Pro Bono Initiatives
Work with us on a wide variety of pro bono projects! Contact CSJ@law.wne.edu to sign up. The CSJ has created many new, in-house pro bono projects and opportunities (including trainings) for students, faculty and staff, as well as others in the community.
PRO BONO OPPORTUNITIES WITH THE CSJ
SEALING AND EXPUNGEMENT INITIATIVE
The CSJ has partnered with local grassroots organizers and cannabis-industry players to launch an ongoing sealing and expungement racial and economic justice initiative intended to address the harms caused to people of color from the war on drugs. Participants will help design and execute this semester's virtual pro bono event, assist existing clients with sealing and expunging their records, and manage communication with new clients and digital advertising.
RACIAL JUSTICE SENTENCING PROJECT(S)
Join the Center in partnership with both CPCS and several private Children and Family Law attorneys, to explore the issue of racially disparate sentencing outcomes and court involvement for people of color in our community. These projects are largely data-driven and research-based, and also involve drafting a report of findings.
CONSUMER DEBT INITIATIVE
Did you know that more than 50% of people in Hampden County neighborhoods of color have been targeted by the debt collection industry? Springfield also has the highest volume of debt cases across the state in our courts. Funded generously by the MassMutual Foundation, this program invites you to join the Center in defending consumers facing wrongful credit card collection actions. You will help interview and counsel clients, negotiate with opposing counsel, and fight for justice against the powerhouse debt collection industry while connecting clients to financial literacy and other holistic resources. You do not need to be a lawyer to argue in small claims court as an advocate so come on “down” to the virtual Court (i.e. log onto Zoom) every Friday at 10:00 a.m. and/or 2:00 p.m. to help change someone's life and their ability to get loans, rent an apartment, and provide for their family today. For questions contact Staff Attorney Jessica Marcellino at Jessica.firstname.lastname@example.org. Sign up here!
THE COST OF GUN VIOLENCE IN SPRINGFIELD
This project examines the cost of gun violence in our city in collaboration with a local activist group, Greater Springfield Nonviolence. Our research will generate a proposal to the mayor asking for changes in the allocation of anti-violence funds.
ADDRESSING RACISM AS A SOCIAL DETERMINANT OF HEALTH THROUGH RESTORATIVE RACIAL HEALING DIALOGUE
The Center was awarded a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging grant by Health New England to pilot a two-part program designed to (1) educate the WNE community about the connection between racism and health disparities, as well as the structural barriers to equity that exist across society, and (2) facilitate racial healing and relationship-building between and among our institution and the local community through healing circle conversations.
INDEPENDENT PRO BONO PROJECT
Passionate about a particular issue or have ideas about social justice? Great! Let’s figure out how you will make it a reality and go on to change the world.
SOCIAL MEDIA AND WEBSITE GURUS
We need you! Help us access the community through marketing and communications strategies designed to promote the Center’s important work to those who need it most. Available as a pro bono or student employment opportunity.
VIRTUAL COURT USER EXPERIENCE SURVEY/OBSERVATION PROJECT
A cutting-edge observation/research-based project in which the CSJ and Suffolk University Professor Benjamin Golden worked with student volunteers over winter break and spring term to understand the challenges and successes of virtual Zoom court from a self-represented litigant perspective. Volunteers observed virtual court sessions, recorded data, interviewed litigants and contributed to a report being drafted by the Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice that will attempt to change policy and practice by judges and magistrates across the state.
ACCESS TO TECHNOLOGY CENTERS
A lack of technology is the greatest barrier to access to justice in our time. Litigants now need specific technology access, applications, and capacity to “enter” the courthouse's (now virtual) front door. We are engaging students and other volunteers to be part of the solution by working on community-based technology access centers, in partnership with other system stakeholders.
GENDER AFFIRMING IDENTIFICATION PROJECT
In 2021, the CSJ launched a new initiative, which will offer pro bono legal services to Massachusetts residents who require assistance with gender-affirming name changes, birth certificate amendments, and gender marker changes.