The summer after my first year in law school, I worked on a case in which a teenager was brutally beaten by police—and the whole event was captured on video. I had read about police brutality and even watched similar videos showing these events. Little did I know what a profound effect this case would have on my outlook of the legal profession.
I was working as a summer associate at a boutique civil rights firm in New York. My team, which included three other law students, was assigned to conduct legal research and collect facts from community members, family and friends.
The case was to be brought under Section 1983, a seminal piece of civil rights legislation that assigns liability to individual state actors who have violated a defendant’s constitutional rights. In this case, our firm was looking to charge the police officers individually for beating up our client. Only after reading this statute did I truly begin to understand the impact lawyers can have on people who are treated unfairly.
The teenager was stopped by police at a red light—apparently stopped without cause due to racial profiling—in a high-crime neighborhood. Luckily, the security camera of the traffic light captured the teenager’s brutal beating. The boy had significant bruises and scars to his body and permanent injury to his left eye. I was fortunate to hear his first-hand account of the beating; it was jarring and disconcerting in a way I’ll never forget.
I also spoke to community members, family and friends to gain a better perspective about the community. Later in the summer, our legal team spoke at a community hearing about the case.
The joy and satisfaction of defending basic civil rights that many Americans take for granted is indescribable. My experience confirmed that I had made the right choice to become an attorney.
Nicole Navi JD’16 was a summer associate at Frederick Brewington Law Offices in New York. She is an active member of the Women’s Law Association, Suffolk’s Real Estate Trust & Estates Group, and is president of the Jewish Law Student Association. To learn more about Suffolk Law, visit suffolk.edu/applytolaw.