Students will participate in an externship with Protect Democracy, a nonpartisan nonprofit founded by former White House and Department of Justice attorneys and dedicated to preventing our democracy from declining into a more authoritarian form of government.
Protect Democracy accomplishes its mission by working to combat the tactics that authoritarian leaders use to undermine our free, fair, and fully-informed pursuit of self-government, and by pursuing pro-democracy reforms to renew and improve our democratic norms and institutions. Most clinical work will be done remotely.
Students in the Democracy and the Rule of Law Clinic will work with Protect Democracy to safeguard the key features of a democratic society through a variety of tools that advance the organization’s mission, including impact litigation; policy advocacy to members of Congress or other federal offices, as well as other local or state policy makers; strategic partnerships with other groups and individuals who align with the organization’s mission; communications through media outlets, reports, social media posts, and the organization’s website; and Freedom of Information Act requests. The Clinic will focus on issues such as protecting free and fair elections; ensuring the impartial application of the rule of law; safeguarding healthy civic institutions that allow for public participation in political debate; prohibiting official corruption; and challenging government action if it targets marginalized people or groups.
Specific topics and projects will be determined by enrolled students in conjunction with the clinic’s faculty director, Project Democracy’s clinic leaders, and other attorneys at Protect Democracy. Students will be integrated into existing Protect Democracy project teams and take on legal research and writing, legal drafting, policy advocacy and analysis, and other assignments to advance the organization’s advocacy goals. Some examples of such projects include:
- Developing litigation memoranda setting forth proposed legal theories and possible causes of action, and assessing approaches to overcome justiciability barriers.
- Identifying potential plaintiffs for litigation and selecting optimal jurisdictions. Drafting complaints, preliminary injunction motions, dispositive motions and other briefs, including appellate and amicus briefs.
- Drafting white papers, op-eds, blog posts, and letters or memoranda to federal, state, and local government officials.
- Developing proposals and assessing opportunities for legislative reform, and helping advocate for desired reforms.
- Participating in moot courts and assisting counsel with preparation for oral arguments.
- Developing and submitting FOIA requests, including identifying recipients and shaping requests in a manner likely to lead to useful information.
- Drafting letters to agency Inspectors General, the Office of Special Counsel, or state Attorneys General alerting them to potential areas for investigation.
Students need not have any particular background or experience to enroll; Protect Democracy recognizes that there is strength in diversity and strongly encourages students from historically marginalized and other underrepresented and non-traditional backgrounds and from across the political and ideological spectrum to join the clinic. Students will have the opportunity to develop substantive knowledge; build litigation, oversight, oral advocacy, and other practical skills; and gain opportunities for professional development. They will work closely with experienced advocates and subject matter experts.
How to Register
Enrollment is limited. Although there will be a separate enrollment process for the Spring semester, students who participate in the clinic in the Fall semester may have the option to continue in the Spring, and thus there may be a limited number of slots for new students in the Spring.
This clinic is offered in the Fall and Spring semester. You can learn about the required clinical course component, clinical credits and the clinical registration process by reading the course catalog description and exploring the links in this section.
Meet the Instructors
Faculty Director; Professor of Practice (Fall and Spring)
Schwartztol most recently served in the White House as Associate Counsel and Special Assistant to the President, with a portfolio focused on racial justice and voting rights. Prior to his time in government, Schwartztol spent four years as an attorney at Protect Democracy, where he managed litigation and advocacy aimed at securing free and fair elections. He had previously led HLS’s Criminal Justice Policy Program and served as a staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union and a Liman Fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice. Schwartztol earned a B.A. in philosophy from the University of Chicago in 2001. In 2005, he earned his J.D. from Yale Law School. After graduating from law school, Schwartztol clerked for Judge Harry T. Edwards, U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit.
Lecturer on Law (Fall)
Christine Kwon serves as counsel at Protect Democracy, a nonpartisan nonprofit dedicated to defending and strengthening our democratic laws, norms, and institutions. At Protect Democracy, she engages in impact litigation, legislative advocacy, engaging diverse stakeholders and building coalitions, and other strategies to secure all Americans’ right to a free, fair, and fully-informed democracy. Previously, Christine served as a policy advisor for then-Senator Kamala Harris’s presidential campaign, law clerk to the Honorable Kim McLane Wardlaw on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and Lecturer in Law and Fellow for the San Francisco Affirmative Litigation Project (SFALP) at Yale Law School, a clinical partnership with the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office to litigate public-interest lawsuits on civil rights, consumer protection, and public health issues. Christine graduated from Columbia University and Yale Law School, where she served on the executive board of the Yale Law Journal. Christine is the first in her family to earn a professional degree and the first to become an attorney.
Lecturer on Law (Spring)
Genevieve Nadeau uses both strategic litigation and policy advocacy to protect the rule of law and guard against democratic decline, with a recent focus on protecting free and fair elections. Among other things, she has litigated First Amendment retaliation and voter intimidation cases for Protect Democracy, and leads the legal and policy work of the National Task Force on Election Crises. Genevieve came to Protect Democracy from the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, where she held several leadership roles, including Chief of the Civil Rights Division and State Enforcement Counsel. She is a graduate of UMass Amherst and Stanford Law School.
In the News
Three Lessons from the Democracy and the Rule of Law Clinic
By September McCarthy, J.D. ’22 In Spring 2021, I got off the waitlist for the Democracy and the Rule of Law Clinic. I had heard the program was rigorous but one-hundred percent worth it; students were able to flex and stretch their research and writing skills, collaborate closely with real life practitioners, and work on
May 6, 2022
Fighting for democracy in a changing world
By Olivia Klein For Nancy Fairbank, J.D. ‘22, the Democracy and the Rule of Law Clinic offered a chance to take hands-on action towards strengthening U.S. democracy. “I was motivated to do this clinic in large part because of the events happening in the U.S. in the last few years,” she reflects. “I think we’ve
May 6, 2022
“Doing the vital work to protect our democracy”
By Maggie Hagen, J.D. ’22 “How can we prevent our democracy from sliding into authoritarianism?” This question was presented to students at the beginning of our seminar for the Democracy and the Rule of Law Clinic, a clinical partnership with the nonpartisan nonprofit organization Protect Democracy designed to familiarize students with the tools to safeguard
May 4, 2022