Learn the Legal Ropes of Human Rights Law
Miami Law provides students with broad academic and experiential learning opportunities in the field of human rights, one of the timeliest legal areas of this day and age. Students learn to use both domestic and international law to advance the rights of individuals and communities—from our own backyard in Miami to locations across the globe. Course offerings and hands-on learning programs—including clinics, externships, fellowships and summer programs—enable students to develop their knowledge and skills working on human rights issues, both in the U.S. and abroad. Students also gain access to our deep network of human rights lawyers, advocates, and scholars. Course offerings and opportunities to work on human rights issues in the U.S. and abroad not only develop students’ knowledge and skills but also helps victims and effect change in meaningful ways. It is no wonder Miami Law was ranked as a Top 7 Law School for Human Rights Law by Pre-Law Magazine in fall 2020.
“The Human Rights Clinic was the best professional and academic experience of my law school career. As a law student, I testified at an American Bar Association Hearing on Stand Your Ground laws, traveled to Geneva to speak before the United Nations, and provided opening remarks at a hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.”
Charlotte Cassel, JD ‘14
Experiential Learning Opportunities
The Human Rights Clinic provides students with firsthand experience in cutting-edge human rights litigation and advocacy at the local, national, regional, and international levels. Students engage with the United Nations, Inter-American Court and Commission on Human Rights, European Court of Human Rights, African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights, and other tribunals. Focus areas include gender justice, racial justice and immigrant rights, and social and economic rights, including rights to food, health, and housing.
Domestic and International Projects Have Included:
“The Human Rights Clinic enabled us to prepare a well-thought out submission to the United Nations with a tight turnaround and bring attention to the critical issue of punitive drug policy’s harmful effects on a population that is often stigmatized and dehumanized. I hope to continue to use knowledge gained through the Human Rights Clinic to advocate for those who are most vulnerable in our society.”
Gita Howard, Class of 2021
Legal Affairs Intern, United Nations
New York, NY
Other Clinics and Practicums: Bankruptcy Assistance Clinic, Children and Youth Law Clinic, Environmental Justice Clinic, Health Rights Clinic, Human Rights Clinic, Immigration Clinic, Innocence Clinic, Investor Rights Clinic, D.C. Semester in Practice Program, Tenants’ Rights Clinic.
Courses / Concentrations*
Every semester the law school offers a range of human rights-related courses and seminars taught by our world-renowned faculty and visiting faculty from across the globe.
Course in International Human Rights Law: This course examines the substantial body of human rights law that has emerged in the last sixty years, following the foundational 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It covers international and regional human rights treaties, organizations, and bodies, including courts and tribunals. It will also look at practice, implementation, and domestic application of international law. Lectures and seminar style components are complemented by class exercises to facilitate analysis of practical human rights issues.
International Human Rights Law is offered as a 1L elective and as an upper level course. Students present 5-minute "TED talks" on topics in human rights law. Click here to see TED Talks from former students.
American Indian Law
“Being a part of the Human Rights Clinic honed not only my oral and written advocacy skills, but it opened my eyes to the wide-range of opportunities available to law students interested in public interest work.”
Gabrielle Wynn, J.D. ‘20
Fellow, Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs
American Constitution Society
Alliance Against Human Trafficking
American Civil Liberties Union-UM
Human Rights Society
Immigration Students Law Association
International Law Society
Inter-American Human Rights Moot Court Competition
Child Advocacy Family Law
Public Interest Leadership Board
Faculty in the Area of Human Rights
Miami Law is home to many world-renowned faculty who teach human rights courses, include human rights issues in their curriculum and/or are conducting human-rights related research. (Pictured: Faculty book, Making Sense of Human Rights by James W. Nickel, explains and defends the contemporary conception of human rights. Combining philosophical, legal and political approaches, Nickel explains international human rights law and addresses questions of justification and feasibility.)
