Success Stories

Faculty Focus: Professor Smita Narula

Haub Distinguished Professor of International Law

Born in New Delhi, Professor Smita Narula spent her childhood in South and Southeast Asia before moving to the United States. Inspired by her parents’ work with the U.N., she knew early on that she wanted to engage in human rights work. After law school, Professor Narula accepted a fellowship at Human Rights Watch and remained with the organization for six years, first as an India researcher, and later as Senior Researcher for South Asia. In these capacities, she helped found India’s National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights and the International Dalit Solidarity Network, organizations dedicated to advancing the right to equality for more than 260 million people affected by caste discrimination worldwide.

She began her academic career as a clinical professor at NYU School of Law where she taught the International Human Rights Clinic and served as Faculty Director for the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice. During her time at NYU, she was appointed legal advisor to the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food. Prior to joining Haub Law in 2018 as the inaugural Distinguished Haub Chair in International Law, Professor Narula was a Distinguished Lecturer and Interim Director of the Human Rights Program at the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute at Hunter College.

Your research interests and areas of expertise include international law, environmental law, food systems law, and human rights law – what is it about those areas that hold your interest?

Broadly speaking, I am interested in the capacity of law to deliver justice and enable systems change. International environmental law and international human rights law each embody a profound vision for who we want to be as a society. These visions are lofty, and their implementation is increasingly urgent, but these international treaties exist in frameworks that often lack enforcement capacity and are embedded in a model of development that is fueled by destructive cycles of extraction, production, consumption, and waste. The environmental and human rights implications of these systems are vast, including in the realm of food. I am drawn to food systems law because how we grow food, and how we treat the people and communities that feed us, holds enormous implications for human rights and for environmental health.

My prior scholarship has focused on the issue of social and economic inequality, its causes and consequences, and the ability of international human rights law to challenge structural discrimination and confront current conditions of economic globalization and development-led displacement. In these articles, I have sought to close gaps in normative and accountability frameworks that undermine effective implementation of human rights guarantees, while simultaneously cautioning that these guarantees cannot be delivered solely through legal platforms or by State actors alone. Rather, these guarantees must be assured through a process of political and social mobilization that in turn compels domestic and global actors to undertake key institutional reforms. I have also developed a considerable body of work on the nexus between law and human rights in South Asia, including the human rights implications of caste systems.

What are some of your current research interests and projects?

My current scholarship explores how social movements are using the narratives and frameworks of food sovereignty and climate justice to address environmental crises, ensure human rights, and inform the trajectory of law from the ground up.

My article “Confronting State Violence: Lessons from India’s Farmer Protests,” was recently published by Columbia Human Rights Law Review. In December 2021, following a year of sustained mass protests, farmers in India forced the repeal of three controversial Farm Laws that attempted to deregulate India’s agricultural sector in service of corporate interests. I argue that these historic protests arose in response not only to the Farm Laws, but also to decades of state-sponsored ecological and economic violence that have relegated millions of Indian farmers to a state of precarity and desperation. I further argue that the protests hold key insights for social movements around the globe, and for the future of food in India and beyond. The article analyzes the farmers’ protests using a four-part paradigm to assess contemporary movements for social change: Roots, Resistance, Reform, and Reconstruction.

My current project seeks to answer the question, “Can a Right to a Healthy Environment Deliver Climate Justice?” Climate justice is a concept used to frame climate change, and its impacts, as an ethical, political, and moral issue, and not just an environmental issue. It does so by relating the effects of climate change to concepts of justice—particularly environmental and social justice—and by recognizing that those who are bearing the brunt of climate change have contributed the least to the climate crisis. The article explores the potential and challenges of using a right to a healthy environment (RTHE), which was recently recognized by the U.N. General Assembly, as a tool to remedy climate injustices. I argue that while a standalone RTHE will not cure some of the structural deficiencies of international human rights law—namely the limits to its extraterritorial application and its inability to hold private actors accountable—it can potentially be used as a tool to compel some high-emitting States to mitigate their greenhouse gas emissions and regulate the activities of fossil fuel companies.

Why did you want to become a professor?

Teaching isn’t something I always knew I wanted to do but once I began (first as an adjunct professor at Columbia University more than 20 years ago) I was hooked. I have also long been engaged in research and writing as a means of exploring and advancing human rights law and its protections. The ability to combine these interests, and to be part of a dedicated community of scholars and practitioners, is something that no other profession affords. I also do not take lightly the responsibility of teaching the next generation of lawyers who have in front of them a formidable task given the various crises we face. My aim is to ensure that our students graduate with the confidence, insight, and legal skills needed to take on these challenges and to do so in a manner that is both impactful and personally fulfilling.

What advice do you have for law students who want to gain experience in human rights law?

I first tell them that the path to practicing human rights law is not always straight forward, and in fact can be quite circuitous. There are many professional experiences that can serve as useful stepping stones toward a human rights career, including pro bono work at a law firm or work with the human rights section of a bar association. I also remind students of the importance of getting their papers published. Publications serve an important credentialing function. They signal one’s interests and expertise to potential employers and, as I remind my students, also help strengthen their own voice while shaping key debates in the human rights field.

An interesting and impressive fact that I learned about you is that you speak five languages – French, Hindi, Spanish, Urdu, and English – tell me more about that and how it has impacted you and your career.

Although English was my first language, I grew up in a Hindi and Urdu speaking household (I also watched a lot of Bollywood films growing up which helped these languages stick!). I learned French and Spanish at the United Nations International School (UNIS) in New York. I feel very lucky to have been exposed to so many languages. It has served me well in my professional work (investigating human rights abuses in India, for example, or advocating for human rights reforms with U.N. member states). And on a more personal level it has deepened my sense of belonging and connection with communities across cultures and borders.

Aside from law, how do you spend your spare time?

Outside of work I enjoy spending time with my family and friends. After so much time having to be apart, being able to be together again feels like a gift, and something we can no longer take for granted. I also enjoy practicing meditation and yoga and listening to music from around the world, which brings me a great deal of joy.

Supporting the Pipeline to Practice

Haub Law is committed to diversifying and advancing the legal profession by exposing, educating, and preparing underrepresented students for careers in law. The Law School aims to advance civic and legal education to empower youth in our community and beyond. Each year, the Law School hosts numerous pipeline programs in partnership with local organizations, government, court systems and legal firms who share our mission.

Pipeline programs are an important part of Haub Law’s Access to Justice Project, which was announced by Dean Horace Anderson in 2020. Pace A2J incorporates curricular, experiential, research, and policy advocacy components, all designed to increase student, faculty and staff engagement in pro bono and community work, and to support the local community in addressing justice gaps. Already, Pace A2J 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.

Verizon Street Law Legal Diversity Pipeline Program

In addition to our annual pipeline programs, Haub Law established two major diversity focused partnerships in 2022-23.

Verizon Street Law Program

In March 2023, Haub Law students partnered with attorneys from Verizon to deliver its Street Law Legal Diversity Pipeline Program, a global program aiming to advance civic and law education to empower youth. The four-part program included classroom workshops on law-related topics at New Rochelle High School, culminating with a full-day capstone experience at the Law School.
The program was spearheaded by Haub Law alumnus Jerome Silber ’83, Vice President & Deputy General Counsel, Verizon Business Group. Sibler, along with six volunteer attorneys from across Verizon’s legal department, has been running the program for five years. Verizon currently supports Street Law programs in 11 cities, and has reached out to Haub Law to expand its Westchester County program.

“Our partnership with Haub Law was a natural fit,” said Silber. “I’ve enjoyed reconnecting with my alma matter and the law students have been such an asset to our program. They bring a fresh perspective on the curriculum we’ve developed and are great role models for high school students. It has been a rewarding experience for all of us to teach young people in our community about the law and legal profession. Our goal is to provide a support system to help them get where they need to go.”

In coordination with the host teacher from New Rochelle High School, eight Haub Law students joined the Verizon attorneys to prepare and teach classes on Immigration Law, Advertising Law, and Search and Seizure to 20 students enrolled in a business law class.

