Welcome to the Justice Action Center Student Capstone Journal. Capstone projects are prepared by New York Law School students as their final project for the Center. Students affiliate with the Center starting in their second year, and complete several requirements, including concentrating in a particular area of social justice law, completing a social justice placement, and completing a capstone. The most recent capstone projects are compiled in this Journal.
The list below includes the most recent capstone projects. Click on "Abstract" to view a short description of any capstone. To download a PDF of the entire capstone, click on "Complete Document."
You can reach this Web page directly at: www.nyls.edu/capstones
Volume VII (2011–2012)
How to Stop the Bleeding: Band-Aids or Cures? The Problems
Facing our Non-Immigrant Worker Visa Programs and Potential
Author: Matthew Beatus
Date Posted: December 2012
View: Abstract | Complete Document
The American immigration system is in crisis. Many Americans are convinced that undocumented immigrants and unlawful workers are running rampant throughout our nation, stealing American jobs, corrupting American culture, and placing a financial burden on American taxpayers. However, the most pressing immigration crisis in America involves the inability of employers to hire the temporary, non-immigrant labor that they depend on. The reason for this crisis is simple: our own government has made it too difficult, complicated, and costly for employers to "import" legal workers with valid visas. This note will analyze the problems concerning the temporary, non-immigrant worker visa categories. It will then discuss proposed reforms in the area, including recently passed and proposed employer sanctions laws, as well as other proposed avenues of reform. Finally, this note will offer its own set of potential alternative reforms that could better address the non-immigrant worker visa problems that have developed over the past three decades.
The third party doctrine, a controversial exception to the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement, is an oft-criticized but highly influential doctrine that has shaped the evolution of privacy rights over the last forty years. But the march of technology has taken this doctrine beyond its use, and the continued adherence to the third party doctrine poses an immediate threat to the right of the American people to be free from government intrusion. The first section of this paper will explain the origins of the Fourth Amendment and the third party doctrine. The second section will identify the key ways in which the doctrine violates the rights enshrined in the Fourth Amendment. Section three will explore the proposed solutions to the modern problems facing the third party doctrine, and discuss the reasons those solutions fail to address the issue. The final section will suggest alternative approaches to restoring the substantive guarantees of the Fourth Amendment, and assess the practical likelihood of each.
The inherently coercive nature of most "voluntary" inpatient psychiatric hospitalizations—especially during the hospital admissions phase—poses a danger to mental health care consumers' civil liberties, specifically the right to be free from restraint and imprisonment without due process of law. This capstone focuses on the roles of voluntariness and coercion in the admission process of psychiatric inpatient hospitalization, the way in which inpatient psychiatric hospitalizations can punish the mentally ill, the justification for criminal punishment served by hospitalization, the punishment of status, and the similarities of psychiatric confinement to criminal incarceration. This capstone also proposes specific informed consent guidelines in order to help make the voluntary psychiatric admission process more judicious.
The insistence of the executive branch on using military commissions to prosecute detainees in terrorism cases has resulted in only a handful of convictions and multiple Supreme Court cases concerning the constitutionality of the procedures involved. This note asserts that detainees ought to be prosecuted in federal district courts. The Department of Justice is better equipped to navigate the political, ethical, and legal issues that surround trials of terrorism suspects. Due to strict rules of evidence and procedure the decisions handed down in district court, as opposed to the decisions of military commissions and the National Security Court (NSC), would have fewer constitutional challenges worthy of Supreme Court review.
The act of striking is one of the most serious circumstances that an individual, company, union, or government can confront. Why one decides to go on strike, how one reacts to being struck, and how a bystander responds to seeing such action, is usually the result of each party's deep-rooted economic interests, political beliefs, and value system about how society should operate. Part one of this paper will look to both national and international law to determine whether there is a fundamental right to strike. Part two will examine the history and legal regulation of striking in the United States. Part three will examine the right to strike in Europe, discussing a history of striking in the European Union, with particular focus on France. The paper will conclude by proposing factors that should be included or excluded from the right to strike and possible future developments.
