We empower state and local prosecutors to protect the core rights and freedoms that define us as Americans by providing them with talent and resources to proactively enforce their residents’ legal rights.
We believe everyone has the right to fair treatment in the workplace, the marketplace, and the community. In other words, they deserve an equal opportunity to create their own destiny. Protecting these rights and freedoms is a core function of a government of, by, and for the People.
We envision a day when there is no gap between the values expressed in our laws and the lived reality of our most vulnerable communities. In order to reach that day, we seek to redefine local and state public law offices as proactive rights protectors rather than only criminal prosecutors or defense attorneys for the city, county, or state. Whether it is repairing relationships between a community and its police, seeking protections against racial discrimination in housing, or protecting low-income neighborhoods from illegal dumping and toxic water, people should be able to look to their city and state law offices to ensure their rights are protected.
Public Rights Project aims to bridge the gap between the laws in the books and what’s happening on the ground by leveraging an untapped opportunity: state and local law offices, including City Attorneys, District Attorneys, and Attorneys General. We provide critical start up capital to help these offices increase capacity and pushback against the worst excesses of the current federal administration. We seek high-leverage investments to generate sustainable impact: We look for offices ready to expand their efforts with the right influx of talent and resources, and we look for legal cases that require public enforcement to provide meaningful impact for communities.
We employ two core strategies to expand state and local capacity to proactively enforce their residents’ rights:
- Create a Pipeline for the Next Generation of Public Leaders: We send talented attorneys into our partner agencies to pursue affirmative litigation and advocacy for two years. Our fellows use their skills, knowledge and creativity to catalyze local and state agency efforts to engage the community and enforce residents’ legal rights. In return, fellows gain valuable experience in government and a pipeline into public service at the state and local level.
Strategic Engagement: We provide comprehensive technical assistance and hands-on strategic advice to our partner agencies to help prosecutors across the country shift office priorities and dramatically expand their work to new areas of law and impact:
We leverage data and civic engagement tools to help bring the civic tech revolution into the enforcement side of government service delivery.
We identify gaps in current enforcement and tailor them to the unique capabilities of our partner agencies.
We publish legal and policy research to identify new avenues for state and local prosecutors to enforce civil rights, economic justice, and environmental laws.
We engage a network of experts to offer opportunities for pro bono and low-cost partnerships with law firms, universities, and civic tech organizations.
Our model is designed to spur both short-term and long-term impact. In the short term, we provide critical start-up capital to help agencies protect more people’s rights and address the urgent need created by the current administration. In the long-term, we help grow experienced leadership at the state and local level and bring successful legal cases that can generate a sustainable return on investment: revenue for agencies to reinvest in permanent staff and additional cases.
Why States and Cities?
Rights Need Enforcement: It's not enough to get laws on the books. We need to enforce them to make them real. State and local law offices have the authority to do so but they need resources to take action.
Fill the Void Left by the Federal Government: The current administration has attacked vulnerable communities and rolled back enforcement of core civil rights, consumer rights, and environmental protection laws at the federal level. This isn't the first time. It won't be the last. We need long-term infrastructure at the state and local level to protect people’s rights.
Private Suits Are Restricted: Private and non-profit attorneys like the ACLU, Earthjustice, etc. are fighting valiantly in courts across the country. But there are many suits they cannot bring due to increasing barriers like forced arbitration.