Immigrant Justice Corps selects four NYU Law students among its first Justice Fellows

The Immigrant Justice Corps (IJC) has announced its first class of Justice fellows, recent law graduates who will be trained to provide legal representation for immigrants in New York City. Among the fellows are four graduating students: Sean Lai McMahon ’14; Kendal Nystedt ’14, a Root-Tilden-Kern scholar; Amy Pont ’14, a Bickel & Brewer scholar; and Jessica Rofé ’14. All four have been involved in the Immigrant Rights Clinic.

Chief Judge Robert Katzmann fought for the creation of the Immigrant Justice Corps.For a period of two years, these fellows will be placed at nonprofit legal service offices around the city. They will represent immigrants with complex immigration cases, such as deportation defense; by providing competent legal defense, they will help poor immigrants find greater stability and opportunities. Through practical experience and bi-weekly professional development sessions, IJC aims to produce highly-adept lawyers dedicated to equal justice.

IJC was launched in January with $1.4 million in seed funding from the Robin Hood Foundation. It is the brainchild of Chief Judge Robert Katzmann of the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, an adjunct professor at NYU Law, who has long advocated for a solution to the lack of legal representation for immigrants.

In 2010, Katzmann led the Immigrant Representation Study. It verified the real scope of the problem in the immigration court system, where defendants are not guaranteed access to counsel. For instance, the study found that when provided with legal representation, 74 percent of immigrants who are not detained but are facing deportation are successful in their cases—compared to only 13 percent of those without representation.

This election of the first fellows represents the culmination of years’ of work. “The dream is about to come true, after lots of hopes and some disappointments,” Katzmann said in a January interview, reflecting on his deep commitment to this mission. “I’m choked up as I’m thinking about it.”

Nisha Agarwal, commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, and Peter Markowitz ’01, Clinical Associate Professor of Law at Cardozo School of Law, carried the IJC through the planning stages.

The advisory council that supported its birth included Stacy Caplow LLM ’82, associate dean for Professional Legal Education at Brooklyn Law School; Andrew Friedman ’98, co-executive director for the Center for Popular Democracy; Robert Juceam LLM ’66, of counsel to Fried Frank; and Andrew Scherer ’78, former executive director of Legal Services NYC.

Posted April 18, 2014