The Constitutional Rights Clinic, first established in 1970 as the Constitutional Litigation Clinic, engages in “impact” litigation in the area of individual civil liberties and civil rights, as protected in the constitutions of the United States and the State of New Jersey. Students will be expected to research and draft briefs and other pleadings at both the trial and appellate level. Students will also engage in other professional skills, such as client interviewing, fact investigation, strategic planning, crafting legal theories, and preparing for oral arguments. Each fall on Election Day, clinic students who satisfy the third-year practice rule regularly represent in NJ Superior Court individual voters who have been denied the right to vote at the polling place.
The clinic also engages in other non-litigation projects, such as drafting proposed civil rights legislation, coordinating voter registration programs, writing detailed reports on constitutional violations, and commenting on proposed administrative regulations and governmental programs to the extent they implicate civil liberties, civil rights, and equal social justice concerns.
Topics in any particular semester will depend upon the current clinic docket, but recent major projects have included:
- initiating litigation to establish Election Day voter registration,
- providing legal counsel to the chair of the NJ Congressional Reapportionment Commission,
- bringing the first state law challenge to the use of electronic voting machines that do not produce a verifiable paper ballot, and
- successfully striking down the practice of denying state higher education financial assistance to United States citizens whose parents are undocumented immigrants.
In cooperation with the ACLU of New Jersey, the clinic regularly files 10 or more amicus curiae briefs each year in the New Jersey Supreme Court or Appellate Division on a variety of civil liberties cases. Clinic students may also work on international human rights cases in conjunction with the International Human Rights Clinic.