Brandeis Laboratory for Democracy and Citizenship

In 2014, the law school began building the Brandeis Laboratory for Democracy and Citizenship, a series of programming opportunities that make key Brandeis values part of the education process while serving the community.

This program seeks to eradicate societal barriers that exclude those who historically have had no voice in our polity and provide enlightenment to all citizens by supporting transparency of government activities.

The laboratory consists of three concepts, each with its own programming:

Brandeis Sunlight Project

This project highlights the work of Justice Brandeis through presentations, events and written materials, helping to ensure that his legacy remains central to our law school.

2016 was the centennial anniversary of Brandeis’ appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. The law school marked this anniversary with several events.

2017 is the centennial anniversary of an important zoning decision. In 1917, the United States Supreme Court struck down Louisville’s race-based zoning ordinance in a landmark case, Buchanan v. Warley. In a symposium, the law school will examine the continued impacts of this decision on racial justice.

Brandeis Human Rights Advocacy Program

The Brandeis Human Rights Advocacy Program is dedicated to advancing the human rights needs of the immigrant, noncitizen and refugee community in Louisville and throughout the region through participatory action research projects focused on educational access, language access and media rhetoric and policy and a range of community engaged events and programs.

Incoming student fellows participate through admissions scholarships and gain valuable leadership skills by working on human rights advocacy from their first day of law school to graduation. The program offers public service placement opportunities to all law students, often led by student fellows.

This collaborative policy-based program uses a unique structure in which students interact with the faculty co-directors of the program, community leaders and other immigrant rights advocates on campus and in the community as colleagues committed to a shared purpose and mission.

Brandeis Fellows

The Brandeis School of Law has supported the local Legal Aid Society and the Office of the Public Defender by providing release time to faculty members to work on cases or develop written materials to be made available to the public.

In 1908, Louis Brandeis wrote a brief in the case of Muller v. Oregon, which involved the constitutionality of Oregon’s limited working hours for women. For the first time in the history of the Supreme Court, a brief included only two or three pages of legal arguments and more than 100 pages of economics and social science research.

That model became known as the "Brandeis Brief" and was specifically adopted by the NAACP in its litigation leading to Brown v. Board of Education.

This laboratory allows students to learn how policy change and social science research interact.

In spring 2017, the law school will launch the Brandeis Impact Litigation Practicum. A small group of students will be mentored by faculty and experienced local practitioners and given the opportunity to utilize social science research in writing real-life briefs to be filed in important cases pending in state and federal appellate courts. Our students will represent clients in cases with important public policy implications, gaining experience while having a real impact on the development of the law.

Professor Cedric Powell represents the Brandeis Laboratory through his work on the University of Louisville’s Cooperative Consortium for Transdisciplinary Social Justice Research. There is an opportunity for two law students to work on transdisciplinary research teams as funded fellows.

This laboratory builds on Brandeis’ belief that "If it attains its highest usefulness, a law school … must serve not only law students, but the whole public, and this service—to the people at large—is just as important as the service to students."

In many of his opinions, Brandeis believed that state and local governments were often in the best position to establish policies that worked for their communities, and that these policies could serve as laboratories. He write in a 1932 opinion that "It is one of the happy incidents of the federal system that a single courageous state may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country."

The Laboratory for Experimentation allows students to take a legal theory they have learned in class and learn how to implement it to effect policy change.

Beginning in fall 2017, a new course, Ideas to Action: Policy Implementation, will give students the opportunity to draft policy documents and identify next steps in policy implementation.