Matthew Diller, dean of Fordham Law School, has worked for greater access to justice throughout his career as a lawyer and legal educator. As a young staff attorney with the Legal Aid Society, Diller worked to restore Social Security benefits to people in need and fought the State of New York to provide adequate housing grants to families on welfare. He wrote extensively on the plight of low income individuals, and families in the courts and oversaw the development of several public-interest legal clinics. In 2009, Judge Lippman appointed Diller to the Task Force to Expand Access to Civil Legal Services in New York, now the Permanent Commission on Access to Justice. As chair of the Commission’s Committee on Law School Involvement, Diller has led a pathbreaking annual conference, now a national model, that brings law schools, service providers, the courts and the bar to together to focus on the role of law schools in addressing the crisis in access to justice.
Diller serves on the board of the Legal Aid Society of New York and the executive committee of the New York City Bar Association. He is a member of the Judicial Institute on Professionalism in the Law and a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation. He served as a member of the board of directors of Legal Services NYC from 1999 to 2009, and he was vice chair from 2003 to 2007. He was a member of the executive committee of the poverty law section of the Association of American Law Schools and was chair in 1999–2000. From 2000 to 2008, he was a member of the board of directors of the National Center for Law and Economic Justice. He was also a member of the New York City Bar Association’s Task Force on New Lawyers in a Changing Profession. In 2014, the AALS Section on Pro Bono and Public Service Opportunities awarded him the Deborah L. Rhode Award for his leadership in legal education and public service.
Diller’s long-term commitment to justice makes him a natural leader for this initiative. His principles mirror the School’s own abiding values of justice and service.
Jonathan Lippman, the immediate former chief judge of the State of New York and an attorney of counsel at Latham & Watkins law firm, will lead the Access to Justice Initiative, fulfilling his own commitment and drawing on the resources of Fordham Law School to expand access to justice issues for those in need.
As the distinguished fellow, Judge Lippman brings his extraordinary record of national leadership on access to justice policy reform to the task of maximizing the impact of our initiative by engaging the Law School’s faculty members and students in the work of expanding access to justice. Judge Lippman has been the key national figure in leading the state court judiciary across the United States to the modern understanding that the most fundamental mission of our courts is to ensure access to justice to all who come before them.
In New York, the Judge Lippman charted a path that reshaped the New York State Unified Court System. Under the chief judge’s leadership, the New Yorks courts led the nation in embracing the state courts’ mission of assuring access to justice for all. As part of this reorientation, the court took responsibility for expanding permanent state funding for the provision of free civil legal services and developed innovative policies to reduce and eliminate barriers to access to justice. Judge Lippman’s accomplishments include several that are altering the course of legal education, such as the adoption in New York of a 50-hour pro bono services requirement for all applicants seeking admission to the New York bar. Judge Lippman also established New York’s Permanent Commission on Access to Justice. As an attorney of counsel at Latham & Watkins, Judge Lippman is expanding the firm’s pro bono platform and its support for justice system innovation.
David Udell, executive director of the National Center for Access to Justice, and previously the founding director of the Justice Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, helps to guide the Fordham Law Access to Justice Initiative. At NCAJ, Udell has been the creator and sustainer of the Justice Index, an influential online resource that equips reformers to use research, findings and indicators, in combination with data analytical and technological tools, to promote best practices for access to justice in the 50 states; Washington, D.C.; and Puerto Rico.
Through NCAJ’s own research in support of the Justice Index and NCAJ’s other initiatives, the organization advocates for legal representation reform, language access reform and disability access reform in the state courts and is a champion of research in support of new models for helping people in the state courts who are otherwise unrepresented. NCAJ partners with the bar, judiciary, law schools, the legal services community, and other stakeholders, and its tools include litigation, books and reports, public education and public advocacy, conferences, legislative drafting, and indexing.
Udell is on the advisory boards to National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel, Voices for Civil Justice, and the Justice Center of the New York County Lawyers Association. He is a court-appointed member of the New York Chief Judge’s Committee on Non-Lawyers and the Justice Gap.
Udell’s expertise and NCAJ’s innovative approach will help support the people and institutions at Fordham Law as they move forward with the initiative.