Top Schools for Human Rights Law

Trying to protect human rights is one of the world’s most vexing challenges. Name a nation that hasn’t faced struggles in doing so.

Therefore, helping defend human rights around the globe has long been a vital mission of many law schools.

Here we spotlight new programs and achievements of the nation’s top schools for human rights:

  • American University Washington College of Law‘s Inter-American Human Rights Moot Court Competition lets law students participate in and observe the only trilingual (English, Spanish, and Portuguese) competition in the world that focuses on the Inter-American System. The competition challenges student competitors and human rights practitioners by engaging them in cutting-edge legal discussions concerning the Inter-American human rights legal system.
  • Georgetown University’s Center on National Security and the Law has a new innovation incubator, a problem-solving lab dedicated to finding novel, cross-sectoral solutions to complex security problems at the intersection of law, policy and society. It focuses on three areas, one being national security and human security. Problem sets include issues such as bolstering international or regional institutions to protect human rights and deliver human security, or creating ways to prevent and redress fragility, conflict and atrocities and address civilian casualties.
  • Case Western Reserve University School of Law has added a course titled “Immigration Law Practicum.” It will be taught this spring by former U.S. Immigration Court Judge Alison M. Brown. In this course, 2L students will work on appeals briefs in real cases for Brown, who has a pro bono appellate asylum and refugee practice. In their third year, the students will enroll in the school’s immigration law clinic, where they will represent asylum and refugee clients under the supervision of professor Aleksandar Cuic. The school also has launched the Yemen Accountability Project, a student initiative to document and map war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Yemeni Civil War. More than 70 students, including LL.M.s with fluency in Arabic, have volunteered to assist in the effort.
  • University of Miami School of Law’s Human Rights Clinic was awarded a Skadden Fellowship Foundation Flom Incubator Grant to document the effect of COVID-19 on the response to domestic violence in South Florida. The clinic has also worked on a number of issues with the United Nations. Associate Director Tamar Ezer and students submitted a report to the U.N. special rapporteur on adequate housing, which focused on informal settlements and homelessness in the U.S. in the context of COVID-19. They also submitted two reports to the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention — one on the discriminatory effects of U.S. drug policies and another on the shortcomings of drug courts. They also produced a report for the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women on women’s rights and drug policies.
  • Florida State University College of Law has launched the Collateral Consequences Project, an effort of the Gender and Family Justice Clinic. It focuses on issues that hamper people with criminal histories trying to reenter society. Students work on issues such as voting rights, access to housing, and employment. This summer, the clinic partnered with the Legal Empowerment and Advocacy Hub and the NYU Law Bernstein Institute for Human Rights to help train law clerks in correctional facilities.
  • UCLA School of Law has launched a Human Rights Litigation Clinic, where students help represent vulnerable populations, including incarcerated persons, unhoused persons and immigrants in detention. The clinic will also work on a U.S. Supreme Court case that attempts to hold corporations accountable for exploiting child slave labor in West Africa. During 2021, UCLA will offer a Human Rights Challenge in which students will use design thinking techniques to address human rights problems.
  • Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law’s Family Immigration Detention Clinic partnered with Lawyers for Good Government, a nonprofit that connects pro bono attorneys with asylum seekers who are stuck in Matamoros, Mexico, just across the border from Brownsville, Texas. Students interviewed homeless refugee women (primarily via email and WhatsApp) and filled out asylum applications for them.

Editor’s note: Every year, prelaw magazine looks at the top schools around the nation. For 2020, we determined the top law schools in Human Rights Law, Family Law and Health Law. This is the first of a three-part series.

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