Newsroom

Newsroom - June 2014

Twenty-nine summer law associates at eleven Atlanta law firms welcomed the opportunity to critically engage and deeply explore relevant civil rights legal issues on the Anti-Defamation League’s agenda as part of the 13th annual Charles F. Wittenstein Summer Associate Research Program.

Now in its 13th year, the program is named for Charles F. Wittenstein, who retired as ADL Southern Counsel and Southern Civil Rights Director after working for the ADL for 21 years. His career spanned over three decades of service to the Jewish community. In tribute to their father, his children, David & Lee Wittenstein, Robert & Susan Wittenstein, and Gary & Ruth Musicante, established this program in their father’s name. Charles Wittenstein passed away in 2013.

The law firms of Alston & Bird; Arnall Golden Gregory; Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz; Bryan Cave; Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton; King & Spalding; McKenna, Long & Aldridge; Parker, Hudson, Rainer & Dobbs; Paul Hastings; Sutherland Asbill & Brennan; and Troutman Sanders participated in the program this year.

Summer associates from each law firm produced a significant research brief on an assigned current civil rights topic that tackles questions concerning both the local and national community. “The pro bono research contributed by these firms and their summer associates is a tremendous help to The Anti-Defamation League Southeast Regional Office. They provide the leg-work to help us do our jobs better,” noted Shelley Rose, Associate Director, who coordinates the program.

The topics were engaging and timely and led to active and lively discussions. Some of the issues the law students were asked to research include: the constitutionality of “Merry Christmas” bills; whether the Navy’s recent ban on deadlocks could be considered discriminatory; the effects of the Schuette case on voter-approved bans on same-sex marriage; the constitutional challenges of so-called “anti-boycott” laws and the recently passed RFRA (Religious Freedom Religious Act) in Mississippi; the constitutionality of a police program in Montgomery that used tax-payer money to train Christian ministers to visit crime scenes with police officers; whether a search engine’s results were considered free speech; and the constitutional challenges of a school implementing a program to monitor its students’ social media accounts for instances of bullying.

The program concluded with a closing reception at Alston & Bird, where a summer associate from each firm gave a brief presentation on their findings, followed by an open discussion on the issues and questions raised by the topic. Elizabeth Finn Johnson, recipient of the 2014 ADL Elbert P. Tuttle Jurisprudence Award, gave an insightful and motivating keynote address. Her words spoke to the importance of pro bono work in her own life and the necessity of all lawyers, especially the summer associates involved in the program, to make pro bono work essential to their careers. She spoke passionately about how doing pro bono work not only makes a significant difference in the lives of those who otherwise would not have access to legal services but also in the lives of the lawyers who make time in their busy lives to help others less fortunate than themselves.

The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world’s leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.



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