New York Law Schools Launch March for Justice

Statewide event series will address access to justice and democratic participation issues.

The Statewide Law School Access-to-Justice Council, which includes representatives from all of New York’s 15 law schools, has launched March for Justice, a series of law school events in March to address access to justice and democratic participation issues. The effort is sparked by recent developments that have increased civic engagement among law students.

The goal of the March for Justice is to bring law school students together with one another, practitioners and law school faculty and staff for pro bono projects and discussions to inform immediate responses to the diminution of individual and civil liberties - particularly for vulnerable populations living in poverty - due to executive and legislative acts on matters such as immigration reform that could further widen the “justice gap.”

The March events range from Albany Law School hosting a panel discussion focused on connecting law students to social justice and public interest organizations; to New York University School of Law hosting a panel on resistance lawyering; to Syracuse University School of Law hosting a program on "public interest drift" - the disparity between the high percentage of first-year law students who say they would like to practice public interest law and the low percentage who actually do so. A full list of all the events is below.

“We want to raise the profile of access to justice issues and bring together the energy of the New York schools at a moment when our students and faculty are very engaged in these issues and eager to make a difference in the world,” said Matthew Diller, the Dean of Fordham Law School.

Ellen Chapnick, the Dean of Social Justice Initiatives at Columbia Law School, added, “These programs respond to students' questions about how to use their legal skills and knowledge to engage with the challenges of the current reality. For some, it's providing traditional legal services on behalf of low-income and imperiled individuals and communities. For others, access to justice is empowering broader participation in the democratic process.”

Kim Connolly, the Vice Dean for Advocacy and Experiential Education and Director of Clinical Legal Education at University of Buffalo School, said "The University at Buffalo School of Law has decades of commitment to access to justice in our community and beyond. To celebrate the inaugural March for Justice, we at Buffalo have organized five enthusiastic volunteer attorneys from multiple offices of our long-time community partner Neighborhood Legal Services. The panel of dedicated, active poverty lawyers will discuss their wins, losses, and career options in access-to-justice work.”

The Statewide Law School Access-to-Justice Council was created in 2012 to promote increased coordination and communication among the State’s law schools on access-to-justice issues. It emerged from a recommendation made in a report to then Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman from The Task Force to Expand Access to Civil Legal Services in New York.

March for Justice events include:

Albany Law School will host a panel discussion on “Access to Justice is Social Justice: The Lawyer’s Role in Preserving Democracy and Closing the Justice Gap” on March 30 from 3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. The event is focused on connecting law students to social justice and public interest organizations. The event features: James Sandman, President of the U.S. Legal Services Corporation, the federal agency that funds free legal services to low-income communities throughout the United States; City of Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan (`94); Lillian Moy, Executive Director of The Legal Aid Society of Northeast New York; Joanne Macri (`94), the Director of Regional Initiatives at the New York State Office of Indigent Legal Services; and Glinessa Gaillard (`07), Associate Counsel, New York State Workers Compensation Board. At the end of the panel discussion, students, faculty, staff, and community members will break into small groups to talk with alumni and other practitioners who have dedicated their careers to public interest work in a wide variety of areas.

Brooklyn Law School hosted a one-hour program on March 1 that featured Dale Ho, Director of the American Civil Liberties Union Voting Rights Project, who spoke about the recent judicial decisions and pending cases on voting rights as well as the role of lawyers in ensuring the right to vote. The speaker discussed the role law students can play in voter protection and the type of civic engagement law students and lawyers can pursue to protect these rights.

Buffalo Law School hosted a panel discussion on March 6 titled “March for Justice - Victories and Challenges in Modern #PovertyLaw: Practicing Lawyers Discuss Wins, Losses, and Career Options in Access to Justice Work.” This panel was organized by the law school’s Clinical Legal Education Program, which partners with others in the law school to provide service learning opportunities to all law students. For those who can’t attend in person, we will be recording the panel and posting it on the law school’s website.

Cardozo Law School will present “Priming for Advocacy” on March 15, a day of panel discussions and skills-building workshops to provide students with legal tools to respond to legal decrees and acts from the new administration.  Beginning at 12:00 p.m., panelists from Catholic Charities, Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights and the Immigration Defense Project will lead a session on “Advocating for Immigrant Communities.” From 4:00 -6:00 p.m., the National Lawyers’ Guild (NLG) will conduct a Legal Observers training; Legal Observers, trained and directed by NLG, attend mass assemblies to observe police tactics. And, the advocacy day will conclude with a 6:15 p.m. “Know Your Rights Workshop on Protesting in New York City,” led by the Advocacy Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union.

Columbia Law School’s program on March 21, “Lawyers' Roles in Democratic Participation,”  will feature Vince Warren, Executive Director for the Center for Constitutional Rights (CRR). He will talk about how lawyers and law students can respond to the new threats to basic rights and citizen movements, which require new strategies and radical hope. He will inspire students to think about what can be done both inside and outside of courtrooms and legislatures by drawing on CCR’s long history of pioneering, daring and successful use of law as a positive force.​

Fordham University School of Law will host a program on March 21, from 5:30-8:30 p.m., titled “Unifying Global and U.S. Access to Justice Movements: The Judicial Perspective” featuring perspectives from senior jurists and from a leading social scientist in the global access to justice research movement on formal and informal pathways to justice. The panelists will consider common challenges in the United States and globally to accessing justice—especially for marginalized people, including in racial, ethnic, or religious communities; the poor; people living in rural areas; women; LGBT people; and others. Lack of access impacts a wide range of civil rights and human rights; the panelists will identify common themes and consider solutions, including the pros and cons of using informal, versus formal, justice systems, and the intersection of those systems. The panel will work to sharpen the research, reform, and advocacy agenda going forward.

