Success Stories

Vito Arango '23

A Team Player

After graduating from Queens College with a Bachelor’s Degree in history, Vito Arango decided to pursue a paralegal certificate and explore a career in the law. Vito spent over three years working as a legal secretary/paralegal before deciding it was time to pursue law school. “I am very much happy with my decision to attend law school and specifically Haub Law. I have always very much been a team player, so finding those values at a law school as important to me. In my time here I have been very much blown away by the dedication and effort that my colleagues put forward and the sense of community surrounding the professors, staff, and classmates.”

During his time at Haub Law, Vito found a passion for employment and labor law. In his 2L year, he participated in the Legal Services Externship and this past summer he worked as an intern for the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, General Counsel-Employment Unit. Vito noted, “This summer, my focus was employment law through the context of the government/administrative body. I found it very interesting and was able to learn a lot from a different perspective.”

Now, as a 3L, Vito is enrolled in the Equal Justice America-Disability Rights Clinic. He is also serving as the productions editor for the Pace International Law Review and as a 3L representative for the Public Interest Law Student Organization. After law school, Vito hopes to continue his passion for employment and labor law and gain employment in a non-profit or government agency. “There is an innate sense of fairness within the areas of employment and labor law and that goes along with the importance I put on being a team player and having a sense of community. I look forward to bringing this perspective into my future career as an attorney.”

Pamela Guerrero ‘22

A Passion for Social Justice

A first-generation US Citizen, Pamela Guerrero entered law school with a passion for social justice and immigration law. Throughout law school, she followed that passion by participating in Haub Law’s Access to Justice Seminar, the Access to Justice Lab, and the Immigration Justice Clinic. As a 3L, Pamela was awarded a prestigious Immigrant Justice Corps Fellowship post-graduation. Today, she is following her dreams as she works with the Refugee & Immigrant Program of The Advocates for Human Rights.

“I am a first-gen US citizen from Dominican parents who originally moved to Washington Heights, Bronx, New York, but then settled in Westchester. I came to law school because I learned of many socioeconomic inequities in the US while attending undergraduate school and wanted to be in an advocacy position to be able to address these issues. I was especially concerned with the immigration system in this country and wanted to become an immigration lawyer to provide newly arrived children and adolescents with the protection they need to thrive in the US. Geographically, Haub Law was the perfect place for me and academically I was impressed with the variety of diverse learning opportunities. The Immigration Justice Clinic and both the Access to Justice Seminar and Access to Justice Lab at Haub Law were integral in fostering my passion for immigration law and social justice.”  

Pamela was an inaugural student participant in the curricular components of the Pace Access to Justice Project (Pace A2J), which is housed and coordinated within Haub Law’s Public Interest Law Center. Pace A2J serves as a hub for community collaborations, programs, scholarship, policy initiatives, and hands-on innovative academic and non-credit bearing experiential law student and alumni opportunities. The A2J Seminar provides students with an opportunity to hone in on their critical thinking, research, writing, and editing skills required for legal practice – all as related to an access to justice/social justice issue of the student’s choice. Whereas, the A2J Lab provides law and computer science and design students an opportunity to collaborate on a social justice/access to justice concerns and provide a real life solution to these issues. Pace A2J is designed to more actively engage students in learning about and contributing to real-world efforts to address the access to justice gap and Pamela feels that it does just that. “Participating in both the Access to Justice Seminar and Access to Justice Lab improved my educational experience, because it gave me a way to tangibly utilize the law for the general betterment of society,” said Pamela. “A lot of academic work in law school is very theoretical, which creates a disconnect between what is being taught and actual legal problems that exist outside of the academic setting. Both the A2J  Seminar and A2J Lab bridged that gap by having participants use the law to create an application that could potentially be used by actual people in the future, having a tangible benefit to them.”  

In addition to the hands-on educational experience that Pamela feels Pace A2J provided, she notes that the interdisciplinary Lab, where students designed a tool to address low-income tenant habitability rights, was a notable curricular innovation. The Lab was co-taught by Professor Elyse Diamond at Haub Law and Andreea Cotoranu, Clinical Professor and Director of the NYC Design Factory in Pace University’s Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems. Pamela notes, “I learned from collaborating with computer science and design students from Seidenberg students that it's not enough to simply have an idea . . . it is also important to address possible limitations such as tech limitations. It was extremely valuable to have varying expertise and perspectives throughout the Lab and I feel we came up with a better end result because of this.”

Pamela remains committed to social justice issues today and credits Pace A2J with cementing that commitment. “My participation in the Access to Justice Seminar and Access to Justice Lab reconfirmed my commitment to interdisciplinary social justice work by reminding me that many social issues are interconnected. Housing problems are very relevant to my current position as an IJC Fellow, because a lot of court notification is reliant on if a client has a stable address and a lot of client's worry about housing first before anything related to immigration work. Addressing injustice in housing is a huge step in immigration work since it gives clients a chance to thrive in a stable environment as they prepare for their ongoing immigration case.”

