by Sera Idoko, J.D. Candidate 2022
Students join the Criminal Justice Action Network (CJAN) at Columbia Law School to be part of a community that is passionate about reforming our criminal justice system. Many of us came to law school aspiring to make a difference and to become the best advocates that we can be. Now, more than ever, we are faced with real opportunities to be part of a movement and enact real change in our society. CJAN gives us the opportunity to connect with like-minded peers and legal professionals to exchange resources and ideas and work toward building careers and inspiring change in the criminal justice field.
CJAN is dedicated to increasing awareness about issues surrounding criminal justice, encouraging interaction among students interested in improving the criminal justice system, and providing career development opportunities for our members. Some of the events we hold during the year include: FBI field office tours, dinners with faculty, regular happy hours, and a host of guest panels and speakers. Three of our largest events of the year are our annual symposium, our mock trial competition, and our spring break caravans.
Mock trial is a great part of the CJAN experience! Every year, teams of two mock attorneys compete against one another, tackling a criminal problem and examining fellow students acting as witnesses. It’s a great opportunity to practice and demonstrate advocacy skills in a courtroom setting and receive feedback from experienced practitioners.
We were not able to hold our annual symposium this Spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, our symposium next Spring will be on Prison Abolition. We are excited to bring a host of amazing speakers and panelists to discuss the ins and outs of what prison abolition means and how we can work toward institutional change as budding lawyers.
Lastly, you can also take part in one of CJAN’s spring break caravans! CJAN hosts five different caravans during spring break with the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, the Bronx Defenders, the Miami-Dade Public Defender’s Office, the California Appellate Project, and the State Attorney’s Office for Florida’s Fourth Judicial Circuit. These caravans give students the opportunity to gain real-life legal experience in criminal justice work while allowing you to take part in meaningful work during spring break.
These are only a few of the great experiences you will have with CJAN at CLS. We hope that you will join us this fall!