Best Practice Guide: Analyzing the Role of Forensic
Evaluators in the New York State Court System
Author: Meredith Kelly, Dinneen Mazzone, and Cassandra Volkheimer
Date Posted: December 2012
View: Abstract | Complete Document
Forensic evaluators are frequently utilized in contested custody and visitation cases in the New York court system. Their use in cases that involve allegations of domestic violence has increased in recent years. When the court deems an evaluation necessary in a particular case, a neutral forensic evaluator is appointed. The evaluator appointed is typically a psychologist or a psychiatrist. Their task is to perform an objective evaluation of the litigants and their children. The goal of the evaluation and report is to aid the judge in determining what is in the best interest of the children in terms of custody and visitation. Although forensic evaluators may seemingly be in the best position to offer an objective and unbiased assessment of the family, their use has been extremely controversial. Many believe that forensic evaluators have essentially usurped the judge's role when they make detailed recommendations on the ultimate issue as to custody.This paper contains an overview of New York law on the use of forensic evaluators. In addition, this paper contains best practices recommendations regarding the use of forensic evaluators for lawyers and judges as well as recommendations on how New York law regarding forensic evaluators could be revised.
The First Amendment's protection of freedom of speech applies to the states through its incorporation into the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Students in schools retain First Amendment rights; however, school officials, acting as parens patriae, have latitude to discipline students for their speech in some instances. This analysis will focus on the First Amendment rights of students, with particular emphasis on off-campus speech. Part one will discuss the Supreme Court precedent on the issue of student speech on and off the school campus. Part II will analyze the inconsistencies among the lower courts when addressing student speech cases. Part III will summarize the current state of student speech litigation, and Part IV will examine the New York City Department of Education's policies related to student speech.
Studies show that more than half of the prison population suffers from a mental illness. Though prisoners are treated for medical conditions while incarcerated, there is no guarantee that they will continue to receive treatment once released. Adequate discharge planning and readily available community services can not only help transition inmates with mental illness from incarceration back into society, but also help deter these individuals from crimes that lead to arrest and re-incarceration. This capstone explains the need for comprehensive discharge plans in correctional facilities, the implications of the landmark case, Brad H. v. City of New York, on inmates that suffer from mental illness, and recommendations for how states and cities can advocate for mandated discharge planning.
Since Katz v. United States courts have held that there is a "reasonable expectation of privacy" regarding searches and seizures conducted by law enforcement. Courts, through outmoded and inapposite case law, have been able to justify law enforcement's unlawful search of arrestees' cell phones by classifying cell phones as "containers" that can be searched incident to arrest. This note contends that a search warrant should be required in order for the police to search the contents of a cell phone, even in cases where the phone was lawfully seized. In addition to providing a history of the "search incident to arrest" exception to the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement, this note will discuss how the doctrine is applied to cell phones, and why modern cell phones, and particularly smartphones, should not be defined as "containers," but should instead be subject to the same standards as communications on landlines.
In the two and a half years after the U.S. Supreme Court issued their decision in Padilla v. Kentucky, a deluge of post-conviction petitions occurred in the criminal courts of New York City. Defendants who had convictions that were decades old sought to have the Padilla decision applied retroactively to them. Curiously, there was no definite appellate guidance until October 2012, despite two opportunities for the New York Court of Appeals to resolve the issue. Part I of this Note details the current criminal appellate system in New York State, including the historically distinct powers of intermediate appellate courts and the Court of Appeals. Part II discusses a combination of historical and current structural and substantive problems extant in the criminal appellate process. Part III considers the use of special civil procedural mechanisms to provide answers to questions of criminal law and their (in)efficacy. Part IV proposes a solution: a new statute permitting a direct, discretionary, interlocutory appeal to the New York Court of Appeals in matters of compelling public importance, a mechanism most of New York's neighboring states share.
Religion has played a central role in American society from the time of its founding to the present day, and continues to remain a contentious topic in American life and politics. While most Americans are familiar with the concept of "separation of church and state," few understand what is constitutionally permissible regarding religion in the public sphere. The presence of religious references in everyday life, such as "In God We Trust" on our currency, and "One Nation Under God" in our pledge of allegiance, have made it increasingly difficult to determine what is secular and what is religious. The purpose of this Capstone is to explain the history of legislative prayer in America, to illustrate the inherent conflict between legislative prayer and the constitutional prohibition on the establishment of religion, and to provide guidance to local governments should they decide to engage in the practice of legislative prayer.
