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San Francisco Affirmative Litigation Project

The San Francisco Affirmative Litigation Project (SFALP) is a partnership between Yale Law School and the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office in which our students work with San Francisco Deputy City Attorneys to conceive, develop, and litigate some of the most innovative public interest lawsuits in the country—lawsuits that tackle problems with local dimensions but that have national effects. These include fairness in arbitration, same-sex marriage, wage and hour violations, childhood health and nutrition, payday lending, access to legal services for immigrants, public nuisances, and reproductive rights. Students have worked on a lawsuit against the National Arbitration Forum that made the cover of Businessweek and a childhood nutrition campaign that was featured on the Today Show and in USA Today, among other news outlets. SFALP students also helped with the “trial of the century”—the federal constitutional challenge to Proposition 8—helping San Francisco litigate Hollingsworth v. Perry at the trial level, in the Ninth Circuit, and before the Supreme Court. As part of SFALP, students get a chance to experience each stage of the litigation process, including brainstorming about new cases, filing complaints, motions practice, preparing witnesses, working through nitty-gritty doctrinal questions, and taking appeals. Several of the cases currently being litigated by the San Francisco City Attorney were originally developed with the help of SFALP.

SFALP engages Yale Law students in some of the best public lawyering in this country, particularly at the local level. Our students work in teams led by America’s best municipal law attorneys. These lawyers serve as mentors, guiding students through tough legal research questions, including them in litigation strategy discussions, and providing career advice during and after law school. SFALP students are also mentored by Yale faculty members, and the Project includes a seminar devoted to the practical and theoretical questions raised when a local government law office pursues affirmative civil rights and consumer protection lawsuits.

The SFALP program at Yale is the first of its kind and has become a national model. For more information, please contact the SFALP Fellow, James Dawson.