Racial Justice Clinic

LW.10012 / LW.11764
Professor Claudia Angelos
Professor Dale Ho
Professor Jason Williamson
Open to 3L and 2L students; LLMs if space is available
Maximum of 8 students
Fall and Spring semesters
5 credits*
No prerequisites or co-requisites.


The Racial Justice Clinic provides an opportunity for students to work on landmark, cutting edge civil rights litigation with clinic faculty and the national office of the ACLU. Clinic students explore current challenges to, and creative strategies for, engaging in racial justice advocacy and litigation.  Students also learn pre-trial case development and negotiation skills through simulations.

Course Description

The American Civil Liberties Union (“ACLU”) is the nation’s leading advocate of constitutional and civil rights. The ACLU works daily in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties that the Constitution and laws of the United States guarantee to everyone in this country. In this particular moment in our country’s history—as we face an assault on so many of the rights and liberties that are fundamental to us—the ACLU is leading the way in challenging all manner of government abuses, many of which will have a disproportionate impact on people and communities of color.

More specifically, the ACLU advances racial justice across the country through impact litigation in state and federal courts, legislative and policy advocacy, and a range of public education and advocacy campaigns.  The organization’s racial justice cases are designed to have a significant and wide-reaching effect on communities of color. Racial justice matters at the ACLU include advocacy around criminal justice reform, immigrants’ rights, education, the school to prison pipeline, affirmative action, juvenile justice, voting rights, public defense reform, and national security/post-9/11 discrimination—all of which pose renewed challenges today, in light of the government’s vigorous efforts to infringe upon so many of the rights the ACLU seeks to protect.

Students in the Racial Justice Clinic may work on any of these matters under the supervision of Professor Dale Ho, Director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, Professor Jason Williamson, Deputy Director of the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project, Professor Claudia Angelos of the full-time NYU faculty, and lawyers on the ACLU legal staff. Clinic students work collaboratively with the faculty, the ACLU lawyers, and each other on the tasks that the litigation calls for, including making intake decisions, handling clients, investigating cases, engaging in planning and strategy efforts, drafting pleadings, motions, and briefs, and preparing depositions and motions arguments.

Racial Justice Clinic students have worked on a variety of racial justice cases and projects over the last several years. In the last two years, these have included cases involving: criminal justice fines and fees in Alabama; bail reform efforts in Oklahoma; systemic discrimination against Native children in a Montana public school district; voter suppression laws; abusive police practices in Milwaukee and other jurisdictions around the country; dysfunctional public defense systems in Idaho, New Orleans, and Missouri; the religious rights of Native inmates in New York State prisons; and the proposed census questioning of residents’ citizenship status. Much of the clinic's past work is described on the ACLU’s web site, which we encourage you to visit.

The fieldwork is supported by a weekly seminar that considers the challenges that face civil rights plaintiffs, their lawyers, their adversaries, and other participants in the process. The seminar involves simulations in pretrial skills that provide students with an opportunity to engage in lawyering activities in the pretrial process, including interviews with potential clients, media advocacy, motions, discovery and depositions, and negotiation.  We also consider the issues raised by impact civil rights work and racial justice advocacy and read and discuss critical race theory and other theories of racial injustice and remediation.  As part of that process, students also have the chance to plan and facilitate discussions with guest speakers from the ACLU who have expertise in the particular areas of law covered in the clinic.  Finally, we often discuss the challenges that students face in their cases in order more effectively to advance the interests of the clinic’s clients, and so that the rich field work in which each clinic student is involved becomes a basis for broader student learning.

Through the clinic’s seminar and the field work, we hope to develop in our students a critical outlook on the work of social justice organizations, the ability to apply racial justice theory to its practice, a familiarity with the range of strategies for advancing racial equality, and with basic skill in client representation and federal pretrial litigation.

Application Procedure

If you are interested in applying to the Racial Justice Clinic, please submit the standard application, resume and transcript online through CAMS. Selection of students is not based on interviews; however, you are welcome 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 get in touch with you once all applications are in to set up those meetings.

Student Contacts

We suggest that students who are interested in the Clinic talk to recent students; they know best about the Clinic experience. Students recently in the Racial Justice Clinic include:

Spring 2019 Fall 2018 Spring 2018
Nate Adal
Madeleine Choné
Mary Guyer
Will Hughes
Jocelyn Shih
Nicolas Shump
Alyssa Waaranaa
Victoria Wenger
Eli Adelman
Carola Beeney
Michael Freedman
Ted Jack
Julia Schuurman
Caroline Tan
Kayla Iman Vinson
Samantha Wilhelm
Edwin Abundis
Christine Brathwaite
Eun Joo Choi
Anna Occhipinti
Madhuri Swarna
Hilary Udow

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