The Curriculum Is CriminalPrinter Friendly Version
For breadth of subject matter and depth of inquiry, the NYU School of Law’s criminal law and justice curriculum is exceptional. The required first-year course in Criminal Law is just the first chapter of a fascinating exploration of criminal law and procedure jurisprudence and policy. Upper-year courses, colloquia, and seminars offer a wide range of perspectives on criminal law, including theoretical, sociological, empirical, and international. Students who are interested in criminal law practice can enroll in clinics where they apply their classroom learning to hands-on work for defense counsel, prosecutors, law enforcement, social services providers, or community outreach programs. “My experiences with the criminal law program were fantastic,” says Nathaniel “Nik” Kolodny (’04). Kolodny’s accumulated experiences in his first-year criminal law class, Professor S. Andrew Schaffer’s criminal procedure class, and Professor Anthony Thompson’s Offender Reentry Clinic led to his third-year writing project on the collateral civil consequences of criminal behavior. “This is an amazing criminal justice department,” says Professor Thompson. “No other law school offers the range and strength of NYU’s program.”
The First Year’s Core Curriculum
The first-year introductory course in Criminal Law covers the general principles and elements of criminal liability and defenses. Learning the basics of criminal law in the 21st century does not entail paging through the penal code and memorizing the definitions of particular crimes. Rather, the course is organized by general concepts that cut across all criminal conduct: act and omission, causation, mental state, attempt, and conspiracy, and defenses such as necessity, duress, self-defense, and insanity. In addition, the syllabus explores the theoretical underpinnings of such topics as justifications for punishment, grounds for exculpation, culpability for inchoate and anticipatory crimes, and group criminality. What truly distinguishes NYU’s criminal law course is the passion its faculty brings into the classroom. Professor David Richards, who has taught the subject matter for almost 30 years, explains how he continues to ignite his students’ interest: “As a teacher you have to frame things from your gut, from what really interests you.”
Two other first-year courses offer valuable skills and perspectives to students interested in pursuing careers in criminal law. The required first-year course on the Administrative and Regulatory State equips students to evaluate critically the many important criminal justice decisions that are made outside the courtroom and in administrative settings, for example, initiating a criminal investigation, drafting the charge, plea bargaining, establishing sentencing guidelines, managing correctional institutions, and ruling on and monitoring parole. The first-year Lawyering Program, with its closely structured, collaborative experiences of law in use, is especially critical to the training of a criminal lawyer, a career which typically allows for only the briefest apprenticeship before a young lawyer is thrust into positions of life-or-death responsibility. Many of the lawyering faculty are specialists in criminal law, and regularly participate in the criminal law group’s programs. Faculty members include Jenny Roberts (’95), a staff attorney and trial trainer at the New York City Legal Aid Society’s Criminal Defense Division; Marshall Miller, a former Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District; Tigran Eldred, a criminal defense lawyer who has worked at the Criminal Appeals Bureau and the Federal Defenders Division of the Legal Aid Society, and at Appellate Advocates; and Babe Howell (’93), who was a criminal defense lawyer in Legal Aid’s Criminal Defense Division and the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem.
Advanced Coursework: The Upper Years’ Foundational Courses
Students interested in criminal law usually begin their second year by taking Evidence and one or more of several advanced courses in specific areas of substantive and procedural criminal law. The most essential of these is a course in criminal procedure. While most law schools offer a single, basic survey course in criminal procedure, NYU law students can choose among a variety of approaches to the subject. A comprehensive survey course is taught by Adjunct Professor S. Andrew Schaffer, a former assistant U.S. attorney in Manhattan and general counsel for New York University. This class examines all of the investigative and adjudicatory stages of the criminal process, through trial, including an analysis of constitutional and statutory provisions and judicial decisions governing the various procedural steps in the administration of criminal justice in federal and state courts. Drawing on Professor Schaffer’s knowledge of how the criminal justice systems works at ground level, the course covers arrests, stops and frisks, searches and seizures (including wiretapping), interrogation, grand jury proceedings, and trial-related problems such as competence of counsel, the requirement of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, guilty pleas and plea bargaining, discovery and the prosecutor’s duty to disclose exculpatory evidence, and jury selection.
