The Government Law Center [GLC] is the oldest law school-based government law center in the United States. Since its founding, the GLC has been an essential part of the law school and has effectively served to connect the law school and its curriculum with the broader community of legal practitioners, law students and government policymakers.
Professor Sandra M. Stevenson, founding director of the GLC, believed that the location at a law school in New York's capital was ideal for accomplishing these goals. Working with Professor Bernard Harvith, she obtained funding for the Government Law Center in 1978, through a grant administered by the New York State Department of State, under the leadership of then-Secretary of State Mario M. Cuomo.
J. Langdon Marsh was selected as the GLC's first full-time director in 1979. During his five-year tenure, Marsh facilitated discussions on some of the leading governmental issues of the day. He focused on subjects such as real property assessment and taxation and New York's still relatively new environmental quality review act. The GLC hosted public sector officials, judges, and attorneys working in government-related fields to help foster internship and career opportunities for students and graduates.
As the Center's reputation grew, Marsh was approached by the Department of Environmental Conservation to prepare the GLC's first legal report for a state entity, on legal problems in the control of hazardous wastes. The Center also produced reports and training programs on a range of issues for the Department of Social Services, Adirondack Park Agency, Department of State, Department of Health, and the legislature.
For a brief time in 1983, Joseph W. Bellacosa served as the GLC's director, before being appointed to serve as a judge on the Court of Claims and chief administrative judge of all State courts, followed by a fourteen-year term on the Court of Appeals.
Later in 1983, Associate Dean and Professor Stevenson reassumed the position she had held in the first months of the Center's existence. Serving as the director until 1989, Stevenson made a mark collaborating with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute on the internationally recognized annual conference on intellectual property, held in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. She also initiated a pioneering science, technology, and law focus at the law school.
The GLC trained law students in community dispute resolution at a time when alternative ways of settling differences without going to court were becoming more prominent. Before pro bono work was a requirement for admission to the bar, GLC students engaged in volunteer activities through the GLC. One memorable project: performing a student-penned children's play about constitutional issues, wearing costumes of Wizard of Oz characters as well as the character of Lady Justice, at area elementary schools.
The 1990s brought new leadership to the GLC. Professor George F. Carpinello served as director from 1990 to 1991. He oversaw a series of studies on municipal law issues: legal processes for facilitating local government restructuring, prepared for the Task Force on Local Government Restructuring Project of the Rockefeller Institute of Government; SEQRA and local land use decision making, prepared for the Legislative Commission on Rural Resources Land Use Advisory Committee; and the use of impact fees in New York.
To prepare students for government service, the GLC arranged internships in the counsel's office at state agencies, established a legal career series featuring alumni working in government, and published a new directory of legal careers in State government as a convenient, one-stop source of employment information.
The GLC entered another period of change in 1992 when GLC Assistant Director Patricia E. Salkin '88 was appointed acting director and, subsequently, director. Under Salkin, the GLC became known for its expertise in land use law and government ethics. She established new law and policy focuses on aging, public policy dispute resolution, and racing and gaming. Longstanding programs initiated by Salkin included the Warren M. Anderson '40 Breakfast Seminar Series, the Edwin L. Crawford Memorial Lecture on Municipal Law, the Edgar '46 & Margaret Sandman Fellowship in Aging and Health Law & Policy, and the Saratoga Institute for Racing and Gaming.
The year 2000 brought a move to a new building on the Albany Law campus. The year also marked a major step forward in community engagement. As part of a renewed commitment to improving police officer behavior, police department procedures, and police-community trust, the City of Albany created an independent Citizens' Police Review Board. The GLC was specifically named in the law and mandated to provide administrative services to the new entity. The GLC remains the only law school-based program in the country to serve a fundamental role in the work of a citizen police oversight board.
In order to provide students with an immersive hands-on experience in government, the GLC partnered with the Justice Center to launch a pilot Semester in Government program. Now students could spend extended time, thirty hours a week, working with an attorney-mentor in the counsel's office of a state agency.
The GLC developed a new Government-Lawyer-in-Residence program to provide students with an opportunity to learn from distinguished government officials about their diverse public sector experiences and to augment the GLC's expertise on legal issues. Hon. James P. King '59, former brigadier general and director of the Judge Advocate Division of the Marine Corps, Assembly member, and Court of Claims judge, served as the first government-lawyer-in-residence.
The GLC partnered with the New York State Bar Association to co-produce the Government, Law & Policy Journal. The magazine features substantive articles, each with a theme on a current issue of interest to state and local government attorneys.
When Salkin left to become Dean of Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center in 2012, Assistant Professor Robert Heverly, who had served as the assistant director of the GLC from 1992 to 2001, became the GLC interim director. He was succeeded in 2013 by Assistant Professor Ray Brescia. Brescia served as the GLC director until May 2016.
Under Brescia's leadership, the GLC began an initiative to bolster economic development, entrepreneurship, emerging technologies, and economic justice. The GLC established a regional innovation lab through the Community Loan Fund of the Capital Region to provide technical support on critical housing and economic initiatives and to combat urban blight. It began programs with Albany Medical College to develop best practice for its emerging technology and transfer program. It launched a Startup Discover Series to provide advice and business information on how to grow a business in the Capital Region.
In 2016, the GLC established the Rural Law Initiative to bring legal assistance to small and start-up businesses in rural Upstate New York, where there is a shortage of attorneys.
During Brescia's tenure, Albany Law was ranked first in the country by preLaw magazine's 2016 winter issue for preparing students for careers in government, partly due to the work of the GLC and the opportunities it provides students. This included a new student initiative through which entering students could become Government Law Fellows. Through the Fellowship program, students had the opportunity to work on issues at the GLC and meet with government lawyers, helping to further the GLC mission and expand students' professional networks.
Bennett Liebman, former executive director of the Government Law Center, served as acting director of the GLC from June 2016 until Ava Ayers took over as GLC director in November 2017.
Under Ayers, the GLC opened up major networking and mentoring opportunities for students. The Government Law Center Fellows program was expanded, and students currently undergo a three-year training process with specially tailored academic programs that prepare them to participate in the Center’s work. During the spring 2017 semester, the Government Law Fellows met as a group with Honorable Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, during her historic visit to Albany Law School.
Beginning in 2017, the GLC has been focused on several significant local and state government issues. Partnering with the Institute for Financial Market Regulation, the GLC hosted a program focusing on urban blight. GLC research included a series of policy papers on state constitutional law issues, some of them produced in partnership with the Rockefeller Institute of Government. Recognizing that immigration is not only an issue of intense debate but also tremendously complex—especially for busy municipal officials —the GLC began developing explainers: short policy papers, on issues regarding the state and local government's role in immigration law.
In response to the increasing number of craft beverage manufacturers in central New York and the scarcity of legal resources, the GLC's Rural Law Initiative hosted successful programs for craft business attorneys in two Upstate locations.
During this period, the GLC expanded its explainer series, breaking down complex issues in policing, aging and disability law, and election law for government officials, advocates, and community members. GLC Fellows and other students engaged in a variety of experiences, including hands-on work in police reform and other topics. The Warren M. Anderson Series explored new law and policy areas concerning the future of the courts in a post-COVID era, election reform, sports wagering, surveillance technology, independent work, and higher education and the student-debt crisis.
For more than 40 years, the Government Law Center has provided the nonpartisan legal research and analysis that state and local governments need to better serve their communities. By bringing together a diverse and inclusive group of lawyers, students, scholars, and community partners, the GLC additionally prepares students for careers as skilled and leading attorneys in public service.