Faculty Focus

Professor Lissa Griffin

Professor Lissa Griffin has been a faculty member at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University for 37 years and remains a fixture at the School. In 1985, Professor Griffin started working at what was then called “Pace Law” and today, she remains fully committed to the law school community. She teaches Professional Responsibility, Criminal Procedure – Adjudication, Comparative Criminal Procedure, and Evidence and is recognized for her scholarship in criminal procedure and comparative criminal procedure. She is also a visiting professor at Birmingham City University School of Law in Birmingham, UK.  Learn more about Professor Griffin’s background, travels, scholarly work and more in the Q&A below. 

Q: What is your recent work in and out of academia?   

A: Last year I was able to travel to Malaga, Spain as a Fulbright Scholar. I co-taught a course with two Spanish law professors called Fundamental Rights in the Criminal Process, which is much like our criminal procedure courses in the United States. I also participated in three conferences and presented weekly workshops to UMA’s PhD students. Teaching in a different country helped me reflect on my US classroom and was unbelievably rewarding. In addition, having been able to confer with Spanish criminal procedure scholars, practitioners, and prosecutors allowed me to see a completely new legal system unlike ours here in the United States.  

Q: Can you tell me more about your Fulbright Scholar experience?  

A: When I originally applied to go to Spain, the coronavirus was at its peak and Spain was in particularly bad trouble. I knew Spain was one of the worst places to travel at the time, but I still took the risk and it paid off.  Having worked and studied in the US and UK, which are both common law systems, I wanted to be exposed to a civil law system. In addition to teaching, while I was in Malaga I spoke at conferences and participated in presentations to PhD students and graduate students of all disciplines. I did quite a bit of work with the four other US Fulbright Scholars there, who came from different parts of the US and were in different disciplines and we were good collaborators and became good friends. The Spanish culture was an excellent and welcome contrast to the current situation in the United States:  the sense of social cohesion and community in Spain is much different from the United States, whether that be professional, academic, or even personal. The experience of living within the Spanish culture was wonderful. 

Q: Did you take anything away from your experience abroad? 

A: Yes, I’ve taught several times in the United Kingdom and those experiences and the time spent in Spain are transformative. In my teaching, I feel being exposed to different learning communities with different populations, expectations and relationships makes you more sensitive to your students. Understanding different criminal processes, both common law and civil law deepens your understanding and broadens your perspective. I’ve learned so much about criminal procedure and US criminal procedure first from being in the United Kingdom and then in Spain. Spain was particularly interesting to me because it is a civil law country with a very different domestic process and is also subject to European Union law and the European Court of Human Rights. All three sources of law contribute to the choices they make in structuring and administering their criminal process.

Q: What was it like to participate in the International Criminal Judicial Cooperation Conferences?  

A: In both, I was the only speaker who spoke in English and discussed US law. It was an honor to work with the other academics on the panels.  In one of the conferences, I presented on the US jury and people were literally horrified at the power our juries enjoy. I am now writing a piece for a larger book comparing the US and Spanish jury systems. 

Q: What drew you into the world of criminal law?  

A: Well that goes far back but the answer to that is that I think I’ve always been curious about outsiders. As a young child, cowboys fascinated me; in college, I veered toward the sociology of deviance.  And like others who were children of the 1960s, the faceoff between the individual and the state has always been important to me and that happens directly in the criminal process.

Q: Can you talk more about what you did before coming to Pace?  

A: I started working for a private criminal defense lawyer and then moved to The Legal Aid Society’s criminal appeals office. Then I moved to a firm that worked specifically in civil litigation. At the time, the harm caused by asbestos had begun to lead to mass tort litigation, and my firm represented insurers who were litigating between and among the insurance companies to see who was responsible for paying the injured parties. I also handled appeals in medical malpractice cases on behalf of hospitals and doctors.

Q: How did teaching at Pace come across your radar? 

A: Someone I worked with had graduated in the first graduating class at Pace Law School and invited me to an alumni event to meet the then-dean, Janet Johnson. It turned out that Pace was looking for writing instructors and I started as a writing instructor in 1985. Shortly thereafter Pace started its clinical program and I supervised the Appellate Litigation. My students briefed and argued cases in the Appellate Division, First Department, in Manhattan, and in the New York Court of Appeals. As the School’s needs changed, I began teaching simulation and doctrinal classes. And with Professor David Dorfman, I created the Law School’s course on Interviewing, Counseling, and Negotiating. I guess one could say I’ve been a utility player. No matter what you are teaching, every course and every class is a new challenge.

Q: Tell me about the Pace Law London Program.  