A second option for students interested in criminal procedure is Criminal Procedure 1: Police Investigations, which covers the first half of the criminal process—police investigation of crimes. Taught alternatively by Professor Stephen Schulhofer or Barry Friedman, the Jacob D. Fuchsberg Professor of Law, who is a prominent constitutional scholar, this course deals with the federal constitutional limits on government authority to gather evidence and investigate crime. It covers Fourth Amendment limits on search and seizure, arrest, electronic surveillance, the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination, and the Sixth Amendment right to counsel, especially in their relation to police interrogation and identification procedures such as lineups. While it emphasizes current law and the evolution of Supreme Court doctrine, the course also considers related policy questions as well as approaches to similar problems in other countries and in the emerging international human rights jurisprudence.
Alternatively, or in connection with the Police Investigations course, students may take Professor James Jacobs’s Criminal Procedure: Bail to Jail. This course covers criminal procedure from the point of the suspect’s first appearance in court, through the appointment of counsel, charging, discovery, plea bargaining, trial, sentencing, appeals and habeas, and finally, defense and prosecutorial ethics throughout the process. Students also can take Jacobs’ Federal Criminal Law, a substantive criminal law course that examines the jurisprudence of a whole range of complex federal crimes, including mail fraud, securities fraud, RICO and Hobbs Act infractions, money laundering, criminal civil rights violations, and corruption and bribery. Attention is also devoted to the federal sentencing guidelines. An overarching theme of the course is the proper role of federal criminal law and federal law enforcement agencies. Students explore such topics as how to account for the inexorable expansion of federal criminal law, and what are the consequences for this expansion.
In his popular course Juvenile Justice, Jacobs covers the full range of criminal procedures applicable to juveniles. These include: searches and seizures, pretrial interrogation, confidentiality, intake and diversion, pretrial detention, transfer to adult court, right to counsel, sentencing, and conditions of confinement. Students augment casebook study with scrutiny of juvenile criminal records, analysis of empirical studies and materials on juvenile crime and the handling of juvenile offenders in other countries. The course takes students beyond recent sensational headlines of high school shootings and child prostitution to the jurisprudential and sociological underpinnings of juvenile crime and the possible legal and policy alternatives that are available.
Rounding out the substantive foundational courses is Business Crime. NYU is one of the few law schools in the country that offers this course on a regular basis, with two faculty members on hand to teach it—Professors Jennifer Arlen and Harry First. The two are now collaborating on a casebook dealing with this topic, as mentioned earlier. The course examines the substantive and procedural law problems associated with highimpact economic crime committed by corporations and their managers. An overarching topic of the course is the question of whether criminal liability is appropriately imposed on organizations for economic behavior. On the substantive side, topics include discussion of the basic federal criminal laws used against economic crime (including mail and wire fraud, and violations of RICO and the Sherman Act), principles for imposing individual and corporate criminal liability under these statutes, and the sanctions that can be imposed under the federal sentencing guidelines. On the procedural side, topics include constitutional and common law corporate privileges, the grand jury, immunity, and government evidence gathering. In the wake of the recent wave of high-profile prosecutions for securities and accounting fraud relating to Enron, Tyco, and Worldcom, among others, the Business Crime course has been fully subscribed and student interest in the subject matter only continues to intensify.
Seminars offered by the Law School’s adjunct faculty have shown particularly strong appeal, starting with Corruption and Corruption Control taught by adjunct professor Ronald Goldstock. Goldstock can count among his many accomplishments in the field of criminal justice the creation of the Independent Private Sector Inspector General Program, through which business organizations are required to hire private sector watchdogs to monitor their affairs for unethical and illegal conduct. His seminar analyzes the types of corruption that exist in both the public and private sectors, the means by which a variety of criminal and nontraditional remedies may be used to reduce the frequency and impact of corrupt activities, and the constitutional and statutory problems that are implicated by such schemes. Goldstock journeys through the various provinces of corruption—each of the three branches of government and assorted sectors of industry. “I want the students to think about why vulnerabilities to corruption exist, and the types of controls that would work in each setting,” he says.
With his experience as director of the New York State Organized Crime Task Force for 13 years, and as a consultant to the Northern Ireland Organized Crime Task Force, it is no surprise that Goldstock also teaches the seminar on Organized Crime Control. This class explores the variety of challenges organized crime poses to society and to traditional law enforcement techniques. Goldstock tries “to get the students to think about the practical problems of controlling organized crime, using the law as a means, not an impediment, to breaking up criminal organizations.” In simulated investigations, Goldstock and his students explore how search and seizure law, physical and electronic surveillance tools, documentary evidence, undercover investigations, and grand jury proceedings can be used to gut the mob. At one point, students examine a recalcitrant witness before the grand jury. The RICO statute is also explored in detail as are a variety of noncriminal remedies including forfeiture and court-imposed trusteeships. Student papers written for this seminar have ranged from defining probable cause to the comparative jurisprudence of electronic surveillance in the United States and Japan.
