Collaboration to Offer Students Dynamic Role in Social Justice Litigation
Boalt students will get a chance to recommend municipal legal strategy on pressing public interest issues as part of a unique collaboration this spring with the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office. City Attorney Dennis Herrera has announced the creation of an affirmative litigation working group designed to engage faculty and students from Boalt Hall and Yale Law School with one of the nation’s leading public law offices.
The program will provide an opportunity for students to participate in lectures and work directly with faculty and deputies from the San Francisco City Attorney’s office in researching and preparing litigation proposals for consideration by the San Francisco City Attorney. At Boalt, students will focus on the environment, education reform and youth and family issues through a weekly two-unit course Local Government in Action: Workshop on Affirmative Litigation in the City of San Francisco. Yale law students will address the areas of consumer protection for the working poor, affordable housing, voting rights, the environment, and health care.
Dean Christopher Edley applauded the innovative project. ” San Francisco’s affirmative litigation program leads the nation, and Boalt is grateful for the opportunity to participate,” he said. “Service, problem-solving, and justice constitute the noble trinity of lawyering, and Dennis Herrera and his team have put it all together. There’s no better professional exposure I could imagine for our students.”
In addition to developing public policy litigation, Boalt’s class will offer an overview of municipal law, concentrating on the role of a charter city in California, and provide instruction on the many litigation tools available to the city and county of San Francisco. Students will break into working groups examining a topic area and end the semester by presenting a litigation proposal to the City Attorney’s affirmative litigation task force. If the San Francisco City Attorney’s office decides to pursue any of the ideas developed by the working groups, students will be able to help draft the complaint and work on the case. Some students may also get the chance at summer externships with the City Attorney’s office.
“This is exactly the kind of multidisciplinary approach to legal education that Boalt seeks to foster,” observed Rick Frank, executive director of the California Center for Environmental Law & Policy. Frank, Assistant Professor Goodwin Liu, Lecturer in Residence Joan Hollinger and deputies from the City Attorney’s Office will serve as course instructors.
The San Francisco City Attorney’s office has pioneered the use of bringing lawsuits on behalf of San Francisco citizens and the nation. Recent efforts include litigation against the tobacco industry which led to reforms in marketing practices, a complaint against the gun industry for contributing to city violence and claims against the lead paint industry for creating a public nuisance in city housing.
Reflecting on the innovative program planned for next semester, Herrera observed that “the issues this working group will focus on reflect many of the same social justice imperatives that led today’s best public lawyers to practice law in the first place. I expect great results from this partnership of lawyers and law students who recognize the vital role that public law offices have to play in making the world a better place.”