Talk of the Law School
The 2018 class of Skadden Fellows includes five NYU Law students: Mason Pesek ’18, Samantha Reiser ’18, Lindsey Smith ’18, Audrey-Marie Winn ’18, and Victoria Yee ’18. The two-year fellowship, established by Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom in 1988, provides a salary and benefits to graduating students for pursuing projects at public interest organizations.
Mason Pesek, an Arthur Garfield Hays Civil Liberties Fellow, will work at the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, establishing workers’ rights clinics in two low-income Cleveland neighborhoods.
Samantha Reiser, also an Arthur Garfield Hays Civil Liberties Fellow, will serve her fellowship at the Legal Action Center in New York, representing clients and advocating against employment barriers and socioeconomic obstacles faced by low-income New Yorkers with criminal records.
Lindsey Smith, a Filomen M. D’Agostino Scholar for Women and Children within the Root-Tilden-Kern (RTK) program, will work at Brooklyn Defender Services during her fellowship, representing indigent Brooklyn youth who have criminal justice debt.
Audrey-Marie Winn, a Filomen M. D’Agostino Scholar for Civil Rights, Civil Liberties, and Criminal Justice within the RTK program, will use her fellowship to work at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, where she will represent workers in the New York City “app economy.”
Victoria Yee, a Sinsheimer Service Scholar within the RTK program, will work at the Wage Justice Center in Los Angeles, providing legal services to low-wage immigrant Chinese workers in the San Gabriel Valley.
Professor Jeanne Fromer’s office decor follows an “intellectual property theme,” including a work by artist David Irvine, who adds pop-culture flourishes to garage sale finds. Fromer selected this Duck Hunt scene because she liked its 1980s retro appeal as well as “the way it stands on its own even if you don’t get the Nintendo reference.”
Taking the Lead
Tsion Gurmu ’15, who launched the LGBT Asylum Project as an Equal Justice Fellow at African Services Committee, and Aditi Juneja ’17, an activist who founded the Resistance Manual, were named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 in Law and Policy list.
The LGBT Asylum Project provides comprehensive legal representation and social support services for African immigrants fleeing anti-homosexuality legislation in their home countries. It arose in part from Gurmu’s journey with her family from Ethiopia to the United States as asylum seekers, as well as her own experience as a black queer woman in the African diaspora community. Gurmu, now legal director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, says her work has changed her perspective on what is possible in addressing structural injustices at the intersection of LGBTQ rights and immigrant rights.
Days before the inauguration of President Donald Trump, Juneja launched the Resistance Manual, an open-source, Wikipedia-style online resource for information about actions that citizens can take on policy issues. Word spread quickly, and hundreds volunteered to collaborate on the project. Over the first three months, several hundred thousand people used the site. Juneja has been awarded an Excelsior Service Fellowship, a New York State initiative that aims to bring highly talented graduates of professional schools into government service.
NYU Law in Love
Three couples share how NYU Law brought them together.
Timothy Sprague ’16 and Jade Watkins ’15
“We met in a course called Critical Narratives of Civil Rights, taught by Peggy Cooper Davis, Aderson Francois, and Bob Moses. Our first date was in Vanderbilt Hall, Room 218. (We ordered ice cream.)”
Robyn Mar ’08 and Ria Tabacco Mar ’08
“We met at a queer women of color NYU Law mixer organized by our friend and fellow ’08 alumna Alexis Hoag during the first few weeks of our 1L year. Robyn thought Ria was smart, serious, and well-dressed. Ria thought Robyn was opinionated, social, and had a short attention span.”
Lois Rosen ’79 and Phil Rosen ’79
“We met for the first time during NYU Law’s Family Day. We each met our parents in the lobby of the Law School at the same moment. Our parents first greeted us and then realized that they knew one another. Phil then realized that he knew Lois’s mother. We then met one another for the first time.”
NYU Law Women in History: Emily Warren Roebling
After Washington Roebling, the chief engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge, was permanently incapacitated by “caisson disease,” now believed to be a kind of decompression disease, his wife, Emily Warren Roebling, acted as surrogate chief engineer, overseeing day-to-day construction in order to complete the mammoth 16-year project. When the Brooklyn Bridge finally opened on May 24, 1883, she was, fittingly, the first person to cross it. Emily Roebling went on to be active in women’s causes and obtained a law degree from NYU in 1899.
