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More than three quarters of Professor Melissa Breger’s most
recent Family Law class took advantage of an opportunity to earn a few extra
credit points by sitting in with a judge and taking a tour of Family Court
facilities in Albany and Schenectady counties.
“I can teach them the theory and the black letter law, but in
order to fully embrace family law, the students need to experience the culture
of the courts, including the judges, the attorneys and the litigants,” explained Professor
Breger, who noted that many of her colleagues on the faculty are increasingly supplementing
their instruction with this type of hands-on experience.
After the visits to Family Court, Professor Breger asks the
students to write a brief paper on the experience, and how it relates to what
they are learning from their casebooks and in classroom dialogue. Similarly,
Professor Breger’s Criminal Procedure students have an opportunity to visit the
New York State Police Forensic Investigation Center to follow DNA sample
processing, and her Evidence students were also invited to tour the Center for
extra credit points.
Professor Breger has also enlisted students’ help in other
extra credit projects. For example, one semester, students were offered extra
credit for preparing a paper on cutting-edge topics in Family Court reform.
That March, Professor Breger drew from these insights as she prepared to
testify in Long Island for the New York State Bar Association.
For all of her classes, Professor Breger tries to bring in
guest speakers. For one, it offers
additional insight and perspective, and two, it offers students a chance to
mingle with potential employers.
For her Gender & the Law and Children & the Law
classes, for example, Professor Breger brings together
panels of attorneys, many of whom are Albany Law alumni, and academics from
other institutions to expose her students to different perspectives and areas
of practice, as well as to network.
Professor Breger has been teaching at the law school level
for 14 years, first at The University of Michigan Law School and then at Albany
Law School since 2002. Prior to teaching, Professor Breger dedicated her career
to children, women and families, with her formative years practicing in New
York City in a number of capacities.
She is the recipient of several teaching and service awards,
both on a local level and on a national level, including the Shanara C. Gilbert
Award in Recognition of Her Excellence in Teaching and Contributions to the
Advancement of Social Justice from the American Association of Law Schools and
the L. Hart Wright Excellence in Law Teaching Award from The University of
Michigan Law School. Professor Breger also received the Albany County Family
Court Children’s Center Award “In Recognition Of Her Outstanding And Tireless
Work Assisting Children And Families In Need And For Her Dedication To Ensure
That Law Students Obtain The Skills Necessary To Provide High Quality And
Compassionate Legal Services To Family Court Litigants” in May 2008.
Professor Breger’s current courses at Albany Law School
include Evidence, Family Law, Criminal Procedure: Investigation (4th, 5th, 6th
A), Gender & the Law, and Children & the Law. She has taught the Domestic Violence Seminar
and was the former Director of the Family Violence Litigation Clinic from 2002
Professor Breger is the co-author of NEW YORK LAW OF
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, a two-volume treatise published by Reuters-Thomson-West, as
well as the author of numerous law review articles regarding issues of family
law, gender, and justice. Her scholarly interests include the rights of
children and families, gender and racial equality, procedural justice in the
courtroom, juvenile justice, the increasing epidemic of child trafficking, law
and culture, and the intersections between psychology and the law.a