June 01, 2007
Thanks to the PILP Summer Stipend Program, I was able to work for the Northwest Constitutional Rights Center here in Portland. The NWCRC is a non-profit organization that strives to safeguard the rights of political activists, communities of color and immigrants through public interest litigation, advocacy and education. The Center holds the government accountable for its unconstitutional actions and works to create a just and equitable society. As the law clerk, I worked directly with the staff attorney on several projects that furthered this goal.
As part of the NW Center’s End Racial Profiling Now! Campaign, the PILP intern would assist with the development and implementation of Protect Your Rights trainings. Each PYR training is tailored for the specific needs of the community (e.g. segments of the Latino immigrant community may require bilingual trainings and materials, and often have specific questions about immigration and their rights during interactions with police). These required significant amount of research and preparation for each PYR training. I was able to
help the NW Center’s staff attorney prepare and implement the trainings, research and write answers to legal questions presented by each community, and develop educational materials.
Additionally, I helped the NW Center’s work to improve the way the Independent Police Review division and its Citizen Review Committee (CRC) investigate and review complaints of police misconduct. The NW Center has identified three priority areas for change that would improve the way the system serves Portland residents: the CRC should have (1) the power to require independent investigations into allegations of police misconduct; (2) the power to compel civilian and police officer testimony and evidence; and (3) the power to make binding decisions on whether or not police misconduct occurred. In addition to calling for such changes within the CRC, the NW Center is also pressuring city officials to contract with an independent
evaluation of the current system that would consider the priorities enumerated above as a way of strengthening police oversight and accountability. I was trained to act as an advocate for citizens filing complaints with the IPR by explaining the process of investigations and appeals, help identify and locate witnesses, write letters and respond to IPR and PPB communications about a complaint, and by ensuring respect for the rights of the complainant under the IPR protocols.
I was closely involved in the NW Center’s work to ensure respect for the rights of political activists. One of the key projects in this area is to investigate and highlight any instances where the government is unlawfully monitoring the First Amendment activities of political organizations and individuals. The NW Center has requested
information from Oregon and Federal law enforcement agencies through Oregon’s Open Records law and through the federal Freedom of Information Act on behalf of more than 20 local organizations that are politically active. If there are instances of such illegal activity, the NW Center may pursue litigation on behalf of the
affected organizations to enjoin the government from continuing such surveillance. I assisted the staff attorney in conducting legal research, writing legal memoranda, following up on requests to state and federal agencies, responding to their communications, and arguing
motions as appropriate and necessary. Moreover, the staff attorney helped defend an animal rights activist this summer in federal court, where I was able to work with her on legal research and memoranda.