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Social Justice Advocacy Certificate of Concentration

Stetson students and faculty met with Juan Melendez (front center), a death row exoneree, during an Innocence Initiative at Stetson Law meeting.


Stetson University College of Law is committed to preparing students to use their legal education to serve the public interest and to advance social justice in the public and private sector. Consistent with the mission of the Center for Excellence in Advocacy, it is our goal to create excellent advocates both inside and outside the courtroom. As a part of this commitment, Stetson Law has established a Social Justice Advocacy Certificate of Concentration program for J.D. students. The concentration program is intended to prepare students to deal directly with significant social justice issues in civil or criminal law by counseling them to complete specific coursework, by assigning faculty mentors to them who have experience and expertise in social justice advocacy, and by requiring pro bono service activities, experiential learning, and advanced research and writing on contemporary social justice initiatives and issues.

The Social Justice Advocacy Certificate of Concentration is a selective program, which admits a limited number of students based upon their academic and experiential background, interviews with program faculty, and commitment to a career dedicated to advocacy that serves the cause of social justice.

Listen to Professor Judith Scully discuss social justice advocacy and Stetson Law's certificate of concentration:

How to Apply

Interested students should download and complete the Concentration Application (PDF) and deliver the completed application to the Faculty Support Services Office by the deadline listed on the form.

Program Description

Objective: The certificate of concentration in Social Justice Advocacy is intended for a select group of students who aspire to use their legal advocacy skills to address social justice issues.

Eligibility: Any Stetson Law student in good standing who has completed a minimum of 30 semester credit hours and not more than 45 semester credit hours may apply for acceptance into the Social Justice Advocacy Certificate of Concentration program. The co-directors of the concentration program, in consultation with the director of the Center for Excellence in Advocacy, will make final determinations on all applications for acceptance into this program based upon consideration of the student's application materials, the student's demonstrated commitment to the program and the likelihood that the student will be able to successfully complete the requirements of the program.

Requirements: In order to receive the Social Justice Advocacy Certificate of Concentration at graduation, a student must be formally accepted into the program, and must complete the following requirements:

  • The student must complete at least 21 hours in the specifically approved curriculum listed below, including both mandatory and elective curriculum requirements, with an average/cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 in all courses taken in the Approved Curriculum, and must achieve at least a 2.25 in any course taken in the Approved Curriculum which is to be included in order to meet the 21 hour elective requirement;
  • Each student must participate in an approved experiential learning opportunity related to social justice advocacy law (e.g., a clinic, internship, or other experiential learning unit recommended by a member of the faculty who teaches one or more of the courses in the Approved Curriculum that qualify as an experiential learning opportunity);
  • Each student must complete additional mentoring, pro bono service, and administrative requirements, as approved by her/his faculty mentor and the director of the Center for Excellence in Advocacy; and
  • In addition to any elective Seminar, each student must complete a separate Independent Study Project or Directed Research Project approved by her/his faculty mentor in an area of social justice advocacy that would fulfill the experiential and/or writing requirements of an IRP or DRP.

Course Registration: Students accepted into the Social Justice Advocacy Certificate of Concentration program will be given preference by the Registrar's Office for enrollment in any courses listed in the Mandatory Curriculum.

Required Mentoring: Upon being selected into the Social Justice Advocacy Certificate of Concentration program, a student will be assigned a mentor who is a member of Stetson Law's faculty. The student will be expected to meet regularly with her/his mentor, no less than twice each semester, for the purpose of discussing advancement toward completion of the requirements for receipt of the certificate of concentration. Further, as a prerequisite for registration for each upcoming semester, each student accepted into the concentration program will be required to obtain the approval of her/his mentor, and Professor Scully or Professor Bickel, regarding her/his elective course selections. It is the goal of this required mentoring that the participating members of the faculty will pass along to the students the benefit of their own experience and expertise in the fields which are defined as advancing social justice issues, and the areas of practice which directly involve the legal advocate in the protection of civil rights and social justice, as defined by constitutional and statutory law, or private law. In keeping with this goal, students in the Social Justice Advocacy Certificate of Concentration Program should not select elective courses simply because they are listed as qualifying courses, but will be expected to present an elective course plan that is directly related to their career plan.

