Promoting Economic and Social Rights
HRI develops litigation models, trainings and scholarship focused on the use of comparative and international human rights law and strategies to expand state constitutional, statutory and common law protections for social and economic rights. This project builds the capacity of state litigators, legal services attorneys and other advocates around the country to incorporate international human rights strategies in their ongoing litigation and policy work focused on economic justice. As part of this initiative, HRI facilitates a BHRH Network working group on ESC rights, working with members to assess the opportunities and priorities for developing human rights strategies, scholarship and/or advocacy materials focused specifically on these rights.
This year, HRI filed two amicus briefs with the United States Supreme Court highlighting the human rights dimension of ESC rights-related cases on the Court's docket. Along with Professors Martha Davis and Margaret Woo at Northeastern University School of Law, we submitted an amicus brief in Florida, et al. v. U.S. Dep't of HHS et al., arguing in support of the constitutionality of the Medicaid expansion provision o fthe Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). The brief detailed the international community's concerns about racial disparities in U.S. health care, and described the ways in which the United States government has presented the ACA internationally as a response to those concerns.
In Fisher v. University of Texas, challenging the University of Texas' race-conscious approach to admissions decisions, HRI, through the Human Rights Clinic, along with Professor Connie de la Vega at University of San Francisco School of Law, and Neil Popovic at Sheppard, Mulin, Richter & Hampton, filed an amicus brief arguing that such measure are consistent with the United States' human rights treaty obligations as well as international practice.
Access to Justice
Persons living in poverty face a multitude of barriers in accessing the legal system. These barriers compound the impact of policies that penalize poverty status and perpetuate entrenched social inequality. In an effort to better understand these barriers and develop policy recommendations for addressing them, HRI, through the Human Rights Clinic, teamed up with the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Magdalena Sepulveda, on a project addressing access to justice by people living in poverty.
In October 2011, the Institute, in partnership with the Special Rapporteur and the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, hosted an experts’ convening at the law school focused on the topic. The convening brought together representatives of international NGOs, UN agencies and academia to brainstorm the complexities and realities which prevent people living in poverty from accessing justice. Building off of the convening, and working with Ms. Sepulveda and her researcher, a team of clinic students contributed research to the Special Rapporteur’s 2012 thematic report to the UN General Assembly on the topic, providing a human rights analysis of obstacles which prevent people living in poverty from accessing justice, and recommending measures that States should consider taking to meet their human rights obligations. Also as part of our work in this area, HRI is working to amplify the issue of access to justice for persons living in poverty in upcoming U.N. reviews of U.S. compliance with human rights treaties.
In addition, HRI collaborated with the Special Rapporteur to develop comprehensive research, analysis and case studies on the issue of participation of by persons living in poverty, on her report to the United Nations Human Rights Council in June 2013. In August, HRI and partner organizations submitted a shadow report to the UN Human Rights Committee on U.S. compliance with the ICCPR that focuses on esuring access to counsel in civil cases in the U.S.