Letter from the Editor: New York Voter Registration Deadline Looms

Written by Naeem Crawford-Muhammad, Editor-in-Chief

The New York State voter registration deadline is this week. The New York State Board of Elections requires all voters who are registering by mail to have their registration forms postmarked by Friday, October 14 in order for the Board of Elections to receive the form for processing by Wednesday, October 19.

If you recently moved to New York from another state, you must register to vote in New York State. If you have changed your address from one New York location to another, you must re-register to vote using the same form. If you can vote, we encourage you to register to vote and cast your ballot on November 8.

Editorial: NYU Must Make Greater Effort to Stabilize Law School Tuition

Written by The Commentator Editorial Board

Recently, a new class of students started at the Law School. While they attended orientation, befriended new classmates, and began their legal career, most of them probably missed the fact that they are paying nearly five percent more in tuition and fees for their first year of law school than when they accepted NYU’s offer in the spring.

New York University has come under fire for its undergraduate tuition hikes. And we commend President Andrew Hamilton’s efforts to stem the tide. However, the cost of a legal education at NYU should be setting off alarms, too. It now costs almost $90,000 per year to attend NYU Law, about $60,000 of which goes towards tuition.

The tuition hikes are unacceptable. As NYU Law works to elevate its status as a top law school, it must also renew its focus on keeping tuition within reasonable limits. The cost of hiring new faculty, developing new programs, and purchasing cutting-edge technology should be a collective investment that propels students forward, not a burden that holds them back.

This summer, some law firms increased their starting salaries for associates by as much as $20,000. While this can help alleviate the debt burden for those students who pursue private-sector careers, it is no excuse for raising tuition on the front-end. Recent history reminds us that law students cannot rely on the viability of Big Law. So, the assumption that students will be able to reliably work off their hefty debt misses the point that raising tuition itself can have detrimental effects on the law school community.

The argument that students will be able to repay their student loans after a few years at a large firm dismisses the nearly 20 percent of students in the class of 2018, for instance, who entered law school with an interest in pursuing a public interest career. It also ignores the countless number of brilliant potential students, especially students from diverse backgrounds in a profession devoid of much diversity, who were deterred from pursuing a degree at NYU Law because of the school’s ticket price.

At its core, this kind of feedback cycle doubles down on the status quo at the student body’s expense. It benefits law firms who can attract the most intelligent, capable future lawyers. It allows the school to maintain its competitive status. But it is also a system that requires those who have the least to pay the most, and that’s not a fair shake. That runs contrary to the values of this community. Simply put, that is not NYU.

NYU Law must redouble its efforts to stay the rising cost of tuition. As NYU strives to be more competitive globally and more people look to NYU as a leader in legal education, the more urgent and important matter is that the school make the cost of attendance a priority. Not addressing the issue could have long-lasting effects on the law school community, including impeding our ability to remain the leading “private university in the public service.”

NYU needs to take a hard look at the way it is paying for legal education. The NYU community – and the legal profession – would be better off for it.

Letter from the Editor: The Commentator’s 50th Anniversary

Written by Naeem Crawford-Muhammad, Editor-in-Chief

Dear readers,

Thank you for your ongoing support of The Commentator, the official student newspaper of New York University School of Law. 2015-2016 was a special year for the paper and saw us move from being a printed paper to an online platform: www.nyulawcommentator.org. This year promises to be another special year for us and happens to be our 50th anniversary. Founded five decades ago in 1966 as a weekly, print newspaper, The Commentator remains dedicated to bringing original content created by  NYU Law students to the wider legal community.

At The Commentator, our contributors have the freedom to determine their own areas of interest. In the past year alone, The Commentator has published scores of articles covering the thorniest issues of the day. From current events like the 2016 presidential election and the ongoing Supreme Court vacancy, to more casual and fun reads like our fashion column highlighting the best-dressed students at the Law School and our satire section, Uncommentable, which uses humor to shed light on everyday situations faced by law students. With The Commentator, you can keep up-to-date on the latest events at NYU Law as well as use our platform to share your opinion on an issue of your choice with the world.

While law school is tough and spare time is precious, we hope that you will spend some of your down-time with us. If you’re interested in writing, editing, or photography and would like to learn more about roles with The Commentator, email us at law.commentator@nyu.edu.

