According to the Polaris Project, “human trafficking is considered to be one of the fastest growing criminal industries in the world” with the International Labor Organization reporting almost 21 million people in forced labor in 2012. In response to this growing and devastating trend, PLI recently sponsored a standout event that featured several top names in anti-trafficking law from across the legal spectrum. In a single afternoon, attendees received an introduction to key issues in anti-human trafficking advocacy, a look into the creative legal strategies used to fight it, and insight on the New York Courts’ groundbreaking trafficking initiatives from the very judges who created them.

The Honorable Judy Harris Kluger led off the afternoon with an introduction and some comments on the central issues around human trafficking. Judge Kluger recently took the helm at Sanctuary for Families after a distinguished career in the New York Courts for which she earned acclaim for her extensive efforts and expertise around human trafficking and domestic violence. Her comments were followed by a panel that introduced volunteers to key concepts in understanding and exposing human trafficking, such as how to define human trafficking and how it typically operates. Dorchen Leidholdt, Taina Bien-Aime, and Anne Milgram discussed the many guises of trafficking as it exists in virtually every inhabited corner of the globe.

With a grounding in the core concepts, the event turned to the criminal justice system’s response to human trafficking. This engaging discussion between Lori L. Cohen, Kate Mogulescu, and John Temple (i.e., two defense attorneys and a prosecutor) covered the various strategies available to their clients and, most interestingly, the degree to which their aims are often similar. While the defense represents trafficking victims charged with crimes, prosecution and defense are often able to work together to obtain good outcomes for victims and target higher-level operators who control the trafficking. The panelists also discussed the intersection of criminal and immigration law in trafficking cases, a frequent occurrence that makes cases significantly more complicated due to the byzantine way that U.S. immigration law treats criminal convictions for purposes of potential residency or deportability.

The concluding panel “A View from the Bench” provided candid comments from the judges who created and/or currently oversee the problem-solving courts that deal with human trafficking: the Hon. Judy Harris Kluger, Hon. Fernando Camacho, and Hon. Toko Serita. The judges’ discussion of the Human Trafficking Intervention Courts was quite thought-provoking, as was Judge Camacho’s compelling story about his innovative effort to create a court to serve teenagers charged with prostitution-related offenses. Judge Camacho’s work with Rachel Lloyd and GEMS are a testament to the amazing results courts can achieve by thinking outside the box.

Congratulations to PLI Program Attorney Doreen Odom on putting together a terrific program!