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Center for Social Justice Names New CSJ Scholars

Center for Social Justice students plan to pursue careers in public interest

Each year, the Seton Hall Law Center for Social Justice (CSJ) selects two students from the first-year class who have demonstrated a strong commitment to public service and who are planning public interest careers. Antoinette Solomon '16 (pictured, left) and Sofia Iqbal '16 (pictured, right) were named the 2013-14 Center for Social Justice Scholars.

Each scholar focuses on a particular area of need within either the Urban Revitalization Initiative, which addresses issues of urban poverty, with a focus on education and housing; or the International Human Rights/Rule of Law Initiative, focusing on human rights litigation, advocacy and reporting, as well as issues impacting immigrants in New Jersey.

The Scholars, who will serve until graduation, are offered a range of public interest opportunities and benefits, including the chance for an externship at the CSJ during their second year of law school, financial assistance, and a full-year of clinical courses in the final year of law school.

Antoinette_Solomon'16Antoinette Solomon ’16 is the 2013 CSJ Scholar in the Urban Revitalization Initiative. She attended college at Saint Peter’s University, where she focused on education and psychology and student taught at an elementary school in Asbury Park. She also conducted research on the stressors on children surrounding state testing. Her experiences with urban education led her to apply to law school, in the hopes of pursuing a career where she could “effect change regarding students with a similar background” to her. She is considering work in the area of education reform, specifically the restructuring of the high school system.

Following her college graduation, Antoinette worked in a bank for a year. She started at Seton Hall in the fall of 2012 in the evening program and immediately embraced the opportunities available to her. She is currently serving as President of BLSA, the Black Law Student Association, at SHLS, as well as a Study Group Facilitator for the Academic Success Program. During the summer of 2013, she received a Public Interest Law Fellowship to work at Essex-Newark Legal Services in the Income Maintenance Unit. She advised clients of their rights in preparing for their fair hearings against the Essex County Welfare Board. Antoinette was struck by the vast need for help: “So many people come to legal services looking for help – including one man whom I met who had a PhD in chemistry – and there is only so much we can do. The legal services budget has been cut so severely that we were only doing intake of 6 new cases every Tuesday and Thursday, and we were not able to go to court or welfare hearings to represent these individuals.” Antoinette asked: “Why isn’t this issue in the media? People are hurting and they need lawyers to help them and no one seems to care.”

Antoinette will pursue her desire to help the unrepresented through her work with the Urban Revitalization Initiative. As a CSJ Scholar, she will serve as an extern with Professors Linda Fisher and Shavar Jeffries. She served as a Research Assistant to Professor Jeffries during the summer of 2013, and she hopes to continue research in areas including public housing, predatory lending, and school funding.

“I don’t know where my career will take me initially out of law school, but my ultimate goals are to effect change for the indigent and unrepresented youth.”

Sofia_Iqbal'16Sofia Iqbal ’16 is the 2013 CSJ Scholar in the International Human Rights/Rule of Law Initiative. Sofia graduated from Seton Hall University in 2010 with a degree in Finance and began her career with the U.S. Treasury Department, where she served as an Associate National Bank Examiner. In this capacity, she verified compliance with banking regulations pertaining to community reinvestment and fair housing opportunities,to ensure that banks met the financial services needs of low- and moderate-income neighborhoods. Her desire to directly interact with individuals who she can positively impact though her work led her to apply to law school.

Sofia began as an evening student in the fall of 2012. While pursuing her degree, Sofia works at the Seton Hall University School of Business and participates in a number of law school organizations and mentoring programs. This current semester, Sofia is also externing with the U.S. Immigration Court in Elizabeth, where her work focuses on detained respondents.

In the summer of 2013, Sofia received a Public Interest Fellowship from New Jersey Law Firm Group to conduct legal research for Unchained at Last, a nonprofit organization that provides legal assistance to women. Unchained’s unique mission of helping women leave arranged and forced marriages resonates with Sofia. “Many people think forced marriage is an ancient practice happening in remote parts of the world. Growing up in a South Asian and Muslim community, I became aware of the prevalence of arranged marriages in the United States. At Unchained, I learned this practice is growing and not only in immigrant communities. Through my summer work, I helped advocate for and empower women, who are trapped in marriages, often without any education or work experience.” 

Sofia researched legal evidence to argue that unfavorable divorce agreements arising out of religious arbitration courts should not be upheld by New York and New Jersey civil courts and that the civil courts’ intervention in such matters does not violate First Amendment rights. Sofia was awarded the Robert Masur Fellowship in Civil Liberties for her work with Unchained.

As a CSJ Scholar, Sofia will work with Professors Lori A. Nessel, Farrin Anello, and Jenny-Brooke Condon in the International Human Rights/Rule of Law Initiative. She hopes to further her understanding of immigration issues and research violations of human rights, including human trafficking.

“My experience, both this summer and at law school, have solidified my desire to pursue a career in public interest, improving policies that affect the welfare of women and children. I aspire not only to positively affect my local community, but also to utilize my legal knowledge and skills to influence civil and human rights on an international scale.”

Learn more about the Center for Social Justice Scholars program.