Civil Rights Clinic
|L02.2541/2542 + L02.2549
Professor Claudia Angelos
Professor Christopher Dunn
Open to 3L and 2L students
Maximum of 8 students
14 credits* including co-requisite: Civil Rights Clinic Litigation Seminar L02.2549
Working with faculty and with the New York Civil Liberties Union, the New York State affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union, students in the Civil Rights Clinic handle police accountability cases in New York courts for a full academic year. .
The year-long Civil Rights Clinic is an intensive 14-credit litigation program in which students represent plaintiffs in civil rights cases in the Southern District of New York and other local courts under the supervision of professors at the NYU clinical offices and the New York Civil Liberties Union. They also take part in seminars and simulations that help to develop their litigation skills and their understanding of the law and the political and social contexts of civil rights litigation. Students devote an average of at least 20 hours to clinic work each week. We aim to graduate students with a thorough understanding of the civil litigation process from initial client contact through trial, experience in the issues involved in representing clients, and the lawyering skills, habits of reflection, and confidence to handle clients and litigation effectively.
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 nearly 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. The clinic has dedicated workspace at the NYCLU and the clinic students are an important part of the NYCLU’s legal team.
Students in the clinic handle their cases, almost always involving police practices or misconduct, with the help of two veteran civil rights and liberties lawyers, Claudia Angelos, on the full-time law school faculty, and Chris Dunn, associate legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. The focus of the Clinic's case work is on the constitutionality of police practices and on police misconduct, although any kind of civil rights or liberties matter might be on our docket. Some students in the clinic may pick up litigation that will carry over from this year. We are usually able to respond to student interest by matching students with their preferred cases.
Over the past several years, clinic students have successfully challenged a number of police practices in New York City. The cases include, among others, Sharma v. City of New York (S.D.N.Y) which challenged the arrest of an Indian filmmaker and the constitutionality of New York City’s film-permit scheme; Hakim v. Chertoff (S.D.N.Y.), which challenged a Coast Guard policy barring merchant mariners from wearing religious headwear in photographs used for licensing; Wiita v. City of New York (S.D.N.Y.), which challenged NYPD photography-investigation practices implicated by the arrest of a Columbia University graduate student for taking pictures near a subway stop; Blair v. City of New York (S.D.N.Y.), which challenged NYPD stop-and-frisk practices implicated by the arrest of an African-American reporter for the New York Post as well as certain aspects of a stop-and-frisk database maintained by the Department; and NYCLU v. NYPD (New York County Supreme Court), which challenged the NYPD’s refusal to produce, pursuant to the New York Freedom of Information Law, a copy of an electronic database containing information about hundreds of thousands of police stops. In addition, this year, clinic students have been working on additional matters, all still confidential, involving illegal police practices. Much of the clinic’s work is described on the NYCLU’s web site, www.nyclu.org, which we encourage you to visit.
Our students are responsible for their clients and cases, and handle all aspects of the litigation. The cases are relatively complex, and students work on them in teams. The students working on each case meet for at least an hour a week with their faculty supervisor, and typically more frequently. Sometimes we are able to take a case from its initial stages through disposition within a school year, but not always. While a particular case may not present the opportunity to engage in all of the following tasks, each student will handle many of them: the decision whether to take a case; the development of case strategy; counseling clients; drafting pleadings; conducting discovery, including taking and defending depositions; negotiating settlements; appearances at pretrial conferences; briefing and arguing district court motions; and conducting trials.
In addition to the field work, the Clinic has a seminar and simulation program that is designed to ensure that, despite the inevitable variations in fieldwork experience, all students have experience in the entire civil litigation process, from the initial client contact through the settlement or trial of a case. In one of the two weekly seminar sessions, the Civil Rights Clinic Litigation Seminar, we use class discussion, simulation, and critique to study and practice the stages of litigation and to analyze their interrelationships. A full trial advocacy program is included in the litigation seminar. In our second weekly seminar session we meet at the NYCLU and use the cases that the students are working on as data for discussing and resolving the real-life challenges of litigation. Finally, litigation involving the police provides a rich experience from which we all can draw in seminar and other clinic discussions about the complex institutional, political, and social factors that drive behavior and policy in these settings, and about the possibilities for institutional change.
If you are interested in applying to the Civil Rights Clinic please submit the standard application, resume and transcript online through CAMS. Selection of students is not based on interviews; however, we ask that you 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. Please contact the clinic administrator Steven Bautista at 212-998-6448 or firstname.lastname@example.org after you submit your application to sign up for a time.
Please note that students taking the clinic are required to enroll both in the Civil Rights Clinic and the Civil Rights Clinic Litigation Seminar. The total credits are seven in each semester.
We suggest that students who are interested in the Clinic talk to current students; they know best about the Clinic experience. This year, the students in the Civil Rights Clinic are: