Advanced Seminar in Public Interest Lawyering

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As many Stein graduates may remember, participation in the Advanced Seminar in Public Interest Lawyering during the 2L spring semester is the capstone academic requirement of the Stein Scholars Program. Stein Scholars work in small groups with other seminar students on projects in conjunction with outside public interest organizations, with supervision from the seminar faculty and from attorneys at those organizations. While most of the components have remained the same over the years, students now work throughout the fall semester to form teams, identify an appropriate sponsoring organization, and develop a project. (It formerly was the responsibility of the faculty to initiate the partnerships and develop the project proposals.)

We are excited to tell you about this year’s inspiring projects, but first we want to share with you some examples of particularly impactful projects from years past, as well as give a shout-out to Stein graduates who have chosen to give back to the program by sponsoring an Advanced Seminar project.

Projects Making a Difference

During spring 2016, a group of four students—Jorie Dugan ’17, Josh Liebman ’17, Javed Yunus ’17, and Lucy Gubernick ’17—worked with The Legal Aid Society to research and draft a manual to support the efforts by pro bono attorneys to vacate trafficking-related convictions. Post-Conviction Advocacy for Survivors of Human Trafficking: A Guide for Attorneys, which was produced in conjunction with The Survivor Reentry Project and under the auspices of the American Bar Association Commission on Domestic & Sexual Violence, was recently finalized and is now being used by practitioners across the country to help formerly trafficked individuals put the detrimental and long-lasting impact of convictions behind them.

Three students—Ashley Mitchell ’16, Henry Parr ’16, and Sasha Fisher ’16—used their time in the spring 2015 Advanced Seminar to prepare a comprehensive manual on services available to runaway and homeless youth in New York City, many of whom are LGBT teens who have been kicked out of their own homes. The manual has been so useful to the advocacy community that The Legal Aid Society just updated it and made the revised version available on their website.

Stein Graduates Give Back

During the past several years, Stein graduates have played a key role in sponsoring projects. While working as the executive director of the ACLU-NJ, Udi Ofer ’01, who is now the deputy national political director of the ACLU and the director of the ACLU’s Campaign for Smart Justice, put four 2015 Advanced Seminar students in contact with his colleagues at ACLU-NJ. Those colleagues agreed to supervise the Stein Scholars on a project having to do with the school-to-prison pipeline in New Jersey.

Last year, Estelle Wagner ’15, the international advocacy coordinator at the International Planned Parenthood Federation, supervised four students as they developed a set of four fact sheets on HIV and AIDS, comprehensive sexuality education, sexual and reproductive rights, and sexual and reproductive health care services, which were used by multiple coalition members at two United Nations conferences: the Commission on the Status of Women and the Commission on Population and Development.

This year, Sandy Rosin ’06, a litigation supervisor at the Center for Family Representation, is co-supervising a project on the use of data analytics in child welfare cases.

In addition to sponsoring projects, Stein graduates also support the Advanced Seminar in other ways. For example, the following five Stein Scholars alumni will return to the classroom this semester to share advice and reflections about their current positions and career paths: Richard Saenz ’10, Lambda Legal; Janos Marton ’09, JustLeadershipUSA; Susan Welber ’98, The Legal Aid Society Civil Law Reform Unit; Liz Ling ’15, J.D./M.S.W., Brooklyn Defender Services – Family Defense Practice; and Afua Atta-Mensah ’04, Community Voices Heard.

Spring 2017 Advanced Seminar Projects

The students in this year’s Advanced Seminar are off to an inspiring start. Working in six teams, the students have partnered with the following public interest law organizations to advance these important areas of work:

  • Center for Court Innovation ­– to explore the use of restorative justice peace circles as an alternative to suspension/expulsion at five high-risk schools in Brooklyn and develop a guide that can be used to initiate pilot programs.
  • Center for Family Representationto research the use of data analytics in child protective services cases around the country and present the findings to the staff at CFR.
  • NYLAG Consumer Protection Unitto create materials to empower prospective students to make informed decisions regarding enrollment in for-profit schools, as well as guidance on how to deal with student loan debt from such schools.
  • International Refugee Assistance Projectto update and improve Request for Reconsideration materials for volunteers, attorneys, and refugees.
  • ACLU-NJto report on the school-to-prison pipeline in New Jersey, based in part on analysis of memorandums of agreements between school districts and police departments.
  • The Legal Aid Society, Juvenile Rights Practice, Special Litigation Unitto draft a white paper about right to shelter for 16–20-year-olds in New York, which will include an analysis of alternative approaches to address the problem.

Stay tuned for final updates at the conclusion of the spring semester!

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