When the Journal of Civil Rights and Economic Development put out a call to the St. John's faculty for papers for this symposium, I knew I wanted to participate. How interesting, I thought, to view our respective disciplines through the lens of racial, social and economic justice. My area of expertise is Trusts & Estates, and at first blush the link between Trusts & Estates and social justice may seem attenuated, but the Surrogate's Courts are always abuzz with fiduciary issues, where one person is entrusted to safeguard another's interests, and in that context issues of social justice bubble up regularly, especially because ours is an immigrant society with wildly varied and quickly changing demographics.
The scope of our task was narrow, so I have chosen two topics prompted by recent cases in the Surrogate's Courts that raise (and resolve) issues of social justice. One is how stringently a court should observe the requirement that a person seeking to serve as a fiduciary in the Surrogate's Court speak English. The second is a fascinating bridge between federal immigration law and state guardianship law, where New York judges have been using a statute fashioned for a different reason to confer special immigrant status on young adults.