Pro bono lawyers are vital to the work of the Texas Civil Rights Project. Lawyers who volunteer their time to litigate cases help TCRP provide more assistance to low-income people. Despite TCRP’s large active docket, TCRP only has the resources to represent a small fraction of the people who contact us each year seeking help. TCRP simply does not have the capacity to assist every person who seeks our help with a meritorious civil rights claim. Through cooperating pro bono attorneys, TCRP hopes to expand the number of people whose civil rights will be protected.
Taking a case pro bono allows lawyers to gain experience in areas outside their normal practice. TCRP’s pro bono lawyers have handled all phases of litigation, including depositions, trials and appeals. TCRP’s experienced attorneys provide as much (or as little) assistance as pro bono lawyers need.
Below is a list of cases for which TCRP is currently seeking pro bono partners. For more information, contact Scott Medlock, TCRP’s pro bono coordinator at email@example.com
The current pro bono matters we want assistance with are:
“DREAM Act” Applications — Recent presidential action will allow undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children and have gone to college or served in the armed forces to seek deferred action immigration status. “Deferred action” allows people to avoid deportation and work legally in the U.S. Unfortunately, many “notarios” or “immigration consultants” are already moving to take advantage of low-income applicants by charging unconscionable fees to complete simple forms. Project will be attending a clinic for an afternoon or helping one eligible person to complete the paperwork necessary to apply for legal immigration status.
Due Process — Class Action: Wrongful Denial of Social Security Cards — Plaintiffs are people who the Social Security Administration wrongly denies Social Security cards to. Though these people are American citizens, the Social Security Administration has failed to process their applications for Social Security cards. As a result, the plaintiffs cannot work legally in the United States, forcing them to accept short-term, low-paying, menial jobs. The suit seeks to force the Social Security Administration to act on these people’s applications, and issue them proper documentation they are entitled to.
Education — Plaintiffs are the parents of children attending schools in low-income areas new El Paso. The school district violates the Texas Constitution by inequitably distributing school finance resources between schools in the district. For example, the district spends $9,983 per student at one high school, but only $6,471 per student at a school the plaintiffs’ children attend. The suit’s purpose is to ensure all children in the district have equality of opportunity.
Medical Parole – Client is 64-year-old Vietnam veteran, honorably discharged, and suffering from exposure to Agent Orange. He was diagnosed with serious throat cancer that had metastasized around his body. Today he has a tracheotomy tube to help breathing and another tube because he cannot swallow regular food. He is eligible for compassionate parole, but thus far has been denied release. Project is a comprehensive application for release. Deadline: ASAP. Client is seriously ill.
Prisoners’ Rights — Plaintiff is a prisoner who uses a wheelchair. To attend rehabilitation programming necessary for parole, he is forced to live at a prison with barriers making it inaccessible to people who use wheelchairs. Among many problems, the prison has no wheelchair accessible emergency exits, he cannot reach the bathroom sinks, and the outdoor recreation facilities are inaccessible.
Privacy / Religion – Amicus Brief – A district is requiring students to wear ID badges containing tracking chips that show the student’s locations. The Plaintiff is a high school student who has been threatened with expulsion because her religious beliefs prohibit her from wearing such a badge with a tracking chip. Project will be an amicus brief discussing the privacy implications of the tracking chips.
Prosecutorial Misconduct – Amicus brief – Plaintiffs are parents who were wrongly prosecuted by school district officials for homeschooling their children. Parents defeated Defendants’ pleas to the jurisdiction, and Defendants appealed. The appeal raises important issues of sovereign immunity that concern TCRP. Project would be drafting amicus brief on the sovereign immunity issue, supporting the parents.
Race Discrimination / Immigration – Amicus Brief – Plaintiffs are undocumented immigrants who were injured by officers of a private security company. The security company argues the plaintiffs’ claims are barred by the “illegal acts” rule – that because the plaintiffs are undocumented immigrants, their presence in the US is an “illegal act” barring any recovery. If the Texas Supreme Court adopted this reasoning, it could provide carte blanche to exploit and injure undocumented immigrants and non-violent protestors. (Wage and hour protections would not apply to immigrant workers, people involved in civil disobedience could be shot, etc.) An amicus brief would discuss the broader civil rights problems created by adopting this rule.
The Violence Against Women Act allows immigrant survivors of domestic violence to become legal U.S. residents. These clients were brought to the U.S. by a citizen spouse who promised to help her become a citizen through marriage. Instead, her citizen spouse uses the client’s immigration status to continue abusing her by threatening deportation if she leaves the abusive relationship. The VAWA and U-Visa application process helps these clients (and frequently their children) leave abusive homes and improve their lives.