With Professor Jacobs, Goldstock will be teaching a new seminar this year, Privatization of Criminal Justice. In recent years, there has been a trend toward private firms providing guard and protective services, building and managing penal institutions, and providing mediation and conciliation services as a substitute for the state-run legal system. Even those of us who have little interaction with the criminal justice system experience the effects of its increasing privatization in the form of gated communities, private video surveillance, business loss prevention methods, office building security, and citizen foot patrols and radio-alert networks. This seminar looks at the ramifications of outsourcing to private firms the various functions of criminal justice administration that have traditionally been the exclusive domain of the state. Students are encouraged to consider the comparative effectiveness of the private versus state-run criminal justice system.
The seminar Complex Federal Investigations is taught by the two former federal prosecutors who convicted John Gotti: Judge John Gleeson of the Southern District of New York, and Jamie Orenstein (’87), who also helped convict Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and who is now a magistrate judge in the Eastern District of New York. In examining the problems and issues that arise in complex federal investigations, the seminar addresses topics such as the powers and use of the federal grand jury, including recent efforts to reform it; the investigative use of immunity, contempt, and perjury; the use of bugs, wiretaps, and confidential informants; the negotiation of cooperation agreements and the use of accomplices witnesses; investigative contacts with persons represented by counsel; the various ways such investigations can intrude upon the attorney-client relationship (including through attorney subpoenas and disqualification); the joint defense privilege; and the fundamentals of the RICO statute.
Judge Gleeson also teaches the popular seminar Sentencing. This course looks at the purposes of the federal sentencing guidelines and the extent to which they actually inform sentencing today. The seminar examines the sentencing reform movement of the 1970s and 1980s that resulted in the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which students study in great depth. Current themes in sentencing reform also surface, including the issues of sentence bargaining and judicial discretion under the guidelines. Drawing on Judge Gleeson’s wide contacts in the criminal justice system, the seminar involves the various participants in the sentencing process: judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, probation officers, and inmates.
Professor Randy Hertz, the director of the Law School’s clinical program, teaches a seminar entitled Criminal Litigation, which uses a simulated criminal case to explore the ways in which lawyers use substantive criminal law, criminal procedure, and the rules of evidence in the course of prosecuting or defending a criminal case. The focus is on litigation planning, particularly the development of a coherent theory of the case and strategies for implementing that theory. Students research applicable law, investigate facts (by planning and conducting a series of investigative interviews), devise an overall litigation strategy (including a suppression motion), think through the defense and prosecution theories of the case at both the suppression motion and the trial, and conduct simulated witness examinations at both proceedings.
Of the full-time faculty, Professor Jacobs has offered the most eclectic group of seminars over the years, in addition to the ones he co-teaches with Judge Gleeson and Goldstock, reflecting his diverse interests in criminology. Fans of his highly acclaimed book Can Gun Control Work? can search for answers in Gun Control: The Regulation of Weaponry in Democratic Society. In this seminar, Jacobs takes a wide-ranging and interdisciplinary look at the regulation of weaponry. Time is spent first discussing the nature of the problems that can arise out of private gun ownership. Then, the course examines the conception, implementation and enforcement of federal law (for example, the Brady law) that seeks to keep firearms out of the wrong hands, and of other gun controls like the assault rifle ban and efforts to ban “Saturday Night Specials.” Time permitting, Jacobs also looks at the regulation of knives, chemical weapons, and explosives. The seminar examines the way that criminal sentencing law handles crimes committed with deadly weapons and deals with questions of federalism and the Second Amendment. It also covers tort suits against gun manufacturers and a range of new proposals including smart-gun technology, trigger-locks, and one-gun-per-month.
