A Once in a Lifetime Experience

Rafael Wolff, LLM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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