Columbia Law School provides a space for students to explore how the law intersects with crime. Student organizations, events, and collaborations with peers and faculty are among the various activities available for the student body to engage in the area of criminal law. Below is a sampling of student involvement on the study of criminal law.
Three student organizations, under the support of faculty, held a discussion in December 2014 on a decision by a St. Louis County grand jury not to indict a white police officer from Ferguson, Missouri, in the shooting death of Michael Brown, a black teenager.
The subsequent Forum on Police Accountability provided a space for faculty members to keep students updated on the facts surrounding the case as well as a fact sheet on the decision of the Staten Island grand jury to not to indict a white New York Police Department officer in the homicide of Eric Garner in July 2014.
Chase H. Mechanick ’15 participated in the Law School's Domestic Violence Prosecution Externship in fall 2013, a pro bono project for Scott E. Kessler, a domestic violence bureau chief for the Queens County District Attorney's Office who oversees the externship. A New York criminal court judge ruled in early 2015 that domestic violence victims can electronically sign complaints against alleged attackers to avoid exposure to more abuse from signing in person.
Queens Criminal Court Supervising Judge Deborah Stevens Modica made the decision in part because of Mechanick's research as a Columbia Law School student. The ruling is likely the first of its kind in the country. The externship involves students in working on cases with assistant district attorneys and act as lead prosecutor of misdemeanor domestic violence cases.
The Domestic Violence Project comprises four pro bono initiatives to raise awareness about domestic violence and provide legal help for survivors. The project helps survivors gain orders of protection and divorces against abusive partners. In addition, students help undocument immigrants in abusive relationships in their residency status issues and in immigration screenings for potential victims of human trafficking.
The Criminal Justice Action Network is dedicated to increasing awareness on issues surrounding prisoners' rights, the death penalty, and improved indigent defense, The network assists attorneys on cases and encourages interactions among students to improve the criminal justice system.