Alternative Spring Break
What is ASB?
Alternative Spring Break (ASB) is a program that gives law students the opportunity to participate in meaningful legal service. Student participants will spend their spring break working in public interest-based legal settings, and the program is an excellent way for law students to serve underprivileged communities.
ASB placement opportunities have been concentrated in three unique geographic areas: Window Rock, AZ, Farmington, NM, and El Paso, TX. Within each geographic placement, there are a variety of specific legal service sites. Depending on the students’ specific placement, their work will focus on poverty law, Indian law, criminal law, or immigration law. Every site features legal service work that is extremely rare or non-existent in the Denver area. This year, we are considering shifting some placements to Artesia, NM.
Please visit the Site Descriptions section to learn more about these placement opportunities. Also, anyone interested in applying should carefully review the Application Procedures section. Students should also be aware that ASB can fulfill the law school’s public service requirement, or can even be used to earn one academic credit hour. Thanks for visiting; we hope you’ll consider putting your studies into practice and join us for an amazing trip in March!
No current student leaders. Please contact Student Affairs for questions.
Window Rock, AZ
Students placed in Window Rock, AZ, will primarily work at this site, but housing accommodations will be nearby, in Gallup, NM. Both Gallup and Window Rock are located on the Navajo Indian Reservation. The Navajo Nation encompasses the largest land area assigned to Native American jurisdiction within the United States, although the Navajo (known as the Diné) traditionally covered an area much larger than the current reservation. All placement opportunities will have a component of Indian Law and jurisdictional issues. Recreational opportunities will include a trip to Santa Fe, NM, in addition to tour of Anasazi ruins at the Canyon de Chelly National Monument, and other outdoor adventures observing the strong presence of the Navajo, Hopi and Zuni tribes. A local church with full amenities will provide housing arrangements.
Placement sites for ASB-Window Rock
- – ASB participants placed with the Navajo Nation, Office of the Legislative Counsel (OLC), will have the opportunity to observe and participate in Council meetings, sub-committee meetings, and arrange meetings with working attorneys for tribal enterprises. Issues presented range from fiscal responsibility, education, renewable energy development, and gaming. As legal counsel working for the legislative branch of the Navajo Nation, the OLC advises delegates on the language of proposed bills. ASB interns will also conduct research, and provide assistance for the OLC on ongoing issues.
- (2&3L students only) – Students working with the NNHRC will be exposed to the vast array of issues that the Navajo Nation faces on a local, state, federal and international level dealing with human rights violations. Issues include everything from employment discrimination, racial discrimination, relocation issues, preservation of sacred sites, etc. NNHRC is also very engaged in the International arena, playing a large role in the passage of the United Nations Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples and continuing to advocate for its implementation today. Students placed with NNHRC will have the chance to conduct research on current issues before the commission as well as observe hearings and tribal council sessions.
- – This is an organization dedicated to providing civil legal services to low-income individuals. Students will primarily handle client intake, legal research, and document drafting while working under the auspices of DNA’s staff attorneys. Most legal matters will focus on Indian Law and family law. This site is highly recommended for those interested in low-income civil legal aid.
- – The Students placed with the Navajo Nation District Court will spend the week under the guidance of the Navajo Nation Staff Attorneys and Law Clerks working for Tribal Judges in the Navajo District Court. Students will conduct research and draft memos on cases currently pending before the court, as well as gain invaluable one-on-one mentorship experience with the Judges and Staff Attorney. Additionally, students may have the opportunity to brief the court on their findings and draft judicial opinions.
- – The DOJ hopes to cater their assignments around the individual students’ interests. Last year a student compiled research on juvenile law, researching the Indian Child Welfare Act and applying law to specific cases current before the DOJ. Another student was assigned to the Economic and Community Development Unit, spending the week researching and writing memorandum regarding the construction of casinos and the property issues that are present both on and off the Navajo Nation for such casinos. This site is great for students hoping to gain insight into the conflict and overlay of Federal, State, and Indian Law frameworks.
- – Students placed at the Navajo Nation EPA will spend the week assisting the attorneys with legal work in the various departments. Departments include the Environmental Law Enforcement, Air & Toxic Department, Waste Regulatory & Compliance Department, and Surface Groundwater Protection Department. Students will be assisting with administrative and civil enforcement in the above departments.
Farmington is a small city in northwest New Mexico. It has a population of approximately 50,000. Nearly half of the city’s residents are of Hispanic or American Indian origin, and a large percentage of the population lives below the poverty line. Most placement opportunities in Farmington focus on poverty law and criminal law. Also, because Farmington is situated near the Navajo Nation Indian Reservation, many students may encounter issues of Indian Law in their work. Recreational opportunities for students in Farmington include social events with local attorneys and judges, tours of the Navajo reservation, hikes, and excursions to downtown shops and restaurants. Housing arrangements will be furnished by a local recreation center.
Placement sites ASB-Farmington:
- – DNA is an acronym for the Navajo phrase Dinébe’iiná Náhiiłna be Agha’diit’ahii which means “attorneys who work for the economic revitalization of The People”. This is an organization dedicated to providing civil legal services to low-income individuals. Students will primarily handle client intake, legal research, and document drafting while working under the auspices of DNA’s staff attorneys. Most legal matters will focus on family law, though some issues of Indian law may appear. This site is highly recommended for those interested in low-income civil legal aid.
