Law Students Focus on Civil Rights, Add ‘Street Court’ to Alternative Spring Break

The University of Memphis Public Action Law Society (PALS), a community-focused, student-led organization, has added Street Court to its popular Alternative Spring Break.  This will mark the first time PALS has included a criminal defense track in this popular program.

The focus of this year’s event is civil rights and will run the week of March 11-15.

Mike Cody. Photo from Burch, Porter and Johnson, PLLC website.
Mike Cody. Photo from Burch, Porter and Johnson, PLLC website.

Former Attorney General of Tennessee and former United States Attorney for the Western District of Tennesee, Mike Cody, will be the keynote for an awards banquet held at the end of the week. Cody, who practices with the Burch, Porter & Johnson law firm, has a strong civil rights background.

In 1968, he worked on the legal team that represented Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. when the City of Memphis attempted to stop the sanitation workers’ march through downtown Memphis. Cody has also served on the Supreme Court Commission on Indigent Defense.

The Alternative Spring Break (ASB) is designed to serve the Memphis community while giving law students from all over the country practical legal experience.  The University of Memphis program is the only law-focused alternative spring break in the U.S. that recruits students from across the country.

This year, 48 law students from 7 law schools will participate in the program.

Supervised by practicing attorneys and leaders in the Memphis community, law students participating in Alternative Spring Break will join one of six specialized tracks, such as family law, human trafficking, criminal defense and immigration.

PALS volunteers handling intake at the 2013 Project Homeless Connect 3
PALS volunteers handling intake at the 2013 Project Homeless Connect 3

PALS added the criminal defense track to its spring break program after partnering with the Shelby County Public Defender’s Office this summer to bring Memphis its first Street Court. The effort was part of Project Homeless Connect 2, a day-long blitz of services for the city’s homeless.  PALS once again helped organize and run Street Court for Project Homeless Connect 3.

Street Court brings together a judge, law clerk, prosecutors, public defenders, and a host of law students to create a temporary court designed to expedite expungment orders and fee waivers for impoverished, low-level offenders.

“These students could very well be spending a week at the beach, but instead they are devoting their vacations to serve members of the community in need of legal help, as well as to absorb the rich civil rights history of Memphis.  They truly embody the values of the legal profession,” said Professor Christina Zawsiza, PALS faculty advisor.

Read more about this unique and powerful student-run program in this media release from the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphrys School of Law.

Immediate Release_Alternative Spring Break 2013 at Memphis Law (1)