ClinicThe Social Justice Clinic offers students an opportunity to build lawyering skills as they develop and create innovative solutions to the challenges created by urban poverty. Professor Gemma Solimene has co-taught the clinic along with Professors Cooper, Feerick, and Galacatos.
• Social Justice Clinic - The Feerick Center for Social Justice operates a non-litigation, problem-solving clinic that seeks to use innovative dispute resolution models to help disenfranchised individuals and communities create social change. As part of this goal, the Clinic uses innovative methods to address structural problems that do not readily lend themselves to conventional legal solutions.
The Clinic is currently working with multiple stakeholders in the New York City child welfare system to develop ways to better engage and empower families involved with the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) and its contract agencies.
There are nearly 13,000 New York City children in foster care. Most of these children are from poor communities of color, and every year, ACS investigates thousands of additional reports of suspected child abuse and neglect. Families struggling to cope with urban poverty are particularly vulnerable to involvement in the child welfare system, yet these families also bring strengths and expertise on how best to keep their families stable and safe. Acknowledging the need to partner with parents to create better outcomes for children, the Clinic has facilitated conversations among ACS, advocates, and service providers to construct ways of incorporating parent feedback into current policies and programs.
Students play an integral role in all Clinic activities. Students have engaged in legal and policy research, conducted fact-finding interviews, led focus groups, and designed and facilitated processes for stakeholders to identify and build consensus around creative solutions.
• The Catholic Health / Labor Mediation - The Feerick Center has developed the expertise and resources to serve as a neutral in disputes that implicate social justice reforms. Over a two-year period the Center facilitated the development of an historic, groundbreaking consensus among leaders of Catholic health care, organized labor, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The Center supported a structured dialogue among the stakeholders, which led to a breakthrough framework for addressing labor disputes in the context of an organizing campaign. The guiding principles, contained in a June 2009 document entitled: “Respecting the Just Rights of Workers”, created a process for workers in Catholic health care institutions to decide whether or not to form a union.
• Reentry of Persons with Criminal Convictions – Students explored the financial collateral consequences of convictions. The debts that accrue because of convictions include fines, court costs, and surcharges. These debts create substantial impediments to the successful reentry of individuals with criminal justice histories back into society following conviction. The project identified ways to increase awareness of these financial consequences among a variety of key stakeholders, including criminal justice agencies, service providers, and the individuals affected directly by these policies.
• Food & Hunger – Clinic students focused on finding ways to improve access to affordable and nutritious food for New Yorkers with low incomes. A current project focuses on school fundraisers.
• Asset Building & Consumer Protection – Since the spring of 2007, the Center has partnered with the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) on a series of clinic projects concerning asset building and consumer protection. Most recently, the Clinic is working with DCA to explore ways to improve the service of process and, more particularly, through education requirements.
• Immigrant Service Providers Project -- This Clinic project was another collaboration with the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA). Students developed an educational curriculum targeted to immigrant service providers who run afoul of the local ordinance, which governs their activities.