Leitner Center Donates a Few to Help the Many

July 07, 2011

A "small" donation of a dozen computers to a national agency may not seem like a big deal here at home.
 
Ghana Legal Aid Director Seini (above) tests a new laptop; the equipment (below) was donated by the Leitner Center.
 

But for Ghana’s Legal Aid Scheme, such equipment can mean the difference between an innocent client being set free or being wrongly sentenced to prison. 
 
That is why, on June 27, a group of law school students and alumni from Fordham Law's Leitner Center for International Law and Justice made a $8,300 gift to Legal Aid Scheme Ghana of ten computers and printers, and two laptops—one of the largest philanthropic gifts the agency has ever received.

Prior to the donation, the public defender of the nation's poor had been operating with just a couple computers in its headquarters and none in its remaining nine regional offices, said Fordham Law Professor Paolo Galizzi.

"In a country where there are still many people living on less than $1 a day, these computers represent a rather significant amount," said Galizzi, clinical associate professor of law and director of the Leitner Center's Sustainable Development Legal Initiative (SDLI). "As incredible as it seems, it is an equipment increase of 600 percent, one that means that all the ten offices of the Legal Aid Scheme will now have at least one computer and one printer on which to better serve those in need. The two laptops will further increase the ability of Legal Aid to carry out their work in the field and better serve their clients.

"Think about how our own work would be so much more difficult if we had to write everything by hand," he added.

Following a study visit to Ghana last fall, law students Corolyn Houston, Felice Segura, Diana Schaffner, Anne Kelsey, Ayinde Sawyer and Erin Miles organized a fundraiser for the computers after witnessing the challenging conditions the legal aid lawyers had to work under. They successfully raised $4,150 and subsequently received a generous matching gift from James Leitner '82.

The June 27 donation ceremony attracted local news coverage and the equipment was received by Supreme Court Justice William Atuguba, chairman of the board of the Legal Aid Scheme. Al-Hassan Yahaya Seini, director of Legal Aid, expressed gratitude on behalf of the persons who will actually be using the equipment.

"The effort will go a long way to facilitate access to justice for the pure and vulnerable in Ghana, and [to] include them in the constitutional governance," he said.

The Leitner Center works to promote global social justice initiatives by encouraging knowledge of and respect for international law and international human rights standards. Through the Center, four of the students recently partnered with Ghana Legal Aid on a clinical project on prisoners remanded in custody.

“We decided they deserve our support,” said Galizzi.