A Habeas Petition, in the Nick of Time
Ravi Ragbir has been a client of the Immigrant Rights Clinic (IRC) for more than a decade. The executive director of the New Sanctuary Coalition, an interfaith group that seeks to advance immigrant rights, Ragbir is an immigrant from Trinidad who received his green card in the United States in 1994. In 2006, Ragbir was placed in deportation proceedings based on a 2001 wire fraud conviction. For the past decade he has been fighting deportation with the help of the IRC and the activist community he has built.
On January 11, during a routine check-in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Ragbir was detained for immediate deportation, with no time to put his affairs in order or to say goodbye to his family. The IRC, which is taught by Professor of Clinical Law Alina Das ’05 and Immigration Defense Fellow Jessica Rofé ’14, immediately sprang into action.
Clinic students raced to prepare a habeas petition, and at a hearing on January 29, Brittany Castle ’19 and Cody Cutting ’19 argued on Ragbir’s behalf. Judge Katherine Forrest ’90 of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York granted the habeas petition, ruling that ICE had violated Ragbir’s right to due process.
Forrest’s opinion “was a strong rebuke of the Trump administration and ICE’s tactics,” says Das. “And it demonstrated how powerful the legal arguments were that Brittany and Cody presented that day.”
“Brittany and Cody were able to convey so much of the real-life consequences of ICE’s actions,” adds Rofé. “And Judge Forrest clearly understood just how cruel and unnecessary these practices are.”
The foreign-trained lawyers enrolled in the LLM program in Fall 2017 held law degrees from a total of 50 jurisdictions. Above are the top spots, ranked by number of students represented.
NYU Law Women in History: Adeline Van Buren
In an era when the automobile was still novel, Adeline Van Buren of the Class of 1918 and her sister Augusta became the first women to ride across America on two solo motorcycles in 1916.
The sisters aimed to prove that women were fit to serve as dispatch riders. Setting off on July 4 from Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn, the two descendants of Martin Van Buren rode across mountains and deserts—and were even arrested for wearing men’s clothes—before they arrived in Los Angeles on September 8.
The US Army turned down their applications to enlist as dispatch riders, but the sisters would continue to break gender stereotypes. Adeline earned a law degree, while Augusta became a pilot.
Broadway and film producer Marc Platt ’82 won his first Tony award for The Band’s Visit. The show about Egyptian musicians stranded in a sleepy Israeli town picked up 10 trophies, including Best Musical. Last year, Platt’s acclaimed La La Land nabbed six Academy Awards.
Trivia question: Which state has the greatest proportion of its population living in the path of major floods? The answer: Arizona. That’s courtesy of FloodzoneData.us, an online data tool launched last year by the NYU Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy that shows people and housing located in the nation’s floodplains.
A joint undertaking of the Law School and Wagner School of Public Service, the Furman Center made its first foray into flood zone analysis with an assessment of New York City housing stock following Superstorm Sandy in 2012. “After that, we received inquiries from people working on resilience in other jurisdictions,” says Furman Center Executive Director Jessica Yager ’03, “and it became clear to us that there was a need for better data on this nationwide.”
Yager co-authored three reports issued in 2017 that summarize the information in FloodzoneData.us, including the fact that 64 percent of Arizona’s population lives in the combined 100-year and 500-year floodplains (areas with a 1 percent and 0.2 percent probability of flooding each year, respectively). “We were surprised by this as well!” Yager says, explaining that the risk comes from flash flooding of rivers and streams.
While flood zone analysis may seem like unusual work for someone with a JD, Yager points out that she also examined legal and regulatory impediments to making multifamily housing more resilient, which “required the research and analytical skills I developed as a law student at NYU.”
A Place in the Sun
Professor Jerome Cohen has received one of Japan's highest awards, the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon. Reiichiro Takahashi, ambassador and consul general of Japan in New York, presented the honor in recognition of Cohen’s outstanding contributions in promoting interactions among Japanese and US legal professionals as well as enhancing the understanding of Japan among people in the United States.
Cohen founded the East Asian Legal Studies program at Harvard Law School, one of the first of its kind in the US, and in his 27 years at NYU Law, Cohen has overseen the establishment and growth of the US-Asia Law Institute.
