Nashville Hosts Latest Voting Rights Institute to Train New Generation of Voting Rights Lawyers and Leaders

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Tomorrow, the Voting Rights Institute, a joint project of the Campaign Legal Center, the American Constitution Society (ACS) and Georgetown University Law Center, will conduct its latest voting rights training session in Nashville, Tennessee.  The ongoing Institute training sessions are helping to help meet the critical need for a new generation of voting rights lawyers, experts, and community activists. At the session, being held at the Nashville offices of Bone McAllester Norton, practitioners and law students will learn the ‘ins and outs’ of protecting the right to vote through the enforcement of voting rights laws.  A particular focus of the training will be cases brought to enforce Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution, and currently pending voting rights cases in the United States Supreme Court.  The training program will feature a panel of instructors with decades of experience in the field of voting rights.

“A key provision of the Voting Rights Act was gutted by the Supreme Court in its infamous Shelby County decision and, as a result, states and municipalities across the country have rushed to pass new laws designed to restrict who is able to vote on Election Day,” said J. Gerald Hebert, Executive Director of the Campaign Legal Center.  “Since 2013, the Voting Rights Institute has been working to train the attorneys needed to defend the right to vote wherever it is under attack.  The need for a new generation of voting rights lawyers has not been so great since President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act in 1965, but it has become very clear that, unless and until Congress restores the Voting Rights Act’s special provisions, the battle to protect every American’s right to vote must once again be waged in the courts.”

Experts in the field will provide background on the Voting Rights Act and relevant federal court cases to participants and will then focus on their experiences in voting rights cases.  Campaign Legal Center Executive Director, J. Gerald Hebert, will serve as lead instructor and will be joined by several veteran voting rights litigators and advocates.

In addition to Mr. Hebert, the Institute’s panel will include: Anita Earls (Executive Director, Southern Coalition for Social Justice), Dale Ho (Director, Voting Rights Project, ACLU), and Steven J. Mulroy (Associate Dean & Professor, University of Memphis School of Law).

Financial support for the Voting Rights Institute has been received from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund (rbf.org), Mertz Gilmore Foundation, and the Wallace Global Fund.  

Background

The Voting Rights Institute at Georgetown Law offers opportunities for students, recent graduates and fellows to engage in voting rights work, including active litigation, and will train the next generation of attorneys and expert witnesses in the field of voting rights.  The VRI will also maintain a website with information about voting rights cases and matters available to the general public, and a legal resources library for voting rights litigators and expert witnesses.  The VRI will also promote increased local and national focus on voting rights through events, publications and the development of web-based tools; and provide opportunities and platforms for research and data analysis of voting rights issues.

Voting Rights Institute training sessions held across the country since 2013 have instructed practitioners, law students and activists on the ‘ins and outs’ of protecting the right to vote through the enforcement of voting rights laws.  Cases brought to enforce Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, and the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution have been a particular focus of the trainings.  Each session has featured a panel of instructors with decades of experience in the field of voting rights.

The first students in the Voting Rights Institute are currently enrolled in Georgetown Law’s Institute of Public Representation (IPR) and are working on several cases identified by the Campaign Legal Center and the American Constitution Society.  The Institute has hired a clinical fellow to supervise students working on these cases and to manage legal matters within the Institute with a particular focus on voting rights issues.  A legal fellow will also assist in developing training materials for voting rights lawyers and leaders, overseeing use of the Voting Rights Institute website, and identifying appropriate voting rights cases for the clinic. To date, over 400 attendees representing a diverse group of attorneys, law students and voting rights activists and advocates have taken part in these activities.