Success Stories

Elisabeth Haub School of Law Graduates Secure Major Immigrant Rights Victory

Craig Relles & Steven Haskos

Pace Law graduates Craig Relles ’12 and Steven Haskos ’11 have won a path-breaking decision challenging indefinite detention of asylum-seekers without a hearing. This victory is only one of several recently that highlight the outstanding work of students and alums of the Pace Immigration Justice Clinic. For more than a dozen years the Immigration Justice Clinic has provided free representation to indigent immigrants who are facing deportation or seeking to regularize their legal status. 

Mr. Relles and Mr. Haskos’ client, Adou Kouadio, a citizen of the Ivory Coast, asked for asylum at the Texas border in early 2016. For almost three years, his request has remained in limbo while Mr. Kouadio has been detained with no judicial review of the rationale for keeping him in jail. In August 2018, Craig Relles filed a habeas corpus petition in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. In December, a federal judge ruled that ICE had violated his due process rights. As a result of this ruling, Mr. Kouadio finally received a bond hearing, which was successful and he will now be released.  

“Pace Law’s Immigration Justice Clinic provides vital services to immigrants in Westchester and beyond,” said Dean Horace Anderson. “The work this clinic does, along with that of our nationally recognized immigration faculty experts, is second to none. We are proud of the work alumni such as Craig and Steven are doing to ensure that the rights of all those in our society are protected.”

Professor Vanessa Merton, Faculty Supervisor of the Immigration Justice Clinic at Pace Law commented, “Once again, the Law Office of Craig Relles has demonstrated that topnotch advocates can make justice happen, perhaps saving their client’s life in the process. Pace Law School has reason to be proud of the work of Craig Relles and Steven Haskos in securing minimum due process rights for detained immigrants.”  

“We are very happy with Judge Hellerstein's decision and we hope that courts will continue to closely scrutinize the lengthy detention of asylum applicants without a bond hearing. While their rights may be statutorily limited, the Judge sent a clear message with this decision: that due process under the Constitution protects nonresident immigrants arriving at the border,” noted attorney Steven Haskos.

“Securing Mr. Kouadio's release on bond is a just conclusion to his detention saga. Judge Hellerstein recognized that Mr. Kouadio's detention violated due process, and that the remedy was a bond hearing wherein the Government had the burden of establishing that Mr. Kouadio was a danger to the community and a flight risk. While the Immigration Court ordered a bond amount greater than we requested, we are happy that he will be able to enjoy freedom while his asylum appeal is adjudicated” explained Mr. Kouadio’s attorney, Craig Relles.

Craig graduated from Pace Law cum laude in 2012. During his time at Pace, Craig was a Student Attorney in the John Jay Legal Services Immigration Justice Clinic. At graduation, Craig received the Clinical Legal Education Association Outstanding Student Award. After graduation, Craig was selected as a fellow at the Pace Community Law Practice, a post-graduate program to develop competent, ethical immigration lawyers, where he worked on a variety of legal issues and cases and also learned the ins and outs of successfully opening your own law practice.

Steven Haskos graduated from Pace Law cum laude in 2011. He was a member of the Pace International Law Review in 2010 and 2011, serving in 2011 as the Case Note and Comment Editor. He began working with Craig in 2014, primarily handling habeas corpus petitions and appellate proceedings at the Board of Immigration Appeals, as well as Petitions for Review in the Second Circuit.  Steven works closely with young immigrants seeking Special Immigrant Juvenile Status and other avenues to legal residence and citizenship.

In 2013, Craig launched the Law Office of Craig Relles with one focus in mind: justice for immigrants. The firm is based in White Plains. Working together with Craig and Steven at the firm is Christina Romano, another Pace Law graduate, 2016 cum laude.

An inspirational career

David Santacroce , '92

Pace Law alum David Santacroce ’92, Clinical Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Experiential Education at the University of Michigan Law School,  is the recipient of the William Pincus Award for Outstanding Service & Commitment to Clinical Legal Education, presented by the AALS section on Clinical Legal Education.

