Cathy Albisa is a constitutional and human rights lawyer with a background on the right to health. Ms. Albisa also has significant experience working in partnership with community organizers in the use of human rights standards to strengthen advocacy in the United States. She co-founded NESRI along with Sharda Sekaran and Liz Sullivan in order to build legitimacy for human rights in general, and economic and social rights in particular, in the United States. She is committed to a community-centered and participatory human rights approach that is locally anchored, but universal and global in its vision. Ms. Albisa clerked for the Honorable Mitchell Cohen in the District of New Jersey. She received a BA from the University of Miami and is a graduate of Columbia Law School.
Steven Banks was appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio as Commissioner of the New York City Human Resources/Department of Social Services (HRA) on February 28, 2014, and he has served in that position since April 1, 2014. As Commissioner, Banks serves as chief executive of the largest local social services agency in the country, which serves over 3 million New Yorkers through the administration of more than 12 major public assistance programs, with 15,000 employees and an operating budget of over $9 billion. Commissioner Banks is a key leader in implementing Mayor de Blasio’s agenda to expand opportunity for more New Yorkers, address income inequality, and ensure that New Yorkers receive the benefits and assistance to which they are entitled.
Commissioner Banks has dedicated his entire career to improving the lives of low-income New Yorkers and is recognized as one of New York City’s leading public interest lawyers. Throughout his 33 years with the Legal Aid Society, Banks developed an extensive track record of working productively with a unionized workforce and helping the city’s most vulnerable residents – including seniors, survivors of domestic violence, immigrants, and people living with HIV/AIDS – navigate HRA’s programs and services. From 2004 until his appointment, Banks was the Attorney-in-Chief of the Legal Aid Society, the country’s oldest and largest not-for-profit legal services organization. During his tenure, he led the organization through a complete financial and managerial restructuring to save it from bankruptcy in 2004. With an annual budget of $225 million, he managed a staff of 1,900, including some 1,100 lawyers, and was responsible for all aspects of the legal practice and operations of the organization’s criminal, juvenile rights, and civil programs in New York City. Prior to becoming the Attorney-in-Chief, Banks held the positions of Associate Attorney-in-Chief, Deputy Attorney-in-Charge of the Civil Practice, Coordinating Attorney of the Homeless Rights Project, and Director of Government Relations for the Civil Practice. He began his career at Legal Aid in 1981 as a Staff Attorney in the organization’s Staten Island Neighborhood Office. He has also previously served as counsel to the Coalition for the Homeless, and he was the lead attorney in major class action litigation requiring the provision of lawful shelter and services to homeless New Yorkers.
He is credited with helping reach a landmark settlement with the City in 2008 over its treatment of homeless children and adults, which resulted in the establishment of a permanent enforceable right to shelter for homeless families in New York City.
The American Lawyer has listed him as one of the top 45 public interest lawyers in the United States, The Daily News described him as “perhaps the City’s most legendary Legal Aid attorney in this generation,” and New York Magazine called him one of the most influential New Yorkers.
Banks graduated from the New York University School of Law in 1981, and from Brown University in 1978.
Susanna Blankley is the Director of Housing Organizing of Community Action for Safe Apartments (CASA), a project of New Settlement Apartments, in the Southwest Bronx. CASA is made up of more than 1300 community members who work together to improve the living conditions in the Bronx and maintain affordable housing through collective action. Susanna has close to ten years of labor and tenant organizing experience. Before organizing, Susanna worked to advance Women’s Rights in Ecuador, New York City and Kenya. Ms. Blankley received her undergraduate degree from Columbia University and her Masters in Intercultural Service, Leadership and Management from the SIT Graduate Institute.
Shanequa Charles is a mother, Community Board 7 member, part of the CASA Leadership team, Executive Director of Miss Abbie's Kids, a youth development non profit serving the Northeast Bronx and community leader whose own housing crisis led her to become a vocal advocate for tenants housing rights. Raising awareness and creating plans for true action are her passions and have been practices of hers since her before undergraduate graduation from SUNY Potsdam in 2001. Her dedication to undeserved populations and the African American community continue to be paramount in this movement towards justice and Housing equality.
