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Posted Sept. 8, 2009

Lane ’11 Makes Mark Fighting Discrimination Against Arab-American Community

Lane

Jordan Lane never expected to have tea with the Syrian ambassador to the United States or win “best brief” in a moot court competition, but those were just two of the opportunities made possible by her summer internship at the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

Lane, now a second-year law student, was first introduced to the Washington D.C.-based grassroots civil rights organization through the Law School’s Winter Pro Bono Program. She spent a week working there over winter break, and was encouraged to seek one of the four summer intern slots offered by the ADC, which hundreds of law students apply for each year.

As an intern, Lane worked with grassroots organizations and legislation concerning civil rights issues, including employment discrimination, immigration, racial profiling, prison abuse and transportation discrimination. She visited the CIA, FBI Academy, the Saudi Arabian embassy, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.

“It was amazing to have access to the people who make policy in this country and seeing what a good job they do. Since September 11, people have thought the Arab-American community and the government are natural enemies, and they’re not,” said Lane, who is of Syrian and Lebanese descent. “ADC works very hard to increase understanding of the Arab-American community within the government, and vice versa. Just seeing what a good relationship it is, and how much cooperation there is, was amazing to me.”

Through the internship, Lane was required to participate in a moot court competing with the other ADC interns. Their hypothetical topic — whether a Muslim woman has the right to wear a headscarf in court — was based on a recent opinion by the Maryland attorney general that a woman may be forced to remove her face veil if the government needed to see the woman’s face for identification purposes.

The moot court was judged by representatives from the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the law firm Kirkland & Ellis. Lane, who argued on behalf of the woman who wished to wear a headscarf in court, was surprised to learn she had won best brief.

“It was scary, especially when you consider that the judges are really smart, really accomplished and very familiar with the issues,” Lane said. “It was terribly intimidating, but I was really pleased with the outcome.”

Lane never expected to participate in a moot court, and said it was one of many productive learning experiences she had over the summer.

“Personally, I learned to have more confidence in myself through the moot court,” she said. “The internship also taught me about advocacy, and ways to achieve a goal outside of litigation.” Often, she said, it is enough to call a government agency or organization to negotiate issues, rather than always taking a litigious approach.

At the Law School, Lane holds leadership roles in a number of organizations. She is vice president of the Virginia Employment and Labor Law Association, co-director of the Migrant Farmworker Project, co-organizer of Students United to Promote Racial Awareness and vice president of the Muslim Law Students Association. Outside of the university, she volunteers for a dog rescue group.

“I’ve learned how important public service is to me. It’s been one of the most meaningful experiences of my law school career,” she said. “Even if I don’t have a public interest career, I’m going to hog pro bono hours. I want it to be part of my life because without it I would feel so empty.”

By Ashley Matthews