NYU Law Women in History: Gertrud Mainzer
A Holocaust survivor who became a family court judge in New York, Gertrud Mainzer of the Class of 1965 lived an extraordinary life. After immigrating to the Netherlands just before World War II, Mainzer separated from her two young children in 1942 so that the family could go into hiding. When her children were later discovered and taken to Westerbork transit camp, Mainzer smuggled herself into the camp to be reunited with her children.
The family was sent to Bergen-Belsen in 1944, and the following year to a Red Cross Camp. After the war, the family moved to the United States. Mainzer attended NYU Law once her children were grown and served as a Family Court judge in New York City from 1979 to 1984. She also taught at the Cardozo School of Law, where the program in Family Law, Policy and Bioethics is now named in her honor.
Examining Extreme Poverty in the US
As United Nations special rapporteur, Philip Alston, John Norton Pomeroy Professor of Law and co-chair of the NYU Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, has issued reports on extreme poverty and human rights in more than 25 countries over the past four years. Now he has turned his attention to the United States. He issued his final report on the US in June.
“The United States is one of the world’s richest countries,” Alston said in an interview. “The United States also has the highest rates of child poverty. It has some of the lowest life expectancies [and] it has some of the worst health outcomes, especially considering the immensity of the budget.”
Alston’s report found that about 14 percent of the US population lives in poverty, and that nearly half of these 40 million people live in extreme poverty, with reported family income below one-half of the poverty threshold.
In the report, posted on the UN’s website, Alston stated that newly enacted tax legislation “stakes out America’s bid to become the most unequal society in the world, and will greatly increase the already high levels of wealth and income inequality between the richest one percent and the poorest 50 percent of Americans.”
The report also warns that the disenfranchisement of Americans with felony convictions threatens US democracy and disproportionately prevents black Americans from voting.
NYU Law Women in History: Lorna Schofield
Raised in Indiana by a single mother who was an immigrant from the Philippines, Lorna Schofield, Class of 1981, a litigation partner at Debevoise & Plimpton, became the first Filipino American on the federal bench when President Barack Obama appointed her to the US District Court for the Southern District of New York in 2012.
The Bard’s Risky Plays
To be or not to be? That may depend on the expected value of each option. In a new paper, Geoffrey Miller, Stuyvesant P. Comfort Professor of Law, argues that Hamlet’s famous soliloquy draws on sophisticated concepts in probability and decision theory—“a remarkable example of Shakespeare’s facility at identifying cutting-edge intellectual issues,” Miller writes.
Guarding the Banks
As Jill Sung ’93 commented in March on PRI’s The World, “To go from being accused [of fraud] to being part of an Oscar-nominated documentary is very odd.” Sung is president and CEO of Abacus Federal Savings Bank, founded by her father in Manhattan’s Chinatown neighborhood.
A documentary film by Steve James, director of the Oscar-nominated Hoop Dreams, chronicled the bank’s successful fight against a 184-count indictment filed by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office after Sung and her sister, a board director, fired a loan officer for money laundering and contacted authorities. Ultimately, Abacus was acquitted at trial. Although Abacus: Small Enough to Jail didn’t get the Oscar it was nominated for, a feature film is in development.
Photo: Courtesy of Kartemquin Films / Sean Lyness
University Professor Kwame Anthony Appiah will lead a five-judge panel in choosing the winner of the 2018 Man Booker Prize for Fiction. “Who could resist an invitation to join a diverse and distinguished group of fellow readers to explore together the riches of a year of Anglophone fiction, drawn from around the world?” he says.
In April, NYU Law staged a comeback win against Columbia Law School in the Deans’ Cup, the annual student basketball game that is now in its nineteenth year.
For the first 20 minutes, Columbia dominated; by the end of the first half, NYU trailed by 11 points. However, it was a tale of two halves, and the second belonged to NYU Law.
The game ended in foul shots. When the clock struck zero, the proud Violet fans stormed the court to hoist the trophy with their team, which had prevailed 59–57.
In April, NYU Law Revue presented its 44th annual show, Cite Club, a parody of the 1999 Brad Pitt– Edward Norton vehicle of similar name. The number “AMF” earned the top honors in Above the Law’s Law Revue Video Contest: Ellen Gong ’18 sang movingly about the risks of being cold-called while experiencing intestinal distress.