The Impact Center for Public Interest Law Launches at New York Law School

New Academic Center to Focus on Social Justice Issues, Emphasizing Collaborative Advocacy and Experiential Learning

New York, NY (October  27, 2014)—New York Law School (NYLS) today announced the formation of a new academic center committed to leveraging the power of law and legal education to advance social justice, enrich the professional development of NYLS students, and have a positive impact on the role of public interest law.

“As New York Law School approaches its 125th anniversary, it is fitting that we are bringing all of the Law School’s important public interest work under the umbrella of the new Impact Center. Between existing projects and exciting new initiatives, we will promote the rights and liberties and social and economic empowerment of members of our community. Through real-world endeavors, our students, alumni, and professors will make a difference in people’s lives on the defining issues of civil liberty and the pursuit of justice. Our goal is to shape not only public interest lawyers, but also public interest law for the 21st century,” said Anthony W. Crowell, Dean and President of New York Law School.

The NYLS Impact Center’s initiatives will address critical topics such as racial justice, voting rights, public school education, family law, immigration, and criminal justice. The Center will develop robust student and faculty opportunities in public interest law—amicus brief writing, legislative analysis and advocacy, policy research, and community education and litigation—as well as connections within the larger public interest community. The Impact Center’s innovative projects include:

  • The Unshared Bounty Project – In partnership with the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, students and professors will build an interactive map of the borough’s food deserts using socioeconomic and racial data. In addition, the team will engage in advocacy work to increase equality in access to fresh, affordable food. The team will launch a blog and conduct a case study of a public-private effort to bring a grocery store to an underserved area.
  • The Safe Passage Project – Professors, attorneys, and law students are working together to provide pro bono legal representation to immigrant children who enter the United States alone, seeking refuge from the abuse and violence that pervades their countries of origin. The majority are in removal (deportation) proceedings in New York’s Immigration Court.
  • Amicus Briefs – Professors and students are working together to write amicus curiae briefs in two landmark civil rights cases involving the ability to challenge racial discrimination and advance racial justice. In one case, the U.S. Supreme Court will determine whether the Fair Housing Act prohibits acts that have a disparate impact on racial minorities in addition to acts of intentional discrimination. The decision in this case could impact the ability of plaintiffs to invoke other civil rights legislation to prohibit different types of discrimination.
  • The Law School Pipeline Project– Law students, legal educators, and practitioners are harnessing their skill sets to enhance the educational and career opportunities of K-12 students from underserved communities in New York City. A key initiative launched by Pipeline is the creation of a Charter High School for Law and Social Justice.

Associate Dean Deborah N. Archer and Professor Richard D. Marsico will co-direct the Impact Center.

“‘Impact’ is our new center‘s name because it is the guiding philosophy. Our centers are much more than a collection of courses. Through our centers, NYLS students will make meaningful and significant contributions to the greater community while they are in law school. They will graduate not only with the legal skills necessary to engage in public interest law, but also with a lifelong commitment to the cause of social justice and the drive to advocate for real change,” said Dean Archer.

“The Impact Center will build on the Law School’s significant record of achievement in social justice and establish it as “the” legal institution in New York City to study and teach law that serves the greater good,” added Professor Marsico.

Distinguished Adjunct Professor Andrew Scherer will serve as Policy Director and chair of an Advisory Council comprising leading public interest advocates, public officials, and legal practitioners from a wide range of nonprofit organizations, the public sector, and private practice. The members will work with the Impact Center in a variety of areas, including collaborative advocacy, experiential learning and pro bono opportunities for students, continuing legal education, and conferences and other events.

“The Impact Center at New York Law School aims to provide a framework for analyzing the pervasive questions and contradictions relating to social justice in American society,” said Professor Scherer. “The Center will instill in students a deeper intellectual understanding of the law and what it means to be an agent of change, presenting opportunities to maintain their ties to the social justice community beyond law school.”

The Advisory Council includes:

Gladys Carrion
Commissioner, New York City Administration for Children’s Services

Steven Choi
Executive Director, New York Immigration Coalition

Hon. Fern Fisher
Deputy Administrative Judge of the New York City Courts

Hon. Emily Jane Goodman, retired
New York State Supreme Court Justice

Gerald Hebert
Executive Director and Director of Litigation, Campaign Legal Center

Matthew Klein
Executive Director, Center for Economic Opportunity 

Richard Levy
Jenner & Block

Donna Lieberman
Executive Director, New York Civil Liberties Union

Mark O’Brien
Co-Founder and Executive Director, Pro Bono Net

James O’Neal
Co-Founder and Executive Director, Legal Outreach

Dennis Parker
Director, ACLU Racial Justice Program

Nicholas Turner
President and Director, Vera Institute of Justice

Vincent Warren
Executive Director, Center for Constitutional Rights

New York Law School Board Chairman Arthur N. Abbey ’59 and Diane Abbey, both longtime champions of public interest law at NYLS, will expand their generous support to include the Impact Center and help elevate the institution’s profile as a law school that serves the public interest. NYLS expects to grow the Center’s programs and initiatives with additional funding from alumni and friends of the Law School.

About New York Law School
Founded in 1891, New York Law School (NYLS) is an independent law school located in the heart of New York City’s legal, government, financial, and emerging tech centers. Known as “New York’s law school,” NYLS embraces the City as its classroom by complementing a rigorous legal education with an innovative and diverse set of “uniquely New York” experiential learning opportunities. Since opening our doors nearly 125 years ago, we have produced graduates who have gone on to hold high elected and appointed office in the City, lead large and small firms, and gain broad recognition as captains of business and industry. Our renowned faculty of prolific scholars has built the School’s strength in such areas as constitutional law, civil and human rights, business and finance law, media and information law, tax law, real estate, and a number of interdisciplinary fields. NYLS has more than 17,000 graduates and currently enrolls approximately 1,000 full-time and part-time students in its J.D. program. The Law School also offers advanced-degree programs in American Business Law and Tax Law. Learn more about New York’s law school at www.nyls.edu.

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