Director of the Civil Rights and Transparency Clinic
Areas of Interest: Administrative Law, Clinical Legal Education, Civic Procedure, Civil Liberties, Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Disability Rights, Fair Housing, Federal Courts, First Amendment, Freedom of the Press, Legislation, Property
Links: SSRN, Curriculum Vitae
524 O'Brian Hall, North Campus
Buffalo, NY 14260-1100
Professor Heather Abraham directs the Civil Rights & Transparency Clinic, a litigation clinic dedicated to advancing civil rights, civil liberties, government transparency, and freedom of the press.
Her expertise includes clinical legal education, civil rights, fair housing, and access to justice. Her recently published article in the Yale Law & Policy Review, Fair Housing’s Third Act: American Tragedy or Triumph?, explores legal mechanisms that would enhance local accountability in the struggle to desegregate America’s most racially segregated cities. With the heart of a movement lawyer, Professor Abraham seeks to use her legal expertise and clinical work to implement reform at the local, state, and national levels.
Professor Abraham believes in the transformative power of experiential learning, especially in the practice of law. Her approach to teaching is to ask hard questions about how the legal system instills and reinforces injustice. Within that framework, she pushes her students to think deeply about the societal impact of the law and their role as attorneys in shaping it. Her seminars challenge students to identify whether impact litigation is an effective tool for social change, and how it might be combined with other tools to effect broader societal reform. In the classroom and through case work, she presses students to be anti-racist, culturally competent, and trauma-informed attorneys who can open the doors of access to justice for all. In the Civil Rights & Transparency Clinic, Professor Abraham promotes four primary learning objectives for every student attorney who joins the clinic: building confidence, forming individualized lawyering identities, inspiring a growth mindset that incorporates routine reflection, and developing practical lawyering skills from interviewing a client to writing a cogent and persuasive legal brief.
Professor Abraham previously taught at Georgetown Law, where she was a Supervising Attorney in the Civil Rights Clinic, a full-time immersion clinic. She also participated in Georgetown Law’s top-ranked clinical teaching fellowship program, which is uniquely designed to steep clinicians in the foundations of clinical pedagogy. She began her legal career as a judicial clerk in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan for U.S. District Judges Gordon J. Quist and Robert J. Jonker, then clerked for the Hon. Richard A. Griffin of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. In the federal courts, she gained a wide breadth of exposure to litigation, working on over four hundred civil and criminal cases at all stages of litigation, in addition to appeals from administrative agencies on a host of matters from whistleblower complaints to immigration appeals.
In 2016, Professor Abraham crowdfunded an innovative public interest fellowship through Equal Justice Works to combat rural homelessness and housing discrimination. In that role, she defended low-income clients against unlawful evictions. She also built a resilient coalition of public and private partners to launch a restorative, problem-solving “Community Outreach Court,” to mitigate the collateral consequences of conviction and break the debtor’s prison cycle that traps many low-income individuals. In 2018, the Michigan Courts honored Professor Abraham with the Robert P. Griffin award for her contributions to the judicial system. The program continues successfully today.
She has spent her life engaged in public affairs, working on political campaigns at nearly all levels of government. Early in her career, she worked in the U.S. Senate as a legislative staff member and served in the U.S. Peace Corps in Guatemala, where she helped rebuild the post-civil war municipal government in a rural northwest community in Huehuetenango.
Professor Abraham earned her J.D. and Master of Public Policy in housing and community development from the University of Minnesota and LL.M. from Georgetown Law.