2014-15 Center for Social Justice Scholars
Sergio Suarez '16 will work with the Urban Revitalization Initiative; Christopher Cochran '16 will work with the International Human Rights/Rule of Law Initiative
Each year, the Seton Hall Law School Center for Social Justice (CSJ) selects two outstanding students from the first-year class who have demonstrated a strong commitment to careers in public interest. One scholar works with the International Human Rights/Rule of Law Initiative, which focuses on human rights litigation, advocacy and reporting, as well as issues impacting immigrants in New Jersey; and the other assists the Urban Revitalization Initiative, which addresses urban poverty, with special attention on education and housing. Christopher Cochran ‘16 and Sergio Suarez ‘16 were named the 2014-15 CSJ Scholars.
The CSJ Scholars, who will serve until graduation, are offered various public interest opportunities and benefits, including the chance to complete an externship at the CSJ during their second year of law school, mentoring, and a full-year of clinical courses in their last year of law school.
Christopher Cochran ‘16 is the 2014-15 CSJ Scholar in the International Human Rights/Rule of Law Initiative. Prior to graduating from Fayetteville State University in 2013 with a degree in History, Cochran served as an Aviation Operations Supervisor with the United States Marine Corps. A veteran of eight years who served overseas, Cochran has a track record of commitment, hard work and attention to detail in intense situations. Upon entering Seton Hall Law, Cochran utilized his specialized military training and knowledge as a research assistant with the Center for Policy and Research, where he conducted research on the militarization of police forces, and as a research assistant to Professor Jonathan Hafetz, where he researched the legal implications of prosecuting foreign captured terrorists in U.S. courts.
During his first year of law school, Cochran became an active member of the New Jersey Law and Education Empowerment Project (NJ LEEP), and he continues to volunteer as a debate coach and debate room coordinator for high school students in the College Bound program, typically those students from under-served neighborhoods in Newark, Irvington, East Orange and the surrounding areas. He was awarded the Samuel J. Heyman Fellowship for Summer 2014 to work at the U.S. Attorney’s office. He is a member of the Jessup International Moot Court Team.
Cochran is constantly searching for ways to assist others through public service. For instance, he has been a member of Team Rubicon since 2011, a veteran-based disaster relief organization, and has worked with the International Law Society to create fundraising events to support the Philippines following the typhoon in November 2013. He is also currently working with his apartment building’s tenant organization to rewrite organization by-laws and meeting procedures.
Sergio Suarez ‘16 is the CSJ Scholar in the Urban Revitalization Initiative. He attended college at Seton Hall University, where he graduated in 2010 with a degree in Political Science. As a Newark resident for over 20 years and a product of its school system, he is intimately familiar with the struggles that children from urban areas face in regards to education. Taking cues from his mother, who was a grassroots community leader striving to improve the Newark public schools system, Suarez coordinated a campus-wide student information campaign to shed light on the threat of diminishing financial aid during his senior year of college, when the Governor threatened to cut certain grants to private schools. Suarez advocated before the New Jersey State Assembly Budget and Appropriations Committee against a budget provision that would have negatively impacted students from lower economic statuses.
Suarez states, “I was fortunate that the military provided me with the individual discipline to finish college and go on to law school, but I never lost sight of the changes that needed to be implemented in my home as well as other urban areas. It is my goal to provide students in urban areas with an educational atmosphere that promotes college as a preferable and accessible option.”
During the course of law school, Suarez has been a member of the Mock Trial Board and recipient of various honors including the Newark Serviceman Scholarship and the Latin American Law Student Association (LALSA) Scholarship. In August 2014, he received a Master of Science degree in National Security Studies from New Jersey City University, where his concentration was in Homeland and Cyber Security.
Suarez will pursue his work of education reform and serving the needs of underrepresented sectors of his community with the Urban Revitalization Initiative. As a CSJ Scholar, he will serve as an extern with Professor Linda Fisher and focus on housing issues including foreclosures and consumer fraud in the community. Like Cochran, Suarez capitalizes upon his experiences in the military as First Lieutenant in the United States Army, where he oversees maintenance and logistical operations for a Cavalry unit in the New Jersey Army National Guard and ensures that the unit is in compliance with Department of Defense mandates. In an effort to strengthen a veteran support system at Seton Hall Law, Suarez serves as Vice President of the SHU Law Veterans Society, while Cochran serves as President of the organization.
Regarding his future plans, Suarez states, “I hope to use the experiences gained while at the Center for Social Justice to help current and former members of the military get much needed legal services. After law school, I hope to receive an appointment into the U.S. Army JAG Corp so that I may continue to serve my country as an attorney.”
“It is hard to put into words the incredible pride I feel in attending law school in my hometown. I’m in a unique position to help those in my community. It is a dream come true.”
- Contributed by Corina De Lucia '15