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.

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Cases and Projects

Protecting Medically Vulnerable People from COVID-19

April 2020: The Clinic along with attorneys from Texas RioGrande Legal Aid represented six women who are medically vulnerable due to their age and medical conditions in a lawsuit against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, seeking release from a civil immigration detention facility in El Paso that had several confirmed cases of COVID-19. The women alleged that the facility did not adequately implement CDC guidelines to mitigate COVID-19 spread, in violation of Due Process. Within days, and after a tour of the facility by the federal district judge, ICE officials settled the lawsuit and released petitioners pursuant to an “alternatives to detention” program. The women will shelter in place and obtain medical care as needed, reuniting with their loved ones as soon as possible.

Promoting Best Practices in Public Defense

April 2019: The Clinic researched and produced a report detailing national and state standards and best practices on public defense delivery. The report, titled Forging Ahead: Designing Travis County Public Defense to Meet Standards and Best Practices, explains how the development of a public defender office could help Travis County enhance the quality of representation for all persons accused of a crime, regardless of whether they can afford counsel.

Challenging Jail Mistreatment

The Clinic is co-counseling with the Texas Civil Rights Project to represent the mother of Danarian Hawkins, a Houston man who died by hanging in the Harris County Jail. Plaintiff brings a claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act in this federal court lawsuit filed in Houston. Hawkins had a psychiatric disability, and the lawsuit alleges that the County failed to provide him reasonable accommodations, in the form of safe housing and regular monitoring, despite knowing of his elevated suicide risk. Students have worked on document discovery, motions, depositions, and mediation preparation in the case.

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