When Emily Campbell, the Firm’s Managing Member, saw that the 18B Panel in Kings County, of which she is a proud member, was looking for attorneys to represent two special classes of people often in need of low-bono and pro bono representation — veterans and victims of human trafficking — she jumped at the chance. Ms. Campbell holds a doctorate in Social Psychology, in addition to her law degree, and opportunities like this allow her to utilize the skills she has developed as a result of her advanced degree in social psychology.
In October 2016, Ms. Campbell attended a two-day intensive seminar presented by The New York State Defenders Association on Representing Veterans in Criminal Matters. In that training, Ms. Campbell was trained to understand better post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) issues facing many veterans, how to relate to veterans by understanding more about military hierarchy and terminology to speak their language and what legal issues veterans may face when they head to criminal court, including some family court collateral consequences.
“I wanted to be in a position to help veterans as a way to serve my country,” Ms. Campbell said. “My father served in the Navy. My uncle was served in the Army during the Korean War. One of my friends from high school served in the Army; he was ranked as a Colonel before he retired from the service and was highly decorated after serving multiple tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. Still other friends served our country, including a dear friend who proudly wears the insignia of the Air Force on his business suit lapel, even though his service was many years ago. If any of them were in need of representation, I would want someone like me to stand up with them.”
The issues veterans face are complex, and there are specialty courts in many jurisdictions to deal with their cases. Many of the cases involve issues of domestic abuse and assault because often veterans are still in a “fight or flight” mode, when they return from international conflict zones. Being able to consider brain trauma and psychological conditions and educate the judge and the jury about these issues is important, and with Ms. Campbell’s background in social psychology, this seemed like a natural choice for her.
When a second training opportunity arose to utilize her psychological background and work toward the protection of human rights, Ms. Campbell again raised her hand to volunteer to make a difference. In November 2016, Ms. Campbell attended The Legal Aid Society’s training on Legal Issues Involved in Human Trafficking. In this training, Ms. Campbell learned how to better understand people who are charged with prostitution or loitering for the purposes of prostitution — recognizing that not everyone who is charged with such crimes is a criminal; often such persons are victims. Sometimes people accused of such crimes are being manipulated by others to commit those crimes; in other words, those persons may be trafficked.
In New York City, there are special courts set up to deal with human trafficking issues. Ms. Campbell has received the training to appear there, being apprised of the special alternative programs for victims to receive assistance instead of doing time for crimes, when appropriate.
“The human trafficking scenarios you sometimes see on ‘Law & Order: Special Victims Unit’ are real. It may seem far-fetched, even ‘crazy,’ that people are here working as sex-slaves to pay-off debts they owe to their pimps – but it does happen. It happens more often than one would like to believe.”
There are lots of collateral consequences in the human trafficking arena, including immigration and potential deportation consequences. Ms. Campbell learned that, in some instances, people may be able to seek protection in the U.S. if they have been trafficked.
“I am proud to be helping out in any way I can.” Ms. Campbell said. “I realize how lucky I am to be able to make my living in an office, sitting at a desk, doing legal work, and I know that not everyone can. I am lucky to be sitting on this side of the jail cell — the side that allows me to turn around and walk out when my meeting with a client at Rikers is over. I’m very lucky indeed.”