Spotlight on The Center for HIV Law and Policy (CHLP)

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Back in January we shone the Progressive Lawyer spotlight on the The Center for HIV Law & Policy and chatted with Legal Director Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal. With news that Ivan has moved on to head the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights in Boston (of which we hope to do a feature on soon) we thought it appropriate to revisit this post in case you missed it. Catherine Hanssens is the current Executive Director and Founder, Tosh Anderson is the Program Manager and Mayo Schreiber is the Senior Criminal Law and Managing Consultant.

This week we talk to Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal of The Center for HIV Law and Policy (CHLP) on the work they do to reduce the impact of HIV on vulnerable and marginalized communities and to secure the human rights of people affected by HIV

Progressive Lawyer: Please introduce yourself and describe your role in The Center for HIV Law & Policy.

Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal: My name is Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal, and I am a civil rights lawyer advocating for racial justice, immigration and LGBT/HIV equality. I am the Legal Director of The Center for HIV Law and Policy (CHLP). As Legal Director, I set legal and policy strategy, guide CHLP’s work, and supervise the organization’s lawyers and staff. I oversee CHLP’s legal and policy efforts across the country. CHLP’s website contains more information about our work (http://www.hivlawandpolicy.org/).

PL: Why was CHLP started? What issues does it confront?

IE-M: CHLP is a national legal and policy resource and strategy center working to reduce the impact of HIV on vulnerable and marginalized communities and to secure the human rights of people affected by HIV. CHLP is a national leader on policy development. We advise policy makers, lawyers, and community advocates.

PL: What services does CHLP offer? Who are its primary clients/audience?

IE-M: CHLP is known for the HIV Policy Resource Bank – the first and only of its kind – a comprehensive database of research, reports, legal and medical guides, court and agency decisions, pleadings and briefs, policy analyses and recommendations, and other materials on dozens of topics. Through the HIV Policy Resource Bank, we provide free, unlimited access to substantive resources to support and increase the advocacy power and expertise of attorneys, service providers, and community members. Check out: http://www.hivlawandpolicy.org/resources.

We are also the organizational home of the Positive Justice Project (PJP), a national coalition of organizations and individuals working to end HIV criminalization in the United States. HIV criminalization is the use of criminal law to prosecute and penalize people living with HIV for conduct that would be legal if they did not get tested or know their status. PJP includes people living with or at greatest risk of HIV, those who have been arrested or prosecuted, medical and public health professionals, community organizers, advocates, attorneys, law enforcement and others. CHLP’s website contains detailed information about PJP’s work in states across the country (http://www.hivlawandpolicy.org/initiatives/positive-justice-project).

PL: How do you utilize the law to further your organizational goals?

IE-M: We engage in federal and state policy advocacy, resource creation, and support of local advocates and attorneys working on HIV cases. We also educate, organize, and mobilize communities and policy makers in the United States. Check-out some of our recent highlights: http://www.hivlawandpolicy.org/news/positive-justice-project-2013-highlights

PL: What role do legal professionals play in your organization?

Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal
Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal

IE-M: We have a team of lawyers working on a diverse portfolio of legal and policy issues. For example, we authored and filed an amicus brief on behalf of medical, public health and community organizations in a case involving a transgender woman living with HIV. In that case, the woman was challenging her removal from the United States to Mexico, where she previously experienced violence and brutality due to her transgender identity. Removal proceedings were triggered by an arrest for sex work. Although sex work is typically handled as a disorderly conduct charge, in her case it evolved into deportation proceedings when her HIV positive status was discovered. We intervened on her behalf because HIV should not convert disorderly conduct into a deportation-triggering felony. We successfully argued that when an HIV diagnosis can trigger deportation for immigrants who face violence in their home country, the only behavior likely to be deterred is getting tested and into treatment. The brief is available in CHLP’s HIV Policy Resource Bank.

PL: Do you offer any internships or volunteer opportunities?

IE-M: Yes, we provide internship opportunities for law school student as well as undergraduate and graduate students. I try to incorporate a law school clinical training model for our legal internship program because I believe that all students benefit from the practical application of legal concepts and theories. I particularly enjoy working with law students as they handle individual client representations, impact litigation, and policy advocacy projects. I like to help law students develop substantive legal skills: counseling clients, deposing witnesses, writing briefs, and arguing in court. For more information about CHLP’s internships please visit http://www.hivlawandpolicy.org/support/volunteer-opportunities.

PL: How would a legal professional pursue a career with your organization? What advice would you give to a law student or legal professional who would be interested in this type of law?

IE-M: Demonstrated commitment to public interest law, and serving vulnerable and marginalized communities.

PL: How do you balance your work life with your private life?

IE-M: Work-life balance is always tough. I try to carve out time to spend with family and friends. When I am not working or reading, I enjoy running. I also visit art exhibits and galleries. Art – from Diego Rivera’s murals to the AIDS Memorial Quilt – is a powerful and inspiring medium. It also complements social justice work.

PL: Outside of your organization, what issues are you particularly passionate about?

IE-M: At work and outside of work, I spend a lot of time thinking about intersectionality – particularly, the interplay between sexual orientation, gender identity, race, class, immigration status, and HIV status. I think about how these socially and culturally constructed categories interact on multiple – and often simultaneous – levels contributing to social inequality and discrimination. I tend to view and treat multiple forms of discrimination as interrelated and as part of a system of oppression. I explore intersectionality issues in my contributions to the Huffington Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ivan-espinozamadrigal/), and on Twitter (https://twitter.com/IvanEspinozaESQ).

PL: What do you think the role of law and lawyers should be in society?

IE-M: I see lawyering as inextricably intertwined with social justice and the civil rights movement. Following in the footsteps of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and countless other advocates, public interest lawyers help support local grassroots activism and developments in the national civil rights movement. I also believe that public service is an important component of legal practice: all lawyers should be exposed to the ethical obligation to perform pro bono work.  The legal profession – including bar associations and law schools – should deepen efforts to democratize legal culture, promote social justice, and instills a spirit of service and sense of obligation to the poor.

PL: Thank you so much for your time Ivan.

For more information on The Center for HIV Law and Policy please vist their site at http://www.hivlawandpolicy.org/.

Until next week!

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