Kind regards,

Naeem Crawford-Muhammad,



Can the American Bar Association’s New Anti-Discrimination Rules Stop Donald Trump?

Written by Aditi Juneja, Columnist

The American Bar Association’s (ABA) amended model ethics rule may create problems for lawyers advising Donald Trump on policies such as a temporary ban on those from Muslim majority nations (now shifted to a ban on nations with a record of terrorism). The new amendment to the ABA’s Model Rule 8.4 would make it professional misconduct to behave in ways an attorney knows or should reasonably know is harassment or discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, or socioeconomic status in conduct related to the practice of law.

Reading about this amendment, I began to wonder if it would be possible for a lawyer to ethically advise a presidential candidate to pursue discriminatory policies. The amendment does not require that a lawyer have discriminatory intent, per my reading, merely that it has that effect. Thus, the only way I can imagine a lawyer could ethically propose policies, such as a ban on those from majority Muslim nations, in a way that falls under the exception of “legitimate advice or advocacy consistent with these rules” is if advising a candidate to pursue discriminatory policies is not “related to the practice of law.”

Coded racial appeals, or “dog whistles,” are nothing new in presidential politics. Kevin Phillips, a lawyer and political strategist for Richard Nixon was open about the “Southern Strategy” to win an emerging Republican majority through “hostility to blacks and browns among slipping Democrats.” In fact, Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman and a lawyer, ran Reagan’s Southern operation in the 1980s with racially tinged appeals. It is not surprising, given the background of his former advisor, that Donald Trump made similar efforts to appeal to racist ideologies in ways reminiscent of post-slavery Reconstruction-Era politics that played off of the discontent of voters opposed to those changes.

However, opposition to this new rule was not based in the ethics of lawyers who represent politicians. Rather, it focused on an attorney’s free speech rights and duties to advocate zealously for their clients. In response, Professor Noah Feldman wrote it is possible to advocate zealously without crossing the line into harassment or discrimination. I believe that if lawyers are going to craft the rules of society, it is about time that we are obligated to do so in a way that is inclusive of all of its members.

As a law student, I have been taught to comfort myself about the moral implications of advocacy by deferring to the adversarial process, which is supposed to yield fair and just results. Lawyers are taught to think through arguments and counterarguments, but rarely taught to consider the morality of advocacy. If we hope to learn from our history, and avoid repeating it, it would seem that making it unethical for lawyers to engage in discrimination and harassment in their legal practice is a good first step.

Dear 1L: How to Navigate Your 1L Summer (While Maintaining Your Sanity)

Written by David Wang, Columnist

Dear 1L,

Well, it’s that great time of the year again: end-of-the-year shenanigans, finals, the last Bar Review. With so much coming together towards the end, it’s also important to look ahead. Sadly, even after the fun finals festival, 1Ls typically enter into the world of the write-on competition, EIW, and summer internships. With that in mind, here are some helpful tips and advice to navigate through this exciting adventure at the end of the year (a.k.a. what I would have done if I could build a time machine and go back to 1L)!

1)    Pace yourself. Focus on TLC and treating yourself at the end of finals. Take the moment to celebrate you. Go watch a movie, hang out with friends, enjoy the local sights at Times Square—but whatever you do, don’t jump into the write-on competition immediately! You have two weeks—use the first few days to slow down and decompress. Your writing will be more effective if you attack the competition after a fresh rest!

2)    Draw inspiration from the city. We are so lucky to be in the heart of New York City. Take advantage of the environment around us; the write-on doesn’t have to be done in your apartment or in the law library. Go to the Met for a few hours and write amongst great art masterpieces; or, pop a squat in Central Park and enjoy the (hopefully) nice summer weather.

3)    Proofreed, Prufread, and PROOFREAD. Spend time editing your work, take the word count seriously, and follow directions carefully. This is the easiest and saddest area to lose points because you have total control here!

4)    Take the writing packet in strides. The competition is designed to be a marathon, not a sprint. Take apart each section carefully and allocate time appropriately, but don’t attempt to do everything at once. Do some Bluebooking, read some articles, work on the personal statement, come back to the Bluebook, work on your comment, but do work in chunks and manageable pieces—not all at once!