While at Pace Law, David was the Managing Editor of the Pace Law Review and participated in the Access to Health Care/Civil Rights Clinic of John Jay Legal Services. He recently was Chair of the AALS Section on Clinical Legal Education and a member of the Board of Directors of the Clinical Legal Education Association. 

At Pace, in his second year, David was the founding President of Equal Justice America, (EJA) a nonprofit corporation that to this day funds dozens of law students for summer and postgraduate public interest law practice employment – a total of over 4000 Equal Justice American Fellowships for Law Students seeking public interest careers in almost 25 years.  EJA has also established a two-year postgraduate Fellowship with the Dilley Pro Bono Project, providing free representation to detained immigrant mothers and children at the South Texas Family Residential Center, the largest immigrant detention center in the USA and another two-year postgraduate Youth Justice Fellowship at the East Bay Community Law Center, affiliated with Boalt Hall.  In addition, “EJA has raised and paid out more than $11 million in grants and has provided approximately 1.5 million hours of free legal services at programs that work to protect the rights of the poor and has launched similar state-level initiatives in ten states.  EJA still provides important support for Pace Law's EJA Disability Rights Clinic, and David is President of the EJA Board of Directors. 

Congratulations, David. Your work & career are an inspiration.

A Passion for Immigration Law

W. Paul Alvarez, '16

W. Paul Alvarez’s (’16) passion for immigration law is rooted in his own immigration story. Paul was born in Ecuador and later became a naturalized citizen of the United States. "My parents believed that the best chance we had for a better life was to immigrate to the United States. We wanted a chance to live the ‘American Dream’ that we had heard so much about. Therefore, my family settled in New York and we assimilated quickly. However, as assimilated as we were, we were still living unlawfully in this country. My father knew that the key to our survival was to obtain lawful status that would allow us to live freely in this country. Through an employment sponsorship, my father was able to obtain permanent resident status for our family. I knew at that moment that our life had changed because becoming a permanent resident of the United States would open so many different opportunities for my family. There and then I knew that I wanted to help other immigrants achieve the ‘American Dream’ that I was blessed to have been given."

From that point, every educational step that Paul took was with the motivation to become someone who could help others achieve their "American Dream" as he and his family had achieved theirs. Attending SUNY Oneonta, Paul was a political science and Spanish major. He was frequently on the Dean’s List, a member of the pre-law society and President of the fraternity Tau Kappa Epsilon. "I knew that my ultimate journey would be law school."

After receiving his Bachelor’s degree, Paul decided to help run his family owned business, Alvarez Cleaning Service, Inc. To date, he has served as an owner, manager, and bookkeeper for the company. In 2016 he was awarded Business Person of the Year by the Pleasantville Chamber of Commerce. While still working for his family business, Paul also applied for and was offered a paralegal position at Julie Mullaney Attorney at Law, a small law firm in Westchester, focusing on immigration law. "It was great experience. I was able to see what an immigration attorney did from A to Z, ranging from larger issues to day-to-day issues. And, most importantly, it re-solidified my desire to attend law school and become an immigration attorney."

As for choosing Pace Law – "it just made sense," and had everything Paul was looking for – from location in Westchester, but close to New York City to a top-notch immigration law program featuring practical and classroom learning. While at Pace, Paul immersed himself in as much as he was able. "I was a member of the Pace Law Advocacy Honor Board as the Director of Internal Competitions; I participated in every oral advocacy competition that I was able – from immigration, to criminal law, to sports arbitration. I was the president and one of the founding members of the Immigration Law Student Organization, Vice-President of the Public Interest Law Student Organization and the Vice President of the Latin American Law Students Association, a representative for BARBRI, and Admissions Ambassador and Mentor, part of the Faculty-Student band, and player on the Pace intramural soccer team. I looked at every opportunity as a way to broaden my perspective and meet new people. And, I was fortunate to have so many opportunities."