During the seminars, students examined different areas of the law and engaged in discussion and role playing, acting out scenarios such as reasonable search and seizure during a routine traffic stop based on the Fourth Amendment. They learned how to evaluate truthful vs deceptive advertisements and to determine what kind of immigration visa is required for different situations.

The class took a trip to the Law School for the final capstone of the program, which included workshops where students prepared arguments on each topic and presented before a panel of judges. As part of the day’s agenda, students enjoyed a tour of the Law School and casual career conversations with law students, faculty, and Verizon lawyers.
“Programs like this are so important to educate students to know and understand the law, and to be empowered to use it,” said Haub Law Dean Horace Anderson. “We are thrilled to support partners like Verizon who share our commitment to addressing the dearth of diversity in the legal profession and who devote their energy on impactful ways that can improve access to justice
in our community.”

The Honorable Robert A. Katzmann Justice For All: Courts and the Community Initiative

White Plains Court

The second diversity-focused partnership is with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Named The Honorable Robert A. Katzmann Justice For All: Courts and the Community Initiative,
the civic education project of the Second Circuit federal courts, was launched by the late Second Circuit Chief Judge Robert A. Katzmann in 2014. The two-part program brings students first to
the federal courthouse and then to a law school.

The first part of the program was held on November 10, 2022, at the federal courthouse in White Plains, and featured speakers including U.S. Attorney Damian Williams, Westchester County
District Attorney Mimi Rocah, and several federal judges from the Southern District of New York.

The “Day in Law School” was the second segment of a two-part immersive experience designed to provide Westchester high school students with opportunities to learn about the law and the legal system, including careers in that system. On March 24, 2023, the Second Circuit, Haub Law, and the White Plains Youth Bureau’s Community Youth Court held an event at the Law School for high school students throughout Westchester County and beyond.

U.S. Circuit Judge Joseph F. Bianco and Haub Law Dean Horace Anderson welcomed high school students to the Law School, where they engaged with law students and faculty, toured the Law School campus, participated in a mock law school class taught by Professor Emily Gold Waldman, took part in a Supreme Court argument simulation, and heard from a variety of speakers, including former New York Jets player, and now New York City-based attorney, Michael Catapano. The two-part program is the first of its kind for the Second Circuit.


Scales of Justice Academy

The Scales of Justice Academy was founded in 2009 by Haub Law Adjunct Professor the Honorable La Tia W. Martin, New York State Supreme Court Justice. Each year, promising young women from diverse backgrounds are selected to participate in this two-week program, which is designed to inspire future educational paths that might lead to careers in the law.

Mock Legislature Event

Haub Law participated in a Mock Legislature event with Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins’ Youth Advisory Council, at the New York State Judicial Institute. The event provided hands-on experience in the State legislative and democratic process for Westchester County youth, promoting skills that foster civic engagement.


The New York Legal Education Opportunity Program, organized by the Hon. Kathie E. Davidson of the New York State Judicial Institute, returned to the Haub Law campus this past summer. The intense six-week program promotes academic success in law school for those historically under- represented in the legal profession. Haub Law welcomed five of the program’s 2022 graduates to its class of 2025 this past fall.

Law Day

Haub Law hosted the White Plains Youth Bureau’s Youth Court Law Day 2022, bringing together bright and ambitious students with a passion for social justice to learn about the field of law. Students had a chance to meet law leaders including Westchester District Attorney Mimi Rocah and Dean Horace Anderson, as well as law students who joined a career panel to provide advice about law school.

Basil Seggos '01

Change-Agent for Humanity

From a young age, Basil Seggos ’01 was always interested in the outdoors and with nature itself. As he went through high school, and college, he gained a greater appreciation of the amount of injustice in the world and was motivated to be a part of the effort to try to help resolve some of these issues, specifically environmental issues being faced by people and by the planet. Law school proved to be the perfect fit for him, and he was able to merge his passion for the environment with his sense of and desire for justice. Appointed in 2015, Basil Seggos ’01 is the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner. Today, he leads an agency of over 3,000 professionals and is the longest serving DEC Commissioner.

You have accomplished so much as DEC Commissioner, what are you most proud of?

I am most proud of the passage of the state’s climate law and the work we have done to begin its implementation. That would be number one. Number two is rebuilding the agency and reinjecting a sense of purpose through a bolder agency budget, increased staff, and a modernized mission for the challenges over the horizon. DEC was heavily impacted by the economic downturn of the late 2000s. It took the better part of eight years to rebuild the agency to where it is now. Number three is securing billions of dollars for water quality infrastructure across the state. Starting with almost no grant money for infrastructure when I first took this job, we now have a nearly $5 billion grant fund, and the largest revolving loan program in the country. Number four is bringing a sense of environmental justice into the everyday work we do as an agency. This includes helping to guide the agency in a positive way and ensuring we are making decisions and investments with the goal of righting the wrongs of the past. Finally, the last thing would be keeping New York at the lead of important environmental issues, whether it is climate, water, emerging contaminants, or environmental justice. We have set the tone nationally for many important initiatives. And, while we haven’t solved all the state’s legacy issues, we are on the right track.

Basil Seggos '01

You were instrumental in the passage of the state’s nation-leading climate change law, the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act – how did you achieve that tremendous milestone?

We are confronting an existential crisis, so the questions are: what do we do about it? What actions can we take to address the crisis and reduce burdens on front line communities while keeping the state economically competitive? Those questions served as the foundation for the law, and it will likely be one of the most challenging undertakings in state history. We’re now in the implementation phase, and while we develop new policies and investment programs, we’re also doubling down on communicating with New Yorkers. Change of any kind is difficult and change on this scale and in this polarized environment can be frightening if we don’t emphasize constant communication and stakeholder engagement. It was important for us to lay the groundwork in a collaborative way and ensure that the various stakeholder groups had a voice. We worked with environmental justice groups, industries, unions, businesses, and local government officials to create a groundswell of stakeholders who would help craft and implement solution. Goals and targets are critical, but ultimately, the process needs to be collaborative and empowering.

How did you ultimately choose the law as a career and specifically Haub Law?

I was working at the NRDC after college, specifically with the urban environmental team and I got to know a bit about Haub Law. There were some Haub Law professors who were active with the NRDC and they encouraged me to think about law school. It was the perfect opportunity to create a career centered on justice and the environment. I’m so glad that I chose Haub Law.

Which professors at Haub Law had the biggest impact on you?

I distinctly remember Karl Coplan, he was the toughest and most outstanding professor I ever had. Karl managed the Environmental Litigation Clinic at the time, and no one had a better handle of the science, facts, and the law—if you were in his clinic, you better come prepared. He very effectively put students into challenging situations and helped us learn how to become attorneys. And then of course there was Nick Robinson, an absolute legend. He was my first environmental law professor. He had a global view of the law and understanding of how to use environmental law and policy to improve lives. Ann Powers was another terrific professor. All three of them took great care and interest in their students.

What were some of your most impactful experiences during your time at Haub Law?

My time in the environmental litigation clinic was certainly formative and challenging. We students were quickly immersed in real-life cases. During my first two weeks in the clinic, I was handed a case that was headed towards an appeal in federal court. It forced me to evolve from being a mere student into a young practitioner with real clients, briefs and appearances in court. Professor Karl Coplan quickly prepared me for that opportunity. That was the first time that I really felt the ability of a person to impact change in a meaningful way in a court of law.

Basil Seggos 01

What are your thoughts on New York’s recently passed Green Amendment?

One of the things I take away from it is the fact that New Yorkers value the environment—they went the polls and said yes, the protection of the environment should be enshrined in the state’s constitution. As someone who works on the environment every day in New York, I take pride in knowing that New Yorkers value these issues. Now, the courts will ultimately decide what the green amendment means. There are several cases working their way through the courts to determine the implications of the amendment.

You have an active presence on social media – how do you feel that social media helps to push forward movements for change?

Social media has been an important tool to advance environmental progress. From spreading awareness of issues to galvanizing movements, we’re fortunate to have these tools to help knit us together as a society. In the same breath, social media can also be divisive, and it is often rife with misinformation, and often much worse. There has to be a balance. Use social media as one of the ways to rapidly and widely communicate with the public, but don’t let it supplant the obligation to get out of one’s seat, hit the ground, and be present to speak to people face to face—and listen to what they have to say.

