Civil Rights Clinic Takes Windy City by Storm

May 17, 2014

By: Brittany Moore

This year, the Association of American Law Schools held their annual Clinical Legal Education Conference in Chicago, IL. The Conference took place from April 27 – April 30 with 703 clinical legal educators from all across the nation representing virtually every law school in attendance. The theme this year was “Becoming a Better Clinician.” On April 30th, the last day of the conference, the Clinical Legal Education Association (CLEA) presented three awards: Outstanding Advocate for Clinical Teachers, Excellence in a Public Interest Case or Project, and Outstanding Student Award.

Professor Carol Turowski, Director of Clinical Legal Education at Charlotte Law, and Professor Rocky Cabagnot, Community Economic Development (CED) Clinic Professor, nominated the Clinic for the Excellence in a Public Interest Case or Project Award for work done on the Ban The Box (BTB) project.  On April 24, 2014, CLEA announced the recipient, and the award goes to… Charlotte School of Law Civil Rights Clinic (Clinic)! Two former Clinic students, Isaac Sturgill and Cleat Walters, along with Professor Jason Huber and current clinic student Brittany Moore flew to Chicago to accept the award.  Also in attendance were Professor Emma Best, Entrepreneurship Clinical Professor, and Fernando Nuñez, Immigration Clinic Professor.

BTB began as a grassroots movement in California to remove the question from job applications asking applicants “have you been convicted of a crime?” BTB first came to Charlotte in the fall of 2009 and after four-and-a-half years of work, nine generations of clinic students, and hundreds of community supporters, the box was banned in Charlotte on March 1, 2014. [1]

Ms. Anju Gupta, co-chair of CLEA awards committee, listed other nominees and we were in awe at the other projects nominated for this award. Some of the other nominees included:

  • University of Arkansas’s Criminal Defense Clinic, for its work on the Juvenile Mandatory Life without Parole Project;
  • Harvard Law School’s Student Predatory Lending Project;
  • Loyola Law Clinic’s Community Justice section, for its litigation and advocacy work surrounding FEMA;
  • Univ. of Maryland, Francis King Carey School of Law’s Immigration Clinic for its work on the Martinez decision in the Fourth Circuit;
  • Pace Law School’s Environmental Litigation Clinic for its work on the Catskills litigation;
  • American University, Washington College of Law’s Immigrant Justice Clinic for its “Taken for a Ride” report
  • Seattle University’s Foreclosure Mediation Outreach Project; and
  • University of Nevada, Las Vegas, for its Immigration Detention Conditions Project.[2]

The Clinic is truly humbled to have been considered among these other nominees, who also are very deserving of this award. The commonality between all of the nominees is the desire, drive, and zealous effort to provide assistance and resources to those in our respective communities who need it the most.

Cleat Walters, Jason Huber, Brittany Moore, and Isaac Sturgill accepted the CLEA award on behalf of the CSL Civil Rights Clinic.

Cleat Walters, Jason Huber, Brittany Moore, and Isaac Sturgill accepted the CLEA award on behalf of the CSL Civil Rights Clinic.

Reflecting over my past year participating in the Clinic, and law school generally, I can honestly say this is the most humbling and rewarding experience. Clinical Educators at the conference sought us out to congratulate the Clinic and the local organizations that were instrumental in the success of BTB in Charlotte. Additionally, people came up to us on the street to applaud BTB. One woman came to me and said, “Congratulations,” but what she said next left me speechless. I told her thank you and how humbled we are to have this honor bestowed upon us, to which she replied, “No, I should be thanking you guys.” As much of an honor as this award is, BTB and the Clinic, generally, are still focused on the success of those in our community who face barriers without advocates to stand beside them. It is the mission of the Clinic to provide resources and zealous advocacy to those in our community who would not otherwise have a voice; this will continue to be our driving force.

I have been counting down the days until graduation since August of last year, but this honor makes graduation very bittersweet. I will truly miss the high caliber professors I have had the privilege of learning from over the past three years and some of the most wonderful colleagues I have had the privilege of working with. To those who will soon experience what a rewarding, humbling, and demanding experience anyone of the well respected clinics Charlotte Law has to offer, just keep in mind the ultimate goal is to fight for others and uplift fellow members of the community; in the end all of your hard work, tears, anxiety, restlessness, fury, and frustration will pay off in the end when your client(s) goals are finally achieved.

In conclusion, the Clinic is very honored to have this distinction bestowed upon us, but we would like to extend and share this award with all of those in the community who were instrumental in the success of BTB. Those who deserve to be recognized for their hard work are: Erik Ortega of the Center for Community Transitions and the Center as a whole, Councilwoman Lawanna Mayfield, All of Us or None, Changed Choices, Pasta Provisions, Democracy NC, Action NC, Charlotte Community Justice Coalition, and the hundreds of Charlotteans who provided continuous support. Finally, City Manager Ron Carlee and the City of Charlotte, thank you for Banning the Box, you have made a difference in this community and have proven we are all in this together.

 

[1] For more information about BTB, please visit https://cslcivilrights.com/page/2/

[2] Past Recipients can be found at http://www.cleaweb.org/PIA


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