Take chances, make mistakes, get messy! – Ms. Frizzle, The Magic School Bus

And now on to the fun stuff…do you have any advice for a summer internship????? Why yes, we do!

1)    Ask questions—but with gravitas. Be sure to ask lots of questions if anything is unclear. Most employers expect that 1L students are interning to learn and gain experience in the legal field, so as part of the educational experience, questions are expected. Or as my childhood hero/spirit animal Ms. Frizzle would say, “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!” That being said, before you ask questions, you may want to think about suggesting some possible answers on your own—this will show your enthusiasm and positive attitude.

2)    Tea with strangers. Spend time getting to know the lawyers and other professionals working at your job site—offer to take them out for coffee/tea/water/whatever for 15 minutes and understand their background and careers. Not only will this expand your own knowledge of different career possibilities, but also it can help grow your network.

3)    Positivity, no matter what. A positive attitude will take you far. Even if you’re given a mundane task, treat it with the utmost care, respect, and enthusiasm. Often, these “simple” tasks are actually tests to see if you are ready to handle bigger assignments. Doing these tasks well and with great energy will make you stand out and help your supervisor recognize your talents!

I hope this helps with relieving some of the stress of the upcoming weeks. Remember, we’re approaching the goal line, and you will have successfully completed your first year of law school. You deserve praise for making it this far—now finish strong and let the good times roll!


NYU Law Foodie’s Guide: What to Eat When You’re Gonna “Netflix and Chill”

Written by Katherine Tandler, Columnist

My last column was about how to put someone in the friend zone—so, of course, I got some calls for a column on where to go when you actually like someone. Irl the typical response would be where to take someone on a date. But, as someone who tends to assiduously avoid the forced intimacies and inevitable fiascoes associated with the dating scene, I have decided to focus on the popular Millennial alternative to a date: Netflix and Chill.

Here’s the situation: you were iso something to do so you invited someone over to “watch Netflix and chill.” It’s late in the evening for sure, but it’s also highly unlikely that person will arrive having downed a huge meal. So, don’t be a newb—you’ll probably want to have a good option on lock for after the “movie.” You know, midnight-snack style. Especially if there is going to be drinking involved.

Of course, the typical movie food is popcorn. But, as Netflix and Chill doesn’t necessarily involve an actual movie, imho actual popcorn is not required. If we were to change the hypo and you were going to eat before the “movie,” popcorn might be a good call. Reliable sources have shown that the smell of popcorn is an aphrodisiac, as is the scent of cheese pizza. See, e.g., How Stuff Works: Aphrodisiacs. But beware—consumption of both of these foods can result in very greasy hands and you don’t want your fellow movie lover to be all “nimby,” amirite?

Right off the bat I am going to have to veto Thai food. One word: peanuts. It’s just too risky with all the allergies floating around these days. Disobey and you’ll be the one spending the night in front of an ER waiting room TV watching C-SPAN instead of on your own couch watching Zombeavers with your date. If you do end up in the ER, look for me: I’ll be the one shaking my head in the corner like stby.

Sushi—also too risky, given the likelihood your partner doesn’t like it and the acute risk of food poisoning. Chinese? No way. When your date accidentally bites into a hot chili, spits it into their palm, then rubs their eye (or touches you somewhere sensitive) your Netflix and Chill sesh will be over faster than a kitten video going viral. And let’s not even talk about Mediterranean/falafel. Soggy pita late at night? That’s so ratchet.

Once you’ve ruled out pizza, Thai, sushi, Chinese, and falafel…I mean, what else is there to order around NYU? Tbh, I don’t really think you’re gonna want to wait around for Seamless to bring you something. If the movie is good, you’re gonna be hungry af afterwards and want something right away.

So, when in doubt, I refer you to my two heroes: Ben and Jerry. Everyone knows these two guys fill every pint with tlc. There are approximately 4,839,562 different flavors of ice cream in any given bodega (fwiw, B&J even make vegan ice cream now!). I would recommend getting multiple kinds in case your partner has a particular proclivity.

Mhoty! Go forth and chill!


