New York Civil Liberties Clinic

LW.11798 / LW.10510
Professor Claudia Angelos
Professor Mariko Hirose
Open to 3L, 2L and LLM students
Maximum of 8 students
Fall semester
5 credits*
No prerequisites or co-requisites.


The New York Civil Liberties Clinic provides an opportunity for students to handle civil rights impact litigation at the New York Civil Liberties Union under the supervision of clinic faculty. The students’ cases may span the range of issues on the docket of the New York Civil Liberties Union.

Course Description

The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) is the constitutional conscience of New York and one of the nation’s foremost defenders of civil liberties and civil rights. Founded in 1951 as the New York affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union, it has a central office in New York City with more than forty staff members, eight regional offices, and more than 50,000 members across the state. Its core mission is to defend and promote the fundamental principles and values embodied in the Bill of Rights, the U.S. Constitution, and the New York Constitution, including freedom of speech and religion, and the right to privacy, equality and due process of law for all New Yorkers.

Clinic students handle cases on the NYCLU docket under the supervision of an NYCLU attorney, and Professor Claudia Angelos of the full-time NYU faculty. Students will have the opportunity to work on cases involving issues central to the NYCLU docket, such as racial justice, free speech, education, religious freedom, immigrants’ rights, women’s rights, and the rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people. Clinic students are responsible for their cases and clients and for the tasks that the litigation calls for, including making intake decisions, handling clients, case planning and strategy, taking depositions, drafting pleadings, and preparing and arguing motions. Because the cases are complex, students typically work on them in teams of two or three. The clinic has dedicated workspace at the NYCLU and the students’ work is an important component of the NYCLU’s legal program.

This year students have worked on a variety of cases and projects, including a challenge to the use of a choke-hold on a disabled 16-year-old by officers of the NYPD; a challenge to police harassment of homeless people on 125th Street; litigation challenging a false arrest that is part of a pattern of police abuse in communities of color outside of New York City; a challenge to the unconstitutional use of solitary confinement of juveniles in an upstate jail; and an investigation into an incident involving excessive use of police force in an upstate town. In recent years clinic students handled cases including litigation alleging that the delivery of indigent criminal defense services in New York statewide is unconstitutional; a First Amendment challenge to an anti-immigrant ordinance banning day laborers’ solicitation of work; a First Amendment challenge to a law making "cyber-bullying" a crime; and a constitutional challenge to the use of TASER weapons on a high school student.  Much of the clinic’s work is described on the NYCLU’s web site, which we encourage you to visit.

The fieldwork is supported by a weekly 2-hour seminar that considers the challenges that face civil rights lawyers, their adversaries, and other participants in the process. The seminar involves a simulation program in pretrial skills that provides students with an opportunity to engage in the full range of lawyering activities in the pretrial process, including client counseling, drafting, media advocacy, motions, discovery and depositions, and negotiation. It also holds discussions of the issues raised by institutional civil rights work. A third hour of seminar time is devoted to discussion of the challenges that students face in their cases, in order more effectively to advance the interests of the clinic’s clients and also so that the rich field work in which the clinic is involved becomes a basis for broader student learning.

Through the clinic’s seminar and the field work, we aim to provide clinic students with basic skill in client representation and federal pretrial litigation.  We also expect that students will develop the capacity to critically assess various models of social justice lawyering, lawyer-client relationships, and providing access to justice.

Application Procedure

If you are interested in applying to the NY Civil Liberties Clinic, please submit the standard application, resume and transcript online through CAMS. Selection of students is not based on interviews; however, you are welcome if you like to come to a small group meeting of applicants and faculty so that we can have the opportunity to meet each other and so that we can answer the questions you may have.  We will contact all applicants to set up a time.

The NY Civil Liberties Clinic also welcomes LL.M. enrollments, but does not specifically reserve space for them. The application period for LL.M. students will take place from May 20-June 3, 2016. (Please note there is a separate application form for LL.M. students.)

Student Contacts

Clinic participants in 2015 were:

Spring 2015
Clinton Agresti
Jeffrey Bishop
Carolyn Cole
Wesley Erdelack
Kaitlyn Gosewehr
Ian Hogg
Aditi Juneja
Melina Meneguin Layerenza
Oluwadamilola Obaro
David Rudin
Jonathan Samper
Amandeep Singh-Kahlon

* 5 credits include 2 clinical credits and 3 academic seminar credits.