Law of Race, Class, Poverty and Power

Fall - September 24–December 4, 2022
Modality, Day & Time:
Online - Saturday, 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
Florina Altshiler
No prerequisites are required. However, students should have a demonstrated interest in social justice and, although not required, debate or other public speaking experience is a plus. The course will be taught using the Socratic method, with students routinely called upon to participate in active discussion.

Course Description

This course is designed for any High School student interested in social justice, public interest and the law in our ever changing society. This course explores how those in the legal profession can work to advance social justice. The class will initially examine the meaning of social justice and the variety of structural factors that contribute to legal inequality including social class, power, wealth, race and community. It will then explore ways in which legal assistance is funded and delivered to low-income and underrepresented individuals; different substantive legal arenas in which social justice is pursued; and the diverse ways in which individuals can work for social justice, both in and out of the courtroom.

The course is designed to be introspective, interactive, and applied. There is an applied project that students will work on throughout the course. The project is intended to encourage students to become engaged in larger environments, develop networks of people engaged in social justice work, and become proactive in pursuing paid or pro bono work in social justice lawyering.

Although no prerequisite knowledge is required, the course is taught using the Socratic method and will require law school level reading. It is expected that students who register for the course are willing and able to participate in active course discussion and come to class prepared. The course includes asynchronous work, which students are expected to complete between class sessions.

Registration Guidance & Call Number(s)

To view detailed information on a particular offering, click on the call number to be directed to the Directory of Classes catalogue.

LASJ0104 | Call Number: 17547

Further guidance on the registration process can be found here.


Florina Altshiler

Florina Altshiler is the lead trial attorney and a partner with the Buffalo, NY office of Russo & Toner LLP, where she specializes in the defense of large loss casualty matters. Her practice also includes medical malpractice, construction liability, general negligence law and criminal defense. She also serves as an Elite Defender Force member, representing indigent defendants in felony level offenses, for the Assigned Counsel Program of Western NY.

Ms. Altshiler offers legal commentary throughout the country and has been quoted by the Miami Herald, the Chicago Tribune, Sports Illustrated, NBC Sports and the NY Post. She is published in the New York Law Journal and the Buffalo Law Journal. She appears regularly on the ABC affiliate-WKBW, Channel 7, to offer legal commentary on the evening news. She has also appeared on CNN, the NBC affiliate-WGRZ, Channel 2, CBS affiliate News 8 Rochester, and Time Warner Cable News. She is routinely quoted by the Buffalo News and has been interviewed by Dr. Drew for KABC Los Angeles.

Ms. Altshiler served as an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Alaska, where she successfully prosecuted dozens of cases through jury verdict, including violent felonies and sexual assault. During her time in the Special Assaults Unit, she focused on felony-level crime, including homicides. She also served as the coach to the West Anchorage High School Mock Trial team, bringing them to the National tournament two years in a row, and as a legal advisor to the Anchorage Youth Court.

Ms. Altshiler has served as an adjunct professor of trial advocacy, both civil and criminal, at St. John's School of Law, where she was a Rosenberg Scholar and an Institutional Merit Scholar. She has received the Dr. Thomas C. Beneventano Award for Legal Medicine and an Excellence for the Future Award in Criminal Trial Advocacy, as well as the U.S. President's Student Service Award for Outstanding Service to America and United Hospital Fund's Student Achievement Award. She was featured as Lawline’s Top 20 Female Faculty in 2016 and 2019. In addition to her instructor role at Columbia, she currently teaches at Buffalo State College and Daemen College. Her courses include trial advocacy, legal research and writing, torts, neuroscience and the law and the law of race, class, politics and power.

Ms. Altshiler’s experience includes over a decade of litigation: criminal prosecution; civil defense and plaintiffs' side; the defense of complex medical malpractice cases and all aspects of insurance claims, including premises liability and automobile and construction accident litigation. Additionally, she has served as a judge at national and state level mock trial competitions for high schools, colleges, and law schools. She continues to serve as an arbitrator for the Civil Court of the City of New York and is also a Certified Federal Mediator for the Western District of NY, a panel Arbitrator and a Hearing Officer for the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority. She also teaches Continuing Legal Education courses for practicing attorneys through NITA, the Defense Research Institute, the Erie County Bar Association, ClearLaw, Lawline, Defense Trial Lawyers Association and the NYS Women’s Bar Association on topics including criminal and civil litigation and trial technique.

Ms. Altshiler is a State Director for the Western NY Chapter of the Womens Bar Association, a Steering Committee member for the Harpur Law Council of Binghamton University and a former Board Member for Crisis Services, Journeys End Refugee Services and New York Legal Assistance Group.

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Specific course details such as topics, activities, hours, and instructors are subject to change at the discretion of the University. Not all instructors listed for a course teach all sections of that course.