A small-town justice’s retirement has turned into an Albany Law grad’s opportunity to—more than likely—make history.
The Honorable Ariel Lasher ’19 is the Town Justice in Providence, N.Y., a small Saratoga County town with a population of about 2,000 people. She is very likely the youngest female judge in New York state at 26 years old.
While there is no way to definitively confirm Lasher’s status as the youngest person to take the bench in the state’s history, her experience in Providence’s town court as a clerk was crucial in her taking over after Allan Lahoff retired late last year.
Though the role is part-time, being a Town Justice does require full-time attention she said, because cases are always moving forward. Her Albany Law School education prepared her for it though as she is often helping resolve vehicle violations, traffic infractions, and domestic violence cases. Law piqued her interest in her undergraduate studies at Coastal Carolina University.
Her upbringing in a small town like Providence showed her the inequities small, lower income parts of the state see. For example, access to public services and resources are often limited or much easier to access to those in more populated Saratoga County towns and cities.
Working with Professor Breger as a research assistant helped her get some inside knowledge on domestic violence law, family law, and the early stages of New York’s bail reform law. She also completed Professor Mary Lynch’s Domestic Violence seminar and worked as her research assistant.
“Knowing more about the nuanced aspects of domestic violence helps me significantly in the courtroom,” she said. “I’ve already ordered an order of protection and the knowledge of the things you need to consider came directly from working with Professor Breger and Professor [Mary] Lynch.”
That hands-on experience gained in The Justice Center at Albany Law School—through both coursework and field placement opportunities—is being put into practice less than two years after her time here on campus and that knowledge, she said, will be helpful for her entire career.
“You’re getting the academic side but you’re also getting that real-world exposure—especially with domestic violence and how interrelated it is with the criminal justice system,” she said about her time working in the Justice Center. “You may see something that looks simple on its face but there are often years of complexity behind it. Everyone should take advantage of it.”
Working with Professor Evelyn Tenenbaum, Lasher is part of a combined degree program to earn her Master’s in bioethics from Albany Medical College alongside her J.D. “I think the law and medicine interconnect in a variety of different ways,” she said. “And I would even say that what I learned studying for my master's in bioethics should somewhat be common knowledge. Every patient should be fully aware of the ethical obligations on the people who are supposed to be caring for them.”
Beyond the judicial responsibilities, Lasher is the first in her family to obtain a four-year degree and the first to go to law school. Her ultimate goal is to find herself in a career where she can share her knowledge for the greater good. Lasher understands inequities faced by small towns and lower income parts of New York such as access to public services and limited public resources. While being Town Justice is important, her ultimate goal is to directly help others – especially with healthcare. Lasher is currently her mother’s primary caregiver and navigates her through treatments.
“As a caregiver, I see providers falling behind on the principles [of bioethics]. I appreciate having the knowledge and being able to advocate for my mother, but it bothers me a little because I know not everyone knows those things. And they can't stand up for themselves at that time. They have to go and suffer and face the harm before they realize something went wrong four appointments ago,” she said.
“It's very barring. I feel privileged to be able to have my law school experience, but also to be on the track to being admitted as an attorney, and knowing that not everyone has those opportunities. And even though I faced my own obstacles and my own hurdles, I know I don't have it as bad as others. It’s privilege to have that knowledge and act on it, but I want to do more to fix it.”