Student Advocates in Federal Court
Representation in Mediation Practicum at the Southern District of New York
“The Court is most grateful to all of you and applauds the professionalism of the students who contributed to this great endeavor,” writes the Honorable Loretta A. Preska, Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (SDNY). “We all look forward to continuing to work with you to improve the delivery of justice in this District.”
Judge Preska was writing regarding the work of the 51 Seton Hall Law students who have participated in the Representation in Mediation Practicum. Students advocate on behalf of pro se litigants who file employment discrimination complaints. Under the licensed supervision of Adjunct Professors Stephen J. Grable, Maurice Q. Robinson and Alan Serrins, students prepare mediation statements and appear before federal mediators. If the parties reach a resolution, the student advocates help to draft the settlement agreement.
Since its inception in June 2011, through December 2012, Seton Hall student advocates and their faculty supervisors have assumed responsibility for 17% of the SDNY pro bono advocacy placements, and have negotiated more than $200,000 in settlements.
SDNY Magistrate Judge James C. Francis IV presided at a reception at which the Court honored Seton Hall student advocates and faculty. He praised the program as beneficial both for litigants and student advocates: “The value, from the Court’s perspective, is that students, along with their professors, give litigants an opportunity to be more articulate and to better frame their settlements – in short, they bring some legal reality to bear. This is particularly useful in the context of pro se cases – often litigants won’t bring their case because they don’t have the knowledge or wherewithal to do so. Working with students and their professors, some of that fear is relieved.”
Judge Francis also recognized the reciprocal value to student advocates. “While the program provides a real service to litigants, it gives students an opportunity to learn what representation is like in the real world.”
Professor David M. White, who directs the Seton Hall Law Conflict Management Program, identifies a broader perspective of this access-to-justice initiative. “Beyond monetary recovery, our student advocates have enabled their clients to regain something of often greater value – their dignity.”
Students and judges convene in the Daniel Patrick Moynihan United States Courthouse in Manhattan on February 22, 2013. Pictured, from left, are Conflict Management Program Adjunct Professors Scott A. Wolinetz, Esq. and Alan Serrins, Esq.; Student Advocates Elena Sousa ’13, Kelly Ann Taddonio’13 and Ezra H. Alter’13; SDNY Chief Counsel to the Office of Pro Se Litigation, Maggie Malloy; Hon. James C. Francis IV, U.S.M.J.; Student Advocates Courtney J. Lyons’13, Christopher J. Buggy ’13, Karen E. Leve ’13 and Christopher M. Russo ’13; Conflict Management Program Director David M. White; and SDNY Representation in Mediation Practicum Adjunct Professor Maurice Q. Robinson.