Duke Law School announced Feb. 7 it will open a First Amendment Clinic to provide free legal representation to people who feel their rights have been violated.
The clinic, set to launch in August, will allow law students to work directly with clients. The clinic will be funded by the Stanton Foundation, which was founded in honor of former CBS reporter Frank Stanton and focuses on freedom of expression as one of its core issues.
Jefferson Powell, a professor at Duke Law School who will be leading the clinic, said the foundation approached the school about opening the clinic. He said the foundation and Duke University shared the same values in wanting to defend freedom of speech while teaching students.
Powell said the foundation was attracted to Duke because of its commitment to providing students with professional experience at the university, and Duke is excited because supporting the First Amendment is part of its role in the public sphere.
The clinic will essentially practice as a law office, providing advice and counsel for people with First Amendment complaints. Powell said he anticipates the clinic will be asked to comment publicly on issues regarding freedom of speech, and he hopes the clinic will earn a reputation as an important public voice.
Powell said opening this clinic is important because it speaks to a fundamental American value facing an important part in its history. He referenced arguments over who should be allowed to speak.
“The problem with saying you’re in favor of freedom of speech except for people saying things that aren’t ‘useful’ or ‘good’ is that everyone can play that game,” Powell said.
He cautioned against allowing people in power to make judgments on what type of speech is OK, and he hopes the First Amendment Law Clinic at Duke will be used by people with differing political views.
“Freedom of speech means it’s protected for everybody,” Powell said.