headshot Vanessa H. Merton

Vanessa H. Merton

Professor of Law
Elisabeth Haub School of Law
Immigration
White Plains
Preston Hall 404-I |
Contact professor via email to schedule an appointment

Biography

Professor Vanessa Merton teaches and directs the Immigration Justice Clinic (“IJC”) at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University. The IJC provides free legal services to noncitizens who otherwise could not afford legal assistance, including representation on applications for asylum or family-based status, in removal proceedings at state and federal detention facilities, and on petitions for crime victims and juvenile immigrants. IJC Student Attorneys litigate in the Immigration Court, the Board of Immigration Appeals, and the federal courts, but also conduct community “Know Your Rights” programs, engage in legislative advocacy under the auspices of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the New York Immigration Coalition, and have spent several spring breaks volunteering at immigrant detention centers on the southern border. 

For 15 years Professor Merton served as Haub Law’s Associate Dean for Clinical Education and Executive Director of John Jay Legal Services, while creating and teaching clinics in Access to Health Care and Prosecution of Domestic Violence and designing and developing the Pace Community Law Practice, a legal incubator program that delivered low-bono legal services while preparing recent graduates to establish their own self-sustaining practices or become public interest lawyers.  

Professor Merton also was a member of the founding faculty of the innovative City University of New York School of Law, New York City’s only public, affordable law school providing a social justice-focused curriculum for a nontraditional diverse student body. She began her career in legal education as a clinical professor at New York University School of Law. Her prior practice experience includes the Criminal Defense Division of the Legal Aid Society of New York and pro bono Trial Counsel at the First Department Disciplinary Committee.

Professor Merton is especially proud of her two decades on the Advisory Board of the Mount Sinai-Irving J. Selikoff Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine, which in 2012 named her “Woman of the Year,” and as founding Chair of the Institutional Review Board of the Community Research Initiative of the People with AIDS Coalition and member of the AIDS Medical Research Foundation Institutional Review Board.

Professor Merton is honored to have received the 2012 Pace Law Faculty Award for Teaching Excellence, the 1995 Pace Graduating Class Outstanding Law Professor Award, the 1988 CUNY Law Distinguished Service Award for Teaching Effectiveness, and the 2012 Elmer Fried Excellence in Teaching Award of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Education

  • BA, Radcliffe College
  • JD, New York University School of Law

Courses Taught

Publications

View all of Professor Merton’s publications on SSRN, Digital Commons or download her CV (PDF).

Articles

  • Enter at Your Own Risk: Criminalizing Asylum-Seekers, 51 Columbia Human Rights Law Review 1 (2019) (with Prof. T. McDonnell)
  • ‘Your Mission, Should You Choose to Accept It . . .’: Taking Law School Mission Statements Seriously, 56 Washburn L.J. 289 (2017) (with Prof. I. Scharf)
  • “Mission Statements that Accurately Define, Distinguish, and Reflect the Law School’s Praxis,” in Building on Best Practices: Transforming Legal Education in a Changing World, (eds., Profs. Deborah Maranville, Lisa Radtke Bliss, Carolyn Wilkes Kaas & Antoinette Sedillo Lopez) (2015) (with Prof. I. Scharf)
  • How Derrick Bell Helped Me Decide to Become an Educator, Not Just a Faculty Member, 2 Colum. J. Race & L. Spec. Feat. 34 (2012) 
  • What Do You Do When You Meet A “Walking Violation of the Sixth Amendment,” If You’re Trying To Put That Lawyer’s Client In Jail? 69 Fordham Law Review 997 (2000)
  • “Clinical Education” in The Law School Experience: Law, Legal Reasoning, and Lawyering (eds. Profs. L. Griffin & B. L. Gershman) (2000)
  • The Utility of International Law for Protecting Women's Health Rights, 9 Pace International Law Review 259 (1997)
  • “Ethical Obstacles to the Participation of Women in Biomedical Research,” in Feminist Bioethics: Beyond Reproductive Rights (ed. Prof. S. Wolf) (Oxford University Press 1996)
  • “The Impact of Current Federal Regulations on the Inclusion of Female Subjects in Clinical Studies” in Women and Health Research: Ethical and Legal Issues of Including Women in Clinical Legal Studies, Proceedings of the Institute of Modern Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 2. (1994)
  • The Exclusion of Pregnant, Pregnable, and Once-Pregnable People (a.k.a. Women) from Biomedical Research, 19 American Journal of Law and Medicine 369 (1993)
  • CUNY Law School: An Insider's Report, 12 Nova Law Journal 45 (1987)

