Law Student Life: The LLM Cruise

Written by Samarth Chaddha

Two weeks ago, the LLM Class of 2017 set sail on the Spirit of New York for a formal cruise. Hundreds of students from dozens of countries boarded to dance, drink, and talk the afternoon away in one of the highlights of the LLM program so far. The Office of Graduate Affairs is to be thanked for organizing this.

The cruise left from Chelsea Piers with a spectacular view of Manhattan, and was a great opportunity for LLMs to connect with each other. Many of us spoke about our reasons for joining the program and whether we intended to take the bar exam and work in the United States after graduation. In August, we had gotten a primer on American law through Introduction to US Law lectures. The three sections of that course rarely had a chance to mingle, but we all came together here.

We went so close to the Statue of Liberty, it felt like we could shake hands with her! At first, the ship swayed noticeably along with the waves, and the passengers rocked from side to side with the music in order to keep their balance. The chicken entrees came dangerously close to sliding off the plate, and the crockery clinked together. But soon enough, everyone began to get their sea legs.

This boat was a far cry from the Staten Island ferry; it had a dance floor and two bars as well as the standard seating areas. The look and feel of the ship more than compensated the initial “bumps.” The weather generally cooperated, though it warmed throughout the day and some regretted wearing suits in the early September heat. Wearing one was optional, though many LLMs opted for a simple tee or a polo!

The LLM class came from dozens of different countries, but we quickly bonded over selfies and social media. People connected on Facebook and Instagram, forming bonds that would carry us through the hectic first few weeks of the semester. Plenty of selfies and group snapshots were taken amidst discussions of classes, professors, and future travel plans to cities within the US. Students enthusiastically recommended New York’s tourist hotspots to each other. Some people chatted at the bar, while others stood on deck admiring the Manhattan skyline. The LLMs even shot their first group boomerang, and many were seen competing to click pictures with a placard provided by the cruise company. Clearly, the LLMs are not just a photogenic bunch, but take their pictures seriously.

The afternoon ended with all of us disembarking at Chelsea Market. A brave few walked back to campus, while others took their new friends’ recommendations and explored the neighborhood shops. This was just one of many group bonding events for the LLM class; right now, we’re looking forward to the SALSA ball and continuing to explore New York.

Op-Ed: Raise the Age

Written by Falon D. Rainer

New York is one of only two states that continue to prosecute youth over 15 as adults, regardless of the severity of the crime. Holding children liable as adults is likely to increase recidivism among teens, puts them in great risk of physical and mental harm, and it is a practice that goes against what we know about the developing teenage brain. Raising the age of adult liability to 18 would ensure that the State is protecting young people from the harmful effects of the adult criminal justice system while providing them the specific support they may need.

Under New York law, any adolescent over the age of 15 charged with committing any criminal act is treated as an adult from arrest through release and re-entry into their community. What does this look like? A 16-year-old who has been arrested has no right to notify their parent or guardian. They are subject to interrogation by law enforcement without parental presence or consent. Once housed within any state correctional facility, their age and likely inexperience with the system means they are extremely vulnerable and more likely to be the victim of physical or sexual assault. Further, the youth’s criminal record will not be sealed, thus causing them to deal with the collateral consequences of a criminal conviction for the rest of their lives. At 16, this may cause the youth’s family to be evicted from subsidized housing while deeming the youth ineligible for federal loans for higher education or certain professional licenses. All of this happens while the youth is rapidly developing their sense of self and identity.

Tens of thousands of children face this reality each year; the overwhelming majority for misdemeanor offenses. The injustice in black and brown communities is even more stark; we know that 80 percent of youth who are sentenced to incarceration are Black or Latino. Governor Cuomo’s Commission on Youth, Public Safety, and Justice, a group that includes members from law enforcement, advocacy organizations, and the court system, recently reported that New York ranks last in the nation on justice for 16- and 17-year-olds and they unanimously recommended raising the age to 18. But this legislation has been repeatedly and continues to be stalled in state budget negotiations. Science also tells us that what we are doing is wrong. We know that teens are often impulsive and lack the ability to fully grasp consequences. But because the teenage brain is still developing, adolescents are also more likely to respond well to intervention. Even the Supreme Court has accepted the argument that juveniles are receptive to change.

