Listed below are the projects currently headed by members of the center.
Center for Justice & Democracy
The Center for Justice and Democracy is the only non-profit consumer rights group in the nation that focuses exclusively on protecting plaintiffs’ access to the civil courts. Our mission is to raise public awareness about attacks on the civil justice system, the value of tort law, the importance of corporate liability and accountability, and the need for independent judges and juries, including the corrupting influence of money in judicial elections. We work with Congress and state legislatures around the nation, including in New York. CJ&D’s work includes legislative analysis for state and federal legislative committees, presentation of Congressional testimony, preparation of advocacy materials and policy papers, and all forms of media outreach. Issue areas include money and politics, the impact of “tort reform” on everyday Americans, product safety and environmental litigation, civil justice and human rights, employment and consumer class actions, health care and medical malpractice, federal regulations, along with the full range of cutting-edge contemporary civil justice topics. CJ&D also works closely with members of the plaintiffs’ bar and their clients, whose rights may be at risk.
Criminal Justice Project
The Criminal Justice Project focuses on current issues facing the criminal justice system. Through the project students and faculty will work to promote criminal defense capacity building nationally and internationally. The issues facing the criminal justice system in New York City will be a particular focus of the Project. Some current topics the Project plans to address include discovery, speedy trial, collateral consequences of convictions, availability of bail, and wrongful convictions. The project will also coordinate with the New York Law School Advocacy Program to train students and lawyers working in the criminal justice field.
Detention and the Struggle Against Terrorism
Faculty Director: Stephen Ellmann
This Project grows out of a project-based learning course on Detention and the War Against Terrorism. There students developed a website called “Detained by U.S.,” www.detainedbyus.org, whose goal is “to offer resources to support public understanding of U.S. detention policies in Afghanistan.” Afghanistan was one instance, and a very important one, of a much broader issue: the circumstances in which the “war” against terrorism gives the U.S. authority to hold people in military detention without trial. Though we detain far fewer people in Afghanistan now than we once did, the question of when detention is lawful has not gone away. This Project will continue to follow events in Afghanistan, but also broaden its focus to offer resources for public understanding of the many questions of international and constitutional law raised by the use of detention as a response to terrorism.
Diane Abbey Law Institute for Children and Families
The Diane Abbey Law Institute for Children and Families provides opportunities for students interested in children’s and family law issues to pursue their interests through policy research and advocacy, individual client representation, and writing. The Abbey Institute serves the community through policy work and events programming, and also provides free legal services to identity theft victims who have been wrongfully deprived of the ability to get married.
Housing Justice Leadership Institute
Direct Link: www.nyls.edu/HJLI
HJLI’s program is designed to help supervising attorneys develop the skills and strengths they need to lead, supervise, manage, and support delivery of the highest quality legal assistance to tenants who face eviction from their homes. The program, rooted in a commitment to housing as a basic human right, will build supervisors’ capacities to help those they supervise recognize and address the racialized nature of housing exclusion, instability, and segregation. It will be based on an understanding that New York City’s right to counsel law is not as an end in itself—but rather a vehicle to shift the balance of power in support of tenants’ rights: to protect against evictions, mitigate gentrification, preserve communities, and invest in the development of affordable housing. It will reinforce the critical role of lawyers in supporting a community-led housing justice movement and building power and voice in community-based groups. And it will build the skills needed to manage program operations and supervise and support attorneys and paralegals in providing high quality legal assistance that is effective in achieving these goals and consistent with these values.
Law School Pipeline Project
Faculty Director: Richard Marsico
The Impact Center’s Law School Pipeline Project harnesses the unique skill set of law students, legal educators, and practitioners to enhance the educational and career opportunities of students from underserved communities in New York City. In addition to its many volunteer initiatives, the Law School Pipeline Project also spearheaded the creation of a Charter High School for Law and Social Justice.
Patient Safety Project
Faculty Directors: Stephen Pegalis and Dr. Irwin R. Merkatz
The Patient Safety Project will develop and maintain an electronic database of redacted medical malpractice cases recently resolved in the New York State Unified Court System. The Project is intended to promote patient safety in medical care by serving as a valuable teaching resource and starting an open dialogue among medical care providers, risk managers, physicians, medical students, insurance providers, and lawyers. This database is the first of its kind with the state’s Office of Court Administration granting special permission for its creation. Project administrators and students will work with the courts to collect the voluntary and anonymous versions of the undisputed facts as confirmed by the presiding judge. The data is not intended for use in future litigation or for purposes of impeachment. The Patient Safety Project is co-directed by Mr. Pegalis, who is a medical liability trial attorney, a member of the New York Law School’s Board of Trustees and an Adjunct Professor at the Law School and Dr. Merkatz, Emeritus Professor and Former Chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Women’s Health at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Dr. Merkatz has been named a Senior Fellow in Health Law by New York Law School. An esteemed group of advisors for the project have also been assembled and include individuals from national health organizations, hospitals, and medical liability insurance companies, each of whom have a special interest and expertise with regard to patient safety. With input and advice from the advisory group the Project’s safety mission promises to be a productive additional part of existing safety processes.
Racial Justice Project
The Racial Justice Project is a legal advocacy organization dedicated to protecting the constitutional and civil rights of people who have been denied those rights on the basis of race and to increase public awareness of racism and racial injustice in the areas of education, employment, political participation, and criminal justice. The Racial Justice Project’s advocacy includes litigation, training, and public education.
Right to Counsel Project
Faculty Director: Andrew Scherer
The Right to Counsel Project is currently providing academic support for advocacy related to pending City Council legislation seeking to secure a right to counsel for tenants facing eviction in New York City. This project is part of New York Law School’s Impact Center for Public Interest Law and is directed by the Center’s Policy Director, Professor Andrew Scherer. The Right to Counsel Project is responsible for the Impact Center’s involvement in the citywide coalition that is advocating for this right. The Right to Counsel Project works independently as well as in consultation and collaboration with academics, legal services providers, community members and others to research and obtain the most up-to-date data and information to help inform advocacy and the city legislative process.
The Right to Counsel Project seeks to make research and data available to the public on the need for a right to counsel for tenants facing eviction in New York City. The Right to Counsel Project’s website houses abstracts and copies of articles, reports and other documents relevant to the right to counsel all in one place for quick and easy access.
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Safe Passage Project
Each year, thousands of children enter the United States alone, seeking refuge from abuse and maltreatment. Others migrate to the United States with parents who are unable or unwilling to care for them, and end up in foster care. None are entitled to immigration counsel at government expense. Many are eligible for asylum. Others may qualify for Special Immigrant Juvenile status, which allows unaccompanied minors to become permanent residents. The Safe Passage Project works with attorneys and law students to provide pro bono legal representation to these vulnerable young people, the majority of whom are in removal (deportation) proceedings in the New York Immigration Court.
South Africa and the Rule of Law
Faculty Director: Stephen Ellmann
The South Africa and the Rule of Law Project focuses on the achievements of constitutional law in South Africa, and the challenges that South Africa faces in building a rule of constitutional law that will endure into the future. The achievements are many—beginning, crucially, with the end of apartheid. South Africa’s post-apartheid constitution secures not only the rights enjoyed by Americans but others that U.S. constitutional law rarely considers, including guarantees of access to food, water, health care, and social security. But the challenges are sharp as well. Corruption eats at the fabric of South African democracy, and bitter power struggles may jeopardize the country’s guarantees of political liberties. This Project will aim to engage New York Law School students in South Africa’s ongoing development of constitutional law—because South African constitutionalism is important in itself and because in the end the issues South Africa faces turn out to have many echoes here in the United States as well.