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Recent Clinic News and Victories
Professor Elizabeth Cooper, Director of the Legislative and Policy Advocacy Clinic, was quoted in an article in Bloomberg Law, " This is a warning to employers that they need to base employment decisions on the capacities of employees not their sexual orientation or gender identity. I don't see how it doesn't reach beyond the workplace." The historic decision earlier this week, settled the question about whether LGBT workers could sue their employers under the 1964 Civil Rights Act which prohibits discrimination based on sex.
Though the high court responded to litigation based on workplace policies, some attorneys believe that this decision will spill over into religious claims, education and health care.
Democracy and the Constitution Clinic Issues Policy Reports to Strengthen the Nation's Democracy and Institutions
Under the supervision of Former Dean John Feerick and Visiting Professor John Rogan, the Democracy and the Constitution Clinic developed non-partisan reforms. Their recently issued reports are informed by careful deliberation and research, including interviews with leading experts and policy makers. The six timely reports cover: Checking Presidential Power, Improving Ethics and Transparency, and Ensuring Fair and Effective Representation.
1. Toward an Independent Administration of Justice
2. Protecting Against an Unable President
3. What Should Presidential Candidates Tell Us About Themselves
4. Enforcing the Intent of the Emoluments Clauses
5. Presidents Must Be Elected Popularly
6. Why the House Must Be Expanded
Photo by Kamil Krzaczynski, Getty Images. Taken outside Cook County Jail in March 2020. Sign made by incarcerated persons says, "Help. We Matter 2."
At Fordham, the Federal Litigation Clinic and Criminal Defense Clinic, began working immediately on the early release programs in New York on behalf of their incarcerated clients. "There is no question that our students are engaged in this topic," Michael W. Martin, Associate Dean for Experiential Learning, said. "They are trying to get people out of prison and they feel like life and death are at stake."
The clinic's three professors, Michael W. Martin, Ian Weinstein and Jennifer Louis-Jeune, and 12 students immediately began contacting their clients and their clients' families to determine whether there were any underlying conditions that made their clients especially vulnerable to the coronavirus. But speaking to incarcerated clients has been especially difficult during the pandemic due to the lockdown orders instituted in prisons. Facilities are only sporadically permitting legal calls.
One client's sentence was reduced by four years due to compassionate release. The Clinic also successfully renewed its request for bail for another client whose incarceration time threatened to go beyond what the judge was likely to sentence him. In a third case, involving a client for whom the Clinic had recently won a habeas corpus motion in a "reverse stashhouse sting case," the Clinic needed to work closely with immigration counsel, who convinced Immigration Court to terminate removal proceedings. On Monday, April 13, 2020, after almost six years in custody, the client walked out of the Metropolitan Detention Center into the arms of his waiting sisters.
The Criminal Defense Clinic, directed by Cheryl Bader and Martha Rayner, has taken a slightly different approach in protecting the health of their clients in an incarcerated environment. While they are working on the early release of individuals, these clinic students are also focused on education and advocacy. They are getting accurate information by way of a "weekly bulletin," to people who are incarcerated. Criminal Defense clinic students have also been participating in efforts -- such as a virtual phone bank -- to raise awareness about the dangers to prison populations and the need for further action to address the "time bomb" that prisons present at this time.
While two CDC clients were granted parole, one has been recently released within weeks of servinmg the minimum sentenc. Due to this client's age and multiple underlying medical conditions, continued detention placed her in grave danger. CDC students are pressing Governor Cuomo to grant a modest commutation of sentence to avoid this needless risk, and collaborating with Legal Aid's Prisoners' Rights Project to challenge continuing imprisonment under the threat of Covid-19 as cruel and unusual punishment.
Students in the Immigrant Rights Clinic (IRC), directed by Professor Gemma Solimene, won a meaningful victory in mid-March for a client of the clinic since 2016 -- her green card. The client, born in the Dominican Republic, came to the United States in 2015 with her two daughters to live with her US citizen husband, whom she had met through her aunt. After their marriage in the Dominican Republic, the husband petitioned the government to have her come to the U.S. She and her minor children were granted a visa with provisional residence. Almost immediately upon her arrival in the U.S., the relationship turned abusive, with the husband being verbally and psychologically cruel and possibly physically abusive. The client had to leave her husband and seek refuge.
Clinic students represented the client by successfully having the spousal condition removed from her provisional visa and obtaining her permanent resident status. They had to prove that the client entered the marriage in good faith, but was subject to extreme cruelty resulting in her inability to file a joint spousal petition to remove the condition on her permanent residency.
Katherine Anne Boy-Skipsey '20 (center) and Nina Riegelsberger '20 had been intensely preparing for over five weeks for oral argument before the Second Circuit held last week. Under the direction of Prof. Michael W. Martin, Director of Clinical Programs and Associate Dean, and Prof. Ian Weinstein, the Federal Litigation team rehearsed and made their best argument for a criminal case using unconstitutional vagueness as their primary argument. Though Boy-Skipsey credits participation in Moot Court and its Director, Maria Marcus, with being a good antecedent to taking part in a clinic, she remarks that appearing before the three-judge panel for this appeal was the "most exhilarating and elevating experience" in law school because she knew she had responsibility for another person's life. "To go from the law school classroom to this case," she said, "where I was accountable and had ownership of it was transformative on so many levels." The decision will come down in a few weeks.
Lincoln Square Legal Services, the professional law firm run by the faculty of Fordham Law’s clinical program, has launched its new website. The site spotlights the practice areas of the School’s live-client clinics and the clinical faculty lawyers who supervise them. It highlights news about the firm and its advocacy for, and victories on behalf of, clients.
Lincoln Square Legal Services provides Fordham Law students with valuable legal training. Students participate in all aspects of the casework and are supervised by Fordham Law clinical faculty throughout their work.