Feerick Center News - June 2013
For the CLARO Program, a Year of ProgressThe Feerick Center recently celebrated the pro bono work of Manhattan and Bronx CLARO volunteers at a recognition ceremony held at Fordham Law. Professor John D. Feerick, Founder of the Feerick Center, and Fordham Law Dean Michael M. Martin in their remarks described how CLARO exemplifies the Law School’s noble tradition of pro bono service. Dean Martin said that the CLARO program provides “invaluable assistance” to New Yorkers.
Special recognition was given to those who volunteered in 2012 and to Manhattan Legal Service’s Elizabeth Da Victoria Lobo, who, as a consumer law expert, provides expertise to the Manhattan CLARO program and is a valued and exemplary resource to volunteers.
Almost 97.5% of defendants in New York City Civil Court consumer debt collection cases are unrepresented by counsel. CLARO brings together law students, volunteer attorneys, and consumer law experts in an effort to explain the court process and documents, examine possible defenses, consider proper responses, and provide these individuals with the tools needed to defend themselves in court. CLARO provides this limited legal advice on consumer debt issues to New Yorkers in all five boroughs at weekly clinics held at the city’s civil courthouses.
Almost all of the attorneys describe their volunteer experiences as incredibly rewarding. C. Pat Castellan ’77, a frequent Bronx CLARO volunteer, found that “after a half hour of helping clients on a Thursday afternoon, I'm able to empower them [to] go out and help themselves.”
Fordham Law students play a critical role by helping to administer sessions and by screening visitors. The Public Interest Resource Center’s Consumer Law Advocates has been an essential partner in the Manhattan CLARO Program since its launch in 2008. They also sit in on consultations and observe a variety of counseling styles. The current pool of volunteer attorneys numbers over 200.
Additionally, some former Feerick Center students and volunteers are becoming consumer law experts in their own right. Ariana Lindermayer ’10, a former Feerick Center student, is currently a staff attorney at MFY Legal Services with the Consumer Rights Project. Ricardo Avila, S.J., a former Feerick Center volunteer, recently joined CAMBA Legal Services in Brooklyn, also as a staff attorney.
The Feerick Center provides support to the CLARO program in three boroughs: Manhattan, Bronx, and Staten Island. These three sites have assisted more than 4,000 New Yorkers—over 1,300 individuals in 2012 alone—and the programs have conducted over 6,800 consultations total. Volunteer attorneys and students have devoted over 10,000 hours of service. In 2013 to date, the Manhattan, Bronx, and Staten Island CLARO programs have assisted well over 500 visitors.
Volunteers with the Feerick Center’s new Legal Economic and Educational Advancement Project (LEEAP) program (see story below) are also contributing their time and talents with CLARO. LEEAP is seeking to expand the scope of advice provided at CLARO by recruiting volunteers to assist with consumer bankruptcy, identity theft, and credit reporting assistance. Volunteer trainings on these three topics were held in February, March, and April.
Judge Marrero to Reflect on the State of Pro Bono in New YorkOn Thursday, June 27, the Honorable Victor Marrero of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York will deliver a lecture entitled “Pro Bono Legal Services: The Silent Majority—A 25 Year Retrospective." The event will take place at Fordham Law School in the Moot Court Room (Room 304) at 5:30 p.m.
Twenty-five years ago Judge Marrero, at the time a partner in a New York law firm, was appointed by the Chief Judge of New York State to act as chair of a “Committee to Improve the Availability of Legal Services.” The Committee included many leading members of the bench and bar, including former Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, U.S. Attorney Robert Fiske, former Preisdent of Barnard Ellen Futter—now President of the American Museum of Natural History—several bar association presidents, and lawyers from throughout the state.
The main recommendation of that Committee was to propose “that all lawyers admitted to practice and registered as attorneys in New York be required to provide a minimum of 40 hours of qualifying pro bono legal services every two years.”
That proposal was not implemented, and a quarter century has now passed. Judge Marrero will discuss that report and the current state of the availability of legal services.
Four to be Honored at Annual Awards and Benefit Reception in OctoberOn October 7, the Feerick Center will honor friends and alumni whose lives exemplify the values of the Feerick Center at its annual Awards and Benefit Reception to be held at Mutual of America.
James E. Tolan ’62, an active contributor to the Feerick Center since its launch in 2006, will receive the Spirit of Service Award. Tolan’s involvement with Fordham Law dates back over 50 years: he has served as President of the Fordham Law Alumni Association, Chairman of the Annual Fund, and head of the Board of Advisors for the Crowley Program in Human Rights. He has been a major promoter of the Feerick Center’s Public Lecture Series and is currently involved with the alternative dispute resolution program that the Center has established in Ghana.
