A Gift of $1 Million to USF School of Law’s Racial Justice Clinic

by Sara Rinaldi, Office of Development Communications

The University of San Francisco School of Law was awarded a one million dollar gift from the Crankstart Foundation to support the Racial Justice Clinic which will expand its efforts to enforce the California Racial Justice Act. The California Racial Justice Act (RJA) aims to eliminate racial bias from the state's criminal justice system.

An advocate for education, innovation, and opportunity in the Bay Area, Crankstart is a friend and supporter of USF. Starting in 2016, the foundation helped launch a scholarship program that supports non-traditional students who are re-entering the university system in pursuit of their bachelor’s degree. In the past eight years, the foundation has helped provide over 100 tuition subsidies for scholars on their undergraduate path.

The foundation’s inaugural gift to the law school helps address systemic racism within the criminal legal system by supporting the ongoing litigation efforts of the University of San Francisco School of Law Racial Justice Clinic (RJC).

Racial Justice Clinic

Founded in 2016, the RJC focuses on high-impact, discrete projects to combat systemic racism through litigation, policy work, and training law students to be zealous advocates on behalf of clients who would otherwise have no one else. Clinic projects span a wide range of impact areas from investigating wrongful conviction claims in partnership with the San Francisco District Attorney’s Innocence Commission to representing youthful and elderly offenders seeking parole or resentencing to representing college students in disciplinary proceedings.

Crankstart’s gift provides the clinic with the support to represent incarcerated people with RJA claims, collect data and investigate racial disparities, and serve as a clearing house for RJA claims statewide by ensuring that requests for help are reviewed and referred to the appropriate organization.                 

USF Law Professor Lara Bazelon, who holds the Barnett Chair in Trial Advocacy and directs the Criminal & Juvenile and Racial Justice Clinics, applied for the grant in collaboration with grassroots organizations and USF partners Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, and Silicon Valley De-Bug.

"This funding will make all the difference," said Professor Bazelon. "It allows our zealous staff attorneys and law students to do the work necessary to get justice for clients whose cases were infected with racial bias, some of whom are on death row or serving life sentences without the possibility of parole. We are profoundly grateful to the Crankstart Foundation and to our community partners."

A Gift to Heal

Crankstart’s gift to the law school furthers the university's reach — working on laws that change people’s lives.

Alongside education, democracy ranks as a top priority and value within the family foundation, with specific objectives to support work that changes harmful and unfair criminal justice policies.

Crankstart Founder Michael Moritz said, “California enacted the Racial Justice Act to remove racial bias and discrimination from our criminal justice system, but it's just a paper promise without effective implementation. Crankstart is eagerly supporting USF's efforts to implement this landmark legislation to ensure that Californians are not sentenced or incarcerated based on their race, ethnicity, or national origin.”