Mar. 20: Resistance Lawyering

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The Public Interest Law Center is delighted to invite you to “Resistance Lawyering”, a panel discussion featuring lawyers from a variety of practice areas, designed to provide students with inspiration and a model for what it looks like to lawyer against those in power.  The discussion will be moderated by Ben Wizner, Director of the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, and feature panelists Baher Azmy, Legal Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, Christina Swarns, Litigation Director of the Legal Defense Fund, Nina Perales, Vice President of Litigation for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Jennifer Dalven, Director of the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project, and Anurima Bhargava, Fellow at The Institute of Politics at Harvard University


Date: March 20, 2017

Panel discussion: 6:00pm-7:30pm, Lester Pollack Colloquium, 9th floor, Furman Hall

Reception: 7:30pm-8:30pm, Sexton Lounge, 2nd floor, Furman Hall (wine and light appetizers)


Seating is limited so please RSVP here as soon as possible, and by no later than March 17.


Participant biographies:


Moderator: Ben Wizner is the director of the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project. For nearly 15 years, he has worked at the intersection of civil liberties and national security, litigating numerous cases involving airport security policies, government watch lists, surveillance practices, targeted killing, and torture. He appears regularly in the global media, has testified before Congress, and is an adjunct professor at New York University School of Law. Since July of 2013, he has been the principal legal advisor to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Ben is a graduate of Harvard College and New York University School of Law and was a law clerk to the Hon. Stephen Reinhardt of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.


Baher Azmy is the Legal Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights. He directs all litigation and advocacy around issues related to the promotion of civil and human rights. At CCR, he has litigated cases related to discriminatory policing practices (stop and frisk), government surveillance, the rights of Guantanamo detainees, and accountability for victims of torture. Baher is currently on leave from his faculty position at Seton Hall University School of Law, where he taught Constitutional Law and directed the Civil Rights and Constitutional Litigation Clinic.  While a Clinical Law Professor, Baher represented Murat Kurnaz, a German resident of Turkish descent imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, until his release in August 2006. In addition, he litigated cases challenging police misconduct and violations of the rights of immigrants, prisoners, and the press. He has authored numerous legal briefs in the federal appeals courts and the United States Supreme Court on issues related to human rights and constitutional law, testified before Congress, and produced substantial scholarship on issues of access to justice. He is a magna cum laude graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and of NYU School of Law, where he was a Root-Tilden-Snow Public Interest Scholar.  In 2012, Baher was selected as one of the top 500 lawyers in America by Lawdragon Magazine. Baher has been published by and appeared on major media outlets including The New York Times, The Washington Post, 60 Minutes, PBS Newshour, and MSNBC.


Christina Swarns is the Director of Litigation of the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund. In this role, she oversees all aspects of LDF’s litigation in its four key practice areas: economic justice, education, political participation and criminal justice.  In that capacity, Christina conceptualizes and evaluates new cases and campaigns, reviews and edits all substantive briefs, assists with preparation for oral arguments, and provides overall supervision for the legal staff.  Christina also strategically engages the media through the development of messaging themes, press releases, talking points, letters to the editor, op-eds, and other communications vehicles.  Christina serves as Lead Counsel in the litigation of significant impact cases, including Texas v. Duane Buck (challenging a Texas death-sentence that was the product of explicit racial bias), Mumia Abu-Jamal v. Secretary (Pennsylvania death sentence for “world’s most famous death row prisoner” vacated based on improper instruction to sentencing jury), Rosales v. Quarterman (Texas capital murder conviction and death sentence vacated based on intentional discrimination in jury selection by Harris County District Attorney’s Office), Commonwealth v. Whitney (Pennsylvania death sentence vacated based on finding of “mental retardation”), Roper v. Simmons (amicus brief addressing racial discrimination in the administration of the death penalty for child offenders to support abolition of such sentences) and Wilson v. Horn (Pennsylvania capital murder conviction and death sentence vacated based on intentional discrimination in jury selection by Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office).


Nina Perales is Vice President of Litigation for MALDEF, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. In that role, Perales supervises the legal staff and litigation docket in MALDEF’s offices throughout the United States. Perales is best known for her work in voting rights, including redistricting and vote dilution cases. Her litigation has included successful statewide redistricting cases in Texas and Arizona as well as LULAC v. Perry, the Latino challenge to Texas 2003 congressional redistricting, which she led through trial and argued successfully in the U.S. Supreme Court. She also specializes in immigrants’ rights litigation, including leading cases striking down anti-immigrant laws in Farmers Branch, Texas and recovering civil damages from violent vigilantes. Perales received a Bachelor’s degree from Brown University and earned her J.D. from Columbia University School of Law.


Jennifer Dalven is the Director of the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project. In her role as Director, Jennifer oversees and directs the ACLU’s litigation, state advocacy, and communications work on issues affecting access to reproductive health services.  That work runs the gamut from legal challenges to laws that would ban abortions and shut down women’s health centers to initiatives to stop state legislatures from passing further restrictions on access to reproductive health care to communications strategies to move public opinion and galvanize supporters. Prior to becoming Director, Jennifer was a staff lawyer for more than 10 years.  In that capacity, she successfully litigated numerous reproductive rights cases around the country, including state laws denying Medicaid coverage for abortion, laws permitting health care providers to refuse to provide reproductive health services, and bans on abortion procedures.   Most notably, she argued Planned Parenthood v. Ayotte, a challenge to New Hampshire’s parental notice for abortion law, before the United States Supreme Court. Jennifer graduated magna cum laude from New York University Law School in 1995. After law school she served as a law clerk for Judge Pierre N. Leval of the U.S Court of Appeal for the Second Circuit and worked as an associate at the N.Y. law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton, and Garrison.


Anurima Bhargava is a fellow at The Institute of Politics at Harvard University.  She served as the Chief of the Educational Opportunities Section of the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice.  She led the Division’s efforts to provide equal educational opportunities for all students by enforcing federal statutes that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, national origin, sex, language status, religion and disability in schools and institutions of higher education.  Through litigation, guidance and policy, the Division addresses a broad range of issues, including school segregation; school discipline and the school to prison pipeline; harassment and bullying; sexual assault; and protecting educational access and services for English Learner, LGBT and undocumented students. She has served on numerous task forces and working groups, including the White House Task Force to Prevent Campus Sexual Assault and the Supportive School Discipline Initiative.

Prior to joining the DOJ in 2010, Bhargava served as the Director of the Education Practice at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, where she was actively engaged in litigation and advocacy to expand educational access and opportunities for students of color.   She previously worked at the New York City Department of Education and clerked in the Southern District of New York.  Prior to law school, she served as an investment banking analyst, assisted women elected to local government in India, and field directed a Congressional campaign.

Bhargava earned her law degree from Columbia Law School and graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College.  She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations; a Truman National Security Fellow; produced and regularly consults on films; and has both chaired and served on numerous boards.  She was born and raised on the south side of Chicago.