Judges to talk about challenges to judicial independence

A federal judge and two state judges will take center stage at Pace University School of Law on Tuesday, Nov. 15 to share their personal struggles with challenges their judicial independence and other political challenges to judges around the world.

U.S District Judge Harold Baer, New York Appellate Justice Helen E. Freedman and 9th Judicial District Administrative Judge Alan Scheinkman will lead the 90-minute discussion starting at 5:30 p.m. at the New York State Judicial Institute on the law school campus, 84 North Broadway in White Plains. The event is free and open to the public, and a reception will be held a half-hour prior to the panel discussion.

The panel discussion will spotlight Baer’s new book, “Judges Under Fire: Human Rights, Independent Judges, and the Rule of Law.” The book includes his controversial 1995 decision to suppress evidence of 80 pounds of heroin and cocaine worth more than $5 million that was obtained by stopping a car, after finding that the police did not have reasonable suspicion sufficient for the arrest. His decision prompted 200 members of Congress to demand that President Bill Clinton ask Baer to resign. Baer later reversed his ruling after the government presented a fuller case and the defendant took the stand.

The federal courts in particular have come under attack this year by Republican presidential candidates. According to the New York Times, “Gov. Rick Perry of Texas favors term limits for Supreme Court justices. Representatives Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Ron Paul of Texas say they would forbid the court from deciding cases concerning same-sex marriage. Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, and former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania want to abolish the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, calling it a ‘rogue’ court that is ‘consistently radical.’” The Supreme Court has been the target of liberal criticism as well, following its ruling in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, which lifted a national ban on corporate spending in political campaigns by finding that such spending was protected free speech.

I’m told that the judges will stay away from politics in their discussions on Tuesday.

Women’s Justice Center turns 20

The Women’s Justice Center at Pace Law School in White Plains will celebrate its 20th anniversary this October, which happens to be National Domestic Violence Awareness Month with a benefit dinner and silent auction on Wednesday, Oct. 19.

The Justice Center is a nonprofit legal center in the law school with a mission to help end domestic violence and elder abuse through legal representation, training, community education and outreach. It has become one of the largest civil legal services providers in Westchester County, with 13 staff attorneys and pro bono lawyers who have donated more than 7,200 hours to about 2,800 clients.

The Justice Center also has walk-in courthouse offices in White Plains and Yonkers that offer frontline, often life-saving emergency legal services for domestic violence survivors. The center also runs elder law clinics, a legal helpline and a “moderate means matrimonial panel” that matches middle-income clients with low-fee or sliding scale attorneys.

This year’s benefit dinner, “Celebrating 20 Years of Justice for Women,” will start at 6 p.m. at Abigail Kirsch at Tappan Hill in Tarrytown. Deadline to RSVP is October 5. For more information on the event or the Pace Women’s Justice Center, visit www.law.pace.edu/wjc or call Woodrina Harris at (914) 422-4069.

South African justice, human rights activist to speak at Pace Law School

Richard J. Goldstone, a former justice of three South African courts who was chief prosecutor in two United Nations International Tribunals, will speak at Pace Law School in White Plains on Thursday, Sept. 15.  Goldstone will present the law school’s annual Blaine Sloan Lecture, which is free and open to the public.

Goldstone, 72, is the Bacon-Kilkenny Distinguished Visiting Professor of Law at Fordham Law School. Prior to entering the academy, he served as a judge at the Transvaal Supreme Court, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court of South Africa, according to Pace. He also served as chairperson of South Africa’s Commission of Inquiry Regarding Public Violence and Intimidation (the Goldstone Commission) from 1991 to 1994 and was the chief prosecutor of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

He has served as co-chairman of the International Task Force on Terrorism and an international advisor to the International Committee of the Red Cross. As head of the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, Goldstone urged the international community to put an end to impunity for violations of international law in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory.

In recognition of his commitment to human rights, Goldstone has received the International Human Rights Award of the American Bar Association in 1994 and the Thomas J. Dodd Prize in International Justice and Human Rights in 2005. He holds Honorary Doctorate of Law degrees from 25 internationally renowned universities and is a fellow of the Weatherhead Centre for International Affairs of Harvard University. He is also a foreign member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

The lecture will begin at 4 p.m. in the Robert B. Fleming Moot Courtroom on the North Broadway campus.

Photo: www.constitutionalcourt.org.za

Summer Justice Academy for Young Women kicks off third year

The New York Chapter of the National Association of Women Judge and Pace Law School are launching the third annual Summer Justice Academy for Young Women with a fundraiser tomorrow for the program, which will take place on July 11-15.

The Justice Academy is a one-week program that introduces 40 minority and disadvantaged high school students from Westchester County and New York City to the law, to inspire them to pursue careers in the legal field. Students are taught primarily by women judges, law professors and practicing lawyers who volunteer their time. Pace faculty also serve as professional and academic role models.

