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Wayne Law Professor Benson Invited to Testify Before U.S. Congress

September 24, 2008

DETROIT (Sept. 24, 2008) – The United States House of Representatives Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties and the House Administration’s Committee Subcommittee on Elections have requested Wayne State University Law School Assistant Professor Jocelyn Friedrichs Benson to testify at a Joint oversight hearing on “Federal, State, and Local efforts to Prepare for the General 2008 Election.” The hearing will take place today, Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2008, at 10 a.m. in room 2141 of the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C.

The Joint hearing will examine the recent controversy in Michigan over allegations that “challengers” observing the election in precincts on Election Day may use foreclosure lists to challenge voters’ eligibility.  

Professor Benson’s testimony will specifically include a list of recommendations for what Secretaries of State and local election administrators should do, in Michigan and elsewhere, to ensure that no voter is wrongfully turned away from the polls or unfairly threatened, intimidated, or disenfranchised on Election Day.

Professor Benson joined the Wayne Law faculty in 2005. She teaches courses in election law, education law, race and the law, sports and inequality, and civil procedure. She has also published numerous articles on election administration and voting rights for English learning voters.

She serves as the founder and director of the Richard Austin Center on Election Law and Administration, and is a member of the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Election Law. She is also in the process of writing a book entitled Democracy and the Secretary: the Crucial Role of State Secretaries of State in Promoting Democracy. The book will highlight the crucial role that a state’s chief election administrator plays in the electoral process and illustrate how Secretaries from either side of the political spectrum are making significant contributions to promoting democracy. 

Some of Professor Benson’s past professional experiences include: serving as an adjunct faculty fellow at the University of California Berkeley Law School’s Warren Institute on Race, Ethnicity and Diversity; serving as a law clerk to The Honorable Damon J. Keith on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit; and serving as the National Field Director for Election Protection for the Democratic National Committee during the 2004 presidential election.  

Last year, Harry Belafonte appointed her to serve as his Detroit Director of the Gathering for Justice program he founded in 2006. Her work for Belafonte culminated in a two-day conference at YouthVille Detroit that brought together 130 high school students and 200 community members, including Congressman Conyers and Grace Lee Boggs, to build an agenda for grassroots economic and educational empowerment in Detroit. She currently serves on a number of boards and committees including the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Election Law, and the board of directors for Community Legal Resources and Transportation Riders United.

Professor Benson graduated from Wellesley College, where she founded the now-annual Women American Political Activism conference and was the first student to be elected to serve in the governing body for the town of Wellesley, the Town Meeting. She earned her master’s degree in sociology as a Marshall Scholar at Oxford University in the United Kingdom, conducting research into the sociological implications of white supremacy and neo-Nazism. She received her J.D from Harvard Law School, where she was a general editor of the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review.

Wayne State University Law School has educated and served the Detroit metropolitan area since its inception as Detroit City Law School in 1927. Located at 471 W. Palmer St. in Detroit’s re-energized historic cultural center, the Law School remains committed to student success and features modern lecture and court facilities, multi-media and distance learning classrooms, a 250-seat auditorium, and the Arthur Neef Law Library, which houses one of the nation's 40 largest legal collections. Taught by an internationally recognized and expert faculty, Wayne State Law School students experience a high-quality legal education via a growing array of hands-on curricular offerings, five live-client clinics, and access to well over 100 internships with local and non-profit entities each year. Its 11,000 living alumni, who work in every state of the nation and more than a dozen foreign countries, are experts in their disciplines and include leading members of the local, national and international legal communities. For more information, visit www.law.wayne.edu.

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