- is a private nonprofit organization that provides free legal assistance, advocacy and education to Native Americans with disabilities. The Center assists adults and children in securing a wide range of support services, fights discrimination in housing, transportation, employment, and access to public and private programs and services, and helps individuals protect themselves against abuse, neglect, and rights violations. This placement balances client intake with legal research.
- – This is a very dynamic placement opportunity. Students in this group will participate in a variety of work including pro bono clinics for senior citizens, community legal education, client intake with DNA Legal Services, and advisory sessions with pro se litigants. Some students may also have the opportunity to appear in court on behalf of domestic violence victims. Students interested in low-income legal aid and street law are strongly encouraged to participate.
- – The District Attorney’s office is responsible for prosecuting crimes in San Juan County. Students will work under the supervision of deputy prosecutors, and will handle work involving legal research, judicial procedure, and communication with crime victims and defense attorneys. Students may also have the opportunity to make court appearances on behalf of the prosecution. This site is ideal for students interested in criminal prosecution.
- – The public defender’s office is dedicated to defending low-income individuals accused of crimes. Students will handle matters involving legal research, judicial procedure, client communication, and communication with the District Attorney’s office. Students may also have the opportunity to make court appearances on behalf of criminal defendants. This is an ideal site for students interested in criminal defense.
El Paso, TX
All students placed in El Paso will spend the week living in El Paso, and at least four students will commute to nearby Las Cruces, NM for their placement. Both cities are situated on the Mexican border and present unique opportunities for students to work with aspects of immigration law, lawyer in Spanish, and serve the underprivileged. All students placed in El Paso will likely have the opportunity to visit immigration court, tour an ICE detention facility, and meet with border control agents. Recreational opportunities include visiting the shops and restaurants of downtown and hiking local trails. Housing will likely be provided by a local church or recreation center.
Placement sites for ASB-El Paso
- – This is a local non-profit that provides legal aid to individuals involved in various immigration proceedings. Students will either work with the organization’s Unaccompanied Minors Unit to provide legal representation and aid for children detained by border control, or with the trial unit giving aid and legal counsel for detained and non-detained adults. This placement requires advanced Spanish speakers, and is highly recommended for students interested in immigration law.
- (Potential Placement) – The Center Against Family Violence is a non-profit that provides legal and humanitarian services for victims of domestic violence. Students in this placement with work with cooperating attorneys to assist clients with protective orders, as well as immigration matters stemming from the domestic violence cases. This placement requires advanced Spanish speakers, and is highly recommended for students interested in family and/or immigration law. If the Center decides that it cannot accommodate volunteers, you will be placed at one of the above sites.
- – The Office of the Federal Public Defender is located in Las Cruces, NM and defends low-income individuals accused of federal crimes. The office’s caseload consists mostly of immigration and drug offenses. Students will participate in client interviews and attend pre-sentencing interviews and conferences. Students may also have the opportunity to appear in court to represent defendant’s on misdemeanor charges. Intermediate Spanish speakers are preferred, but not required. This site is highly recommended for students interested in criminal defense and/or immigration law.
- – The State Public Defender’s office is located in Las Cruces, NM and defends low-income individuals accused of crimes under state law. Students will handle matters involving legal research, judicial procedure, client communication, and communication with the District Attorney’s office. Students may also have the opportunity to make court appearances on behalf of criminal defendants. Intermediate Spanish speakers are preferred, but not required. The PD’s Office is an ideal site for students interested in criminal defense.
- – TCRP works primarily with civil rights and employment litigation, along with some VAWA-based immigration work. TCRP uses education and litigation to make structural change in areas such as voting rights, police and border patrol misconduct, sex discrimination, employment bias, privacy, disability rights, and more. TCRP also conducts a program under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Students will have the opportunity to volunteer in all capacities. Intermediate Spanish speakers are preferred, but not required.
- – Las Americas is a non-profit dedicated to serving the legal needs of low income immigrants, including refugees and battered women. Las Americas lawyers and staff are committed to providing high quality legal representation to those who otherwise would not be able to afford it. Las Americas specializes in asylum and crime victim visas, including VAWA and U-visas. Legal interns will help with research, client intake, gathering supporting documents, drafting briefs, preparing for court and more. Intermediate Spanish speakers are preferred; this site is ideal for students interested in immigration law.
Application and Deposit Procedure
Students who wish to participate in ASB for the March 2015 trip must turn in an application. Please return soon for application procedures and deadlines.
When choosing applicants, the student leaders will consider factors including general interest in ASB and general commitment to public service. Upper-classmen and advanced Spanish speakers are preferred for some placements. We strongly encourage applicants from every class year and from any legal background to apply. If an applicant is not placed, he or she will be added to a wait list.
Applications must also be accompanied by the applicant’s $100 deposit. This deposit covers the entire cost of the trip for each participant. If an applicant is not placed, his or her deposit will be refunded. If an applicant is placed, his or her deposit is cashed. Should a placed applicant choose to withdraw from the ASB program, his or her deposit will not be refunded.
All applicants who are placed must also commit to attending a certain number of logistical and legal meetings prior to the trip. This will be discussed in greater detail once applicants have been selected.