Volume VI (2010–2011)
The law for civil commitment of sex offenders in New York and New Jersey can be a minefield for practitioners where one misstep may cause great harm to their clients. This capstone acts as a guide for both new and veteran practitioners by highlighting the important steps, flagging the pitfalls, and citing recent cases. It first delves into the background of civil commitment of sex offenders, and then it summarizes in detail the civil commitment laws of New York and New Jersey and the federal laws.
New York State was the last state to grant unhappily married couples no-fault divorces by amending its Domestic Relations Law in 2010. As with any new amendments, some fine-tuning inevitably follows as practitioners and judges interpret these amendments in courts. This capstone outlines the new amendments to Domestic Relations Law—no-fault divorce, temporary maintenance, and counsel fees. It also discusses unsolved questions these amendments raised and predicts how courts may rule on these questions in the future.
Under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (the "ADEA"), it is unlawful for employers to make decisions about an employee “because of” his age. Before the Supreme Court’s decision in Gross v. FBL Financial Services, courts were guided to interpret the ADEA through prior analysis of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, upon which the ADEA was modeled. However, Gross changed the causation standard for ADEA actions. The likely result of Gross is a plethora of confusing jury instructions if a case alleges violations of Title VII and the ADEA in addition to state anti-discrimination statutes. This capstone explores this issue by looking into the history of Title VII and the ADEA and their similarities. It then raises the concern of how different standards may cause confusion for the jury and proposes a set of jury instructions to eliminate this confusion.
The public and media’s fascination with crime has glorified the act of capturing the suspect and the ensuing “perp-walk” to the police car or station. This in turn attaches a powerful image of guilt to the suspect before any determination has been made of his guilt or innocence. While the Fourth Amendment prevents police from bringing the media and other third parties into the home of a suspect in executing search warrants, there is uncertainty as to whether this protection extends to ride-alongs and the infamous perp-walks on public property. This capstone explores the constitutionality of the perp-walk by looking into its history, the divergent conclusions of various circuit courts, and how certain factors may influence the constitutionality of perp-walks.
Volume V (2009–2010)
Public defenders will seldom say they entered that particular vocation because of the light caseload and relaxed workdays. An average public defender will manage anywhere from 90 to 140 cases at any one time. The caseload of a public defender is often so high that some compromises must be made both personally and professionally. While most public interest lawyers say they love their work, their job satisfaction does not come in the form of a paycheck. After five years of experience, the average salary is under $54,000, while the median salary of a fifth-year private sector associate at a law firm ranges from $90,000 to $169,000. What is it that compels those in the public interest, particularly public defenders, to steadfastly continue? This Capstone discusses some of the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of public defenders.
This Capstone project addresses the treatment of persons institutionalized because of mental disability in Central and Eastern Europe. The idea for the project originated with the Mental Disability Advocacy Center (“MDAC”), a European NGO dedicated to advocating for the rights of persons with mental disabilities, in conjunction with Professor Michael Perlin, an expert in mental disability law. This study draws on research and reports done by MDAC and Mental Disability Rights International, an American NGO with a purpose similar to MDAC but with a different approach. The focus of the project is to analyze the extent to which certain Central and Eastern European nations, particularly Hungary and Turkey, have complied with the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in the context of persons institutionalized because of mental disability.
One of the most prevalent struggles that a custodial parent faces is receiving his or her necessary and appropriate amount of child support. For some parents, the problem is having the child support order enforced, while for others it is simply obtaining a child support order. In New York, the Child Support Enforcement Unit (“CSEU”) helps custodial parents locate their non-custodial counterparts, establish paternity, and assist in filing petitions in family court for an order of support, modification, or violation. The CSEU has also implemented various procedures to collect overdue support, such as seizing bank accounts and/or intercepting the non-custodial parent’s income tax refund. This Capstone focuses on how law students, in coordination with the family law outreach program Legal Information for Families Today can assist these parents and provide one-on-one service in hopes of easing their struggles.
