Law student looking to work on Detroit's legal issues

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Holland Locklear’s parents, both public school teachers, instilled in their son and two daughters a deep commitment to social and economic justice while providing a model of what it means to live out one’s values.

“Growing up in a politically engaged family, I was aware of the myriad issues facing my generation – from wealth inequality, to underfunded public schools, to climate change, to structural racism,” Locklear says.

Although he continued to learn about these issues and to develop and hone his own analysis throughout political science undergrad studies at Wayne State University, Locklear notes he was consistently left feeling frustrated and ill-equipped to fully and effectively engage in creating change.

Exploring different avenues, he ultimately chose law school and remained at Wayne to study for his law degree, and use it to support social movements for justice.

“I believe the law is a powerful tool in the fight for justice—and I see my role as a lawyer as working to narrow the gap between what is legal and what is just,” he says. “I believe that grassroots movements, started by organic communities, are most effective at achieving justice.

“I see lawyers as playing an integral role in these movements because what is legal and what is just are often not the same. Lawyers are able to traverse this divide and can help social movements leverage power to begin to close this gap.”

At Wayne Law, the 3L student most enjoys the classes and professors that connect legal education to the current issues facing Detroit.

“For example, in Professor Peter Hammer’s seminar, ‘Reimagining Redevelopment: Detroit,’ we learned about the history of Detroit and how themes of the past reoccur—from housing discrimination, to the tax foreclosure crisis, to mass water shut offs, to education discrimination, to communities’ relationship with the police, to racial and class relations, to emergency management,” he says.

“The seminar provided insight from the past, laid a historically grounded framework for understanding current issues in Detroit, and pointed to structural remedies.”

Last summer, Locklear worked at the Sugar Law Center for Economic and Social Justice Wayne Law Public Interest Law Fellowship. This summer the Fellowship took him to the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan. “The wealth of knowledge from Detroit’s attorneys, legal workers, and judges who have such deep commitments to creating a more just Detroit has been incredible,” he says. “And I loved working for an organization that has such a historical presence in monitoring the actions of government at all levels and vigilantly protecting the freedoms provided by the constitution and law.”

Active with Keith Students for Civil Rights and a member of the Wayne Law Student Bar Association Board of Governors, Locklear also is a member of the Wayne Law Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild that is involved in many projects including serving as legal observers who provide legal protection for the constitutional rights of protesters who engage in civil disobedience.

“For two years, we’ve been working on a campaign to have Wayne State University divest from a contract with Aramark and switch to a more ethical food service provider,” he adds.

“This coming year, we’ll be launching a Wayne State Prison Law Project which will involve law students creating more effective avenues for prisoners to file civil rights claims when their constitutional rights have been violated.”

A native of Clinton Township, Locklear currently makes his home in Hamtramck where he enjoys running in public parks, playing guitar and singing songs, telling stories with his friends, and enjoying the best of the Motor City.