School is back in session, which means our fabulous summer interns have all returned to their respective universities. We were incredibly grateful to have them in the office, researching, compiling data, and helping our attorneys with their caseloads. This summer we partnered with Law for Black Lives and Community Justice Project, all organizations founded in recent years to support activists fighting for racial and economic justice. As each of our organizations strives to forge a new path for legal practices which grow with the needs of communities and movements, there has been a great deal of interest in mentorship, political education, training and leadership development. Without a centralized network or clearly defined path to become a movement lawyer, our organizations came together to develop a groundbreaking internship for law students.
Our summer fellows program began with an opening retreat in Miami June 3-5 where interns were introduced to the work of all three organizations. When they arrived on site, they were engaged in a 10-week curriculum of political education, readings, seminars, and reflections. Interns worked alongside attorneys within our organizations on a varied caseload, including advocacy, direct representation, litigation, and research. While in Detroit, our interns encountered the structural inequity of the justice system, while supporting our team in fighting tax foreclosure and gentrification, building community land trusts and worker cooperatives, challenging water shutoffs, blocking new jail construction, fighting for bail reform, and implementing new restorative justice programs. Interns were also guided to develop and deepen their understanding of movement lawyering through a curriculum of weekly readings, seminars, and reflections.
This shared program was designed to be more than an internship. As our organizations grow, we are building a pipeline for new movement lawyers to be equipped to fight alongside organizers at local and national levels. As our next open call for interns will be announced soon, we wanted to highlight some of the insights our interns from this summer shared with us as they reflected on their time at DJC.
“For such a young non-profit, I was blown away by the intensity, consistency, and authenticity that came with every single DJC project. From the structure of the organization down to the research assignments in every single practice group, it’s clear that DJC exists to radically transform Detroit. “ Taylor Dodson
“The most surprising things were systemic things happening in Detroit that I had no idea about, though I grew up very nearby and have been studying law and working in the local legal system for years.”—Katherine Olds
“After my summer internship at the Detroit Justice Center (DJC), I am convinced that Detroit’s residents are natural born revolutionaries. This summer, I got to see lawyers and activists who live the community of Detroit work relentlessly for the city of Detroit.” Shirley Rivas
“You’ve all made me realize that movement lawyering is not an amorphous, unreachable goal – it is our work, the work of DJC. You all are the movement, and I am better to have had access to observe and assist with your work.” Meredith Luneack
“I have come to understand that movements are successful when they consist of a village of people connected by more than just the work.” Leila Ullmann
“ DJC affirmed my commitment to movement lawyering work not just by showing us the fulfilling, ethical, impactful work that is done by movement lawyers, but also showing how kind and welcoming a movement lawyering community could be! It is always so heartwarming when people with good politics are also good people!”—Vishal Reddy
“...Fighting against, or with, the justice system is a battle fought uphill-- it is super discouraging and it seems that for every win there are 10 setbacks. However the human connection facilitated by DJC that happens along the way sustains the work, and I think that is their key to success. It's amazing to see the mission of DJC bleed out into this field, inspiring and changing the norms for other actors in this system alike...” Lindsay Calka