Brennan Center Public Policy Advocacy Clinic - Non-Partisan Election Protection
|LW.10328 / LW.10353
Professor Lawrence Norden
Open to 3L and 2L students
Maximum of 12 fieldwork positions
The Purpose of the Brennan Clinic
The Brennan Center Public Policy Advocacy Clinic - Non-Partisan Election Protection is a semester-long fieldwork clinic designed to teach public policy reform strategies in the context of the real world campaigns that form the core of the Brennan Center’s work. The Clinic will be taught by lawyers from the Brennan Center. Recognizing that multi-strategy lawyering is increasingly necessary for dealing with societal inequities, including unjust laws and policies, the Brennan Center for Justice and the Clinical Law Program of New York University School of Law are combining efforts to promote the rigorous study of public policy advocacy. The aim is to understand and master the broad range of strategies and skills relied on by advocates seeking to change public policy.
In the fall, the Clinic’s work will be closely organized around the Brennan Center’s work with the nonpartisan Election Protection coalition, a consortium of legal, community and media organizations working to ensure that all voters have an equal opportunity to participate in the political process in 2012. Among other things, Election Protection runs telephone hotlines, 1-866-OUR-VOTE (administered by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law) and 1-888-Ve-Y-Vota (administered by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Education Fund) to provide Americans with comprehensive voter information and advice on how they can make sure their votes are counted. The work with Election Protection is more fully described in the Fieldwork section below.
The Public Policy Advocacy Seminar meets for two hours weekly in the fall. Through class discussion, exercises arising out of fieldwork, workshops, simulation, and critique, students are trained in strategies and skills to influence public policy decision-making, focusing on election law and election administration and its impact on the right to vote, and considering local, state, and national contexts. Strategies and skills may include: conducting policy analysis and research; engaging in coalition building and organizing; collecting and analyzing opinion data; drafting and negotiating laws and rules; conducting lobbying; and developing public education plans and using media effectively. The seminar will emphasize the relationship among these strategies and skills, including how they interact with public interest litigation. As in all clinics at the law school, it is expected that the study of process, grounded in actual experience in the field, will enhance students’ abilities as advocates. Students learn how to run and support policy reform campaigns by studying theory and real life examples, and by testing solutions through simulation and actual application. The seminar offers students the opportunity to examine historical and current approaches to achieving policy reform and to propose and subject to critique their own strategies for reform. As part of the seminar, students will be integrated into real-time research and analysis of policy problems and advocacy for particular solutions. Students may be asked regularly to submit short written assignments, including simulation documents, essays, reports, or other work relating to fieldwork or other policy issues.
The seminar portion of this clinic will be substantially similar to the Brennan Center Public Policy Advocacy Clinic (Spring semester). Therefore, while students may apply for either or both clinics, they will not be permitted to enroll in both.
Fieldwork at the Brennan Center for Justice
Fieldwork will center on the Brennan Center’s work with the Election Protection coalition. In 2011, the Brennan Center published Voting Law Changes in 2012, a ground breaking report that details the wave of tightening restrictions on voting in the country in the last year. More than five million Americans, particularly students, the elderly, racial and ethnic minorities and the poor, could be affected by the new restrictions, making the work of Election Protection as important as it has ever been.
The semester’s fieldwork will be broken into three parts: the first part will center on learning about Election Protection’s work and hotlines, including gaining an understanding of the kinds of issues that may occur before and on Election Day to prevent eligible citizens from gaining access to the polls and voting. During this stage of the fieldwork, students will meet with Election Protection attorneys, study relevant election administration laws, and learn about what steps (both litigation and non-litigation) attorneys can take to prevent voter suppression on Election Day, including by working pro-actively with election administrators and voter organizations in advance of Election Day. Also during this stage, students will work to promote Election Protection’s education efforts (including fighting voter suppression) through media and other outlets.
The second stage of the fieldwork will occur during the early voting period and on Election Day. Among other things, students will operate the phones for Election Protection’s hotlines, working with attorneys to respond to complaints, and collecting and analyzing the data from calls as they come in.
The final stage will follow the election, when students will have an opportunity to analyze the data from the hotlines, with an eye toward developing new policies that would increase the ability of all citizens to have their votes counted.
All students in the clinic will work on projects at the Brennan Center. Students should expect to devote substantial time, at a minimum 15 hours a week during the semester, to their fieldwork, and will also report on their fieldwork to the professors, and to the class, on a regular basis. The fieldwork projects reward investment of effort; students who dedicate more energy to their projects will learn more from the experience.
Students who wish to apply to the Public Policy Advocacy Clinic – Non-Partisan Election Protection should submit via CAMS the standard application, resume and unofficial transcript. Each applicant is urged to explain why s/he is interested in this Clinic in the application. Some applicants may be contacted during the Clinic application period for an interview with the professors, in order to evaluate fieldwork interests and explore more fully the appropriateness of the Clinic for the students' professional interests and educational goals; based on the past popularity of the Clinic, the professors may not be able to interview every applicant, and some applicants may be selected for admission to the Clinic without an interview. Please contact Mr. Ivey at 212-998-6474 or firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
Interested students might wish to contact current or former Clinic students about their work with the Brennan Center:
|2011-12 Brennan Clinic
2010-11 Brennan Clinic
* 5 credits includes 3 clinical (fieldwork) credits and 2 academic seminar credits.