that longtime supporter, DC developer and philanthropist, Michele Hagans, had been so inspired by Ms. Thornton’s pledge that she also pledged $50,000 to fund four additional UDC Law scholarships, in honor of Dean Broderick, with the hope that other supporters would be similarly moved. Ms. Hagans and Dean Broderick later agreed to name one of the scholarships in honor of founding Dean, Bill Robinson.
The Dean also announced that Ms. Thornton had agreed to join the UDC Law’s Foundation Board and that DC Council Chair Phil Mendelson had just let her know the DC Council will, once again, match our fundraising – with the University and School of Law sharing one dollar for every two dollars raised over the next ten months!
Two Fabulous Law Students Share Service Experiences
Dean Broderick then described the UDC Law’s clinical and service-learning programs and introduced rising 3L law students Carmen Diaz Jones and John Blake.
Ms. Jones, who participated in the spring 2017 Service Learning Program, powerfully described an intense interaction she had with a young man named Rossell at a family detention center in Karnes, Texas. Rossell and his mother had fled Honduras after he had been threatened and pressed to join the MS-13 gang. Ms. Jones, herself an immigrant from Honduras, had met Rossell’s mother while helping to prepare her for a “credible fear” asylum interview. Upon hearing of Rossell’s interest in serving in the U.S. military, Ms. Jones told him of her own U.S. military and police service, giving him hope that he too could one day so serve. In the process of sharing a glimpse of the American Dream, she deepened her own confidence and commitment to serve others.
Law student John Blake described in detail some of his own Housing Clinic work on behalf of tenants whose right to organize and right to adequate notice of eviction had been routinely violated. Referencing his own upbringing in public housing, he challenged those in attendance to work with the UDC Law to end such abuses.
Broderick and Alum James King Introduce Judge Pryor
Dean Broderick and alum James King then shared an introduction of Judge Pryor. The Dean, who in 1988 served as Administrator of the then-DC School of Law, described interviewing the Judge for a faculty position just after he stepped down as Chief Judge of the DC Court of Appeals. The interview took place during the chaos of building renovations. Judge Pryor explained his desire to teach at the new public school where students who could not otherwise afford to attend would have the chance for a legal education. It was then, the Dean reported that, she “fell in love” with him (apologizing to the Judge’s wife Elaine seated nearby).
Dean Broderick then introduced James King. She told the crowd that after being signed by the Cleveland Browns, Mr. King had been arrested in connection with a college bar fight and charged with second degree murder and manslaughter. While incarcerated pre-trial, his jailer gave him an LSAT preparation book and his focus changed from football to justice. Mr. King described his countless tutoring sessions with Judge/Professor Pryor whose refrain was “this is easy.” Ultimately, this built his confidence and helped him and countless other students to succeed in law school. Mr. King, who is now 14 and 0 as a trial lawyer at the DC Public Defender Service, teased the judge, a former prosecutor, that thanks to his training, the government had yet to beat him!
A Most Magical Night
It was a magical night. Leslie Thornton emailed the dean the next day saying,
“I’ve gotten the most incredible feedback you could possibly hope for. Literally scores of people have reached out about the special energy and feel in the room. There is a really interesting and clear theme – that folks felt like they’d never been to an event like that where there was so much genuine kindness, and purity and importance of purpose, and a very special energy. Shelley – you and I have the privilege of really knowing and understanding what that thing is – I’m so glad it came across so clearly.”
With nearly $400K raised for the evening, the D.C. Council’s match will add in nearly $100K, bringing the scholarship and fellowship funds raised to nearly $500K! 52 alumni donated or helped to orchestrate the donations for more than $57,000 of those dollars, many specifically in honor of Judge Pryor. Dean Broderick personally contributed at the Advocate for Change ($5,000) level and the UDC Law faculty also kicked in at the Partner for Change ($2,500) level.
Comments from Alumni
Miguel Santiago, a 1981 Antioch School of Law grad, traveled from the Bronx to attend the Gala said, “What an awesome event! It is so inspiring to see, nearly 40 years after I started at Antioch, that we remain the vanguard of clinical law schools. Those who haven’t taken a close look at this wonderful institution lately – you have to visit it, see it for yourself. You’ll be amazed and you will want to find a way to contribute and serve.”
Perhaps our outgoing Student Bar Association President Jonathan Newton summed it up best when he wrote afterward, “Bravo! The Gala was OUTSTANDING!!! It instantly created a tradition I hope will last forever. I’m a broke man right now, but I’ll be making a donation on my first paycheck!”
Thanks to all those in attendance and all our donors – and “hats off” to our new development director Mizue Suito, development consultant David Simmons, and to Dean Shelley Broderick for one of the best first Gala events ever seen in this town!
On May 1, 2017, the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs presented a Certificate of Appreciation to UDC David a Clarke School of Law for its advocacy in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia in matters related to guardianships for patients at the Washington, DC VA Medical Center during 2016 – 2017.
