Constitutional and Affirmative Litigation Externships

Explore constitutional and affirmative litigation externships:

George Kendall, Corrine Irish, and Jenay Nurse, Lecturers-in-Law (2 graded academic and 2 ungraded fieldwork credits)

This externship is only offered in the Fall semester

Course Description
In this externship, students will explore how federal constitutional rights are enforced—or not enforced—in capital and life imprisonment cases. Students will learn the procedural and substantive legal doctrines applicable to obtaining relief from an unconstitutional conviction or sentence. Students will also be assigned to work within the unique public service practice group of a commercial law firm—the Squire Patton Boggs Public Service Initiative (PSI)—where they will work on behalf of indigent clients challenging death sentences or life imprisonment. PSI adopts a strategy of broad-based advocacy on behalf of their clients that can include individual and impact litigation, policy reform, and media advocacy. Students will learn a multidimensional approach to advocacy that may include providing legal, political, record-based, and/or media/social media research; conducting fact investigation and analysis; or assisting with trial/hearing prep. Through coursework and fieldwork, students will gain an understanding of both the doctrinal and practical aspects of this important area of criminal constitutional law—often the subject of political attack—and students will also develop as advocates in challenging the harshest punishments in the country and the world.

George Kendall, who heads PSI, and PSI attorneys Corrine Irish and Jenay Nurse, will jointly teach the course and supervise fieldwork.

The Seminar
The weekly seminar will ordinarily meet at Squire’s midtown offices in Rockefeller Center on Friday from 1 p.m. to 2:50 p.m. Occasionally, the class may meet at Columbia Law School (for example, when a guest speaker’s presentation would be of interest to a large portion of the law school community). The weekly seminar will utilize court decisions, legislative activity, related research, and PSI case materials to explore how the enforcement of constitutional rights operates both in theory and in practice. The focus will be on understanding the constitutional rights implicated in the capital and serious criminal prosecutions and understanding how post-conviction doctrines facilitate or fail to facilitate their enforcement. Students will also develop advocacy skills through in-class exercises that engage students in the oral and written advocacy required of practicing attorneys and policymakers in this field.

Fieldwork
Our litigation practice focuses primarily on capital and serious criminal cases in the Southeast. Fieldwork will be devoted to indigent PSI clients, or to counsel of record or amici supporting indigent petitioners before the Supreme Court. Students will be assigned to an attorney’s case team in groups of two or three. While the exact nature of the work a particular student is involved in will vary depending on the particular needs of a case at the time, in the past, students have:

  • Assisted in jury selection research for death-penalty resentencing (we obtained reversal of original death sentence in the 11th Circuit, and the client was resentenced to life).
  • Conducted expert witness and fact witness preparation for Schlup innocence hearing in Virginia.
  • Assisted with expert witness preparation in state post-conviction hearing in death penalty case in Arkansas.
  • Prepared drafts of motions in state and federal court and petitions for certiorari in state and U.S. Supreme courts.

Travel is possible for interested students, but not a requirement of the externship.

Requirements and Application Process
Students will receive four credits: two graded credits for the weekly seminar and two ungraded credits for fieldwork. Grades for the seminar will be based upon class participation, advocacy assignments, class presentations, and the quality and timeliness of written assignments. We recommend that students take Evidence, Criminal Procedure, and/or Federal Courts prior to, or concurrently with, this course.

To apply, please complete the externship application available through LawNet. The application period can be found on the Experiential Learning home page (https://law.columbia.edu/academics/experiential). 

Any additional questions can be sent to Susan Kraham at [email protected].

Rachel Kleinman and Natasha Merle, Lecturers-in-Law (2 graded academic and 3 ungraded fieldwork credits)

Course Description
The Racial Justice Externship (RJE) will engage students in legal practice at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), the nation’s premier civil rights law organization, and in a critical examination of strategies employed to achieve racial equity and justice in two of our principal areas: economic justice and voting rights and democratic governance. LDF Students will be assigned to work on a case or matter in one of these two areas and will have an opportunity to contribute to the development and execution of comprehensive legal strategies, that may include impact litigation, policy/advocacy, strategic communications, public education and organizing. Additionally, because it is a presidential election year, all students will participate in national voter protection work organized by LDF. 

The Seminar
The weekly seminars will introduce students to multiple phases of litigation and advocacy surrounding systemic race claims, specifically in the areas of political participation and economic justice. This includes investigations of race discrimination issues, drafting of pleadings and other substantive filings, legal research and memo writing and participation in active discovery. In addition, students will develop a historical knowledge regarding the country’s foundation and the impact of this foundation on modern legal frameworks and on movements for racial justice.  

Fieldwork
Fieldwork will be performed on LDF cases or matters under the supervision of an LDF attorney or externship professor. Students are required to commit 10-15 hours per week to fieldwork and to participate in weekly meetings with their LDF Team. In addition, as part of their fieldwork, students will be provided appropriate case/matter-related public speaking opportunities and given the opportunity to travel on their cases/matters, as needed and as consistent with their academic obligations.

Important Information
The course will be limited to 8 students and will be open to JD and LL.M candidates. Students in the course are required to have taken or concurrently take Constitutional Law.

To apply, please complete the externship application available through LawNet. The application period can be found on the Experiential Learning home page (https://law.columbia.edu/academics/experiential). Prospective applicants may be contacted for an interview once all applications have been submitted.

Any additional questions can be sent to Susan Kraham at [email protected].   