On March 9, Fordham Law School’s Domestic Violence Action Center will host a panel discussion, from 12:30-1-30 p.m., featuring Sandra Park, Senior Staff Attorney, Women’s Right’s Project, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Nabah Ikram, Domestic Violence Program Advocate, Sakhi for South Asian Women, and Connie Neal, Executive Director, NY State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, to explore the unique issues related to gender justice and anti-violence work under the new administration, including the effects of proposed budget cuts, the President's public messaging about women, and other executive actions' effects on survivors, particularly survivors from marginalized communities. 

In addition, the Fordham Law Immigration Preparedness Project (FLIPP) is offering know-your-rights workshops, in several languages, to immigrant teenagers in the New York City public high schools and to their families. These workshops, conducted by Fordham law students trained by Fordham Law Professors Jennifer Gordon and Gemma Solimene, cover avenues to obtain immigration status as well as rights when interacting with immigration enforcement agents. There are 27 workshops scheduled throughout the month of March at public schools in the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan. Catholic Charities Immigration Legal Services has agreed to take referrals of FLIPP know-your-rights workshop participants with further legal questions.

Hofstra Law School is planning to host one or more March programs, focused on constitutional questions raised by recent actions of the Trump administration, including (1) immigration, (2) cutting off funds to sanctuary cities, (3) cutting off funds to public universities; and (4) presidential power to unilaterally alter international agreements, such as NAFTA.

New York Law School, under the auspices of the Impact Center for Public Interest Law, will present a program on voting rights and access in New York, featuring Carlin Meyer, NYLS Professor Emeritus, and Leah Aden, Senior Counsel, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. on March 29.

New York University School of Law’s Public Interest Law Center is hosting, on March 20, “Resistance Lawyering,” a panel discussion featuring lawyers from a variety of practice areas, designed to provide students with inspiration and a model for what it looks like to lawyer against those in power.  The discussion will be moderated by Ben Wizner, Director of the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, and feature panelists Baher Azmy, Legal Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, Christina Swarns, Litigation Director of the Legal Defense Fund, Nina Perales, Vice President of Litigation for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Jennifer Dalven, Director of the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project, and Anurima Bhargava, Fellow at The Institute of Politics at Harvard University.

Pace University’s Elisabeth Haub School of Law’s Student Bar Association will host a Civil Rights Symposium on March 11, featuring panel discussions on criminal justice reform and gender discrimination in legal practice. Legal observer and implicit bias trainings will also be offered to all participants. In addition to its regular caseload, the Pace Immigration Justice Clinic is offering community education programs and free status assessment and advice clinics to immigrant families throughout Westchester County and the Lower Hudson Valley, in municipal centers, public libraries, and houses of worship.  The Clinic has held programs on March 2 and March 6, with additional programs scheduled for March 10, March 13, March 17, March 22, March 26, March 29, and March 31. The Clinic is also conducting workshops on the impact of the Presidential Executive Orders on immigration for students, faculty and staff at the various Pace University campuses with the next workshop scheduled for March 15.

St. John’s Law School’s Public Interest Center and the Coalition for Social Justice will host a program on March 20 titled “Families, Neighbors, Refugees: How New Immigration Policies Impact Our Community.” The program will feature: Sharone Schwartz-Kaufman, Managing Attorney for Immigration at Catholic Migration Services, who directs the St. John’s Bread and Life Immigration Clinic; and C. Mario Russell, Director of Immigrant and Refugee Services for Catholic Charities of New York, who oversees St. John’s Refugee and Immigrant Rights Litigation Clinic. The speakers will discuss the impact of mass deportations on communities, address issues of restrictions on immigration and readmission for those with green cards, and provide information on how law students can get help those affected by the executive orders on immigration. 

Syracuse University School of Law is planning a March 22 program exploring the phenomenon of public interest drift in law schools. Featuring a panel of legal educators, this program will explore the reasons for public interest drift as well as what role law schools can play in reversing its course. Ultimately, understanding the reasons for public interest drift and minimizing its impact is a necessary step if our nation's law schools are to continue to play an important role in educating the next generation of public interest lawyers. 

Touro Law Center is hosting a Town Hall Series in March that reflects the law school’s longstanding and continuing commitment to access to justice. The 2017 Town Hall series began with a session that explored how President Trump’s appointments to the bench and other administration policies might affect the justice system.  On March 1, the Office of Diversity & Inclusion, BLSA, LALSA, the Criminal Law Society, and the Public Interest Organization of Touro cosponsored a discussion of mass incarceration, over criminalization, the war on drugs, mandatory sentencing, and the privatization of prisons. The forum for students, faculty, and staff began with an edited showing of the 2016 Oscar nominated film,"13th--From Slave to Criminal," which presents an overview of Race and Criminal Justice in America. The film was followed by comments from members of the audience and guest panelists, Orville Reynolds, Touro Alum and current Assistant District Attorney in the newly formed Homicide Bureau of the Bronx District Attorney's Office and Kevin Satterfield, a former prosecutor with the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office, and an Attorney with the New York City Department of Correction.  On March 13, Touro's Office of Diversity & Inclusion will be hosting a Youth Law Day for Central Islip High School students that will include using law students, faculty, and local attorneys to introduce high school students to legal advocacy and the justice system.  Finally, the Office of Diversity & Inclusion is working with Touro’s Latin American Law Students Association and local attorneys to present various Street Law programs including the initial program on immigration and labor law.

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Posted on March 7, 2017.

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