The advocacy cited was provided by students in Professor Faith Mullen’s General Practice Clinic who worked with VA social workers and physicians to obtain court-appointed guardians for incapacitated veterans. Professor Mullen thanked the students in attendance for their willingness to fearlessly jump in to represent their clients in these cases. Students who handled the cases expressed appreciation for the trust the clients placed in their litigation and problem solving abilities and for the opportunity to do this important work.
In addition, the Department of Veterans Affairs presented Professor Mullen with a letter of recognition signed by U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. (see photo of letter, below.)
Chief Justice Robert’s letter reads:
“In Recognition of Professor Faith Mullen and Her Students at the University of the District of Columbia David Clarke School of Law
Thank you for this opportunity to share my appreciation for the outstanding work of Professor Faith Mullen and her students at the University of the District of Columbia David Clark School of Law on behalf of this country’s veterans.
By volunteering to help obtain guardians for incapacitated veterans who lack family or resources to appear in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, Professor Mullen and her students have demonstrated their commitment to the legal profession and to the duty we all share to engage in public service.
It is fitting that we honor them at today’s ceremony. I join in congratulating the Professor and her students for their pro bono work.”
Washington, DC—Thanks to the wonderful generosity of renowned D.C. malpractice attorney Jack H. Olender, the UDC David A. Clarke School of Law is proud to report a significant expansion in the capacity of both its Immigration and Human Rights Clinic and its Legislation Clinic to serve low-income people and the public interest.
Long a leader in the field of medical malpractice and a fixture, with his late wife Lovell, on the D.C. and national legal, social justice and philanthropic scenes, Mr. Olender has for decades been a fierce advocate for and supporter of the UDC David A. Clarke School of Law. Mr. Olender’s support of the District’s public law school has included the provision of annual recognition – and scholarships – to six top UDC Law clinic students at his Olender Foundation annual Awards Gala as well as significant additional annual financial contributions to the School of Law’s scholarship funds. In addition, years ago, Mr. Olender endowed a scholarship fund in memory of Antioch School of Law graduate Gary Freeman, ’76, whose untimely death occurred during his tenure as an attorney in Mr. Olender’s firm.
Mr. Olender’s support, however, has been more than solely financial – in addition to previously serving on the University of the District of Columbia’s Board, he has devoted decades of service on the DC School of Law Foundation’s Board and, for many years, has hosted Board meetings at his law firm, Olender and Associates, and attended numerous School of Law events. Furthermore, Mr. Olender has placed his faith in two additional School of Law alumni, attorneys Lesley Zork, ’88, and Joshua Basile, ’13, who currently work for his elite law firm.
This fall, as a result of a transformative donation by the Jack and Lovell Olender Foundation, the School of Law has added outstanding professors in two clinics, and has conferred the title of “Jack and Lovell Olender Director” upon the directors of each clinic. Thanks to the Olender Foundation’s support, both clinics will be able to expand the breadth and depth of their service and training.
Associate Professor Marcy Karin, the Jack and Lovell Olender Director of the Legislation Clinic at the UDC David A. Clarke School of Law, is the second newly funded professor. Professor Karin will be ably assisted by another outstanding young lawyer, Clinical Instructor Monica Bhattacharya. In addition, Professor Laurie Morin will direct her new Gender Justice Project in collaboration with the Legislation Clinic.
The Immigration and Human Rights Clinic
The Immigration and Human Rights Clinic has transitioned from a focus on the nexus between criminal and immigration law, to a focus on representing asylum seekers fleeing violence and persecution. Professor Lindsay M. Harris joined the clinic this academic year after a year with the American Immigration Council working on national efforts to end the detention of immigrant children and their mothers in two large detention centers in Texas. Before that, she taught in the asylum clinic at Georgetown for two years, and also developed and taught an asylum law course at George Mason School of Law. Her experience meshes well with recent Clinic work representing mothers and children released from these detention centers and, in particular, with the work of Olender Clinic Director Kristina M. Campbell who has led two service-learning trips during Spring Break and the summer to Dilley and Karnes City, Texas. In Texas, UDC Law students reported “life-changing” experiences through on-the-ground intensive lawyering work, providing immediate assistance to detained families.
One highlight of the fall semester featured third year students, Leslie Benjamin and Jessica Christy who won their first trial. Under the supervision of Professor Campbell, the students prepared their clients, a mother and daughter detained in Texas, drafted declarations and filed a legal brief arguing for asylum relief. The team then traveled to Dallas where they worked with their clients through the weekend in advance of the Monday trial. As a result of their efforts, their clients, who had been unable to find pro bono representation in Texas, were freed from detention.
During the spring semester, Professor Harris, with an able assist from Professor Campbell, spearheaded a day-long conference, held on February 3, 2017, “Chasing Liberty: The Detention of Central American Families in the United States,” bringing together scholars, advocates and law students to explore how to end family detention practices and effectively address post-release needs for asylum-seekers. This conference pushed the national conversation on these issues forward at a critical time as the new Trump Administration implements its aggressive and confusing new agenda on immigration policy.
Professor Campbell is planning, with Professor Harris’ support, to lead a third trip to family detention centers with ten students during Spring Break 2017 as part of the School of Law ’s Service-Learning Program.