What do you feel is the biggest misconception about climate change law?

The biggest misconception about climate change law is that action is incompatible with progress. That it is hostile to jobs. And the economy. I believe it is the exact opposite. A state or nation that safeguards its environment ultimately protects its economy. All of our climate initiatives are part of a larger theme of progress for New York State.

How did you build equity into the climate law?

Equity and justice are at the heart of the climate law. The law requires us to hit our statewide emissions reduction targets, but it also requires us to ensure we are investing at least 35% of our environmental investments- with a higher goal of 40%- in our frontline communities. We have extended that beyond climate law to our water funding and the recently passed $4.2 billion Bond Act. The status quo of inequity is unacceptable, and it may take years to unpack this and do better for all New Yorkers. It means putting a greater emphasis on equity, now, focusing our work where the conditions have been the worst so we can reverse fortunes and improve health and people’s lives. That is the greatest takeaway of the climate act – the trajectory it has put us on. We now have an ability to truly improve lives of millions of New Yorkers, especially those who have been historically marginalized.

Basil Seggos in Ukraine

In the fall of 2022, you took a leave of absence to go to Ukraine to aid in humanitarian efforts as as the Russian invasion was escalating. You recently went back on another humanitarian mission. What were those experiences like?

When Russia invaded Ukraine, I felt compelled to act. For me it wasn’t enough to speak out on the outrage of the invasion of a democratic ally. I couldn’t just sit on the sideline. I had the ability to go the extra step to provide just a little bit of help where it was needed. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to link up with some veteran and humanitarian groups who were bringing aid into the country, so I went over in the fall and became an ambulance driver for 2 weeks, all the way to the front. And I just returned from another two weeks behind the wheel of an ambulance. Our group also built playgrounds, repaired a roof on a recently bombed community center and provisioned some orphanages. I don’t believe any of us slept during those missions, it was intense. I saw the worst and best of humanity at the same time. We worked in villages that were completely shattered, apartment blocks with massive holes in them, craters in farm fields, people fleeing the invasion, babies left without parents, and yet the Ukrainians were so strong and optimistic for their future. Seeing the resilient Ukrainians and their appreciation for the global outpouring of support for their cause was inspiring. All of us can and should help in our own way, whether on the ground in Ukraine or from the states. And there is so much demand for legal assistance, whether in documenting war crimes or helping displaced persons piece their lives back together. Lawyers and law students can always play an important role to help stabilize the impacts of conflict. Getting involved in the cause of Ukraine has been life changing.

Many of our students participate in summer internships with the DEC and over the years, the DEC has employed many Haub Law graduates – what makes our students stand out?

Haub Law students are always the best prepared lawyers when they come into this agency. Because they have gone to Haub Law they are also driven by a sense of commitment to the environment. And they come in with that energy, passion, and knowledge and quite often they have gone through one of the clinics and with practical experience. If I have a choice between a Haub Law student and comparable student from a different school, my instinct is to go with the Haub Law student because I know that person will excel. Right now, in my office, we have at least 19 Haub Law graduates in our counsel’s office and in other leadership positions in the agency. A Haub Law graduate is also serving as Assistant Counsel to the Governor for the environment portfolio.

What advice would you give to a student who wants to pursue a career in environmental law?

It is the most exciting time ever to get into a career in the environment given the scale of regulation and investment in climate action, environmental justice, and environmental infrastructure. Whether you are going in to work at a firm, a company, non-legal work, or in policy, it is an extraordinarily busy field. We need the best minds on this given the scale of the challenge.

Your wife, Rose, is a 2004 graduate of Haub Law – did you meet in law school, and does she share your same passion for the outdoors and environment?

Rose and I met because of our shared passion for the environment. We had the chance to work together on a case when she was a student in Haub Law’s Environmental Litigation Clinic and I was with Riverkeeper, so it is fair to say that we owe our relationship to the negligence of a polluter (whom we brought to justice). We both love the outdoors and do our best to adventure with our family in some wild and beautiful places. She’s just as dedicated as I am to ensuring that we can bequeath to our kids a clean and healthy planet.

What are some of your hobbies outside of your profession?

Dad time. I spend most of my free time with my kids coaching their lacrosse teams, supporting their sport or art interests, and spending lots of time outside. Boating. Hiking. Fishing. Skiing. I spend my own time running, watching the Yankees, and restoring my old house. And I love reading-- nonfiction exclusively. Reality is more interesting than fiction, and history is always there to teach us about the present and the future.

Julie Tokar '24

Out of this World Ambition

Julie Tokar has always had a passion for justice and knew from an early age that she wanted to pursue a career in law. After graduating from college in three years, Julie studied for the LSAT during COVID and decided Haub Law was the place for her. Now, she is a rising 3L who is pursuing an Advanced Certificate in International Law and just completed an internship with NASA. Learn more about Julie and her law school experience in this Q&A. 

Can you tell us a bit about your background?

My parents are from Eastern Europe and migrated to the US for a better life. My older sister and I were born in New York and raised in New Jersey. We are the only ones in our families to graduate from university and I am the only one in my family to attend law school.

What was it about Haub Law that interested you?

Haub Law really drew me in because I wanted to be close to home and have opportunities to practice law in New Jersey and New York. I also fell in love with the campus, it feels like a close community.

Which classes have stood out to you so far? 

Professor Bennett Gershman’s Evidence course has been my favorite so far. His classroom experience is unlike anything else – even though cold-calling can be scary, it is an experience unique to law school, which all law students can bond over. Professor Gershman’s class in particular is a very  interactive class and he makes what can be a difficult course, a fun and intense learning experience.

This past Spring you completed the Legal Honors Internship with NASA, what was that experience like?  

It was wonderful. I assisted the Office of the General Counsel with various legal issues that occur within the Agency, which touched on intellectual property law, ethics, international law, and more. I spent a lot of time researching and analyzing international space law agreements, which was fascinating. During my internship, I was working on a research project, and it ended up connecting to a law review note that I was working on. I was able to reach out and connect directly with the international attorneys over at NASA's headquarters office and one of the space law agreements that I decided to write on happens to be one that those attorneys drafted themselves. 

What do you hope to do after Law School? 

I am pursuing my Advanced Certificate in International Law and I hope to continue my career path in international law. My opportunity with NASA was a step towards pursuing that goal as I worked with their international law attorneys at the Headquarters and Kennedy Space Center.

What advice would you give to future law students? 

I think it is important to take the time away from studying and reading textbooks to spend quality time with family and friends. It's important to have a break from law school. The books can wait (sometimes.)! I would also tell new 1Ls to work and do law school at their own pace and not focus on what others are doing.

From the Classroom to the Bench

Justice Joseph Suarez ‘80

After spending 30 years on the bench, Haub Law alumnus Justice Joseph Suarez has recently retired. Born in Cuba, Justice Suarez attended City College in New York while working as an electrical worker in NYC Transit to help support his family. After a tragedy hit home, he and his fiancée became guardians of three children. “I had a responsibility to my family and at that point, I knew I had to support them,” said Suarez. “I decided that obtaining my teaching license would be prudent and I started a career as a science teacher in the South Bronx.” During that time, Justice Suarez supplemented his teaching salary as a S.E.C. registered Investment Adviser and Tax preparer and continued his educational studies, ultimately receiving an MBA in finance from Baruch. With a passion for learning and a drive to go further, he ultimately pursued and obtained a MS in Educational Administration and a NYS license as a District Administrator.   

“By the time I had started thinking about law school, I had moved my family to Rockland County,” Suarez recalled. “I was interested in law, I truly enjoyed being a student, and there was a competitive value of a law degree that was appealing.” Ultimately, he was accepted to a number of law schools, but once he heard that Pace was to open a law school in White Plains, the choice was made. “It was the perfect circumstances for me. I would not have to commute far, and I could attend at night.”  

