In the fall of 2013, the Clinic co-counseled a civil rights case with attorneys at the Texas Civil Rights Project and the Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC). We represented Prison Legal News, a project of HRDC that publishes a monthly journal directed to prisoners informing them of legal developments in prison conditions and criminal justice. The federal court lawsuit, filed in San Antonio, alleged that Comal County Jail violated PLN’s First Amendment and procedural due process rights by banning its journal. Clinic students researched claims, prepared discovery, and interviewed prisoners.
Civil Rights Clinic
Students in the Civil Rights Clinic represent low-income clients in a range of civil rights matters relating to, for example, abusive law enforcement practices, prisoners’ rights, discrimination in housing, employment or public accommodations, and freedoms of speech, religion, and association.
The Clinic co-counsels its cases with Texas-based and/or national civil rights and liberties non-profits and/or private counsel.
Working under faculty supervision, students directly participate in civil rights litigation and advocacy. Through direct representation, students hone lawyering skills, including client and witness interviewing and counseling, fact investigation and analysis, negotiation, drafting pleadings and motions, and trial advocacy. Students work on Clinic cases in teams, under the supervision of clinic faculty, with whom they meet on at least a weekly basis.
Students also participate in a seminar in which they learn and discuss relevant legal authorities, and the political and social contexts for civil rights litigation and advocacy. Students also develop their analytical, research, and writing skills, and think through how to resolve legal problems effectively and ethically.
The mission of the Civil Rights Clinic is to engage students in contemporary civil rights litigation and advocacy while serving members of the community who may otherwise lack access to courts or justice.
Cases and Projects
Clinic students help represent a journalist named Barrett Brown who is being prosecuted in federal court in the Northern District of Texas on a variety of charges, including computer crimes, obstruction of justice, and internet threats. The case involves Mr. Brown’s First Amendment rights to engage in journalism research using internet sources and methods, and the right of the public to share hyperlinks without fear of criminal prosecution.
The Clinic is partnering with MALDEF and other civil rights attorneys to advocate for the end of the Department of Homeland Security’s recently expanded practice of detaining immigrant families of women and children. Clinic students have prepared a report to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights regarding the domestic and international law violations entailed in family detention. Clinic students are also investigating and using other advocacy tools, including Public Information Act requests, administrative complaints, public relations strategies, and possible impact litigation.