Faculty Experts in Human Rights
- David Abraham, Professor of Law Emeritus
- Paula Arias, Lecturer in Law, Director International Moot Court Program
- Caroline Bettinger-Lopez, Professor of Law and Director of the Human Rights Clinic
- Donna K. Coker, Professor of Law
- R. Denisse Córdova Montes, Practitioner in Residence & Lecturer in Law, Human Rights Clinic
- Tamar Ezer, Lecturer in Law, Associate Director of the Human Rights Clinic
- Mary Anne Franks, Professor of Law
- Elizabeth M. Iglesias, Professor of Law
- Samantha Knights, Adjunct Faculty
- Romy Lerner, Associate Director, Immigration Clinic & Lecturer in Law
- JoNel Newman, Associate Professor of Clinical Legal Education and Director, Health Rights Clinic
- James W. Nickel, Professor of Law Emeritus
- Bernard Oxman, Richard A. Hausler Professor of Law
- Bernard P. Perlmutter, Associate Professor of Clinical Legal Education adn Co-Director, Children and Youth Law Clinic
- Ileana Porras, Senior Lecturer
- Alejandro Portes, Professor of Sociology and Law
- Stephen J. Schnably, Professor of Law
- Rebecca Sharpless, Professor of Law and Director, Immigration Clinic
- Kele Stewart, Associate Dean for Experiential Learning, Professor of Clinical Legal Education, Co-Director, Children and Youth Law Clinic
- Irwin P. Stotzky, Professor of Law
A complete faculty list and detailed bios can be found in the faculty directory.
"The courses and experiences offered at the University of Miami School of law prepared me to work on relevant, multi-faceted international law and policy issues, with a focus on health and human rights law. The International Law LL.M. programme, the Human Rights Clinic, the International moot court programme, and the HOPE Public Interest Resource Center [pictured in 2010 HOPE Namibian neutral trial observers' programm] offer students rich opportunities to understand current and complex human rights issues, and directly apply new skills through litigation, advocacy, and other tools with the support of experienced professors. For me, the experiences at UM law helped lead to a career using law and policy to work towards improving access to quality health services for vulnerable populations in lower resourced countries facing significant health challenges. UM law has much to offer those who aim to work in both international and domestic forums."
Drew Aiken, J.D./LL.M. in International Law '12 and former human rights clinic intern
Health Policy Advisor, Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders)
In addition to international projects with the Human Rights Clinic, Miami Law has an exchange program with Comillas Pontifical University in Spain which is known for its courses in human rights law.
Human Rights Lecture Series and Conferences
Renowned human rights scholars, lawyers and advocates from around the world regularly visit Miami Law, giving public lectures, attending conferences and meeting with students and faculty. Miami Law faculty and students also contribute to these series and conferences on human rights issues.
The Louis Henkin Lecture Series on Human Rights
Louis Henkin, the prominent law professor at Columbia University School of Law, was one of the founders of the academic study of human rights and inspired a whole generation of human rights lawyers, scholars, and activists, including some of Miami Law's professors. Miami Law created a lecture series in his memory, which has included the following lectures by illustrious speakers:
- Race, Gender, and Nation in an Age of Shifting Borders: Catherine Powell, Professor of Law, Fordham University School of Law. Click here to watch the October 15, 2019 lecture.
- What Future for Human Rights: James W. Nickel, Professor of Philosophy & Law, University of Miami School of Law. Click here to watch the April 17, 2018 lecture.
- The Human Right to Property: Featuring José Enrique Alvarez, Herbert and Rose Rubin Professor of International Law at New York University School of Law. Click here to watch the March 2, 2017 lecture.
- Examining Human Rights and Global Business – A New Frontier: Professor Michael Posner, New York University Stern School of Business. Click here to watch the September 15, 2014 lecture.
- Destroying What We Seek to Protect: Interrogation, Values and U.S. Foreign Policy: Lecture By Alberto Mora, JD ’81, Former General Counsel to the Navy. Click here to watch the September 30, 2013 lecture. Read Article.
- Rights at War: The Interface between Human and Constitutional Rights and the Laws of Armed Conflict: Lecture by Sarah H. Cleveland, the Louis Henkin Professor of Human Rights and Constitutional Law at Columbia University Law School. Click here to watch the September 13, 2012 lecture.
- Law & Terrorism: Lecture by Professor Owen Fiss, Sterling Professor of Law, Yale University. Click here to watch the February 17, 2011 lecture.
- Obama's War on Terror: Change We Can Believe In?: This first lecture was by David D. Cole, the John Carroll Research Professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center and prominent civil liberties lawyer, scholar and frequent contributor to the New York Review of Books. Click here to watch the November 11, 2010 lecture.
