American University logo
Poverty Law Society

Constitution of the Poverty Law Society

PREAMBLE

The number of impoverished Americans is increasing, along with levels of inequality. Between 2000 and 2004, both the number and percentage of the poor rose from 31.6 million and 11.3 percent in 2000, to 37.0 million and 12.7 percent in 2004 respectively. Between 2003 and 2004 alone, 1.1 million more people fell into poverty. Further, studies of real wages indicate that the poor are earning less and the rich are earning more than they did in 1970, creating dramatic inequality between rich and poor. This population reflects an enormous segment of American society, and signifies an extraordinarily serious social problem in the United States.

Despite rising poverty and inequality, the field of poverty law has largely fallen off the legal map. Once a popular field in law schools, very few schools, if any, continue to offer courses in poverty law. There are few law schools in the U.S. that currently have Poverty Law Societies. Despite this lack of offerings, there are many students at WCL who are deeply interested in poverty and in making a difference in the lives of the poor. Thus, there is a broad general interest in poverty issues at WCL.

We of the Poverty Law Society believe there is a gap at WCL in providing a cohesive, centralized outlet for the many students interested in domestic poverty and social justice. We seek to promote creative, non-partisan discussions around the laws and policies that affect poverty, provide a broad representation of the situation of America's poor, and bring the WCL community's attention to the many issues surrounding poverty. Finally, we explore the innovative ways lawyers make a difference in the fight against poverty, and encourage students, no matter their career path, to believe in their abilities as lawyers to make a difference in the lives of the poor.

ARTICLE I. NAME

The name of this organization is the Poverty Law Society.

ARTICLE II. PURPOSE

Our purpose is to revive the field of poverty law at WCL, encourage a deeper understanding of domestic poverty issues among law students, foster ambitious thinking on the ways in which lawyers can work to address the systemic roots of poverty, and highlight the legal and policy aspects surrounding poverty. We believe that we as lawyers can do more to make a difference, and that poverty is an injustice.

ARTICLE III. MEMBERSHIP

Membership in the Poverty Law Society shall be open to any person affiliated with the WCL community.

ARTICLE IV. EQUAL OPPORTUNITY

In achieving our goals for this organization, we call for full participation of all WCL students, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, physical handicap, or socioeconomic status.

ARTICLE V. MEETINGS

A. Executive Meetings
Executive meetings shall be held at such date, time, and place as may be determined by the President. Any officer in good standing is entitled to vote at any meeting of the Executive Board.

Whenever any action is to be taken by vote of the Executive Board, it shall, except as otherwise required by law of the Constitution, be authorized by a majority of the votes cast at the executive meeting.

The Executive Board shall determine the agenda and policy of the Poverty Law Society and coordinate all activities and events.

B. Program Board Meetings
Any officer may call a program board meeting to be held at such time, date, and place as he/she determines. Minutes of the program board meetings must be provided and any other important information must be relayed to all members not present.

C. Voting
Any member in good standing is entitled to vote at any meeting of the general membership. Whenever any action is to be taken by vote of the members, it shall be authorized by a majority of the votes cast at the general meeting.

ARTICLE VI. EXECUTIVE BOARD

A. Executive Board Officers
The officers of the Poverty Law Society shall be a President, two Vice-Presidents, Secretary and Treasurer.

B. Election/Delegation Process
Poverty Law Society officers shall be filled annually by the Membership. Vacancies may be filled at any meeting of the general membership. Each officer shall hold office until a successor is assigned.

The election process shall be conducted through a nomination procedure and vote by secret ballot. The president will facilitate a voting process. All positions turn over in the fall semester.

C. Removal
Any Officer assigned by the membership may be removed, for cause only, by a three-fourths vote of the Membership.

D. Resignation
An Executive Officer may resign at any time by delivering written notice of his or her resignation of the Executive Board. The resignation shall take effect at the time of notice. The officer receiving the Executive Officer's resignation shall notify all other Board members of the resignation.

E. Vacancies
An Executive Board vacancy may be filled by the affirmative vote and appointment of a majority of the remaining members of the Executive Board. An Executive Officer, appointed by the remaining Executive Officers to fill a vacancy, shall be appointed to hold office for the unexpired term of his/her predecessor in office.

F. President
Duties:

  1. Schedule all meetings and make agendas for those meetings.
  2. Schedule Executive Board meetings when needed.
  3. Be a liaison with professors who mentor the organization.
  4. Serve as the contact person for the organization with the SBA, the law school, and all outside organizations.
  5. Represent the Poverty Law Society at SBA meetings and Finance Board meetings when appropriate.
  6. Help develop semester budgets.
  7. Provide support for all Poverty Law Society programming and events.
  8. Attend SBA sponsored budget training.

G. Vice-Presidents
Duties:

  1. Help develop semester budgets.
  2. Provide support for all Poverty Law Society programming and events.
  3. Attend Program Board meetings.
  4. Provide support to all other Executive Board Members when needed.

H. Secretary
Duties:

  1. Help develop semester budgets.
  2. Attend Program Board Meetings.
  3. Provide support for all Poverty Law Society programming and events.
  4. Take minutes at all program board meetings and general membership meetings.

I. Treasurer
Duties:

  1. Develop semester budgets.
  2. Attend Program Board Meetings.
  3. Provide support for all Poverty Law Society programming and events.
  4. Responsible for collecting receipts, filling out reimbursement paperwork, and turning in all financial paperwork in a timely manner.
  5. Attend SBA sponsored budget training.
  6. Attend SBA and Finance Board meetings when appropriate.

ARTICLE VII: AMENDMENTS

This Poverty Law Society Constitution may be altered or amended by a two-thirds vote of the Executive Board and the approval vote of a majority of the General Membership.