Pro Bono Service: To receive the Social Justice Advocacy Certificate of Concentration, at least 30 hours of the 60 hours of pro bono service required for graduation must be related to an approved area of social justice advocacy, as defined by the areas described in the Approved Curriculum, or otherwise approved by the student's faculty mentor and Professor Scully or Professor Bickel.

Administrative Hours: To receive the Social Justice Advocacy Certificate of Concentration, a student must perform at least 10 hours assisting the director of the Center for Excellence in Advocacy, Professor Scully or Professor Bickel, or the student's faculty mentor in planning, or participating in programs within Stetson University College of Law directly related to the SJA concentration, e.g., Innocence Initiative at Stetson Law, Constitutional Law and Civil Rights Travel Course, The Juvenile Justice Initiative or any other public interest organization sponsoring events related to social justice on or off campus.

Approved Curriculum: Although all areas of social justice advocacy are inter-related, the Social Justice Advocacy Certificate of Concentration program will encourage students to focus on coursework that advances their interest in the criminal justice system or their interest in civil law subjects that relate to a specific field of practice or law-related service that furthers the public interest and social equality.

Mandatory Curriculum (Criminal Law Emphasis): Students who wish to pursue a criminal law emphasis will enroll in elective coursework with criminal law designation. At least nine (9) of those hours must be satisfied by completion of the following courses:

  • Criminal Procedure (3 credit hours) and two other three (3) credit hour criminal law courses from the Approved Elective Course list below that have been specifically approved by a Social Justice Advocacy faculty mentor.

Mandatory Curriculum (Civil Law Emphasis): Students who wish to pursue a civil law emphasis must complete the elective course in Federal Administrative Law, Florida Administrative Law or an alternative qualifying administrative law course approved by Professor Bickel as being directly related to their stated career path.

Elective Courses (The role of individual faculty mentors will include counseling students to maintain a focus on those electives related to their special interest):

  • Administrative Law (Federal) (Civil)
  • Administration Law for Health Care (Civil)
  • Adoption Law Seminar (Civil)
  • Advanced Criminal Evidence Seminar (Criminal)
  • Advanced Criminal Trial Advocacy (Criminal) (Prerequisite: Trial Advocacy)
  • Advanced Employment Discrimination Seminar (Civil)
  • American Legal History (Civil)
  • Children & the Law (Civil)
  • Comparative Criminal Justice Systems (Criminal)
  • Consumer Protection Law (Civil/Criminal)
  • Constitutional Law and the Civil Rights Movement (Civil/Criminal)
  • Constitutional Law and the Civil Rights Movement Travel Course
  • Constitutional Law II (Civil/Criminal)
  • Correctional Law Seminar (Criminal)
  • Criminal Adjudication (Criminal)
  • Criminal Procedure (Criminal)
  • Criminal Responsibility Seminar (Criminal)
  • Death Penalty Seminar (Criminal)
  • Disability Law (Civil)
  • Employment Law (Civil)
  • Election Law Seminar (Civil/Criminal)
  • Employment Discrimination Law (Civil)
  • Ethics & the Practice of Criminal Law (Criminal)
  • Family Law (Civil)
  • Family Law Mediation
  • Family Law Seminar (Civil)
  • Family Law Litigation (Civil)
  • Federal Courts & Federal System (Civil/Criminal)
  • Federal Criminal Law (Criminal)
  • Feminist Jurisprudence Seminar (Civil)
  • Florida Administrative Law (Civil)
  • Florida Criminal Procedure (Criminal)
  • Food Law (Civil)
  • Human Trafficking: National & International Immigration Issues (Civil/Criminal)
  • Immigration Law (Civil/Criminal)
  • Immigration Litigation and Advocacy (Civil/Criminal)
  • Independent Study Project or Directed Research Project (Civil/Criminal)*
  • International Criminal Law (Criminal)
  • International Law of Human Rights (Civil/Criminal)
  • International Distributive Justice Seminar (Civil)
  • Introduction to Aging and the Law (Civil)
  • Jurisprudence (Civil)
  • Jurisprudence Seminar (Civil)
  • Juvenile Criminal Law and Practice/Juvenile Law (Criminal)
  • Juvenile Law Seminar (Criminal)
  • Labor Law (Civil)
  • Law and Sexual Orientation Seminar (Civil)
  • Law and Sexuality (Civil/Criminal)
  • Law, History & Philosophy Seminar (Civil)
  • Local Government Law
  • Nonprofits Seminar (Civil/Criminal)
  • Poverty Law (Civil)
  • Race and the Law Seminar (Civil/Criminal)
  • Reproductive Technology and the Law (Civil)
  • The Role of Law in Developing Countries and Countries in Transition Seminar (Civil)
  • Western Legal Thought Seminar (Civil/Criminal)
  • Worker Safety Law and Policy (Civil)
  • An Independent Study Project or Directed Research Project, as approved by Professor Scully or Professor Bickel (Civil/Criminal)

