Meet 2L Danielle Edwards! She serves on the board of the Women’s Law Caucus, is the law student representative for the Labor and Employment Section of the Colorado Bar Association, and is a member of If/When/How, a national network of law students and lawyers dedicated to supporting, educating, and training the next generation of pro-choice advocates. Learn more about Danielle below.
You recently testified in support of the Reproductive Health Equity Act (RHEA) on behalf of the Colorado Women’s Bar Association. Could you tell us a bit about your testimony and what inspired you to take part?
Yes, I did! It was great to be involved in such a historic bill! I am on the board of the Colorado Women’s Bar Association as a law student representative, and I am on a few sub-committees within the CWBA, Public Policy being one of them. One of the chairs of the committee asked for individuals to testify in support of the bill, and I felt very strongly about speaking on the right to women and pregnant person’s right to choose.
I only had two minutes to testify, so I focused on articulating why the bill was necessary given the intense anti-abortion movement in multiple states right now, and with the likely fall of Roe in June. We are lucky that in Colorado, there is a long history of supporting a woman’s right to choose, and enacting this bill only solidified that. I also decided to share that I am a survivor of sexual assault, and the impact that losing choice has personally had on me.
Why Colorado Law?
Prior to law school, I received my master’s in organizational and social psychology from the London School of Economics and was working in corporate HR for Nike. My thesis and prior scholarship focused on building equitable organizations, particularly regarding women’s rights, but I felt like something was missing. One of my mentors suggested I look into law school so that I could work more directly on women’s rights advocacy.
I graduated from CU with my undergraduate degree in 2016. After deciding to apply to law schools, I looked into Colorado Law because of the positive reputation that Colorado Law had for public interest and civil rights work. I reached out to a few students via LinkedIn and talked with them about their experiences, and they emphasized what an incredible community Colorado Law had, along with the larger Colorado legal community, and I was sold!
When you envision your future career, what do you imagine a typical day might look like?
I’m really passionate about improving legal standards through a trauma-informed lens, particularly in employment law. One thing I have been surprised by in law school thus far is the lack of recognition for the various ways in which individuals respond when they have experienced trauma. Most legal standards are based on what a “reasonable” person would do in a similar situation – but what a judge or jury considers a “reasonable” response isn’t something that the individual was capable of in the moment.
For example, the current standard in many states (including Colorado!) for sexual harassment is that the behavior must be severe or pervasive in order to bring a claim. Let’s say an employee is being harassed by a supervisor. The employee is uncomfortable with the supervisor’s advances but fears physical harm if they do not respond positively. So, the employee does not directly tell their supervisor, “No, stop harassing me.” Instead, they respond cordially to their supervisor and try to ignore the uncomfortable behavior.
All too often, if this employee tried to bring a claim against the employer for sexual harassment, the employer will turn to the employee and ask why they didn’t say no or why they didn’t speak up. They might also suggest that perhaps the employee consented because their conduct was not outwardly angry, rather than focusing on asking the supervisor, “Why were you inappropriately harassing your subordinate?”
I am frankly not sure how I will try and make progress in this area in the future, because I don’t know that this area of law exists yet. It is my hope that in my “everyday” job I can effect change and more comprehensively inform other lawyers and judges about trauma responses.
What has been your favorite case to learn about?
I really enjoyed my Civil Procedure class with Professor Hendricks during my 1L year, and in particular, my favorite case was probably International Shoe Co. v. Washington!