Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University Hosts Dynamic Third Annual Access to Justice Workshop

April 1, 2024
Access to Justice Workshop 2024

On March 27, 2024, the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University hosted the third annual Access to Justice Workshop. The theme of this year’s Workshop was: The Future of Criminal Justice: Bridging Gaps in Re-Entry and Related Legal Services for Community Members Impacted by the Criminal Justice System. Each year, the Access to Justice Workshop brings together law students, legal experts, advocates, and impacted community members to talk about a specific legal and social justice issue. Along with a panel, attendees participate in an interactive discussion to explore and generate action steps that our law school community might take to better understand and contribute to filling access gaps in that area.

This year’s panel, coordinated and moderated by Adjunct Professor Elyse Diamond, Director of the Public Interest Law Center at Haub Law, featured prominent legal experts, including Sherry Levin Wallach Esq., Deputy Executive Director, Legal Aid Society of Westchester County, Stephanie Perez ’95, Deputy Administrator, Westchester County Independent Office of Assigned Counsel, Dr. Kimberly Collica-Cox, Professor, Pace University Dyson College of Arts and Sciences, Michael Mushlin, Professor Emeritus, Elisabeth Haub School of Law, and advocate Jonathan Alvarez, Co-Founder and Director of the Yonkers-based nonprofit, 914United.

Elisabeth Haub School of Law Dean Horace E. Anderson Jr. delivered opening remarks. “Now in its third year, the Access to Justice Workshop was designed not to be just another panel discussion, but to serve as the catalyst for deepening our understanding and impact on the critical access to justice issues facing our community. I hope today’s Access to Justice Workshop is a success equal to our two previous workshops, giving us all a greater understanding of the inequities in our justice system and inspiring us to use our energy, voices, and collaborative minds to make a difference.”

During the Workshop, Mr. Alvarez shared his personal reentry story – after going to prison in his teens and earning his GED and a college degree while incarcerated – leading to him co-founding 914United to provide mentorship, education, and other services to impacted community members. During the workshop, Jonathan spoke about the lack of support for formerly incarcerated individuals and at-risk youth and the work 914United is doing to support similarly situated Westchester community members. Additional panel dialogue focused on the importance of preparing community members for re-entry and challenged students to think carefully about how they view individuals who find themselves in the criminal justice system. The panel discussion touched on wide-ranging themes including mass incarceration, alternatives to incarceration, conditions, rehabilitation, and education inside prisons, and the civil legal and social justice needs facing community members before and after their contact with the criminal justice system.

“This year’s Workshop was, in many ways, a broad exploration of our justice system because reentry services and related issues sit at the intersection of criminal and civil justice,” said Adjunct Professor Elyse Diamond, Director of the Public Interest Law Center at Haub Law. “I was thrilled to bring this group together with our students and am deeply inspired by Jonathan’s advocacy, critically informed by his lived experience, the depth of commitment and knowledge our other panelists and scholars brought to the conversation, and our students’ interest in learning about and contributing to efforts to address justice gaps for these community members.” An interactive discussion about ways law students and others can support this important work followed the inspirational panel, where participants generated ways the law school community might learn more about and help to address access gaps. Past Access to Justice Workshops have focused on voting rights and housing access.

The Pace Access to Justice Workshop is part of Haub Law’s broader Access to Justice Project, which launched in 2020 with a renewed social justice agenda prompted from an intense time of inequity in our country. The Project incorporates curricular, experiential, research, and policy advocacy, all designed to increase student, faculty, and staff engagement in community social justice initiatives. Since its inception, the Project has made notable strides in building community connections and engaging students in efforts to address justice and inequity gaps through curricular, pro bono, and programmatic innovations. Last year, for example, Haub Law opened the first Legal Hand Call-In Center in Westchester County, a virtual legal resource center staffed by law students and volunteers that connects visitors to resources and information that can help empower them navigate legal and related issues they are facing.

Similarly, the A2J Lab is another outgrowth of Haub Law’s Access to Justice Project. In the inaugural Lab, a diverse group of law students and Pace University computer science and design students developed a prototype for a dual language mobile application to help low-income Westchester County rental tenants address habitability issues. Their innovation led to a first-place prize in Brooklyn Law School’s Stanley M. Grossman Innovators Invitational. Subsequent A2J Lab collaborative student projects have included exploring an interactive app to increase youth engagement in local elections and a data collection tool to generate information and attitudes about the use of limited scope representation in New York courts.

You May Also Like