Civil Rights & Transparency Clinic

The Civil Rights and Transparency Clinic is a litigation clinic focused on civil rights and civil liberties, spanning constitutional liberties like free speech, privacy, due process, and statutory civil rights against discrimination.

Contact Us

Clinic Questions? Contact Heather Abraham at habraham@buffalo.edu.

Application Questions? Email law-clinic@buffalo.edu.

We have a dual mission:

  • Civil Rights & Liberties:  Advance justice by litigating to protecting individual civil rights and civil liberties
  • Transparency: Press for more transparency in government, which is essential to meaningful public accountability and democratic oversight

Our Cases: These cases are representative of the clinic’s current and future docket:

  • Federal Section 1983 action to enforce the civil rights of a female employee who was paid an unequal wage in violation of the Equal Pay Act and equal protection
  • Litigation to enforce freedom of information requests, such as requests for the government to release accurate statistics on suicides in local jails
  • Disparate impact lawsuit under the Fair Housing Act against landlords who refuse to accept vouchers in a manner that disproportionately impacts protected groups

Our Clients:  We represent a range of clients that include individual victims of civil rights violations; investigative journalists and news organizations; and grassroots, regional and national advocacy organizations. Past clients include the New York Civil Liberties Union, American Civil Liberties Union, and Amnesty International USA.

Student Engagement: This clinic is designed for you to grow into the attorney you want to be. Our clinic gives you invaluable hands-on experience practicing law, under the supportive supervision of clinical professors. You can expect to learn critical lawyering skills to become practice ready (which are increasingly on the bar exam). You will work on cutting-edge legal issues and make a positive difference. Ultimately, you will walk away with more confidence, a sense of your lawyering identity, and practical skills that an employer will value. Our student attorneys lead on all aspects of our client representations. They litigate in federal court and before agencies. An effective lawyer has a toolbox that includes more than litigation. They also engage in non-litigation advocacy like drafting white papers and policy proposals, presenting them to key decisionmakers.

Engagement/Resources Projects

Civic Engagement & Journalism Resources

Access to government records and decision making is a basic building block of democracy. The Civil Rights and Transparency Clinic supports the efforts of journalists, activists, and citizens to enforce the public’s right to know.

Supported by The Legal Clinic Fund through generous donations from the Democracy Fund, Heising-Simons Foundation, and The Klarman Family Foundation, as well as the fiscal sponsor, The Miami Foundation we:

  • Litigate to enforce public records requests at the state, local and federal government;
  • Advocate for public policy reforms to improve access to courts, public records, and open meetings; and
  • Educate journalists, citizens, and the public on their rights and how to enforce them.

Clinic Resources

Webinar: FOI Nuts and Bolts. Colton Kells ’20 Keith Jensen ’21 May 24, 2020

A training on the basics of the federal Freedom of Information Act and New York State Freedom of Information Law:

video of Freedom of Information: nuts and bolts

New York State Freedom of Information Request Template Updated June 23, 2020.

Community Trainings

The clinic works to support the investigative work and policy advocacy of local non-profits and grassroots organizations. To this end, the clinic hosts community-based trainings for professional journalists, community advocates, and activists focused on New York’s open government laws, including the Freedom of Information Law and the Open Meetings Law. Contact us to schedule a training.

External Resources

  • New York State Committee on Open Government
    A government office t is responsible for overseeing and advising with regard to the Freedom of Information Law, the Open Meetings Law and the Personal Privacy Protection Law. The committee’s website is extensive and includes thousands of opinion letters advising members of the public about how FOIL.
  • Muckrock.com
    Muckrock is an online “social” requesting platform for FOIL/FOIA. Its website contains thousands of requests and responses from people across the country that are searchable by location, agency, and keyword. For a small fee, Muckrock also provides a system to automate and manage filings requests electronically.