The Adrienne Drell ’92 M.S.L. and Franklin Nitikman ’66 LL.B Elder Law Project

In the 2019–2020 academic year, the Solomon Center for Health Law and Policy at Yale Law School launched The Adrienne C. Drell and Franklin W. Nitikman Elder Law Project to explore aging and the law through multiple prongs — academic, experiential and theoretical. Since its inception, the project has expanded its academic offerings, addressed some of the most pressing issues of our time through research and advocacy, and built a coalition of students, lawyers, policymakers, providers, and scholars dedicated to elder justice and policy innovation. This unprecedented project is inspired and supported by Adrienne Drell ’92 M.S.L. and Franklin Nitikman ’66 LL.B.

Academic Initiatives

Aging and the Law Seminar

During the Spring 2020 semester, the Solomon Center offered a pathbreaking seminar on “Aging and the Law,” marking the first time in years that such a course has been taught at the Law School. The course was co-taught by Visiting Professor of Law and Distinguished Scholar in Elder Law Nina Kohn, a leading elder law expert from Syracuse University College of Law, and Kevin Cremin ’00, Director of Litigation for Disability and Aging Rights at Mobilization for Justice. It included an innovative experiential component in which students worked on a variety of real-world projects ranging from a project for the Center for Medicare Advocacy on home health care to an AARP project focusing on health disparities in later life. Students tackled the issues of age discrimination; Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid; institutionalization and the civil rights of nursing home and assisted living residents; end-of-life care and the right to die; advance planning and guardianship; caregiving and intra-family obligations; and elder abuse, fraud and neglect, while engaging in real-world policy projects.

Workshop on COVID-19, Ageism, and Care for Aging Populations

In the fall of 2020, Faculty Director Abbe Gluck co-taught an interdisciplinary virtual workshop and seminar with Professor Ian Ayres, which featured leading scholars, industry leaders, scientists, advocates, and government experts to discuss the pandemic's intersections with, and disruptions to, many areas of law—including elder law. A week was devoted to “Aging and Care for Aging Populations” in light of COVID-19. It featured Alison E. Hirschel, Director of the Michigan Elder Justice Initiative and our Distinguished Scholar in Elder Law, Professor Nina Kohn, as speakers. They provided a robust discussion on issues involving nursing homes and the elderly during the pandemic and provided a framework for thinking about policy solutions moving forward.

Alison E. Hirschel ’84, Director of the Michigan Elder Justice Initiative and Public Interest/Public Service Faculty Fellow and Lecturer at the University of Michigan Law School, discussed the regulation of nursing homes and the challenges of and problems with nursing homes’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Nina Kohn, David M. Levy Professor of Law and Faculty Director of Online Education at Syracuse University College of Law and Distinguished Scholar in Elder Law at the Solomon Center for Health Law and Policy at Yale Law School, presented on how we should move forward with nursing home reform and regulation after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rountable Discussion on Long-Term Care Post COVID-19: Extinction, Transformation, or Business as Usual?

In Spring 2021, the Solomon Center held a roundtable discussion exploring the future of long-term care. Distinguished Scholar in Elder Law, Professor Nina Kohn, worked with a Student Fellow to organize the event and invite experts in the field to participate in the discussion. This event focused on the pertinent topic of the fate of long-term care in a post-pandemic world. It featured Shawn Bloom, president and CEO of the National PACE Association (NPA); David C. Grabowski, Professor of Health Care Policy at Harvard Medical School; Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL); and Lori Smetanka, Executive Director of the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care. Professor Kohn led and moderated the event.

Law and the 100-Year Life: A Groundbreaking New Book on Law and the Aging American

The Solomon Center has launched a major book project, Law and the 100-Year Life. Co-edited by Faculty Director Gluck and Yale Law School Professor Anne Alstott '87, this volume aims to reconceive the entire U.S. legal and regulatory system—from education to housing to reproduction and parental rights—in light of the 100-year-old American. The book will shape legal and policy debates around how the United States should adapt to a growing population of Americans who live longer, with a higher quality of life, than at any time in history. The book includes chapters from leading legal minds across many disciplines—rather than aging experts per se—including Kate Andrias ’04, Eleanor Brown ‘99, Cynthia Estlund ’83, Jamal Greene ’05, Sara Greene ’05, Daniel Hemel ’12, John Morley ’06, Ganesh Sitaraman, Lior Strahilevitz ’99, Kenji Yoshino ’96, and Taisu Zhang ’08.

Clinical Work

Geriatric Medical Legal Partnership

The Elder Law Project also expands the Solomon Center’s clinical offering — the Medical Legal Partnership (MLP) program — to include a Geriatric MLP that targets legal services to the elderly. The MLP program provides traditional direct legal services in a medical setting to address disparities in populations that do not always have access to lawyers. During the Spring 2021 semester, MLP students organized and convened a series of stakeholder sessions with medical providers, elder service organizations, elder justice policy advocates, and academic MLP directors from other law schools, to determine the feasibility of establishing a geriatric MLP—a clinic to serve local elderly on elder justice issues—at Yale Law School. Through this convening, Doctor Richard Marottoli of the Adler Clinic and Doctor James Lai, the Associate Chief of Clinical Affairs for Geriatric Affairs at the Yale School of Medicine, were identified as medical partners for this new undertaking.  The Geritatric MLP has begun taking referrals from medical partners, nursing facilities—where patients are often very vulnerable to abuse, particularly upon discharge—and their staff. The major health-harming legal issues the MLP aims to address will involve elder abuse, public benefits, housing conditions, and estate planning. With the Geriatric MLP now open, it will continue to expand its client network to serve the greater New Haven community.

