Ropes & Gray Launches Justice Fellowship at Lawyers for Civil Rights

September 18, 2019

Global law firm Ropes & Gray today announced the creation of the Ropes & Gray Justice Fellowship at Lawyers for Civil Rights (LCR), a Boston-based legal non-profit specializing in civil rights litigation.

The fellowship, which will provide recent law school graduates with a paid, full-time position to pursue advocacy in racial justice and immigrant rights, will be funded by attorneys’ fees awarded in Huot v. City of Lowell, a landmark federal Voting Rights Act case brought pro bono by Ropes & Gray in partnership with LCR. Huot challenged an at-large municipal electoral system in Lowell, Massachusetts that diluted the vote of communities of color. The parties reached a favorable resolution to the lawsuit in 2019 with the City of Lowell agreeing to change its system to ensure a fairer and more equitable election process.

“We are delighted to establish this fellowship at LCR,” said Jennifer Rikoski, pro bono co-chair and partner at Ropes & Gray. “Our firm has a long tradition of working with LCR to advance civil rights, and this fellowship will provide a powerful, additional way to do so.” The Fellow is expected to work on the full range of civil rights issues that LCR addresses, including protecting voting rights, pursuing racial justice, empowering low-income individuals and communities, and other initiatives that are emblematic of the Huot case.

“This fellowship is a leading national example of the creative and impactful partnerships that can flourish between public interest organizations and the private bar,” said Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, LCR’s Executive Director. “To have Ropes & Gray provide us with substantial pro bono support – coupled with a gift of this magnitude – will help to propel our life-changing work forward for years to come. We are deeply grateful for this generous and powerful support.”

“By launching and funding a fellowship for recent law school graduates, Ropes & Gray is helping to create the next generation of civil rights attorneys,” said Oren Sellstrom, LCR’s Litigation Director and co-counsel in Huot v. City of Lowell. “The fellowship will play a critical role in cultivating, training, and developing attorneys who will litigate urgent civil rights matters. We are excited to deepen and expand our work and the civil rights movement in partnership with Ropes & Gray.”

The Huot case that led to the creation of the fellowship was filed in federal court in 2017 on behalf of a diverse coalition of Asian-American and Latinx voters. The lawsuit challenged Lowell’s at-large electoral system for electing its City Council and School Committee, alleging that the system impermissibly diluted the vote of Lowell’s communities of color. At the time that the lawsuit was filed, communities of color accounted for approximately 49% of Lowell’s population, but the City’s elected bodies reflected virtually no minority representation throughout all of Lowell’s history.

In 2019, the parties settled the lawsuit, and a consent decree was approved by a federal judge. The consent decree requires the city to change its electoral system starting with the 2021 municipal elections, to a more fair and equitable electoral system.

The job announcement for the Ropes & Gray Justice Fellowship can be found here. Applications will be accepted until October 11, 2019. It is anticipated that the Fellowship will begin in the Fall 2019.