William Hellerstein

Professor of Law Emeritus

250 Joralemon Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
(718) 780-7954 |  Email
Areas of Expertise
Constitutional Law
Criminal Law
Public Interest Law
B.A., Brooklyn College
J.D., Harvard Law School

Comparative Constitutional Law

This course is a study of the comparative treatment by European countries, Israel, Canada and the United States of selected constitutional problems from among such topics as: freedom of expression (e.g. defamation, group libel and hate speech, pornography as subordination of women, obscentity, prior restraint, licensing, censorship, fair trial); national security issues; religious freedom (e.g. free exercise, establishment, freedom from religion); right to die, assisted suicide and euthanasia; women's rights (abortion, equality affirmative action); minority rights; and social welfare rights.

Grading and Method of Evaluation

Letter grade with pass/fail option. Final exam. In lieu of an exam, students may write a paper which can be used to satisfy the Upperclass Writing Requirement. They may also write a paper that does not fulfill that requirement

Constitutional Law

This course presents an introduction to the historical background, content, and meaning of the United States Constitution. The course focuses on such issues as: the origins and scope of judicial review; intergovernmental relations; separation of powers among the legislative, judicial, and executive branches; powers of the President; basic principles of individual rights and equal protection; due process; and state and federal regulatory powers.

Grading and Method of Evaluation

Letter grade only. Final exam.

Criminal Procedure I

Prerequisites: Criminal Law and Constitutional Law

This course explores the investigative phase of a criminal proceeding focusing on the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights of criminal suspects. Topics covered include arrest, search and seizure, electronic surveillance, interrogations and confessions, line-ups and other pre-trial identification procedures, right to counsel, doctrines governing application of constitutionally based exclusionary rules (standing, retroactivity, harmless error and the "fruit of the poisonous tree" doctrine) and motions to suppress evidence.

Grading and Method of Evaluation

Letter grade with pass/fail option. Final exam.

Wrongful Convictions Seminar

Pre or Co-Requisites: Criminal Law

The emergence of DNA testing in the last fifteen years has exposed the dark side of the American criminal justice system: the conviction of numerous actually innocent men and women. Given that biological evidence suitable for post-conviction DNA testing is available in only a very limited number of cases, the exonerations generated by DNA represent only a small percentage of the number of actually innocent prisoners incarcerated throughout the United States.

This seminar will explore (1) the factors that contribute to the phenomenon of wrongful convictions including eyewitness misidentification, false confessions, ineffective assistance of counsel, jailhouse informants, police and prosecutorial misconduct, "junk science," and forensic fraud, (2) potential reforms that could be implemented to guard against the conviction of the innocent, and (3) government treatment of persons after they have been exonerated.

Readings selected from the ever-growing literature on wrongful conviction, including an examination of procedures and strategies that are available to challenge wrongful convictions.

Grading and Method of Evaluation

Letter grade with pass/fail option. A research paper on a topic of choice within the subject matter of the course is required which may be used to satify the Upperclass Writing Requirement. Class sessions will be devoted to discussion of the readings assigned and to oral presentations by students of the topics of their papers.