Environmental regulation has always been an exercise in balancing the interests of industry and development against those of health, conservation, and preservation. The government, as regulator, is supposed to act as a neutral arbiter between these competing interests. Environmental advocates assume the role of watchdogs, working to ensure that laws and regulations are meaningful and actually tailored to address the problem. In this undertaking, their greatest asset is public opinion. The reality, however, is that those with financial gain at stake are almost always in a position to exert more influence over the machinery of government than the independent environmental advocates working to protect human health and natural resources. This Capstone focuses on the shifting dynamic between the players in environmental regulations, using the microcosm of the Marcellus Shale to illustrate.
The pay equity movement started over forty years ago when Congress passed the Equal Pay Act of 1963 (“EPA”) as an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act. The Act prohibits unequal pay for equal or substantially equal work performed by men and women. This law requires that men and women who perform the same, or substantially the same, job in the same place of work under the same conditions receive equal pay. Seniority, merit, and quality and quantity of the work provide legal bases for pay differentials. Due to changing work environments and an influx of women in the workplace, efforts to decrease and ultimately eliminate the wage gap now turn on the notion of “Pay Equity.” This Capstone discusses the mechanics and current efforts of the Pay Equity Movement.
In the wake of September 11, 2001 (“9/11”), the international playing field changed dramatically. The executive branch, armed with the Authorization for Use of Military Force Act, claimed broad executive power to do almost anything to fight the global war on terror. Covert actions were not immune from this vast proclamation of executive authority, and since 9/11 covert action such as the CIA’s Predator drone program has been a vigorous tool in the fight against terrorism. The CIA’s Predator drone is a remote controlled, unmanned plane that can be operated anywhere in the world, by a “pilot” thousands of miles away from the drone. Do the usages of these planes and “targeted killings” violate international law? Does international law speak to the topic? If so, are American actions subject to this law? To what extent is the Predator program constitutional under U.S. law? This Capstone evaluates the usage, constitutionality, and military ethics of these new tactics.
Housing is essential for a domestic violence survivor to leave his or her abuser permanently. However, countless domestic violence survivors struggle to maintain or obtain housing in New York City. Domestic violence survivors often face problems, including discrimination, in securing new housing or remaining in their homes, placing them in a dangerous Catch-22 where they must choose between remaining with the abuser or homelessness. Although there are various agencies that assist domestic violence survivors facing housing issues, there are simply not enough attorneys to assist the vast number of survivors in need of legal assistance. In addition, there are few attorneys who specialize in representing domestic violence survivors facing housing issues. This Capstone serves as a guide to help survivors and advocates achieve a basic understanding of housing court. While this guide cannot serve as a substitute for competent legal representation, it attempts to show how the laws regarding domestic violence and housing intersect in this unique area of law.
The right to be secure in one’s person and possessions is deeply rooted in the American legal fabric. It is a right so important to the founders of this nation that it was specifically enumerated in the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. It goes without question that the right guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment, to be free from unwarranted governmental search and seizure of personal property, is truly fundamental to American jurisprudence. However, violations of the Fourth Amendment occur on a daily basis throughout the country. By entrusting the government to protect us from those determined to harm us, we sacrifice certain freedoms and privacies. While this is necessary in a free society, where crime is a choice for some, the potential for abuse is great. This Capstone addresses the gray area between protection and privacy, and how much room is allowed for abuse.
The United Nations Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (“CRPD”) drastically changed the status of mental disability law in those nations adopting it in 2008. Despite this, the CRPD remains an aspirational document only, lacking any rights enforcement mechanism. The Asia-Pacific region notably does not have a regional human rights tribunal, making it even more difficult to enforce the protection of human rights for persons with disabilities. This paper argues that this situation could be alleviated through the establishment of a Disability Rights Tribunal for Asia and the Pacific (“DR-TAP”) that would ensure these human rights abuses no longer occur and that those responsible for the abuses be held accountable. This Capstone examines why current measures are insufficient to address the special problems endemic to the region, how other voluntary tribunals and international conventions affect domestic lawmaking, and what further actions should be taken towards establishing the DR-TAP.