Once enrolled at what was then known as Pace Law School, Justice Suarez immersed himself in his legal studies. “Immediately I knew I was in the right place. And, fortunately, despite having a young family, I had the unwavering support of my wife, Della, without which none of this would have been possible.” During his time at Pace, Justice Suarez recalls the many professors who helped him along the way. “I was most impressed by Professor Jay Carlisle, Professor Bennett Gershman, and the late Ralph Stein. Their passion and skills for imparting knowledge on the particular subject matter was amazing.”  

After graduating from Pace in 1980, Justice Suarez remained very involved with the School, serving as a member of the alumni association for thirteen years, as president, treasurer, and on various committees of the association. “I developed strong friendships with classmates during my time at Pace. We all fostered a mutual sense of wanting to give back to Pace through our involvement, which included scholarships, outreach to minorities, and more.”

Once he was admitted to the bar, Justice Suarez accepted the position of District Director of Management Services in his South Bronx School District. When the position of labor negotiator for Rockland County became available, he applied and became the first Hispanic Assistant County Attorney in the process. During this time, he also helped found the Village of Chestnut Ridge, becoming the Village Attorney for the first 6 years of its operation and serving as the first Hispanic Village Attorney in the County. 

With a passion for involvement in community causes, Justice Suarez was deeply involved with the Haverstraw community, helping to form: the Hispanic Coalition of Rockland County, the Alliance of Latino Leaders; and HOGAR (Home), an organization which focused on establishing first-time home buyers. Ultimately, through HOGAR, Justice Suarez helped close for nearly 200 families, over the years.  “Giving back to the Hispanic community has always been a passion and priority of mine.”  

It was in 1992 when the Acting Village Justice of Chestnut Ridge moved away that the mayor asked him to assume the position of Acting Village Justice and he accepted- becoming the first Hispanic judge in the Hudson Valley. For the next nearly 5 years, Justice Suarez served in that capacity. With a need for a second justice, it was in 1997 that Justice Suarez was elected to fill that role and since then, he has been re-elected continuously. “Being on the bench was not something I foresaw all those years ago when I was pursuing different educational paths and degrees. My career and the path of my career has been circuitous and rewarding. The ability to effect change, and ensure justice is served, has been life changing. It was the honor of my lifetime to have served in that capacity.”  

Now that he is retired, Justice Suarez looks forward to taking the time to reflect on how he can efficiently effect positive change. “I am excited for the next chapter, connecting with friends, spending time with family, and a Havanese puppy we recently got, who takes up much of our time. I also look forward to continuing my work with the Hudson Valley Hispanic Bar Association.” 

Celebrating 25 Years in DC

And Recognizing the Professor Who Made it Possible

Twenty-five years ago, what was then known as Pace Law School launched a summer Environmental Law Externship program in Washington, DC. Beyond giving students direct experience with environmental law and policy, one of the key goals of the externship from the outset, as described by Professor of Law Emerita Ann Powers and champion of the program, was “to introduce students to the lawyer’s role as responsible, ethical decision-maker, with an emphasis on the special discretion of the government lawyer.” In 1997, students experienced an intensive “bootcamp” on environmental law taught by environmental legal pioneer and Pace Law Adjunct Professor David Sive. In DC they worked as externs and took a seminar taught by Adjunct Professor Steve Solow, formerly Co-Director of the Law School’s environmental litigation clinic and then Chief of the Department of Justice’s Environmental Crimes Section. Today Professor Solow is a partner at Baker Botts and still at the helm of this impactful and transformational program.

DC on a Boat 1999

Over his tenure, Professor Solow has recruited five co-professors, all Pace alumni. One former student turned co-professor, Robyn Emeson, who serves as Senior Assistant Regional Counsel in the Regulatory Enforcement Section of EPA’s Denver Regional, credits her time in the externship program as refining her introspective approach to the practice of environmental law. She recalls that “from day one, Professor Solow taught his students to critically analyze the happenings around us in our practices, no matter what the context, and to periodically take pause to ensure our actions align with how we want to be remembered one day as lawyers, colleagues, and neighbors.” Former co-professor Lauren Bachtel, now in private practice after spending the beginning of her career in the Department of the Interior’s Office of the Solicitor, credits Solow as “one of the main reasons the DC Externship is so special. His experience, energy, and inquisitive nature made every class very exciting and rewarding.” Another co-professor, Lauren Fischer, notes that “Steve is the consummate teacher/mentor whose wisdom and guidance provides Pace students with critical lessons on how to avoid life’s potential pitfalls and achieve excellence.”

2010 DC

Current co-professor Kristen DeWire, a student when the program celebrated its 15th anniversary, reflected on the “profound” effect the program had on her career – “[i]nterning at the EPA and meeting many of the alumni practicing environmental law in the DC area opened my eyes to the wide range of opportunities in environmental practice. The experience was instrumental in my decision to return to DC to pursue a career in government service.” Professor DeWire is currently Senior Counsel of the EPA Environmental Appeals Board.

Not surprisingly, Professor Solow notes the crucial role of alumni participation and engagement. The list is dozens long of former externs who come back to support and give advice to the current class. Anne Carpenter, a former extern who then spent the last 15 years working alongside Steve in private practice regularly comes back to guest lecture once every summer; former Dean of the Environmental Law Program Alexandra Dunn also joins the class and helps open doors. In the truest proverbial sense, the DC externship program is a village. Professor Solow also credits the large network of attorneys at DOJ, EPA, Interior, the Coast Guard, FERC and elsewhere who have opened the door to Pace externs.

2011 DC

A member of the 2019 summer class, Anxhela Mile, says it was the deep relationships she was able to build with classmates and alumni from different sectors of the environmental law field that expanded her understanding of what opportunities may exist after graduation, and helped her career trajectory towards becoming a practicing climate change lawyer.

Danielle Schreiber, a participant in the 2010 summer session says that the DC externship was by far her favorite class in law school and that “Unlike traditional lectures, the DC Externship Program provides students with practical advice based on the real world legal experience they are getting over the summer. Having Steve’s expertise navigating issues relating to the public interest and tying in his private practice experience is invaluable.”

Another former student, Zaheer Tajani, who was recently appointed by the Department of the Interior as Senior Advisor for Oversight, remarks that even when it was not immediately apparent, the connections that Professor Solow helped foster with established environmental law professionals and peers alike built a network of support which would scaffold future professional success in both the public and private sectors.

In a region where there is huge competition for positions, Pace students are in the mix in part because of this growing network of Haub graduates. Professor Solow recalls that when he came to DC in 1997, he didn’t see enough Pace alumni in the environmental agencies and government offices. In his view, the biggest change over the last 25 years is how Pace students are received in the DC marketplace – they are recognized for a combination of practical skills, solid research know-how, and agency savvy, often gained through the DC program. He believes that the success of so many of his former students has helped in its own way to keep the Environmental Law Program atop the rankings for so long.

An example of how the extern program’s network impact continues to grow is the story of Samuel Capasso. A student in the 2008 summer session, Capasso is now a mentor and supervisor in his role as Branch Chief of the Community Infrastructure Resilience Branch in FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Assistance Division. Capasso notes that “The DC Externship program gave me the confidence to apply for DC jobs. I learned I was up to the task of serving the people of the United States and it helped me set working at FEMA Headquarters, where I now am a leader, as a career goal. I’m proud to pay this experience forward to new students!” Capasso received the 2022 Nicholas Robinson Award for Distinguished Environmental Achievement from the Law School.

2022 DC

Since its inception, over 225 students have participated in the Environmental Law DC Summer Extern Program. They all received the training and mentorship from Professor Solow in this programs format that Professor Powers describes as “especially effective, complementing and enriching the students’ more traditional academic experience.” Professor Robyn Emeson adds that “for 25 unwavering years, [Steve] has remained a phenomenal mentor and advocate for law students, making his mark as a foundational pillar of the Law School’s DC Externship program.”

As he prepares for the 26th summer class, Professor Solow describes how the class helps students explore the real-world issues they face. From negotiating for better work assignments and dealing with ethical dilemmas as government or private-sector attorneys, to addressing issues such as environmental justice and navigating government bureaucracies. Separately, he looks forward to the continued expansion of the Law School’s network in Washington DC.