Defending the Human Rights of Migrants Lecture Series
- A New Kind of “War on Poverty” – The Trump Administration’s Policies Toward Vulnerable Immigrants - February 18, 2020
- Careers in Crimmigration - January 22, 2020
- Family Separation and Immigration Detention in the US - November 7, 2019
- SB 168: Florida’s New Anti-Immigrant Law - September 16, 2019
Human Rights Clinic: Events
Human Rights Clinic: Events
International Law Lecture Series
The International Law Lecture Series is run by the International Graduate Law Programs which often teams up with the Human Rights Clinic (HRC) to host lectures on human rights and international law. Watch videos of past lectures which have included:
- Judge Sérgio Moro, "Facing Corruption in Brazil"
- U.N. Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in Haiti, Mr. Michel Forst
- Professor Sandra Babcock from Northwestern Law School on Law, Politics and Morality of the Death Penalty in the United States
- Professor Monisha Bajaj from Columbia University on Human Rights Education in India
- Jessica Lenahan (Gonzales), international human rights advocate and plaintiff in Town of Castle Rock v. Jessica Gonzales, on Domestic Violence as a Human Rights Violation
- Steve Hitov, General Counsel, Coalition of Immokalee Workers on Farmworker Justice, Fair Food, and Organizing
- Former vice-president and deputy general counsel of Yahoo! and founder of Yahoo!'s Business and Human Rights Program, Michael Samway on internet privacy and human rights, and surveillance
Immigration Symposia, Conferences and Speaker Series
The Immigration Clinic has organized lectures relating to Immigration Law and Human Rights. Specific events have included:
- Immigration Defense Conference – This was a CLE Seminar & Stakeholder Meeting in April 2014 for advocates, organizers, and other nongovernment stakeholders to provide a forum for lawyers and nonlawyers in Florida to discuss strategies for defending immigrants against unlawful government action. Sponsors included: Miami Law Immigration Clinic, National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, Miami Law Student Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, Florida Immigrant Coalition, and We Count!
- Immigration Damages Litigation - This all-day CLE training in January 2013, focused on using litigation as a tool to hold law enforcement accountable for misconduct and abuse committed against noncitizens in detention facilities, on the border, and during vehicle stops and raids. Topics included litigation under the Federal Tort Claims Act, Bivens, § 1983 as well as motion and discovery practice. The training was co-sponsored by National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, National Police Accountability Project, and National Lawyers Guild, Miami Law Student Chapter Southern Region Chapter.
- National Lawyers Guild Southern Regional Conference – This annual event was hosted by Miami Law’s Immigration Clinic in May 2012. Progressive lawyers, law students, and legal workers from around the South got together for inspiration, sharing, learning, and community building, to explore ways to promote and defend human rights. For more information see NLGSouthernRegion.
Immigration Speaker Series
Past presentations have included, amongst others, Roxana Bacon, former chief counsel of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service and Esther Olavarria, Department of Homeland Security, on immigration reform; and Lee Gelernt and Judy Rabinovitz of the American Civil Liberties Union, on immigrants' rights and the federal courts.
- Immigrants' Rights and the Federal Courts, Lee Gelernt and Judy Rabinovitz (March 2012)
- Book Talk: Green Card Stories, Saundra Amrhein and Tomas Castellanos (February 2012)
- Immigration Reform: Is It Possible?, Roxana Bacon and Esther Olavarria (January 2012)
- Immigration and Other Important Matters, Dr. Joseph Chamie (January 2012)
Student Organization Sponsored Lectures
- Perspectives on environmental/climate/energy policy in Brazil under the Bolsonaro government by Dr. Eduardo Viola, Emeritus Professor of International Relations, University of Brasilia. Click here to watch the lecture.
- Human Rights Defender Lilia Pena by Colombian Human Rights Defender Lilia Peña Silva.
- Victims' Rights and Colombia's Peace Process: A Conversation with Human Rights Defender Lilia Pena by Colombian Human Rights Defender Lilia Peña Silva.
- Human Rights at Home: A forum on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the United States - A Forum on the October, 2013 review by the United Nations Human Rights Committee of the United States' compliance with its treaty obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights co-hosted by the Human Rights Clinic and the ACLU, Florida. Click here to read an article by Human Rights Clinic Student Jessica Sblendorio.
- A Conversation on The Future of International Environmental Law - Featuring Dan Magraw, distinguished international environmental lawyer and Jim Nickel, UM Professor of Philosophy and Law.
- Human Rights at Home: A forum on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the United States - A Forum on the October, 2013 review by the United Nations Human Rights Committee of the United States' compliance with its treaty obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights co-hosted by the Human Rights Clinic and the ACLU, Florida.
- Human Rights Advocacy in the U.S. - A Training for Attorneys, Organizers, and Other Public Interest Practitioners in the Greater Miami Area - A training session on integrating international human rights strategies into advocacy co-hosted by the Human Rights Clinic and the Local Human Rights Lawyering Project at American University, Washington College of Law. Click here to read an article by Human Rights Clinic student Vanessa Joseph.
