As the inaugural Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Clinic at the University of Kentucky J. David Rosenberg College of Law (UK Law) celebrated the conclusion of its first semester on December 5 — following months of preparation and support from CRRJ attorneys and historians — staff and faculty now turn their attention to securing the program’s future in 2024.
During the spring and summer of 2023, Elizabeth Zitrin Justice Fellow Olivia Strange supported D’lorah Hughes, H. Wendell Cherry Associate Clinical Professor of Law, and historian Dr. Austin Zinkle, in designing UK Law’s clinical course and seeking institutional approval for the introduction of their new clinical course.
Based on the model established by CRRJ in Boston, the CRRJ-KY clinic had its inaugural run in the fall of 2023, with five intrepid law students signing on to undertake approximately twenty case investigations, located in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
Cases for CRRJ-KY, funded in-part by the Commonwealth Institute for Black Studies (CIBS), were assembled with the assistance of Dr. Jay Driskell, CRRJ’s lead historian. The circumstances surrounding each incident of anti-Black violence vary, including police killings, labor-related retaliation, backlash against alleged bootlegging, and politically-motivated lynchings.
“We have been thrilled by the opportunity to support the launch of the clinic at UK Law,” said Strange. “This type of partnership is vital to CRRJ’s mission because the work of investigating and seeking redress for cold cases of historical violence will never have a more profound impact than when it can be conducted close to the heart of the communities most affected.”
Participating third-year students, Cori Agnoni, Onyeka Anosike, Sydney Larue, Celina Saylor, and Alyssa Williams, plan to present their findings to academic and community groups throughout the coming months. Two students from 2023’s class will continue as advanced students when the clinic enters its second iteration in spring 2024.
“I’m excited to witness the CRRJ-UK students’ continued investigations into these untold layers of their state’s civil rights history,” said Strange. “What they’ve been able to accomplish in their first semester is truly exciting.”
Agnoni (UK Law ‘24) said participating in the clinical course was “nothing short of amazing.”
“I’ve enjoyed researching victims’ stories and piecing together what is available to us by digging through newspapers, records, and other documents,” said Agnoni. “Pushing these cases even just an inch closer to restorative justice makes the hours of difficult and emotional work worthwhile.”
Zinkle highlighted Kentucky’s complicated history with race and racism. “In the first half of the twentieth century, for example, white Kentuckians—especially in large urban areas like Louisville—were proud of a false narrative that Jim Crow in Kentucky was less restrictive, less violent, and, perhaps, hardly present at all,” said Zinkle. “Our students are researching cases that dispel this mythology of ‘polite racism’ that is sometimes associated with the Commonwealth, and underscore the lived reality of violent white supremacy for many Black Kentuckians.”
Dr. Austin Zinkle recently completed his PhD in history in July 2023 at the University of Kentucky and is now a postdoctoral scholar affiliated with UK Law’s Commonwealth Institute for Black Studies.
Dr. Zinkle is broadly interested in United States youth culture and youth social movements and his current research project explores white supremacist and neo-Nazi youth during the twentieth century. He came to CRRJ-KY due to his scholarly background in Kentucky history and racism in the United States, and desire to join a project that reckons with the violence of Jim Crow in Kentucky to students at UK Law.
Professor D’lorah Hughes, H. Wendell Cherry Associate Clinical Professor of Law, joined the UK Rosenberg College of Law in June 2022 and serves as the Director of Legal Clinics and Externships. A native of Lexington, KY, Professor Hughes returned to Kentucky from the University of California, Irvine School of Law where she was Director of Externships. Professor Hughes has also held academic positions at the University of Arkansas School of Law-Fayetteville, Case Western Reserve University School of Law, and Wayne State University Law School. She holds leadership positions on the Board of Directors for the Clinical Legal Education Association (CLEA) and was recently appointed to the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government Ethics Commission. A member of the Central Kentucky Chapter of the American Inns of Court and a Kentucky Colonel, Professor Hughes serves as the faculty advisor to the First-Generation Professionals and as co-advisor to the Trial Advocacy Board. She was recently awarded the 2023 Trinia Clemons Friend of Pro Bono Award.
CRRJ looks forward to continuing this partnership as UK Law’s program grows.
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