Cattle provide livelihood and a cultural touchstone for Kenyan cattle herders like the Maasai people of Kenya. For the Maasai people, lions pose a serious threat not only to their livelihood but to their social status as well, due in part to one’s social status being linked to the number of cattle owned. In recent years, cattle herders have responded to this threat by lacing an animal carcass with granules of carbofuran as a preventative measure to protect grazing cattle and as a retaliatory measure for an actual attack. However, the Kenyan nation has a strong incentive to conserve the lion population: the largest foreign income source for Kenya is tourism, which primarily consists of safari and national park tourists. This Capstone discusses the use of the agricultural pesticide carbofuran as a poison to kill wild carnivores, particularly lions, in the African nations of Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, and explores measures that activist group Panthera is using to prevent this practice.
Volume IV (2008–2009)
The Office of Counsel for Children and Parents of the Appellate Division, First Department has prepared this Administrative Handbook to describe the operation of its program. The Office of Counsel for Children and Parents works to provide high quality legal services to children and parents involved in Family Court proceedings. There are approximately 150 members on the Panel of Counsel for Children and Parents. Attorneys who represent children and parents are compensated for their work and reimbursed for reasonable expenses associated with the representation of their clients. Included in this Handbook are statutory provisions, court rules, guidelines, and forms for Attorneys for the Child and Assigned Counsel Plan attorneys in the Family Courts of New York and Bronx Counties.
This paper was written in response to a query from attorney Asma Jahengir, the Human Rights Commissioner in Pakistan. The question asked for general information about national, regional, and international human rights standards and compliance in the area of electoral law. Here, we intend to set forth a road map for national and international observers, attorneys, legislators, and members of the judiciary to identify areas in need of improvement in electoral law. This memorandum sets forth the current international (Section II) and Pakistani law (Sections III and IV) governing the electoral process and analyzes the country’s compliance. This paper is intended to be a comprehensive overview and to provide substance and sources for continuing research. Part V identifies and analyzes several recurring issues, while Part VI recommends several steps the country should take in order to comply with its own constitutional policy and international standards for free and fair elections.
This capstone is a portfolio of work completed while working with the NAACP LDF on its Prepared to Vote Initiative. The initiative developed in response to LDF’s realization that it is often difficult or impossible to remedy problems of voter disfranchisement by pursuing litigation after the election. The Prepared to Vote Initiative is a comprehensive voter empowerment campaign designed to prevent voter disfranchisement in communities of color on Election Day. This Initiative included equipping voters with an awareness of requirements and deadlines about potential Election Day voting impediments, such as photo identification requirements and provisional balloting requirements, and through election-day poll site monitoring.
Over the last century, empirical legal scholarship has re-emerged and joined the ranks of the mainstream curriculum within the legal academy. This paper traces the history of legal empiricism and discusses its growing role within the legal academy. First, the article defines legal empirical scholarship and discusses its goals. Then, the paper takes you through the history of the empirical legal scholarship from the legal empiricism movement of the early twentieth century, to post-World War II efforts to revive legal empiricism, and then to current support for legal empirical research from both the law schools and other research centers. The paper then discusses several factors, which have influenced the recent growth in legal empirical research. Next, the paper uses empirical judicial decision-making literature to illustrate current trends in empirical legal research, including the two predominant research models of behaviorism and attitudinalism; the paper also examines research in the areas of the legal, public choice, and institutionalist models for explaining judicial decision making. Finally, the article discusses some of the inherent limitations of current research methodologies and available databases, but concludes that, structural limitations aside, empirical legal scholarship has arrived as a research paradigm and will continue to flourish.
Using the data made available by HMDA (“HMDA data”), this report examines whether there is evidence of discriminatory home mortgage lending practices in New York City, Westchester County, and Long Island. This report follows up and updates Subprime Home Mortgage Lending in New York City and Westchester County, 2005–2006, a report by Jane Yoo of New York Law School’s Justice Action Center published in October 2008. The 2006 report was written to follow and update The Higher Cost of Being African-American or Latino: Subprime Lending in New York City, 2004-2005, published in October 2005. The 2005 and 2006 reports found that African-Americans, Latinos, and residents of predominantly minority neighborhoods received a disproportionately lower percentage of all home mortgage loans and a disproportionately higher percentage of subprime home mortgage loans in New York City in 2005 and 2006. The 2006 report found that Asian-Americans and whites both held lower market shares of subprime home purchase loans than prime home purchase loans, and the proportional difference between the market shares was slightly lower for Asian-Americans.
