Lisa Chalidze is chair of Criminal Justice Division at CSJ, and teaches courses in criminal procedure and current issues in criminal justice. She has served as a trial lawyer concentrating on abuse of power in the context of commercial litigation and guardianship of persons with disabilities, as well as in the field of international human rights.
She also has served as a trial lawyer in an insurance defense firm that included toxic torts and professional malpractice in the medical, legal, and accounting fields. She brings great insight to students as well as the faculty and staff at CSJ.
We sat down with Lisa Chalidze for a Q and A session. Here’s what she had to say.
Q. How long have you taught at CSJ? What is your teaching background?
A. In 2008 I, just after receiving my masters from Skidmore college, I taught my first undergraduate course, women’s rights, right here at CSJ. Recently I learned that one of our new students in the criminal justice program is the younger brother of one of the students in that 2008 course! Prior to that I had taught only postgraduates at the professional level in seminar settings, subsequent to getting my doctor of jurisprudence and practicing law for many years. Since then I have taught various criminal justice courses here as an adjunct, including criminal law, professional writing and criminal procedure.
Q.What courses or subjects do you like teaching the most?
A. My passion is the rule of law and constitutional democracy. I especially love teaching law and society, and criminal procedure, where the most muscular constitutional jurisprudence is exercised around fourth-amendment search-and-seizure issues and fifth-amendment protections, such as the right to remain silent.
Q.What do you hope to teach at CSJ in the future?
A. I am really excited about teaching crime fiction (a brand new course we just developed) with Professor Highet this coming May, as an intensive two-week course that examines popular notions of crime in fiction and the legal elements of those crimes, as well as crime and media next fall that utilizes a similar approach to crime cinema. Courses like these allow learners to view the criminal justice arena through a different lens that draws in broader social and historical concerns.
Q.What do you feel your strengths are as a college professor?
A. Students seem to learn well from professors with considerable real-world experience in their teaching fields. In the criminal justice program we are very lucky to provide professors who are current or former law enforcement agents, parole and probation officers, judges, and so on. I think my 30 years of experience as a trial lawyer, human-rights activist and author allows me to offer insights to my students about how our judicial system really works, and the role and evolution of law in a dynamic democratic political system.
Q. What do you hope to contribute to the criminal justice division?
A. With the help of highly-motivated students and fellow professionals in our campus community, I hope to grow the program in a way that is designed to enhance both post-graduation job prospects for our students, and the liberal-arts background needed to groom future leaders. We are revamping the program in a variety of ways with a more interdisciplinary approach in recognition of the complexity of the issues our graduates will face when they enter the field of their choice.
Q. What changes do you see coming in the criminal justice field and what is driving those changes?
A. Though reluctant to predict the future, I would venture to say that the private side of law enforcement (which ironically is referred to as “public” safety) will experience significant growth and job opportunities in the future. Corporations, malls, and so on have growing needs to outsource their risk-management and loss-prevention programs. This is something we are exploring currently here at CSJ, to better serve our students’ career goals.
Q. What do you think makes the classroom experience special for a criminal justice major at CSJ?
A. My students tell me that having so many professors with real-world experience in their respective fields brings a great deal to the classroom experience, rather than relying on teachers who have learned from a book rather than in the trenches. This is complemented by off-campus special events such as mock trials in the courthouse, tours of prisons, and so on — anything to bridge the gap between theory and practice. I believe this is a special strength of the CSJ criminal justice program.
Q. What makes you most excited about teaching at CSJ?
A. The students, of course, and the opportunity to work creatively in growing the criminal justice program. I am grateful to the administration for selecting me to chair the division, and for listening to my ideas about how we might better serve current and future students.
Q. What do you like to do when you are not working?
A. Write murder mysteries! I’m working on my third at the moment, though can’t seem to find the time to get those last few chapters done … Also snowshoe in the winter, and kayak, hike and swim the rest of the year, often in the company of my two dogs, a yellow lab named Yogi and a golden retriever named Spike.
Q. What advice do you have for those who want to pursue a career in the criminal justice fields?
A. Come to CSJ — we teach it how it really is! And utilize our Spanish class. A surprising number of jobs with federal and international law enforcement agencies require or prefer Spanish speakers. Love your country. Want to help.