Significantly, while Paul was at Pace he was a student attorney with the Pace Criminal Justice Clinic and the Pace Immigration Justice Clinic. He gained practical, hands-on, real-life, attorney experience through both of these opportunities. "I was doing things in these Clinics that most law students experience for the first time only as admitted attorneys. It was fascinating." His three most influential professors in law school were Vanessa Merton, David Dorfman and Lou Fasulo because each one of them taught him so many important lessons on becoming a zealous attorney that he will carry on for the rest of his career.

Today, Paul is an Associate Attorney at the office of Julie Mullaney Attorney at Law, the same firm that gave him his start as a paralegal before attending Law School. "I have worked in the immigration field as a paralegal, law clerk, and now an attorney for the last ten years. I have experience representing detained and non-detained clients in a variety of immigration matters. While working in the immigration field, one recurring theme that I have observed is the lack of knowledge that immigrants have regarding their rights. It is sad and frustrating to see that the lives of many immigrants are put in jeopardy because they either did not understand the gravity of their situation or they were taken advantage of by "notarios" who prey on the vulnerability of immigrants. My mission has been to guide my clients in the complex immigration matters and to coordinate community outreach programs that inform immigrants about their rights and opportunities for immigration relief. In this very difficult immigration climate, I’m willing to do everything that I can to keep families together."

Paul is also involved in various legal organizations – he is a member of the New York State Bar Association and the Westchester County Bar Association. Within the New York Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) he has served as the Secretary of the Student Liaison Committee and is also a member of the Citizenship Day Committee and a member of the UPL and Ethics Committee.

In his spare time, Paul enjoys spending time with his family and friends. He is die-hard Yankee fan who also roots for the NY Giants and Rangers. He is enjoys playing in recreational soccer and kickball leagues.

Opportunity

Philip Monteiro, '22

Tell me about something you've participated in during your time here that has defined your Pace experience.

The Military Law and Veterans' Society (MILVETS) has been a great experience here at Pace. I have had the pleasure of serving in two roles, first as Veterans' Outreach Coordinator and now as President. I chose to get involved with MILVETS because its mission resonates with me. Several members of my family have served in the military and I have had the honor of providing live Taps at the funerals of many veterans. MILVETS provides networking opportunities with attorneys who are either military lawyers or work with veterans, thus promoting career opportunities for students. 

What have you gotten out of that experience, and how do you expect that it will enable you to pursue your goals beyond Pace?

In MILVETS I have been able to connect with other members of the Pace community. Working to plan and execute club events has provided valuable experience outside the classroom. I have also connected with many knowledgeable and motivated people in the military and veterans' law field. I believe that these experiences will translate into life after law school, since the "real world" values people who can work effectively to produce results.

Is there anything else you'd like to add about your time at Pace?

I've found that anybody can take something and make it their own at Pace. There are ample opportunities for people to shine if they put their heart into it.

Path to Practice

Georganne Ladis, '19

Students can find their passion through various opportunities available at Pace Law. Pace offers opportunities for students to apply their knowledge and skills in practical areas. Through an exciting externship, Georganne had a rewarding experience that shaped her career goals.

Georganne participated in the Honors Prosecution Externship, which is part of the Path to Practice program at Pace. At the Bronx District Attorney’s Office, she worked as a student intern in her spring 2018 semester. She gained vaulable experience through the cases she encountered and the unique insight from her collegues. The Honors Prosecution Externship experience reaffirmed her desire to become a prosecutor.

Georganne continues to improve her skills that will help her when she becomes a prosecutor.  She participates in mock trial to improve her oratory skills and knowledge of criminal procedure. Through the Honors Prosecution Externship experience and commitment to improve her skills, she is placed in an ideal position to pursue her passion.

A Once in a Lifetime Experience

Rafael Wolff, LLM

Since 2006, Rafael Wolff has served as a Federal Judge in Brazil. He is connected to the Fourth Circuit, which is responsible for the southern states of Brazil. “As a Judge, I encounter a variety of legal issues. One that comes up with more frequency is environmental crimes. This is what brought me to Pace Law to pursue my Doctor of Juridical Science (SJD) in Environmental Law.”

Prior to his studies at Pace, Judge Rafael Wolff received a master’s degree (LLM) from the Universidade Federal Fluminense. His dissertation was about undercover agents and, today, it is published as a book in Portuguese.

