MEET THE TEAM welcome the new CUNY Law tenure-track faculty

Join us in welcoming and celebrating both our new faculty and a few familiar faces in new roles. They each and together have the combined talents to create the next generation of public interest lawyers: they are activists, scholars, organizers, academics, and advocates. Individually, and with our students, through their engaged scholarship and their advocacy, they will advance our mission to use the law in the service of social justice and human needs.

Nermeen Saba Arastu

Immigration Law

Professor Nermeen Arastu is an Associate Professor of Law and the Co-Director of the Immigrant and Non-Citizen Rights Clinic.

Prior to joining CUNY Law’s faculty, Professor Arastu was a litigation associate at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, LLP and a staff attorney at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund. Through the course of her work at Simpson Thacher, her tenure at AALDEF, and her years teaching in CUNY Law’s Immigrant and Non-Citizen Rights Clinic, Professor Arastu managed an immigration docket which included deportation defense, suppression, asylum, citizenship and green card interviews and various other immigration processes. Additionally, she oversaw monthly immigration clinics in conjunction with various community-based organizations, litigated matters relating to zoning and houses of worship, addressed anti-Muslim bias in the immigration system, and advocated against racial and religious profiling and law enforcement surveillance.

Professor Arastu is especially interested in the discriminatory enforcement of immigration policy based on categories like religion, nationality and class and the dangerous expansion of immigration enforcement in the name of economic and national security. She has written about the impacts of surveillance policies on immigrant communities and, most recently, the impacts of overbroad gang allegations on Latinx communities. While at CUNY she has co-directed the Immigrant and Non-Citizen Rights Clinic and co-taught the Immigration and Citizenship Law Seminar and The CLEAR Project. She is passionate about experiential learning and is especially interested in further developing experiential tie-ins with doctrinal seminars, and connecting INRC with the first and second curriculum.

She is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Law School and the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and has a soft spot for Carolina blue skies, southern sweet tea, and the cobble-stone lined streets of Philadelphia.

I am here to pursue the work I love with a diverse faculty committed to a social justice mission and a student body that humbles me every day with their direct experiences with the policies, laws and systems we study.

- Nermeen Arastu

Lisa Davis

International Human Rights, Gender Justice

Professor Lisa Davis is an Associate Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Human Rights and Gender Justice Clinic. Professor Davis has written and reported extensively on international human rights and gender issues, including women’s rights and LGBTIQ rights, with a focus on conflict and disaster. Professor Davis has testified before U.S. Congress, U.K. Parliament, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and various international human rights bodies. Professor Davis is also a member of the JRR-UN Women SGBV Justice Experts Roster. In 2016, Professor Davis was elected by her peers to deliver the civil society statement for the U.N. Security Council’s open debate on the use of sexual violence in conflict situations. In the case Karen Atala and Daughters v Chile, Professor Davis co-authored the only amicus curiae brief to argue that sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) are protected classes under international law. In 2012, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights issued a groundbreaking decision, providing for an explicit prohibition of discrimination based on SOGI. Professor Davis is a board member of the LGBT Social Science and Public Policy Center at Roosevelt House. Professor Davis established the advocacy department at MADRE, an international women’s human rights organization. Professor Davis currently serves as MADRE’s Senior Legal Advisor, Chair of the Legal Advisory Committee.

I am here to help support the next generation of social justice lawyers.

- Lisa Davis

Raquel Gabriel

LEGAL Research, Diversity Issues in Law Librarianship

Professor Gabriel has been teaching at CUNY Law since 2000, when she joined the community as a member of the Legal Research faculty, and is excited to lead the library into the future in her new role as the Director of the Law Library. Before coming to CUNY, she worked in a variety of library settings, including academic, private, and public libraries in the Washington D.C. and New York City metropolitan areas. An active member of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), she often presents on matters regarding diversity and teaching legal research. From 2010 – 2013 she penned a series of columns in Law Library Journal geared towards exploring diversity issues in the law library profession. Professor Gabriel will be profiled in the forthcoming book, Celebrating Diversity: A Legacy of Minority Leadership in American Association of Law Libraries (2nd ed). She received her B.A. from American University, her J.D. from Howard University School of Law and her M.L.S. from Rutgers University.

