Among her many experiences at Rutgers Law School, Latiqua M. Liles worked with community groups to advocate for public safety reforms, studied the deficits in the Newark Public Schools system, and represented public school students who have special education needs.
Liles, who grew up in Monticello, New York, was the first in her family to earn a bachelor’s degree and said what drew her to Rutgers Law was its Minority Student Program (MSP) and the resources it offered. Though she graduated in January, her peers chose her to be the student speaker at this April’s Gala celebrating the 50th anniversary of the program. In Liles’s remarks, she said, “Programs like MSP are necessary, especially in the legal field, where most lawyers don’t look like me. Coming to law school, I did not know a single lawyer, let alone one of color. MSP helped me maneuver every aspect of the law school experience, whether it was how to study for finals or how to dress for interviews.”
She participated in several programs in law school, including the Constitutional Rights and International Human Rights Clinics, where she co-authored a White Paper on alternatives to policing, which was issued to Newark community organizations. “For communities like Newark, public safety means having their basic needs met – somewhere to live, an education, access to jobs, health insurance, financial security, etc. The paper offered examples of how communities and grassroots organizations all over the nation are reforming public safety by developing initiatives to reduce overreliance on the police and the criminal justice system as a whole.”
Liles and her clinical team also conducted a human rights assessment of the Newark Public Schools System, a school system she said is severely underfunded and under resourced. They partnered with community organizations to conduct interviews, hold focus groups, and distribute surveys. They analyzed the data under an international human rights framework, seeking to provide the community with tools within international human rights law that could help improve the schools.
In her final semester, Liles participated in the Education and Health Law Clinic’s H.E.A.L. collaborative, under Professor Jennifer Rosen Valverde. Liles collaborated with social work students and pediatricians to provide legal services to parents on behalf of their children. “I had a case load of about six children, all with special education issues. During my time there, I got three of my kids moved to another school that could better address their needs, and I also got the district to pay for another child to attend a private therapeutic school.”
Liles credits former Rutgers Law Professor Jeena Shah, who oversaw the International Human Rights Clinic, for introducing her to community lawyering, “She taught me the importance of lawyers whose goal is to effect real structural change, in addition to those that provide direct services. She showed me the bigger picture, beyond the lawyers we see on TV, but also those working behind the scenes advocating for widespread, long-lasting change.”
She was a Kinoy-Stavis Public Interest Fellow, in addition to serving as the Treasurer of the Street Law Program, Vice President of Academic Affairs of the Association of Black Law Students, Treasurer of the LGBTQ Caucus, a Board Member of the National Lawyers Guild and a member of the Moot Court Board. She was also Senior Managing Editor of the Race and the Law Review and her note “A ‘Legacy Preference’ for Descendants of Slaves: Why Georgetown’s Approach to Admissions is Misguided” was published in the Journal’s Spring 2018 Edition.
Liles is currently working at Manes & Weinberg Special Needs Lawyers of New Jersey. In September, Liles will clerk for the Hon. Carolyn E. Wright in Essex County Superior Court – Family Division, working with juvenile offenders. Her goal is to return to private practice doing special needs work, with a focus on children in the juvenile justice system.