The Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs offers students the opportunity to conduct pro bono work during spring break through organized group trips with host organization. Trips outside of the Boston area are focused on issues or work that is unique to that local area. This year trips can run March 14-22, 2015.
There is a limited amount of funding available for student travel. Students may need to contribute to airfare or other transportation costs depending on final numbers of student participants. It is anticipated that there will be more applications than available slots.
Spring Break Trips 2015
Descriptions are tentative and may change depending on organization needs at the time of the trip.
Equal Justice Under Law – Alabama or Tennessee
The students will conduct a week-long investigation into several cities across Alabama or Tennessee (TBD) that are identified by Equal Justice Under Law and media accounts as serious violators of basic civil and human rights through their treatment of indigent people in municipal courts. Students will focus their investigation on cities that operate debtors’ prisons and systemically violate other fundamental rights, such as bail and right-to-counsel.
Student investigators will gather information about constitutional civil rights violations, observe municipal court hearings, comprehensively record their observations, and interview indigent defendants and families. At the end of the week, students will compile their observations into a report on the municipalities. The evidence gathered and the relationships built with indigent victims of these practices will form the basis for several new lawsuits against those cities similar to Equal Justice Under Law’s landmark lawsuit against the City of Montgomery in 2014.
Four to six students.
Community Activism Law Alliance (CALA) – Chicago
Students will prepare and deliver two or more workshops for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) applications and renewals and possibly for the new executive action on immigration in the Little Village community of Chicago, which has the highest number of undocumented immigrants in Chicago. In preparation, students will do outreach to local communities on the south and west sides of Chicago and have the opportunity to work with CALA’s community partner organizations in court and in their legal clinics on a variety of legal issues. Community Activism Law Alliance (CALA) brings to Chicago “community activism lawyering,” a model of legal practice that brings lawyers and activists together in a collaborative pursuit to maximize their respective resources. By creating partnerships between lawyers and grassroots community organizations, CALA maximizes both legal and activism resources to produce greater and more impactful services.
Four to six students. Spanish helpful.
Mississippi Delta Project/Delta Directions – Clarksdale, MS
Students will work to capture video and audio footage, gather resources, and draft informative online materials in order to create a digital advocacy strategy to promote education and awareness around heirs’ property issues in the Mississippi Delta.
Heirs’ property is a large and perpetual problem in the Delta. Heirs’ property is property that has been inherited through intestate, meaning that it was inherited through a death without a will. When this happens, the property is divided into equal shares between all existing heirs, who become tenants in common. It is not uncommon to have upwards of 40-50 heirs to one property.
This fractured ownership leads to much confusion, complication, and litigation. It also lowers the value of the land, prevents owners from fully utilizing their lands, acquiring loans against the land, or accessing many federal agricultural programs. In addition, this clouded title creates an unstable form of land ownership of which there has been a long history of exploitation, specifically against small, minority farmers. Agricultural land owned by African Americans has fallen from 19 million acres in the era following the Civil war to around 7 million today and these issues have contributed to the decline of African American farmers and farms in Mississippi. Many Delta residents face these heirs’ property problems, but are ill-informed about the issues, their own rights, and available resources.
Students on this trip will build upon work and research already done by the Delta Fellow and HLS students on a previous HLS Mississippi Delta Project spring break to develop digital advocacy strategies to increase education and awareness around heirs’ property rights and issues. The primary piece of this advocacy strategy will be a short informative documentary on heirs’ property rights that students will help to design and capture relevant and informative footage for. Students will meet, interview, and film people working with heirs’ property rights, including experts, advocates, and property owners. The footage will be incorporated with other footage already captured by Delta Directions in order to create a short documentary aimed at educating audiences about the importance and impact of heirs’ property issues. Students will also draw from existing research to draft supporting advocacy materials for an accompanying website where the documentary will be hosted. These materials will include descriptions and explanations of key issues, an outline of policy solutions, and an available resources guide.
ProBAR – Harlingen, TX
The South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project (ProBAR) is a national effort to provide pro bono legal services to asylum seekers detained in South Texas by the United States government. The project recruits, trains and coordinates the activities of volunteer attorneys, law students and legal assistants.
Students would likely be in two groups. One group would work at the Children’s Project and one group at the Adult Detention Project. The Children’s Project mainly works on Special Immigrant Juvenile Status and asylum. In the Adult Project, the students will likely be working on an asylum case. There may also be a Legal Permanent Resident or undocumented immigrant who needs help with his cancellation of removal application. Although the majority of the adult detained population is from Mexico and Central America ProBar also works with “third language speakers,” immigrants from Somalia, Nepal, and other countries.
Besides working on a case the students will also observe how the staff conducts know your rights presentations and workshops at the shelters and detention center.
Four students. Students who wish to work with immigrant children must be fluent in Spanish.
Local Boston-area Pro Bono Project – Boston and/or Cambridge, Massachusetts
Work with local nonprofit and legal services organizations to be finalized. Specific student work projects could include:
No overnight or long-distance travel required. (Potential overnight in Holyoke, Massachusetts to deliver legal clinic to people housed in motels and shelters with Language Access Coalition)
As many students as can be accommodated will be selected.