Equal Justice For All?

Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF's Execuctive Director on September 15, 2008

Next month, Animal Legal Defense Fund staff will be meeting law students at the Equal Justice Works conference in Washington, DC. Equal Justice Works (EJW) is a pioneering organization founded by law students and dedicated to “creating a just society by mobilizing the next generation of lawyers committed to equal justice.” (That’s a mission ALDF can get behind!) But, until recently, that vision had not included the concept of justice for animals.

In 2001, when she was in law school, our own Pam Hart, now the director of ALDF’s Animal Law Program, had sought a fellowship through EJW to work to find ways to provide shelter to victims of domestic violence and their companion animals. At the time, the project was considered not focused enough on human beings.

Stephen talks with law students at the 2005 Equal Justice Works conference.Four years later, in 2005, Pam Hart and I attended the EJW conference and hosted a table for ALDF. It was the first time an animal protection group had attended. Our goal was to offer new opportunities to EJW for students whose own vision of justice included nonhuman animals. Our reception was a mix of enthusiasm from students at the event and some puzzlement from many of the other organizations in attendance.

One student, Tom Linney, had never heard of animal law before talking to us. What he heard made him very excited. So excited that he went back to his school, the University of Texas School of Law, formed a student chapter of ALDF and successfully petitioned the school to add an animal law class too.

With that kind of potential, it’s a given that ALDF will be back at EJW next month. Like EJW, ALDF is committed to mobilizing the next generation of lawyers to work for the cause of equal justice. For us, of course, that vision includes justice for nonhuman animals. Our hope is that we can provide opportunities — eventually to include paid fellowships — for those law students who share our vision.

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