A: I went abroad to London with Pace three times: once in 1999, again 2002, and finally in 2012 with Professor McDonnell. My presence in England coincided with the opening of the first innocence commission in the world, the Criminal Case Review Commission, and I wrote several law review articles about it.  I also began my comparative criminal procedure work, which has been my area of specialty for twenty-three years. When I was there in 2012, I developed a relationship with Birmingham City University School of Law, where I taught in 2019 and where I am currently a Visiting Professor. Teaching abroad really allowed me to absorb and reflect on so many levels, whether teaching, learning, and personally. And of course, having spent so much time in London when they were growing up, our children feel like it is a second home and know it as well as they know New York. Maybe better. 

Q: Would you recommend a study abroad experience to law students? 

A: Always! It truly is a rich experience and will give you a different perspective on your life, your society, your values, and your profession. It may not change any of those things, but it will help you understand who you are and how you got there and what you want to do in the future. 

Q: What advice do you have for students interested in criminal law? 

A: Read the news!  There is so much going on every day in criminal cases. Ask yourself why what happened happened and if it should have happened in a fair and effective criminal process.  Go abroad:  see how other societies administer their criminal law so you realize there are many legitimate systems that are very different from ours. Besides that, participate in internships to build up your resume and to find out what really the field is all about. I also recommend that you pursue becoming a research assistant for a professor. There are so many great opportunities being a research assistant can bring forward such as a big network, jobs, publishing opportunities, and closer connections with faculty.

Q: What are you looking forward to most this school year? 

A: I always look forward to seeing the light bulbs go on in my students minds as we finish a course because in the end it DOES all come together. I am also looking forward to teaching a five-day course in Madrid at Comillas Law School, where four of our students are actually studying this semester, after our classes end in December. I am also teaching a Lawyering and Science skills workshop during January intersession that I haven’t taught since pre-COVID. The intersection between law and science is absolutely fascinating and helping students understand how to use science as lawyers is fun.

Q: What is your favorite part of Haub Law? 

A: Community. I have to say there has always been a supportive and close community not only for students, but for faculty as well. People care about each other and care about having a community that reflects those values, including devotion to the students and respect to one another. It truly does trickle down from the top.

Q: What are your non-academic Interests? 

A:  I love to travel. I love my dogs. I exercise almost every day, less because I like it than because it keeps me healthy.  I exercise for two episodes of whatever series I’m currently watching, and so I’ve watched a lot of series   Lastly, I would say I am utterly devoted to my friendships. I have had friends for longer than 50 years; I have friends from college, and friends I made as an adult. Over time, I have come to understand how really important these friendships are.  

Photograph by

Learn more about Professor Griffin.

Lisa Denig ’09

ADR Pioneer

Lisa Denig has dedicated much of her career to pioneering Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Initiatives within the New York State Court System. Recently, Lisa started a new position as Principal Settlement Coordinator for the 9th Judicial District within the New York State Unified Court System. “I am tasked with creating and expanding opportunities for ADR in all the courts in the 9th JD,” said Lisa. “Not long ago, settlement or mediation were thought of as secondary to years of discovery, enormous cost outlays, and time spent on trial preparation. That is no longer the case. Today, attorneys come prepared-at the preliminary conference - to discuss alternative ways to resolve their case. Alternative dispute resolution is not the wave of the future, it is the present.”

A dedicated alumna of Haub Law, Lisa is giving back to the law school in another way now: as an adjunct professor teaching Survey of Dispute Resolution Processes. Lisa is also an active member of Haub Law’s advisory board, the Board of Visitors. “Pace gave me the tools I needed to have a successful legal career after law school,” she said. “I am thrilled to remain involved with my alma mater and help set students on their path for ADR success. I loved my time as a law student and love that things have come full circle and I am now teaching at the school.”

In 2019, Lisa Denig was appointed Special Counsel for Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Initiatives for the NYS Office of Court Administration, overseeing one of the most innovative programs to date in the New York Court system: the creation and implementation of Chief Judge Janet DiFiore’s initiative, the New York State Presumptive ADR Program. The Presumptive ADR Program was to be implemented in all five boroughs in addition to three specialty courts inside New York City. A certified mediator herself, Lisa is a strong advocate for requiring early ADR in civil court cases and strongly believed in and advocated for the initiative long before it came to fruition.

Lisa notes, “In order to implement this program properly, I had to meet with bar associations, ADR groups and other stakeholders to incorporate them into the new program as well as provide the necessary training opportunities for court staff and outside lawyers. I worked with numerous committees to create rules, templates, develop a data tracking system, along with evaluation forms so we could actually see how the newly instituted program was working and report this to the Chief Judge.”  

The program was a success, but it was an uphill battle at times. When asked about one of the biggest challenges she faced, Lisa answered: diversity. “I knew that there would be a diversity issue in the pool of mediators, but did not realize how serious it was. On the first day the mediation program was rolled out in New York City Civil Court, we had four cases that were amenable to mediation-all of whom spoke Spanish-and one Spanish interpreter. This brought home the issue of culture and diversity in mediation as well as all the concerns about access to justice that such challenges raise. From there, I made it a point to promote mediation trainings for diverse attorneys, connect with affinity bar associations, and more.”

