The Human Rights Litigation Clinic taught by Catherine Sweetser focuses on mechanisms for human rights accountability in domestic courts. The course is designed as a mix of domestic rights work and international projects, with doctrinal teaching on some days, skills training on others, and project rounds (facilitated classroom conversations among clinic students where they discuss their project work, apply and test lawyering theory in the real world, and extract theory and practical ideas from their classmates' experiences). These three methods complement each other by giving the students a doctrinal background in human rights law; allowing students to apply that law in the context of clients and to examine how the current law does and does not obscure their clients' lived realities; and giving the students the chance to discuss with their colleagues innovative approaches to law.
In Fall 2021, the clinic has potential projects in these additional areas:
- The rights of immigrant detainees in facilities run by private prison operators, and the enforcement of federal standards at those prisons.
- Free speech rights and criminalization of protest around the world.
- The use of consumer law to stop the use of forced labor in the supply chain.
In Fall 2020, students worked on
- a Supreme Court case about child slavery in the Ivory Coast, which big chocolate companies profit from in the United States (read more here);
- Garcia v. City of Los Angeles, a federal case in the Central District of California advocating for the rights of unhoused people (read more here);
- and Cullors v. County of Los Angeles, a state court case advocating for better conditions and depopulation of the Los Angeles County Jails due to COVID-19 (watch a video of testimony collected here).
Read Student testimonials about the clinic
"Assisting the clinic's cases, which included an international human rights case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court during our semester, was the defining experience of my law school career. Working alongside litigators to discuss the merits of our arguments and case strategy has been invaluable to my legal thinking, research, and writing."
--Darren Schweitzer, Fall 2020 Clinic
“Working in the Human Rights Litigation Clinic has been an incredible experience. From being part of a team effort prepping for oral arguments in front of the highest court in the land to listening to client stories and strategizing the best way to bring their case, I've gotten a firsthand look at litigation fighting for the types of issues that inspired me to apply to law school.”
--Elena Aguirre, Fall 2020 Clinic