We are community lawyers. In our legal work we collaborate closely with community organizers and grassroots groups in low-income communities because we believe that a more democratic, more just and more equal society can only truly come about through grassroots organizing and social movement. We are a part of that social movement in South Florida and strive to support organizing through our varied and often innovative legal work.
Our work in Miami is never boring. Since we are supporting organizers in a variety of social justice campaigns, our legal work includes a little of everything. We have litigated complicated high-impact cases, class actions and cases against local governments on issues of public importance, but we have also represented low-income tenants to improve conditions and preserve housing and groups of low-wage day laborers to recover stolen wages.
Formally begun in 2008 by Chuck Elsesser, Jose Javier Rodriguez and Purvi Shah, the Community Justice Project now consists of Chuck, Meena Jagannath and Alana Greer. The Project is dedicated to working with its many community partners in their efforts to organize and empower the low income communities in Miami and throughout Florida.
During the past two decades, there has been a dramatic resurgence in both the number of grassroots organizations in South Florida and their sophistication. With the growth of these organizations has come an increased capacity to utilize legal strategies in social justice campaigns. Unfortunately, the legal community has not been able to provide sufficient, sophisticated legal assistance sensitive to the needs of these organizations and their campaigns. The Community Justice Project was formed specifically to provide legal assistance to these community organizations in a manner that advances their organizing goals, obtains real benefits for their membership and is answerable to their leadership.
OUR GUIDING PRINCIPLES AND VALUES
- We believe that the structure of our legal system limits equal access to justice especially for people in poverty, minorities, and those faced with language and cultural barriers. We believe well-trained legal advocates should be available to all people regardless of economic status, and to that end we are committed to 1) training lawyers to be more aware of and skilled in addressing the needs of indigent communities; and 2) providing desperately-needed legal services to low-income & minority communities in the areas of housing, employment, public benefits, immigration, and community economic development.
- We believe that our clients are our partners—not just in name, but in leadership, control and decision-making.
- We believe in the importance of truly serving our community. We believe in being responsive to what communities determine to be their needs. We believe lawyers must ground their legal advocacy in community-based efforts and that without the strength and backing of an organized and informed community, legal gains ring hollow. As a result, we strive to work collaboratively with community-based organizations in order to shift power back to disadvantaged communities.
- We are committed to a practice of self-scrutiny in our legal work and to maintaining a conscious law practice. Both as individuals and as an organization we seek to practice law in a way that demonstrates respect, responsibility and accountability in relationship to our clients and our partner organizations. Just as we strive to undo social injustice, we work hard not to replicate or reinforce the same prejudices or stigmas that can come about where lawyers get involved, with our technical knowledge and access to resources
- Finally, we believe it is imperative to be culturally sensitive, politicized attorneys. We understand that poor communities of color face multiple and intersecting injustices and that good lawyering requires a deep understanding of race, class, and power.