Bonus: Katie catches up with Brooklyn Law School
July 11, 2022
A spate of recent Supreme Court decisions are eroding the civil rights of all Americans, especially women. Katie Phang checks in with the Brooklyn team to gauge their reactions to the overturning of Roe v Wade and other decisions. Listen to how these future lawyers plan to fight for and protect our rights.
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And we are recording. So as somebody who's been doing this for more than 20 something years, this being a trial lawyer, I'd love to know how you guys are feeling, because candidly, I'd like to feel a little bit better about kind of the state of play because I'm a little bit disheartened by what's been going on.
I'm more than happy to speak on that. I'm currently working as a legal intern for the New York Civil Liberties Union and I mean their legal policy department. So as the Doss decision has come out, it's been a really interesting time to be working in civil rights litigation and especially to be on the ground at city hall in the middle of protests
JANE DOWLING: Yeah, I mean, I truly never thought that I would be sitting, studying for the bar that I would be sitting, studying for the bar and get a notification on my phone saying that Roe V Wade was overturned. Like I was sitting in, in this seat. I don't think I'll ever forget it, doing an MBE practice set and then like that I snap my fingers in case the audio didn't pick that up. Then like that, my rights were taken away for me.
PHOEBE MENAKER: I actually had a similar thought, like when this all happened, I was thinking like, I remember learning about Roe and Casey and Griswold and all the, like all these cases in common law just a year ago. And I think I was with a friend come like at work. I remember I was sitting in the courtroom waiting actually for a trial to start and the decision came out and, like, in addition to like the just automatic devastation and not shock because it wasn't a surprise to be honest, but like devastation and just confusion was also like, what does this mean for the future in terms of our legal education?
I'm very upset and disheartened because I used to always say that the courts were a place of recourse. The courts were a place that you could go to get some sense or some semblance of reasoned explanation decisions that had some bases that were grounded in law, right? That had some type of reason to them. And that it's been very hard as a woman, as a mother, as a human, to figure out how it's possible to have somebody regulate your uterus and your vagina, but not regulate a firearm.
ELLIE SANDS: I've been hearing a lot of this rhetoric that this system is broken, the judicial system is broken. And I disagree with that sentiment in a sense, because I think for a system to be broken, it needs to be fully functioning to begin with. And I don't think that that was ever the case, in any American institution, to be honest, I think that we are a society that was founded upon murder and racism and violence and to be an educated American citizen. You have to acknowledge that history. I think we are in extremely hypocritical nation. We invade other nations on the pretense of morality in human rights, but in our own backyard, we are violating the eighth and 13th amendment in prisons. And we are forcing 10-year-olds to carry a pregnancy to term when they're the victim of rape or incest and we kill or injure over a hundred thousand Americans every year with guns. So I think, I personally have always felt a sense of urgency and responsibility to advocate for everyone's equal, equal rights. and that comes from a place of compassion and empathy, but I've shifted to a feeling of anger in the past couple of weeks when my own personal rights have, have been under attack and have been threatened.
KATIE PHANG Do you feel like you're now even more primed in light of all of the, the civil rights that are kind of at issue now because of the Supreme court decisions you guys feel like it's made you even more ready because you've, you've had a test run now. I mean, you guys have, have done, you know, mock litigation involving civil rights, and that's exactly what's about, to really kind of come to a forefront in every state of this land. Every state's going to have massive litigation, which will eventually end up in front of the Supreme court again, I think on critical civil rights issues.
I think that having this opportunity to do this particular competition, two semesters ago was very important to me. I never had, um, experienced, I used to work in personal injury and then I dabbled with criminal law, but like this specific competition really kind of put me in the center of, you know, what it's really like, there's so much hate in this world. There's so much divide in this world. And again, the whole competition is about homeless people, literally being persecuted because they were homeless. And that just adds on to everything. And just intertwining it back to the row question, Roe V. Wade question that you had before, it's just, it's so ironic that we're law students. We're supposed to go out and defend people and stand up for people's rights, but I've never felt so hopeless and sad and angry than now. And it's just, I'm supposed to go out there and help people. And I'm just so hopeless myself right now.
KATIE PHANG: Anjani, I know that you want to focus on immigration, no shortage of massive immigration issues that have come out of the last administration and the one right now, there's Title 42. That's going on the remain in Mexico, Supreme court dealt with that gave the Biden administration and went on that, but title four, two, still there. I mean, that's just a small example of some of the issues that are going on and that's just on the border that doesn't encompass all immigration issues, but are you still focusing on that you think when you graduate from law school or has the recent kind of slew of what I will editorialize say are bad decisions from SCOTUS, changing your mind as well as it did for Kathrine?
