Section Description Provided by Instructor
An arrest is never just an arrest. It can prompt the child welfare system to take an infant from a mother's custody, trigger deportation proceedings for a legal permanent resident, and cause the public housing authority to throw an entire family out into the street. An arrest is simply the first stone in an avalanche of dire legal and social consequences.
This externship immerses students in the cutting edge of defense work on the frontier of civil rights in the South Bronx - the poorest congressional district in the country. A person of color living in the Bronx is more likely to be stopped and frisked by the police, arrested, evicted, enter a homeless shelter, be on welfare, or have their children removed than a resident of any other county in New York State. The Bronx Defenders has pioneered Holistic Defense, an innovative approach to indigent defense, in order to help clients deal with the enmeshed penalties of criminal justice involvement. Course content and fieldwork will train students as future holistic lawyers offering seamless access to services that meet clients' full range of legal and social support needs.
The weekly classroom component of the Holistic Defender Externship will take place at Columbia, where lecturers-in-law will help the students contextualize their experiences with their clients and the justice system. By addressing topics like racial and class disparity in the justice system, policing policy, and the social history of the South Bronx, students will be able to locate their experiences of individual client representation in the broader discussions of normative social, political, and economic policy. Role playing, simulations, as well as background reading and real-world case studies, will help inform students, and lead them toward a mastery of both the theoretical underpinnings of holistic advocacy and the practical aspects of actual client representation.
Learning Through Doing - The Placement
By engaging students in the representation of real clients - not only in the criminal justice context, but in the civil, housing, immigration and family arenas as well - the externship will expose students to nuts and bolts of Holistic Defense.
The Bronx Defenders' award-winning collaborative approach uses interdisciplinary teams of criminal defense, family defense and civil action lawyers; social workers, and investigators to address both the underlying issues that lead to criminal justice involvement and the devastating collateral consequences of arrests and convictions. Students will be paired with a mentor at the office and will have the opportunity to participate firsthand in interdisciplinary team-based representation.
Requirements & Application Process
Students will receive four credits - two graded academic credits for the seminar and two ungraded clinical credits for their fieldwork. The seminar will be graded on weekly class participation, class presentations, and periodic short reflection papers on readings and fieldwork. The course will be limited to 8-12 students to facilitate active engagement and contribution by all. The course will be taught in the fall and spring, and is open to JD and LL.M candidates. There are no prerequisites to take this course other than a passion for service in low-income communities.