Return to News & Media

Photo: First Amendment Clinic director Clare R. Norins and 
law fellow Samantha Hamilton (right) with Community HeLP Clinic 
staff attorney Kristen Shepherd and director Jason A. Cade (left)

UGA Law School’s First Amendment Clinic, along with UGA’s Community HeLP Clinic and four other clinics from Harvard, Columbia, Texas A&M, and Boston University, were chosen as the 2021 recipients of the Clinical Legal Education Association (CLEA) award for “Excellence in a Public Interest Project.”

A video conversation with students from each of the six clinics about their experience working on the Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC) Project is available here.

The ICDC Project addresses the welfare and legal rights of women detained by U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) at the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia. These women were subjected to non-consensual, medically unindicated, or invasive gynecological procedures at ICDC, many of which amounted to sexual assaults. They suffered severe retaliation when they tried to speak out about these procedures, including actual or attempted accelerated deportation.

A group of six law school clinicians and clinics formed to help these women: Sabi Ardalan (Harvard Law School); Jason Cade (University of Georgia School of Law); Fatma Marouf (Texas A&M School of Law); Elora Mukherjee (Columbia Law School); Clare Norins (University of Georgia School of Law); and Sarah Sherman-Stokes (Boston University School of Law). Other ICDC Project collaborators included non-profits, private firms large and small, legislative advocates, and community organizers.

The Project’s advocacy includes a federal class action on behalf of 12 of the women and others similarly situated, immigration proceedings, administrative complaints, and legislative advocacy. The clinics have won stays of deportation for most of the plaintiffs. The Project’s efforts have resulted in the release of nearly all 80 women held at ICDC, as well as over 200 men. And on May 20, 2021, the Biden administration announced that it was severing its contracts with LaSalle Corporation that operates ICDC and will no longer be using it as an ICE detention facility. The work of the ICDC Project has generated national media coverage and elicited a crucial intervention from 100 members of Congress.

The following UGA faculty, students, and legal staff  contributed to this on-going massive group effort:

First Amendment Clinic Director Clare R. Norins, Clinic Fellow Samantha C. Hamilton, Julia Griffis (3L), Anish Patel (3L), and Davis Wright (2L).

Associate Dean for Clinical Programs & Experiential Learning Jason A. Cade, staff attorney Kristen Shepherd, administrative associate Sarah Ehlers, Raneem Ashwari (3L), Thomas Evans (2L), Frederick King (3L), and Paige Medley (2L).