Pitt Law Announces Civil Rights and Racial Justice Center

The University of Pittsburgh School of Law is pleased to announce that, with critical startup funding of $250,000 from the Eberly Foundation, it will create a new Civil Rights and Racial Justice Center to facilitate community-engaged teaching, research, and service. The center will serve as an active intellectual hub for students, faculty, and community members to collaborate on civil rights and racial justice projects. It will be a visible manifestation of the Law School's commitment to legal issues related to civil and human rights.

The center, set to begin its work in 2021, will be headquartered at Pitt Law and will be co-directed during its launch by Professor Sheila Velez Martinez, the Jack & Lovell Olender Professor of Refugee, Asylum, and Immigration Law and Director of Clinical Programs, and Professor William M. Carter, Jr. an expert on issues of civil rights and race and the law. "We are extremely fortunate to have two of the nation's foremost engaged scholars on racial and human rights issues to lead this important work. They will not only create a robust academic exchange; like our seven clinics, but will foster student’s direct engagement with the issues facing Pittsburgh and the broader Western Pennsylvania region. In all facets, it will be the living embodiment of our law school's commitment to transform our system of justice to ensure equality for all," said Pitt Law Dean Amy J. Wildermuth. 

With nearly half of the law school's faculty aligned with issues of civil rights, constitutional law, and human rights as well as the growing strengths of the university in these areas, the center will serve as a convener of efforts to advance constitutional, legislative, and regulatory protections of civil rights at the federal, state, and local levels. The centers seeks to  work closely with community partners, to serve as both a laboratory and a hub for researching and recommending solutions to be adopted by other cities and communities facing similar systemic disparities in police violence, prisons, housing, education, and health.

“I am delighted to serve as an inaugural co-Director of the Center, and I look forward to working with Professor Velez Martinez, the Law School’s faculty, students, and staff, and the broader community to advance this important work at this crucial time for civil rights and racial justice,” said Professor Carter.

“We aspire for the Center to produce critical sociolegal knowledge and to develop intellectual and experiential learning programs to cultivate a new generation of ethical advocates striving towards a legal order where equal justice for all becomes a reality,” said Professor Sheila Velez Martinez.

To kick off its work, the center is planning both a conference and speakers designed to explore the current issues in our communities. The center will also support several City of Pittsburgh entities that have requested the creation of externships for Pitt Law students to provide much-needed help on various civil rights issues, including reviewing police, housing, and prison practices.

The Eberly Foundation, a generous and long-time partner of the University of Pittsburgh, has, for the past fifty years, supported students from Southwestern Pennsylvania in furthering their educational careers beyond high school.