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Duke Law

New Duke Law Clinic On First Amendment Planned

Duke Law is launching a new clinic this fall that focuses on the first amendment.
The “First Amendment Clinic” will be led by Professor Jefferson Powell, a U.S. Department of Justice official in the Clinton and Obama administrations according to Duke Law.
“The First Amendment is foundational to the rule of law in our democracy and in our University, so it is fitting that our students will now have the opportunity to defend these values while learning important litigation skills,” David F. Levi, the James B. Duke and Benjamin N. Duke Dean of the School of Law, says in a statement. “We are grateful to the Stanton Foundation for its vision and support and to Professor Powell for taking a leadership role. Having one of our most talented teachers and scholars lead an important new clinic is a great example of our integrated model of legal education.”

Pro-bono work for free speech representation

The Herald Sun reports that the clinic will “help media groups and people in the Southeast who need pro-bono legal help in fending off attempts to suppress or inhibit free speech.”
Law students will represent clients in litigation and provide advice to journalists over free expression concerns, according to Duke Law.
“Giving students the chance to work on an essential public problem is core to all of our clinics, so to launch a First Amendment Clinic at this time is really exciting,” Andrew Foster, clinical professor of law and director of experiential education and clinical programs, says in a statement. “The role of the press in creating an informed public is essential to democracy and it’s under threat in a way that has probably never been the case — for financial reasons, political reasons, and cultural reasons. The Law School will have the chance to bring the talents, energy, and expertise of faculty and students to bear on addressing that problem.”
Follows closure of UNC-Chapel’s Center for Civil Rights
The new Duke clinic comes just months after UNC-Chapel closed its law school’s Center for Civil Rights, according to the Herald Sun. UNC’s Board of Governors closed the Center for Civil Rights following criticisms that the center operated like that of a law firm.
“Law firms have clients,” UNC board member Joe Knott said following its closure. “Schools have students. Schools and students do one thing. Law firms and clients do another.”
For Professor Powell, he stresses the importance in promoting awareness around freedom of speech.
“There’s nothing I enjoy more than working with students to help them develop the professional and intellectual skills that will enable them to become great lawyers,” he says in a statement. “I also deeply agree with Justice Holmes’s belief that nothing in our Constitution more imperatively calls for attachment than freedom of speech and thought. To be involved in promoting awareness of, and the living out of, that constitutional commitment is humbling, exciting, and a challenge.”
Sources: Duke Law, Herald Sun

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