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Leading by Example

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Assistant professor of Clinical Law Alina Das ’05, co-teacher of the Immigrant Rights Clinic, was one of this year’s recipients of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Faculty Award from New York University. The award recognizes professors who exemplify King’s spirit through scholarship, research, and teaching, and it also reflects their positive impact in the classroom and the greater NYU community. Das was one of six faculty members from the entire university to be recognized.

“Attending the clinic and having Alina as my professor has been the best decision I’ve made during my law school career…. Alina’s work embodies the goals of clinical teaching: equipping law students with the ability to address urgent problems and preparing them to serve as effective practitioners,” wrote Jesse Rockoff ’14 on behalf of a group of Immigrant Rights Clinic students who nominated Das for the award. “Despite her busy schedule, Alina never fails to serve as a friend and mentor, demonstrating the spirit of inclusion and community building on a day-to-day basis.”

Das’s scholarly work and the work of the clinic have attracted the attention of the Supreme Court, too. In Moncrieffe v. Holder, the Court ruled in April that a noncitizen should not be automatically deported for “social sharing of a small amount of marijuana.” Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s majority opinion cites not only Das’s 2011 article, “The Immigration Penalties of Criminal Convictions: Resurrecting Categorical Analysis in Immigration Law,” but also an amicus brief written by Das and clinic students Pierce Suen ’13 and Jordan Wells ’13 on behalf of more than 80 immigration law professors. The brief argued that labeling non-citizens as aggravated felons when they are caught with small amounts of marijuana “deprives immigration adjudicators of the power to consider favorable equities, humanitarian concerns, and the public interest.”

This year, too, Das is the recipient of the Daniel Levy Memorial Award for Outstanding Achievement in Immigration Law, given by LexisNexis Matthew Bender. Das and Nancy Morawetz ’81 were also honored for their leadership of the Immigrant Rights Clinic in the New York Law Journal’s 2012 list of “Lawyers Who Lead by Example.”

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