“The SJD program at Pace is well known throughout Brazil for its excellence in environmental law. Once I decided to further my education, I knew that Pace was the only place to do it.” Admission to the SJD program at Pace is highly competitive, however, with his educational and professional background; Judge Rafael Wolff met all of the criteria necessary for admission.

“Professor David Cassuto was my advisor during my studies at Pace and immediately upon beginning my studies he provided guidance and support.” Fluent in Portuguese, Professor Cassuto is also the director of the Brazil American Institute for Law and Environment (BAILE), a cooperative endeavor with the Getulio Vargas Foundation School of Law in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Judge Rafael Wolff notes that Professor Cassuto worked closely with him to supervise his research and to eventually write and defend a publishable dissertation.

While completing his SJD, Judge Wolff was able to take classes in a variety of areas, including prisoners’ rights, comparative criminal procedure, White Collar Crime, Ocean Law, and more. “The knowledge that was shared with me was beyond my expectations. Professors Cassuto, Mushlin, Griffin, Fentiman, and Powers, to name a few, made each class interesting and contributed significantly to my knowledge base.”

When it came time to choose and research a thesis, Judge Wolff decided to focus on two areas that interest him greatly and intersect:  imprisonment and environmental crimes. His research ultimately culminated in him writing and successfully defending his dissertation, titled “Environmental Crimes and Imprisonment: Does Prison Work to Prevent and Punish Environmental Criminals?” Judge Wolff notes that the completion of his thesis was one of the most challenging academic exercises he has accomplished. “It was hours and hours and months of research and writing. However, at the end, I had a product I knew was well-thought out, made sense, and was interesting. I learned more than I thought possible from the dissertation process and I enjoyed defending my dissertation to the faculty at Pace Law whom I respect so much.”

After receiving his SJD from Pace Law in 2016, Judge Wolff returned to Brazil. “It was a once in a lifetime experience, I gained new friends and colleagues during my studies and I was taught by internationally respected experts and scholars in the field.”

 

Path to Practice

Erika Kissh , '19

Pace Law inspires students to discover their career goals. Erika found her career path in the classroom with the help of professors. Professors at Pace deeply care about the student’s success during and after their law school experience.  

When Erika decided to take Wills, Trusts and Estates with Professor Crawford, she was unaware that it would shape her experience at Pace. During this class, Professor Crawford inspired Erika and she fell in love with this area of law. Erika sought Professor Crawford for academic and career advice. Professor Crawford spent time with Erika selecting classes that would strengthen her skills and increase her knowledge in this area of law. Erika values that students at Pace can find mentors for guidance.

Erika continues to prepare for a career in Estate Planning. She is taking Income Tax Law and Surrogates Practice this semester; she will take Elder Law next semester. With the education and advice provided by faculty, Erika feels confident to achieve her career goals.  

Passion

Nicole DiGiacomo, '19

Students at Pace Law can find their passion through the various opportunities available. Pace offers opportunities for students to apply their knowledge and skills in practical areas. Nicole found rewarding experiences through externships and extracurricular activities.

Nicole has been actively involved at Pace. Through a semester-long externship at the Legal Aid Society of Rockland County, she gained practical legal experience. The externship allowed her to apply the skills learned at Pace, and she became keenly interested in pursuing a career in family law. At Pace, she has been actively working with the American Constitution Society (ACS). She took the initiative to set new goals for the organization and increase its presence on campus. Through this work, she has connected with many students in deeper ways. Nicole states: "ACS has been a rewarding experience that has helped me reach out to other members of the student body.” Proud of being part of the Pace family, she serves as a student mentor to help current and future students.

After graduation, Nicole is looking forward to working in the area of family law. In the meantime, she will continue to connect with other members of the Pace family through her work and inspire other students to take on all the opportunities Pace has to offer.

Passion

Gabriella Mickel, ’23

Tell me about something you've participated in during your time here that has defined your Pace experience.