- Controversy over Contraception - sponsored by Law Students for Reproductive Justice and Student Organization for Human Rights, discussed access to contraceptives as a human right.
- When Diplomacy Fails: The Syria Dilemma - a seminar sponsored the International Law Society, Muslim Law Students Association, National Security and Armed Conflict Law Review, Criminal Law Society, Military Law Society, and Student Organization for Human Rights
- National Security and Armed Conflict Law Review Symposium: Child Soldiers and International Law - featured Tchicaya Missamou, former Congolese child soldier, and was sponsored by the Student Organization for Human Rights among others.
- The Future of the Death Penalty in America – was held in 2012 and was sponsored by Miami Law Review.
Domestic Violence Panel discussion
- Miami Law Review in the Spring 2011 ran a special symposium issue on the law school's groundbreaking global conference on Gender Justice and Human Rights in the Americas, publishing articles and essays from world-renowned advocates and academics in the field of women's rights. Miami Law Review's 2012 annual symposium was on the death penalty and life without parole.
- The Inter-American Law Review hosted symposia on the Inter-American human rights system and on the situation of human rights in Haiti. Its 2012 symposium titled, The Haitian State: Creating Sustainability Growing Forward, addressed the political and legal situation in Haiti pre- and post-earthquake. Its previous symposium, The Human Element: the Impact of Regional Trade Agreements on Human Rights and the Rule of Law, focused on human rights and featured distinguished guests from around the world.
HOPE Public Interest Resource Center (HOPE)
Home to many opportunities to do human rights work nationally and internationally, HOPE also regularly hosts information sessions on landing a job, fellowship or internship in the public interest and in human rights.
“Miami Law, first and foremost through the HOPE Public Interest Resource Center, has given me the ability to fund life-changing fellowships both my summers in law school. Without that funding, I would have never been able to do the work I did. I also gained irreplaceable experience from both the Human Rights and Immigration clinics, especially the Time's Up Project that took me out of the law school and into different parts of Miami-Dade County, working alongside community advocates. Of course, nothing beats having experience with real clients.”
Alexis Bay, J.D. ‘20
Fellow, Texas Civil Rights Project
Scholarships / Fellowships
Miami Scholars Public Interest Program Scholarships are granted to students with outstanding academic achievements and commitment to public service.
HOPE Fellowship Program - provides stipends to students to create their dream jobs in human rights and public interest anywhere across the globe.
Summer Public Interest Fellowship Program - provides summer stipends to students to create their dream jobs in human rights and public interest anywhere across the globe.
My participation in the Human Rights Clinic was an important part of my education at Miami Law and has helped position me to work as a lawyer in a range of different spaces. Not only did I have the opportunity to work with and learn from incredible instructors and colleagues, I had the privilege of collaborating with members of diverse communities and made lasting connections with networks of legal professionals. While doing global human rights work on HIV and gender as a fellow at Georgetown Law’s Women’s Law and Public Policy Fellowship, I was able to use the substantive knowledge, interpersonal skills, and experience and understanding of international institutions and processes that I gained through my study of human rights at Miami Law. The Human Rights Clinic also helped me develop critical thinking, legal writing, and organizational skills that I have used during my judicial clerkships and continue to use in my current position in private practice, where I focus on appellate and constitutional law.
Rachel A. Oostendorp, J.D. ‘13
Attorney at Law, Carlton Fields
Sampling of Past Internships / Externships
Career Development Office (CDO) - The Career Development Office supports human rights law placements, advises students looking for human rights-related work, and provides information on Post-Graduate Fellowships.
Externship Program - Through this program, Miami Law students have had externship placements at regional and international human rights bodies and courts and organizations. For example:
American Civil Liberties Union
Center for Children’s Law and Policy, (Washington, DC)
Center for Reproductive Rights (New York, NY)
Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales - CELS (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
Council for Children’s Rights (Charlotte, NC)
Equal Rights Advocates (San Francisco, CA)
Florida Department of Health
Florida Justice Institute
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (Washington, DC)
International Criminal Court (The Hague, Netherlands)
Institute for Human Rights (Berlin, Germany)
Lambda Legal (New York, NY)
Legal Aid MLK Summer Internship Program (Raleigh, NC)
Miami-Dade School Board
The Arc’s National Center on Criminal Justice and Disability (Washington, DC)
United Nations (New York, NY)
United States Commission on International Religious Freedom-USCIRF (Washington, DC)
*Lists courses currently or recently offered in this area, but this list is not exhaustive nor does it set out a path of study.