Coordinated multicampus protests this fall have left law schools in an unenviable position, stuck between meeting student demands and providing access to the resources at the center of the controversy—LexisNexis and Westlaw—which are under fire for contracts with law enforcement.
The LexisNexis and Westlaw research databases are vital for law schools and the students they serve, who will go on to use these tools throughout their legal careers. But contracts with the Department of Homeland Security have students calling for greater scrutiny of LexisNexis and Westlaw and demanding that law schools wield their political power to renounce these ties. Students have also expressed a desire for law schools to invest in alternative legal research tools.
At the heart of the issue is how U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement deploys these tools. Critics say that ICE uses them to aggregate data from multiple sources to build dossiers on individuals who may be targeted for deportation, stitching together profiles from criminal records, credit and employment history, utility bills, and license plate numbers, among many other data points. Given that ICE reportedly uses these legal databases in immigration enforcement, some students say their peers are beholden to programs that work against their own community.
According to the End the Contract Coalition website, students are calling for LexisNexis and Westlaw to terminate contracts with ICE. They are also demanding that law schools end contracts with LexisNexis and Westlaw and publicly condemn their partnerships with ICE, add alternative research tools to the law school curriculum, and educate students about the ties between ICE and these companies.