It all started with a jail riot in Attica Prison in the summer of 1971. The riot had precipitated a violent response from guards and state police and led to the deaths of 20 prisoners and ten prison officials taken hostage. Judge J. Clarence Herlihy called for a system whereby prisoners could file grievances and even sue over the terms and conditions affecting their lives. He looked to nearby Albany Law School to make it happen. With the Judge’s encouragement, Albany Law School jumped with both feet into the world of clinical education. After two years, the program was funded statewide. That program was known as Prisoners' Legal Services and it exists to this day as a stand-alone non-profit serving thousands of people a year statewide with the assistance of Albany Law student interns.
Since that time, the Justice Center has continued to grow in response to community need, not only to provide legal services, but to increase capacity. The Litigation Clinic was established in 1981 to represent clients on several kinds of cases, including divorce, unemployment, mortgage foreclosures and bankruptcies. The Civil Rights and Disabilities Law Project, established in 1983, represented clients with disabilities challenging discrimination in employment, housing, education, and accessing related services in the least restrictive environments.
The 1990s also served as a watershed era with the creation of programs like the Domestic Violence Project, which attracted national attention when it won clemency for Charline Brundidge, the first time such relief was afforded in New York for an incarcerated battered woman who killed her abuser. During this decade, The AIDS Law Project became one of the first law clinic programs to serve clients with AIDS or HIV.
In 2000, the Clinic moved to a new state-of-the-art facility. An Investors Rights program, also known as the Securities Arbitration Clinic, began representing investors on securities arbitration matters before the National Association of Securities Dealers and the New York Stock Exchange. The Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic opened its doors to taxpayers who have disputes with the IRS, representing clients in both administrative and judicial proceedings. The AIDS Law Project expanded into a comprehensive Health Law Project, representing clients living with cancer and other chronic impairments. In 2006, Sherry Gold gave a $1 million donation in memory of her late husband, establishing the Barry A. Gold '70 Health Law Clinical Program Endowment Fund.
In 2013, the Immigration Law Clinic was founded with assistance from the state of New York. Students assisted in a massive legal response to asylum-seekers brought from the US-Mexico border to the Albany County Jail, resulting in a positive outcome for over 95% of those detained. And in 2015, the Community Economic Development Clinic was launched to assist individuals, community groups and small businesses, particularly in economically depressed areas of the Capital District. Most recently, the clinical program attracted a $15 million gift from an anonymous donor, the largest in the law school’s history, which was announced in 2019, along with a name change: The Justice Center at Albany Law.
Support The Justice Center
The Justice Center at Albany Law School is funded, in part, through public grants and private donors. For more information please contact the clinic at 518-445-2328, or give online.