The girls typically tour the Westchester County Courthouse to meet judges and prosecutors This year, for the first time, the girls are going to Washington, D.C. to tour the U.S. Supreme Court, the Capitol and possibly the White House.

“In its two years of operation, the Justice Academy has already motivated students who have gone on to college, and who now credit the Justice Academy with exposing them to the tremendous opportunities of a legal education and giving them the confidence and inspiration to pursue careers in law,” organizers said in a written statement.

The fundraising reception will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 29, at Shenorock Shore Club in Rye. To RSVP or to inquire about making a donation, call Judy Jaeger at Pace Law School at (914) 422-4407.

Job re-entry program at Pace turns five

Alicia Florrick in “The Good Wife” may have been able to jump back into the work force after quitting law for motherhood, but in the real world, re-entering law after a long hiatus is a challenge.

This is why Pace Law School created a program called New Directions. It helps women and men with law degrees get back into the profession after a long absence, and it helps those who took jobs in other fields find a career in law. It also trains practicing attorneys to take on other areas of law.

Since holding its first session of 13 men and women in 2007, New Directions has grown and improved. According to the law school, there are now more workshops and more externship sponsors. Two sessions are held each year; one in Westchester, the other in New York City. More than 100 lawyers have participated. Here are two testimonials, given to the law school:

“After I spent over a decade raising a family and being an active community member, it was New Directions that gave me the confidence and helped me obtain the credentials to return to fulfilling employment as an attorney. Essentially the training and contacts provided by New Directions gave me access to a volunteer position which in turn allowed me to develop experience and additional personal contacts without which I could not have competed successfully for my current job. Notably, I learned of the availability of my current position from a posting put up by New Directions for its graduates on Linked In!”
—Beth Propper, Westchester County

“I knew I wanted to restart my career, but after having spent 9 years at home raising my children, I felt I no longer had the resources and confidence to do so. New Directions provided me with important skills, contacts and experiences, without which I would not have had the confidence to pursue my current position at a law firm. Also, through my externship I discovered a new area of law that I have incorporated into my practice. I highly recommend New Directions!”
—Debra Stewart, Westchester County

New Directions staff, alumni and other supporters will celebrate the program’s fifth anniversary on June 29 at the Judicial Institute on the Pace Law School Campus in White Plains. Apparently it has more than 100 reasons to celebrate its success.

Pace law student to become child advocate

Pace Law School sent me an interesting story about a former New York City schoolteacher (left) who went to law school to help children and their families navigate the legal system. He will be doing just that, thanks to a flelowship that pays for him to work at an Elmsford-based child services agency:

Darren Guild, Pace Law School Class of 2011, was recently awarded the Westchester County Bar Foundation’s Public Interest Law Fellowship. The Fellowship provides two years of funding for Darren to serve as an attorney at Student Advocacy, a Westchester non-profit organization that assists parents in obtaining the most comprehensive response to a child’s educational needs allowable under the law. Darren was selected for the Fellowship from a pool of highly-qualified applicants at numerous competitive area law schools, including NYU and Cornell.

Before law school, Darren, who lives in the Bronx, was a special education teacher in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. There, he encountered many cases of inadequate treatment and support of students on the part of the New York City public school system, including mislabeling, mistreatment and misplacement. This fueled his desire to educate families about their legal rights. Darren decided to attend law school to learn how to advocate effectively for parents and children and help change ingrained practices.

According to Darren, knowledge of the law empowers him to go beyond helping individual students, and work towards solving problems on a systemic level.

“Teachers are probably the most important people in a student’s education, but as a former teacher myself, I know there are lots of times when teachers’ hands are tied,” he said. “My goal as a lawyer is to help parents understand their children’s educational rights, and help them solve problems in an effective, systemic way.”

Darren’s job at Student Advocacy, an Elmsford-based organization that serves families in Westchester and Putnam Counties, will be to advocate for families of students with special needs, including representing them at mandated yearly meetings with their children’s teachers and school administrators. He explained the importance of having an advocate: “Sometimes parents feel like it’s them against the school district. So having an advocate can really help them not only understand the types of services that are available, but also bolster their confidence about speaking up to advocate for programs and services they see as appropriate for their children.”

At Student Advocacy, Darren will also advocate for students who have received suspensions of more than five days long. Under New York law, students given extended suspensions are guaranteed the right to a hearing, where they may challenge the allegations against them and/or the threatened punishment. “Many times, regardless of the student’s underlying guilt, the school will call for an extended suspension. It can be very harmful to the student’s future if he or she is out of school for a week, a month or a year,” Darren said. “By representing students at these suspension hearings, I will ensure that the charges against them are warranted, and that the punishment is proportionate.”

Long term, Darren intends to work in education law, particularly to attain equal educational opportunities for low-income and minority students, who are traditionally underserved.