The recipient of this year’s Spirit of Hope Award, Peggy Healy ’96, has been a human rights advocate for nearly 40 years. As Senior Vice President for Latin America for Covenant House International, she oversees four programs for homeless and trafficked youth in Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. A Stein Scholar during her time at Fordham, Healy has been a member of the Board of Advisors for the Feerick Center since its founding.
The recipient of the Champion of Justice Award will be Kevin J. Curnin '95, who is a founding member of the Board of Advisors of the Feerick Center. Kevin is a partner and the founding Director of the Public Service Project at Stroock, Stroock & Lavan. The firm now provides comprehensive and sophisticated legal assistance to a wide number of underserved communities in New York. Since Kevin began to develop and focus this area of the firm it has received over 60 awards for the contributions it has made.
Feerick Center Student Profile: Mara Wishingrad ’13Tell us a little about yourself.
I just graduated from the Law School in May. I did my undergraduate work at the University of Pennsylvania where I majored in English. Although I enjoyed Philadelphia, I am from New York City, so it was particularly nice for me to return to New York for law school. Fordham has been such a great place, and my law school experience has only reinvigorated my desire to pursue a career in social justice. In particular, I want to focus on family law and the child welfare system.
How are you involved in the Feerick Center?
I was a student in the Feerick Center Social Justice Clinic in spring 2012. I was also a research assistant for Professors Gaylynn Burroughs and Elizabeth Cooper during the 2012–2013 academic year.
What attracted you to the Clinic?
I became interested in child welfare law after doing a summer internship with Lawyers for Children, and I was excited about the opportunity to explore child welfare from a policy perspective.
Tell us about the Clinic.
The Social Justice Clinic is a non-litigation clinic that brings together groups of stakeholders to engage in creative problem-solving on social justice issues. For the past two years, the Clinic has focused on improving the New York City child welfare system. This focus on child welfare complements the mission of the Feerick Center to work in partnership with others to bring about creative solutions to discrete problems associated with urban poverty. Families involved in the New York City child welfare system are overwhelmingly from poor communities of color. Many of these families need support, and although the child welfare system has the potential to be a source for that support, it also has the potential to become a destabilizing force in vulnerable communities.
What work has the Clinic done on this most recent project?
The Clinic began by meeting with parents involved in the child welfare system and with child welfare professionals to learn more about how the system operates in practice. Working with these groups, including the New York City Administration for Children's Services (ACS), the Clinic identified a specific systemic issue that it was in a unique position to help resolve.
How did the Clinic work to resolve this issue?
The Clinic acts as a neutral facilitator to help stakeholders identify consensus-based solutions. Specifically, this March, we organized a convening of representatives from ACS, parent and child advocacy organizations, foster care agencies, and academics to brainstorm ways to enhance ACS's accountability measures. The convening produced several possible avenues to pursue.
What role did Clinic students play?
In order to identify how the Clinic could be most helpful, students meet with individual stakeholder groups, including parents involved in the child welfare system, parent advocacy organizations such as Brooklyn Family Defense Project and The Bronx Defenders, Lawyers for Children, ACS, and the Child Welfare Organizing Project. Once we determined a specific role for the Clinic, students, working in teams, conducted focus groups of parents in Brooklyn and in the Bronx to hear their perspectives on the identified issue. Students also played a major role in designing the convening, including the breakout group discussions, which we facilitated. After the convening, we worked together to draft a report of the proceedings to distribute to all of the attendees.
What was it like to work with the other Clinic students?
All the students came to the Clinic with different experiences but with a shared interest in social justice issues, which enabled everyone to make unique contributions while working as a team.
What was most rewarding about your experience in the Clinic?
I am most proud of how the Clinic was able to include parents in both the preparation for the convening and in the convening itself. Low-income parents of color can often get left out of conversations about the policies that directly affect their families. It was a priority for me, and for the Clinic, to ensure that parents' voices were heard in this process and that they were able to engage in the convening as peers. Seeing parents actively participating at the convening showed that it is possible, and crucial, to include parents in these kinds of discussions.
What is the most significant thing you learned?
I came to the Clinic with some knowledge of the child welfare system, but the Clinic enriched my understanding of the interplay between law, policy, and practice. Engaging in a critical study of the child welfare system not only helped prepare me for the convening but also for future practice.
How will you use your experience in the Clinic as you pursue a career in social justice?
The Clinic's holistic approach to understanding the child welfare system highlighted how important it is to be mindful of how diverse systems and institutions impact disenfranchised communities. Situating my future clients within their broader contexts will enable me to be a more effective lawyer and advocate.