Faculty Focus

Professor David Dorfman

Whether you walk into Professor Dorfman’s office or classroom, you will leave having learned more about the world and society then you even knew was possible. Professor David Dorfman has been a faculty member at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University for 28 years. When Professor Dorfman first started teaching at what was then known as Pace Law in 1995, he was teaching Criminal Law Research and Writing. Today, Professor Dorfman teaches Criminal Procedure and Investigation, First Year Criminal Law, and New York Criminal Procedure - a course he designed himself.  In the past he has also taught Lawyering and Professional Responsibility. In addition to his doctrinal teaching, Professor Dorfman has been running the Law School’s Criminal Defense Clinic since 2010. Learn more about Professor Dorfman’s background, legal journey, and more in this candid Q&A.

Q: What made you choose to go into a career in criminal law, specifically defense work?

A: This is a long story, but here we go. It is not like I always wanted to be a lawyer. I grew up in the city, specifically in a Mitchell-Lama Co-Op in Long Island City, Queens. In that section of Queens, there was a lot of street action and a number of the kids I hung around with got into legal problems. I was fortunate not to get into trouble and I attribute this to my parents. I was raised in a politically radical family, meaning they were always very politically involved. This dated back to the Great Depression. I was raised to think about poor people and people of color and the extent to which the criminal “justice” system and the “system” in general puts certain people in a real disadvantaged situation. I was raised to not trust the police or the system itself. Living in NYC, I witnessed firsthand some police brutality and how rough it was for those with a different skin color. I, myself, was the “right color” and did not experience the same treatment. Regardless, I always cared for the kids that I ran around with.

During my last year and a half of law school, I worked at a law office which worked white collar cases. Typically, the firm focused on crooked broker dealers on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. This was essentially representing rich crooks and helping them keep their ill-gotten money in their pockets. I realized I wanted to help people in need, not represent rich people and aid them in getting richer. Around this time, the Legal Aid Society of New York City was conducting interviews in Chicago and I decided after 9 years in Chicago it was time to come home. I had my second interview with Legal Aid when I came back to New York. I was interviewed by the head of the Legal Aid Criminal Defense Practice, Cesar Cirigliano, and I quickly realized this was not an average interview, this was a “get to know you” op. This was 1987, there was a huge spike in crime rates in New York City and there was a desperate need for lawyers. The Legal Aid Society had their largest hiring year when they hired me. I requested to work in Brooklyn as it was close to family and friends, and I was pretty familiar with the area.

I worked as a criminal defense lawyer for the Legal Aid Society in Brooklyn for six plus years and enjoyed every minute of it. Criminal law practice back then meant constantly being in a courtroom and arguing, fighting, trying cases. I thrived on the hustle. To be completely honest, I still think of my Legal Aid job as the best job I ever had, it was just amazing. My last couple years at Legal Aid I was doing, along with the more senior trial lawyers, mostly major offense cases; this meant I took some of the hardest cases in the office many of which went to trial because plea bargains were terrible back then. In two consecutive years, I tried ten to twelve jury trials each year, so you do the math. This sort of pace was not uncommon back then for a senior trial lawyer. Each trial could take about two-three weeks so I did about 25 to 30 weeks of jury trials out of a 52 week year. Also add in the regular night arraignments, for which we would get compensatory time (not overtime).  My life and that of my colleagues was arraignments, constant court appearances, trials and a month and a half vacation (using up that compensatory and vacation time), rinse, repeat. It was easy to burn out and trust me, I came close, but I loved the work and being in court every day. Among other things, I came to believe plea bargaining was just negotiating the terms of surrender. I’m sure you can tell, I am very competitive and like many of my Legal Aid colleagues chose to fight the system and (hopefully) win the case instead of backing down and settling. I believe everybody deserves to have someone fight for them and I guess sometime along the way I decided I wanted to be that person. This was very much the ethic of that office.

That was a really long answer to your question, but long story-short, I chose criminal law because doing public defense work allowed me to represent the people I grew up with, it fit my personality and my politics, and I like the battle because I am very competitive.

Q: Did you ever consider working on the other side in prosecution?

A: After taking the LSATs and getting into Chicago Kent College of Law, I first wanted to be a poverty lawyer, I didn’t know what a poverty lawyer did – all I knew was I wanted to help folks. Eventually, I took trial advocacy and my professor was a prosecutor. I took to advocacy fairly naturally and the professor told me I should pursue trial work because I “have a big mouth.” As I continued through law school, it became very clear to me I wanted to be a defense attorney because becoming a prosecutor was very much adverse to how I was raised. Oddly enough, I went to the State’s Attorney’s Office of Cook County for a job interview. The Assistant State’s Attorney at the time asked what my attitude toward the death penalty was and I honestly said I would refuse to prosecute a capital case. At that point, the two of us knew the interview was over, but we continued to talk until our allotted time was over.

Q: How did your parents feel about you going into law?

A: My father was a writer; he wrote comic books and juvenile fiction. My mother was a school teacher and my brother and sister were both artists. My father died when I was 19, so he never got to see me become a lawyer. I think he would appreciate my work because when he was younger, he was a union organizer. I think he had the same kind of fight in him when he was young and he would have related to my career path.

My mom was ambivalent because no one in my family was a lawyer. I don’t think she or my siblings understood the appeal of verbally fighting all the time and being competitive because it was not who they were. As I mentioned before, my family was radical when it came to politics and they loved to argue those kinds of issues, but going to court and the idea of wearing a suit was just not them. Eventually, I think they all came to appreciate it.

Q: Is there a case or moment in your career that stands out to you?

A: Oh yes, there are a lot of them. One in particular that stands out was a case I had when I was doing major offenses. This was back in the early 1990s, my client Casey was charged with armed robbery. This was not Casey’s first charge, he had four priors all for armed robbery. Due to his priors, he was charged as a mandatory persistent felon and if convicted he would be facing 25 years to life in prison.

Casey was a great guy, I liked him a lot. He was sent to Riker’s Island for detention because he could not make bail—bail was many thousands of dollars. It took a while to get to trial back then so by the time we got in front of a jury, Casey had already spent close to two years in Riker’s. During the time that we awaited trial, I thoroughly investigated the case and was convinced Casey was innocent, that the prosecutor’s case was flawed, that the only reason Casey was charged and not afforded a deal was because of his record. I also learned Casey had changed his life – he worked at the transit authority and had a young family whom he was trying to support. Casey was a soft spoken guy, nice to talk to, an absolute sweetheart – you could not square his personality with his terrible record. I looked at Casey’s record a little more carefully and noticed he had copped a plea on every case, even those when he claimed he was innocent. He had always gotten a pretty good deal, but this time there was no decent deal to be had and he needed to go to trial. Despite turning his life around, Casey felt like a loser and was understandably scared of trial.

Regardless of how Casey felt, trial was really our only option. At the hearing to suppress the lineup, the district attorney brought in the victim of the robbery to testify, to prove independent source because the lineup was very flawed. This hearing gave me the chance to play out the entire cross examination without a jury, to see how good of a witness the victim was. It turns out, he had been drinking the night of the robbery and even though there was good lighting, the robber’s face was backlit meaning his face was somewhat obscured. Additionally, the victim admitted that during the 10 minutes the robbery took place that he had been staring at the gun because he was so scared, and not the robber’s face. This was all good information to hear prior to going to trial in front of a jury. After this, Casey finally started to gain some courage and confidence. The other thing we had in our back pocket, was an alibi. Casey was married with kids, but he was having an affair. His mistress was a girlfriend from a long time ago and she had been with him at the time of the robbery. When I interviewed her, she confirmed the alibi in detail. Typically, a mistress would not the best alibi, but she had no incentive to lie because she now hated Casey for leaving her for his wife. The mistress admitted part of her wanted him to be convicted and sent upstate.