Due in part to Lisa’s work, ADR plans were created that require litigants to attempt some form of ADR early in the stages of a civil case. The required ADR may include settlement conferences with judges or court staff, mediation, arbitration, or summary jury trials. Statistically speaking, the NYS Presumptive ADR Program is massive; Lisa notes that it deals with “over 1 million civil filings per year and more than 800,000 of those are in New York City alone.”  In recent years, in recognition of her work advancing the Presumptive ADR Initiative, Lisa was recognized as one of New York Law Journal’s Attorney Innovators of the Year.

After serving as Special Counsel for ADR Initiatives for two and a half years, in 2021, Lisa accepted a position as Counsel to New York State Chief Judge Janet DiFiore. In this role, Lisa remained the Chief Judge’s liaison to the Presumptive ADR Initiative, which gave her the opportunity to remain active in the programs she spent years building.  Previously, Lisa spent nearly eight years at the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office in a variety of roles. Today, Lisa is thrilled to be fully back in the ADR fold. “ADR is where my passion lies and I am excited to make an impact both in the classroom at Haub Law and also as Settlement Coordinator for the 9th Judicial District.”

Faculty Focus: Professor Randolph McLaughlin

A Force of Justice

Professor, Civil Rights Attorney, Precedent Setter, Social Justice Advocate. Randolph McLaughlin has been a stalwart on the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University faculty since 1988, teaching civil procedure, torts, and labor law. He also co-chairs the Civil Rights Practice Group of Manhattan’s Newman Ferrara LLP, along with his wife Debra Cohen, an adjunct faculty member at the Law School and Haub Law graduate. Prior to all this, McLaughlin made a name for himself as a civil rights activist and at­torney, pioneering new legal strategies to address incidents of racism, voting rights litigation, and more. Now, some of the very cases and individuals that he represented are at the forefront of a feature film and forthcoming documentary. We sat down with Professor McLaughlin to discuss the influential impact he has had throughout his career and what the future may hold for civil rights attorneys.

A landmark case you handled, which set a legal precedent for today’s court battles on racial violence, is the subject of a forthcoming documentary. The film highlights a racist attack that took place in the home state of the Ku Klux Klan, and showcases the role your strategy has played in decades of civil court victories. After Klansmen shot and injured five Black women in 1980 Chattanooga, Tennessee, the women were able to take the KKK to federal court using the long-forgotten Enforcement Act of 1871. Also known as the Ku Klux Klan Act, it was enacted to curb KKK violence after the Civil War. The documentary, some of which was filmed at Haub Law, is scheduled for release this year. Can you tell us about how you developed your strategy in this case?

Four African-American women were out on a Saturday night in 1980 in Chattanooga, Tennessee, when three Klansmen shot at them. More than 100 shotgun pellets were found in one woman’s legs. Two of the Klansmen were acquitted of all charges. One of them, who basically confessed, was convicted of simple as­sault, served nine months of a sentence and got out on good behavior. At the time I was at the Center for Constitutional Rights, which was part of the National Anti-Klan Network, so we sued the Klansmen.

I was an African-American history major, and I remembered reading about Klan violence and Reconstruction, so we looked back at those periods and found this 1871 law, called the Ku Klux Klan Act, which was passed to give a federal cause of action to victims of Klan violence. We dusted it off and waited for the right opportunity, and sure enough we didn't have to wait too long. We filed a suit as both a class action for all the Black residents of Chattanooga, and as a damages action for the five women. We tried the case and won—got over half a million dollars and a judgment. It was the first case using that statute to get a money judgment against the Klan.

I don't think winning a case like that is much of a long shot anymore. Law tends to reflect society. Judges aren't like some guru living on top of a moun­tain somewhere, they're reading the same stories, they walk the same streets, they watch the same TV shows we watch. And I think with the Black Lives Matter efforts across the country after the death of George Floyd, and then top that off with the January 6 attempted coup at the Capitol, judges have to real­ize if they don't step in, then this can happen again.

After the 2020 election, the NAACP used the Act in a lawsuit against former President Donald Trump and the Republican National Committee for system­atically trying to disenfranchise Black voters. Also, Representative Bennie Thompson, a Democrat from Mississippi, has more recently sued Trump, his former attorney Rudy Giuliani, and two far-right militia groups under the law, alleging they conspired to prevent law­makers from certifying President Joe Biden's victory by inciting and participating in the January 6 insurrection.

A feature film that premiered nationwide last September, The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain, is based on the true story of a case that you and your wife, Professor Debra Cohen, have worked on for more than 10 years. In 2011, Kenneth Chamberlain, an elderly African American veteran with bipolar disorder, was killed by police officers sent to check on him after his medical alert device was mistakenly activated. The film recounts the police’s forceful response to this non-threatening situation and provides a view of the reform needed in policing tactics and our justice system. Where does that case stand now?