Three New Programs Created to Engage Senior LawyersFollowing a national competition last year, the federal Corporation for National and Community Service awarded the Feerick Center a three-year AmeriCorps VISTA grant to launch the Legal Economic and Educational Advancement Project (LEEAP). The program was conceived to expand upon work that the Center is doing to assist with the development of New York State’s Attorney Emeritus Program.
The Feerick Center is delighted to have three VISTA members co-directing LEEAP during its first and organizational year: Laura Backus, a 2012 graduate of Reed College, who has a strong background in educational volunteer programs; Brandon Ruben, who holds both a bachelor’s degree from McGill University and a master’s degree from Columbia University and who has taught in inner-city schools in both the United States and France; and Anting Wang, a graduate of University of California, Berkeley and Stanford Law School who was selected as the New York State Bar Association’s Outstanding Young Lawyer of 2011.
LEEAP seeks to direct the energy, skills, and experience of senior lawyers to volunteering activities in three focus areas.
The first portion of the project aims to recruit senior volunteer attorneys and place them into nonlegal service opportunities at organizations in order to provide credit-related assistance. Volunteer attorneys will be given the opportunity to help financially distressed clients work towards improving security in their financial lives. The volunteers will assist clients with obtaining and reviewing their credit reports, writing dispute letters, and resolving identity theft issues. Two pilot projects have been developed this year, the first at the East River Development Alliance in Queens and the second at CLARO in Manhattan and the Bronx. Next year, this portion of the project will expand to other sites and continue developing specialized volunteer opportunities for assisting with identity theft.
LEEAP’s second program seeks senior volunteer attorneys for placement at legal service organizations with consumer debt defense practices. Placement opportunities include both limited legal advice and full service representation. Judgments from consumer debt collection cases impair credit and can prevent individuals and families from obtaining and maintaining housing, employment, and economic stability. These legal services help individuals and families improve their economic well being. Over the next year, LEEAP seeks to expand its volunteer opportunities to include consumer bankruptcy, student loan counseling, and veterans’ advocacy, among other focus areas.
The final tier of the project focuses on access to education, in which senior volunteer attorneys will help provide assistance to New York City students from low-income families in navigating the high school and college application process. Highlights from this initial year include hosting volunteer attorney recruitment events at Fordham Law School and the law firm Paul Hastings. The program has created a pilot project on high school application assistance at the Star Learning Center at Goddard Riverside in Manhattan and another pilot project for college application assistance at Frederick Douglass Academy II High School in Manhattan. The program convened the NYC Public High School Application Advisory Committee, a diverse, 23-person working group consisting of middle-school practitioners and academics who specialize in the New York City public high school application process. Next Year, LEEAP’s educational component looks forward to fine-tuning and expanding its programmatic offerings, as well as continuing to administer the Advisory Committee.
Speaker Series RoundupFor its 2012–2013 Speaker Series, the Feerick Center hosted a number of leaders and innovators who drew crowds of between 40 and 70. A total of 220 people attended the series over the year to hear the following speakers:
September 27, 2012
In 2012, after the New York Times published a series of critical investigative stories, state-supervised services for adults with disabilities received considerable attention from the media and lawmakers. Governor Cuomo established a task force, and the statutory framework governing these services was overhauled. Zucker described to an audience of 40 how Disability Advocates—a nonprofit organization that works to protect and advance the rights of adults and children with disabilities through policy advocacy, litigation, coalition building, community education, and technical support—was actively involved in advocacy efforts related to the reforms proposed and adopted.
October 25, 2012
Hot Bread Kitchen helps low-income immigrant women become entrepreneurs in the growing, multibillion-dollar artisan food market. Since its launch in July 2007 HBK has grown from a grassroots nonprofit to a recognized brand and workforce development program.
Waldman–Rodriguez explained to the 70 attendees the genesis of HBK and its development. The organization has trained 39 immigrant women in English, commercial baking, and kitchen mathematics. It has placed two of their graduates in one of New York City’s top bakeries and is training a new cohort to move into managerial positions within the organization. HBK now distributes its multi-ethnic breads to 47 stores and restaurants throughout New York City, including Whole Foods and Fairway Markets. HBK presents an innovative approach to engaging low-income immigrant women and providing the technical support and workforce education necessary to help them become not only economically self-sufficient but also successful in a very competitive market.
