Civil rights law will be the focus of a new clinic for students at Wayne State University Law School, one of the leading public interest law schools in the Midwest.
The Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Clinic, a collaborative venture between Wayne Law and the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, will allow students to litigate civil rights and civil liberties impact cases before state and federal courts.
“We are excited to partner with the ACLU of Michigan to continue Wayne Law’s emphasis on training students to be leaders in ensuring access to justice,” said Jocelyn Benson, dean of Wayne Law. “This new clinic builds on the stellar civil rights and social justice programming at our Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights.”
Michael Steinberg, legal director of the ACLU of Michigan, will teach the clinic as a visiting professor. Steinberg is a 1989 cum laude graduate of Wayne Law.
“I am thrilled to come back to my alma mater and to teach Wayne Law students the critical legal skills they will need to advance civil rights and civil liberties in this country,” Steinberg said. “The course will provide an exciting opportunity to work on cutting-edge, high-profile cases that change people’s lives.”
Students will be exposed to the full range of issues on the ACLU of Michigan docket, including freedom of speech and expression; racial justice; poverty and civil liberties; lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights; police misconduct; privacy; women’s rights; juvenile justice; reproductive freedom; voting rights; religious freedom; immigrant rights; the right to counsel; and prisoner rights.
Working in pairs, the students will be the primary handlers for a basic ACLU of Michigan case and participate in all significant events and decisions related to it. Each student also will be assigned specific duties in one or more complex cases that address issues of particular interest to the student.
A classroom component includes a semester-long simulation of a civil rights case that gives students the opportunity to develop professional skills, including interviewing, counseling, drafting pleadings and discovery requests, taking depositions, preparing and arguing motions, and negotiating with opposing counsel.
“The Michigan Chapter of the ACLU is one of the best chapters in the country, and the new clinic adds another dimension to the work of the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights,” said Professor Peter Hammer, director of the Keith Center. “It is part of our ongoing efforts to train the next generation of civil rights leaders and to give students the opportunity to engage in social justice work while still in law school.”
Students must apply for a position in the clinic, and those who are accepted will work between 20 and 25 hours per week, including at least 12 hours at the ACLU of Michigan office in Detroit.
“The professional skills that students will develop in this clinic will prepare them for their careers after law school,” said David Moss, director of clinical education at Wayne Law. “This is an invaluable opportunity for our students while also benefitting the residents of Michigan. We are grateful for the cooperation of the ACLU of Michigan to bring this clinic to fruition, and I’m looking forward to seeing the results of the hard work that will be done by our students under the direction of Professor Steinberg.”