The Fordham Urban Law Journal: twenty years of progress.

AuthorKatsoris, Constantine N.
PositionThirtieth Anniversary of the Fordham Urban Law Journal Commemorative Issue - Reprint
  1. Introduction

    Fordham Law School was founded in 1905 and originally located in Collins Hall on the main campus in the suburban setting at Rose Hill. (1) Despite its pristine setting, it soon became apparent that a location closer to the courts would be more practical. Thus, during its first academic year, the school moved to downtown Manhattan where, after an interim move, (2) it settled in the landmark Woolworth Building. (3) It remained there until 1943 when it relocated again just a few blocks north to 302 Broadway (4)--conveniently nestled among the Financial District of Wall Street, the Municipal Government at City Hall, and the Federal and State Courts at Foley Square. (5) It remained at this location until 1961, (6) when the school moved uptown to its present location at New York's historic Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. (7)

    The first legal publication at the law school, the Fordham Law Review, was established in 1914, only to be discontinued three years later with the onset of World War I. (8) In 1935, however, in the midst of the Great Depression, the Fordham Law Review was re-established, and has published with distinction ever since.

    After the move to the cultural hub at Lincoln Center, the problems associated with our urban (9) areas began to accelerate. (10) It became apparent that a closer focus had to be directed specifically at the urban problems of the nation, with particular emphasis on the affairs of its then largest city and state--New York. (11) Thus, the Fordham Urban Law Journal (ULJ or Journal) published its first issue in 1972, exactly twenty years ago. (12)

    In documenting the Journal's success in addressing urban issues, it is not easy to summarize over four hundred articles, reports, notes and comments, (13) spanning over fifteen thousand pages, (14) which were prepared by twenty different editorial staffs. (15) Nevertheless, this article will make the attempt, first from a chronological historical portrayal, (16) and then from the perspective of the Journal's impact upon specific areas of the law. (17)

  2. Historical Development

    The first article published by the Journal, written by Attorney General Louis J. Lefkowitz, (18) discussed the unique urban environmental problems of New York City's Jamaica Bay. It focused on and offered suggestions regarding the dilemma of having a large body of water which is polluted by its urban neighbors, yet also serves as an important "breeding ground for waterfowl, fish and shellfish, [and] a way-station for migratory birds." (19) Other urban topics covered in that initial volume included: the criminal responsibility of drug addicts; the dangers arising from nuclear power; noise pollution; tenant remedies for harassment; and, urban crime. Unfortunately, many of these urban problems of the early 1970s still remain with us today. (20)

    Volume 2 contained a report by the New York City Board of Correction entitled Pre-Sentence Report: Utility or Futility?, (21) which focused on delays between a finding or plea of guilty and the sentencing of criminal defendants. The next few volumes continued to expand the coverage of urban issues, reporting on such areas as: fiscal crises, (22) affirmative action, (23) landmark preservation, (24) religious discrimination in employment, (25) as well as ethics in the legal community. (26)

    Volume 5 contained several significant pieces. One was a controversial article by David I. Caplan on the constitutional right to bear arms. (27) In light of the recent riots in Los Angeles, (28) this article, albeit controversial, still appears to be timely. Indeed, over five thousand reprints were ordered in 1977 by parties interested in this area of the law. Another piece, written by Kenneth Bond, concerned itself with the then newly enacted municipal bankruptcy provisions. (29) Since this article was published during the time of New York City's 1976-1977 fiscal crisis, (30) numerous extra copies were distributed.

    Volume 6 was significant in that it reflected an expansion in the number of ULJ staff members, resulting in a marked increase in the publication of student comments and notes. Moreover, this volume further broadened the Journal's coverage of federal and national issues generally, rather than principally dwelling upon New York related problems.

