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The Earl Carl Institute for Legal and Social Policy, Inc. at the Thurgood Marshall School of Law seeks to identify, address, and offer solutions to issues that affect traditionally urban and disenfranchised communities. The Institute was established in 1992 by Professor Marcia Johnson and is a nonprofit corporation exempt from taxation under §501(c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code. The Institute is committed to the belief that social change can occur through a variety of educational and advocacy activities, client education, publications, and direct legal representation.

The Earl Carl Institute for Legal & Social Policy, Inc. (ECI) was initially designed to serve as a provider of resources for Thurgood Marshall students to enhance their research and writing skills. Over the past 20 years the Institute’s programs have grown significantly and now also include training in legal advocacy, leadership, office management, and problem solving.

The Institute generally addresses issues that involve both legal and social policy, through interdisciplinary work, with special emphasis on areas that have a disproportionate impact on minority and underserved communities. The projects typically have one of three outcomes: (1) student development, (2) public policy initiatives, and (3) community education. Currently, the Institute focuses its efforts on issues involving (1) the criminal justice system, (2) family, (3) housing and (4) education.

The Institute annually publishes student and academic article in its ECI Interdisciplinary Journal For Legal And Social Policy. It also publishes student articles on the web and in other journals. Recent research and writing projects have included:

  •  ECI’s 83rd Legislative Update: An Urban Perspective
  • State Of Black Houston Now Snapshots 2013
  • ECI’s Focus On Justice Magazine
  • Human Trafficking: When Black Girls Run Away
  • Teen Dating Violence in the Urban Community
  • The Impact Of Homelessness in The African-American Community: A Call For Additional Homeless Courts in Houston, Texas
  • Disproportionate Minority Contact: What Texas Isn’t Doing in the Juvenile System (research & writing stage)


 The Institute also operates three clinical programs:

  1. The Opal Mitchell Lee Property Preservation Project provides representation in cases to resolve property issues so that clients can obtain or maintain wealth through real property. These cases generally involve probate and other actions to clear title to property.
  2. The Earl Carl Institute Juvenile Justice Project provides representation to students involved in multiple juvenile systems, including foster care, juvenile delinquency proceedings and disciplinary actions in school.
  3. The Thurgood Marshall School of Law Innocence Project provides representation to individuals who are the wrongfully convicted.

The institute provides several continuing legal education and community education programs each year.  Annual programs typically involve (1) criminal indigent defense (2) juvenile justice and (3) domestic violence.


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