We are incredibly excited to welcome Emily Danker-Feldman to the Mizzou Law faculty this year as the new director of the Innocence Project Clinic. She has dedicated her career to assisting incarcerated people, working as an attorney at Rosenblum, Schwartz & Fry with a focus on state appeals and post-conviction cases and federal motions, sentencing and appellate practice before becoming a supervising attorney with the Midwest Innocence Project. We asked Professor Danker-Feldman a few questions about the goals she has for her new position, and her answers are below.
What do you want to accomplish in this position?
Put simply, I want to fight for and exonerate wrongfully convicted people in Missouri. Hand-in-hand with that goal, I want to give students a valuable classroom and clinical experience that will build their confidence and skills, one they can take with them and draw on as they advance in their careers.
Why are you excited about this new role?
I often describe myself as a lifelong student. I chose this career, or it chose me, in part because much of my job is to be curious—about new cases, new developments in the law, new strategies to be a better advocate. I’m excited to share that learning with students.
How do your background and experience help you in this role?
I applied to law school after working for Legal Services for Prisoners with Children in San Francisco, California. Mass incarceration, with its targeting of people of color, struck me as one of the most pressing human rights violations in the United States. I wanted to be useful.
I have spent my career developing the skills to translate the stories of incarcerated people, to get the criminal system to acknowledge them. Many people have helped me along the way. In this new role, I look forward to paying that forward.
How will your class/clinic help students? Clients?
In my class, students will gain familiarity with the causes of wrongful convictions and learn to think like an Innocence Project lawyer. In my clinic, they will be able to put that knowledge into practice. Students will be served by a year-long immersion in the theory and practice of innocence law. For their part, clients will be served by having fresh, eager eyes on their cases and more hands on deck. It takes a village to exonerate someone.
What does this position mean for you?
This position means the opportunity to be part of an educational community again. That intersection of theory and practice, of community and advocacy, is my sweet spot. I look forward to collaborating within the Mizzou community and having a greater venue to reflect on the meaning of this work.
What does success in this new role look like?
Success looks like building student confidence and skills and fighting for wrongfully convicted people, translating their stories, to the best of our collective ability.
What does it mean for Mizzou Law?
It means giving students experience that will propel their professional development and prepare them for life after graduation, as well as serving the law school’s ethos of concern for the public good in Missouri.