Established in January 2010, the Section 1983 clinic, which focuses on civil rights, allows students the rare opportunity to engage in federal litigation through the representation of clients alleging violations of constitutional rights by governmental authorities. Clinic faculty are appointed to represent pro se litigants who have filed cases before the United States District Court for the Western District. Clinic students, under the supervision of faculty, prepare the federal pleadings, conduct the investigation, defend any motions to dismiss or for summary judgment, present arguments to the court and, if the case proceeds to trial, try the case.
"I wasn't sure what to expect in the [Section] 1983 clinic, but I found it to be one of my most rewarding experiences in law school because you are truly helping the helpless. Your client is probably incarcerated, indigent, and incapable of hiring legal representation. Furthermore, his or her legal claim will most likely either be for abuse by prison staff or horrible conditions within the jail. To put it another way, you are helping a person with no other recourse, or way out, deal with issues that are imperative to their mental and physical well-being. It was a very heavy responsibility, yet I discovered it to be an ultimately rewarding endeavor."
“My time in the Section 1983 Legal Clinic gave me the confidence and experience I needed to step out into the workforce and contribute from day one. Too often the focus of a legal education is limited strictly to the doctrinal aspects of the law. A clinic legal education is vital, given the recent shifts in the economy and the need for new lawyers to not only possess a firm understanding of legal theory but also a real-world understanding of how the law is applied.
As a student in the Section 1983 Legal Clinic, I was able to utilize the skills I had learned in my first two years of law school and apply them to real cases. My teams had to evaluate facts, apply legal theory, make calculated decisions based on our assessment of the facts and law and learn how to successfully manage live cases. The most invaluable portion of this experience is that we had two experienced lawyers guiding our decisions; therefore, we were able to practice as lawyers while still learning as students.”