We must raise the age. Raising the age that someone can be criminally liable as an adult in New York would mean that 16- and 17- year-olds would be brought into family court rather than criminal court. In family court, the child’s parents would be immediately notified of their arrest and involved in every step of the court proceedings. If the judge finds that the youth has committed a delinquent act, she has the ability to tailor the remedy to the child’s needs. For example, she could confine the child to a detention center that provides mental health or drug counseling and anger management. Or she could determine that the child is need of increased structure within the child’s home and order participation in a mentoring program, a curfew check, mandatory tutoring, or structured extra-curricular activities. In the adult system, youths are often left without targeted services or interventions. It’s like we’re telling these young people that their single act of crime has given them one enduring identity: criminal.

Those opposed to the Raise the Age legislation in New York cite budget concerns. But states like Rhode Island who have recently enacted legislation to raise the age for adult prosecutions have reported saving millions of dollars in incarceration costs. Connecticut and Illinois have similar legislation and are reporting a drop in juvenile crime.

When we prosecute youth as adults, we’re missing the opportunity to connect them with services that will greatly reduce their chances of reoffending. This is a loss for the child, their family, and their entire community. This practice is a sign of the system’s desire to prioritize punishment over rehabilitation. We know that adolescents are less blameworthy and more rehabilitative than adults. We know that prosecuting youth in the adult system increases their likelihood of committing crimes or future violent acts. In order to protect our youth, support communities in need, and operate a system that is not unduly punitive, we must raise the age of adult criminal liability in New York.

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.

Election 2016: Sanders Brings Record Crowds to Washington Square Park

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

Riding the momentum of a string of primary and caucus victories in his race for the Democratic presidential nomination, Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) addressed thousands of cheering supporters in New York City’s Washington Square Park on Wednesday night.

New York royalty Spike Lee, Tim Robbins, and Rosario Dawson warmed up the throngs of attendees on a crisp, spring night when temperatures dipped into the forties. Sanders’ campaign estimated that the event drew more than 27,000 supporters to the Greenwich Village park, besting then-candidate Barack Obama’s 2008 record of 24,000. The crowd was notably young and diverse, perhaps reflecting the character of New York University, which surrounds Washington Square Park on parts of all sides.

Bernie Sanders Rally - Mercer Street
The line to enter Washington Square Park stretched several blocks down West Third Street to Mercer Street.

While the crowd may have been more diverse than those that typically attend a Sanders rally, the message was vintage Bernie, with the candidate railing against student loan debt, lack of affordable housing, and the impact of big money on the financing of elections.

“The [American people] are looking at the status quo and saying it’s not working,” Sanders said. “It’s just not working for ordinary Americans.”

Sanders is hoping to close the gap with Democratic frontrunner and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ahead of Tuesday’s New York presidential primary. According to a Sienna College survey released Wednesday, Clinton leads Sanders by 10 points. The candidates will square off in a CNN-sponsored debate tonight in Brooklyn.

Election 2016: Bernie Sanders to Hold Rally in Washington Square Park

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

According to an official announcement from Bernie 2016, Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, the Democratic senator from Vermont will hold a rally in Washington Square Park’s main plaza at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 13.

New York University Executive Vice President for Health Robert Berne sent an email to the NYU community saying that “thousands” of members of the public may descend on the popular downtown park, which borders large portions of the NYU campus, including the Law School. According to Berne, who cites the New York City Police Department (NYPD) in his email, the park will be shut down on Tuesday at midnight in preparation for the Sanders rally on Wednesday. While nearby streets are expected to be closed to vehicles, pedestrian traffic should be unaffected, albeit slowed by crowds.

Sanders’ rally comes hot on the heels of his streak of winning seven of the last eight Democratic contests, including this past weekend’s in Wyoming. 247 delegates will be allocated proportionately between Sanders and former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in next week’s New York Democratic presidential primary. Both candidates have strong connections to the state of New York. Sanders was born in Brooklyn and Clinton represented New York in the United States Senate for eight years from 2001 to 2009.

As of Monday night, a Facebook event sponsored by “New Yorkers for Bernie Sanders 2016” listed over sixteen thousand people as planning to attend Wednesday’s rally.

According to the  New York Times delegate tracker, which relies on figures tabulated the Associated Press, Clinton leads Sanders in the delegate count 1,305 to 1,086. Additionally, Clinton leads the race for superdelegates 469 to 31.