The death penalty in China has become routine. In a country which has come increasingly into the spotlight for human rights violations, how are the legal rights of the mentally ill affected by the hard-line approach to the death penalty? This capstone focuses on the treatment of the mentally disabled under China's current criminal law. The author explores the death penalty in China and the treatment of the mentally disabled pursuant to the current system. Additionally, the author discusses the role of lawyers in the system and how their lack of influence has shaped the treatment of death-penalty eligible defendants. This capstone also provides recommendations for correcting these issues, including a brief handbook for those advocating change.
This Guide is an overview of what to expect when you are in immigration court removal proceedings and explains key sections of the Immigration Court Practice Manual (“Practice Manual”). Released in March 2008, and effective as of July 1, 2008, the Practice Manual replaces the local operating procedures of every U.S. immigration court, and it must be followed by all people who appear in front of an immigration judge. This Guide also contains specific information regarding the New York immigration court.
The author of this Capstone sought to address the lack of pro bono representatives in the area of unemployment insurance hearings by developing a quick reference brochure for attorneys and lay representatives. The first part of the brochure aims to attract more pro bono representation in this area. The remainder is focused on those attorneys and lay representatives who have expressed an interest in pro bono representation of unemployment insurance claimants. This second part provides attorneys and lay representatives with a brief overview of the hearing process, including some helpful tips as to how to represent an unemployment insurance claimant successfully.
Each year, thousands of unaccompanied juveniles in the United States who lack valid immigration status are forced to maneuver through a complex legal system without the assistance of counsel. Many of these juveniles have fled their home countries due to abuse while others are in the U.S. with parents or guardians who are left unable to care for them. Because many of these children lack valid immigration status, they are at risk of being deported, but are unable to receive legal counsel at government expense, since the immigration system is a civil matter. To address this prevalent social justice problem, this capstone focuses on the development and activities of the Safe Passage Immigration Project at New York Law School’s Justice Action Center, which acts as a clearinghouse to find pro bono attorneys to represent immigrant juvenile cases.
Volume III (2007–2008)
This capstone looks at the intentional use of humiliation and degradation as penalties for criminal conduct. These punishments, also known as “shaming penalties,” are most often seen in the realm of sexual offenses, but have been extended upon judicial discretion to other crimes such as shoplifting and perjury. They require offenders to publicize their offenses to the public who, under normal circumstances, would not be aware of the offender’s criminal behavior. The author examines the history and future of the practice, as well as the relationship between it and the traditional theories of punishment: retribution, deterrence and rehabilitation.
The FDA’s current policies require blood banks to discriminate against gay and bisexual men in their blood collection policies. Law schools are in a unique position to oppose this discriminatory treatment due to their membership in the AALS, which requires that members refrain from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. This capstone, in the form of a Website, serves as a resource for law school students who seek to oppose discriminatory blood drives on their campuses. By providing a toolkit of opposition techniques, this capstone intends to make mobilizing opposition easier for students so that discrimination against gay and bisexual men on campus can be prevented. To visit the website, click the link above. (Please note that this will take you to an independent Website.)
This capstone presents a comprehensive, interactive, practical method of teaching the law to middle and high school aged youth, as it affects them in their everyday lives. Working in conjunction with Groundwork for Success and Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver and Jacobson LLP, the author presents a mock legal scenario in which students take on the role of attorneys. Through Street Law, New York Law School students will share their knowledge of the law with Groundwork students in an effort to educate them about their legal rights and enlighten them about the legal profession. This practicum involves training exercises for mentors, classroom visits, and analytical activities with high school students, culminating in a final moot court exercise.
In an effort to overturn In re Smiley, a New York Court of Appeals case holding that there is no absolute right to counsel in civil suits, this capstone surveys states’ treatment of the right to counsel in civil cases involving a substantial loss of property. This capstone analyzes each state’s position on the right to appointed counsel, citing statutes or cases, if any, that require such a right, and summarizing cases in which courts referenced factors that would warrant appointed counsel. The author also provides a tally of the states that require appointed counsel in various types of civil proceedings, as well as a list of the circumstances that courts have stated, if present, may warrant appointed counsel.
