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Civil Rights, Human Rights, and Social Justice

Emory’s location in Atlanta, one of the birthplaces of the Civil Rights Movement, makes it the perfect location for those interested in pursuing scholarship in civil rights, human rights, and social justice issues. For students, Emory Law’s curriculum ranges from traditional courses in social justice and public interest to experiences beyond the classroom. Emory Law offers extensive clinical programs, externship opportunities, practice societies, and networking with faculty and alumni who work in the field.

John Lewis Chair for Civil Rights and Social Justice

Acclaimed legal scholar and social justice advocate Darren Lenard Hutchinson is the Emory University School of Law inaugural John Lewis Chair for Civil Rights and Social Justice and the school's chief diversity officer.

Civil rights and social justice are the central focus of Hutchinson’s research, teaching, administrative work, and community engagement. He is currently the Raymond & Miriam Ehrlich Eminent Scholar at the University of Florida Levin College of Law and is widely known among legal academics and scholars in other fields for the rigor of his work and his sustained commitment to analyzing and remedying inequality.

“Throughout his years of groundbreaking research, Professor Hutchinson has explored the intersection of law, social justice, and civil rights and developed solutions to systemic failures that have impacted marginalized communities,” says Emory President Gregory L. Fenves. “His expertise aligns perfectly with Emory’s mission to serve humanity and our strategies to support social justice research and prepare the next generation of leaders." 

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Darren Hutchinson headshot
Center Spotlight

Center for Civil Rights and Social Justice

The Center for Civil Rights and Social Justice (CCRSJ) at Emory University School of Law channels the energy of late civil rights icon and Atlanta long-standing Congressman John Lewis 14H, honoring his legacy through work that keeps his spirit alive. CCRSJ supports research, policy design, educational opportunities, and community outreach at the local, state, national, and global level.

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Spotlight Event

MLK Jr. Day Lecture

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Emory University School of Law presented its annual MLK Jr. Day lecture Thursday, January 19, 2023, at 6 p.m. The speaker was Janai Nelson, president and director-counsel of the Legal Defense Fund (LDF).

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Janai Nelson at podium

The Barton Center's Policy and Legislative Advocacy Clinics

The clinics engage students to work in interdisciplinary teams to identify and research real life problems relating to children and youth and then pursue policy development strategies to improve system response, achieve better outcomes, and advance justice for children.

Policy Clinic

Lawyers who practice in the public interest face a range of choices about which issues are most salient and what measures are best adapted to accomplishing desired goals. The purpose of this clinic is to engage students in the process of policy development, from conceptualization to the drafting of concrete proposals for reform.

Legislative Advocacy Clinic

The purpose of this clinic is to engage students in the real-world process of taking a reform from the proposal stage to actual enactment. Students hone their advocacy skills by interacting with legislators and elected officials around current law reforms spearheaded by Barton and its community partners.

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Fellowships and Grants in Public Interest and Social Justice

Barton Postgraduate Law Fellowship

The Post-Graduate Child Law and Policy Fellowship is offered as a one-year position with the possibility of renewal for an additional one-year term. The Fellowship offers a unique opportunity for a recent law school graduate to gain experience in policy development, legislative advocacy, and clinical law teaching in the field of child law.

Aaron L. Buchsbaum Fellowship with Georgia Legal Services Program

This is a one-year fellowship with the Georgia Legal Services Program (GLSP) in the Savannah Office. The fellowship is funded by the Aaron L. Buchsbaum Fellowship Fund and is awarded biennially to a third-year student or alumna/alumnus from the most recent Emory Law graduating class who demonstrates an interest in public service. It is anticipated that fellows will continue with GLSP after the fellowship ends, subject to satisfactory performance and funding. The fellowship has been filled for 2021. Applications for the 2023 fellowship will be due in late Fall 2022.

Emory Public Interest Committee (EPIC) Summer Grants

Each year, EPIC and the Center for Public Service raise funds and award grants through a competitive process to students who have secured otherwise unfunded summer internships with non-profit organizations, government agencies, or judicial internships. Included in the EPIC grant process are grants funded by the Justice John Paul Stevens Foundation, EPIC, the EPIC Endowment, the Paul S. Davis EPIC Endowment, Inc., the H.A. Stephens Public Interest Endowment, the Ben and Nancy Shapiro Fund, the Stephen & Beatrice Toth Fund, and the Frank S. Alexander EPIC Summer Fellowship with Atlanta Legal Aid Society's Home Defense Program.

Advancing Environmental Justice Locally

The Turner Environmental Law Clinic provides important pro bono legal representation to individuals, community groups, and nonprofit organizations that seek to protect and restore the natural environment and promote environmental justice. Through its work, the Clinic offers students an intense, hands-on introduction to environmental law and trains the next generation of environmental attorneys.

Today, the Turner Clinic is working with Emory University faculty and staff to design a food waste to biogas anaerobic digester for Emory's campus. Utilizing "equity by design," the project seeks to design a digester that minimizes environmental justice concerns of odor, noise, air quality, and water quality for communities living near landfills. Learn more about this innovative project here. Learn more about Turner Clinic's many other legal representations regarding environmental justice here.

Looking Back: Emory v. Nash changed legal education in Georgia

In 1961, Emory University challenged segregation in Georgia’s private schools in. Ben F. Johnson, Jr. 36C 40L 05H, then the law school’s dean, and Henry L. Bowden 32C 34L 59H, chair of the Board of Trustees, led Emory’s suit against the state to overturn a state constitutional provision that voided private schools’ tax exemptions if they integrated. 

The case, Emory v. Nash, quietly opened the doors of private education in Georgia while the nation wrestled with desegregation and the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Following successful disposition of the case, Johnson worked with the faculty to recruit qualified African American students when the LSAT failed to do so at the time. Their efforts led to Pre-Start — the precursor to the Council for Legal Education Opportunity (CLEO). CLEO has led minority student recruiting to the legal field since 1968. 

Civil and Human Rights Law in the Media