Anticipating his next book, Jacobs also teaches a seminar on Labor Racketeering and Union Democracy, which covers the relationship between organized crime and organized labor. Jacobs and his students examine the range of labor racketeering schemes including extortion of employers (labor peace) and union members, thievery from the union, pension and welfare fraud, violence against dissidents, and the policing of employer cartels. The seminar also probes governmental responses to labor corruption and racketeering, including the Anti-Racketeering Act of 1934, the Hobbs Act, the Taft-Hartley Act, ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act), the Landrum Griffin Act, and the use of civil RICO (and court-appointed trustees) to purge racketeers from mobbed-up unions. Jacobs encourages his students to think independently on these issues: “I want my students to analyze whether union democracy is a viable strategy for combating labor racketeering.” As co-director with Jacobs of the Law School’s Center for Research in Crime and Justice, Jerry Skolnick keeps pace in mounting seminars that excite and edify. In Police, Law and Society: Issues in Democratic Policing, he brings 30 years’ experience studying the history, sociology, and politics of the police. The course explores the origins of democratic policing in law and politics, and the way police departments are organized and function. Students are encouraged to ask why law enforcement officials act the way they do—in patrolling, searching, seizing, and interrogating—and what are the occasions, explanations, and remedies for police brutality, corruption, and perjury. As the nation’s leading expert on police integrity and accountability, Skolnick is uniquely situated to guide his students in a dialogue about the kind of rules, organizations, and institutions that are appropriate and effective for maintaining police accountability in a democratic society.
In Skolnick’s seminar on the Regulation of Vice, he brings his measured professionalism to bear on such raw subjects as the sextrafficking trade and heroin addiction. The course starts off asking what vice is, and how it differs from crime, and then moves on to explore a range of vices involving gambling, sex, and drugs—legal and illegal. Skolnick digs beneath the penal code definitions to inquire into the etiology of deviant behaviors and the sociological underpinnings of morals legislation. The students weigh the pros and cons of decriminalizing vice, and whether and how to regulate it if it does not violate the penal code. “I am less interested in the specific laws governing the prosecution of vice crimes,” says Skolnick, “than in the social and cultural developments that account for fluctuations in public and law enforcement interest in such crimes.”
Professor Bryan Stevenson teaches two of the most popular seminars in criminal law. In Race, Poverty and Criminal Justice, the class examines the influence of race and poverty in the administration of the criminal justice system. The seminar explores the effects upon the criminal justice system of conscious and unconscious racism and a variety of mechanisms that disadvantage the poor. The subjects covered in the course include racial disparities in charging, discretionary judgments in the prosecution of criminal cases, and the formulation of crime policy in the United States. The course considers the effectiveness of anti-discrimination law in the area of crime and punishment.
Stevenson, a nationally renowned capital defender who teaches the Law School’s Capital Defender Clinic in Alabama, also teaches a seminar entitled Capital Punishment Law and Litigation, which examines the constitutional and legal structure of capital punishment and the procedures regulating capital trials, appeals and post-conviction litigation. The seminar explores the factors that may affect the use of the death penalty, including political considerations, perceptions of crime, race, and poverty. The course appraises the degree to which litigation strategies have and have not succeeded in responding to problems in the administration of the death penalty.
Professor of Law Emeritus Harry Subin’s course on Sex Crimes allows students to explore in depth the complex and sensitive issues that arise when the criminal law is used to prevent and deter what might most inclusively be called unwanted sexual conduct. The course reviews developments in statutory and case law defining sex crimes, with particular emphasis on the crime of rape. Students also explore problems of proof that impede prosecution in sex crime cases, and the evidentiary reforms designed to address those problems. In addition, the seminar examines the efforts of mental health professionals to identify and treat sex offenders suffering from various forms of mental disorder, as well as the constitutional and policy issues surrounding various preventive sanctions, including civil commitment, chemical castration, and sex offender registration laws.
Subin also teaches Federal Criminal Practice, a study of the process by which a federal criminal case is developed and resolved by prosecutors and defense attorneys. Students scrutinize a hypothetical case from the point at which the initial decision to prosecute is made through each stage of the process, to disposition by trial or plea and sentencing. Students interested in continuing beyond doctrinal analysis of criminal procedure and evidence law appreciate the seminar’s emphasis on how the rules are applied in practice and on the written and oral advocacy skills required of lawyers.
David Garland teaches The Death Penalty: Social and Historical Perspectives, an in-depth analysis of the institution of capital punishment. Using historical and sociological research, students first explore how the forms, functions, and social meanings of capital punishment have changed over time, and what social forces have driven these changes. The class then focuses on the modern American death penalty, and the specific characteristics of the institution that have taken shape in the post-Furman era.
