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George Barrett Social Justice Program

Social justice is the heart of law. The Social Justice Program keeps it at the heart of Vanderbilt Law School.

The Social Justice Program aims to promote a dynamic atmosphere within which issues of equality, access and service are openly and regularly explored by faculty and students inside and outside the classroom. Students can choose from a variety of courses and clinics addressing a diversity of topics, including non-litigation strategies for social change; race and the law; drug law and policy; domestic violence; labor and employment; poverty law; mental health law; bioethics; immigration; the death penalty; and wrongful conviction. The program also offers an innovative Social Justice Reading Group that allows students to explore a range of substantive issues addressed by public interest lawyers as well as the challenges and rewards of representing marginalized clients and communities.

Throughout the year, the Social Justice Program sponsors guest speakers, conferences, workshops and a variety of activities for both students and faculty. In our annual flagship event the Social Justice Program recognizes a Social Justice Fellow, a distinguished member of the bar who has devoted his or her career to public interest law. During an on-campus residency, the Fellow gives a public lecture, presents to the faculty and offers individual student mentoring sessions.

The program also works to help connect students to public interest practice opportunities during law school and beyond.

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PPILS

Practicing Public Interest in the South (PPILS)

The inaugural conference is designed to bring together lawyers pursuing innovative litigation strategies addressing prevalent social justice issues in the South with legal academics writing on related topics, with the hope that each group’s work will inform the other’s and lasting collaborations may be formed. The inaugural conference focused on three themes: privatized probation and modern debtors’ prisons; voting rights after Shelby County; and resistance to Obergefell and LGBT rights.

 

Spring Miller, Assistant Dean for Public Interest

Spring Miller named Vanderbilt Law School’s inaugural Assistant Dean for Public Interest

In the new position, Spring Miller will be responsible for creating public interest law opportunities and facilitating public interest law careers for Vanderbilt Law School students and recent graduates.

 

2015-16 Social Justice Fellow Derwyn Bunton (publicity poster) Derwyn Bunton, chief district defender for Orleans Parish (New Orleans), Louisiana 2015-16 Social Justice Fellow, Derwyn Bunton, Chief District Defender, Orleans Parish, Louisiana, spoke about the challenges of on-the-ground defense work.

In his talk, "Public Defense in an Era of Mass Incarceration," Bunton drew connections between the daily struggle to provide indigent clients with the competent defense the constitution requires and the reality of skyrocketing caseloads and overcrowded prisons.