By: Jonathan Felman  | 

Perlmutter Center for Legal Justice Opens at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law

The Perlmutter Center for Legal Justice at Cardozo Law, created with a $15 million donation from Isaac and Laura Perlmutter and the Perlmutter Foundation, opened at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law on Oct. 27.

The center, announced on Oct. 31, will be comprised of two divisions, The Perlmutter Freedom Clinic at Cardozo Law and The Perlmutter Forensic Science Education Program. Both units will, in different ways, teach law students and current practitioners how to approach forensic materials in court cases and will aim to address the misuse of scientific evidence in court.

The donation came during YU’s Rise Up campaign, which began in 2018 and seeks to raise $613 million.

According to John DeNatale, associate dean of communications and public affairs at Cardozo, some of the reasons Cardozo was chosen were due to its past criminal defense work and its location in New York. Additionally, DeNatale added, Cardozo’s hosting of the Forensic Science College, an annual conference held at the law school that addresses contemporary uses of forensic sciences in the courtroom, positioned Cardozo as one of the top law schools in the field of forensic sciences, and may have impacted the Perlmutter Foundation’s choice to donate.

“The Forensic Science College positions Cardozo as one of the best-known legal institutions working in the field of forensic science,” said DeNatale.

The Perlmutter Freedom Clinic, which opened on October 27, will train students in the use of forensic science in court cases and the role scientific evidence plays in legal decisions as well as how to use this evidence.

“Students [will] gain hands-on experience with the challenges of integrating scientific evidence into legal decision-making, and an understanding of how courts employ this form of proof,” said DeNatale.

Students involved in the clinic will also work to secure clemency for felons whose sentences were disproportionate to the nature of the crime committed.

The Perlmutter Forensic Science Education Program will be designed to help practicing attorneys and judges, and will aim to further education in scientific evidence in the courtroom. It is expected to open in early 2023.

Many different kinds of scientific evidence are admitted into courtrooms.

“There is a wide range of scientific evidence that is brought into courtrooms every day,” said DeNatale. “The public focuses on DNA evidence, which is significant. But everything from shoeprints and hair remnants to bullet trajectories and cellphone tower range and placement has scientific value and can be used, or misused in courtrooms. There is a huge amount of work to be done in this field beyond DNA evidence.”

The executive director of the Freedom Clinic will be Josh Dubin, president of Dubin Research and Consulting. Dubin has previously worked with Cardozo and was the first innocence ambassador advisor at Cardozo’s Innocence Project. Derrick Hamilton will be deputy director. Hamilton himself was wrongfully convicted and taught himself law in prison, eventually exonerating himself in court.

The Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Foundation was created by Isaac and Laura Perlmutter with the simply stated goal of helping others, with an eye toward health care and social justice. It has recently helped the New York City area with numerous donations to NYU Langone Health’s Cancer Center, now named the Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Cancer Center.

The Perlmutter Foundation did not respond to The Commentator’s requests for comment.

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Photo Caption: The Perlmutter Center for Legal Justice Opened at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law on Oct. 27

Photo Credit: Cardozo School of Law