Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman, President of Yeshiva University together with Melanie Leslie, dean of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, announced the creation of The Perlmutter Center for Legal Justice at Cardozo Law, supported by a $15 million donation from Isaac and Laura Perlmutter and the Perlmutter Foundation — the largest donation in the law school’s history. Isaac Perlmutter is the Chairman of Marvel Entertainment. Laura Perlmutter is a director of the Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Foundation.
The Perlmutter Center for Legal Justice at Cardozo Law will have two components: a student field clinic called The Perlmutter Freedom Clinic at Cardozo Law that will focus on fighting wrongful convictions based on the misuse of scientific evidence and work to obtain clemency for individuals unjustly incarcerated. The second component, The Perlmutter Forensic Science Education Program, will feature an ambitious continuing legal education curriculum in scientific evidence designed for practicing attorneys. The Perlmutter Center for Legal Justice furthers the growth of the University’s recently launched Rise Up Campaign and builds on the decadeslong success of Cardozo’s Forensic Science College.
The Perlmutter Center for Legal Justice will be led by prominent civil rights attorney and criminal justice reform advocate Josh Dubin, who will serve as executive director. The deputy director will be Derrick Hamilton, a formerly incarcerated individual who studied law in prison. Hamilton won his own exoneration after serving a 21-year sentence and led the effort to exonerate five wrongfully incarcerated inmates.
“We are committed to seeking justice, equipping students and lawyers with the tools to confront junk science, and seeking clemency for those unjustly imprisoned,” said Dubin.
The Perlmutter Center will support and build upon the work in which Cardozo School of Law has been engaged for over a decade as co-sponsor of the National Forensic College, with the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. The Perlmutter Center for Legal Justice will focus on correcting the devastating consequences of junk science in the courtroom, a problem that is prevalent in the legal system and disproportionately impacts people of color. “We are tremendously grateful to Laura and Ike Perlmutter for this gift,” said Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman, President of Yeshiva University. “It builds on Cardozo’s proud tradition of innovation in the fight for justice, and it reaffirms Yeshiva’s core values of truth, compassion and redemption, among others.”
The clinical education portion of the Perlmutter Center for Legal Justice will be a new field clinic. The Perlmutter Freedom Clinic at Cardozo Law will train a group of students each semester in cases involving the use of junk science, offering pretrial and trial assistance to attorneys litigating cases involving scientific evidence, and working on the exoneration of individuals whose convictions involved the misuse of forensic evidence. The Perlmutter Freedom Clinic will also work on clemency cases for those serving unfair sentences. Selection criteria will focus on cases that will have significant value in establishing or reinforcing the proper use of scientific evidence in the courtroom.
By training students, practicing lawyers and judges, the Perlmutter Center seeks to make a transformative difference in the legal system that will advance the cause of justice.
“It is essential that trial lawyers have a deep understanding of scientific evidence. The acceptance of and reliance on junk science has caused untold damage to the legitimacy of the court system and countless lives,” said Dean Leslie. “The Perlmutters’ generous gift and the new team at the Perlmutter Center for Legal Justice will enable Cardozo to train generations of lawyers in the proper use of forensic science.”