Carrie DeCell, Lecturer-in-Law (2 graded academic and 3 ungraded fieldwork credits)

Course Description
The externship will center on the Knight Institute’s strategic litigation efforts to define and defend First Amendment freedoms in the digital age. Students will work in collaboration with, and under the close supervision of, experienced First Amendment lawyers. They will focus on the Knight Institute’s current litigation docket, including cases relating to public officials’ use of social media, the rights of digital journalists and researchers to investigate social media and other online platforms, government surveillance of individuals’ online speech, and restraints on speech by government employees and whistleblowers.

The Seminar
The weekly classroom component of the externship will consist of a one-hour litigation meeting and a one-hour seminar, both held at the Knight Institute’s offices in the Interchurch building, located at 475 Riverside Drive. During the weekly litigation meetings, students will engage with Knight Institute attorneys in analyzing the merits and strategic value of new cases under consideration. The weekly seminar class will provide a theoretical and doctrinal foundation for the students’ work at the Knight Institute. Students will be required to submit response papers relating to the readings for each class and be expected to participate thoughtfully and respectfully in class discussions.

Fieldwork
The externship will afford students an opportunity to work closely with Knight Institute attorneys in developing cutting-edge First Amendment challenges. Students will draft substantive research memoranda to be assigned by Knight Institute attorneys. In addition, they will participate in team meetings; conduct spot legal research; review government records and policies; and/or draft blog posts or other public communications. 

Course Evaluation
Students will be evaluated on the basis of two substantive research memoranda, or a series of memoranda collectively requiring roughly the same amount of research and writing, as well as short response papers submitted before each seminar class and attendance and participation in class discussion.

Requirements and Application Process
To apply, please complete the externship application available through LawNet. The application period can be found on the Experiential Learning home page (https://law.columbia.edu/academics/experiential). Prospective applicants may be contacted for an interview once all applications have been submitted.

Any additional questions can be sent to Susan Kraham at [email protected].

Doris Bernhardt and Steven Louis, Lecturers-in-Law (2 graded academic and 2 ungraded fieldwork credits)

Course Description
In this externship, students will gain firsthand experience working on litigation matters, transactional matters, or policy matters for the City of New York. The New York City Law Department handles the City’s litigation, offers advice and counsel to the Mayor, the City Council, and City agencies, and represents the City in development deals. In the past, students have drafted legislation, participated in development deals, drafted memoranda of law and litigation documents, including complaints and answers, joined City attorneys in meetings with government officials, and assisted at legislative hearings, depositions, or trials. Each student will be assigned to work at a division at the NYC Law Department for a minimum of 10 hours per week, working on issues such as lawsuits challenging the validity of the City’s regulatory laws; litigation in which the City is a plaintiff; economic development projects; discrimination, retaliation, or other employment-related claims; legislation and counseling; or juvenile delinquency matters.

The Seminar
In the seminar, students will explore the legal, policy, and ethical questions that New York City and its lawyers face. The seminar will include guest speakers and will focus on significant cases and issues that the New York City Law Department is handling or has handled, such as health policy, large economic development deals, and corrections reforms. The seminar will also review the structure of New York City’s government; the City’s lawmaking authority and processes; the tools available to City attorneys; how different parties both inside and outside of City government may influence City policy and practice; and the role of City lawyers in representing the City’s interests. For the final paper, each student will submit a proposal for a change in City law or policy and will present recommendations to the class.

Fieldwork
Each student will be assigned to one division for the duration of the course. Potential division assignments include:

  • Administrative Law: Represents the City in lawsuits that challenge the validity of its regulatory laws and the policies and decisions of the administrative agencies charged with carrying them out. Also brings civil actions and criminal proceedings against individuals and corporations that violate the City's regulatory requirements.
  • Affirmative Litigation: Represents the City in litigation in which the City is a plaintiff. Subject areas include commercial disputes; hazardous products claims; civil racketeering and fraud claims; nuisance and restitution claims; antitrust claims; and challenges against the State and federal governments on matters such as funding for public benefits programs and education.
  • Economic Development: Acts as the City’s business and transactional counsel for a wide range of projects that are intended to enhance the City’s economic base either by generating direct revenue for the City treasury or by strengthening the City’s tax base and general economic health.
  • Family Court: Handles the City’s juvenile delinquency prosecutions (children ages 7 to 15). The offenses prosecuted range from shoplifting and graffiti to more serious crimes such as assault, robbery, sex offenses, and homicide. Dispositions in Family Court focus on rehabilitation and providing appropriate services in addition to public safety.
  • Labor and Employment: Represents the City in federal and state court in litigation arising out of the City’s role as the employer of more than a quarter-million workers. Cases most frequently concern claims of discrimination or retaliation in violation of federal, state, or local anti-discrimination laws; First Amendment free speech rights of municipal employees; and claims by both individual City employees and unions based on collective bargaining agreements and State civil service law.
  • Legal Counsel: Provides advice to the Mayor’s Office and City agencies regarding the legal implications of policy initiatives and administrative reforms, as well as other legal matters. Reviews and assists in drafting City-sponsored proposed state and local legislation, and administrative rules proposed by City agencies.

Requirements and Application Process
To apply, please complete the externship application available through LawNet. The application period can be found on the Experiential Learning home page (https://law.columbia.edu/academics/experiential). Prospective applicants may be contacted for an interview once all applications have been submitted.

Any additional questions can be sent to Susan Kraham at [email protected].