Vanessa H. Merton

  • Professor of Law
Preston Hall 404-I
Contact professor via e-mail or call assistant to schedule an appointment
Assistant: Barbara Sarmiento

Education

BA, Radcliffe College
JD, New York University School of Law

For media inquiries, contact:

Rachael Silva
Assistant Dean for External Affairs
(914) 422-4354

Professor Vanessa Merton, B.A. Radcliffe College 1970, J.D. N.Y.U. Law School 1973, teaches and directs the Immigration Justice Clinic (“IJC”) of John Jay Legal Services, Inc. in White Plains, New York.  The IJC provides free legal services to noncitizens who otherwise could not afford legal assistance, including representation on applications for asylum or family-based status, in removal proceedings at state and federal detention facilities, and on petitions for crime victims and juvenile immigrants.  IJC Student Attorneys also conduct public education programs at community centers throughout the Hudson Valley, and litigate in the Immigration Court, the Board of Immigration Appeals, the Federal Circuit Courts, and the United States Supreme Court.  In 2017 the IJC assisted people detained at NY area airports pursuant to the Trump Executive Orders and has spent several spring breaks volunteering at immigrant detention centers on the southern border in Texas and Georgia.  The IJC also regularly participates in the National Day of Action on Capitol Hill, working with leaders of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.   

For fifteen years Professor Merton served as Pace Law School’s Associate Dean for Clinical Education and Executive Director of John Jay Legal Services, while creating and teaching clinics in Access to Health Care and Prosecution of Domestic Violence.  Professor Merton also was a member of the founding faculty of the City University of New York Law School.  She began her career in legal education as a clinical professor at New York University School of Law.  Her prior practice experience includes the Criminal Defense Division of the Legal Aid Society of New York and Trial Counsel at the First Department Disciplinary Committee.

Professor Merton has received the 2012 Pace Law Faculty Award for Teaching Excellence, the 1995 Graduating Class Award for Outstanding Law Professor, the 1988 CUNY Law Distinguished Service Award for Teaching Effectiveness, and the 2012 Elmer Fried Excellence in Teaching Award of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the highest honor for an immigration law professor.  In 2015 she was named a “Lawyer Who Leads by Example” by the New York Law Journal; in 2016 she was honored with the Alianza Award of Pace Latin-American Law Students Association; and in 2017 she was the first recipient of the Persistence Award of the Pace Immigration Law Society, which was coupled with the declaration of “Vanessa Merton Day” by Westchester County and a citation from the Town of Greenburgh.  In 2018 she received the Liberty & Justice Award from Cabrini Immigrant Services of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  She was a Mellon Fellow at the Aspen Institute and a National Endowment for the Humanities Post-doctoral Fellow at the Hastings Center Institute of Society, Ethics and the Life Sciences, where she also became the first Associate for Law.  Recently she received the Pace Jefferson Bronze Medal for Public Service.

For her work setting up a 200-student emergency operation to assist people affected by the 9/11 tragedy, in 2002 Professor Merton received six national and local awards, including: the Mark of Distinction Award of the National Association of Law Placement; the Father Robert Drinan Award of the Association of American Law Schools Section on Pro Bono and Public Service; the PSLawNet Pro Bono Publico Award; and the Pace Law School Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Public Service Lawyering.  In 2001 the New York Chapter of the National Employment Lawyers Association presented Professor Merton with the Fifteenth Anniversary Award for her role as a Founding Director.

In 2008, Professor Merton was honored with the Alternative Chance/Chans Alternativ Human Rights Award for the IJC's service to indigent Haitian refugees, and in 2010 she received the Servant of Justice Award of the Haitian-American Cultural and Social Organization of Rockland County, New York, for her leadership in mobilizing lawyers and law students to assist earthquake-affected Haitians.  She is a founding member of the New York Immigrant Representation Study Group convened and led by Chief Judge Robert Katzmann of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Professor Merton is especially proud of her work as a twenty-year member of the Advisory Board of the Mount Sinai-Irving J. Selikoff Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine, which in 2012 named her “Woman of the Year,” and as founding Chair of the Institutional Review Board of the Community Research Initiative of the People with AIDS Coalition in New York and member of the AMFAR (AIDS Medical Research Foundation) Institutional Review Board.   