Maria Cortes migrated to the United States from Puerto Rico in 1987. Since 1987, Maria has called the borough of Brooklyn home - living in the same apartment in Bedford Stuyvesant for the last 22 years. As a wife, mother and grandmother, Ms. Cortes understands the value of community and has been working hard as a tenant leader of Make the Road New York to make sure that her community doesn't get torn apart. One effort that Ms. Cortes has played a critical role in is the improvement of Brooklyn Housing Court.
Martha Davis teaches Constitutional Law and Professional Responsibility at Northeastern University School of Law, where she also serves as a faculty director for the law school’s Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy and the NuLawLab. Professor Davis has written widely on social justice issues, often employing a human rights lens. She is co-author of the first law school textbook focused on domestic human rights: Human Rights Advocacy in the United States (West 2014), and she co-edited Bringing Human Rights Home, a three-volume work chronicling the US human rights movement. Professor Davis's book, Brutal Need: Lawyers and the Welfare Rights Movement, received the Reginald Heber Smith Award for distinguished scholarship on the subject of equal access to justice, and was also honored by the American Bar Association in its annual Silver Gavel competition. Professor Davis's articles on the right to civil counsel have appeared in the Yale Law Journal, the Syracuse Law Review and the Columbia Human Rights Law Journal. Prior to joining the Northeastern law faculty, Professor Davis was vice president and legal director for the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund.
Matthew Desmond is an Assistant Professor of Sociology and Social Studies at Harvard University. He was previously a Junior Fellow in the Harvard Society of Fellows. Desmond is the author of numerous books and articles. Most recently, he has published on eviction and the low-income rental market, the American affordable housing crisis, survival strategies among the urban poor, and the consequences of new crime control policies on inner-city women. He is the principal investigator of the Milwaukee Area Renters Study, a MacArthur Foundation-funded original survey of tenants in Milwaukee’s low-income private housing sector, and editor of The Russell Sage Journal of the Social SciencesSpecial Issue on Severe Deprivation in America. Desmond is currently completing his fourth book: Evicted: Poverty, Exploitation, and Survival in the American City, forthcoming by Crown.
Randy Dillard is a single parent of 5 children and a longtime Bronx resident. He is a member of New Day church. He is a leader of CASA/Community Action For Safe Apartments and also a member of Bronx Defenders. He also works with Women's Empowerment Self Defense Academy.
Kate Donald is Director of the Human Rights in Development Program at the Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR). Previously, Ms. Donald worked as Adviser to the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights (Magdalena Sepúlveda), examining the impact of public policies and development policies on the rights of people living in poverty. In particular, she worked on issues including unpaid care work, social protection policies, fiscal policies and access to justice. Ms. Donald has also held positions at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the International Council on Human Rights Policy, and has been a consultant for the United Nations and the Gender & Development Network. Ms. Donald holds a Masters in Human Rights from the London School of Economics and a Bachelors in History from Oxford University.
Joshua Goldfein is a senior Staff Attorney at the Legal Aid Society. He started at Legal Aid in 1993 in the housing unit at the Harlem Neighborhood Office and since 1998 has worked in the Homeless Rights Project.
Patrick Markee is the Deputy Executive Director for Advocacy at Coalition for the Homeless, where he has worked since 1995. He has authored numerous research studies and briefing papers on affordable housing and homeless policies in New York City, including Housing a Growing City: New York’s Bust in Boom Times; Legacy of Neglect: The Impact of Welfare Reform on New York’s Homeless; and the Coalition’s annual State of the Homeless reports. In addition to studies for the Coalition, he has written articles and reviews for The Nation and The New York Times Book Review. He is also a member of the board of directors of the National Coalition for the Homeless.
Risa Kaufman is the executive director of the Human Rights Institute at Columbia Law School and a Lecturer-in-Law. At the Human Rights Institute, she develops and advances international human rights norms and strategies in the United States through research, advocacy, network building, and training. Her advocacy and research focus on state and local implementation of human rights, access to justice, and economic, social, and cultural rights. In addition, Ms. Kaufman teaches a seminar on domestic human rights advocacy and oversees the overall functioning of the Institute. She is the co-author of a new law school textbook, Human Rights Advocacy in the United States (West 2014) (with Martha Davis and Johanna Kalb).
