Model & Strategy

Public Rights Project’s mission is to close the gap between the promise of our laws and the lived reality of vulnerable communities. When it comes to economic, gender, racial and environmental justice, laws guaranteeing our rights are largely not enforced and, when they are, are not enforced equitably. In order to close this gap, Public Rights Project helps state and local governments build equitable enforcement teams to protect their residents’ legal rights. This enforcement is critical to dismantling barriers to community wellbeing, whether it be the predatory loan that keeps a family trapped in poverty, the toxic dust blown over a low-income neighborhood by an unscrupulous business, the company that threatens an immigrant housekeeper with retaliation if she complains about her below-minimum-wage paycheck, or the federal government policy that denies access to reproductive health care for low-income women.

Public Rights Project focuses on state and local government law offices–including city attorneys, county prosecutors, and state attorneys general–as critical, underutilized offices that have the legal authority, but often not the capacity or expertise, to bring high-impact cases enforcing our rights as consumers, tenants, and workers. Enforcement tools and strategies can be as impactful as the policy itself – the “last mile” to achieve just and equitable social outcomes. Public Rights Project provides training to strengthen the talent pipeline in state and local government, strategic support to help offices deploy limited resources to the highest-impact cases, and a community-accountable model to ensure partner offices are responsive to the needs of all residents, not just those who feel comfortable asking government for help.

At a Glance
Founded: 2017
Founder & Executive Director: Jill Habig
Social Justice
Location of work: Domestic
Public Rights Project
Oakland, CA
We help states and cities protect our rights
Meet Jill Habig

Jill Habig founded Public Rights Project in 2017 to ensure that the rights of our most vulnerable communities would never again rest on the outcome of a single federal election. While Public Rights Project is a relatively new organization, the idea has been over a decade in the making. Beginning in 2006, Jill helped create the San Francisco Affirmative Litigation Project (SFALP) as a law student at Yale Law School, which partnered Yale students with attorneys in the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office to develop high-impact litigation. That project has yielded tremendous results both for Yale students and the City, including national cases addressing payday lending, arbitration fraud, and LGBT rights. Jill later spent her first year as a lawyer in that office, working on the landmark trial challenging Proposition 8 to establish marriage equality in California. After moving to the state level to work for then-Attorney General Kamala Harris, Jill led the creation and launch of the Attorney General’s Bureau of Children’s Justice in 2015 and oversaw its civil rights and consumer protection investigations.

These experiences demonstrated the impact state and local governments could have on the most basic rights and freedoms of their residents, when they had the resources, talent, and leadership committed to using government power in service of the most vulnerable among us. Jill founded Public Rights Project to set a new standard for what is expected of our state and local governments when it comes to protecting our legal rights. Jill has been recognized as an Open Society Foundations Leadership in Government Fellow, and has been a Lecturer in Law at Yale and Berkeley Law Schools.

Impact

Public Rights Project provides support aimed at decreasing the harms that marginalized communities face from illegal misconduct like fraud and discrimination. According to our research, 54% of Americans have experienced corporate abuse – including wage theft, predatory lending, unsafe rental housing, or corporate pollution – in the last ten years. People of color, women, low-income people and young people are disproportionately affected. These abuses cause a range of harms: from damage to families’ and communities’ health, wealth, and life opportunities, to the erosion of trust in government and the rule of law.

 

To change this trajectory for residents across the country, Public Rights Project seeks impact in 4 major categories:

-Increased capacity of the government offices with which we partner to equitably enforce the law;

-Increase in offices’ incorporation of equity into their enforcement strategies;

-Financial and injunctive relief generated for residents harmed by predatory practices; and

-Changes in industry practices.