I am here to support our students in developing the essential research skills needed to become effective advocates.

- Raquel Gabriel

Mary Godfrey-Rickards

Library Research

Professor Godfrey-Rickards is Assistant Director for Technical Services and Associate Law Library Professor at CUNY School of Law. She joins CUNY Law after holding positions at both Fordham Law School and Hofstra School of Law, where she served in a variety of roles including Assistant Director of Technical Services and Scholarly Commons Administrator. Professor Godfrey-Rickards' scholarly interests include how empirical research can be leveraged to inform curricular decisions in legal research instruction, particularly as it applies to public interest students. Professor Godfrey-Rickards received her J.D. from Fordham School of Law, a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Studies from the City University of New York, and a B.A. in Economics from Fordham University.

I am here to be part of a cooperative alliance that supports and creates lawyers dedicated to serving others.

- Mary Godfrey-Rickards

Fareed Nassor Hayat

Criminal Defense

Professor Nassor Hayat is an Assistant Professor at City University New York School of Law. Prior to joining CUNY’s faculty, Professor Nassor Hayat was the co-director of Criminal Justice Clinic at Howard University School of Law. Under his direction, students studied trial skills, substantive and procedural criminal law, drafted motions in misdemeanor and felony cases, conducted misdemeanor judge trials and wrote appellate briefs. Before entering academia, Professor Nassor Hayat was co-founder of The People’s Law Firm in Baltimore, Maryland and Washington, DC. Professor Nassor Hayat practice included criminal defense, plaintiff-side police brutality and Section 1983 Medical Malpractice claims in state facilities. He also worked at the Maryland Public Defender’s Office in Baltimore City as a Neighborhood Defender, providing holistic criminal defense to indigent clients. He assisted clients in enrolling in drug treatment programs, obtaining prescriptions for legal alternatives to illegal narcotics, receiving mental health treatment and job placement resources. He conducted “Know Your Rights” workshops, reviewing the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth Amendments and jury education, throughout the community. As a defense attorney, he litigated thousands of criminal matters, demanding trials in 95 percent of his cases and maintaining a 90 percent win rate in jury trials. Professor Nassor Hayat studied history at University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) and went on to become a high school history and drama teacher in Los Angeles. Professor Nassor Hayat went to graduate school at University of Southern California (USC) in a Master’s program in Playwriting. He began working for a non-profit as a social worker developing emancipation plans for foster youth, while simultaneously receiving his real estate license in California. He studied law at Howard University School of Law and is admitted to the Maryland and District of Columbia Bar. Professor Nassor Hayat writes at the intersection of criminal procedure, evidence and criminal law.

I am here to change lives, provide for the children of the oppressed, and equip the foot soldiers of tomorrow in this struggle for a just future.

- Fareed Nassor Hayat

Chaumtoli Huq

Labor and Employment Law, International Human Rights

Professor Huq is an Associate Professor of Law at CUNY School of Law and the founder/Editor of an innovative law and media non-profit focused on law and social justice called Law@theMargins. Her expertise lies in labor and employment, and human rights. Professor Huq has devoted her professional career to public service focusing on issues impacting low-income New Yorkers. In 2014, she was appointed as the General Counsel for Litigation for the New York City Office of the Public Advocate, becoming then the highest-ranking Bangladeshi-American in New York City government, for which she received a New American Heroes award from the New American Leaders Project. Along with holding leadership roles at Legal Services of NYC and MFY Legal Services, she also served as Director of the first South Asian Workers’ Rights Project at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the first staff attorney to the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, and has served Community Board 7 for the Upper West Side.

