This summer, Lauren DiMartino joins Professor Suzette Malveaux and the Byron R. White Center for the Study of American Constitutional Law as a Post-Graduate Fellow. Lauren graduated from the City University of New York School of Law in December 2018 with a concentration in Social Justice, Equality, and Civil Rights.
Why an interest in Constitutional Law?
My introduction to Constitutional Law was a first-year course, Liberty, Equality, and Due Process, focused on the Bill of Rights. When I started law school, my plan was to use my degree to advance my career in higher education. But it was this course—and landmark cases such as Brown v. Board, Loving v. Virginia, and Plyler v. Doe—that opened my eyes to Constitutional litigation as an engine for change. I’m most interested in exploring the safeguards that exist to ensure that “We the People” includes members of all groups in our country, not just those that were in mind at the time the Constitution was framed. Civic engagement is fundamental to this work.
What are you working on this summer and how has your background prepared you for it?
The mission of the Byron White Center aligns with the reason I went to law school: to expand access to education as a means to empower communities and reinforce democracy. After completing my Masters in Academic Counseling, I began working at a community college because working primarily with low-income and first generation college students felt like the best way to support economic mobility. But as I learned more about my students’ circumstances and the systems that perpetuate them, I increasingly felt like I was not doing enough.
In my role as Fellow, I have the opportunity to support initiatives and conduct research that increases civic engagement and informs the public about what the Constitution means to their lives. Bringing the Constitution to life and making it accessible is fundamental to protecting our democracy and lifting the voices of its people. Aside from my excitement about the work of the center, my experiences align quite well with the work. Managing a team of advisors in a policy-based program addressing poverty’s impact on degree attainment prepared me to think critically about programming that best serves students and the public. My experience with the judicial branch, as an extern on the New York Court of Appeals and as a teaching assistant in Writing from a Judicial Perspective, has equipped me to examine the jurisprudence and legal philosophy of this year’s guest for the Stevens Lecture. I also have the opportunity to employ my background in digital marketing to update the center’s website (check it out!), highlighting the important work it is doing and distributing its message to a wider audience.
What is a recent accomplishment that you’re proud of?
My experiences in education and the law led to three legal publications and a position as the inaugural Student Authorship Editor of the Law Review. In that role, I developed an initiative to support student scholarship, serving as a guide in the research, writing, and editing process for students with the potential to publish. This work is important because it allowed students committed to public service and social justice to expand their contribution to legal discourse. Also, because of the way the system operates, we must write to access the decision room. The obstacles to publication tend to be greater for less privileged students, yet access to the judiciary often begins with a clerkship, and judges look for students who have published scholarly work. The Courts are not representative of the people they serve. If that is to change (which I believe is necessary for the ideals of justice promised in the Constitution) the entry points to judicial careers need to be more accessible.
I’m pleased to say that in August I will be clerking for Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey on the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Nashville, Tennessee. After that, I intend to follow through with my commitment to economic and racial justice through work as an attorney in civil rights, fair housing, and education. I have passed the New York Bar exam and am awaiting admission. I know that my work under Professor Malveaux will prepare me for the fight to ensure the rights granted by our Constitution are equally accessible to all.
What do you enjoy outside of your legal work?
That’s a good question—having gone to law school in the evening while working full-time, and recently taking the bar, I’m just starting to re-learn what “life outside my legal work” looks like. I am an avid traveler and love learning about different cultures. I recently got back from two months in Colombia: exploring and working on my Spanish while I did some remote work. I enjoy cooking (and trying new foods), playing sports, and spending time with family and friends. (and it’s a bonus to be doing this work in a place as beautiful as Boulder, CO, where I’m enjoying all the outdoor activities.)