Access to justice

Under the supervision of Marie Mercat-Bruns, Affiliated Professor, Sciences Po Law School.

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 during the whole school year: Marie Mercat-Bruns teaches the first semester and Lidia Bratos Shokrani and Maxime Belingheri teach the second semester with the contribution of outside speakers, researchers and practioners (psychologists, doctors, union representatives, lawyers, NGO advocates…) who work on access to justice, care facilities or in public interest law.

The field work is done in six 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, 17, 14th districts of Paris), and since 2018, in six Access to justice hubs (“point d’accès au droit”, run by NGO “Droit d’urgence”, one in the new Court House for Paris), each week for a half day, students participate in all the activities, including the meetings for legal information with citizens.
  • At the Defender of Rights (French Equality body and Ombusdman), the students discover all the actions of the institution and its different tasks in law. The students, with practice sessions, participate directly in the triage of claims and work in the different departments on law and ethics (antidiscrimination law, childrens’ rights, mediation and police investigations (brutality), alongside the professionals of the institution. They participate in the resolution of one or more claims and can contribute to proposals for legislative reform.
  • The third project assimilated to « Street Law » was launched at Saint Ouen in 2017. Its goal is to raise awareness among young students in middle school and high school in the city and residents in the town (directly interacting in the parcs, the health center, the 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 (Q & A). The students create games and simulations with the younger generations based on their own queries about the law.
  • A fourth project « En prison… » was launched in 2017-2018 with OpenLab Campus Justice supervised by H. Bellanger. It brings together law students and students from the Masters in Public Affairs. Its goal is 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 having smuggled drugs from Guyana.
  • A fifth project has been launched in 2018 on sexual mutilation in tandem with an NGO advocacy group for victims (CAM) supervised by a lawyer Choralyne Dumesnil. Regardless the type of mutilation, there are numerous effects on the health and life of the victims. In the context of critical work for a European report on the criminal analysis of sexual mutilations in France, the project considers the question of the severity of the act, the transgression it represents for European societies and the level of criminal sanctions the law provides, the cases that go to court and end up with lighter sanctions, in particular for the parents.
  • The sixth project launched in 2018 in coordination with the organization « Parmi les présents » in coordination with the Prison Administration, supervised by Jehanne de Fleurelle. The organization « Parmi les présents » (Among the present» constitutes a commitment to alternatives to prison through an experience in civil society. « Presentare people from civil society with the support of students from the clinic that share with people who have short sentences a activity : cooking, walking, cultural visits, volunteer work, fruits and vegetable farm work. The students, through their critical report, contribute and observe empirically what works in the exchange of experience : the organization recently also works with the young inmates awaiting sentences.

The six projects combine field work and empirical research on des fundamental issues of law an society.

The development of the curriculum, the pedagogical supervision and the construction of the scientific program « Access to Justice » was elaborated under supervision of  Marie Mercat-Bruns.

Former projects 

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