Symposia and Forums

Public Interest Debate

The Sparer Program serves as a public interest resource for the entire Law School community. The program sponsors an annual public interest law forum or symposium that draws nationally-recognized lawyers and public policy advocates to the Law School to discuss critical issues in public interest law. These programs have provided a rich exchange of ideas, contributing immensely to the intellectual discourse at the Law School. Several issues of the Law School’s journals have been devoted to these symposia.

Upcoming Event

Sparer Forum: Free Them All: Defending the Lives of Criminalized Survivors of Violence 

Tuesday, March 19
5 to 7 p.m.
Reception to follow

Brooklyn Law School
Subotnick Center, 10th Floor
250 Joralemon St.

RSVP by March 15

About the Forum
Join the Edward V. Sparer Public Interest Law Fellowship Program and the Center for Criminal Justice for “Free Them All: Defending the Lives of Criminalized Survivors of Violence.” This forum will explore the ways in which the criminal legal system impacts women who have experienced violence and will feature a keynote speech by Mariame Kaba, organizer, educator, and prominent civil rights activist.
Although the prison and jail population in the U.S. has begun to decline, the number of girls and women detained in federal and state prisons across the country has increased. A large percentage of them have been prosecuted for violent offenses. Often, their charged conduct is directly connected to domestic, sexual, or systemic violence they have experienced, yet their cases have escaped public scrutiny. The legal community has been slow to respond to the specific pathways, policing practices, and prosecutorial decisions that contribute to the criminalization and mass incarceration of survivors of violence.
The event will probe the ways in which our laws and legal systems center on harmful constructs of race and gender that are especially damaging for survivors of violence and women of color. In doing so, the program will test the notion that the criminal legal system is the right site for anti-violence work and will highlight promising new ways communities can address violence outside of the carceral state. A discussion featuring Anisah Sabur, Coordinator, Coalition Building & Peer Support, STEPS Centering Survivor’s Advocacy Project and Ashley Sawyer, Director of Policy & Government Relations, Girls for Gender Equity will delve deeper into the role of lawyers and Brooklyn Law School in advancing conversation and practice around these critical issues. Moderated by Kate Mogulescu, Assistant Professor of Clinical Law, Brooklyn Law School.

Co-Sponsored by the Center for Criminal Justice and the Edward Sparer Public Interest Law Fellowship Program

The Edward V. Sparer Fellowship Program
Brooklyn Law School alumnus, Professor Edward V. Sparer, was one of the leading poverty lawyers in this country. The Edward V. Sparer Public Interest Law Fellowship Program was established in 1986 to honor him and encourage law students and lawyers to carry on his legacy. For more information about the Sparer Fellowship program, visit
The Center for Criminal Justice
The Center for Criminal Justice was launched by Brooklyn Law School in 2016 as a dynamic center that builds on the existing strengths of the school’s nationally recognized criminal law faculty and places the Law School at the center of critical conversations, education, and sharing of expertise on the most vital issues and topics in criminal justice law and policy today.
For general inquiries regarding this event, please contact the BLS Office of Events at or (718) 780-7966.

Past Event

Sparer Forum: Low-Income Workers and Sexual Harassment

March 22, 2018

About the Forum
Amid all of the uproar about sexual harassment in the workplace, little attention has been paid to the lives of women who work in low-income jobs. These women (and sometimes men) often suffer from harassment by supervisors and co-workers on a daily basis and face additional intersectional discrimination on the basis of race, national origin, and age. Their claims rarely surface in the courts since attorneys are typically reluctant to represent low-wage earners. This program will consider the legal and policy issues specific to these workers that should be addressed as employers, courts and legislators re-examine their understanding of sexual harassment.

The annual forum of the Edward V. Sparer Public Interest Law Fellowship Program will feature Tanya K. Hernández, Archibald R. Murray Professor of Law, Fordham University School of Law, a leading scholar in intersectional discrimination; Elizabeth S. Saylor, Partner, Emery, Celli, Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP; LaDonna Powell, her client in a major sexual harassment lawsuit involving the security guard industry; and Minna Kotkin, Professor of Law and Director, Employment Law Clinic, Brooklyn Law School. Elizabeth Schneider, Rose L. Hoffer Professor of Law and Director of the Sparer Program, Brooklyn Law School, will moderate.

