Program & Schedule

Friday, September 28

12:30 – 1:15 | Registration and Refreshments 

Susman Godfrey Atrium

1:30 – 2:30 | Framing GRITS: A Participatory Conversation

Francis Auditorium

In small groups, attendees and speakers will identify unique issues faced by legal practitioners in the South as they focus on social justice challenges. Discussion will include the impact of the current legal environment on the practice and ways to maintain focus amidst challenges.

Framing GRITS will also include a brief talk by Professor Stephen Vladeck, entitled: “This Week was Quite a Month: The Future of the Kavanaugh Nomination, the Russia Investigation, and the Rule of Law.”

2:35 – 3:35 | Choose Your Own Skills Workshop

  • Legal Observer Training (TNH 2.124)

The Legal Observer program is part of a comprehensive system of legal support designed to enable people to express their political views as fully as possible without unconstitutional disruption or interference by the police and with the fewest possible consequences from the criminal justice system.

Brian McGiverin (Austin Community Law Center)

  • Open Records Request Workshop (TNH 2.123)

Learn how access to records can assist social justice movements. This workshop will also touch on the Freedom of Information Act and how it can be used as an advocacy tool.

Peter Steffenson (Texas Civil Rights Project)

3:45-4:35 Reimagining a Legal Education: Choose Your Session

  • Constitutional Law with Professor Shavonne Henderson (TNH 2.138)

  • Torts with Professor Thomas McGarity (TNH 2.137)

  • Criminal Law with Professor Katy Dyer (TNH 2.124) 

  • Property with Professor Susan Morse (TNH 2.123)

Texas Law students have collaborated with a faculty professor to design a law school class based on these 1L courses. The student and professor will co-facilitate the class with the goal of encouraging students to work with professors to develop more effective and impactful pedagogy at Texas Law, serving as a model for other law schools and for other disciplines and their educational programs.

5:00 – 6:00 | Keynote Address: Roderick Keith Johnson

Francis Auditorium

Mr. Johnson is an activist, speaker, and advocate. He was the plaintiff in Johnson v. Johnson, a lawsuit led by the ACLU to address prison rape in Texas. Mr. Johnson will speak about the legal framework and background of the lawsuit. He will also share his experiences as an incarcerated advocate for individuals in who have mental illness, have experienced assault or rape in prison, and how he has continued this work upon his release from prison. This session is designed to share advocacy strategies between the speaker and attendees, with a specific focus on mental health, providing support to those who are incarcerated, and amplifying the voices of those who have experienced these issues.

6:00 – 9:00 | Happy Hour | Spider House Cafe: 2908 Fruth St., Austin, TX 78705

Saturday, September 29

7:45 – 8:45 | Trauma-Informed Yoga and Dialogue

Sheffield Massey Room

This morning session will focus on self-care and trauma-informed practices for those engaged in social justice work.

Alec Brownridge and Richie Flores (Sanctuary Yoga)

9:00 – 9:45 | Breakfast and Registration

Susman Godfrey Atrium

Morning remarks by Scott Henson of criminal justice blog Grits for Breakfast.

9:50 – 10:50 | Labor and Unrest

Francis Auditorium

Panelists will speak on issues surrounding immigration, education, and organizing, with a specific emphasis on community-based organizing strategies. 

Montserrat Garibay (Texas ALF-CIO)| Amanda Cavazos Weems (CWA-TSEU) | Karen Reyes (Austin ISD, Education Austin)

11:00 – 12:00 | Choose Your Conversation

These sessions are designed for conference attendees and speakers to engage in an interactive dialogue on these issues.

  • Advocacy on Immigration and the Borderlands (2.124)

Jennifer Scarborough and Kate Pritchard (ProBAR)

  • Art as Activist Practice (TNH 2.123)

Leslie Moody Castro (Curator and Writer)

  • Strength, Vulnerability, Sisterhood: Women’s Experiences Behind Bars (Sheffield Massey Room)

Lisa Davis-Bell, Kimberley Davis (Truth Be Told)

  • Reproductive Rights in the South

Aimee Arrambide (NARAL Pro-Choice Texas)

  • Prison Leaders and Why America Can’t Embrace Them

Bruce Reilly (Voice of the Experienced)

12:00 – 1:10 | The Gavel Gap Lunch with Judge Karen Sage

Susman Godfrey Atrium

1:15 – 2:15 | Decarceration: Sunlight and Solidarity

Francis Auditorium

This panel will feature journalists, formerly incarcerated people, and activists. They will share their experiences with reentry, programs behind bars, immigration detention, and the First Amendment concerns implicated by incarceration.

Professor Ranjana Natarajan, director of Texas Law’s Civil Rights Clinic, will moderate this discussion.

Laurie Pherigo (Truth Be Told) | Gus Bova (Texas Observer) | Jeannie Alexander (No Exceptions Prison Collective) | Bruce Reilly (Voice of the Experienced)

2:25 – 3:25 | Choose Your Own Skills Workshop

  • The Padilla Requirement and Mitigating Collateral Consequences

Sheffield Massey Room

Speakers will lead a workshop on the increasing intersection between immigration and criminal law, and the latest issues facing attorneys who practice in these fields.

Adela Meráz (Capital Area Private Defender Service)| Julie Wimmer (Immigration Attorney-Austin, TX) 

  • Secrets of a Successful Organizer

TNH 2.124

An introduction to effective community and workplace organizing.

Amanda Cavazos Weems (CWA-TSEU)

  • Grassroots Activism and the Law

TNH 2.123

How can grassroots activists and attorneys work together, borrow each others’ tools, and make common cause? How can we broaden our conceptions of activism or lawyering to include other forms of practice?

Cristian Sanchez (RAICES), University Leadership Initiative-UT Austin

3:25-3:35Cookie and Coffee Break

3:35-4:35| Choose Your Session

Building Community Solidarity

Francis Auditorium

Panelists will share their experiences with grassroots activism, with a focus on how to best create and share local activism practices between lawyers and non-lawyers. What are the best strategies to support movements that have already begun and may benefit from legal assistance?

Tristan Call (Vanderbilt University)| Chas Moore (Austin Justice Coalition)| Mark McKim (Austin Democratic Socialists of America) | Natalie San Luis (Community Housing Expansion of Austin)

Processing Sexual Assault in the Wake of the Kavanaugh Hearings

Sheffield-Massey Room

Do you need a space to process? We do, so we created one. For many, Thursday’s hearings on Brett Kavanaugh’s history as a sexual abuser was a primer on why so many of us who are survivors of sexual assault feel pressured not to report. Such treatment of Dr. Ford, and Kavanaugh’s other accusers in the media, can make it feel like silence is better than the shaming, blaming, and disbelief that so often accompanies the decision to tell our stories. This conversation will be an opportunity to process the events of Thursday, as well as the larger issue of what it is like to live in a climate where sexual assault is openly accepted and excused. Come ready to share how you’ve been feeling, or just to listen, whatever feels right to you. All gender identities welcome.

4:40-5:30 | Closing Conversation

Francis Auditorium

In small groups, attendees and speakers will identify the practical takeaways from the conference. Discussion will include next steps to take in response to challenges in the legal environment, and how to maintain balance as a practitioner.

6:00 – 8:00 | Happy Hour Closing Event |Hole in the Wall: 2538 Guadalupe St., Austin, TX 78705