“The Future of Civil Rights Law” - Local Social Justice Lawyers encourage Center interns in 2012 Summer Speaker Series

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Center Interns with Attorney Dhamian Blue at the Center's 2012 Summer Speakers Series

During the Center's annual Summer Speaker Series, local social justice attorneys talk about their work and career paths with Center for Civil Rights interns. These weekly roundtable discussions are an important part of the Center's mission to encourage and train the next generation of civil rights lawyers. This summer, eight outstanding public and private attorneys who have dedicated their careers to different aspects of the struggle for civil rights shared their stories.

James Williams

Orange County Public Defender James Williams told the interns about his experiences growing up in segregated rural North Carolina, and the deep personal commitment to fair and effective criminal representation that drives his work. Mr. Williams was a driving force in the push for the North Carolina Racial Justice Act and continues to address racial profiling and other discrimination in the legal system. Center intern Ian Mance (3L UNC Law) worked directly with Mr. Williams in his recent study and article on racial profiling in NC traffic stops: Racial Profiling in North Carolina: Racial Disparities in Traffic Stops, 2000 to 2011 (PDF).

Cassandra Stubbs at the Center's 2012 Summer Speaker Series

Cassandra Stubbs of the ACLU Capital Punishment Project also talked about her work under the Racial Justice Act, including data collection on death penalty racial disparities and litigation. She spoke about the Marcus Robinson case, the first hearing under the Racial Justice Act, as well the impact that recent changes to the Act will have on victims of racial discrimination. Capital Defender Cait Fenhagen discussed defending indigent capital clients in North Carolina. She served as a public defender in Orange County and now coordinates indigent representation for capital cases across North Carolina, as well as serving as counsel in those cases. Both Cassandra and Cait talked about their career paths and the broad range of challenges of representing indigent criminal defendants in the racist criminal justice system.

Dhamian Blue at the Speakers Series

Dhamian Blue of Blue, Stephens, and Fellers advised the interns to take initiative and continue to study new areas of law as a means of expanding their legal skills and ability to make change. Dhamian represents clients in civil rights, complex commercial litigation, and federal criminal cases. All these speakers provided unique insights into the state criminal justice system that provided our interns with important context for the experiences in state and federal civil rights law they received this summer.

Carlos Mahoney of Glenn, Mills, Fisher, Mahoney discussed the challenges and rewards of practicing civil rights law in a small private firm. Carlos talked about representing victims of police misconduct and employment discrimination, and the importance of ensuring that such individuals have access to the courts. Carlos also discussed the range of roles social justice lawyers can play in the community, highlighting his service on the boards of both the North Carolina and national American Civil Liberties Union, as well as the NC Prisoner Legal Services.

2012 Summer Speakers Series with former fellow Diane Standeart, interns Harriet Huell, Jennifer Marsh

The Summer Speaker series always includes a lunch with former Center interns and fellows. This year, we were joined by Diane Standaert, former summer intern and 2006-08 Community Development Fellow, as well as Harriet Huell and Jennifer Marsh, who were both 2008 summer interns. Diane is now Legislative Counsel at Center for Responsible Lending and works with state and national partners to promote equitable and effective lending practices. Harriet is Junior Associate at The Banks Law Firm in Durham, N.C. representing housing authorities seeking to build affordable housing in North and South Carolina. Jennifer has served as a social justice attorney in many capacities, including heading studies pursuant to the Racial Justice Act and most recently, as the NC NAACP's Legal Redress Coordinator. Jennifer, Harriet, and Diane spoke about how their work with the Center during and after law school that put them on the path to become practicing civil rights attorneys. Both of the Center's current Attorney-Fellows, Peter Gilbert and Taiyyaba Qureshi, as well as incoming Community Development Attorney-Fellow Bethan Eynon, were also Center summer interns.

Summer Intern Kelly Anderson (2L, UNC Law) commented on the Summer Speaker Series: "I found it inspiring to listen to the stories of so many lawyers who have developed innovative ways of doing civil rights work and dedicated large portions of their careers to serving the public. I don't think that many law students and young lawyers realize how easy it is to integrate some aspect of public service into a career. It was refreshing to hear stories of lawyers who were interested in civil rights work and were able to incorporate it into their practice, but were still able to dedicate time to other areas of law that they were interested in. This gives me great hope for the future of civil rights law and reinforces my desire to continue incorporating civil rights work into my legal career."

We thank all our speakers for their time this summer and for their continuing commitment to social justice work in North Carolina.

The Center will also continue its "Race and the Law" series at UNC Law School this year, hosting speakers for monthly lunchtime meetings on civil rights issues in North Carolina. Keep updated here and on the website.

Posted by Mark Dorosin on Mon. August 20, 2012 10:00 AM
Categories: Law Students, Professional Development, Race and the Law Series
UNC School of Law | Van Hecke-Wettach Hall | 160 Ridge Road, CB #3380 | Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3380 | 919.962.5106

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