History of The Justice Center

The Justice Center at Albany Law School combines theory and practice and acts as an in-house public interest law firm, providing free legal services to eligible clients in the Capital Region.

After the Attica Prison Riots in September 1971 led to the deaths of 20 prisoners and 10 prison offices, New York State issued the McKay Commission Report in September of 1972 that found, among other conclusions, “that incarcerated individuals needed a safety valve and a window to the outside, that is, a mechanism to air their grievances and a voice.” Students, faculty, and staff from the law school began to work on prisoner rights and organically form the organizational nucleus that evolved into The Justice Center that we know today.

According to “Albany Law School, 1851-2001, A History of Change,” a historical book celebrating the law school’s sesquicentennial, also in 1972, a group of about 100 students accompanied Albany police on patrols around the city, “to find out what textbooks don’t teach about criminal law.” The popularity of the event helped persuade school leaders to establish a permanent clinical program at Albany Law. Later that year an elective titled, “Clinical Legal Education,” was offered for the first time continuing to stoke the interest in creating the entity that grew into the Justice Center. 

Then, in 1974, at the urging of and under the sponsorship of the late Justice J. Clarence Herlihy – then-Appellate Division, Third Department, Presiding Justice, who also called for the implementation of a prison grievance process and access to legal representation for prisoners to allow them to present their claims in court – the first formal clinic at Albay Law School was formed under the supervision of Professor Daniel Moriarty titled Prisoners’ Legal Services (PLS).

While PLS eventually spun off into a standalone non-profit, the Justice Center continued to grow.

In 1975, the Legal Assistance Program/Clinical Legal Studies was established.

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.

In 1987, the Field Placement Program was developed to place Albany Law student in the field. Today, over 150 in in-person and on-the-ground experience are available to students.

In 1989, the Disabilities Law Clinic received national attention for its work on an employment discrimination case of client with rare seizure disorder.

The AIDS Law Project was created in 1992 to serve clients with AIDS or HIV. 

The Domestic Violence Clinic was founded in 1993 with two components: Postconviction Remedies Project and Family Violence Project. That clinic attracted national attention in 1997 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. 

In 2000, after moving into its new home on the Albany Law School campus, the Domestic Violence Prosecution Hybrid Clinic was established and the Securities Arbitration Clinic, an Investors Rights program, 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 started to help taxpayers in disputes with the IRS. That year also saw, the AIDS Law Project expanded into the Health Law Clinic representing clients living with cancer and other chronic impairments.

In 2006, Sherry Gold’s $1 million donation in memory of her late husband, established the Barry A. Gold '70 Health Law Clinical Program Endowment Fund.

In 2007, the Family Violence Litigation Clinic was renamed and expanded. 

The Immigration Law Clinic was founded in 2013 with assistance from New York State as students assisted in a massive legal response to asylum-seekers brought from the US-Mexico border to the Albany County Jail. Over 95% of detainees had a positive outcome thanks to the student work.

In 2015, the Pro Bono Scholars program was established and the the Community Economic Development Clinic was launched to assist individuals, community groups and small businesses, particularly in economically depressed areas of the Capital District. 

In 2018, the then-named Law Clinic and Justice Center received the Capital Region Chamber of Commerce’s’ Non-Profit Organization of the Year award.

To kick off We Rise Together: The Campaign for Albany Law School an anonymous and transformative $15 million gift – one of the largest to any law school in the nation, ever – endowed and renamed The Justice Center at Albany Law School in 2019. The Campaign was the most successful in the history of the last school raising over $33 million over three years.

As of 2022, the Justice Center is comprised of:

  • Community Economic Development Clinic
  • Domestic Violence Prosecution Hybrid Clinic
  • Family Violence Litigation Clinic
  • Health Law Clinic
  • Immigration Law Clinic
  • Pro Bono Scholars Program
  • Field Placement Program

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.