Deb­o­rah Won, 21
Alas­ka Supreme Court, Anchor­age, AK

Deb­o­rah Won joined the Civ­il Rights Lit­i­ga­tion Clin­ic in her 3L year to work on a ground­break­ing case about facial recog­ni­tion and wrong­ful arrest and impris­on­ment. Being able to rep­re­sent an indi­vid­ual who was wrong­ful­ly accused by an algo­rith­mic tool was the proud­est moment of my time at Michi­gan Law,” she says.” It’s the type of case I would hope for as a sea­soned lawyer, let alone as a law student.”

Being able to represent an individual who was wrongfully accused by an algorithmic tool was the proudest moment of my time at Michigan Law,” she says.” It’s the type of case I would hope for as a seasoned lawyer, let alone as a law student.”

Writ­ing in the Michi­gan Law Review, Won demon­strates how dan­ger­ous algo­rith­mic polic­ing can be, as many algo­rith­mic sys­tems have been shown to be flawed and racial­ly biased. She argues that these sys­tems are espe­cial­ly prob­lem­at­ic when pro­pri­etors invoke trade secre­cy to lim­it scruti­ny of their prod­ucts. She notes that under Brady v. Mary­land, defen­dants must have access to evi­dence that is favor­able to their case; if an algo­rith­mic tool has been shown to exhib­it racial bias or has a track record of being faulty or incon­sis­tent, that is some­thing the defen­dant should know and be able to use in devel­op­ing their defense. Won sug­gests a solu­tion in the form of an evi­den­tiary rule that uses a jury instruc­tion to rem­e­dy clash­es between trade secre­cy and Brady’s con­sti­tu­tion­al mandate. 

Fol­low­ing grad­u­a­tion, Won accept­ed a clerk­ship with the Alas­ka Supreme Court. Dur­ing her first year, she is clerk­ing along­side anoth­er Michi­gan Law grad­u­ate in the cham­bers of Jus­tice Dario Borgh­e­san, 08. I decid­ed to clerk for three years after law school because I think clerk­ships help you grow as a lawyer, and the expe­ri­ence will expose me to three dif­fer­ent courts — state appel­late, fed­er­al appel­late, and fed­er­al dis­trict — while I con­sid­er whether I want to prac­tice appel­late or tri­al law,” Won says.