The Legislation Clinic
Under the leadership of Professor Marcy Karin, Jack and Lovell Olender Director of the Legislation Clinic, the clinic has been redesigned to offer a seven-credit experiential learning opportunity that combines client representation and the study of legislative lawyering.
The Clinic’s mission is two-fold:
1) To provide UDC Law students with the training, supervision, and field experience necessary to become effective and reflective lawyers.
2) To undertake projects advancing the public interest and providing quality representation to organizations in the District in need of legislative lawyering services.
During the fall semester students worked on policy projects for non-profit and community organizations that are working to lift vulnerable populations out of poverty with improved economic security and workplace protections as well as access to other civil rights. The inaugural class of the redesigned Legislation Clinic undertook a wide range of legislative lawyering work on both the local and national level.
On behalf of the Network for Victim Recovery of DC, students researched methods of reimbursement for expenses related to crimes committed in the District. Clinic students also volunteered with the Lawyers’ Committee’s Election Protection program, assisting callers in four states on a range of questions related to the voting process, including registration, early voting, problems with polling locations and machines, access to interpreters and voting assistants, provisional ballots, and a chilling amount of potential voter intimidation. These calls primarily dealt with state laws interpreting the federal right to vote.
The Clinic successfully represented BRAWS (Bringing Resources to Aid Women’s Shelters) in local efforts to support the repeal of the “tampon tax.” On November 15th, the D.C. Council passed Bill 21-696, the Feminine Hygiene and Diapers Sales Tax Exemption Amendment Act of 2016, which was signed into law by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser on December 8th. Earlier in the semester, students prepared oral and written testimony for a D.C. Council Committee on Finance and Revenue. Professor Karin and clinic students testified in front of the D.C. Council and two students, Shannon Cooper and Aysha Iqbal, were featured on WJLA TV. Students engaged with the media, developed a social media campaign in support of the testimony and broader efforts, and prepared materials for a grassroots outreach campaign in the DMV area to support the repeal of the “tampon tax” in D.C. and Virginia.
On the national level, the Legislation Clinic is working with disability rights advocates to improve enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act as amended by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008. Originally enacted in 1990, the ADA is a comprehensive civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of “disability” in private employment, places of public accommodation, and government benefits and services. Despite the ADA Amendments Act’s goal of ensuring broad coverage for access to these protections, some confusion remains over the application of the revised definition of disability, which causes a threshold definitional issue for many individuals seeking to use the ADA’s protections. The Clinic is working with a team of advocates to educate individuals with disabilities and their counsel regarding the ADA’s amended definition of disability.
The Legislation Clinic is also working with Young Invincibles, a national organization working to elevate the voices of millennials into the national policy conversation and to engage them on the most pressing issues facing their generation, such as higher education, jobs, and health care. The Young Invincibles’ student attorney team is preparing an issue brief on the state of internships in 21st-century America, including a survey of relevant labor standards, other laws and public policy.
Finally, on behalf of clinic clients while working on this robust docket, students have participated in coalition meetings, calls, and events with a broad range of D.C. stakeholders. Students have been on the phone or in the room with members and staff of the D.C. Council and staff of both Houses of Congress, the White House Council on Women and Girls, the former First Lady’s Office, the U.S. Department of Labor, and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, among others.
Gender Justice Project
Beginning in January of 2017, Professor Laurie Morin is developing and coordinating the Gender Justice Project in collaboration with the Legislation Clinic to bring together students, professors, and activists to find multi-disciplinary solutions to local and global problems at the intersection of gender, sexual orientation, race, and economic status. The Project will sponsor courses, conferences, round-tables, and other events to facilitate dialogue and action on these issues.
The Project and Clinic will work with non-profit organizations and community groups to combat gender inequities using a wide array of strategies, including public policy development, legislative drafting, lobbying, community organizing and non- violent protest, public education, media outreach, and impact litigation. The Project will also partner with other law school clinics on cases and issues of mutual interest.
Professor Morin is also co-founder of the School of Law’s Service-Learning Program, in which faculty members and students travel together to parts of the country that need legal assistance to recover from natural and man-made disasters. She has accompanied students on service- learning trips to New Orleans to provide services to survivors of Hurricane Katrina; Mississippi to provide legal services in the wake of the BP oil spill; and Texas to assist women and children refugees from Central America who were detained at the Karnes Detention Center.
Henderson expressed areas he hopes are examined with scrutiny during Sen. Sessions’ nomination hearings.
“What I’d like to see Senator Sessions asked are his views about the Voting Rights Act, about wrongful prosecutions […], about problems with voter ID today, about problems with efforts to move polling places in states like Alabama, his very own state,” Henderson said.
Sen. Sessions has a long, sordid voting record that leaves many questioning his ability to lead the nation’s legal arm.
“I’d like to see him asked whether he can enforce statutes over which he has a hostility long established,” Henderson said. “For example, he has opposed the Violence Against Women Act, he has opposed the passage of the The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act, he has opposed other statutes that he is responsible now for enforcing. We’d like to see questions asked about that.”