Public Interest News

Worker Advocacy Practicum addresses “access to justice crisis” affecting low-wage workers

Oct. 15, 2020—Assistant Dean for Public Interest Spring Miller launches a new practicum through which students advocate for the employment rights of low-wage workers.

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Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs Susan Kay ’79 elected to ABA Council on Legal Education and Admission to the Bar

Sep. 21, 2020—The ABA Council on Legal Education and Admission to the Bar is recognized at the national accrediting agency for programs leading to the J.D. Kay has previously served on the Standards Review Committee and Accreditation Committee of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admission to the Bar.

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Spring Miller receives 2020 B. Riney Green Access to Justice Award from Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services

Sep. 18, 2020—The award recognizes Tennessee advocates who promote state-wide collaboration that supports projects that strengthen access to justice across the state.

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Vanderbilt Law Review members make collective gift to support minority students with ABA diversity scholarship

Sep. 17, 2020—All members of the VLR staff donated the fees they would customarily use to pay for meeting space and supplies to the ABA's Legal Opportunity Scholarship Fund, which provides $15,000 scholarships to up to 20 diverse law students each year.

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VLS Steering Committee on Racial Inequities and Injustices issues report

Sep. 4, 2020—The report reflects the results of a community-wide survey and input from three anti-racism task forces representing VLS students, faculty and staff. It recommends short- and long-term actions designed to address racial inequities and injustices in the VLS community and beyond.

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Consumer financing expert Paige Marta Skiba seeks to prevent a wave of consumer bankruptcies as unemployment aid ends

Aug. 17, 2020—Skiba cochairs an interdisciplinary group of scholars who recommend interventions to protect households from debt collection, foreclosure, eviction, and bankruptcy, and to position the bankruptcy system to respond to consumer needs during the pandemic.

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Jennifer Prusak to launch new Housing Law Clinic at Vanderbilt Law

Aug. 13, 2020—Prusak has joined Vanderbilt’s clinical law faculty. She has more than 15 years of experience advocating for low-income tenants and fair housing

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Stanton Foundation First Amendment Clinic wins case for Tennesseans for Sensible Election Laws

Aug. 10, 2020—Students in the clinic, directed by Gautam Hans, worked with Daniel Horwitz ’13 to defend a nonprofit group’s satirical mailer criticizing a Tennessee state representative.

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Taylor Owings ’13 named acting chief of staff of U.S. Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division

Jul. 28, 2020—Owings joined the Justice Department as counsel to the assistant attorney general in February 2018. She had previously practiced antitrust law in San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

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Blumstein and Yadav appointed to Tennessee Advisory Committee of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights

Jul. 14, 2020—James F. Blumstein, a noted expert in constitutional law and health law and policy, and finincial regulatory expert Yesha Yadav will serve four-year terms on the Tennessee Advisory Committee to the US. Commission on Civil Rights.

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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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