Knowledge of law can be used to address issues of justice within the United States and internationally. Whether a lawyer or a layperson, there is opportunity for individuals to engage in advocacy, whether on behalf of a single battered woman or against systemic crimes of genocide, through the institution of law. In this course we:
- Investigate legal philosophy and the connection between community values and law.
- Explore use of the “tools” of legal knowledge and strategic advocacy to effect social change.
- Look closely at successful litigation and political movements as means of bringing about social change.
- Discuss contemporary national and international social justice issues.
- Cultivate the research, writing, speaking, and collaborative skills necessary for effective advocacy.
Case studies include coverage of American civil liberties, international criminal tribunals, and the use of civil disobedience as political strategy.
Students meet with advocates engaged in social justice work, visit sites such as the United Nations Headquarters, and, working in teams, ultimately produce a strategic plan for addressing an issue of interest to them.
James P. O'Brien holds a B.A. in history and geography from the University of Albany, an M.S. in secondary school education from Hofstra University, and a J.D. from Albany Law School of Union University. Having practiced law with a general practice firm, he has a broad exposure to the myriad areas of legal practice. His work as a high school legal instructor has included work with students on advocacy projects, such as on behalf of a death row inmate, as well as a successful clemency petition on behalf of an incarcerated battered woman. Jim has served as coordinator of an interdisciplinary criminal law and forensic science program and as an LSAT instructor with Baruch College of the City University of New York; he has taught in the Columbia Summer Program since 2001.