Student Spotlight: Justin McCarroll ’23

Justin McCarroll ’23

Filomen M. D'Agostino Scholar for Civil Rights, Civil Liberties, and/or Criminal Justice

What first inspired you to pursue a career in law?

In undergrad, I took a history class on the Civil Rights Movement, taught by one of my favorite professors, Dr. Carol Anderson. One particular lecture discussed Charles Hamilton Houston and his role in dismantling Jim Crow. I couldn't believe this was my first time learning about him, and remember being deeply inspired by his courage, and particularly the moral duty he embraced. I had never met an attorney, so this was really my first introduction to the profession other than a few TV portrayals. Eventually I did meet a capital defense attorney whose passion and dedication sold me on this path and I haven't looked back since.

 Describe your experience in the Civil Rights Clinic.

The clinic has been my most rewarding law school experience so far. I remember the moment it struck me that we would be working with real clients who were putting their trust in us, and I immediately felt the weight of that responsibility. I have since had the privilege of working on civil rights matters in various states, testifying at a city council hearing, meeting with impacted community members and advocates, and working closely together with co-counsel. Professor Archer and Professor Miller hold us to a high standard while we navigate this learning experience. It's exciting to look back at how far we have come as a group in such a short amount of time, and I'm thrilled to spend another semester working with some of the most kind and intelligent people I know.

 What are some of your hobbies and interests outside of the classroom?

Before moving to New York, I was living in Atlanta with my wife and I got really into woodworking. My grandfather is an excellent carpenter and taught me how to build things at a young age, so I wanted to continue his legacy. At one point, half of the furniture in my apartment was built by me. Unfortunately, turning a NYC apartment into a workshop is practically impossible, so I left the tools at home. I miss woodworking, but I'm sure my wife is thrilled she no longer finds wood shavings around the apartment. 

The last book you read and loved?

I recently read A Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton, and I loved every second of that book. The memoir is a powerful piece of storytelling about a Black man who was  accused of crimes he did not commit and spent 30 years on death row. It is a book I believe everyone (especially anyone in law school) ought to read.