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05/08/2008
Hudson Valley Community College Student Wins New York State Law Day Writing Contest
Student to be guest of Court of Appeals Chief Judge Judith Kaye at Law Day

CONTACT: Eric Bryant (518) 629-8072
FOR RELEASE: Thursday, May 8, 2008

Elijah Fagan-Solis, a senior in Hudson Valley Community College’s Criminal Justice program, was recently named the winner of the David A.Garfinkel Essay Prize, a statewide writing prize sponsored by the Historical Society of the Courts of the State of New York.

Fagan-Solis, a Ravena native, was a guest of New York State Court of Appeals Chief Judge Judith Kaye at the state’s Law Day festivities on Friday, May 2, and honored at a luncheon attended by Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and the judges of the Court of Appeals. He also receives a $500 prize and will have his essay published in Judicial Notice: A Periodical of New York Court History and on the Web site of The Historical Society of the Courts of the State of New York.

Criminal Justice faculty member Kathryn Sullivan encouraged Fagan-Solis to enter the essay contest, which is open to any student within the community colleges of the State University of New York and City University of New York systems. “He’s an excellent student, attentive to his academic performance. His work is always well formed conceptually and he’s a great critical thinker,” said Sullivan. “I’m just so excited for him. This is life changing for him.”

Fagan-Solis, a graduate of Ravena Coeymans Selkirk High School, plans to continue his education this fall at the Sage College of Albany. He hopes to earn a law degree and eventually enter politics or government service. Several weeks ago, he met with Chief Judge Kaye to discuss his essay. “When I walked into the Court of Appeals, they were hearing a case and I was able to sit in on that, which was great. After they were done, I was able to sit down with Chief Judge Kaye and talk about my essay. She was really nice and very, very encouraging,” he said.

For the Garfinkel Essay, students were asked to write a paper commenting on the Lemmon Slave Case of 1852, in which a Virginia woman had her slaves taken from her during a stopover in New York City because slaveholding violated New York state law. Writing five years before the Dred Scott decision, Justice Elijah Paine of the Supreme Court of New York City wrote that: “by the law of nature all men are free, and where slavery is not established and upheld by the law of the state there can be no slaves.” The decision signaled New York State’s stand against slavery, which was later upheld by the 13th Amendment.

Fagan-Solis said he initially enrolled in the Criminal Justice program with the idea of entering law enforcement. The encouragement of his teachers led him to think about law school. “Working with the faculty here led me to realize the potential that I have,” he said.

This was the 50th anniversary of Law Day, which was established by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Founded in 1953, Hudson Valley Community College offers more than 70 degree and certificate programs in four schools: Business; Engineering and Industrial Technologies; Health Science; and Liberal Arts and Sciences; and an Educational Opportunity Center for academic and career training. One of 30 community colleges in the State University of New York system, it has an enrollment of more than 12,000 students, and is known as a leader in distance learning initiatives and workforce training. Hudson Valley has more than 64,000 alumni.