“Cuomo Prime Time” host Chris Cuomo ’95 recently spoke with students in Fordham Law’s Democracy and the Constitution Clinic about the clinic’s projects and how to effectively communicate about legal reform to a general audience.
Cuomo drew on his experience as a practicing lawyer and two decades as a television journalist to respond to the students’ questions—and ask some questions of his own. The CNN anchor gave the students a sense of what it’s like in the hot seat on his show by peppering them with questions about the reform proposals they’re developing.
Advancing proposals to strengthen the nation’s institutions and its democracy is the main objective of the Democracy Clinic, which is co-taught by Norris Professor of Law John D. Feerick ’61 and Visiting Clinical Professor John Rogan ’14.
John Roque ’21 said that Cuomo’s incisive questions forced the students to better articulate their arguments and respond to criticism with effective counterarguments. “Within just a minute or two of talking about each of our projects, Cuomo basically pinpointed the exact issues that we’ve been discussing and deliberating over for weeks,” Roque said. “He was able to give such constructive feedback because he naturally knew so much about the issues involved in our projects.”
“The students spoke as professionals, and Cuomo questioned them using his impressive knowledge of the Constitution and the Federalist Papers. He was an equal of his father [former New York Governor Mario Cuomo] in how he challenged the students and spoke,” said Feerick, who was dean when Cuomo was a Fordham Law student. “It was hard to leave the session without greatly appreciating this graduate and how he serves the public through the media. There was not a sound in the room when he spoke.”
The clinic’s three projects this semester focus on developing non-partisan reforms related to the presidential pardon power, the Supreme Court, and public officials’ use of social media. Evelyn Li ’20 and Nicole Rubin ’20, who are working on the social media project, said they were appreciative for Cuomo’s time and ideas. They added that Cuomo quickly pointed out the possibility of exceptions to a proposal their team is considering.
“He encouraged us to think in different ways, which is a very unique law school kind of thing to do,” Li said in regard to thinking about how their proposal could be enforced.
Cuomo is one of a number of experts the clinic students have spoken with this semester to gain insights on their projects. Others include New York State Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas ’02 and Fordham Law professors James Brudney, Abner Greene, Bruce Green, and Andrew Kent.
“Speaking with experts is central to the clinic’s work, so we’re very grateful for the time and thoughtfulness of everyone we speak with,” said Rogan. “Members of the Fordham community, including alums like Mr. Cuomo, have been especially generous in helping out. They’re setting a terrific example for the students in caring about our democracy and finding ways for lawyers to have a positive impact on the country’s civic life.”
Photos by Dana Maxson