    This expanded coverage continued in volumes 7 through 14, (31) resulting in articles coveting: First Amendment issues, (32) the right to privacy, (33) medical malpractice insurance, (34) the energy crisis, (35) tax exemptions, (36) access to federal courts in civil rights cases, (37) zoning, (38) juvenile offenders, (39) homelessness, (40) securities disputes, (41) minorities in employment, (42) due process, (43) solid waste, (44) the New York "pothole law," (45) anti-trust, (46) torts and product liability, (47) confidentiality, (48) the death penalty, (49) executing youthful offenders, (50) and a topical note on the AIDS virus. (51) Furthermore, Senator Orrin G. Hatch contributed an article in 1979 entitled, Should the Capital Vote in Congress? A Critical Analysis of the D.C. Representation Amendment. (52)

    Volume 15 saw a further development: the publication of significant public reports. That volume included the Report of the New York Task Force on Women in the Courts, (53) which set out the problems faced by women in the court system, and included a foreword by the Honorable Judith S. Kaye, (54) remarks by the Honorable Sol Wachtler, (55) and a message from the Dean of Fordham Law School, John D. Feerick. (56) This Report was widely circulated in the legal community, in large measure because of its ready availability through the ULJ. Because of its significance and timeliness, approximately ten thousand copies of this Report were requested. Moreover, as a follow-up, volume 19 recently published the Five Year Report of the New York Judicial Committee on Women in the Courts. (57)

    Volume 18 contained several additional significant reports: the two reports of the New York State Commission on Government Integrity (58) (collectively referred to as Feerick Commission or Feerick Report) and the New York State Bar Association's Report of Special Committee to Consider Sanctions for Frivolous Litigation in New York State Courts (59) (Frivolous Litigation Report).

    The reception of the Feerick Report by the legal community was enthusiastic. It documented a number of political abuses, exposed weaknesses in the law that created opportunities for corruption, and laid out a detailed agenda for raising governmental ethical standards in New York State. The Report was widely disseminated, not only in New York, but throughout the United States, and has been frequently quoted by the media in its commentaries on governmental ethics. (60) In fact, many of the Feerick Commission's recommendations have already been enacted into legislation. (61)

    The Frivolous Litigation Report was prefaced with an introduction by the Honorable Hugh R. Jones, the chair of the Committee. (62) The Report set forth several recommendations including a proposed sanctions rule. Thousands of lawyers and judges were solicited for their views on this topic, and the recommendations reflect the Committee's consideration of "the basic principles which underlie Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure." (63)

    Recently, volume 19 published the Report of the New York State Judicial Commission on Minorities. (64) The New York State Judicial Commission on Minorities was appointed by Chief Judge Sol Wachtler, and its Report was issued after more than three years of studying the problems of racial bias in the state's judicial system. (65)

    As for physical growth, the Journal's first volume consisted of 546 pages, increasing to a peak of 1116 in volume 11. (66) Its present circulation has grown to approximately 3,000 copies per volume, including 720 domestic and 21 foreign subscribers. Moreover, since 1983, the bulk of recent ULJ articles and notes are available on Westlaw. (67)

  3. Special Impact Articles

    To truly show the depth and breadth of the Journal's articles, it is also necessary, in addition to a historical portrayal, (68) to examine them from the perspective of their effect upon designated areas of the law. Indeed, this impact has not gone unnoticed, as indicated by the frequent listing of the Journal's articles in the "Worth Reading" column of the National Law Journal, (69) and the number of times the articles have been cited in judicial opinions, publications and journals. (70)

    1. Criminal Law

      The Journal has published over a dozen articles, comments or notes dealing with criminal law. Moreover, the New York Court of Appeals has cited several of these pieces, (71) namely: a case note in volume 5 discussing the inability of custodial criminals under indictment to waive their right to counsel without the presence of an attorney (72) and another case note which discussed the issue of multiple jury joint trials. (73)

      A recent student note proposed an "aggravated child abuse" statute which would recognize such child abuse as an underlying felony to support a felony murder charge, along with a similar amendment to the current felony murder statute. (74) This suggested legislation addresses the difficulty of obtaining a conviction for intentional homicide and depraved indifference to human life where child abuse is the underlying predicate felony. (75) It would simplify the task of the jury by attributing the requisite intent of a murder conviction to one who commits a homicide during the commission of the underlying felony of aggravated child abuse. (76) In addition, the proposed amendment would serve to deter abuse by parents, protect the child from harm, and satisfy society's outrage over the senseless beating of a child. (77)

      Another note argued that DNA fingerprinting is an invaluable tool for prosecutors and defense attorneys, creating the necessity of establishing a national database of DNA fingerprints...

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