Human Rights Research, Advocacy, and Education

The Bernstein Institute for Human Rights is a center at NYU Law committed to challenging legal systems that exclude, marginalize, and oppress. We support and train community justice advocates, law students, and lawyers on legal empowerment methods as a way to actively challenge inequities here in the U.S. and around the world. We believe that the practice of law can and should be rooted in dignity and care. 

The work of the Institute is supported by Professor Margaret Satterthwaite ‘99 as Faculty Director and Sukti Dhital as Executive Director.

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Our Focus Areas


Institute Updates

Announcing: U.S. Legal Empowerment Leadership Course

Legal Empowerment Leadership Course Info Session on Feb. 16 from 2-4pm

This October we are organizing the first ever US Legal Empowerment Leadership Course (LELC). Building off learnings from a powerful global movement, we will bring together 45-50 community organizers, activists, lawyers, researchers, and students in the US to gain a foundational understanding of legal empowerment, learn and build community with one another, and explore actions relevant to our justice struggles.

Join the Info Session on February 16th from 2-4pm EST to learn about the course and application process. 

Register at

Join Our Growing Team!

We are hiring for a Tuttleman Legal Empowerment Fellow to build upon the Bernstein Institute’s’ cutting-edge legal empowerment work, both globally and in the U.S. The Fellow is supported through a generous gift from the Tuttleman Foundation, and is for a one year period with the possibility of extension. 

Green hued graphic announcing Tuttleman Legal Empowerment Fellowship job opening

We are hiring for a JLI Community Justice Fellow to support the expanding work of the Jailhouse Lawyers Initiative. The Jailhouse Lawyers Initiative (JLI) is a collective of current and formerly incarcerated jailhouse lawyers, law students, lawyers and advocates that provide legal training and support to a growing national network of currently incarcerated people.

Blue graphic announcing JLI Community Justice Fellowship job opening


Bernstein Institute's Faculty Director Meg Satterthwaite appointed UN Special Rapporteur

Meg Satterthwaite appointed UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers

We are thrilled to share that the United Nations Human Rights Council named our Faculty Director, Meg Satterthwaite, as the new Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers.

Special rapporteurs are independent human rights experts enlisted by the UN to provide reports and advice on specific areas of human rights. In particular, Meg will explore the role of community justice advocates in building healthy, durable and inclusive legal ecosystems and identify best practices to engage trained non-lawyer advocates across the globe. This is a pivotal moment for the legal empowerment and human rights community and we are eager to share ways to engage with the mandate in the months to come.

“A system that encourages legal empowerment—active engagement of those who have too often been excluded–is made stronger and more resilient to the ongoing threats of democratic backsliding and disaffection with the judicial system. To ensure equal justice for all, legal systems must be independent, transparent, and accessible to everyday people.”   

-Professor Meg Satterthwaite

Legal Empowerment Learning Lab

A screenshot of the LE Learning Lab in Zoom, with a map showing where everyone is from across the world

The Lab is a groundbreaking workshop with human rights practitioners from all around the globe committed to advancing research and learning around legal empowerment with a focus on participatory methods. Check out our living resource library which contains distillations of sessions, information about participants, icebreaker videos, and more!

Also read our piece in Open Global Rights on lessons that the human rights movement can learn from the Lab. We know that radical shifts in how we care for one another as a society are only possible if we enact our commitment to justice in the most intimate encounters.

Defending Dissent

At "Human Rights in Hong Kong," organized and hosted by the Bernstein Institute, human rights activists and lawyers at the epicenter of the unfolding crisis in Hong Kong shared reflections and strategies on the role international advocacy can play in supporting a pro-democracy movement.

Legal Empowerment

The Justice Power Project is a joint effort of the Bernstein Institute, UNHCR and the Global Justice Clinic at NYU Law to document legal empowerment strategies used by various immigration organizations. This video on the "Pro Se Legal Clinic" strategy features the organization New Sanctuary Coalition.

Community Resource Spotlight

workbook cover

This workbook we offer to you has been collectively constructed by everyone participating in the first cohort of the Lab. It is an invitation that both introduces a wide lens on participatory action research and legal empowerment but also invites deep, intimate personal reflection.

Student Spotlight

Maria Alejandra Torres

Hear from María Alejandra Torres García, our 2022 Masiyiwa-Bernstein fellow, as she reflects on her work at the Global Justice Clinic.

"As a Fellow, I know that problem-solving requires a holistic, interdisciplinary, intersectional, anti-imperialist, and anti-racist framework." Read more here.