Excerpt from End of Year Journal: Constitutional Litigation Clinic
May 01, 2012
Who knew that an opportunity to work on actual cases with actual clients would turn into such a life lesson? There are three things that I am walking out of the OJPC Clinic with: 1) a true understanding of REDEMPTION, 2) a belief that I can take charge and be a leader, and 3) a better understanding of defending the poor and underrepresented. David drills in our head why there needs to be redemption for everyone. I thought I knew what redemption was. My aunts and pastor preached it to me every day. But I got it from a totally different perspective working under David. In our society it is not very easy to find forgiveness for individuals who have committed a crime. People did not understand why we were fighting for the rights of a convicted murderer. But David showed us the human side of these individuals. He taught us the importance of everyone having a voice. I would never have thought that I would become friends with a death row inmate. It has been this experience that has allowed me to see the other side of the death penalty and our criminal justice system.
I also walked away with a renewed belief that I could be a leader. So much encouragement came from David. There were times I didn’t think my opinion mattered or I felt as if I didn’t have the right words to voice my opinion. But I learned to be myself. When I started being myself is when I truly began to learn and flourish in the clinic. I began to put the pieces together and feel as if I was an asset to the group. Today, I hold tightly to this belief. It is slowly shaping my future and allowing me to make the tough decisions I need to move forward with my life.
I have always known that I wanted to help the poor once I graduated from law school. However, I never knew the magnitude of this undertaking. Where I come from I only saw one aspect of the legal arena- young African American males being locked up and tried without adequate representation. I heard the stories of being represented by a “public pretender.” I watched as the men in my community were being carted off for five to ten years. This experience showed me that the need does not end when the trial is over. I have learned that there is so much needed. My eyes were opened to the need of prison litigation, sentencing reformation, recidivism prevention, and so much more. I had no idea that a person with a record would have to fight to obtain certain licensing. I had no idea that there was a genuine need for attorneys to help prisoners fight for medical attention. I had no idea something as sacred as the right to practice your religious beliefs in prison would lead to national attention.
Who knew that the little girl from Avondale would have such an opportunity placed at her feet? Who knew that the little girl with a baby attached to her hip at 16 would be at this place in her life? Who knew that the man from New York giving a speech on applying to law school and indigent defense would become my friend and mentor? Not me, nor anyone else in my life. I could have not asked for a better experience in law school. It was the Clinic that made it really worth the journey.