Berkeley Law Launches Consumer Law Center

The University of California Berkeley School of Law is launching the Berkeley Center for Consumer Law and Economic Justice, a new center that will position the school as a leader in the study, research and practice of consumer law.

The new Center will provide research and analysis to “fuel meaningful policy change,” according to a press release. Participants will file amicus briefs in consumer cases in appellate courts nationwide, provide input to legislatures and regulatory agencies on behalf of low-income consumers, increase student opportunities for consumer policy work and produce white papers. 

A founding gift from alumna Elizabeth Cabraser, a partner at the law firm of Liefff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP, established the Center.

"I am thrilled that we are launching the Berkeley Center for Consumer Law and Economic Justice," said Berkeley Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky. "I believe that we can create the preeminent university-based center on consumer law in the country and that it will make a huge difference in people's lives. I am deeply grateful to Elizabeth Cabraser for making this possible." 

The Center will host the nation’s only conference of consumer law clinics and convene the first-ever consumer law scholar conference. The Center will also serve as a place for practitioners, advocates, academics and students to come together for speaker series, workshops and collaborative projects.

The law school offered its first consumer law course in 2008, and the practice specialty has taken root. There are now five law courses offered.

Berkeley Law is also home to the Consumer Justice Clinic, which operates within the East Bay Community Law Center. Participating students help defend clients against debt-collection lawsuits, educate consumers on deceptive and predatory lending programs, and litigate against operations that victimize non-English speaking immigrants. 

Clinic students succeeded in helping pass California's Fair Debt Buying Practices Act in 2013. The law targets unscrupulous debt collection agencies that misused courts to take advantage of low-income consumers. Students later helped pass follow-up bills on debt collection and wage garnishment.

Berkeley Law students also established the Consumer Advocacy Protection Society and the Consumer Rights Workshop. The school now has a mentoring program with alumni in the practice area.  

"While modern consumer law has been around for more than a century, there's never been an academic hub at a leading school with the mission of figuring out what it encompasses and what it can accomplish," said Ted Mermin, co-founder of the Public Good Law Center and interim executive director of the Center. "That's a real void we're eager to fill."

 

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Tyler Roberts is an editor for The National Jurist. You can follow him on Twitter at @wtyelrroberts