Local Journalism Project News

Cornell’s First Amendment and Entrepreneurship Clinics Launch Innovative Partnership

The Cornell Law School First Amendment Clinic is excited to announce that it has initiated a pilot program with Cornell Law School’s Entrepreneurship Clinic – a very popular clinic at Cornell which provides corporate services to emerging enterprises.

For this pilot, the First Amendment Clinic has brought to the Cornell Entrepreneurship Clinic two of its representative media clients in need of more “foundational” legal services ─ one based in New York City and the other in Phoenix, Arizona, each with different legal challenges.  The concept is that these two clients will be represented by a team of students from both clinics, supervised by the Director of the Entrepreneurship Clinic (Celia Bigoness) and the Managing Attorney of the First Amendment Clinic’s Local Journalism Project (Heather Murray) and the First Amendment Clinic’s NYC-based Local Journalism Attorney (Ava Lubell).    

The purpose of this program is to meet our clients precisely where their needs are and to provide to them a more fulsome representation, more in line with the type of work an in-house lawyer would perform for a media outlet.  The program is also intended to provide our students with a more holistic perspective of a media lawyer who is asked to perform all manner of legal services for their clients. 

According to Clinic Director Mark Jackson: “our view is that in order to be an effective media attorney, a lawyer needs to be acquainted and adept at both litigation and corporate skills.” Jackson added “a good litigator understands their clients’ commercial needs and that a good corporate attorney understands the newsgathering challenges of their clients.”


Cornell First Amendment Clinic Files Suit Seeking Employment Questionnaires Completed by Judicial Nominees

Cornell Law School’s First Amendment Clinic filed a lawsuit in state court on August 18, 2021, on behalf of veteran New York journalist Janon Fisher seeking records from the New York City’s Office of the Mayor containing information about the qualifications of judicial nominees seeking appointment to influential court seats.

Candidates wishing to be considered for appointment to family, criminal, and civil courts must submit a job application in the form of a completed Uniform Judicial Questionnaire ( to the Mayor’s Advisory Committee on The Judiciary (“MACJ”). The Questionnaire solicits information directly from candidates that is crucial to determining an aspiring judge’s qualifications and includes questions regarding a candidate’s educational attainment, litigation background, client representations, areas of substantive legal expertise, executive experience, and more.

“Transparency is a fundamental feature of democracy and, in particular, the civil and criminal court system. Knowing who sits in judgment of us is crucial to the credibility of our courts,” said Fisher. “When so much about the criminal justice system is being questioned and rethought, the public has the right to know who Mayor de Blasio’s is nominating to the bench and what makes them qualified or unqualified to impartially dispense justice,” he added.

“Janon’s knowledge of New York government is mind-bogglingly comprehensive. He has consistently devoted time and energy to understanding the city’s frustratingly opaque judicial appointment process and we’re so honored to support him in his efforts” says Ava Lubell, Local Journalism Attorney and part of the clinic’s Local Journalism Project.”Understanding the appointment process is crucial to maintaining the public’s trust in the judiciary,” added Lubell. “The public must know more about the MACJ operates and who their finalist candidates for appointment are.”

Fisher is represented by Lubell and Heather Murray, managing attorney of the Clinic’s Local Journalism Project.

The First Amendment Clinic is engaged in a variety of cases and projects advancing the interests of free speech and freedom of the press. The Local Journalism Project addresses the increasing void in legal representation facing newsgatherers and media outlets that would otherwise be precluded from engaging in expensive litigation to defend their rights and ability to do their jobs. The Clinic’s work extends across disciplines, impacting journalists, researchers, human rights advocates, political advocates, and other individuals targeted based on their expression.