Justice for Trayvon Martin

Yesterday, special prosecutor Angela Corey announced that George Zimmerman is officially facing a second degree murder charge for the death of Trayvon Martin. If convicted, this charge carries the possibility of life without parole. Many feel these charges should have been brought immediately, and the racial overtones of the case have added to the public outcry. This case will undoubtedly continue to bring attention to Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law, which might make a conviction harder to obtain.

What are your thoughts on the Florida law? How do you feel about the delay in bringing charges against Mr. Zimmerman? Leave us a comment and share your thoughts.

Welcome Back

We hope everyone had a safe and enjoyable spring break! You might have missed some of the legal news last week, so here is a recap of several top stories:

  • The Supreme Court announced it will release same-day audio recordings of the arguments over the constitutionality of the health care overhaul law
  • Former Rutgers student Dharun Ravi was convicted of hate crimes, including invasion of privacy and bias intimidation, for using a webcam to spy on his roommate
  • The Justice Department civil rights division blocked a Texas law that requires voters to show photo ID at the polls because the law would disproportionately affect Hispanic voters and prevent many of them from voting

Know of any other big stories that we missed? Leave us a comment and let us know.

Discussion Panel Today: Is Affirmative Action Headed Back to the Supreme Court?

Last week, we told you that the Supreme Court would again take up the issue of considering race in admissions decisions. Today at noon, there will be a discussion panel on this very topic in the Moot Court Room. The announcement is below:

“In celebration of Black History Month, the Black Law Students’ Association and the Latino Law Student Association invite you to attend our discussion panel on the University of Texas at Austin’s use of affirmative action in its admissions policy. UT reintroduced race into its admissions process in 2003, following the Grutter v. Bollinger case. In 2008, a federal district court ruled in favor of the school’s affirmative action policy. The Fifth Circuit unanimously affirmed the decision.

The panel will consist of Prof. Bell, Prof. Conkle, Prof. Fuentes-Rohwer, and Prof. JohnsenProf. Brown will serve as the moderator. Some of the issues that will be discussed are critical mass and under-representation, whether the Supreme Court is likely to grant certiorari, how the case will likely be decided, the effect the case may have on minority groups such as African-Americans and Hispanics, and other important issues. Moot Court Room, noon.”

Admissions Decisions and Race

This week, news broke that the Supreme Court will consider race as a factor in college admissions decisions by hearing Fisher v. University of Texas–a major case involving admissions decisions at the University of Texas in which a white student alleges she was denied admission because of her race.  Several states, including California and Michigan, already do not allow race to be a factor in admissions decisions. Consider this perspective on what it might mean for higher education if race is no longer a consideration, and what a step backward such a decision would be when it comes to diverse student bodies.

Feel free to leave a comment with links to other perspectives, or provide your own.

More News for Legal Services Corp.

An Update: A few weeks ago, we told you about slashes in funds to Legal Services Corp. and the legal services jobs that would be lost as a result.  This week, good news appeared on the horizon.  President Obama has urged Congress to increase funds to LSC for fiscal year 2013.  The proposal would mean a 15.5% increase in the agency’s current budget.  The agency has requested a 35% increase for 2013, however, which means that even if President Obama’s recommendation is heard, Legal Services Corp. will still be in great need.  Still, any increase in funding means more people can receive the legal services they need.

Welcome Back

Welcome back and happy 2012 from the PILF Board. The blog will be back in full swing next week–we’ll look ahead at this semester’s PILF events and provide an update on public interest opportunities here at the law school.

Until then, if you’re looking for a way to unwind after the first day of classes, check out HBO’s documentary Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory, which premieres tonight at 9pm.  This film conclude’s HBO’s series on the West Memphis 3 case. Equal Justice USA even has suggestions on how to host a watch party, ways to generate discussion after the film, and information on what you can do to support the West Memphis 3.

Have a great first day of classes!

Movie Night, Law School Style

Now that the semester is winding down and we’re fast approaching finals season, we’d like to offer a suggestion for inspiration/relaxation.  There are numerous films and documentaries featuring public interest lawyers, public interest cases, and other influential members of the law community; taking a few hours off from studying and learning more about inspiring members of our profession might be a good way to spend an evening between now and finals.

The William S. Boyd School of Law hosted a public interest film festival earlier this year featuring 4 films worth checking out: American Idealist: The Story of Sargent ShriverCruz Reynoso: Sowing the Seeds of Justice, Chrisholm ’72: Unbought & Unbossed, and Soul of Justice: Thelton Henderson’s American Journey.  Another inspiring film, Crime After Crime details the work of two lawyers who worked pro bono to see that justice was served.  Conviction, starring Hilary Swank, is based on the true story of Betty Anne Waters who put herself through law school in an attempt to free her wrongly incarcerated brother.  The HBO documentary Hot Coffee is also a great watch and attempts to reveal what really happened to Stella Liebeck, the Albuquerque woman who spilled coffee on herself and sued McDonald’s.

After you’ve grabbed your friends and some popcorn for an evening of law-related film, feel free to play critic and let us know what you think.

Unique Volunteering Opportunity

AIM is a non-profit arm of the Indiana Juvenile Justice Task Force. They train volunteer adults to serve as mentors to teens from 13 to 18 years of age. For nearly 16 years, AIM has been providing Indiana youth a second chance. Right now, AIM is seeking new mentors. They are looking for dedicated, caring adults to serve as positive role models for youth involved in the juvenile justice system. If you would like to become a mentor, or obtain more information, please visit the website or email aimvolunteer@ifftf.org. It takes as little as 2 or 3 hours a week to make a difference in the life of a youth at risk. This is another opportunity that you can use to rack up your pro bono hours, not to mention you’ll be providing a helpful service to the youth of our Indiana community. Training and support are provided to all of volunteer mentors.


Protecting the Right to Vote

Some public interest lawyers have devoted their entire career to voting rights.  As the 2012 presidential election heats up, take a moment to think about this right: Have you consistently exercised your right to vote? Do you know your state’s voting and election laws?  How do you feel about the fact that some Americans have lost their right to vote forever?  The Brennan Center for Justice is deeply committed to this issue and even offers a state-by-state map that shows which states limit/prohibit voting after criminal convictions.  The League of Women Voters is another great (non-partisan) organization dedicated to improving our system of representative government.  These organizations are not the only one–here is a list of several organizations that address voter’s rights issues.

Is this a topic you’re passionate about?  Have any of your past work/internship experiences addressed this issue? Comment below and let us know.

Champions of Change Event

PILF and Access to Justice are co-hosting an awesome event next Thursday, Oct. 13, during lunch, location TBA.

The White House Office of Public Engagement and the US Department of Justice Access to Justice Initiative have invited the Maurer School of Law to participate in the White House Champions of Change event. More than 100 law schools are committed to tuning in; this promises to be a historic conversation about what lawyers can do to close the justice gap, and an exciting opportunity to encourage thousands of law students to step up their own pro bono efforts.

We will have more information about this event at our next club meeting, which will be next Tuesday, Oct. 11, during lunch.