Advocacy & Scholarship

Other work includes legal advocacy and scholarship related to the plight of the elderly in residential settings, which was emphasized during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Palliative Care Policy GPS (GPS)

The Solomon Center and the Center to Advance Palliative Care (CAPC), a national organization dedicated to increasing the availability of quality health care for people living with a serious illness, launched an innovative new initiative this semester—the Palliative Care GPS (GPS)—an unprecedented publicly accessible and dynamic online platform that tracks state policies on palliative care and related services. The GPS aims to educate patients, providers, policymakers, researchers, and advocates, while also serving as a tool to address significant gaps in palliative care treatment and access in order to craft more effective laws. The platform will serve to advance groundbreaking scholarship, address innovative research questions, and develop tools to support effective advocacy. In coming months, the GPS will expand to include state regulations and federal legislation.

Scholarship and Press

Nina A. Kohn, Adrianna Duggan (YLS ’24), Justin Cole (YLS ’23), Nada Aljassar (YLS ’24) “Using What We Have: How Existing Legal Authorities Can Help Fix America’s Nursing Home Crisis.” William & Mary Law Review (Apr. 2023)

Robert Dinerstein, Deborah Enix-Ross, Nina Kohn, Ellie Lanier “Modern Laws and Out-of-Court Solutions Can Advance Guardianship” Bloomberg (Mar. 2023)

Nina Kohn. "Voters Live Here: Understanding the Voting Rights and Needs of Long-term Care Residents." Generations Today (Mar. 2023)

Kohn and Irina D Manta. "Hospitals That Ditch Masks Risk Exposure," Bill of Health (Feb 2023) 

Nina A. Kohn “COVID-19 and the Problem of Multiple Sufficient Cases” Bill of Health (Oct. 2022)

Emily Rock (YLS '14) and James Bhandary-Alexander. "Congress Should Act to Fund Medical-Legal Partnerships," Bill of Health (Sep. 2021)

Nina A. Kohn. "Britney Spears’ case has shown why guardianship laws need to change," The Guardian (Aug. 2021)

(White Paper) “Will the Next Pandemic Lead to More Nursing Home Resident Death and Despair?” Mobilization for Justice and Fellows from the Solomon Center for Health Law and Policy at Yale Law School (July 2021)

Nina A. Kohn. "Long-Term Care After COVID: A Roadmap for Law Reform," Bill of Health (June 2021)

Nina A. Kohn. "It's time to care about home care," The Hill (May 2021)

Nina A. Kohn. "Covid awakened Americans to a nursing home crisis. Now comes the hard part.," Washington Post (Apr. 2021)

Nina A. Kohn. "Nursing Homes, COVID-19, and the Consequences of Regulatory Failure," Georgetown Law Journal (Apr. 2021)

Nina A. Kohn. "Netflix's 'I Care a Lot' should worry you," The Hill (Feb. 2021)

Nina A. Kohn. "Legislating Supported Decision-Making," Harvard Journal of Legistlation (Feb. 2021)

Nina A. Kohn and Jennifer Goldberg. "When it comes to healthy aging: location, location, location," The Hill (Oct. 2020)

Nina A. Kohn. "Coronavirus isolated nursing home residents. Now it might keep them from voting," Washington Post (Oct. 2020)

Nina A. Kohn. "Older adults are feeling the heat, literally," The Hill (August 2020)

Nina A. Kohn and Jennifer Goldberg. "When It Comes to Healthy Aging: Location, Location, Location," The Hill (Aug. 2020)

Nina A. Kohn. "A Framework for Theoretical Inquiry into Law and Aging," Theoretical Inquiries in Law (July 2020)

Nina A. Kohn. "The pandemic exposed a painful truth: America doesn’t care about old people," Washington Post (May 2020)

Nina A. Kohn and Jessica Roberts (YLS '06). "Nursing homes need increased staffing, not legal immunity," The Hill (May 2020)

Nina A. Kohn. "Addressing the crisis in long-term care facilities," The Hill (Apr. 2020)

Nina A. Kohn. "How the Guardianship System Can Help Address Gun Violence," 48 Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics 133 (2020)

About Adrienne Drell ’92 M.S.L. and Franklin Nitikman ’66 LL.B.

Adrienne Drell ’92 M.S.L. and Franklin Nitikman ’66 LL.B
Drell was a journalist for the Chicago Sun-Times specializing in legal issues and later a journalism professor at Northwestern University. Nitikman was a prominent estate planning attorney for more than 40 years with the Chicago law firm of McDermott, Will and Emery. Both Drell and Nitikman became very interested in senior issues through their work and the experiences they had with their own elderly parents.

“As a result of our experiences and because we had elderly parents, both Frank and I were very interested in senior issues. This became even more relevant when Frank developed Frontal Temporal Degeneration and, very much against his character, became a victim of fraud schemes,” explained Drell, who later learned how common scams and fraud against those in their later years is around the country. According to the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, seniors lose 2.9 billion annually from financial exploitation. Upon learning that many of the country’s leading law schools — including Yale — did not offer elder law courses, Drell decided that it was a priority to change the trend.

“I felt immediate action was needed to help train young attorneys about issues affecting the aged,” said Drell. “It is our hope that Yale’s program will draw attention nationally to problems involving seniors.”

Read more about Adrienne Drell here.