Rachel will be working in Fall 2013 for the Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) in San Francisco. CJA uses civil litigation to hold perpetrators of international crimes accountable in U.S. courts as well as in the Spanish national court. They utilize a survivor-centered approach that includes legal representation and medical/social services in order to provide holistic healing and empowerment to those who have suffered torture and other severe human rights abuses. A relatively young organization, CJA was founded in 1998 through the support of Amnesty International and the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture.
The individuals represented by CJA have suffered unimaginable atrocities and are victims of horrific crimes for which they are unable to receive redress in their home countries. Many are members of minority ethnic groups that have historically been subjected to violence and oppression in their home countries. Unable to receive justice through their own domestic legal systems, they represent various underserved communities.
The impact of CJA’s work extends past the individuals represented by CJA attorneys and into the community at large. The precedential nature of CJA’s cases has helped to develop human rights jurisprudence. For example, CJA filed Doe v. Constant, which resulted in a $19 million judgment and the first ever ruling by a U.S. court that the systematic use of rape against a civilian population constituted torture. Cabello v. Fernandez Larios resulted in the first jury verdict for crimes against humanity in the United States, and Ahmed v. Magan was the first time any court found a member of the brutal Somali NSS under the Siad Barre regime liable for human rights violations. As one client, Dr. Juan Romagoza Arce, says: “Being involved in this case, confronting the Generals with these terrible facts – that’s the best possible therapy a torture survivor could have.”
Elysia spent her summer as a legal intern for the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project in Jordan. As a legal intern, she gained hands-on field experience working with vulnerable refugee populations. In Amman, Jordan, she conducted intake interviews with refugees, collected documents and assisted casework for USCIS and IOM appeals, UNHCR expedites, I-130s, Special Immigrant Visas and Direct Access Program applications and request for review. In addition to working closely with regional NGOs, IOM and UNHCR to improve referral and review systems, she conducted legal research and drafted immigration law memoranda.
This summer, Darcy will be working at the New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG) in their LGBT Law Project where she will help to provide low-income LGBT New Yorkers with quality free civil legal services. Last year alone, NYLAG served more than 57,000 vulnerable New Yorkers. Among other things, Darcy will have a chance to work on issues surrounding Family and Supreme Court matters (including orders of protection, custody, visitation), name changes, succession claims in housing, discrimination claims based on gender identity or sexual orientation, employment matters, and document preparation (Advanced Directives, Power of Attorney, Last Will and Testament). Darcy will maintain and update client files, conduct intakes, and assist with drafting and filing client documents. Additionally, Darcy hopes to have the opportunity to engage in coalition-building and community organizing with other LGBT advocacy groups throughout New York City. As a law student interested in social justice and community lawyering, Darcy is excited to have the chance to develop her legal skills while continuing to learn the myriad of ways in which the law can serve to protect and support people in vulnerable communities. Without access to quality legal services, people who are particularly vulnerable to institutional violence face immeasurable barriers to receiving the benefits and protection they deserve. Darcy’s goal at NYLAG is to engage in advocacy that increases access to quality services while gaining essential knowledge and skills that she can take with her as she continues to grow as a social justice lawyer.