The Land Use Law Center has defined my Pace experience because it has given me valuable skills, mentors, and experiences. During my 1L year, I was a research volunteer there. I worked with students and professors, whom both became valuable mentors and teachers. My experience as a research volunteer introduced me to environmental law and led to a summer externship at the center as well.

What have you gotten out of that experience, and how do you expect that it will enable you to pursue your goals beyond Pace?

As a 1L volunteer, I learned essential research skills and even published a blog on the school's GreenLaw Blog for the Land Use, Human Health, and Equity Project. During my summer, I've written three more blogs, learned how the New York State Consolidated Funding Application works, and learned a lot about local law and land use.

Is there anything else you'd like to add about your time at Pace?

I am president of the Environmental Law Society and I help run The Jeffrey G. Miller National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition. Additionally, I am on the Pace Environmental Law Review and on an Environmental Policy Hack team with a fellow Haub Scholar. The school's commitment to helping students explore their interests and obtain a comprehensive education is unparalleled.

A One of a Kind Legal Education

Júlio Borges, LLM

Júlio Borges knew from a young age that he wanted to pursue a legal career. “Law was something that I was always interested in and I knew I wanted my career path to reflect that.” Realizing his goals, in 2003 Júlio became a law graduate from the Center of Superior Studies of Maceio (CESMAC), which is located in his hometown of Maceio, Brazil.

After completing his law degree, Júlio became a federal attorney in Brazil.  It was during this time that Júlio began to take his legal education even further. In 2009, he concluded a 2 years’ post-graduation program in public law at the University of Brasilia.  Desiring to further his studies, he pursued admittance to a LLM program. “Completing a LLM program in Environmental Law in a globally well-recognized law school, such as Pace, was a long-time dream of mine. Being admitted to Pace Law, with a generous scholarship, was one of the brightest moments of my life.” 

Júlio fondly remembers his experience in the LLM program at Pace. “At the beginning of my studies, as a native Portuguese speaker, with English and French being my second languages, I was nervous as to how I would keep up. However, I was so lucky to have such amazing professors who guided me along the way.”

While at Pace, Júlio took classes in International Environmental Law taught by Professor Nicholas Robinson. “This is a highly complex legal field that requires an outstanding scholar, such as Professor Robinson to teach it properly. It was an honor to be taught by an internationally leading icon in the field.” Júlio also took classes in administrative law and environmental law, both with Professor Margot Pollans. He describes these two courses as “fundamental” for his understanding about the legal reasoning and methodology of environmental law and policy in the United States. “Professor Pollans was such a dedicated professor and I am so grateful to her. I enjoyed every moment of her classes.”

Part of the LLM program at Pace Law is completing a significant thesis. “The thesis aspect of the degree is time-consuming and intellectually challenging, I do not feel as though I could have completed the program without the guidance of Professor David Cassuto. He was my guide, my reference, throughout the entire LLM program. And, he was my academic supervisor. I wrote my thesis, which was for 6 credits, on a particularly controversial and challenging subject:  the risks of cost-benefit analysis for environmental regulation in Brazil. Professor Cassuto’s ongoing support, during the thesis process and generally, was fundamental to my successful journey at Pace.”

Rounding out his experience at Pace Law were the relationships that Júlio built with his LLM classmates, both American and foreign.  “We shared ideas and learned from one another’s personal experiences. We also all had the wonderful opportunity to study law in the perfect atmosphere that is the Pace Law campus. The entire experience was unforgettable.”

After concluding his LLM at Pace in January 2018, Júlio returned to Brazil and a few short months later and became an associate attorney with the Brazilian EPA’s General Counsel Office. “In this position, I have been leading a division responsible for all national legal strategies and intelligence service on environmental litigation on behalf of the federal agency.”

Júlio remains in touch with many of his fellow LLM classmates and the faculty at Pace Law. “Pace Law has an international reputation for their LLM program and many contacts in Brazil and all over.” When asked if he had advice for any current or future international LLM students, Júlio simply states, “Go to Pace Law! You will receive a one of a kind legal education and learn more than you imagined. The professors and your classmates are your support system and will help you accomplish the goals you set out for yourself.”

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