Fellowships & Scholarships

  • Eugen Friedlaender Foundation, Discretionary Grant to Immigration Justice Clinic ($9,000, two years), 2019
  • George Birnbaum, Discretionary Grant to Immigration Justice Clinic ($400), 2018
  • Virginia Curry, Discretionary Grant to Immigration Justice Clinic ($1,300), 2018
  • June Rose Merton, Discretionary Grant to Immigration Justice Clinic ($4,200), 2018
  • June Rose Merton, Discretionary Grant to Immigration Justice Clinic ($4,200), 2017
  • Eugen Friedlaender Foundation, Discretionary Grant to Immigration Justice Clinic ($5,000), 2017
  • Eugen Friedlaender Foundation, Discretionary Grant to Immigration Justice Clinic ($5,000), 2016
  • June Rose Merton, Discretionary Grant to Immigration Justice Clinic ($4,200), 2016
  • Eugen Friedlaender Foundation, Discretionary Grant to Immigration Justice Clinic ($5,000), 2015
  • Eugen Friedlaender Foundation, Discretionary Grant to Immigration Justice Clinic ($5,000), 2014
  • New York State Department of State Legislative Initiative Project Grant ($5,000), 2014
  • Eugen Friedlaender Foundation, Discretionary Grant to Immigration Justice Clinic ($5,000), 2013
  • Ryan White Grant for Hudson Valley Poverty Law Center ($89,000), 2000
  • Equal Justice America Disability Law Clinic Grant ($78,000), 2000
  • New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services S.T.O.P. Grant ($30,000), 1998
  • New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services S.T.O.P. Grant ($64,000), 1997
  • Lapkin Foundation Grant for the Henry Korn Criminal Justice Fund of the Barbara Salken
  • Criminal Justice Clinic Endowment ($110,000), 1997
  • IOLA Grant for GULP Social Justice Fellow and Associate Social Justice Fellow at the Hudson Valley Poverty Law Center ($135,000 annually), 1997
  • U.S. Department of Education Grants for Support of Innovation in Law School Clinical Education ($95,000 - $300,000), 1987
  • Annual IOLA Administration of Justice Grants ($9,000 - $15,000), 1987
  • N.Y. State Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Training Grant ($48,000), 1986
  • Mellon Foundation Fellow, Aspen Institute, 1984
  • National Endowment for the Humanities Post-doctoral Fellowship, 1980

Honors & Awards

  • Helene and Grant Wilson Center for Social Entrepreneurship Faculty Fellowship, 2021
  • Pace University Jefferson Bronze Medal for Public Service, 2020
  • Alumni/ae Association Hall of Excellence, Hastings-on-Hudson High School, 2019
  • Liberty & Justice Award, Cabrini Immigrant Services, Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, 2018
  • Persistence Advocacy Award, Pace Immigration Law Society, 2017
  • Adelante Award, Pace Latino/a Law Students Association, 2016
  • Lawyers Who Lead by Example, New York Law Journal Special Statewide Program, 2015
  • Woman of the Year, Mount Sinai Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine Advisory Board, 2012
  • Pace University School of Law Excellence in Teaching Award (faculty-selected), 2012
  • National Elmer Fried Excellence in Teaching Award, American Immigration Lawyers Association, 2012
  • Servant of Justice Award, Haitian-American Cultural and Social Organization, 2010
  • Nominee, Initial Panel, Best Law Professors of America, 2008
  • Human Rights Award, Alternative Chance/Chans Alternativ, 2008
  • National Association of Law Placement, Mark of Distinction Award (for preeminent leadership and expertise in enabling law students to understand the need to assist the under-represented), 2002
  • Pace Law School Public Interest Law Students Organization, Lifetime Achievement Award in Public Interest Lawyering, 2002
  • Association of American Law Schools Section on Pro Bono and Public Service, Father Robert Drinan Award (advancing ethic of pro bono service through personal service, program design or management), 2002
  • National Employment Lawyers Association, New York Chapter, Fifteenth Anniversary Award for Founding Member of Board of Directors, 2001
  • Annual PSLawNet Pro Bono Publico Award (to Pace Law School) 2001
  • Annual Pace Law School Pro Bono Award for Excellence in Service to the Public Interest, 2001
  • National Association of Social Workers, New York State, Westchester Division, Public Citizen of the Year, 2001
  • Charles A. Frueauff Research Professorship, Pace University School of Law, 1996
  • Pace University School of Law Graduating Class Award for Outstanding Full-Time Law Professor, 1995
  • CUNY Law School Distinguished Service Award for Teaching Effectiveness, 1988
  • Mellon Foundation Fellow, Aspen Institute, 1984
  • National Endowment for the Humanities Post-doctoral Fellowship, 1980

Areas of Interest

Immigration Law

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