Passion for civil rights continues after Cornell: Alec Giufurta ‘21

As a government and Africana studies double major, Alec Giufurta ’21 pursued a wide range of coursework as a Cornell student, but his passions always focused on public service. This passion still motivates him as a first-year student at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law. A great deal of what he loved about his time at Cornell matches what he loves about Berkeley Law. 

“The students at Berkeley Law are very similar to the students I knew in Arts & Sciences: they are all extremely knowledgeable, yet humble and diligent about all of their accomplishments and passions.” 

Giufurta said several professors at Cornell prepared him for law school, particularly Cornell Law faculty members John H. Blume and Sheri Lynn Johnson, who teach the “Death Penalty in America” course. “The way they run that classroom with the Socratic method is just as rigorous and demanding as the courses I have taken at Berkeley Law,” Giufurta said. 

Blume is the Samuel S. Leibowitz Professor of Trial Techniques and director of the Cornell Death Penalty Project and Johnson is the James and Mark Flanagan Professor of Law. 

Giufurta also took classes with Dawn Chutkow, visiting professor of law and executive editor of the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, and Sabrina Karim, the Hardis Family Assistant Professor of government and his adviser, who taught him research methods that he continues to use today.

“Professor Karim taught me how to think – critically and outside the box,” he said. Likewise, he said his experience as an editor of The Cornell Daily Sun helps him compose compelling and factually strong cases for his clients. 

At Berkeley Law, Giufurta represents clients arguing misconduct allegations against police before the City’s Police Review Board, and he researches election law litigation with a Washington-based non-profit. 

Even classes that all law students take as requirements, such as cCivil pProcedure, have helped Giufurta explore the ways that social issues manifest in the American legal system — and why lawyers must be aware of those issues. 

“Things that would seem entirely orthogonal to race and class – like pleading standards – are rooted in those very dynamics,” Giufurta said. He’s found that Berkeley Law is filled with faculty who are passionate about making a difference both in and outside of the classroom, and know how to instill this passion into their teaching. 

Between Cornell and law school, Giufurta worked as a reporter for The Southampton Press on Long Island and then as a paralegal at Clifford Chance. During his time as a journalist, Giufurta pursued stories on social and political issues in a local context. This summer, Giufurta will work for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.

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		Smiling photo of smiling man with Cornell graduation gown in front of academic builing.