Amanda Schemkes

Amanda SchemkesCivil Liberties Defense Center

Eugene, Ore.

Amanda Schemkes is a summer intern at the Civil Liberties Defense Center, a Eugene-based nonprofit organization that is dedicated to providing legal representation to activists, primarily animal rights and environmental activists; educating activists about their rights; and defending civil liberties against government attacks.

July 1, 2013

The CLDC is well known among environmental, animal rights, and other radical and progressive activist movements for its commitment to being a part of social change on the legal front. To date, the CLDC has provided legal representation to more than 800 activists, as well as offered numerous legal trainings for activists, provided on-the-ground legal support during protest actions, challenged laws that are detrimental to activist movements, published legal resources, and shown unwavering support for activists in the face of increasing government repression. CLDC founder and staff attorney Lauren Regan is the force behind all that the CLDC has accomplished and continues to do, and I feel immensely lucky to be spending my summer learning from and working with her.

My days at CLDC are varied, with constant opportunities to be exposed to new aspects of what it means to be an activist attorney. I have attended court hearings and a settlement conference, been a part of client meetings, listened to phone conferences, and overall I feel like I get to observe or participate in most of Ms. Regan's interactions with clients, other attorneys, and judges. In addition to shadowing Ms. Regan, I also have my own tasks, with the majority being researching and writing about current CLDC cases. I've realized that the pace of doing work at the office is much quicker than I'm used to in classes, and I'm still trying to learn to adjust my work speed to these different demands.

An additional challenge is figuring out my place in the office — when to speak up, when to just listen, how to suggest ideas, etc. I tend to be more of a listener and thinker than talker, but the legal environment is one that seems to often favor slightly louder characteristics, and I find myself struggling with the feeling of not always appearing as sharp as I am about things. Considering this personal challenge, I know that Ms. Regan is a great person for me to be working with because she has a reputation of being both powerful and respected, and she's also very kind and welcoming — all traits that I want to include in my development towards being an attorney.

In getting to be a part of the ins and outs of the work of the CLDC, I feel like I'm getting a behind-the-scenes look at the legal work for which I know activists are grateful. More than I'm a law clerk and more than I'm a law student, I'm an activist. Years before the thought of law school even crossed my mind, I was reading the materials on the CLDC website, paying attention to the legal battles of some of CLDC's more well-known clients, and attending talks for activists that were presented by Ms. Regan. I'm one of the activists who are thankful that the CLDC exists, and now it is very surreal to me that I get to start learning how to be an attorney whom I hope other activists will someday be grateful to have in their corner.

As I meet some of CLDC's clients, I am repeatedly reminded of the impact that the organization and Ms. Regan have on their lives, and I am amazed that I get to be a part of this. I hope that this summer continues to show me more of the nuts and bolts of being an activist attorney, as well as the sparks of inspiration and passion that brought me here.

Sullivan Hall