With the richness of these substantive course offerings, three years of law school is simply not long enough to exhaust NYU’s criminal law curriculum. Students seeking to construct a “major” in substantive criminal law from NYU’s course offerings might consider modeling their schedule on Weston Eguchi’s (’04) transcript. Building on the first-year criminal law course, Eguchi studied Business Crimes with Professor First, for whom he later worked as a research assistant, helping update the fraud section of First’s Business Crimes casebook. Eguchi also signed up for the two-semester criminal procedure sequence, taking Police Investigations with Professor Friedman and Bail to Jail with Professor Jacobs. The two criminal law seminars taught by Judge John Gleeson also made it onto Eguchi’s schedule—Sentencing and Complex Federal Investigations. “I was most impressed with his credentials as a practitioner,” says Eguchi, explaining why he double-dipped in Gleeson’s classroom. “It’s important to experience the practical-minded approach of a judge and a prosecutor, which is where the decisions are made in the criminal justice system.” Although Eguchi plans to practice bankruptcy law after graduation, he credits his criminal law coursework with preparing him to deal with the similarly complex procedural environment of bankruptcy proceedings, where the lawyer’s role is often to help reconcile multiple opposing interests.
The NYU School of Law’s clinical offerings are unparalleled. From established clinics such as the Juvenile/Criminal Defense Clinic to groundbreaking programs in capital punishment and offender reentry, the Law School enables students to put their legal education to work while helping people with real problems.
The clinical program is premised on the three-tiered vision of University Professor Anthony Amsterdam, one of the nation’s leading law teachers and advocates. The NYU School of Law’s first-year Lawyering Program, upper-level simulation courses, and fieldwork clinics are the building blocks for constructing a practical education in the law. As Randy Hertz, professor of clinical law and director of clinical and advocacy programs, puts it, “Clinics and simulation courses place students in role so that they can analyze every legal, factual, or strategic issue from the perspective of how it will affect the individual case and the individual client.” Clinics teach students a variety of lawyering skills, including problem-solving, working with facts, developing a theory of the case, and making decisions in collaboration with the client.
Fieldwork clinics take newly gained lawyering skills to the streets, where in the unsheltered, unpredictable world of legal practice, they start to make sense. “Three years of law school realistically is too short to learn all the skills a lawyer needs to function,” Hertz remarks. “The best we can do is teach students cognitive skills, how to work with the law and the facts, and how to learn from experience.” Law School graduates credit the dynamic structure of the clinical program with allowing them to “hit the ground running” when they joined a public defender’s office or prosecutorial staff after graduation. “I cannot imagine a criminal law program that better prepares one for the day-to-day practice of criminal law,” says Robert Radick (’97), assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York.
Students with this kind of training are hot commodities when they graduate. In the Bronx Defenders office, six of 20 public defenders in the community-based alternative defense office are graduates of the clinical program who get to put their training to the test each day. The Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, universally regarded as the best defender office in the country and the most difficult one at which to get a job, currently employs no fewer than 10 Law School clinic alumni, including five graduates of the Juvenile/Criminal Defense Clinic.
A distinctive feature of the NYU School of Law’s clinics is that the faculty who teach them are tenured or tenure-track professors whose sole professional interest is the research and teaching they do at the Law School. Most tireless among these is probably Hertz, who in addition to directing the clinics, runs the innovative Clinical Law Review, serves on numerous bar association and court committees, and teaches a triple course load most years. Hertz, who has been with the program since 1985—and was awarded the American Association of Law Schools’William Pincus Award for Outstanding Service and Commitment to Clinical Legal Education last year—is quick to deflect attention from himself: “The superiority of the clinical program derives from the fact that the NYU School of Law continues to hire the best talent available, who teach what they are interested in. We are not filling niches here; we are constantly interacting and learning from each other. It is an amazing experience to be working with my colleagues on the clinical faculty.”
