Access to justice
The goal of the program Access to Justice is to foster legal empowerment of individuals and disadvantaged communities, exposed to forms of temporary or permanent exclusion in order to facilitate the removal of barriers in the resolution of their legal challenges and the vindication of their rights. Its goal is also to present law as a useful and accessible tool for citizens and individuals of all generations and a possible alternative to violence. The program seeks also to develop critical thinking of students on the effectiveness of rights talk and its variable effectiveness in certain geographical spaces and depending on the situation/status of individuals. It is open to students from the Masters in Economic Law and the Masters for Judicial Careers. The program consists of a clinical course and field work. The objective of the course is to acquire all the personal and legal skills required for the hands-on work in the field to enrich the more contextual experience.
The course is taught by Marie Mercat-Bruns in the first semester and Sofίa Auzmendi in the second semester, with the contribution of outside speakers, researchers and practioners (psychologists, doctors, union representatives, lawyers, NGO advocates etc.) who work on access to justice, care facilities or in public interest law.
Curriculum development, pedagogical supervision and scientific responsibility for the "Access to Law" program are placed under the supervision of Marie Mercat-Bruns, Affiliate Professor at Sciences Po Law School.
The Access to Justice clincial program is taught in French by:
- Marie Mercat-Bruns, course lecturer for the first semester, lecturer of the required Access to Justice course and tutor
- Sofίa Auzmendi, course lecturer for the second semester
- Hélène Bellanger, tutor
- Deirdre Jones, tutor
- Sophie Latraverse, tutor
- Noémie Nicolas, tutor
- Linda Tinio, tutor
Field work is done in seven different areas :
- In the three « Houses of law and justice » (Maisons de Justice et du droit), community legal services run by public authorities in the 10th,14th and 17th districts of Paris), and in six Access to justice hubs (“point d’accès au droit”, run by NGO “Droit d’urgence”, including one in the new Paris court house. Each week for a half day, students participate in all activities, including meetings for legal information with citizens.
- At the Defender of Rights (French Equality body and Ombusdman), students discover all actions of the institution and its different tasks as regards the law and if necessary, carry out a special mission for the Defender of Rights during the first semester. Students, through practice sessions, participate directly in the triage of claims and work in the different departments on law and ethics (anti-discrimination law, childrens’ rights, mediation and police investigations (brutality), alongside professionals of the institution. During the second semester and dispatched in the different poles, they participate in the resolution of one or more claims and can contribute to proposals for legislative reform.
- The third project « Street Law. » Its goal is to raise awareness among people of all generations (young people, migrant women etc;) in neighborhood associations (in Saint Denis), a home for isolated minors (in the 12th arrondissement in Paris), solidarity cafes and with residents in the town of Saint Ouen (directly interacting in parks, the health center, coffee shops or the market) on how to identify a legal problem, a legal issue in civil law outside of the criminal system and its logic of repression. The idea is to produce a tool box of examples in contracts, labor law or consumer law. The students create games and simulations with the younger generations based on their own queries about the law.
- A fourth project « En prison… » with OpenLab Campus Justice supervised by Hélène Bellanger. It brings together students from the Law School and the School of Public Affairs and aims to provide support for the women’s detention center in Fresnes (MAF) in the elaboration of a program to improve access to justice for the women incarcerated for drug smuggling from Guyana.
- A fifth project : Online clinic : virtual legal information platform launched in 2020 following on from the Covid-19 health crisis and the start of the first internal clinic at Sciences Po.
- Legal Action Network : This project aims to support and apprehend the construction of a litigation strategy to fight against discrimination carried out by an association created for this purpose bringing together academics, lawyers, sociologists, trade unions (scope and challenges in terms of access to rights?) as well as developing jurisprudential maps and participating in working groups that bring together practitioners and academics from an operational perspective (research-action)
- Racism and Discrimination in a Global World: support for the elaboration of policy dialogues to convince the UNESCO international coalition of inclusive and sustainable cities (ICCAR) to take stock of the challenges in the different regions and adopt best practices on the issue of racism inspired by a toolbox of innovative policies and also prepare the annual Global Forum on Racism.
The projects combine field work and empirical research on fundamental issues of law and society.