New York, NY, July 20, 2011 … Is it constitutionally permissible to suspend a public high school teacher for making discriminatory statements on his personal Facebook wall? Does banning charities and churches from engaging in political activity violate the First Amendment? Can individuals bring legal action against the anti-Semitic and extremist Westboro Baptist Church in light of a recent Supreme Court ruling in their favor? If so, what kind of action?
These are some of the thorny civil rights questions and constitutional issues being tackled by summer associates from leading law firms across the country participating in an Anti-Defamation League (ADL) pro bono service program for young legal minds.
In the largest turnout in the program's 13-year history, more than 150 law firms from 17 cities are participating in the 2011 ADL Summer Associate Research Program, where the League partners with private law firms to provide their summer associates with an opportunity to conduct research on key civil rights issues.
The research findings are used to help shape ADL policy on local and national questions of civil rights, hate crimes, discrimination, the separation of church and state, religious freedom, the First Amendment, immigration, international law and other issues.
"These young legal minds are getting the opportunity to examine some of the critical civil rights issues of the day under the supervision of leading civil rights attorneys and litigators across the country," said Howard W. Goldstein, a New York attorney and Chair of ADL's Civil Rights Committee. "This is a win-win situation where the League benefits from the body of research and analysis produced by these law students, and the associates gain experience in grappling with challenging civil rights issues."
Throughout the summer, the summer law associates are supervised by partners within their firms and consult with the League's staff attorneys on creating a body of research on topics specified by ADL. The subjects researched by the attorneys and future attorneys arise from current events topics and other issues stemming from the League's work.
Some of the issues being researched are regional in nature – for example, in Atlanta some of the associates are looking into whether it is constitutionally permissible to prohibit noncommercial advertising on MARTA buses based on public safety grounds. Others are looking into broader national issues, such as whether a female-only swim policy at a public university would violate the establishment clause of the First Amendment, or create any problems under Title IX.
The ADL Summer Associate Research Program is active in Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Connecticut, Dallas, Denver, Florida, Houston, Los Angeles, New Jersey, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, St. Louis and Washington, D.C.
In New York City, law firms participating in the program include Blank Rome; Brown Rudnick; Cadwalader, Wickershap & Taft; Dechert; Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson; Hogan Lovells; Katten Muchin Rosenman; Kaye Scholer; O'Melveny & Myers; Proskauer Rose; Schulte Roth & Zabel; Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom; Sullivan & Cromwell; and Vinson & Elkins.
In New Jersey, participating firms include Day Pitney; Riker Danzig Scherer Hyland & Perretti; and Sills Cummis & Gross.