Anthony Thompson: Life Guide for Ex-Offenders
Anthony Thompson, one of Hertz’s many accomplished clinical colleagues, founded and supervises the first-of-its-kind Offender Reentry Clinic, which focuses on the complex problems faced by individuals returning from prison to the community. Students represent individual clients and also work to reform policies that, on the basis of a criminal record, deny many ex-offenders public housing, certain kinds of jobs, public assistance, educational student loans, and voting rights. The clinic grew out of Thompson’s experience working with the U.S. Department of Justice in the late 1990s, when it started focusing on the imminent return of large numbers of exoffenders to communities with limited resources to provide them safe, affordable housing or viable employment. These individuals frequently faced the painful irony that the training they received in prison to pave their way to a law-abiding life was rendered useless because of state law occupational bars. In New York, for example, most prisons offer vocational training, but many areas of New York occupational law prohibit ex-offenders from obtaining licenses to work in a range of jobs. As Thompson, a former public defender and private criminal lawyer, became interested in the challenge of representing such a client base, he realized that students could benefit from clinical training in the subject. “Students need to be prepared for the full range of challenges they would face as lawyers representing ex-offenders,” he says.
Thompson has become well known in the reentry field as other law schools have begun to identify the issue as key to practical problem-solving for criminal justice clients. He has even helped another law school set up a smaller version of his clinic. The NYU School of Law, he says, offers a unique advantage: “The best criminal justice faculty in the country is on hand to speak to the students, faculty members like David Garland, whose work on penal theory embodies exactly the approach that resonates with reentry programs.” Above all, what Thompson wants his students to take away from their clinical experience is a “sense of balance.” Students in the reentry clinic are taught that “they have to be sensitive to legitimate concerns employers and others have about folks with criminal records,” Thompson says. “We teach students a nuanced approach to convincing people that their biases about ex-offenders are causing them to make bad policy decisions.”
Bryan Stevenson: Advocate for the Condemned
Few clients are in as bad straits as those on death row in Alabama. Professor Bryan Stevenson believes that there are too many problems of fairness and reliability with American’s criminal justice system to permit capital punishment, especially in a state like Alabama, where he founded and directs the Equal Justice Initiative of Alabama (EJI). In windowless offices in a concrete building, 200 yards from where slaves were auctioned 150 years ago, Stevenson and his students in the Capital Defender Clinic—Alabama, work on death-row cases in a state that has no public defender system. “My interest in doing this is to provide the poor with legal assistance,” Stevenson says. “I am not just bringing students down here for the sake of training them, but to meet a critical legal need.”
There they engage in fieldwork representing death-row clients in appellate and collateral litigation filed in the state appellate courts, federal district and appellate courts, and the U.S. Supreme Court. Students find themselves frequently on the road to Alabama’s three maximumsecurity prisons, interviewing death-row clients. They also travel the state interviewing clients’ family members and other potential mitigation witnesses; reviewing local court files; examining state documents and evidence; and collecting information from jurors, trial lawyers, and other critical bystanders. “Most of the students are in a completely unfamiliar setting,” Stevenson says, “and they learn the importance of understanding cultural context, and the dynamics of race, class, and language.”
Students also help to prepare briefs, petitions, motions, and on occasion, work on impact litigation designed to reform the environment in which capital cases are litigated. Stevenson is justly proud of the results: “The clinic is the perfect nexus of legal training and education while helping defendants that are literally dying for representation. No other law school offers a program where students spend an entire semester handling a death penalty case at these close quarters.”
For Stevenson, the opportunity to involve the Law School in the work of EJI counters the isolation and alienation of working in an underserved area with few colleagues or peers. The collaboration has
allowed him to think critically about his work while “connecting with a community of inspiring and talented scholars and lawyers.”
Aaryn Urell (’01), a staff attorney at the EJI, is grateful: “I cannot imagine another criminal law faculty capable of rivaling the Law School’s in the manifest commitment of its professors to social justice and passion for preparing young lawyers to do meaningful, innovative work in the criminal justice field.”
Holly Maguigan: Gender Defender
How the criminal justice system serves and disserves battered women is the concern of the Comparative Criminal Justice Clinic: Focus on Domestic Violence. Taught by leading battered women’s advocate and Clinical Professor Holly Maguigan along with Ehrenkranz School of Social Work Professor Shamita Das Dasgupta, the clinic has three components: fieldwork based in New York City representing battered women who are complainants and defendants in cases involving domestic violence; simulations in which students take on the varying roles and perspectives of attorneys, social workers, and clients in a domestic violence situation, coming to understand how to handle the often conflicting agendas each brings to the table; and a comparative look at the utility of criminal justice interventions in domestic violence cases in the United States and in India.