 This film provides a great opportunity not only to bring the case into national focus, but to highlight how police respond to calls, how they police in African-American communities, and how they are trained for situations involving people in a mental health crisis. What was done was a text book case of what not to do if their intention was to provide assistance.

When the police arrived, Mr. Chamberlain was sleeping in his bed, and he made more than 60 at­tempts to explain that he didn’t call for help, did not need help and didn’t want to open his door. When we heard the audio recording, we were shocked at the inhumanity demonstrated by law enforcement.

Debra and I were asked to join the case by col­leagues and fellow Haub Law alumni Mayo Bartlett and Wali Muhammad in 2012. A $21 million civil rights lawsuit was filed in federal court against the City of White Plains and several police officers. The legal fight for justice has spanned over the past 10 years, with a case currently still pending in federal district court in White Plains. Less than one year into legal proceed­ings, a grand jury declined to vote for an indictment, causing an uproar in the community and among social justice advocates. Another letdown came in 2017, when the district court dismissed most of the claims contained in the lawsuit and excused several of the original defendants, including police officers.

Following four-years of litigation, including a trial, in 2020, the Second Circuit US Court of Appeals re­stored claims of unlawful entry and excessive force. We are now preparing for trial and hope that with the need for police reform gaining traction across the country, justice for Chamberlain can finally be achieved.

Twenty-six years ago, you and your wife Debra handled the case of Charles Campbell, who was killed by an off duty New York City police officer at a deli in Dobbs Ferry, New York. The officer was convicted of second-degree murder in a criminal trial. You and Debra successfully tried the subsequent civil case before US District Judge Constance Baker Motley, a civil rights icon, with the help of Pace students. How do you view working with students in such cases?

I went into teaching in order to expose students to the value and rewards of civil rights practice. While I am a full-time law professor, I also maintain a selec­tive civil rights caseload. Whenever possible I involve students in that work. My students have served as active members of a trial team, participating in the writing of briefs and sitting in the courtroom with the other attorneys. I involve the students in all aspects of the case and share with them my strategies as we pursue justice for our clients.

 How did you get your start in civil rights law?

Racism didn’t directly affect me that much growing up in New York City, but I was fascinated by the law. By age 10, I was reading law books. William Kunstler was a hero to me. In high school, the Chicago Seven trial was all over the news. It was the binding and gagging of Black Panther Bobby Seale in the court­room that made me say, this is wrong, I’ve got to get involved.

During my second year at Harvard Law School, legendary defense attorney William Kunstler came to speak. He’s saying things like, “I need black lawyers to get involved in this kind of work with us because we can’t do it on our own.” He’s up there on the stage with Black Panthers and Native American activists, and there I am. I was a really shy kid. But after the lecture I worked my way up and said, “I’ve followed your career since I was a kid and I want to do what you do.”

He looked at me and said, “Here’s my card. Look me up when you get back to New York.” And I did.

How did you build a civil rights law practice?

Lucas A. Ferrara, the co-founder of Newman Ferrara in Manhattan, had been practicing real estate law for more than 25 years, he wanted to expand the work of the firm into the civil rights field.

The firm asked Debra and me to co-chair the civil rights practice group at the firm. When I brought up the controversial nature of some of their cases, they said, “We love controversy. Bring it on.”

It’s been a happy marriage. Lucas and Jon Newman have both assisted us in our civil rights cas­es, and their insight has been invaluable. Ultimately, if you can create a workable business model, then the good work can expand. There’s more than enough injustice to go around.

For victims, the legal process itself can be a kind of therapy. When I see a client who first comes to us really almost in post-traumatic stress, they can’t get through a conversation without crying. Within a few months, they’re giving it back to us, saying, “Well, what about this?” and “I want to do this.” They are starting to feel empowered and engaged, and the hopelessness is dissipated. Whether we win or lose the case, they feel at least a small amount of closure.

 How did you begin practicing law with your wife?

Debra was 39, a former salesperson and marketer, when she applied to Haub Law in 1995. She was inter­ested in civil rights law, and the school’s catalog listed me as a social justice lawyer. She signed up for my class. A few weeks into the class, I announced I had a new civil rights case and needed interns, and Debra sent me her résumé.

At the end of our interview, she stopped at the door and asked me if I had heard about a case involving the shooting of an African-American man, Charles Campbell, in a deli parking lot in Dobbs Ferry. By that time the family of the victim had already contacted me about representation. She said that she lived there and every weekend she joined family and friends of the man who was shot to demonstrate at the deli and to keep visibility on the case and pressure the district attorney to prosecute the police officer who shot him. After she graduated, I hired her, and that’s how it began. We worked together on the Campbell case. In 2001, we were married, and we hung a shingle in the Bronx not long after.

What do you see as some of the challenges facing civil rights lawyers today?

