For nearly sixty years, legal clinics have been a mainstay of the educational experience at Cornell Law School. Now, a new First Amendment Clinic, which will launch in fall 2018, will enable Cornell Law students to work on real cases involving free speech and freedom of the press. Through its caseload and curriculum, the clinic will train diverse, young lawyers in the skills needed to become effective advocates in the field.
Led by nationally renowned experts in first amendment and constitutional law and theory and funded by the Stanton Foundation, the First Amendment Clinic will litigate and support cases that further the cause of free speech and aid the news gathering process. In addition, the clinic will conduct research, policy analysis, and advocacy, as well as sponsor free-speech-related programming aimed at the wider campus community. Although the clinic aims to make a national impact, it will give particular emphasis to cases and clients operating in upstate New York, western Pennsylvania, and eastern Ohio.
The executive director of the new clinic will be Mark Jackson ’84, one of the nation’s preeminent attorneys specializing in freedom of the press. The work of the clinic will be overseen by a steering committee composed of the following Cornell Law School faculty members who are also leading experts in the First Amendment and constitutional law: Michael Dorf, Nelson Tebbe, and Steven Shiffrin. Steering committee members will also teach classes pertinent to the clinic’s work.
“I am thrilled to be working with the law school in creating the First Amendment Clinic,” says Jackson. “As a lawyer who has spent his entire career representing journalists and news organizations, I have seen firsthand the critical role lawyers can play in defending and protecting a free and independent press-in all media-and in aiding the critical news-gathering function. The clinic will play its role, both locally and nationally, in these important issues.”
The new clinic is funded by a grant from the Stanton Foundation. With the grant, the clinic will be hiring a Stanton First Amendment Fellow, who will serve as the day-to-day supervisor of the students as well as the manager of ongoing cases. The Stanton Fellow will be an experienced litigator in the First Amendment field. They will be based at the Law School and will be responsible for monitoring ongoing cases and ensuring that the work is done in a timely and professional manner.
“Many thanks to the Stanton Foundation for making this dream a reality,” says John Blume, director of Clinical, Advocacy, and Skills Programs at the Law School. “The new First Amendment Clinic is going to be a timely addition to our already vibrant array of live-client clinical and practicum courses. We are happy that we are going to have the opportunity to promote free speech and freedom of the press in upstate New York and the surrounding region.”