I knew putting on an alibi was always a dangerous move, but I loved the ex-girlfriend as a witness so much, and I knew she was rock solid on the facts. Typically, a jury will view an alibi witness warily, and will effectively shift the burden of proof to the defense. The burden to prove an alibi is one of the hardest burdens to carry. So, after the People’s case and their one witness identification evidence, I put the ex-girlfriend on the stand and the DA walked straight into the trap. He asked if she was going to lie for the person she loved and her response was, “I wouldn’t lie for that scumbag after the way he treated me.” It was absolutely perfect and when all was said and done, we got an acquittal. At the time of the verdict, I said to the judge “I move to have my client released right now.” It was typically protocol back then to bring the prisoner back to Riker’s to collect his possessions while Corrections did one final search through the system to make sure there were no other holds on him. It could create hours of delay.  That day, the judge said he was not sending Casey back to Riker’s and instead told the Corrections officers to do their search for holds on the court computers. The computers were old at the time so this search took about an hour to an hour and a half. Needless to say, Casey had no other holds and was released from the courtroom. As we were going down the elevators in the old Schermerhorn Street courthouse, I turned to Casey and said “you haven’t eaten since lunch what do you want for dinner? What do you want to eat?” Casey said “I would love a really good hamburger.” We walked to a place called Grand Canyon Hamburgers and as we walked down the street in Brooklyn Heights, Casey was walking like a man on the moon and he was crying. Casey ordered a double hamburger with all the fixings. He was eating this burger like a man who hasn’t eaten in two years. He was slobbering and drooling. Quite frankly, it was embarrassing, but this is a guy who genuinely thought he was going to go back to Riker’s and then up to the Canadian border for the rest of his life.

This was very powerful. It reminded me of why I did this job. I don’t think I changed Casey’s life – the case lined up, the judge was fair, the alibi was amazing. I was just a part of something and it was really very meaningful for this guy who was a truly good person to finally find justice. Casey never needed my help again and we stayed in touch for a period of time, but at a certain point something about talking to me reminded Casey of all of the bad things and that part of his life that he wanted to close the door on, that long terrible chapter of his life. We haven’t connected since. Casey’s case was truly one of the most powerful experiences I have ever had.

Q: What made you want to become a professor and how did you start your career at Haub Law?

A: A friend of mine named Andy worked at NYU as a Lawyering professor and said I would be perfect for teaching. I applied to work at NYU for their Lawyering program – it was not a tenure track position, but it was a full-time contract professor position that capped out at three years. It was at NYU that I got the teaching bug. Anthony Amsterdam, the former Dean of Clinical Education at NYU, was my mentor and I learned how to teach from him. I stayed at NYU for 2 years. In 1995, I was hired and then started working at what was then called Pace Law on the tenure track. There was no separate Legal Skills course when I arrived. The school instead had a class that was comprised of Criminal law with a writing and research component incorporated into it. It was a perfect fit for me, and I taught this class for about 5-6 years exclusively. Eventually, the school realized I could teach other things. I started teaching Criminal Procedure and Investigation, the Lawyering/Simulations course with Professor Lissa Griffin, and Professional Responsibility. Around 2002, the woman who used to run the Criminal Defense Clinic, Adele Bernhard, took a year off and I took over the clinic in her absence. A year later when Adele came back, I still stayed somewhat connected with the clinic, consulted on some cases, sat in on some seminars.  In 2010, Adele left and I officially took over the clinic as Supervising Attorney. All of the cases are in the Bronx and I have been at the clinic along with my adjunct team teacher Robin Frankel since.

Q: You have been very involved in some of the more recent protestor cases, can you talk about that?

A: I was a somewhat active member of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), a leftist lawyer’s organization, and in 2016, I got a call from Joel Kupferman, a friend and colleague from NLG. He mentioned that there was a big protest happening by the Indian Point nuclear powerplant. There were environmental protestors protesting the installation of a high-capacity gas pipeline that linked fracking fields in Pennsylvania snaking through Jersey and New York and all the way up to New England. There was no real need for this pipeline since there was no gas shortage. In fact, the gas flowing through the pipeline was going to be liquified and sold commercially abroad. The whole process of extraction and transmission and the pipeline tech itself was incredibly dangerous. There were seven people that were planning to occupy the pipeline and I agreed to represent them. The protestors hopped a fence in Verplank, New York at 5:00 a.m. and four of them climbed into the partially installed pipeline. They were prepared with sleeping bags, backpacks, food, adult diapers, and water. They stayed in the pipeline for less than 24 hours (they left by midnight). They were all arrested as well as the three others that did not climb into the pipeline, but instead stood guard. I helped negotiate with the police to avoid their spending the night in jail.

I ended up representing those seven protestors for two years. We went to trial in Cortlandt Manor in Northern Westchester. They were charged with criminal trespass. None of them wanted to plead guilty and the DA would not make an acceptable deal. We wanted to mount a climate necessity defense; meaning that they were allowed to break the law if it was a necessity, to avoid a greater harm. Stopping this pipeline from being built was a necessity for three main reasons in our defense case: 1) this would help save the world from global climate change, of which methane gas is a main driver; 2) save the neighborhoods surrounding the pipeline compressor stations from leaked methane and carcinogens; and 3) save the whole eastern seaboard from the potential rupture of the pipeline, which would ignite the spent nuclear fuel rods at Indian Point, and make the whole east coast of the US uninhabitable. Think Fukushima. Think Chernobyl. Think Three Mile Island.

The trial took two weeks, it was the longest litigated climate necessity case in the US thus far, as well as one of the most complex cases I have ever litigated. The judge allowed me to try the case in the most complete way possible. I had expert testimony from a variety of Incredible professionals—a world renowned climate scientist, a public health expert, a nuclear engineer. Due to this case’s unprecedented nature, it gained a fair amount of press. Unfortunately, we did not get the protestors the acquittal we had hoped for.  But they were only convicted for non-criminal trespass; there was no sentence, no fine, no court costs imposed. Nothing.  The judge even said to them, “I do not want to deter your activism.”

Q: If you could create a new course tomorrow, what would it be?

A: I taught a seminar with Professor Michael Mushlin and the late Professor Gary Munneke. It was a legal history course centered on the history of civil rights lawyering. It focused mostly on the lawyers and law organizations that went to the South in 1964 during Freedom Summer. I believe civil rights lawyering of that era has been extraordinarily influential on our whole concept and practice of public interest lawyering and not talked about nearly enough. I would like to do seminars on legal history but find interesting areas that are not often studied in law school. Then I would bring in unconventional materials like historical readings, films, diaries. I would want it to be a two credit-hour seminar on the underappreciated and understudied areas of legal history. I would love to have students read, watch films, and talk about the cases and the type of lawyering that happened. I don’t want students to just focus on the cases in casebooks, their holdings, and then passing the bar. I want to teach students the fuller view of these important historical moments, the movement lawyering, and the personalities involved. Law does not operate in a vacuum and sometimes, I think that is forgotten. In that connection, I think it would also be interesting to do a seminar on the Vietnam War, the protest movement, the cases involving people like Dr. Benjamin Spock and the Berrigan Brothers and Dr. King.

Q: What is your favorite part of being a professor?

A: I like seeing students do well. I like my colleagues a lot and have good relationships with them, but the students are why I love my job. I am not an institutionalist, I love the school, but I love it for the students.  I enjoy watching them learn and flourish. It is a great feeling watching the lightbulbs go off.

I am very political and have strong views so I enjoy teaching in a way where I teach to those that may not agree with me. I don’t want to have to hide who I am or lose my soul. I like the challenge of being a good devil’s advocate. I think someone can come out of my class learning a lot and appreciating my viewpoint without having to agree with me. I always aim for the sweet spot of teaching – even though I know I am sometimes a tyrant in the classroom. The most gratifying part of teaching is being able to do it without a personality transplant. And watching the students succeed.

Q: If you weren’t a law professor, what would you be?

A: Back in the 1970s before going to Chicago, I wanted to be a writer/novelist. I would write essays, fiction, and poetry. I wrote a number of articles for Art Form Magazine with my brother. One day, the editor of Art Form, Joe, said I should apply for a grant because my brother and I had a book in us. I applied for the Art Critics Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and received $4,500 to write a book. My brother and I completed the book, but unfortunately it never got published.