Frankly, the Supreme Court. With the six conservative judges in the majority we could face an onslaught of reversals in the civil and constitutional rights fields. Most notably, the landmark decision in Roe v. Wade is under attack and could be reversed this year. With the respect to voting rights, the Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder, gutted Section 5 (preclearance provision) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and now the Court is primed to eliminate Section 2 of that Act that has been critical in securing minority representation at all levels of gov­ernment. In the police reform area, the Supreme Court seems reluctant to reverse decisions such as Graham v. Connor that set a very high burden on plaintiffs in po­lice misconduct cases. So the future is not bright in the Supreme Court—for now. But that does not mean that there is nothing for us to do today. The struggle con­tinues. The forces of justice have been fighting in this country since 1619 to achieve equal rights and justice. At the same time, the opponents of freedom are just as active now as they have been since the founding of this country. The question for each of us, as lawyers, is where do you stand on the barricades—with the people or the enemies of the people.

Learn more about Professor McLaughlin.

Megan Gaddy '23

Inspired by a Lifelong Connection to Nature

This past summer, Megan Gaddy ’23, worked as a law clerk with the Department of Justice in the Environment and Natural Resources Division, specifically in the Environmental Enforcement Section.  For Megan, this was an ideal opportunity as she finishes her studies at Haub Law, pursuing the Advanced Certificate in Environmental Law. Megan notes that, “Through my experience this past summer, I was able to witness a truly collaborative work environment. Significantly, I also got a glimpse into the breadth of issues involved in litigating environmental cases from start to finish.”

Megan applied to Haub Law with a laser focus on the environmental law program. With an eye towards nature from a young age, Megan knew her passions were with the environment. “Every summer, my parents sent me to Nature Camp and let me play outside to my heart’s content. It was through these experiences that I felt a calling to try to mend the disconnect I saw between man and nature. Over time, I witnessed the small patches of prairie lands and forests that I once played in as a child in Illinois being swallowed up by massive cornfields. Every day on my way to school, I passed the chemical processing plant where my dad worked fill the sky with grey, sulfur fumes. I knew that I wanted to work to change this and I felt Haub Law was a place that could set me on that path.”

The summer after Megan’s 1L year, she participated in the DC Summer Externship Program. Due to the pandemic, she was remote and was able to be placed outside of the DC area. “I worked for a wonderful non-profit organization on the Navajo Nation called Indian Country Grassroots Support.” During her 2L year, Megan had the opportunity to work in the Honorable Cathy Seibel's chambers in the SDNY through the Federal Judicial Honors Program. Now, a 3L Megan is capping off her Haub Law experience as a student intern with Pace's Environmental Litigation Clinic.

“I have loved my time at Haub Law. I love the small, tight-knit culture of the School, especially within the environmental law community. Having come from a massive university with over 40,000 students, I love signing up for a class and being able to recognize almost every name on the roster. I hope that my career path leads me to a position that aligns with the protective, justice-centered values I developed as a child. Whether that is a position in government or at a non-profit, I am open to wherever that path leads me and feel Haub Law has prepared me well.”

Catherine Gonzalez '15

An Advocate for Immigrant Rights

Catherine Gonzalez (née Peña ) ‘15 began navigating the immigration system from an early age as an immigrant child. Born in San Jose de las Matas, a small town in the Dominican Republic, Catherine remained there until she was nine. Catherine recalls, “It was all I knew, and once I immigrated I was separated from my mother and from the only family I knew. I found myself in a big, strange world in New York City, with a new and strange language to match. Despite those struggles, immigrating offered me invaluable opportunities. This early exposure to immigration introduced me to the bureaucracies of the American immigration system—from consulates to individual immigration officers. As I pursued higher education, I decided I wanted to become a lawyer because I wanted to help the people of my community. I am proud to say I am now the first and only lawyer in my family.”  

Once she was in college, Catherine pursued internships with lawyers and sought to learn all she could to forge a path for herself in the law. “I gravitated towards immigrant rights issues. I volunteered at an Immigrant Rights Law Clinic in college and worked with a criminal defense attorney who worked as assigned counsel on state and federal cases.” Once she was at Haub Law, Catherine volunteered anywhere she could to gain additional experience with immigration law and in trial advocacy, having several impactful experiences along the way. “One of the most impactful professors I had the privilege of meeting and working with at Pace was Professor Louis Fasulo. Professor Fasulo and The Advocacy Program – its academic curriculum as well as the moot court and mock trial competitions – were integral to helping me hone the skills I now use daily as a public defender. I am eternally grateful to Loretta Musial, Professor Fasulo, and The Advocacy Program at Pace for teaching, guiding, and supporting me. It is in large part thanks to all of them that I wake up every day to do work I love and am passionate about,” noted Catherine.

After she graduated from Haub Law, Catherine began her legal career in the Criminal Defense Practice at Brooklyn Defender Services (BDS), representing clients against criminal charges. It was there she found herself gravitating towards cases that resonated with her, often those that involved immigration-related issues. Today, Catherine is a Supervising Immigration Attorney & Policy Counsel in the Criminal Defense Practice at Brooklyn Defender Services. “I witnessed how the criminal legal system funnels people into the immigration deportation system, which led me to join BDS’s Padilla Team where I advise clients and attorneys about the immigration consequences of criminal and family court cases and represent non-citizens fighting to remain in the US.”