Yeah. I'm still planning to do immigration law. That's kind of always been my compass. This summer I'm working at a public defender's office in New York, in their immigration practice. And so you're seeing the overlay of immigration issues with criminal issues, with family issues, with civil issues. And it's like all of that together. Obviously, there are severe impacts on these, this population of, of folks that we're working with given this term's decisions. But, you know, for a long time, immigration has been a punching bag. It's been used as a bargaining chip by our government. The dreamers they've been used as a bargaining chip. And I think, folks in this room, they'll say, you know, obviously I'm angry, obviously I'm upset, but for so long immigration advocates have been dealing with this and our populations have not had access to abortion rights.
They've not had access to interstate travel. And so I think, you know, we have been preparing for this in the immigration world. We have always dealt with these issues. And so to the extent that it's new or different, it is for a different population of people. So, yeah, I'm still walking that path. I think it's the most vulnerable group of people that, you know, you can, you can work with in this country. And, and I say that with a grain of salt, of course, because I hope someday that there are more rights afforded to undocumented folks and people who are seeking immigration relief and that the system becomes better. But that's, that's my path. I'm still walking it and, and we'll see how it goes. And hopefully I don't get burnt out in the process, but I'm working on that too. So it's a journey.
I think that there are just so many different things that are going on in this world today that, um, if you can't identify with one thing you can, uh, definitely identify with another or feel like you're being affected somehow, just even I remember Anjani and I participated in this –
We worked with Safe Harbor Clinic from Brooklyn Law School to help with TPS temporary protected status for Ukrainian refugees.
And I just remember so many people from Brooklyn law school from other schools and other places showing up, you know, maybe no one having anything to do with Ukraine, having no ancestors or, or family members from there. And people were so willing to show up and help. And if people are so willing to do that, then you know, I'm very sure that there's going to be a lot of students who are changing their minds about which kind of law they want to practice here and what they want to do with their careers in the United States, within the United States. So, I have no doubt that many people are going to, that might be changing their career paths and what they want to practice.
And how are you feeling, Kathrine? I know that your mom was a lawyer in Ukraine, so you have a very personal connection to it. Um, how are things going and do you, how are you feeling about the fact that this is still an ongoing war in Ukraine and, and it hasn't ceased and there's been some recent developments with, um, admission, uh, for NATO, et cetera. But I mean, it's, it's a lot. So how are things going for you and your family?
I honestly, every morning I turn on the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal and it's usually like the front page on the, on the internet and every day it's just, people are dying, cities getting bombed. It's just insane. And my mom is always on the news anytime she has free time, she's reading something or listening to something and hoping she like one day gets excited. She's like, okay, I think this is going to come to an end. And then the next day something horrible happens in some part of Ukraine. And she's just like, oh no, this is going to take a while. And, we have family that has left Poland. Some to Canada. I had family coming in this month of, uh, here to our home and it's sort of a bittersweet experience because I'm happy to see them, but I know why they're here. And it, it, it breaks my heart, but my mom, she's a para. She works as a paralegal. Um, and she's always constantly doing research to see what kind of lawyers are out there, immigration lawyers, uh, who can help, um, so that she stays connected and she has information, um, to give out to people who are interested. So it's a struggle every day, but we're, we're seeing stronger. We're going to stay positive.
ELLIE SANDS: It's not a sense of anger for myself, but it's a sense of anger for the fact that time is a finite resource, and we don't have time to be fighting these old battles. We have so much progress that still needs to be made in terms of systemic racism. Um, in terms of institutions like the education system, the criminal justice system, police reform, police brutality, um, things that I'm deeply committed to myself and we've fought these battles already. And so I'm angry in the sense that it's now hindering the progress that I'm personally working towards. And I know people who are invested in civil rights and civil liberties are working towards, um, because we just, we have so much more work to do.
KATHRINE BOYKO And so I think that echoing Ellie, that I'm going to make a decision to try to, you know, keep it together, stay strong and, you know, still have faith that, you know, this country will one day go the right direction.
KATIE PHANG But meeting all of you, all of the students, undergrad in law school and the total unadulterated joy, passion, desire to affect change makes me feel so much better about where this world is heading, where my little girl is going to have for her future. What type of place she's going to have a seat at the table because of women like you. It makes me feel a lot better. We live in a very difficult world with very selfish people that sit in seats of power. So to be able to listen to all of you, say what you care about and how it impacts you and why it motivates you to do what you're going to do, helps me breathe a sigh of relief to say, okay, the world's going to be in a good place and we're going to be in, and we're, I'm leaving this world, this world of law, the world in general, this world's being left in good hands.