Prejudice and ignorance are barriers to equality for persons with mental disabilities. How do these barriers inevitably affect the legal rights of those who face involuntary civil commitment? This capstone focuses on the right to counsel for individuals with mental disabilities in involuntary civil commitment cases and discusses the significant developments that have been made in the area and highlights the immense need for further improvement. The author explores the legal principles and developments behind the issue on the international level, such as those advanced under the United Nations and the European Union. This capstone also surveys a selection of countries and discusses their specific bodies of law and practices for involuntary commitment.
This capstone takes the form of a report examining whether there is evidence of discriminatory home mortgage lending practices in New York City and Westchester County from 2005 to 2006. The author finds that in New York City in 2006, half of all home purchase loans to African-Americans were subprime. African-Americans were nearly five times more likely than whites to receive subprime home purchase loans, Latinos were more than three times more likely than whites, and Asian-Americans were 1.4 times more likely. In Westchester in 2006, more than forty percent of all home purchase loans to African-Americans were subprime. African-Americans were six times more likely than whites to receive subprime home purchase loans, Latinos were nearly five times more likely, and Asian-Americans were 1.2 times more likely.
The Subprime Mortgage Market Collapse: Causes
The subprime mortgage market collapse has proved so large and complex that three Center students completed a joint, three-part capstone project that attempts to piece together the major issues behind the subprime market failure from what is currently known about the loan products used and the process of securitization of those loans. These three capstones are arranged below for easier reference:
Date Posted: November 2008
The collapse of the subprime mortgage market has lead to much finger pointing, but the fundamental source behind the collapse is the development of exotic mortgage products that were specifically designed to leach equity from vulnerable borrowers. Compounding this problem is the fact that nothing was done to stop these products from wreaking havoc on borrowers—despite warnings from a small but vocal chorus of advocacy organizations. This first paper in a three-part series examines the exotic mortgage products and terms, such as adjustable rate mortgages, interest only loans, balloon payments, and computerized loan screening, that contributed to the foreclosure debacle; the paper goes on to offer solutions for preventing future losses.
The onset of the subprime mortgage crisis has led to a rise in unemployment, stagnation in job growth, and fears of inflation. This second paper in a three-part capstone project examines the role of securitization in the collapse of the subprime mortgage market and highlights the influence of Wall Street and how the eventual transformation of liquid assets, such as residential mortgages, into tradeable securities contributed to the crisis. It defines some of the key players in the securitization process, explains their roles in the overall market schema, and concludes by offering a forecast for the future of the American economy.
This paper, the third in a three-part capstone project, proposes potential solutions to the subprime mortgage crisis. Investors have lost hundreds of billions of dollars in a few short months and millions of homeowners throughout the nation are facing foreclosure. As the country’s economy creeps toward recession, the author addresses two broad categories of potential solutions to the crisis. These solutions seek to mitigate the harm already incurred and to prevent the resurfacing of similar crises through federal and state efforts.
Or download the complete report, including the introduction and all three parts: Click Here
Volume II (2006–2007)
This is a plain-English “Know Your Legal Rights” guide for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (“LGBT”) youth. The need for such a guide arose out of the frequent incident of physical harassment that LGBT youth have experienced at school and in the workplace. Although recent legislation and judicial decisions have expanded the protection afforded to LGBT individuals, such protection may be futile if people are unaware of their legal rights. The author has presented the guide in a manner that is accessible to an adolescent audience. The capstone includes a program for students in which participants brainstorm unique legal issues facing LGBT youth, learn what their legal rights are, and explore hypothetical scenarios involving discrimination and what to do in such situations.
Although many individuals released from prison or jail
leave with the hope of a fresh start, many barriers, known as
“collateral consequences,” make it difficult for them to
reintegrate into society. It is important to understand these collateral
consequences at both ends of the criminal process system—at the
beginning of the criminal process when an individual has been charged with
a crime and may be considering accepting a plea bargain, and at the other
end, when the individual is being released from prison and deciding how to
This capstone, Reentry and the Collateral Consequences of the Criminal Process in New York State, serves as an accessible guide to some of the many consequences that the criminal justice system has on individuals. The guide covers topics such as what to do if you or someone you know is arrested, civic participation (including voting rights and jury service), employment, effects on the family, financial impact, housing, immigration, criminal records, and certificates of rehabilitation.
