Monday, April 18, 2016

Recipients of the 2016 CLEA Award for Excellence in a Public Interest Case or Project

Via Prof. Anju Gupta:


The CLEA Board of Directors is thrilled to announce that the Law Reform Advocacy Clinic at the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University and the University of Denver Sturm College of Law Civil Rights Clinic are the recipients of the 2016 CLEA Award for Excellence in a Public Interest Case or Project. Descriptions of their projects follow.

University of Denver Sturm College of Law, Civil Rights Clinic, Decoteau v. Raemisch

This class action lawsuit, litigated by student attorneys and professors with the University of Denver Sturm College of Law Civil Rights Clinic, as well as attorneys at the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center (CREEC), resulted in the provision of outdoor exercise for prisoners at Colorado State Penitentiary. For over twenty years, the close custody prisoners who occupy CSP – the vast majority of whom were held in conditions of solitary confinement – were only permitted to exercise in a cell similar to their living cell, with a narrow slit of a window that opened directly to the outdoors. As a result, these prisoners went months, years, or even decades without feeling the rain or sun. As a result of this case, which arose from an earlier individual lawsuit also litigated by the Civil Rights Clinic and CREEC (Anderson v. Colorado), the Colorado Department of Corrections will construct three outdoor exercise yards at CSP. The outcome in Decoteau has meaningfully contributed to the advancement of civil rights, because a group of students, their clinic professors, and a small civil rights nonprofit – along with the incarcerated men who served as named plaintiffs and constituted members of the class - took on the Colorado Department of Corrections, ultimately obtaining for some 500 prisoners the ability to exercise outdoors.

Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University, Law Reform Advocacy Clinic

The Law Reform Advocacy Clinic at the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University, under the leadership of Professor Stefan Krieger, has just completed a ground-breaking, multi-plaintiff housing discrimination litigation that lasted for over 10 years. In 2004, the clinic began work on behalf of a number of tenants on a particularly complex and disturbing discrimination matter. Over the years, the landlord of a 54-unit building near the center of Farmingdale Village neglected maintenance of the building to force out tenants, and the Village prepared a redevelopment plan for the area that displaced any remaining tenants, most of them low-income Latino laborers. The Clinic filed a Fair Housing Act case (the “Rivera” case) on behalf of nine former tenants in federal court alleging that the Village’s redevelopment plans for the building intentionally targeted Latinos and that the developer and owner acted in concert with the Village in its discriminatory plans.  The case set a number of significant precedents. Among other things, for the first time in a written opinion in a housing discrimination case, a federal court recognized that plaintiffs displaced from their community because of discrimination can be awarded damages for “loss of enjoyment of life.” The case settled prior to trial with a consent decree that was an extraordinary victory for the clients. In addition to a substantial monetary award, each plaintiff was guaranteed housing in new developments, the Village agreed to set aside housing for low- and moderate-income residents, the Village agreed that its officials will be trained in fair housing law and procedures, and the Village agreed to ongoing compliance monitoring to ensure the consent decree is being implemented. The case has significant ramifications on Long Island, where racial and ethnic tensions still run high, and where more and more local governments are enacting laws aimed at reducing the places for poor immigrants to live.

Both awards, along with the CLEA Award for Outstanding Advocate for Clinical Teachers (being awarded posthumously to Gary Palm) will be presented at the AALS luncheon at the Clinical Conference on Monday, May 2nd. The Committee received an unusually large number of outstanding nominations in the case/project category this year, and we congratulate all of the nominees on their extraordinary accomplishments.

The CLEA Board acknowledges with gratitude the efforts of the CLEA Awards Committee:

Geneva Brown (Valparaiso)
Anju Gupta, Co-Chair (Rutgers-Newark)
Perry Moriearty, Co-Chair (Minnesota)
Kele Stewart (Miami)
Jane Stoever (Irvine)

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