Christy Lopez – Spring 2016 G. Rollie White Public Interest Scholar in Residence

Christy Lopez visited Texas Law as a G. Rollie White Public Interest Scholar in Residence, supported by a generous gift from the G. Rollie White Trust. Ms. Lopez heads the DOJ section responsible for investigating and bringing suit to remedy patterns or practices of law enforcement misconduct. She currently leads several high-profile pattern-or-practice investigations, including of the Chicago Police Department and the Ferguson Police Department.

In her keynote address, “Policing the Police: The Federal Government’s Role in Reforming Police Practices,” Ms. Lopez highlighted the federal government’s unique role in improving law enforcement training and recruitment practices. The talk was co-sponsored by the Bernard and Audre Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice, the Center for Women in Law, the UT Opportunity Forum, the Chicano/Hispanic Law Students Association, the Public Interest Law Association, the Thurgood Marshall Legal Society, and the Texas Journal of Civil Liberties and Civil Rights.

The Justice Center also used the opportunity of Ms. Lopez’ visit to convene a stakeholder meeting on municipal courts and the collection of criminal justice debt in Texas, issues that featured prominently in the DOJ’s final report on its Ferguson investigation. Three speakers helped to frame the issues: Ms. Lopez provided a national perspective on issues related to debtors’ prisons and collection of criminal justice debt; Susanne Pringle, with Texas Fair Defense Project, provided a statistical overview for Texas; and Carla Sanchez-Adams, with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, described the impact of current practices on low-income families. With participants from the judiciary, state and regional government representatives, civil rights advocates, and public policy experts, the ensuing conversation promoted an open exchange of ideas and the identification of shared priorities and possibilities for moving forward. This conversation continued with a second stakeholders’ meeting in late May to highlight innovative court practices to reduce the negative consequences of criminal justice debt collection.

In addition to her public speaking commitments, Ms. Lopez also met individually with students to discuss careers in government and civil rights and participated as a guest speaker in the Civil Rights Clinic.