Glenn Lau-Kee is President of the New York State Bar Association, the first Asian-American to assume the presidency. He is a partner of Kee & Lau-Kee. He concentrates his practice in real estate and business law. A 15-year member of the State Bar Association, Mr. Lau-Kee most recently chaired the House of Delegates and co-chaired the President's Committee on Access to Justice. He was a member-at-large of the Executive Committee and co-chair of the Membership Committee. He is a member of the Business Law, Health Law and Real Property Law sections. He received the Commercial and Federal Litigation Section's George Bundy Smith Pioneer Award in 2010. Mr. Lau-Kee was a member of the Task Force on the State of Our Courthouses and the Special Committees on Legal Specialization, Multijurisdictional Practice and Sarbanes-Oxley Issues.
He is a vice-chair of the board of the Greater New York City YMCA and a board member of the Fund for Modern Courts, The New York Bar Foundation and US-Asia Institute. He served as president of the Asian American Bar Association of New York from 1997-1999 and was appointed by former Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye to serve on the Commission to Examine Solo and Small Firm Practice, and the Committee to Promote Public Trust and Confidence in the Legal System. Mr. Lau-Kee graduated from Yale College and Boston University School of Law.
Jenny Laurie is the Executive Director of Housing Court Answers where she has worked since 2008. She works with unrepresented people in Housing Court through the organization’s information tables and telephone hotline. She directs the organization’s advocacy campaigns which are focused on ensuring justice and fairness for the many thousands of low income people without lawyers in Housing Court. Prior to 2008, Ms. Laurie worked at Met Council on Housing on strengthening rights and protections for New York City tenants.
Edwina Frances Martin is a public interest lawyer specializing in Government Relations, Non-Profit Management, and Strategic Communications. In 2012 she was appointed the Counsel/Legislative and Budget Director for NYC Councilwoman Debi Rose (49th District, North Shore, SI), responsible for, among other things, coordinating the Councilwoman’s budget priorities and implementing the Councilwoman’s public policy and legislative platform. Previously she was the Director of Communications and Government Relations for Legal Services NYC. She began her career serving as a law clerk to Judge Lawrence W. Pierce, United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and was a Litigation Associate at Van Lierop, Burns & Bassett LLP and Shearman & Sterling LLP.
Ms. Martin’s current bar association work includes the NYS Bar Association (At-Large Member, Executive Committee; Chair, 2014 Partnership Conference); the Network of Bar Leaders (Board Member); and the Staten Island Women’s Bar Association (Immediate Past President; Chair, Advisory Council). She is also a member of the NYC Bar, Staten Island Trial Lawyers, and Richmond County Bar. Ms. Martin is also active in several civic organizations including the New York Bar Foundation (Member, Board of Directors), the American Association of University Women-NYS (President), and the SI Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. (Social Action Co-Chair).
Ms. Martin graduated NYU School of Law (Graduation Class Speaker, Vanderbilt Medal for school service, Arthur Garfield Hays Fellow), and holds a B.A. in Art History from Williams College.
Sateesh Nori is the Attorney-in-Charge of the Queens Neighborhood Office of the Legal Aid Society. Prior to that, he was the Director of Housing Litigation at Bedford-Stuyvesant Community Legal Services. He has represented low-income tenants and tenants’ associations, lead trainings for members of the community and members of the bar.
He was Chair of the City Bar’s Housing Court Committee, is a board member of Housing Court Answers and has taught at Cardozo School of Law. Mr. Nori started his career as a housing staff attorney in Legal Aid’s Brooklyn Neighborhood Office.
Armando Nunez has been living in his apartment for more than 40 years. He has had problems in succession rights to his mother’s rent controlled apartment. He also has had numerous repairs issues one including having his ceiling collapse. He has had not a lawyer when attending housing court against his landlord.
Carlos Perez-Hall is a partner in the Landlord/Tenant division of Borah, Goldstein, Altschuler, Nahins & Goidel, P.C, He appears regularly in Housing Court in the Bronx, Manhattan, Brooklyn and Harlem. Mr. Perez-Hall represents a range of landlords, large and small.
