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Karen Leve '14

Fellow at the New Jersey Institute of Social Justice

As a Seton Hall Public Interest Law Fellow, Karen Leve ’14 reflects on her experience working with the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice (NJIS), a Newark-based research and advocacy organization, dedicated to the advancement of New Jersey’s urban areas and residents.

Leve describes the work that she does, as “not your typical public interest work, it is very outside the box. The legal policy work is creative and imaginative! You not only focus on the legal aspect, but you get to combine other areas of study with the legal field, such as psychology.”

Currently, Leve serves as the lead intern on her latest assignment with NJIS because of her extensive involvement with family law and her experience as a social worker. She is leading her fellow interns, as they partner with the American Civil Liberties Union, in preparing an amicus brief for submission about the rights of incarcerated parents and the termination of their parental rights.

Leve explains, “Our research focuses on advocating for clarity as to what reasonable efforts are owed by Division of Youth and Family Services to incarcerated parents with respect to reunifying the family. We are researching the law in all 50 states to see how other states handle this issue. “It's clear that incarceration should not be a dispositive factor for the termination of parental rights, but it has been a long time since the New Jersey State Supreme Court has addressed this issue and a new discussion is warranted as incarceration rates continue to rise.”

Originally a social worker, Leve has expanded her interest of public service to the legal community because she wanted to finish the path that she started as in her initial career path. “I wanted to help with what happened in the court room and advocate for my clients, not just hear their stories. I wanted to do more.”

The NJIS is commonly referred to as a social justice “think and do tank” and Leve describes that mentality about herself. “I like to be creative and think of ideas to help the community, and then use my skills and put those ideas into action,” she says.

- Contributed by Sabrina Porter '14