Legal questions raised by the COVID-19 pandemic are as novel as the coronavirus itself. Can a nonviolent prisoner who is at high risk for contracting the disease qualify for emergency release? Is clearing homeless encampments to avoid the spread of the virus an unconstitutional taking? Can a landlord evict a tenant who has COVID-19 on public health grounds?
Legal organizations across the country have been flooded with requests for assistance in the wake of the pandemic and their resources have been stretched thin. So, Trillium Chang, JD ’21, Taylor Evensen, JD ’21, and Olivia Flechsig, JD ’20, co-founded Stanford Law COVID Pro Bono to fill the void.
“What was missing was a way to match the legal organizations with the students. We decided to create a clearinghouse so that the two groups could find each other,” Chang says.
COVID Pro Bono operates an email listserv with volunteer opportunities from legal groups across the country, including California Rural Legal Assistance, Legal Aid Chicago, National Immigration Law Center, and Center for Workers’ Rights. The team sends out the list weekly to interested law students (812 students from law schools across the country such as Berkeley, Yale, and NYU—including more than 200 from SLS—signed up by early June).
“We have four or five partner organizations per week that are able to take a total of about 15 to 20 students,” Evensen explains. “The projects range from providing direct legal services by working hotlines, to doing complex legal research, to partnering with organizations, Stanford Medicine for one, to create informational flyers on legal rights and resources.”
And Stanford Law alums have been eager to support the program. “We have been reaching out to our alums, asking whether their organizations need any help with COVID-19 issues, and the response has been enthusiastic,” says Flechsig.
For information on how to participate, visit https://stanford.io/3bUSQWU.