You can follow her on twitter @profhuq and @lawatmargins.

I am here to welcome, train, and support the next generation of movement lawyers.

- Chaumtoli Huq

Allie Robbins

Professor Robbins received her BA from The George Washington University, and her J.D. from CUNY School of Law. Prior to attending law school, she worked as a National Organizer and Development Coordinator for United Students Against Sweatshops. Before returning to CUNY School of Law, she served as an organizer and Assistant Counsel for the National Treasury Employees Union. Since being back at CUNY Law she worked with the Irene Diamond Professional Skills Center, helped coordinate and develop new bar support programs, served as the Director of Student Affairs, and served as the Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs. She is thrilled to be officially joining the faculty of CUNY School of Law, and looks forward to continuing to work with students as they prepare for the bar exam.

I am here to help social justice activists become social justice lawyers.

- Allie Robbins

Jeena Shah

International Human Rights

Prior to joining the CUNY Law faculty, Professor Shah directed the International Human Rights Clinic and co-taught in the Constitutional Rights Clinic at Rutgers School of Law in Newark. While there, she worked with her students to support community groups fighting for justice at the local, state, national, and transnational levels, tackling white supremacy, cis-heteropatriarchy, militarism, and gentrification. Prior to entering academia, Professor Shah worked as an attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, where she worked on groundbreaking human rights litigation, supported transnational community organizing efforts, and designed trainings on movement lawyering. Professor Shah also spent several years working alongside movement lawyers in Gujarat, India and Port-au-Prince, Haiti and working as a litigator and direct services lawyer at a law firm in New York City.

I am here to collaborate with and train the next generation of movement lawyers.

- Jeena Shah

Charisa Kiyo Smith


Over a decade of legal practice and policy work throughout the U.S. and bilingual human rights work in Latin America have strengthened Professor Smith’s commitment to public interest lawyering, innovative scholarship, and social transformation. Professor Smith is an Associate Professor who hopes to help enhance the remarkable atmosphere of community-building, multi-dimensional teaching, inclusive mentorship, and curricular leadership that are integral to CUNY Law’s mission. She previously taught at Wisconsin Law and Brooklyn College, and also co-directed Yale Law School’s Legislative Advocacy Clinic. Continuing her study of Zen Buddhism for over ten years, Professor Smith encourages contemplative lawyering and balance in legal education. She is a graduate of Yale Law School and Harvard and Radcliffe Colleges. Professor Smith’s teaching includes juvenile justice, the Family Law Practice Clinic, Domestic Relations Law, and Torts. Her scholarship on the criminalization of youth and the threat to parental rights among individuals with mental disabilities has been cited by courts, government agencies, and advocates.

I am here to further the path of my ancestors, and help us collectively journey towards transformation, possibility, truth...and daily joy.

- Charisa Kiyo Smith

John Whitlow

Community and Economic Development

Professor Whitlow is an Associate Professor at the CUNY School of Law, teaching primarily in the Community & Economic Development (CED) Clinic. Prior to joining CUNY’s faculty, Professor Whitlow was an Assistant Professor at the University of New Mexico School of Law, where he co-founded and co-directed the Economic Justice Clinic and taught Constitutional Law. Before entering academia, he was a Supervising Attorney at Make the Road New York, where he oversaw the organization's housing and public benefits legal services and policy initiatives, and a Staff Attorney at the Urban Justice Center's Community Development Project, where he represented tenant associations and provided transactional legal assistance to grassroots non-profits and worker-owned cooperatives. Professor Whitlow is from Baltimore, Maryland and holds a BA from the Johns Hopkins University, an MA from the New School for Social Research, and a JD from the CUNY School of Law. Professor Whitlow's research focuses on neoliberalism, displacement, and economic democracy.

I am here to work with students and faculty who are fighting for economic, racial, and social justice.

- John Whitlow


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