This capstone instructs trusts and estates attorneys at private law firms on how to represent low-income families regarding guardianship over minor children. The topics covered include types of guardians, judicial discretion to name a guardian, tools for naming a guardian, the rights of non-custodial parents, and helping the client identify a guardian. The capstone also provides a questionnaire to assist attorneys in conducting the initial interview with the client and identifies some of the issues that may arise in the course of representation. Finally, the capstone provides sample petitions for Family Court and Surrogate’s Court.
Collateral consequences of criminal charges are the results of arrest, prosecution, or conviction that were not actually part of the sentence imposed. This capstone synthesizes and builds on other Justice Action Center capstones by Christine Tramontano and Jill Janeczko. Specifically, the capstone serves as a resource guide for criminal defense attorneys in Indiana, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. This capstone also considers common barriers to successful reentry into society, the impact of collateral consequences on disadvantaged communities, and the need for incorporating a holistic advocacy approach to legal representation and reentry.
This capstone takes the position that New York should adopt a policy of open file discovery, which would give defense lawyers much greater access to prosecutors’ evidence in criminal cases. Currently, New York’s criminal discovery process does not provide for full disclosure by the prosecution and therefore undermines the state’s goals of truth at trial and just outcomes. Not only is New York’s process more restrictive than that of many other states, but also the lower courts apply the rules of discovery inconsistently. This capstone reviews the history of criminal discovery, analyzes current discovery rules, considers the effect of restrictive rules on the criminal justice process, and proposes a new process that would improve efficiency and be more just.
Trade’s relation to human rights has been a divisive issue. It has tormented the trade community from the first efforts to create an international trade organization and came to a head in 1996. The Singapore Declaration pitted developed countries against developing countries. Since then, the trade community has assumed that developing countries oppose the integration of trade and social issues. This paper questions this assumption. It seeks to contribute to the literature on integration through an empirical study. The paper presents the results of a survey that tracked developing countries’ discourse on health, food, and labor. The survey reveals that developing countries are actually seeking the integration of trade and social issues. By reexamining the motivations that fueled developing countries’ opposition in 1996 and analyzing developing countries’ use of human rights in trade negotiations, the paper argues that the integration debate has entered a new stage.
Volume I (2005–2006)
The Collateral Sanctions Resource assists ex-prisoners dealing with a variety of civil consequences of their convictions that they face upon release from incarceration, called “collateral sanctions.” This capstone addresses five aspects of an ex-offender’s daily life that are affected by collateral sanctions: voting rights, civic rights, access to funding for higher education, parenting issues, and firearm possession. This resource is a tool for defense attorneys to educate their clients about collateral sanctions. It is especially useful for individuals who are considering accepting a plea bargain, but who might not otherwise be aware of the post-incarceration effects of accepting the plea. There has been a recent increase in the severity and number of collateral sanctions facing ex-offenders across the country, but there have also been some notable reversals in the overall trend. This capstone addresses some areas of reform and explores where further reform is necessary.
The author wrote this self-representation manual for the Unemployment Action Center to guide individuals through the New York State unemployment insurance hearing process. The manual instructs readers on how to file a claim, prepare for a hearing, research and apply the law, gather evidence, develop testimony, and write a closing statement. Additionally, it provides a brief history of unemployment insurance and what the hearing before an administrative law judge will look like.
Collateral consequences are civil restrictions that are imposed automatically upon a criminal conviction or guilty plea. This capstone, A Practitioner’s Guide to Collateral Consequences of Conviction, is a resource for criminal defense attorneys who may be unaware of the potential consequences of their clients’ guilty pleas or convictions. This guide outlines several of the most serious collateral sanctions, such as public housing, Section 8 housing and certificates, private housing, welfare and other public benefits, access to employment opportunities, licensing restrictions (including driver and occupational licensing), and sex offender registration.
THESE PROJECTS ARE FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND ARE NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR LEGAL ADVICE. BECAUSE THE LAW CHANGES QUICKLY, WE CANNOT GUARANTEE THAT THE INFORMATION PROVIDED IN THESE PROJECTS WILL ALWAYS BE UP-TO-DATE OR CORRECT. IF YOU HAVE A LEGAL PROBLEM, WE URGE YOU TO CONTACT AN ATTORNEY.