Larchmont lawyers feted by Pace Women’s Justice Center

Attorneys Rita K. Gilbert and Lonya A. Gilbert from the Larchmont law firm of Hyman and Gilbert will be honored this Thursday at the 13th annual “Celebration of Justice for Women” fundraising dinner for the law school’s Pace Women’s Justice Center, which offers legal services to domestic violence and elder abuse victims.

Rita Gilbert will receive the Diane White Legal Advocacy Award, which honors a member of the community who has demonstrated a commitment to helping disenfranchised women obtain equal access to the legal system. Lonya Gilbert will receive the Gail Katz Memorial Award, named in memory of 26 year-old Gail Katz who was murdered by her husband in 1985. 

The keynote speaker will be appellate attorney Annette Hasapidis, who will share her story as a domestic violence survivor. Also at the dinner, Pace law student Jessica Wolff will receive the Center’s first-ever Justice for Women Award for her commitment to domestic violence issues and public interest law.

The dinner and silent auction will be held at Tappan Hill in Tarrytown starting at 6:00 p.m. For reservations or more information about the dinner, call Woodrina Harris at (914) 422-4069.

No more night classes at Pace Law School

For anyone who’s ever wanted to keep a full-time job and go to Pace Law School at night, you better start looking somewhere else.

Westchester County’s only law school is cutting its part-time evening classes. Those in the program this year will be the last ones accepted. Here’s the explanation from Pace officials:

“In personal letters to current students and alumni, Dean (Michelle S.) Simon cited a confluence of demographic and economic factors necessitating the decision, made after ‘much research and internal discussion’ at the law school and Pace University. The viability and vitality of part-time evening programs has been an issue nationwide. Demand is down, with employer-subsidized law degrees a thing of the past, and employees reluctant to jeopardize their primary jobs by pursuing a part-time advanced degree.

“‘Phasing out what has become a costly program with steadily declining enrollment will allow the law school to reallocate resources to innovative, new programs designed to preserve flexibility and reduce the expense of a legal education,’ explained Dean Simon. These initiatives include a January admit program, the part-time day program, a continuation of evening courses year-round, and the summer skills semester.

“The part-time evening program has been a division of the law school since its inception in 1976. While Dean Simon conceded that ‘this is an emotional issue,’ she is confident that ‘the benefits far outweigh any losses.’

“The fall 2010 incoming class will be the last to enter the evening division. Students will be fully supported and retained until each member graduates over the next four years.”

Pace offers 1-night course on cyber-bullying

You’ve heard of cyberbullying, but how much do you really know about it?

Tomorrow night, Pace Law School in White Plains will host a two-hour class on how to detect and prevent cyber-bullying, the role of local school districts in addressing it, and the legal issues and criminal consequences surronding it.

The program, called “Back to School: Bullying and Cyber-bullying Legal Primer 101,” will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. in the moot courtroom of the law library. Registration begins at 5:30 p.m.

Among the speakers will be Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore, Stephanie Perez of Westchester County Attorney’s Office, Stephanie Roebuck of the law firm Keane & Beane, and Bruce Kelly, coalition coordinator for New Rochelle FOCUS.

The program costs $55 and includes written materials, and dinner underwritten by AJ Benet Insurance and Hudson Valley Bank. The continuing legal education (CLE) course is sponsored by the Westchester Women’s Bar Association’s education, gender fairness, criminal law and domestic violence committees.

For more information, call Linda Maccarrone at Pace Law School at 914-422-4062.

Hip-hop artist, CEOs to “rap” at Pace Law School

UPDATE: The session is open only to Pace students and faculty. A promoter for Cash Money incorrectly told Completely Legal that the event was open to the public.

Pace Law School is opening up its entertainment law class Monday night as hip-hop artist Jay Sean and two record label CEOs will “rap” about the music business with Professor Vernon J. Brown’s class from 6 to 8 p.m.

The seminar, called “Where do I sign?” will study the relationship between entertainment lawyers and their clients.

Leading the lecture will be Ronald “Slim” Williams and brother Brian “Birdman” Williams, who founded the New Orleans-based hip-hop label Cash Money, and Jay Sean, one of their top artists.

“The goal is to give my entertainment law students practical knowledge in working with their clients and interacting with label executives,” Brown said in a news release. “What artists expect from their attorneys and what they should expect from their clients. The class is like Inside the Actor’s Studio for lawyers, offering practical advice for the way things actually work in the real world.”

Brown has been Cash Money’s business manager and attorney for 14 years.

According to the news release, from Wolfson Entertainment, the Williams brothers recently marked the 10th anniversary of a distribution deal with Universal Music Group, which has produced hit albums by Lil Wayne, Drake, Juvenile, B.G., Turk, Big Tymers, Mannie Fresh, Hot Boys and Baby/Birdman, two of Bryan Williams’ hip-hop alter egos. Jay Sean is the label’s latest success, with a chart-topping single in “Down” and his debut album, All or Nothing.