Juan Cartagena, the President & General Counsel of Latino Justice PRLDEF in New York City, and a well-known civil rights attorney, will join Rutgers Law School in Newark this spring as the Peter Rodino Distinguished Visiting Professor.
Cartagena will be teaching a course called Latinos and the Law, which will look at Constitutional law and civil rights issues. The course will look at how jurisprudence in the U.S. affects Latino life in specific ways and how Latinos have helped shape that law, he said. It is similar to a course that Cartagena teaches to undergraduate students at Rutgers in New Brunswick. Cartagena will also work with the law school on cross-campus programming on contemporary civil rights challenges.
“I’m super excited about Rutgers Law,” he said. “The law school’s reputation in the field of public interest law and constitutional litigation is excellent.”
A graduate of Dartmouth College and Columbia Law School, Cartagena has been leading Latino Justice for nine years. The non-profit public interest law organization works on economic justice issues; including the fair treatment of workers; immigrant rights; voting rights, including bilingual assistance for voters, and criminal justice reform, including policing and drug policy reform. In addition, LatinoJustice has been helping Latinx students get into law school through mentoring programs and LSAT assistance since 1972.
Cartagena previously met Rutgers Law School Co-Dean David Lopez, when Lopez worked as the General Counsel for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under President Obama. The two attorneys worked together on employment discrimination matters, including when Cartagena testified in front of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission about the detrimental effect of criminal background checks on Latino job applicants.
"Rutgers Law is thrilled to welcome Juan Cartagena, a nationally-recognized civil rights leader of enormous stature, to our community," said Lopez.
Cartagena said LatinoJustice also is involved in a program called CLASP, which is a legal internship program that pairs law students with corporate law departments and their outside counsel law firms to get paid experience in corporate law. Students who successfully complete the two-year summer internship program usually receive job offers from the law firms. Rutgers Law School students have participated successfully, he noted.
“It’s a sad story that the legal profession has yet to move the dial on both the inclusion of Latino and African-American lawyers,” said Cartagena. “There are more Latino engineers or health care professionals than there are lawyers . . . There’s a lot more work to be done.”
Cartagena said he also will provide mentorship opportunities for law students during his semester at Rutgers Law and he hopes to also host some lecture panels.
Besides working at Legal Justice, Cartagena is a widely-sought after public speaker, writes a column for El Diario, and has received several awards, including Dartmouth College’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Social Justice Award, and the U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute’s Cesar Chavez Community Service Award. A native of Jersey City, he’s also worked as a Municipal Court Judge in Hoboken and as General Counsel to the Hispanic Bar Association of New Jersey.