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Clinical Education at UT Law

Real Cases. Real Experience.

Civil Rights Clinic

Case Docket

Prisoners’ Exposure to Extreme Heat. The Clinic is co-counseling with attorneys at the Texas Civil Rights Project and a private law firm. We represent Texas inmates at the Pack Unit in class-action litigation challenging their exposure to conditions of extreme heat and humidity in inmate housing during the summer months. The plaintiffs are suing for injunctive and declaratory relief under the Eighth Amendment and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Clinic students are working on discovery, pre-trial motions, fact investigation, and legal research associated with the litigation.

Border Patrol Use of Excessive Force. The Clinic is co-counseling a civil rights case with attorneys at the ACLU of Texas. We represent a U.S. citizen who was subjected to excessive force by an officer of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) during a search of her vehicle in Brownsville. The Bivens lawsuit, filed in federal district court in Brownsville, alleges that the CBP official violated her Fourth Amendment rights to be free of unreasonable seizures and excessive force, and also has Federal Tort Claims Act claims. Clinic students are working on responding to a motion to dismiss, settlement negotiations, and related litigation tasks.

Abuses at Short-Term Border Patrol Facilities. The Clinic is partnering with the ACLU of Texas and the ACLU Border Rights Office to document and file administrative complaints to the Department of Homeland Security regarding rights violations and abuses at short-term U.S. Customs and Border Protection facilities at or near the border. During the summer of 2014, when there was an increase in migrant flows through the Texas-Mexico border, numerous immigrants held for a few days at these facilities reported verbal abuse, deprivation of food, and other rights violations.

Wrongful Imprisonment and Right to Counsel for the Criminally Accused. The Clinic is filing a civil rights case with attorneys at the Texas Fair Defense Project (TFDJ) and private counsel. We represent a Dallas-area resident who was arrested in one county based on a warrant from another county, jailed in violation of state law for twenty two days, and denied access to appointed counsel despite numerous requests. The warrant for his arrest was later dismissed. The lawsuit alleges that county officials violated his Fourteenth Amendment due process rights. Clinic students are finalizing the complaint and will be working on discovery and motions to dismiss, as well as settlement negotiations.

Promoting Best Practices in Defending Juveniles. The Clinic is partnering with the Texas Fair Defense Project to compile information on the standards and best practices relating to criminal representation of juveniles with mental health issues or intellectual or developmental disabilities. Specifically, the research will propose guidelines for the use of social workers at all stages of representation, and examine the outcomes of holistic representation.

Ending Immigrant Family Detention. The Clinic is partnering with MALDEF and other civil rights attorneys to advocate for the end of the Department of Homeland Security’s recently expanded practice of detaining immigrant families of women and children. Clinic students have prepared a report to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights regarding the domestic and international law violations entailed in family detention. Clinic students are also investigating and using other advocacy tools, including Public Information Act requests, administrative complaints, public relations strategies, and possible impact litigation.

Prior Cases and Projects

First Amendment Rights on the Internet. Clinic students help represent a journalist named Barrett Brown who is being prosecuted in federal court in the Northern District of Texas on a variety of charges, including computer crimes, obstruction of justice, and internet threats. The case involves Mr. Brown’s First Amendment rights to engage in journalism research using internet sources and methods, and the right of the public to share hyperlinks without fear of criminal prosecution.

Protecting Prisoners’ Free Speech Rights. In the fall of 2013, the Clinic co-counseled a civil rights case with attorneys at the Texas Civil Rights Project and the Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC). We represented Prison Legal News, a project of HRDC that publishes a monthly journal directed to prisoners informing them of legal developments in prison conditions and criminal justice. The federal court lawsuit, filed in San Antonio, alleged that Comal County Jail violated PLN’s First Amendment and procedural due process rights by banning its journal. Clinic students researched claims, prepared discovery, and interviewed prisoners.

Constitutional Rights at the Border. In the fall of 2013, the Clinic partnered with the ACLU of Texas on its Border Rights initiative. Clinic students researched legal questions including Fourth Amendment protection for searches and seizures at the border and First Amendment rights to film law enforcement. Using this research, Clinic students drafted know-your-rights materials for use by the ACLU of Texas.