Recently, Haub Law’s Trial Advocacy Program at the 2022 Gavel Gala honored Catherine with the Rising Star Award. “I feel so honored to have been selected to receive the Rising Star Award. When I was a little girl, newly arrived in the United States, I began to dream of becoming a lawyer. Based on what I saw on television, I imagined myself standing in a courtroom, vehemently defending the rights of people during some of the most challenging times in their lives. Years later, working at Brooklyn Defender Services I feel incredibly privileged. There, as a public defender, I have been able to work towards accomplishing this dream of being an advocate for the people in my community. I really wake up every day with that same goal I envisioned years ago – unapologetically committed to ensuring that people's most basic rights are protected. Receiving the Rising Star Award serves as an affirmation for all of the hard work and sacrifices that were integral to achieving my goals and dreams.”

Aaliyah Smith ’23

Daughter of immigrants. Bilingual first-generation American. Justice Seeker.

Aaliyah Smith’s mother immigrated to the United States from the Dominican Republic and her father from Honduras. Aaliyah started her journey to law school because as a first-generation American and first-generation higher education student she wanted to give back to her Latin community. “I had enough of watching family, friends, and members of my community face life-altering events with inadequate legal resources. I had enough of seeing the waves of helplessness as the tides of injustice and inequality took their course. So, I wanted to do more to provide for my community and help them confront the challenges they may face in the legal world. Growing up in a predominately Latin/minority neighborhood in the South Bronx, you see the works of poor resources, corruption, discrimination, and more from a young age. But in what can seem like a shadow of darkness, there are always advocates working to be a beacon of light in confronting injustice. At its core, the law field is advocacy. The legal profession provides access to a variety of possibilities to give back to the community, including advocating for victims, defending the validity of convictions, offering defendants access to resources, and so much more. A career in law gives you the tools to be the change you want to see.”

Soon after coming to Haub Law, Aaliyah became involved with the Latin American Law Student Association. “I wanted to find a community and a support group. In joining LALSA, I knew would be surrounded by people with similar backgrounds, and goals or at least have some sort of commonality with them.  When I went to the first general board meeting in my 1L year, I saw how the e-board and members treated each other like family, it was a very warm feeling and I wanted to be a part of that. I became a 1L rep, then public relations coordinator, and now president. I can confidently say that the friendships and connections I made through LALSA were God-sent; I don’t know how I would have made it through law school without my LALSA family”.

This past summer, Aaliyah interned at the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office within the Special Prosecutions Unit. For Aaliyah, this experience solidified her desire to work in the field of public interest law. “I learned the importance of communication and interconnectivity. The law is interdependent, there is always a cross-section between different areas of law happening in one case. My time in WCDA over the summer and as a student attorney with the Criminal Justice Defense Clinic has shown me the necessity of both sides. The Prosecutor as the Representative of the State and the Defense Attorney as the Voice of the Innocent until Proven Guilty. I have come to appreciate both sides of the courtroom. As a prosecutor you wear so many hats, you are an investigator, a researcher, an advocate for the victim, and more. As a defense attorney, you ensure the system does its intended purpose: to bring actual justice; not to put blame on a face or justify harsh punishment. Defense attorneys make sure that the person behind “the defendant” is seen and humanized as so much more than a label. Both Defense attorneys and Prosecutors are integral in bringing about a better and more just system. I honestly would love to work on either side post-graduation because of how necessary each side is.”

Samantha Lopez '24

On the Right Path

The child of immigrants from Peru, Samantha Lopez’s parents are her inspiration for pursuing a degree in law. Now that she is at Pace, Samantha appreciates the close-knit community and guidance of her professors. “Professor Merton has been extremely helpful and has provided me with a lot of guidance. She is definitely an inspiration and role model. I would love to eventually participate as a student attorney in the Immigration Justice Clinic.”

With a passion for immigration law, Samantha’s experience as a Summer Legal Intern with Sanctuary for Families as part of their Immigration Intervention Project was exactly the type of summer experience she hoped for when she began her law school journey. “I was able to gain a better understanding of the legal immigration process and work directly with clients as I wrote an asylum brief, drafted a client’s affidavit, and filed N-600 forms. Meeting with the clients and being able to talk with them (mostly in Spanish) was an amazing experience that really cemented that I am on the right path.”

Now, a 2L at Haub Law, Samantha is secretary of the Latin American Law Student Association and the Pace Immigration Law Society. “I wanted to join LALSA because I believe when going through something difficult, such as law school, one needs a strong support system to help you through it. Knowing that members of LALSA typically come from similar backgrounds and have had similar experiences as I have had has made going through law school as a first generation law student a far better experience. I am also glad to have joined an organization with such an extensive alumni network that provides support.”

