Queens is a long way from Manaus, the capital city in the middle of Brazil’s Amazon rainforest where Cydiene Freitas was born, raised, and educated. But, as she begins the U.S. Legal Studies LL.M. program at St. John’s Law this semester, she feels right at home.
Freitas and her 13 classmates are part of a larger cohort of 28 incoming LL.M. students representing 18 countries around the world, including: Algeria, Brazil, China, Denmark, Ecuador, India, Luxembourg, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe. Together with continuing students in the Law School’s U.S. Legal Studies and Transnational Legal Practice LL.M. programs, they speak more than a dozen languages and bring a range of perspectives to the classroom.
They also bring their aspirations. For Freitas, preparing to become a New York lawyer at St. John’s is the next step in a legal career inspired by a desire to fight injustice. After enrolling in law school in Brazil, she quickly developed an interest in criminal law. “In my criminal law classes, I was able to better understand the concept of law based on the values of justice and the common good,” she says. “I did legal clinics and pro bono work in the field, which gave me a good sense of commitment to the local community. My internship at the Criminal Court also played a fundamental role in my legal training.”
With this foundation of knowledge and skills, Freitas earned her LLB and, then, a Graduate Certificate in Criminal Law and Criminal Procedural Law. She took a job with the Federal Prosecution Attorney Service in Manaus, where she analyzed judicial criminal procedures and gained expertise in cross-border criminal matters. For the last 10 years, she has worked in roles of increasing responsibility in Brazil’s federal criminal court system. It’s been a formative experience.
“I’ve specialized in Northern Brazil, which is impacted by international criminal organizations, conflict over demarcation of indigenous reserves, mass immigration from Venezuela, and a prison policy that often effectively criminalizes poverty and presents challenges for the reintegration of ex-prisoners,” Freitas explains. “This experience has allowed me to better understand the realities of diversity and adversity, and justice and injustice, in my own community and the wider world.”
While Freitas chose St. John’s for its outstanding LL.M. faculty and carefully designed curriculum that will prepare her to take the New York Bar Exam, she also looks forward to finding camaraderie. “I welcome this opportunity to grow alongside people from different countries, cultures, and legal systems, who came here with the same desire as me—to challenge themselves to be lawyers in New York,” she shares.
Taking on that challenge, Freitas looks forward to the work ahead in the U.S. Legal Studies program and keeps her goal in sight. “I strongly believe that everyone deserves the best defense, without any discrimination, with all means allowed by the Constitution and the statutes,” she says. “I would like to get experience as a criminal defense attorney here in New York and help disadvantaged people overcome inequality and injustice, using the skills and experience of my professional background to seek a lawful and fair defense.”
To learn more about U.S. Legal Studies and other LL.M. programs at St. John’s Law, please visit our LL.M. website.