For the fieldwork component, half of the students work with court-appointed attorneys or public defenders representing women who have been charged with a crime, typically in the context of defending themselves against their abuser. When he represented a woman charged with felony assault against her abuser, Arun Thiruvengadam (LL.M. ’02, J.S.D. ’05) commented: “This case provided me with a fascinating window into the workings of the U.S. legal system, including from the perspectives of criminal law, comparative constitutional law, and the immigration control regime. I participated in the full range of pretrial criminal law practice from conducting factual investigations to attending hearings on discovery and evidentiary matters.”
The other half of the students in the clinic are assigned to community- based organizations or government agencies that assist battered women who are complainants in criminal cases. Organizations that have collaborated with the Clinic include Sanctuary for Families, New York Asian Women’s Center, and STEPS to End Family Violence. Often the assistance offered by the clinic develops into a strategic alliance to devise and implement new strategies for dealing with domestic violence. The year Irina Taka (’03) enrolled in the clinic, she was assigned to assist Mayor Bloomberg’s domestic violence initiative, known as the Domestic Violence Response Team Program or DiVERT. Taka sat in on meetings among city agencies and law enforcement officials wrestling with the problems of improving coordination and availability of resources to battered women. She helped mediate among overlapping and sometimes conflicting agency mandates, developing protocols for handling domestic violence cases. The program ultimately decided to focus on high-risk precincts, improving coordination with the city’s Housing Authority and Administration of Children’s Services. Taka says, “I wanted to be in on the ground floor of a project like this because I am going back to my native country Greece to work on these issues. Even if the Mayor’s initiative fails, I will have learned something.”
Kim Taylor-Thompson: Cultural Translator
Kim Taylor-Thompson’s Community Defender Clinic takes a different tack in providing defense services to local communities, by partnering with local agencies. Police departments have been experimenting with new forms of crime prevention that emphasize communitybased strategies, prosecutors’ offices have begun to acknowledge the importance of maintaining relations with the communities in which they operate, and the judiciary has created drug and youth courts to address recurring problems in a more targeted way. The Community Defender Clinic is similarly premised on the proposition that public defender offices need to emerge from their isolation and engage in the political and social dialogue about criminal justice policy. Says Taylor- Thompson: “Comprehensive representation of people charged with crimes means paying attention to the communities from which they come and to which they will ultimately return.”
Taylor-Thompson’s experiences before entering academia lend special weight to her words. She spent a decade working in the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, the last three as director of the office, supervising 75 lawyers and 75 staff. More recently, she served as a consultant to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts’ federal defender program, working on ways to provide more comprehensive representation of individuals charged with crimes in the federal system. She helped organize and develop conferences and training sessions on what it means to provide excellence in public defense. A 2003 conference focused on issues such as the various meanings of excellence in terms of individual representation, and collaborating with state defender systems for clients who are charged with both federal and state crimes. Attended by judges and representatives of 50 public defender offices across the country, the conference helped develop a network of people and expertise that federal defenders could go to for advice and information.
Taylor-Thompson also has consulted for the United Nations’ Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent. She testified before the working group on the issue of race in governance and judicial systems, drawing lessons from the issues facing African-Americans in the U.S. criminal justice system. Her testimony has dealt with effective assistance of counsel, racial demographics of public defender offices, and the role of the jury. The recurring theme of Taylor-Thompson’s presentations is that judicial systems need to reflect the diversity of the population, or at least provide training so that judges from different racial or ethnic backgrounds are sensitized to other communities to bring considered judgment to the case at hand. “Decision-makers in criminal justice systems must be sensitive to racial and ethnic differences and how those differences may affect a fact-finder’s understanding of how a person reacted in the situation at issue, whether the behavior was justified in some way, whether punishment is necessary, and what would be a just punishment,” she says.
Beyond the Courses and Clinics
Dean Richard Revesz’s monthly roundtable lunches with alumni, including criminal law practitioners, inject even more stimulating discussion into this mix. The 2003-04 schedule included a lively conversation with Stephen Hammerman (’62), deputy commissioner of legal matters for the New York City Police Department, essentially serving as the police commissioner’s general counsel. Hammerman, who went to law school at night so that he could work a job to support his young family, inspired the students with his obvious love of the law. Selected students are also invited to the Center for Research in Crime and Justice’s weekly luncheons featuring guests speaking on criminal law topics. The Root-Tilden-Kern Scholarship Program’s Monday Night Speaker Series on Public Interest Law routinely invites scholars and practitioners who work in criminal justice. Last year, speakers included the Law School’s death penalty expert Bryan Stevenson; G. Douglas Jones who revisited “The Prosecution of the Birmingham 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing Cases”; and Derwyn Bunton (’98), senior staff attorney of the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana, who described the horrifying conditions he discovered in the juvenile prisons there, and what he did about them.