  • This forum addressed the legal issues associated with disaster preparedness, and best practices for reaching vulnerable communities in the aftermath of a disaster, such as Hurricane Sandy. There was a discussion on New York City's particular vulnerability to storm surges as a result of climate change, and how regulatory controls, such as zoning and design guidelines, can make cities like New York more resilient to severe storm events. The forum also focused on neighborhood-based approaches for reaching populations in need of legal assistance in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and how litigation can address unmet community needs ranging from housing to public assistance.

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  • This Forum explored the causes of poverty and the impact of the recession on low-income individuals and families and examined how advocates use the law and other disciplines to address these problems. Frances Fox Piven, Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Political Science, CUNY Graduate Center, and national expert on poverty and social movements, was the keynote speaker. Leading advocates from legal and non-profit organizations currently developing innovative strategies commented and discussed their work.

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  • On March 25, 2011, over 150 alumni and friends of the Edward V. Sparer Public Interest Law Fellowship Program gathered at Brooklyn Law School to celebrate the program’s 25thanniversary at an invitation-only panel discussion followed by a reception and dinner.

    “Sparer occupies a special place for us, enabling our students, and ennobling our institution,” said Michael Cahill, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.

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  • Over 300,000 immigrants a year are detained by United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (USICE), a branch of the Department of Homeland Security. These immigrants are held at facilities both run by, or under contract with, USICE and are wholly dependent on the facilities for the provision of healthcare. In recent years, studies by community-based organizations, the government, and media have uncovered systemic deficiencies in healthcare that have led to suffering and even death for persons held in immigration detention. This forum will grapple with the complex nature of the problem of providing healthcare to such a transient population including language barriers, costs, and government and institutional perceptions of the level of care appropriate for this population of detainees. Experts from the government, medical doctors, and community based immigrant advocacy organizations will discuss the scope of the problem, its public policy implications, and possible solutions grounded in administrative and legislative reform as well as litigation.

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  • Historically, all levels of government have taken an active role in housing and economic development. As the federal government undergoes a change in administrations during the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, this conference examined two of the key roles that government plays in housing. The two morning panels will evaluate the role of federal and state governments in housing finance, especially in light of the ongoing crisis. The two afternoon panels explored local government innovations in the economic development sector. Panelists explained and evaluated how government’s role is changing in response to this new political and financial environment. Papers from the symposium will be published in the Journal of Law and Policy.

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  • In the mid-20th century, the Warren Court revolutionized constitutional law by nationalizing norms of rights and equality. From Brown v. Board of Education to Miranda v. Arizona to Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court invited those seeking to promote rights and equality to litigate in the federal courts. But, following changes in the composition of the Court in later decades, the tide has turned.

    The Roberts Court has shown a willingness to water down or eliminate rights in some areas and seems likely to continue the trend of lowering the federal constitutional floor. Litigators who explore the alternative of going to the states confront the expense of litigating issues fifty times instead of one, among other challenges.

    This symposium assessed how organizations whose mission is to promote rights and equality have responded to these challenges. It will compare the strategies that have led to successor failure in different areas, such as the death penalty, reproductive freedom, LGBT rights, eminent domain, and school equity, and considered how well national and local organizations have adapted to decentralization.

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  • In December 2003, the General Assembly of the United Nations requested the Secretary-General to prepare an in-depth study on global violence against women. This landmark study was presented to the General Assembly in September 2006 for consideration, the first time that the General Assembly has ever discussed this issue.

    This forum brought together a number of leading international human rights scholars and activists who work on global violence against women, including individuals who were involved with this study. They discussed the possibilities that this study presents for future work and assessed the obstacles that are presented.

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  • Brooklyn Law School celebrated 20 years of the Edward V. Sparer Public Interest Law Fellowship Program. The Sparer Program continues to serve as the heart of the Law School’s public interest law community, offering students the opportunity to serve leading public interest organizations throughout the nation.

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Brooklyn Law School - Sparer Celebration

View photos from the Sparer Celebration.

Have questions? We have answers.

Sparer Fellowship Program
Marva Skeene
Brooklyn Law School
250 Joralemon Street, Room 800A
Brooklyn, New York 11201

Telephone: (718) 780-0351