Sunita Patel

Civil Advocacy Clinic

Office: Room Y253
Phone: 202-274-4498
Email: vCard

Sunita Patel is a Practitioner-in-Residence in the Civil Advocacy Clinic at American University Washington College of law. An experienced litigator, Professor Patel has appeared before administrative bodies, state, federal, and appellate courts and human rights tribunals. Prior to joining American University, she has held positions at a range of notable institutions, including the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Transnational Legal Clinic at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, The Legal Aid Society of New York, and the Southern Center for Human Rights. She has engaged in significant litigation and advocacy efforts on a range of issues including; policing, criminal justice processes, racial profiling, immigration detention, and international human rights, and has also provided legal counsel to a number of grassroots social justice organizations. Professor Patel’s influential cases included Floyd v. City of New York , a watershed successful class action lawsuit against the New York City Police Department’s discriminatory stop and frisk practices and Turkmen v. Ashcroft, a class action Bivens suit on behalf of Muslim and Arab men challenging senior officials in the U.S. government for their roles in the post-9/11 round-ups and for the punitive treatment that the men endured in federal prison. Professor Patel was lead counsel on NDLON v. ICE, a multi-agency FOIA action seeking information about the Secure Communities program. The litigation resulted in groundbreaking disclosures of the immigration enforcement program and multiple policy reforms to alter the relationships between local police and immigration enforcement agencies. Professor Patel was co-counsel to several cases in the InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Her litigation and advocacy has been recognized by national, regional and community-based organizations. She has appeared on national news outlets including CNN, MSNBC and NPR and authored numerous editorials and blogs. Professor Patel served as a judicial law clerk for the Honorable Ivan L. R. Lemelle in the Eastern District of Louisiana and was previously awarded a prestigious Soros Justice Advocacy Fellowship.

As a co-teacher in the WCL Civil Advocacy Clinic, Professor Patel supervises students representing a wide range of client matters Maryland and the District of Columbia courts as well as immigration court. The clinic’s docket includes wage and hour violations, consumer law, housing conditions, unemployment appeals and immigration removal proceedings. Professor Patel will be teaching an advanced criminal procedure course in the Spring, with a focus on the rights of noncitizens. Her areas of research include remediating police misconduct, social movement theory, and the intersection of migrant rights and criminal procedure.

Degrees & Universities

  • J.D., American University Washington College of Law 2005 (magna cum laude)
  • B.A., Tulane University 2000

  • Selected Publications

    • Sunita Patel, Towards Democratic Policing in DOJ Consent Decrees, 51 Wake Forest L. Rev. __ (forthcoming 2016).
    • Sunita Patel, Performative Aspects of Race: “South Asian, Arab, and Muslim” Racial Formation After September 11, 10 UCLA Asian Pac. Am. L.J. 61 (Nov. 2005).
  • + Selected Presentations

    • Sunita Patel, Paper Presentation, Democratic Policing and Public Law Injunctions (New York University School of Law, Clinical Law Review, N.Y.C., N.Y., Sept. 24, 2016).
    • Sunita Patel, Presentation, “Community Engagement” and DOJ Consent Decrees (Baltimore Action Legal Team, Community Forum, Aug. 30, 2016).
    • Sunita Patel, Concurrent Session Presenter, Supervising Movement Lawyering (39th AALS Conference on Clinical Legal Education, Clinics and Communities, May 2, 2016).
    • Sunita Patel, Panelist, Police Accountability & De?Incarceration (Deincarceration & Litigation in Civil Rights Litigation Conference, Northwestern University School of Law & MacArthur Justice Center, Chi., Ill., Apr. 15, 2016).
    • Sunita Patel, Discussant & Presenter, In Plain Sight: Towards Engendering the Fight for Racial Justice in the 21st Century (Columbia University, N.Y.C., N.Y., Nov. 18, 2015).
    • Sunita Patel, Speaker, Race and Police Violence (8th Annual Critical Race Studies Symposium, UCLA, L.A., Cal., Oct. 17, 2015).
    • Sunita Patel, Presentation, Crossroads: Crime, Community, and Public Health (Drexel Law Review Symposium, Phila, Pa., Oct. 16, 2015).
    • Sunita Patel, Speaker, An Abhorrent Practice: Immigrant Detention & the Evolution of Family Detention (University of Florida, Gainesville, Fla., Mar. 18, 2015).
    • Sunita Patel, Panelist, Racial and Ethnic Profiling: Stories and the Law (American University Washington College of Law, D.C., Feb. 19, 2015).
    • Sunita Patel, Invited Panelist, Seeking an End to Racial Profiling (American Constitution Society, National Convention, June 20, 2014).
    • Sunita Patel, Invited Panelist, Criminalizing Immigrant Women: Race and the Particular Vulnerability of Detention and Removal (Underprotected and Overpoliced: Women, Race and Criminalization, UCLA Law Review Symposium, Jan. 27, 2012).
    • Sunita Patel, Invited Presenter, Conditions of Confinement Roundtable (Litigating Law Enforcement Misconduct in the Immigration Context, National Immigration Project, May 22, 2011).
    • Sunita Patel, Invited Panelist, Arizona’s SB1070 and the Movement it Sparked (Annual Sparer Symposium, University of Pennsylvania, Phila., Pa., Sept. 14, 2010).
    • Sunita Patel, Invited Panelist, Immigration Detention: Due Process Challenges and Potential for Change (American Constitution Society Panel Event, Apr. 13, 2009).