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2018 in Review: What We’ve Won

December 28, 2018

The past year brought a groundswell of grassroots organizing, community-led advocacy, and hard-fought victories to the forefront of national consciousness. 2018 challenged us to find new ways to show up for one another and dared us to stay focused and driven through all the noise. It’s no surprise our network of activists, organizers, advocates, and attorneys was on the frontlines of social justice, pushing all of us onward and upward.

Milestone Victories

Right here in New York City and across the globe, CUNY Law students, alumni, clinics, and faculty tipped the scales of justice. Landmark cases have added momentum to the outcry over targeting and over-policing communities of color, including a big win for Muslim communities in the No-Fly List lawsuit: as of May 4, 2018, individuals can sue government officials for damages for violated constitutionally protected expressions of religion under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act thanks to the efforts of the students, staff, and faculty of the CLEAR Project.

The call for immigrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers to be welcomed and granted the rights and protections due to them was bolstered first by faculty members and professors Nermeen Arastu, Janet Calvo, and Julie Goldscheid calling out then-Attorney General Sessions after his decision in Matter of A-B-, decrying his efforts to upend and renege on the country’s prior commitments to end gender violence and support survivors, placing the US outside the global consensus, flouting international law.  And then in fall of 2018, our own Immigrant and Non-Citizen Rights Clinic claimed a big win for a client fleeing domestic violence and terror in Honduras thanks to sustained and focused efforts of students and faculty.

Our Human Rights and Gender Justice Clinic also tackles gender-based violence on the global stage. This year the clinic team announced a new initiative and created a Crimes Against Humanity Toolkit for advocates. HRGJ received 583 signatories from 103 countries requesting that the UN’s International Law Commission amend the draft crimes against humanity convention’s definition of gender. The call for change recommends adopting the precedent set by the International Criminal Court, otherwise the new treaty could sideline women; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons; and other marginalized groups.

And the Defender Clinic amplified the national discourse on clemency, challenging us, in the words of professor and co-director Steve Zeidman, “to think more expansively to redress the past 50 years of hyper-aggressive policing, processing, and punishing, and to make a dent in the physical embodiment of the plague of mass incarceration – the 2.2 million people, disproportionately black and brown, currently behind bars.” The Defender Clinic celebrated multiple client victories, granting clemency to men and women who had served decades in prison. For an inside look at the Defender Clinic’s work, read this piece on the “amazing transformation” of Jamel Bellamy. 


Related Categories: CLEAR, Clinic News, General News, HRGJ, INRC, Spotlight

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