Op-Ed: Why I’m Disappointed that Sri Srinivasan Wasn’t President Obama’s SCOTUS Pick

Written by Jonaki Singh, Guest Contributor

Last month, President Obama announced his nominee for the Supreme Court of the United States, Merrick B. Garland, chief judge of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Undoubtedly, Garland is qualified for the job—19 years on a federal court of appeals, with years of government service before that. Given the current political climate, Garland is also a strategic choice—Republicans in Congress have consistently praised him, and it would be difficult to sustain a blanket “no consideration” policy for a candidate widely considered to be “centrist.”

And yet, I found myself disappointed that the nominee was not Sri Srinivasan. As one of the contenders that appeared on almost every shortlist, there’s no question that Srinivasan was supremely qualified (no pun intended). He served as a law clerk to Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, argued many cases before the Supreme Court, is currently a judge on the D.C. Circuit (confirmed by the U.S. Senate with a 97-0 vote), and, like Garland, is considered “moderate” or “centrist.” Furthermore, as a relatively young nominee, he likely would have had a significant impact on the Court’s jurisprudence for decades.

As has been discussed in the past few weeks, Srinivasan’s nomination would have been momentous for several reasons: the first Asian-American justice, the first Hindu justice, and one of the few justices born outside the United States. Some have also pointed out the legal significance of such an appointment, given the historical policies and restrictions on Asian immigration and citizenship.

But as an Asian-American law student, Srinivasan’s potential nomination carried a different meaning for me. While many of the formalistic legal barriers to Asian and Asian-American inclusion in society have been removed, several social, intangible barriers and stereotypes still remain. One of the common stereotypes characterizes Asians and Asian-Americans as “perpetual foreigners.” This concept underlies the “no, where are you really from?” line of inquiry and rests on the notion that people of Asian origin fall just short of “American.” Perhaps this perception stems from Asians’ connections to their countries of origin, or perhaps it is a contemporary manifestation of the historic exoticism surrounding “the East.” Furthermore, despite being an integral part of America’s history of exclusion and prejudice, Asian-Americans are generally sidelined in our national conversation on race, cementing the perception that we are somehow a detached, apathetic minority loosely woven into the fabric of American society.

The perpetual foreigner stereotype is especially powerful in the legal field. Legal practice, particularly in government service, requires an understanding of the philosophical tenets underlying the legal system, of the historical context in which our system took shape, and an awareness of how the law governs relationships between individuals and the state. Given these prerequisites, being perceived as a foreigner or outsider may present Asian-Americans with additional hurdles to “prove” their American-ness and to demonstrate that they are capable of meaningful participation in American politics and governance. See generally former Governor Bobby Jindal and Governor Nikki Haley.

As Asian-Americans, it is extremely frustrating to grapple with these presumptions in spite of our embodiment of American identity. We share a sense of responsibility in America’s future. We are not a disinterested minority; we do not see the destiny of the nation as separate from our own. We care, and we are capable of the same commitment and participation as any other American—whether in legislatures, at the voting booth, or on the bench.

The Obama administration has made remarkable progress in appointing Asian-Americans to prominent government positions. Neal Katyal, Jacqueline Nguyen, Jenny Yang, Vijay Murthy, Vanita Gupta, and Sri Srinivasan himself are all examples. However, the Supreme Court is a unique institution, and Asian-American representation there carries its own value and significance. The Supreme Court synthesizes our historical past and distills its principles to resolve the current questions of rights, liberties, and justice in our nation. In recent times, the Supreme Court has taken an especially active role in protecting and extending rights to groups against whom there has been a history of discrimination.

After Srinivasan’s nomination, it would no longer be unimaginable that an Asian-American, even one born outside the United States, could participate in an institution such as the Supreme Court. It would finally be conceivable that a group so undeniably present in America’s past could participate in shaping its future. In an election cycle where a major party’s leading candidate has questioned the extent to which minorities and immigrants enrich our nation, Srinivasan’s nomination would have reaffirmed the belief that the country we, as Asian-Americans, consider our own also trusts us with the great responsibility of shaping the future of America, our country.

Editor’s note: A version of this article originally appeared on BrownGirlMagazine.com and is republished here with permission.