Posted by: Katharine Brown | May 7, 2015

CCR Final Report

When you arrive in New York, it smacks you right in the face: the lights, skyscrapers, noise … it’s wonderful. Travelling across the bridge to Brooklyn, there’s a completely different vibe. It’s much less hectic and every street is an eclectic blend of different cultures and generations. Living in Crown Heights and working in Manhattan, I felt like I had the best of both worlds. I arrived in New York at the end of November, just managing to catch the end of fall, and the transition into winter when bright leaves and snow cover the streets.

Going to CCR everyday was an absolute highlight. By way of background, CCR is a non-profit organisation that uses strategic litigation and public advocacy to defend and promote human rights. It was founded by constitutional lawyers in the civil rights movement and has stayed very true to those roots. It represents progressive movements and sees its role as empowering communities via human rights law. For a staff of just over 50, CCR has an astonishing workload. In the time I was at CCR, attorneys were working on a large number of cases spanning different areas of law and jurisdictions. Over the years, its work has had a profound impact on the trajectory of American civil rights law. CCR has often been ahead of its times, arguing points of law that go on to become precedents, and weave their way into the everyday lives of Americans. Continuing with this theme, much of the work CCR does these days is focused on international accountability, both in corporate and state spheres. For example, CCR has been instrumental in pushing the boundaries of universal jurisdiction and demanding accountability for crimes committed by American corporations abroad.

In my time at CCR I was placed with the international human rights team. I worked mostly with Katie Gallagher and Maria LaHood, working on matters in US law, international criminal law and international human rights law. I mostly did legal research and also drafted letters, attended meetings, reviewed freedom of information documents and had the chance to attend a court hearing. One particular highlight was spending a week at the UN, at the general session of the Committee on NGOs. I attended on behalf of CCR for their application for consultative status. It was an incredible opportunity to see the workings of the UN in practice.

The public events hosted by CCR also stand out as highlights. Having the chance to learn about public advocacy work as well as law was a welcome surprise. The events included the premier of Waiting for Fahd, a film made by CCR, a Gitmo advocacy event that was combined with an art show, and two ‘First Wednesdays’ – a casual monthly event where members of the community come to discuss CCR’s work with the staff.

As much as the big cases and events though, I’m equally grateful for how wonderful the everyday was at CCR. I shared a big office (the Ella Baker room) with a number of other interns, where we started every morning with coffee and chats about the news. Being in the Ella Baker room gave us lots of opportunities to learn about each other’s work, and to reflect on the issues that it raised. Being right near Greenwich Village, the lunch options at CCR were amazing, and I also got to spend a lot of time amongst the shelves at the NYU bookstore.

Both personally and professionally I gained so much from the experience. Although I was sure I wanted to work on social justice issues beforehand, being at CCR gave me a much clearer picture of where I want to fit. It deepened my understanding of human rights law and movement lawyering, and also left me with incredible memories.

Thank you so much to the Castan Centre and donors for making these internships possible. And for anyone thinking about applying this year, do it!

10407729_10153600049877627_3216550830189834384_nEarly morning intern road trip to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeal in Philadelphia

10846363_10153436281117627_3777268517775253658_nBlack Lives Matter protest in downtown Manhattan following the non-indictment of the officer involved in killing Eric Garner

10885218_10153501631517627_8507236155483628623_nIce-skating on Christmas day

10926406_10153600050637627_8948029361843898516_n-2Greenwich Village – right near CCR

10929920_10153600047282627_4557485586772764905_nA street in Crown Heights on our way to work


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