The activities of several student organizations also intersect with criminal law topics. In 2003, the Law Student Drug Policy Forum hosted a symposium, which featured panels on such topics as the collateral consequences of the war on drugs, drug crimes sentencing, and federal constraints on state drug-policy innovation. The group also seeks to create internship and volunteer opportunities for students, and to collaborate with local drug policy organizations and student organizations in local political activities.
Law Students Against the Death Penalty, formed in response to the passage of New York State’s death penalty law in September 1995, offers assistance in fighting the death penalty both in New York and around the country. Members do legal research and review trial transcripts for organizations, such as the Louisiana Crisis Assistance Center, the Georgia Resource Center, and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. The student group also sponsored a symposium on the future of the death penalty movement, featuring the Innocence Project’s Peter Neufeld (’75) and Donald Paradis, a former death-row inmate.
The Prisoners’ Rights and Education Project provides inmates in New York state prisons with legal research skills. Each semester, it conducts a seven-week course at prison libraries, mirroring what first-year law students learn in the Lawyering Program.
Other student organizations find fertile ground at the Law School to create programs with a connection to criminal law and justice. Over the past academic year, the NYU chapter of the Federalist Society hosted a half-day conference on “Enforcing Corporate Responsibility Through Criminal Law,” debating the extent to which criminal law should be used as a tool for business regulation. Alumni Vanita Gupta (’01) and Adam Levin (’97) visited the Law School as guests of the Law Student Drug Policy Forum and the Black Allied Law Students Association (BALSA) to discuss their work overturning the infamous Tulia, Texas criminal cases where one-tenth of a town’s African-American population was convicted of trumped-up charges. The NYU Review of Law and Social Change presented a colloquium on the 50th anniversary of the landmark desegregation case Brown v. Board of Education, including a panel on what its legacy of equal protection jurisprudence has to say about community policing and racial profiling.
At the colloquium, Liyah Brown (’04) joined Lieutenant Eric Adams, co-founder of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, and Lawrence Rosenthal, deputy corporation counsel for the City of Chicago Department of Law, to examine the effect of the Brown decision on U.S. policing strategies. The subject matter was anything but theoretical for Brown, an African-American who grew up in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn—“Bed-Stuy” as it is popularly known, especially through rap songs that use it as shorthand for murder and mayhem. Brown remembers it differently: “My neighbors were and still are poor, hard-working people, struggling to get by.” She returned to that community after spending the latter half of the 1990s in Washington, D.C., first obtaining her B.A. from Georgetown University and then working for the Japanese Ministry of International Trade and Industry and a public interest law firm. Brown appreciates the transformation of Bed-Stuy, where the murder rate has decreased by more than 70 percent since she was a teenager there. But she still sees an economically desperate community, vulnerable to a police force that has not yet weeded out all officers who cross the line. She explored the question of how community policing can be a means of achieving racial justice in her note, written while she was still in school, Officer or Overseer?: Or Why Integration of Police Forces Has Failed to Improve Policing in Inner Cities.
Adams, a 20-year veteran of the New York City Police Department, offered the perspective of a watchdog cop active in challenging police practices that may offend civil liberties. But Rosenthal drew on Chicago crime-fighting experiences to counter that innercity residents would rather have the city send more police into their neighborhoods than redeploy cops to wealthy enclaves. He described the dramatic reduction in violent crime rates over the past 10 years as a triumph of sociology over jurisprudence.
Brown doubted the efficacy of community policing methods, pointing out that experts disagree on the reasons for declining crime rates. Clearly passionate about criminal justice, Brown will clerk for a U.S. district judge and plans to work for a public defender’s office. When one panelist reported that a U.S. Department of Justice survey found that 76 percent of African-Americans are satisfied with their neighborhood police, Brown announced, “I am not satisfied.” And she intends to do something about it.
Brown, and others like her, is a successful reflection of the NYU criminal law faculty’s dedication to nurturing a sense of mission in their students. The program is part of a proud NYU School of Law tradition, one of mixing practical goals about working to right wrongs with intellectual engagement in the theoretical underpinnings of the profession. When it comes to the practice of criminal law at its finest that really means, essentially, trying one’s best to help deliver justice for all.