Spring 2023 • Clinic
Democracy and the Rule of Law Clinic
Enrollment in this clinic will fulfill the HLS JD pro bono requirement.
Required Class Component: Legal Tools for Protecting Democracy and the Rule of Law in America (2 spring classroom credits). The clinic and course are bundled; your enrollment in the clinic will automatically enroll you in this required course.
Additional Co-/Pre-Requisites: None.
By Permission: No.
Add/Drop Deadline: December 2, 2022.
LLM Students: International students on F-1 student visas are required to have Curricular Practical Training (CPT) authorization; LL.M. students are not eligible for CPT.
Placement Site: 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 our mission, including: impact litigation; policy advocacy to members of Congress, and other local, state, and federal officials; strategic partnerships with other groups and individuals who align with our mission; communications through media outlets, reports, social media posts, and our website; and Freedom of Information Act requests. The Clinic will focus on issues such as 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 if it targets certain people or groups in our society.
Specific topics and projects will be determined by enrolled students in conjunction with the 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 projects’ 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 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 complaints, preliminary injunction motions, dispositive motions and other briefs, including appellate and amicus briefs.
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 former government attorneys and policy advocates.