Mr. Perez-Hall is the President of the Puerto Rican Bar Association and has served as the Chair of the Judiciary Committee for the Puerto Rican Bar Association since 2011. He also serves as a member of the Housing Advisory Council of the Civil Court of New York. Mr. Perez-Hall is a member of the New York State Conference of Bar Leaders section of the New York State Bar Association, the Bronx Bar Association, and the New York Trial Lawyers Association.
John Pollock is a Staff Attorney for the Public Justice Center and the Coordinator of the National Coalition for the Civil Right to Counsel. He focuses entirely on working to establish the right to counsel for low-income individuals in civil cases involving fundamental rights such as child custody, housing, safety, and public benefits. Previously, Mr. Pollock was the Enforcement Director for the Central Alabama Fair Housing Center and a Law Fellow for the Southern Poverty Law Center. He graduated from Northeastern University School of Law in 2005.
Debra L. Raskin is president of the New York City Bar Association and since 1988 has been a partner at Vladeck, Waldman, Elias & Engelhard P.C., which represents employees in labor and employment law matters. Ms. Raskin graduated from Radcliffe College magna cum laude in 1973 and received her law degree from Yale in 1977. She worked at the Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago from 1977 to 1981, serving in 1981 as Supervisor of Employment Litigation for that organization. She served as law clerk to Hon. Lee P. Gagliardi of the United States District Court, Southern District of New York, from 1982 to 1984. From 1984 to 1986, she served as an Assistant Attorney General of the State of New York in the Civil Rights Bureau. She joined the Vladeck firm in 1986.
Ms. Raskin previously served as Chair of the City Bar's Labor and Employment Law Committee and as a Vice President of that organization. She is a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, has taught at Columbia and Fordham Law Schools and has lectured and written on employment law matters for the New York State Bar Association and the Practicing Law Institute, among other groups.
Monica Ross is a working single mother who honorably served in the United States Navy from 2001 to 2005, only to find herself struggling to avoid homelessness. Unfortunately, her struggle is not unique. The threat of homelessness among vets is a serious problem nationwide, a situation that is even worse for low-income veterans returning to New York City due to the chronic and growing shortage of affordable housing – while women veterans, who face unique barriers when returning to civilian life, are even more likely to become homeless – a problem that is expected to grow as more women join the military.
Alan Rothstein serves as General Counsel to the New York City Bar Association, and as General Counsel of the City Bar Fund, an organization affiliated with the City Bar that provides direct legal assistance to needy New Yorkers. Prior to his 20 years with the Association, Mr. Rothstein was the Associate Director of Citizens Union, a long-standing civic association in New York City. Mr. Rothstein started his legal career at Weil, Gotshal & Manges.
He earned his B.A. degree from City College of New York and an M.A. in Economics from Brown University before earning his J.D. from NYU. Prior to his legal career, Mr. Rothstein worked as an economist in the environmental consulting field and for the New York City Economic Development Administration. He serves on the boards of directors of Volunteers of Legal Service and Citizens Union, where he chairs its Committee on State Affairs and serves on the Executive Committee. He also serves on the New York State Bar Association House of Delegates and committees addressing federal and state legislative priorities. In addition, Mr. Rothstein serves on the New York Chief Judge’s Emeritus Advisory Council.
Andrew Scherer is the Policy Director of the Impact Center for Public Interest Law at New York Law School, which launched in the fall of 2014, and a Distinguished Adjunct Professor at NYLS. In addition, he is the principal of Andrew Scherer Consulting, a Senior Fellow at the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy at NYU Law School and an Adjunct Professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. He is the author of the treatise, Residential Landlord-Tenant Law in New York (Thomson Reuters), originally published in 1994 and updated annually, and of numerous other publications. In 2010, Mr. Scherer stepped down after nine years as Executive Director of Legal Services NYC, the largest nonprofit exclusively devoted to civil legal services in the United States, where he had worked in a variety of capacities since 1978. Mr. Scherer has also taught at CUNY Law School, NYU Law School, Yangon University in Myanmar, and Bennington College. He has lectured widely in the U.S. and in Latin America, Africa and Asia. He received his B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania and his J.D. from NYU Law School.
