by Terri Taylor
Students take a break between volunteering for the New Orleans Public Defenders Office and Juvenile Regional Services. (Photo courtesy of Terri Taylor) Over spring break, 46 students participated in pro bono or community service trips. Students had the opportunity to travel to one of three places: Durham, NC; New Orleans, LA; or Montgomery, AL. Students from all class levels and degree programs participated and many met people they never would have encountered otherwise — building the GULC community and its ties to legal services providers around the country. Trips were made possible through the Office of the Dean of Students’ Student Travel Committee, whose generous support helps fund students’ travel and lodging costs.
Pro Bono Trip to New Orleans
Twenty-six students went to New Orleans: Kelsy Bennett, Elana Baurer, Shanna Bayer, Matthew Bergjans, Ashley Binetti, Jeffers Boggs, Alyssa Campbell, Diana Cohn, Mark Doss, Kathryn Dunne, LiJia Gong, Eleanor Hagan, Corinne Henneberg, Stephanie King, Lorraine Misquith, Jack Muse, AJ Pearlman, Emily Poor, Devin Prater, Sylvia Pronk, Lauren Refinetti, Rohini Singh, Daniel Smith, Elizabeth Watson, and Edward Williams.
This marked the sixth year that Georgetown Law sent a group to New Orleans. What grew out of an emergency-based trip after Hurricane Katrina hit has become a longstanding relationship between GULC and several leading legal services providers in the city, including New Orleans Public Defenders and Juvenile Regional Services. Students observed court proceedings, visited the jail on behalf of attorneys, and did a variety of research and writing assignments for their host organizations. For many students, this was the first time they’d gotten a real look into America’s criminal justice system and the pressing demands on public defenders.
Students’ favorite assignments included:
- Compiling a list of charges against a client and what their impact on a client’s case.
- Writing a memo on what states have abolished the valid court order exception to the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act’s ban on secure detention for status offenders.
- Observing an interview between a suspect and the police as a check against Miranda violations.
- Performing interviews at the jail to develop sentencing arguments.
- Transcribing a recording of a drug buy that was orchestrated by the police.
- Doing a comparative study of the time period allowed by various states to keep a juvenile in police custody.
- Developing a case theory for an attorney from the facts presented.
Testimonial by Lauren Refinetti, 1L
I worked at Juvenile Regional Services of Louisiana (JRS), which represents juveniles 12-18 in criminal cases. It was a great experience! I got to go to court one day and observe an armed robbery trial and a probation hearing. For the rest of the week, I did research on issues of detention for status offenders (juveniles charged with things that wouldn’t be a crime if they were adults, like truancy or being out past curfew). I compiled my research into two memos that the Executive Director will use to help support a bill currently before the Louisiana Legislature to eliminate secure detention for status offenders. I’m definitely looking forward to next year!
Pro Bono Trip to Montgomery
by Stephanie Madison, 1L
Student volunteers prepare for a five-mile march to the State Capitol building in Montgomery, AL to advocate for civil and immigrant rights in the state. (Photo courtesy of Terri Taylor)
Seven students traveled with Georgetown Law’s first spring break trip to Montgomery, AL, to take part in a week of civil rights work. These students included Stephanie Madison, Elizabeth Buehler, Peter Klym, Lauren Esterle, Kelly Wade, Tiffiney Carney, and Amanda Shelton.
The week was especially exciting because it marked the first time that Alabama’s long history of civil rights work met Alabama’s current struggle to protect immigrants’ rights.
The group worked with the Southern Poverty Law Center and the American Civil Liberties Union, leading civil rights organizations in Montgomery. Students paired with the Southern Poverty Law Center worked on its campaign to repeal the Hammon-Beason Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act, also known as the anti-immigrant HB 56 bill (one of the harshest immigration bills in the country). Mónica Ramirez, founder and director of SPLC’s Immigrant Women’s Initiative, was our guide to Montgomery and HB56 for the week. On our first day, we toured the Civil Rights Memorial and spoke at length with the National Lawyers Guild President David Gespass about his activism and his law school experience at D.C.’s American University.
During the week, five students in the group worked with the Southern Poverty Law Center on its campaign to reach out to Republican members of the Alabama State Legislature through community organizations. Two students in the group worked with the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama.
During the week’s evenings, students helped staff speaker events (featuring prominent figures including Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis), enjoyed barbecue, and even squeezed in a few hours studying at a local Starbucks.
Friday morning, four students in the group attended an NAACP event to speak with 21 Fulbright scholars and the General Counsel for AT&T to high school students to encourage them to pursue higher education. The remaining three worked with the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice on the last leg of the weeklong march. They walked five miles to the State Capitol building where they listened to featured speakers Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Tyrese Gibson, Martin Luther King III, UAW’s President Bob King, and Alabama Senator Hank Sanders.
Habitat Trip to North Carolina
by Kate Kelly, 2L
Thirteen students spent their spring break volunteering for Habitat for Humanity in Durham, NC. (Photo courtesy of Terri Taylor)
GULC’s Habitat for Humanity organization sent a group of 13 students (who were joined for a few days by Holly Eaton from Georgetown Law’s Office of Public Interest and Community Service) to work with the Durham, NC Habitat chapter. The group consisted of Kukui Claydon, Bruce Strong, Elena Sytcheva, Dan Curry, Neil Diskin, Yi Shi, John Weinstein, Nan Pan, Erin Hammers, Michelle Poncetta, Tyler Hale and Trevor Yan and was led by Kate Kelly.
Georgetown has participated in spring break builds in Chatham, NC, for more than ten years, but this was the first time working in the neighboring county of Durham.
This year’s projects included various stages of building, as there were three neighboring work sites. Students spent their days painting and putting up siding on houses that were mostly complete and assisting with building the framework for houses that were just getting started. In addition to working at the build sites during the day, participants explored nearby Chapel Hill at night and spent the week building campfires, and forming friendships.