Faculty Focus

Professor Emily Gold Waldman

Emily Waldman is a Professor & the Associate Dean for Faculty Development at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University. She joined Haub Law in 2006 and teaches Constitutional Law, Civil Procedure, Law & Education, and Employment Law. Most recently, Professor Waldman co-authored the book “Menstruation Matters: Challenging the Law’s Silence on Periods,” with Professor Bridget Crawford. Learn more about her recent book, advice on clerkships, and more in this Q&A.

Can you tell us about your recently published book?

The book that Professor Crawford and I wrote, “Menstruation Matters: Challenging the Law’s Silence on Periods,” looks at all of the different ways that the law intersects with menstruation.  It grew out of several different articles that we wrote.

The first article that we wrote looked at the sales tax on menstrual products—in particular, that in many states, certain products are tax-exempt yet menstrual products are not.  This is known as the “tampon tax.” Interestingly, this has changed a lot even since we wrote the article in 2018—more and more states have been classifying menstrual products as tax-exempt, in response to political campaigns and pressure.  Our article looked at the argument that it's actually unconstitutional to tax menstrual products when other comparable unisex necessities like bandaids are tax-exempt—that it’s a form of sex discrimination, since menstrual products are so closely linked to the female reproductive system.

Then we also did an article about whether Title IX requires schools to provide menstrual products to students who can't afford them, and also dealt with other aspects of how schools address menstruation. Throughout our research and writing, we saw that there are a lot of other aspects to address like workplace issues, environmental issues, and more.

What was exciting about the book, as compared to our articles, was that we were able to tell on-the-ground stories about who is working in the “menstrual advocacy” space right now?  How did they come to the topic? How did they connect with each other? What legal and political strategies did they use to try to effectuate legal change? We were able to also explore many cultural issues surrounding menstruation—in particular, the longstanding silence and stigma that accompanies menstruation. So while our book does look at the law and analyze the law, we also bring these issues to life.

You mentioned discussing with individuals how they came to this topic; what was it that sparked your interest?

It really is a very specific story. What happened was that Professor Crawford, who teaches tax law and feminist legal theory, was working on an article about the tampon tax.  She presented her work at a faculty colloquium, and mentioned that constitutional challenges were being brought against the tampon tax, on the idea that it violated the Equal Protection clause. And my ears pricked up, since so much of my scholarship and teaching is focused on constitutional law. And I was thinking immediately, well, what is the exact argument that they are making?  I could see that it raised some complicated constitutional questions.

And so I emailed Professor Crawford and I asked more about what the theory exactly was.  We decided to meet and talk more about the issue. After doing that, we decided to write an article about it. I was hooked right away because it’s a super-interesting legal issue that has very real world consequences.

I'm always interested in issues that cut across a lot of different areas, especially areas of con law, education, law, and employment law.  Menstruation is one of those areas that does that. There are constitutional aspects to it with equal protection, there are employment aspects to it in terms of accommodations and discrimination, and there are education law implications in terms of what happens in schools.

What got you interested in the more general fields of law and education, employment law, and constitutional law?

To me, they’re all just so interesting on both the intellectual and human-relations levels. I loved those topics from the time I was in law school. I tend to be very interested in legal issues that involve people in their everyday life. And if you think about it, you know when you're a kid, where do you go every day? You go to school. And then, when you’re an adult, where do you go? Every day you go to work. So both of those contexts to me are endlessly fascinating.

For example, think about public school teachers' free speech rights – that's a con law issue, but it is also an employment law and education law issue. I love seeing those connections and that some of the cases I teach in one class may also come up in another class.

Do you have any advice for students who are interested in these specific fields?

The first thing is to take all of the relevant coursework that you can, and also related classes. For example, administrative law touches on all of these things. I'm also a big proponent of clerking, getting experience with a judge, if you can, and whether you clerk for a state judge or a federal judge, you are very likely to see these areas come up. Also, make sure you follow the areas you are interested in - follow them in the newspaper, follow the Supreme Court, and more.

Do you have any advice for students interested in clerking?

I did two clerkships.  First, I clerked for a federal district judge, Bill Young, right out of law school, in Boston.  Then I worked at a law firm for a couple of years, and then I clerked for a judge on the Second Circuit, Robert Katzmann.  So my advice is to definitely pursue it if it's something that's interesting to you. It's a fabulous experience. It’s a good idea to cast a really broad net in terms of where you apply, and to apply to both federal and state clerkships.

If you are geographically flexible, that is extremely helpful. Don't just limit yourself to the New York metro area unless you have to for personal reasons. Also, while you are at Haub Law, if you have the opportunity, apply to participate in the Federal Judicial Honors Program and one of the law reviews as well.

So outside of academics, what do you spend most of your time focused on?

My kids! They keep me busy - I have a daughter who is 13 and my son is 8. I spend a lot of time with them, hanging out with them, driving them to their activities, helping them with their homework.

Learn more about Professor Waldman.