Law students offer service in support of regional civil rights issues
October 27, 2010
From illegal immigration to capital punishment, the ACLU student group at Lewis & Clark Law School is raising awareness of key civil rights issues and collaborating with community groups to offer service opportunities for law students.
Now in its second year, the group is hosting a major event this week to bring together judges, attorneys, professors, and nonprofit leaders from around the region. The first-ever Northwest ACLU Conference will offer two days of discussions about current civil rights issues such as immigration law, state constitutions, and access to justice for Native communities.
In the following interview, the student coordinators of the conference, S. Bobbin Singh ’11 and Erin McKee ’11, discuss the goals of the upcoming event and the group’s overall mission.
What is the focus of the law school’s ACLU student group?
Our two primary goals are to provide students with volunteer and pro-bono opportunities and to cooperate and work with other student groups. Since the start of last summer, members of our group have already completed more than 200 community service and pro bono hours. The student group is aggressively working to create more opportunities for students by strengthening our relationship with ACLU-OR and also reaching out to like-minded organizations in the community and supporting their efforts when and where we can.
What are some of your partnerships, and how does the group’s work impact our area?
We are supporting the Metropolitan Public Defender by offering research assistance on capital and misdemeanor cases. There are currently 13 students involved with the research group; we work on a wide variety of projects, including research for motions and legal briefs on death penalty and misdemeanor cases.
Members of the student group also volunteer at the ACLU-OR office, providing help in a number of areas including the ACLU Complaint and Referral Line. Interns work closely with ACLU legal staff to review and investigate complaints covering a broad spectrum of issues, including free speech, student discipline, police practices, criminal law, and jail and prison conditions.
This month, you’re holding the first-ever ACLU NW Conference. Who are you hoping will attend the conference, and what are your goals?
We’re very excited to bring so many experts and cutting-edge thinkers together to share what is going on in legal scholarship and in the trenches. Attendees will mainly be practitioners and law students from the Pacific Northwest, although it is open to lawyers across the country. Through the conference, we not only hope to create more sophisticated legal awareness about current civil liberties and civil rights issues, but also hope to engage in dialogue that will challenge panelists and participants alike to push our analyses toward creative solutions.
Do you hope to make this an annual event?
Yes, we do hope to make this an annual event, although the panel topics will vary in accordance with current events and trends. The ACLU works on a wide range of civil liberties issues, and we look forward to addressing all of them in future conferences.
Besides the conference, what other activities and events will the group host this year?
Throughout the year, we host discussions and lectures at Lewis & Clark about current civil liberties and civil rights issues. We are currently working on a number of events, focusing on such topics as immigration law, reproductive health rights, the death penalty, racial justice, prisoners’ rights, access to justice, and LGBT rights. Keep tabs on all our plans by checking our webpage or becoming a fan of our Facebook page.