*Each student in the Social Justice Advocacy Certificate of Concentration Program must complete this requirement.

NOTE: The elective courses listed above may not be offered in a particular semester, and some may not be offered regularly in the academic year. Note also that courses may be listed as mandatory (for the criminal or civil track) and also listed as "elective courses." Thus a student in the criminal track may, with approval of the faculty mentor, enroll in an appropriate elective course in civil law. However, no course may be "double-counted," toward the total credit hour requirement for the SJA Concentration. Each student who is in the Social Justice Advocacy Certificate of Concentration program will receive academic counseling from Professor Scully, Professor Bickel, or the student's individual faculty mentor regarding preferred electives prior to registration for each term that the student is in the program. Students in the SJA Concentration Program should take the initiative in contacting Professor Bickel or Professor Scully, or their faculty mentor as soon as the elective course offerings are released for each semester, regarding their proposed course schedule for each term. Any change during drop/add must be approved by Professor Bickel or Professor Scully or the student’s faculty member.

Internships and Clinics

Internships and clinics that qualify for the concentration program:

  • Child Advocacy Clinic (Civil/Criminal)
  • Civil Legal Services Clinic (Civil)
  • Civil Elder Law Clinic (Civil)
  • Elder Consumer Protection Internship (Civil/Criminal)
  • Elder and Disability Law Internship (Civil)
  • EEOC Internship (Civil)
  • Family Law Internship (Civil)
  • Federal Judicial Internship (Criminal/Civil)
  • Federal Public Defender Clinic (Criminal)
  • Homeless Advocacy Internship (Civil/Criminal)
  • Immigration Law Clinic (Civil/Criminal)
  • Innocence Initiative Clinic (Criminal)
  • Military Justice Internship (Criminal)
  • Prosecution (Pinellas) Clinic (Criminal)
  • Public Defender Clinic (Criminal)
  • Tampa Prosecution Clinic (Criminal)
  • Veterans Appellate Rights Advocacy Clinic (Civil)
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims Internship (Civil)
  • Other Selected Internships (as expressly approved)

Student Organization Component: Each student will be encouraged to maintain active membership, and participate in the programming of at least one of the following approved student organizations, which advance social justice dialogue and student development in the specific field related to the student's course area:

  • American Association for Justice
  • American Constitution Society
  • Amnesty International
  • Black Law Students Association
  • Equal Justice Works
  • Hispanic Bar Association
  • Immigration Law Student Association
  • Innocence Initiative at Stetson Law
  • Jewish Law Students Association
  • Juvenile Justice Initiative
  • Labor and Employment Law Association
  • Lambda Legal Society
  • Leadership Development Committee
  • Public Service Fellows
  • Student Animal Legal Defense Fund
  • Student Veterans Association

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Constitutional Law and the Civil Rights Movement Travel Course

The Constitutional Law and the Civil Rights Movement Travel Course is an experience-based course offered to students who have completed the pre-requisite course Constitutional Law and the Civil Rights Movement. The travel course takes students to six cities, where they visit museums, institutes, centers, universities, and historic places identified with the Civil Rights Movement and the legal history of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Becoming an Advocate

See why Stetson's advocacy program ranks first in the nation. For more information, see the Center for Excellence in Advocacy.

What is Social Justice Advocacy?

Students and professors discuss Stetson Law's concentration in social justice advocacy.

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