January 24, 2013
Forty people came to hear Arsham, a social worker by training, describe the work of the Child Welfare Organizing Project (CWOP). Through organized client involvement and collective advocacy, CWOP seeks to improve the quality of services provided to New York City families through the New York City child welfare system. Most of CWOP’s staff and board of directors are parents who have had their children placed in foster care, have since reunited their families, and now use their experience to help parents facing similar challenges and to advocate for systemic change. CWOP works to support families involved in the child welfare system and improve the system through a variety of programs, including parent support groups; parent leadership curriculum development; parents’ rights trainings; and work with policymakers, the media, and the New York City Administration for Children’s Services. CWOP’s advocacy is based on the principle that parents and communities are best situated to improve the lives of their own children.
February 28, 2013
Hon. Loretta A. Preska ’73 Marks Her 20th Anniversary on Federal Bench with Feerick CenterOn April 16, the Feerick Center hosted an anniversary discussion with Hon. Loretta A. Preska ‘73 and two of her former clerks, Martin Gilmore '07 and Jennifer Mone ‘93.
Assistant Dean Robert J. Reilly '75 gave the welcoming remarks for the more than 100 attendees in McNally Amphitheatre. Acting as moderator, Professor John D. Feerick '61 introduced Judge Preska, who answered questions about her two decades on the bench, the formative influences that inspired her to practice law, and important issues facing the justice system today.
Judge Preska received her B.A. from the College of St. Rose in Albany, New York, in 1970. She majored in chemistry, with the intention of pursuing a career in scientific research. When she began to harbor doubts about her chosen profession, she received a timely piece of advice from a trusted professor: “No matter how nicely you talk to those molecules, they won’t necessarily do what you want. But if you talk to people nicely, they might. You should work with people.”
Instead of graduate studies in chemistry, Judge Preska chose a path that capitalized on her speaking skills. “I had heard tell that you could make a living by speaking as a lawyer,” she said. Her passion for public speaking and debate brought her to Fordham Law, where she graduated with her J.D. in 1973. She then received her LL.M. in trade regulation from New York University Law School in 1978.
She began her career as an Associate at Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP. She called her first litigation experiences “absolutely invaluable” in helping her build confidence as a young lawyer. Many of those early opportunities arose from pro bono cases. In 1983, she became a Partner at the firm of Hertzog, Calamari & Gleason, where she remained until her induction as a U.S. District Judge in 1992. Judge Preska recalled with pride when President George H.W. Bush nominated her for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Because it was an election year, there was some initial uncertainty regarding her confirmation. To her relief, all of the Executive Branch nominations went through, and she was appointed to the Court on August 12, 1992. From June 1, 2009, to the present, she has served as Chief Judge.
When asked what she loves most about being a judge, Judge Preska replied, “In the beginning, I had this urge to rush off the bench, go upstairs, and start working on the opinions. It came to me, over time, that that’s not really the important part. What’s most important is being out there on the bench, being the face of justice.”
“There’s no one way to do the job,” she continued. “The thing that I like the best is the people.” She expressed her affection for the lawyers, the juries, and the litigants she interacts with regularly.
Judge Preska mentioned that, because she became a judge at a young age, it was imperative that she command respect from members of the bar by setting a tone of formality. She criticized the growing tendency toward casualness, saying that it is important to be recognized as a serious person with serious cases. “Also let people know that they will be heard,” she said.
In response to a question about changes she has observed during her time on the bench, Judge Preska voiced her frustration with a perennial judicial complaint: incompetent counsel. “The troubling thing is that there always seems to be a percentage of lawyers who really have no idea what they’re doing. It remains horrifying.”
She encouraged law students to challenge themselves with the curriculum and to take advantage of legal clinics and internship opportunities in order to stand out to employers. She also recommended nontraditional careers in the court system, including positions in employee dispute resolution, on federal committees, and in administrative offices.
Judge Preska discussed what she considers one of the Court’s most pressing current issues: the federal budget sequestration. As Chief Judge, she is responsible for ensuring the Court functions efficiently, a task she said is becoming increasingly difficult due to budget and personnel cuts. “Dealing with the sequestration has been virtually full-time. In the last two years, our allocation for non-judicial salaries and other non-salary items has been cut by double digits,” she said. Despite these budgetary restrictions, the Court, under Judge Preska’s leadership, has been thoughtful and sensitive in managing its finances with the result that no employee has been furloughed.
Judge Preska went on to express her admiration for Fordham’s new initiatives in compliance, including the Corporate Compliance Institute. “Compliance is a growth industry. I think these are great programs that take advantage of Fordham’s place in New York, where we have so many firms subject to a great deal of regulation.”
After the discussion, the floor was opened up for audience questions. Attendees queried Judge Preska on a host of topics, including hurdles to administering justice, the training and management of her law clerks, and her experience as a trailblazing female judge in a profession that has traditionally been dominated by men.