Publications

SSRN

Articles

“Mission Statements that Accurately Define, Distinguish, and Reflect the Law School’s Praxis,” by Vanessa Merton & Irene Scharf in Building on Best Practices: Transforming Legal Education in a Changing World (Deborah Maranville, Lisa Radtke Bliss, Carolyn Wilkes Kaas & Antoinette Sedillo Lopez eds., 2015) 

How Derrick Bell Helped Me Decide to Become an Educator, Not Just a Faculty Member,” 2 Colum. J. Race & L. Spec. Feat. 34 (2012)

"What Do You Do When You Meet a Walking Violation of the Sixth Amendment If You're Trying to Put That Lawyer's Client in Jail?" 69 Fordham Law Review 997 (2000).

"A Chance for Justice. (For the Poor, Responding to the Opponents to Funding the Legal Services Corp.)," with Richard L. Ottinger, New York Law Journal, July 24, 1995, at 2.

"Review Essay: Women and Health Research: Ethical and Legal Issues of Including Women in Clinical Studies," 22 Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics 272 (1994).

Guest Column, "What Should We Do About Bad Lawyers?" Newsday, Sept. 25, 1994, at A51.

"The Exclusion of Pregnant, Pregnable, and Once-Pregnable People (a.k.a. Women) from Biomedical Research," 19 American Journal of Law & Medicine 369 (1993). Reprinted in 3 Texas Journal of Women and the Law 307 (1994).

"Community-Based AIDS Research," 14 Evaluation Review: A Journal of Applied Social Research 502 (1990).

"The Work of a CUNY Law Student: Simulation and the Experiential Learning Process," 37 UCLA Law Review 1157, 1195 (1990). Published as Appendix to "Infinity in a Grain of Sand: The World of Law and Lawyering as Portrayed in the Clinical Teaching Implicit in the Law School" by Howard Lesnick, 37 UCLA Law  Review 1157 (1990).

Editor and Contributor, "Final Report: Sex Bias in the Teaching of Criminal Law" by Nancy S. Erickson, 42 Rutgers Law Review 309 (1990).

"The City University of New York Law School: An Insider's Report," 12 Nova Law Review 45 (1987).

"Confidentiality and the 'Dangerous' Patient: Implications of Tarasoff for Psychiatrists and Lawyers," 31 Emory Law Journal 263 (1982).

Book Reviews

Review of A Measure of Malpractice: Medical Injury, Malpractice Litigation, and Patient Compensation by Paul C. Weiler, et al. 120 Annals of Internal Medicine 444 (1994).

Review of Families and the Gravely Ill by Richard Sherlock and C. Mary Dingus, 100 Annals of Internal Medicine 579 (1989).

Chapters

"Ethical Obstacles to the Participation of Women in Biomedical Research." In Feminism & Bioethics: Beyond Reproduction, edited by Susan M. Wolf. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

"The Impact of Current Relevant Federal Regulations on the Inclusion of Female Subjects in Clinical Studies." In Women and Health Research: Ethical and Legal Issues of Including Women in Clinical Studies. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1994.

"Basic Bibliography for Research in Professional Ethics". In Regulation of Lawyers: Problems of Law and Ethics, 3rd ed., edited by S. Gillers & N. Dorsen. New York: Little, Brown & Co, 1992.

"Workers' Compensation Discrimination" (with R. Farber, S. Geier, and P. O'Neil). In Employee Rights Litigation: Pleading and Practice, edited by J. Goodman. New York: Matthew Bender, 1991.

