N.Y. Attorney General's Office Social and Environmental Justice Externship
Monica Wagner and Lisa Landau, Lecturers-in-Law (2 graded academic and 3 ungraded fieldwork credits)
Lawyers in the New York Attorney General’s Social Division represent the people of New York on a wide range of social and environmental justice matters, ranging from enforcing civil rights, labor, and other laws that protect vulnerable communities, including people of color, immigrants, workers, LBGTQ people, tenants, and health care consumers, and other vulnerable communities to challenging repeals and delays of federal environmental programs and other federal programs that protect New Yorkers to ensuring that charitable donations are used for their intended purpose. Students take a weekly, two‐hour seminar and work fifteen hours per week in one of seven bureaus: Civil Rights, Environmental Protection, Consumer Frauds & Protection, Charities, Labor, Health Care, and Real Estate Finance. The goal of the seminar and fieldwork (students will be assigned to one of the bureaus for the fieldwork component) is to teach students about the authority and work of the New York Attorney General while giving them hands-on experience in public interest investigation and litigation. Students will work alongside the Assistant Attorneys General (“AAGs”) in the bureaus, working on ongoing investigations and cases, while in the seminar students explore how a case is built and engage in simulations of what AAGs do, including a deposition of a carwash operator suspected of not complying with labor laws, oral argument on whether a cigarette advertisement is targeted to juveniles, and preparation of an expert hydrogeologist to testify about hazardous waste. Students also prepare short reflection papers on their fieldwork, using them as a platform to discuss concerns that new lawyers face, such as time management, conflicting assignments, and communications with supervisors. The seminar includes class presentations and simulations, periodic short reflection papers on fieldwork, and a final paper about the student’s fieldwork.
Students are placed in one of seven bureaus (more detail is available at www.ag.ny.gov):
- The Civil Rights Bureau enforces laws protecting New Yorkers from discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, marital status, sexual orientation, military status, source of income or disability. The Bureau investigates and prosecutes alleged patterns of unlawful discrimination in a variety of areas. The Bureau also engages in community outreach activities to educate the public about civil rights issues.
- The Environmental Protection Bureau plays a central role in protecting New York's environment and public health, enforcing a zero tolerance policy against environmental threats in New York that imperil air, water, and land. The Bureau vigorously enforces both state and federal environmental laws, and is a national leader in the fight to reverse climate change. It also represents the state in legal matters related to the environment.
- The LABOR BUREAU has been nationally recognized for defending labor standards in low-wage industries by aggressively enforcing the laws protecting low-wage workers, often through collaborations with community-based organizations, labor unions, and others. The Labor Bureau investigates violations of minimum wage, overtime, prevailing wage, and other critical labor laws, and brings civil and criminal prosecutions against employers who are found in violation.
- The HEALTH CARE BUREAU safeguards the rights of health care consumers statewide through investigation of and enforcement actions against insurers, providers, drug companies and other individuals and entities that engage in fraudulent, misleading, deceptive, or illegal practices in the health care market. The Bureau provides information and assistance to thousands of New Yorkers annually, including resolution of individual consumer health-related complaints. The Health Care Bureau also educates New Yorkers about the rights and protections they have available to them under health and consumer protection laws. In addition, the Bureau advocates for legislation and policy initiatives.
- The CHARITIES BUREAU is responsible for supervising charitable organizations to protect donors and beneficiaries of those charities from unscrupulous practices in the solicitation and management of charitable assets. The Bureau also supervises the activity of foundations and other charities to ensure that their funds and other property devoted to charitable purposes are properly used, and protects the public interest in charitable gifts and bequests contained in wills and trust agreements.
- The CONSUMER FRAUDS AND PROTECTION BUREAU prosecutes businesses and individuals engaged in fraudulent, misleading, deceptive or illegal trade practices. In addition to litigating, the Bureau mediates thousands of complaints each year from individual consumers. As part of its mission, the Bureau provides information to consumers and seeks to ensure a fair and vigorous market place.
- The REAL ESTATE FINANCE BUREAU regulates the offer and sale of real estate securities including cooperative interests in realty (cooperatives, condominiums, timeshares, homeowners associations, and senior communities) and syndications under New York’s blue sky law, known as the Martin Act. The Bureau uses its statutory and regulatory authority to mandate adequate disclosure to investors of real estate securities, as well as protect purchasers and tenants affected by cooperative and condominium development. The Bureau also uses the Martin Act and the New York Executive Law to investigate complaints such as misuse of purchaser down payments, failure to complete construction, and the violation of tenants’ rights in cooperative and condominium conversions. Students also may have the opportunity will also be able to work with the new Housing Protection Unit, which is dedicated to protecting renters and preserving affordable housing throughout New York State.
Requirements and Application Process
The course will be limited to ten students to facilitate active engagement and discussion. Eligibility is limited to students in the JD program.
To apply, please complete the externship application available through LawNet. The application period is from October 8, 2019 (2PM) to October 17, 2019 (5PM). Prospective applicants may be contacted for an interview once all applications have been submitted.
Any additional questions can be sent to Susan Kraham at [email protected].