Recently, my brother wrote a different book and it was published. In his new book, my brother used some of our old material from the previous book. His new book is called, “Out of the Picture.”

So to answer your question, maybe I’d write fiction or essays on politics and culture.  Probably not law.

Q: What do you do in your free time?

A: I spend time with my wife hanging out, we love to cook together. My wife and I like to travel too, but with COVID we haven’t been able to travel as much as we would like. We visit our children and grandchildren when we have time.

I like to read fiction, I am always reading a novel. I feel it is really important to occupy the other part of my brain, the part that gets going when I read good fiction. I specifically like genre fiction –high quality spy novels, detective novels, etc. I should exercise more, but with my bad back I don’t. I do walk a decent amount with our beautiful old dog. Lastly, I like to play guitar. It sparks the same part of my brain that reading good genre fiction does. It is one of my connections to my artistic roots.

Q: If you had one phrase to live your life by, what would it be?

A: Mickey Rivers, a former centerfielder for the New York Yankees, used to say: “I don’t worry about things I can’t control because I cannot control them. I only worry about things that I can control because I can control them.” I try to live my life by this line. It is easy to get stressed out about things and I try not to fall into the trap.

Q: What is one piece of advice you would like to give to law students?

A: I try not to give too much advice and instead help to create situations that people are learning from by spending time with me and the materials. A political activist and incredible attorney, Ralph Nader, once said, “the problem with lawyers is that in order to get sharp, they get narrow.”

I like to get students to think about that line. Everyone wants to be good at what they do and in order to do that they become very analytical and focused. This is what being narrow is. I believe to be a good person and frankly to be a good lawyer, you need a broad view, to see other things and perspectives. It is important to preserve broadness by finding other things to care about. That is why I continue to travel, read novels, have friends who aren’t lawyers, still love art and music. I refuse to get narrow, and I still aspire to be a sharp lawyer and thinker. I think being too narrow makes it hard to live a good and full life and you need to remember that you will have a life apart from the law and after the law. 

Learn more about Professor Dorfman.

Faculty Focus

University Distinguished Professor Bridget Crawford

Professor Bridget Crawford has been a professor at Haub Law since 2003 and was named a University Distinguished Professor in 2021, which is the highest honor the University can bestow upon a faculty member. Prior to joining the Haub Law faculty, she was a practicing attorney at Milbank LLP, where she specialized in taxation and estate planning. At Haub Law, Professor Crawford teaches Federal Income Taxation; Estate and Gift Taxation; Wills, Trusts and Estates; Tax Policy; Corporations & Partnerships; and Feminist Legal Theory. Professor Crawford is a leading authority on taxation, as well as feminist legal theory, and menstrual equity. A favorite in the classroom, she has also been honored multiple times by graduating students at Haub Law as Outstanding Professor of the Year, as well as recognized by her colleagues with Haub Law’s Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching. Learn more about Professor Crawford in this Q&A.

How did you become interested in tax?

My grandmother was the first tax professional I ever met. Although she never went to college or law school, Gram taught herself the tax law and went to work for H&R Block. She lived in a rural community in southeastern Ohio, in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Gram took great pride in helping her neighbors comply with their obligations under the complicated self-reporting system that we have in the U.S.

What is your favorite tax concept or case?

If I ever got a tattoo, it definitely would be a quote from Welch v. Helvering, 290 U.S. 111 (1933). That is the case that established the test for when a business expense is “ordinary and necessary.” Justice Cardozo said that when no ready test or statute is available, “[l]ife in all its fullness must supply an answer to the riddle” that is the tax law.

What do you find most enjoyable about being a professor?

I love helping students understand the complexities of the law, develop critical thinking skills, and become more confident in their abilities. In Federal Income Tax class, students may start out intimidated by the statute and regulations, but by the end of the semester, they know exactly how to work with the most complex rules. The tax code yields its secrets with careful study and time spent! As a law professor, I have the opportunity every day to help guide students from diverse backgrounds and perspectives as they develop into the professionals they want to become. I have great confidence in the future of the legal profession and our students are going to be leading the way.

Every year, you host a “Tax Alumni Come Back to the Classroom” event – where you invite former students to come speak to your current tax class. What benefit do you feel experiences like this have for both the students and alumni? 

The purpose of this program is to connect current law students with alumni and inspire students to think about their future careers. In law school, we hear all the time about the value of “networking,” but sometimes it is hard to know how to go about it. This program aims to make it easier by providing a day dedicated to networking. Students also do readings to encourage self-reflection on how they are using their time in law school and what various career paths are available. The alumni are willing to offer guidance and support to students as they navigate law school and the legal profession. They are also happy to share their contacts and help in any way they can.

You recently published a book with Professor Emily Waldman called Menstruation Matters: Challenging the Law’s Silence on Periods. What inspires a tax professor to write a book about menstruation? 

It all started as a tax story. I had been living in New York for more than twenty years before I realized that the sales of menstrual products like tampons were subject to tax. That made absolutely no sense to me. I started doing some research and I wrote an article explaining why I thought the “tampon tax” was a human rights issue. When I was presenting my work in one of our regular faculty colloquia, I mentioned that there was a class action brought in New York challenging the tampon tax, and Professor Waldman asked me about that. One conversation led to another and we decided to write an article explaining the argument that the sales tax on menstrual products violates the Equal Protection Clause. New York repealed its sales tax in 2016, but our article is now the basis for a state-by-state challenge to the sales tax on menstrual products. The more we spoke about the tampon tax, the more we realized that menstruation touches on everything – schools, employment, prisons, environmental law, poverty law, corporate law. We teamed up to write the book to show that menstruation is a baseline justice and equity issue.

What are some of the tax rules that disproportionately impact women and families?

The tax code does not recognize the value of unpaid caregiving work that is often performed by women, such as caring for children or elderly relatives. This can leave women with fewer retirement savings and lower Social Security benefits. What would the law look like if society truly valued caregiving? 

Your writing is frequently published in prestigious journals – what advice do you have for law students who may want to start trying to publish papers?

Write about what you want to understand, what makes you mad, what makes you happy, what you want to fix. Just write. There is no better way to teach yourself an area of law then to try to explain it in writing to someone else. Your professors are here as resources, too. There are lots of publication outlets that need and want to hear from students and lawyers of all levels of seniority.

Do you have any techniques to propel your own writing?

At least once a semester, Professor Leslie Tenzer and I have a writing challenge. There are only two rules: set your own goals and bring positive vibes only. We then report our progress on a shared spreadsheet. The mutual accountability and encouragement is really helpful. There have been so many times where I haven’t wanted to write, I feel like I’m not getting anywhere, and I have wanted to quit the writing challenge. What I’ve learned from these experiences, though, is that the key is to be consistent and show up. We write even when we don’t feel like it and we encourage each other through the inevitable rough patches. My goals are usually relatively small—20 minutes of writing each day— but I end up with an outline, a first draft, or progress that I otherwise would not have made. The best thing about writing is having written. Anyone who wants to join our writing challenge is totally welcome. It works!

What is something that your students may not know about you?

Dean Horace Anderson and I were first-year study partners in law school. He has always been brilliant, and without him, I would have never made it through Constitutional Law!

If you were not a law professor, or an attorney, what other profession could you see yourself pursuing?

As long as I am being useful, then I can be happy doing anything. I’m interested these days in all things technological. What if there was a program that accurately calculated our taxes for us? What if it was as easy to make a will online as it is to order a pizza? What if depositions were conducted via artificial intelligence? Could decentralized digital currency be the key to a universal basic income? How can we harness machine learning to eliminate bias in hiring and lending? I am so interested in all of these questions.

Learn more about Professor Crawford.

Chris Rizzo '01

Precision Focus on Environmental Law
Partner, Carter Ledyard and Milburn LLP, Director of the Environmental Practice

Chris Rizzo is a Partner with Carter Ledyard and Milburn LLP and Director of the Environmental Practice at the firm. From the moment he decided he wanted to attend law school, Chris knew that he was specifically going to focus on environmental law. From participating in the environmental litigation clinic, to environmental law review, and ultimately graduating with an environmental law certificate, Pace provided the environmental legal education he sought out.

