Public Interest News

Free Justice, a new book by Sara Mayeux, chronicles the history of public defenders in the U.S.

Jul. 10, 2020—Legal historian Sara Mayeux’s book focuses on the legal struggle for due process in twentieth-century America.

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Immigration Practice Clinic students work pro bono to support communities disproportionately affected by COVID-19

Jul. 8, 2020—Cloe Anderson ’21, Grace Ko ’21 and Sarah Dvorak ’22 help draft resolution passed by the Nashville Metropolitan Council drawing attention to increased harassment and discrimination directed at Asian immigrants during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Anti-discrimination law expert Jessica Clarke discusses the Supreme Court DACA case and its implications for discrimination law

Jun. 25, 2020—The Supreme Court's DACA decision has given Dreamers new hope, but it could have dangerous implications for anti-discrimination law, by suggesting that courts should not consider the biased statements of policymakers in evaluating whether their policies were motivated by discriminatory intent.

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Chris Slobogin proposes substantive reforms to federal criminal courts and sentencing

Jun. 12, 2020—In a forthcoming California Law Review article, Slobogin proposes the establishment of separate federal courts specializing in criminal cases, backed by a National Court of Criminal Appeals, along with a “modernized regime” of indeterminate sentencing to relieve overcrowded dockets in the federal justice system and reduce the federal prison population. The article is discussed in a June 12 article, "The Case for Federal Criminal Courts and Sentencing Reform," published by The Crime Report. Slobogin directs the Criminal Justice Program at Vanderbilt.

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Time to Act: A Message from Dean Chris Guthrie

Jun. 5, 2020—The recent killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and countless others form part of a long and tragic history of racial violence and injustice. It is time for us to act.

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106 VLS students to work pro bono for judges, government agencies and law offices, and nonprofits in summer 2020

May. 20, 2020—Rising 2Ls and 3Ls will work in federal and state judicial chambers, agencies and law offices, with prosecutors and public defenders, and with public interest and advocacy organizations.

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Funmi Akinnawonu named George Barrett Social Justice Fellow for 2020

May. 13, 2020—Akinnawonu will work as an immigration attorney at the Mississippi Center for Justice in Jackson. She connected with the MCJ while working at the Southern Poverty Law Center in Jackson during summer 2019.

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Amber Banks ’20 receives 2020 Equal Justice Works Regional Public Interest Award

May. 6, 2020—Banks is one of eight 2020 law graduates honored for their exemplary commitment to public interest law and pro bono work. She was a Garrison Social Justice Scholar.

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2020 graduates Joe Sandford and Willoe DeFuccio named Gideon’s Promise Fellows

May. 4, 2020—Sandford will join the Knox County Public Defender’s Community Law Office in Knoxville, Tennessee; DeFuccio will join the Mecklenberg Defenders in Charlotte, North Carolina.

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16 members of the Class of 2020 complete Pro Bono Pledge

May. 1, 2020—Amber Banks ’20 completed 611 pro bono hours as a VLS student. Eunice Lim ’21 and Jackson Hill ’22 were also recognized for leading their classes in pro bono hours with 299 and 99 hours, respectively.

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VLS Pro Bono Spring Break team works at Just City in Memphis with Wesley Dozier ’19

Apr. 21, 2020—Dozier is working at Just City as an Equal Justice Works Fellow. He supervised a team of students who worked on expungement cases, participating a Court Watch program, and supported other criminal justice advocacy initiatives.

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VLS Pro Bono Spring Break team works at Mississippi Center for Justice

Apr. 15, 2020—Students worked in an expungement clinic, investigated policing practices to support impact litigation, researched the criminalization of HIV and supported other legal advocacy initiatives.

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VLS Office of Public Interest partners with Tennessee Justice for Our Neighbors to offer immigration intake clinics

Feb. 14, 2020—Twelve students are providing more than 420 hours of pro bono legal work through Woodbine Immigration Intake Clinics scheduled throughout the academic year at a local church.

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Stanton Foundation First Amendment clinic settles case in a win for clients

Feb. 9, 2020—Clinic students served as co-counsel in Human Rights Defense Center v. Marshall County, Tennessee, which claimed that the county sheriff’s department engaged in unconstitutional censorship.

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Susan Kay ’79 honored with “Lifetime Achievement Award” by ACLU of Tennessee

Nov. 14, 2019—Kay, who is associate dean for experiential education, has taught at VLS since 1980 and established the law school's first clinic. The award recognizes her lifetime dedication to criminal justice reform and legal advocacy, which includng successfully challenging Nashville's jail conditions. She was honored on Nov. 14.

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First Amendment Clinic files amicus brief in Georgia v. Public Resource addressing public access to state law

Oct. 17, 2019—Supreme Court case addresses the right of citizens to freely access official statutory codes as a means of ensuring effective participation in democratic self-government.

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Amicus brief co-authored by Jessica Clarke asserts that Title VII prohibits employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and transgender identity

Oct. 4, 2019—Clarke and her co-authors argue that the Title VII prohibition on discrimination based on sex also means employers cannot discriminate against employees based on sexual orientation or transgender identity.

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Panelists Danny Glover, David Cole and Bruce Raynor to discuss political activism and advocacy at VLS Oct. 10

Sep. 19, 2019—The 2019 George Barrett Social Justice Lecture, “Political Activism, Legal Advocacy and Labor Organizing: A Conversation on Creating Change,” is a panel discussion featuring actor/activist Danny Glover, ACLU Legal Director David Cole and labor leader Bruce Raynor.

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Over 70 1Ls attend Public Service Orientation

Sep. 6, 2019—Assistant Dean for Public Interest Spring Miller and eight attorneys engaged in legal advocacy in Nashville introduced first-year law students to opportunities to gain legal experience through pro bono service with local organizations.

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Public Interest News


96 Vanderbilt Law students received 2019 summer stipends to support pro bono legal work

Aug. 2, 2019—Students are working in the legal departments of federal and state agencies, and in judicial chambers, prosecutors' and public defenders offices, for legal nonprofit organizations and in corporate legal departments.

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32 Vanderbilt Law students serve summer internships for course credit

Aug. 2, 2019—Students received course credit for their work in the legal departments of federal agencies and judicial chambers, with U.S. Attorney’s and states’ attorneys general offices, for legal nonprofit organizations and in corporate legal departments

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Holly Thompson and Vanessa Zapata named George Barrett Social Justice Fellows for 2019

May. 21, 2019—Thompson will focus on labor trafficking at Legal Aid of North Carolina; Zapata will advocate for medical care and support for adults with disabilities at the Tennessee Justice Center.

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Wesley Dozier ’19 (BA’16) named Equal Justice Works Fellow

May. 14, 2019—Dozier will work at Just City, a legal nonprofit in Memphis that focuses on adults and teenagers involved with the criminal justice system.

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2019 graduates Sam Heller and Jordyn McCarley named Gideon’s Promise Fellows

May. 9, 2019—Heller will join the Hamilton County Public Defender’s office in Cincinnati, Ohio. McCarley will join the Nashville Public Defenders.

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Megan Mitchell ’19 wins Regional Public Interest Award from Equal Justice Works

May. 8, 2019—Mitchell is the winner for the South Region of the Equal Justice Works competition.

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