Cardozo's Civil Rights Clinic is a live client clinic in which students primarily litigate civil rights cases in federal district and appellate courts. The work of the clinic focuses on the intersection between civil rights and the criminal justice system, such as cases challenging unconstitutional conditions in jails and prisons or police brutality. Students in the clinic also have the opportunity to engage in other projects addressing the issues affecting our client population.
The United States now has less than five percent of the world’s population, but more than a quarter of the world’s prisoners – 2.3 million people. Today, more than one in every 100 adults lives in jail or prison. This mass incarceration has led in many instances to unconstitutional conditions of confinement, poor medical and mental health treatment, and violence. Additionally, as recent news and judicial decisions have highlighted, law enforcement sometimes engage in practices, such as stop and frisk, that are invasive of privacy rights or are discriminatory. Students in this clinic will have a real opportunity to confront the injustices of this system and make a significant difference in the lives of their clients.
In cases before the federal courts, students may have the opportunity to develop and investigate new cases, interview and counsel clients, draft pleadings, conduct discovery (including taking and defending depositions), negotiate settlements, draft briefs, appear in court at pretrial conferences, hearings and oral argument and to conduct trials. Students perform all aspects of their client's representation together with a student-colleague and under the intensive supervision of the professor, a practicing attorney and full-time member of the Cardozo clinical faculty.
In addition to casework, the clinic includes a seminar component with a curriculum designed to complement and deepen students’ other clinic work. Seminar classes address some of the substantive and procedural law governing federal civil rights actions, as well as many of the lawyering skills and competencies important to litigation. They also address the ethical issues that typically arise in civil rights litigation and concerns that arise in the representation of incarcerated individuals.