Lewis Tesser is a Senior Partner in the New York law firm of Tesser, Ryan & Rochman, LLP, concentrating his practice in litigation and mediation, representing licensed professionals and professional practices, administrative law and commercial law. He is President of the New York County Lawyers’ Association and former Director of its Ethics Institute. Mr. Tesser formerly chaired the General Practice Section of the New York State Bar Association.
Prior to private practice, Mr. Tesser was an Assistant United States Attorney in the Eastern District of New York and also served as a Judge Advocate in the United States Army where he prosecuted and defended criminal cases and was the chief legal advisor to the Commanding General of the U.S. Army War College, Carlisle, Pennsylvania. He also has served as an Arbitrator for the American Arbitration Association and, New York City Civil Court, a Judge for the NYC Environmental Control Board and lectured at various bar associations and law schools.
Mr. Tesser graduated with honors from the National Law Center, George Washington University, received an M.G.A. from the Wharton Business School, University of Pennsylvania and graduated from the Harvard Law School Program of Instruction for Lawyers. He is a past President of Congregation Sons of Israel, Nyack, NY.
David S. Udell, Executive Director of the National Center for Access to Justice (NCAJ) and Visiting Professor from Practice at Cardozo Law School, guides NCAJ’s initiatives to change public policy to help people obtain justice in American courts, including The Justice IndexProject, www.justiceindex.org, and its New Models of Representation Project. He has held leadership roles in the national civil right to counsel movement and the national indigent defense reform movement, and also coordinated national work to strengthen the nation’s Legal Services Corporation. Founding director of the Justice Program of the Brennan Center for Justice from September 1997 to August 2010, he has also served as a Senior Attorney at Legal Services for the Elderly and as a Managing Attorney at MFY Legal Services. He is a member of the New York Court System’s Committee on Non-lawyers and the Justice Gap, a member of the Advisory Board to the Justice Center of the New York County Lawyers’ Association, a former member of the New York City Bar Association’s Committee on Professional Responsibility, and a former member of the New York City Bar Association’s Committee on Pro Bono and Legal Services. He co-teaches a law school clinic – The Justice Gap: Strategies for Securing the Delivery of Equal Justice in American Courts, at Cardozo Law School, and has also taught courses at New York University Law School and Fordham Law School.
Carmen Vega-Rivera is the Founder & CEO of Atabey Collaborative, and the former Director of the New York City Chapter of Say Yes to Education (SYTE), Teachers College. Prior to Say Yes, Ms. Vega-Rivera worked as Executive Director of East Harlem Tutorial Program and was the Associate Director of the Bronx Museum of the Arts. She currently serves as a member of the Hostos Community College Foundation Board and is a CASA Leader. She resides in the Bronx with her family. She has been in Bronx Housing Court many, many times.
Tom Waters has been a Housing Policy Analyst at the Community Service Society since 2005. His research focuses on New York City’s dwindling stock of subsidized and regulated housing, the effects of increased housing budget pressures, neighborhood change, and housing conditions affecting the city’s immigrant communities. Prior to joining CSS, he was a journalist, a community organizer in Knoxville, Tennessee, and an organizer, fundraiser, and interim director at New York State Tenants & Neighbors, an organization that works to preserve and improve the state’s existing stock of affordable housing. He has a M.A. in political science and is working on a doctoral dissertation on housing, neighborhoods, and organizations at the City University of New York Graduate Center.
Professor Mary Marsh Zulack joined the Columbia Law School faculty in 1990 and is the Co-Director of the Lawyering in the Digital Age Clinic. She formerly co-directed the Fair Housing Clinic and inaugurated and taught the seminar on Law and Policy of Homelessness.
In her 20-year career in legal-services Ms. Zulack served as Attorney-in-Charge of the Harlem Neighborhood Office of The Legal Aid Society, Acting Executive Director of Bedford Stuyvesant Legal Services, and staff attorney with MFY Legal Services. She has served the Association of the Bar of the City of New York in a number of capacities.