When did you decide that you wanted to be a lawyer?

That was probably in my sophomore year of college. I was studying political science and biology. I had a biology professor, and I expressed to him my deep interest in biology, particularly environmental biology. And he said to me something like “no, no, no, no, Chris, do not become a scientist or biologist. You should become a lawyer, an environmental lawyer. Lawyers get everything done.” He didn't say this with kindness. He said it with resentment. But he was very clear with me that he thought I should go towards law school. I took it to heart, and I never looked back.

And from there, how did you choose Haub Law?

Well, I knew that I specifically was going to law school to focus on environmental law. So I sought out a law school where I could specifically focus on that area with the intention of practicing in that area.

I received a full academic scholarship to come to Haub Law, which was a huge motivation for me. I was very leery about taking on any student debt, and worried about what that would do to my professional flexibility in the future. I was admitted to a number of other law schools and while the full scholarship was a motivating factor, it was not the only one. At the time, a few other schools I looked at did not have the robust environmental law program that I was seeking and I thought they were not of any use to me. I wanted to be an environmental lawyer. Why would I go to a law school with two course offerings and an underdeveloped environmental law program? Haub Law had the environmental law program that I was looking for and combined with the scholarship it was an easy choice.

What were some of the more impactful experiences you had while at Haub Law?

The environmental litigation clinic is a very transfor­mative program. Part of that was the oversight of Karl Coplan. When I had him, Professor Coplan was a very demanding and very good professor. The envi­ronmental litigation clinic really, really helped refine my legal skills. I also made a number of connections outside of Pace as well working on those matters, and I still find them valuable today.

You were an articles editor on the Pace Environmental Law review, and you graduated with the environmental law certificate. Would you recommend those experiences?

Yes. I had to write a note for the law review and that was a very useful process. It wasn’t so much what I wrote, but the process of writing such a complex law journal is incredibly helpful. I think anybody that participates in a law review winds up being a better lawyer because you're forced to learn how to write, research and edit.

I also think the certificate program is useful. I think exposing law students to topics, concepts, and legal acronyms is helpful and gives you a running start in your career as an environmental lawyer. I think it's really invaluable and that's one of the reasons I came to Haub Law. All of the robust environmental course offerings really gave me a foundation in various areas of law, which was helpful later.

You are a partner with Carter Ledyard and Milburn LLP and director of the Environmental Practice—how did your career start out and how has it evolved?

My career definitely morphed over time. When I first started practicing law, I did a lot more traditional environmental work than I'm doing these days. I worked with RCRA and CERCLA, which are two federal hazardous waste laws. I worked heavily with NEPA and SEQRA. I worked on a lot of historic pres­ervation matters involving federal, state, and city preservation laws. I also worked on some brownfield matters, the Clean Water Act, and more. The past few years I've started doing a lot more real estate related work. That’s because my practice is very fo­cused on New York City and this is a real estate town. Helping clients resolve their land use, construction, and real estate problems has become a big driver of my work.

What advice do you have for law students who want to work in the field of environmental law at a law firm upon graduating?

I find that Haub Law students are pretty good about aggressively seeking out internships and experiences and opportunities in the areas that are meaningful to them. Whenever I see a Haub Law resume I'm always impressed, there are intern­ships at the US Environmental Protection Agency, the Environmental Litigation Clinic, and all sorts of things. It is important to fill your resume with meaningful experiences in the area you want to practice in, but also networking in those areas. And this is true, not just for environmental law, it's true for any subject matter you want to practice. It is really about networking, meeting as many people as you possibly can who might become future employers. To that end, you should become a student member of the New York State Bar Association or the New York City Bar Association. You can sit on committees as students, and I would do that aggressively and participate. You must prioritize making connections outside the law school even more than making con­nections inside the law school.

That is very good advice. Outside of the law, tell us a bit about yourself and your hobbies.

Well, I have 3 young kids, so that takes up a lot of time. So aside from my family, I also love exploring New York City and New York State. My family and I love national, state and city parks—we travel all over the place to visit them. I am also a big fitness enthusiast—I run 5ks and bike to work and do whatever I can to stay fit. I think prioritizing your personal life, physical fitness and mental health is very important. There is no ques­tion that I am a better lawyer because I dedicate time to these things. You need to have a healthy balance and if you don’t have that balance you wind up being less of a professional.

Danielle and Michael Tallman '24

A Sibling Story

Siblings Danielle and Michael Tallman grew up in a tight-knit multigenerational Hispanic household in Sacramento, California, along with their siblings where they were homeschooled until college. After their oldest sibling was accepted to college in Texas, their entire family moved with her to support her dreams. Both Danielle and Michael decided to study at the University of St. Thomas together setting the precedence and foundation for their “united educational front” as Danielle describes it. When Danielle and Michael began thinking about law school it only made sense to them that they would jointly apply to the same institutions.

For Danielle, her desire to attend law school grew out of the belief that everyone deserves to have a voice. “Unfortunately, not everyone knows how to positively use their voices in order to enact change,” said Danielle. “I want to help give a voice to those who are unheard; to help those who either can’t or won’t stand up for themselves, and to guide them to fight for what they deserve. I believe that there are certain flaws in our justice system today. I want to be able to help change the laws that are unjust, enact change that benefits others, and give power to the voiceless because everyone deserves someone to stand up for them. I want to be that person; a career in law perfectly fits the bill.”

For Michael, a strategist at heart, he discovered in college how much strategy there is in the field of law. “I was a criminology major during my undergraduate studies, and a large amount of my instructors were retired and even practicing lawyers,” said Michael. “This proved very exciting for me. I finally found a sense of clarity and passion. It was then that I decided to pursue law as a profession.”

Both Danielle and Michael describe their Haub Law experience as a rollercoaster of emotions – challenging and stimulating at the same time. They both note the impressive caliber of both students and faculty and that while the expectations are high, so is the rewarding feeling of personal accomplishment. For Danielle, she has most enjoyed sharing this experience with her brother and most looks forward to graduating together.

After graduation, both Danielle and Michael have a strong interest in becoming university professors at the same school, teaching corporation and business focus topics, along with contract law. Danielle credits professors Robert Ellison, Debra Vollweiler, and Elyse Diamond for her decision to pursue a field in education. “After two years studying law, I have learned that the most influential change begins with a good teacher,” she said. “Their eagerness to help their students, their openness, and their love of teaching and their subject, allowed me to realize that the most rewarding legal experiences come from your professors.” For Michael, he thanks Professor Elyse Diamond for helping to jump start his positive law school experience. “She taught Legal Skills and from an academic perspective, she helped to teach me to shape my writing in a more analytical and legal way; proving to me that persuading someone with my words alone is the essence of being a good lawyer,” said Michael. “Professor Diamond answered patiently any questions that I may have had and provided feedback on every writing assignment that I turned into her. I felt very blessed to have had her as one of my first professors in law school.”

In their free time, both Danielle and Michael enjoy spending time with their family. “I love to come home after a long day of school or work to my family,” said Michael. “In a time of my life where everything is so busy and hectic, the small fact that family is always there when I walk through the door, no matter how great or disappointing my day has been, is my favorite hobby. Both Danielle and Michael also enjoy singing. For Danielle, she is passionate about opera and for Michael, it is singing kids songs to his nieces and nephews.

As far as advice for prospective law students, both Danielle and Michael agree that students should be prepared for the challenge because law school is nothing like undergraduate school. “You will have to study harder and feel stronger disappointments,” said Danielle. “You'll do your best and will probably fall short. But when times are tough and you feel like quitting, just remember why you enrolled in law school in the first place. Even if you don’t initially thrive, it doesn't mean that you will not succeed in the end.” While each have learned tough lessons, they have pushed through and as Michael notes, just when you try, fail, and want to quit – you will be inspired. Now, in the last part of his Haub Law education, as he enters the next part of his legal journey, Michael hopes he can carry the teachings that he has learned from Haub Law into the legal field with him.