Public Interest Faculty
Alexi Freeman, Associate Professor of the Practice, serves as Director of Externships and Public Interest Initiatives. Contact her to learn more about course offerings and public service overall at Denver Law.
Spotlight, Professor Margaret Kwoka
What classes do you teach at Denver Law?
I regularly teach Civil Procedure and Administrative Law, and sometimes I also teach Federal Courts and National Security Law. I view all of the courses I teach as focusing on big pictures about justice – who has access to the justice system, what kinds of wrongs do we remedy, and how does the government serve the public (or sometimes not). I always hope my students walk away from any of my courses with the ability to celebrate the successes but also critique the failures of courts, agencies, and the law vis-à-vis pressing social problems like poverty, racism, protecting privacy, and promoting health, safety, and the protection of the environment.
What did you do before joining Denver Law?
Prior to joining the faculty at the University of Denver, I taught at John Marshall Law School in Chicago. Before that, I practiced at a public interest law firm, Public Citizen Litigation Group, in Washington, D.C., where I focused on government accountability and transparency. I also clerked for two different judges, one on the Massachusetts Appeals Court and one on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.
What kind of projects- research/scholarship, pro bono, or otherwise- are you working on outside of your classes?
Like my previous practice, my research focuses on government accountability and transparency, and much of my current community work does as well.
As for research, I am currently working on a sizeable empirical study about who uses the Freedom of Information Act and for what purposes. I have previously documented the interests of commercial requesters that are served under FOIA, and this new work looks at another segment of requesters: individuals (or their representatives) who are seeking records about themselves (e.g., their own medical files, tax files, law enforcement files, etc.). It is my hope that through this series of projects I can demonstrate that FOIA is often the only option for getting government information, but is not tailored to best serve these various purposes. Rather, agencies should be exploring non-FOIA options for delivering information needed to serve these vital private interests. Such an approach would both promote efficiency and transparency, and would return FOIA to serving more of the oversight and accountability interests it was designed for.
I am also working on these issues on the advocacy side, including some work with students. For example, I have worked with various students this year on a project related to transparency issues in Colorado concerning citizen complaints about police misconduct. Working with community partners, we are conducting research that may inform possible legislative changes. In addition, I am litigating a pro bono case under FOIA which is one of the first challenges to post-Trump administration data take-downs, and I’ve had the privilege of co-counseling with a recent Denver Law grad.
Why should a student who is interested in public interest law come to DU?
The biggest thing we have to offer, I think, is a very wide and deep range of opportunities to get involved in hands-on, meaningful work. We have nationally-recognized clinical and externship programs, with a variety of public interest practice areas represented. We also have a faculty that is committed to meaningful and relevant research, such that students can work as research assistants or conduct independent studies related to our scholarship that might be of interest. In addition, and I think relatively rare, our faculty also does extensive community work including pro bono public interest litigation, policy and advocacy work, and other types of service. There are so many ways for students to get involved in these projects, sometimes through special coursework, sometimes for pay, and sometimes as volunteers. We really provide a full menu of options for public interest students.
What are you reading right now?
Chigozie Obioma’s “The Fishermen.” I lived in West Africa for a couple of years and have long had a soft spot for West African authors (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie being perhaps my favorite). This is Obioma’s first novel, but I’m enjoying it and hoping for more to come!
I feel like I should issue some sort of disclaimer about how lame this is, but I’ll just own it: When Harry Met Sally.
Favorite TV show?
Believe it or not, we don’t own a TV, so I’m never really up on current shows. But for all-time favorite, I’ve never found anything I love as much as West Wing.
Favorite music artist/genre?
Our family is bilingual and we speak mostly Spanish at home, so I listen to a lot of music from Latin America. I’d have to say my favorite band is Maná. And I finally had the opportunity to see them live last fall, here in Denver. It was amazing!
Faculty Highlights and Intellectual Life shares a more comprehensive list of faculty accomplishments and scholarship, but a sample of public interest-related scholarship is below.
- Chao, Bernard, Opening the Prosecutions History’s Black Box, Berkeley Technology Law Journal (Online Commentary) (March 6, 2016).
- Chen, Alan, Free Speech and Democracy in the Video Age, 116 Columbia Law Review (May 2016).
- Kwoka, Margaret, Inside FOIA, Inc., Yale L. J. Forum (October 2016).
- Lasch, Christopher, Sanctuary Cities and Dog-Whistle Politics, 42 NEW ENG. J. ON CRIM. AND CIV. CONFINEMENT (June 2016).
- Leong, Nancy, Identity Entrepreneurs, 104 California Law Review ____ (forthcoming December 2016).
- Wald, Eli, Can We Talk? Bias, Diversity, and Inclusiveness in the Colorado Legal Community Part 2: Diversity, 45(2) COLO. LAW. 49 (2016) (February 2016).