The Justice Catalyst activates path-breaking approaches to social justice lawyering that have real-world impact and improve the lives of those denied access to justice.
The Catalyst’s work begins with the premise that the law can be both a sword and a shield for the most marginalized. Rather than starting with the legal subject matter and asking how it can address a social problem, the Catalyst focuses on injustices and the people they harm to determine all available approaches to achieving justice.
By putting the problem and people first, analyzing them from multiple perspectives, and drawing on underutilized tools in law and other disciplines, the Catalyst develops and supports creative legal strategies that have concrete impact on a broad scale. The Catalyst uses this approach to enhance the work of expert (but often siloed) advocates and those working on the front-lines, who are often denied the resources that would allow them to tackle the systematic injustices they confront daily.
Creative Legal Strategies
Disenfranchised people are never oppressed in just one way; social and commercial forces overlap, reinforcing one another. The Catalyst works to uncover and address issues that fall between the cracks of traditionally siloed advocacy by applying a generalist, big-picture lens and finding points of intersection between legal disciplines like consumer protection, civil rights, criminal justice, competition law, and environmental justice. Analyzing a broad array of injustices, the Catalyst encourages advocates and practitioners to look beyond any one area of law for the means to redress wrongs, especially where someone is profiting off oppression.
For example, civil rights advocates working to reform the criminal legal system face problems that are beyond the scope of civil rights law. To expand the tools available to tackle these challenges, the Catalyst works with experts and advocates on projects that apply commercial law to fight the financial exploitation of justice-involved people and their communities. As another example, abuses of workers may not be actionable under existing employment law, and persist because employers are undercutting competition. The Catalyst equips workers’ rights advocates with other tactics, like antitrust law, to expand their impact.
Strengthening the Community
The Catalyst builds ties between funders, private and nonprofit lawyers, government actors, academics, and law students to strengthen communication and coordination among advocates. Specialization and expertise are powerful resources, but they can be limiting. Too often, essential information about major problems does not find its way to the person best positioned to take effective action. The Catalyst organizes and supports meetings, regular channels of communications, and information sharing tools that foster community around creative lawyering.
The Catalyst administers a fellowship program to launch and support early-stage projects that combat the systems that facilitate injustice and build upon or expand the protections for oppressed communities. While the Catalyst’s core programmatic work is focused on litigation as a tool and the legal system generally, the fellowship program takes a wider approach that includes projects that look beyond legal action or law reform. Click Here for More Information