Professor Cynthia Godsoe Advocates for Children and Families
“I try to connect my scholarship to the real-world problems facing children and families,” says Professor Cynthia Godsoe, who has dedicated her career to advancing rights for children and families under the law. “That may mean examining the inconsistencies in prosecuting juveniles for prostitution when they are below the age of consent for sex, or arguing that the longtime placement of foster and adoptive children with gay and lesbian parents bolsters the case for same-sex marriage.”
Before joining the Law School in 2007, Godsoe, a highly regarded expert on juvenile justice and family law issues, represented children and youth in impact litigation and individual cases in juvenile justice, education, and child protection matters as an attorney at the Legal Aid Society’s Juvenile Rights Division and Advocates for Children. Today, she teaches and writes on issues in family law, criminal law, children and the law, professional responsibility, and public interest lawyering. She also is regularly consulted by the media on juvenile justice and family law issues, and she has published op-eds in both the New York Times and Time.
Godsoe’s scholarly work focuses on the regulation of intimate behavior and gender roles through family and criminal law, encompassing topics including the path to marriage equality, the designation of victims and offenders in intimate violence, and the criminalization of non-conforming girls. Her interest in these issues is exemplified in recent articles such as “Recasting Vagueness: The Case of Teen Sex Statutes,” 74 Washington & Lee Law Review 173 (2017); and “Perfect Plaintiffs,” 125 Yale Law Journal Forum 136 (2015).
“Many of my scholarly interests have grown out of the barriers I saw facing my clients—youth and families marginalized by poverty and race—when I practiced,” Godsoe says.
Godsoe continues to participate in pro bono work on a variety of children’s rights issues and served as chair of the Juvenile Justice Committee of the New York City Bar from 2008 to 2011. Last fall, she joined with Professor Kate Mogulescu and lawyers from Jones Day and the Human Trafficking Pro Bono Legal Center to file an amicus brief in a criminal appeal before the Ohio Supreme Court to support a then-15-year-old girl who was a victim of human trafficking. Oral arguments in the case were held in January. The case brings together Godsoe’s scholarly interests with her work on the board of the nonprofit Girls Educational & Mentoring Services, the only organization in New York specifically designed to serve girls and young women who have experienced commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking.
“It is very important to me to continue to connect my work at the Law School to these pressing social justice issues and to stay in dialogue with lawyers and reformers in this field, including many former Brooklyn Law School students and alumni,” she says.