Racial Justice Clinic
The USF School of Law’s Racial Justice Clinic gives law students the opportunity to represent clients who have been adversely affected by racial discrimination. Students engage in direct representation, policy work, and collaborate with community partners, all of which provides opportunities to improve their research, writing, and oral advocacy.
Among the clinic’s key projects is a partnership with the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office to advance the office’s campaign to eradicate California’s money-bail system. The money-bail system pegs charged offenses to set amounts of bail, which are far too high for poor clients to afford. As a result, wealthy clients can bail out and poor clients cannot, regardless of whether they pose a risk of flight or a threat to the community. Under the direct supervision of attorneys from the public defender’s office, RJC students play an important role in challenging that system, which disproportionately impacts communities of color, and working to end it.
My experience in the clinic is one that I am so appreciative of. It has taught me how to communicate with clients, manage caseloads, research an array of legal issues, and work well within a team oriented environment. It challenged me in many ways, but I feel more confident and prepared going into my final year of law school.”
- Denise Watt ‘18
In addition, some RJC students are assisting death row inmate Kevin Cooper’s legal team and others are representing students of color charged with expellable offenses in campus disciplinary proceedings. These are high stakes cases in which a student’s right to continue with his or her education is at stake.
Students attend a weekly seminar together with students in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice Law Clinic. In the seminar, students learn the skills necessary to defend a criminal case from investigation to closing argument. The seminar also features guest speakers, including public defenders, private defense counsel, prosecutors, judges, and community advocates, all of whom share their expertise and engage in a discussion with the students.
Associate Professor Lara Bazelon is director of the Criminal and Juvenile Justice Law Clinic and the Racial Justice Clinic at the USF School of Law. From 2012-2015, she was a visiting associate clinical professor at Loyola Law School and the director of the Loyola Law School Project for the Innocent. Professor Bazelon was a trial attorney in the Office of the Federal Public Defender in Los Angeles for seven years. Prior to that, she was a law clerk for the Honorable Harry Pregerson on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.