Biography for Speaking Engagements

PROFESSOR VANESSA MERTON
ELISABETH HAUB SCHOOL OF LAW at PACE UNIVERSITY
78 North Broadway, White Plains NY 10603  --  914 422 4333  -- vmerton@law.pace.edu

Professor Vanessa Merton, B.A. Radcliffe College 1970, J.D. N.Y.U. Law School 1973, teaches and directs the Immigration Justice Clinic (“IJC”) of John Jay Legal Services, Inc. in White Plains, New York.  The IJC provides free legal services to noncitizens who otherwise could not afford legal assistance, including representation on applications for asylum or family-based status, in removal proceedings at state and federal detention facilities, and on petitions for crime victims and juvenile immigrants.  IJC Student Attorneys also conduct public education programs at community centers throughout the Hudson Valley, and litigate in the Immigration Court, the Board of Immigration Appeals, the Federal Circuit Courts, and the United States Supreme Court.  In 2017 the IJC assisted people detained at NY area airports pursuant to the Trump Executive Orders and has spent several spring breaks volunteering at immigrant detention centers on the southern border in Texas and Georgia.  The IJC also regularly participates in the National Day of Action on Capitol Hill, working with leaders of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.   

For fifteen years Professor Merton served as Pace Law School’s Associate Dean for Clinical Education and Executive Director of John Jay Legal Services, while creating and teaching clinics in Access to Health Care and Prosecution of Domestic Violence.  Professor Merton also was a member of the founding faculty of the City University of New York Law School.  She began her career in legal education as a clinical professor at New York University School of Law.  Her prior practice experience includes the Criminal Defense Division of the Legal Aid Society of New York and Trial Counsel at the First Department Disciplinary Committee.

Professor Merton has received the 2012 Pace Law Faculty Award for Teaching Excellence, the 1995 Graduating Class Award for Outstanding Law Professor, the 1988 CUNY Law Distinguished Service Award for Teaching Effectiveness, and the 2012 Elmer Fried Excellence in Teaching Award of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the highest honor for an immigration law professor.  In 2015 she was named a “Lawyer Who Leads by Example” by the New York Law Journal; in 2016 she was honored with the Alianza Award of Pace Latin-American Law Students Association; and in 2017 she was the first recipient of the Persistence Award of the Pace Immigration Law Society, which was coupled with the declaration of “Vanessa Merton Day” by Westchester County and a citation from the Town of Greenburgh.  In 2018 she received the Liberty & Justice Award from Cabrini Immigrant Services of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  She was a Mellon Fellow at the Aspen Institute and a National Endowment for the Humanities Post-doctoral Fellow at the Hastings Center Institute of Society, Ethics and the Life Sciences, where she also became the first Associate for Law.  Recently she received the Pace Jefferson Bronze Medal for Public Service.

For her work setting up a 200-student emergency operation to assist people affected by the 9/11 tragedy, in 2002 Professor Merton received six national and local awards, including: the Mark of Distinction Award of the National Association of Law Placement; the Father Robert Drinan Award of the Association of American Law Schools Section on Pro Bono and Public Service; the PSLawNet Pro Bono Publico Award; and the Pace Law School Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Public Service Lawyering.  In 2001 the New York Chapter of the National Employment Lawyers Association presented Professor Merton with the Fifteenth Anniversary Award for her role as a Founding Director.

In 2008, Professor Merton was honored with the Alternative Chance/Chans Alternativ Human Rights Award for the IJC's service to indigent Haitian refugees, and in 2010 she received the Servant of Justice Award of the Haitian-American Cultural and Social Organization of Rockland County, New York, for her leadership in mobilizing lawyers and law students to assist earthquake-affected Haitians.  She is a founding member of the New York Immigrant Representation Study Group convened and led by Chief Judge Robert Katzmann of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Professor Merton is especially proud of her work as a twenty-year member of the Advisory Board of the Mount Sinai-Irving J. Selikoff Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine, which in 2012 named her “Woman of the Year,” and as founding Chair of the Institutional Review Board of the Community Research Initiative of the People with AIDS Coalition in New York and member of the AMFAR (AIDS Medical Research Foundation) Institutional Review Board.