Keeshea Turner Roberts is an adjunct clinical law professor and supervising attorney at Howard University School of Law’s Fair Housing Clinic (FHC). FHC is a year-long clinic that exposes second and third-year law students to housing topics such as discrimination and eviction defense. She currently serves as a Co-Chair of the Section's African American Affairs Committee.
Where are you from? How have your experiences here, or throughout your upbringing, influenced your passions and aspirations today?
I am originally from Lynchburg, Virginia. I have resided in the DC area since 1999. Prior to law school, I worked as a family/child caseworker and court advocate at the YWCA-Domestic Violence Prevention Program (DVPP) in Lynchburg, Virginia. DVPP’s mission is to provide support for domestic violence victims and work towards the reduction and elimination of family violence. I had the opportunity to assist victims and their children inside and outside of court. Additionally, I worked closely with the Commonwealth’s Attorney office and the Victim-Witness Service by providing support for their clients. It was this experience that compelled me to go to law school.
What drives you?
Seeing my law students transform from clueless law students to competent student attorneys over the school year drives me! I am a clinical law professor and supervising attorney at Howard University School of Law’s Fair Housing Clinic (FHC). FHC is a year-long clinic that exposes second and third-year law students to housing topics such as discrimination and eviction defense. I am proud when my students take ownership of their assigned cases and begin to act as their clients’ advocate.
What is one thing most people do not know about you that you feel they should?
While in college, I was a fencer and competed on the collegiate level.
When you look back, what is it that you want your advocacy and professional career to stand for?
I think that the late James Baldwin said it best when he said, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” I would like for my advocacy and professional career to stand for the assertion that facing life’s legal problems, such as racism, poverty, and injustice in our society is worth the effort. It is the only way that real change can be done – by being willing to confront the problem head-on.
What is one issue which you care about or work most on and why?
I care deeply about our justice system providing free equal access to justice. I think that every client, regardless of whether it is a civil or criminal matter should have access to a free and competent counsel for those who cannot afford to hire private counsel. There are many areas of the law that the outcomes for both parties would be greatly improved if the parties felt that they understand the proceedings and implications of rulings, felt that they had an opportunity to ‘tell their story’ to a neutral fact finder and when it is possible, they would have an opportunity to shape the outcome of their cases.
What do you feel is the greatest challenge facing this issue today?
The greatest challenge with facing this issue today is monetary and the will of the people. What I propose, free legal representation in all matters for indigent clients, is costly and is currently beyond the budgets of many jurisdictions. However, I believe that once our communities start to consider free legal representation for the poor in all cases as important, the money will be allocated towards that end.
In what corners do you find the greatest support in propelling these issues you work on? In other words, who are your most frequent allies?
My frequent allies are typically other legal services providers, fellow law school clinicians, and my current/former FHC student attorneys.
What CRSJ project(s) are you working on? Or, what have you undertaken in CRSJ that you found the most rewarding to have worked on? Are there any upcoming events or projects you want us all to know about?
As a new member of CRSJ, I have the honor of serving as Co-Chair of the African American Affairs Committee. The African American Affairs Committee has created great programming on a wide variety of topics from the 2020 Election to climate change this year. For Black History Month, we are proud to provide programming on several thought-provoking topics. For example, I am a panelist on the Reparations Roundtable on February 9, 2021.
In addition to serving as Co-Chair of the African American Affairs Committee, I am also a member of the Human Rights Magazine Editorial Board. I have the honor of not only shaping the contents of each issue of the magazine but have contributed an article that was published in Vol. 46, No.1.