Team

Meg Sattherthwaite

Margaret Satterthwaite ’99

Professor of Clinical Law
Faculty Director, Center for Human Rights and Global Justice
Director, Global Justice Clinic
Faculty Director, Robert and Helen Bernstein Institute for Human Rights

Margaret Satterthwaite’s research interests include economic and social rights, human rights and counterterrorism, and methodological innovation in human rights. Satterthwaite graduated magna cum laude from NYU School of Law in 1999 and served as a law clerk to Judge Betty B. Fletcher of the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in 1999-00 and to the judges of the International Court of Justice in 2001-02. She has worked for a variety of human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, Human Rights First, and the Commission Nationale de Verité et de Justice (Haitian Truth and Justice Commission), and has authored or co-authored more than a dozen human rights reports. She has engaged in human rights work in places such as Guyana, Haiti, Nigeria, Northern Ireland, the United States, and Yemen. Satterthwaite has served as a human rights consultant and advising expert to UN agencies and special rapporteurs and has been a member of the boards of directors of several human rights organizations, including Amnesty International USA, the Global Initiative on Economic and Social Rights, and Digital Democracy. Satterthwaite is currently the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers for the United Nation's Human Rights Council. She also serves as a member of the Africa Council to the ABA's Rule of Law Council.

 

Sukti Dhital

Executive Director

Sukti is the Executive Director of the Bernstein Institute for Human Rights at NYU Law. She also serves as a Supervising Attorney with the Global Justice Clinic, where she oversees legal empowerment projects spanning jailhouse lawyers and immigrant rights. Previously, Sukti was the Executive Director and Co-founder of Nazdeek, a legal empowerment organization that works closely with indigenous and Dalit women to advance human rights through a community-driven approach. Prior to Nazdeek, Sukti was the Director of the Reproductive Rights Unit at the Human Rights Law Network, India and assisted in securing landmark social and economic rights judgments. She has also worked at the American Civil Liberties Union’s Reproductive Freedom Project. Sukti currently serves as a Steering Committee member of the Legal Empowerment Fund, a member of the Grassroots Justice Network's Network Advisory Council and an Advisory Board member of the WIEGO Law Programme. Sukti received her JD from Northeastern University School of Law and BA from University of Michigan. She is a mother of 2 beautiful kiddos and a deep believer in community justice as the pathway to liberation.

 

Tyler Walton Headshot

Tyler Walton '18

Deputy Director

Tyler Walton is the Deputy Director at the Robert and Helen Bernstein Institute for Human Rights at NYU School of Law. He joined the Bernstein Institute as the inaugural Tuttleman Legal Empowerment Fellow. Tyler works on legal empowerment, researching and co-developing strategies with affected community members to access and exercise their rights and shift power paradigms back towards communities and individuals. He serves as the managing attorney for the Jailhouse Lawyer Initiative and a supervising attorney with the Global Justice Clinic. Prior to joining the Bernstein Institute, Tyler was a fellow at the Southern Africa Litigation Centre where he led the program on freedom of expression, working to combat closing civic spaces in southern Africa and address new human rights issues caused by the rise of the Internet and digital technologies. He also served two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Malawi developing participatory community health programs. Tyler received his BA from the University of Missouri and his JD from NYU School of Law, where he was a Root-Tilden-Kern Public Interest scholar.

 

Head shot of Bernstein Institute consultant Emese Ilyes

Emese Ilyes 

Participatory Action Researcher and Educator

Emese Ilyes is a critical social psychologist whose scholarship excavates the history of constructs that group people into categories. Her research, writing, and organizing has sought to understand the systems that define capacity and impose labels like intellectual disability on select bodies and minds. As an educator and researcher - working with participatory methodologies that make room for poetic and non-textual ways of knowing -  she continues to work in collaboration with communities who most deeply understand structural violence and who can most clearly articulate visions of a just world. With this commitment to participatory methodologies led by those most impacted, Emese continues to work in solidarity with communities to interrogate systems of power and to name radical possibilities. 

 

Gabriela Pineros

Gabriela Piñeros Medina

Program Manager

Gabriela is the Program Manager at the Robert and Helen Bernstein Institute for Human Rights at NYU School of Law. Gabriela is also an Immigrant Youth Accompaniment Aide at The Door, an organization that provides a wide range of free services to NYC-based youth. Prior to joining the Bernstein Institute, Gabriela was an organizer with the Student Farmworker Alliance (SFA) where she worked with students and young people to further the goals of the Fair Food Program developed by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, an internationally recognized human rights organization. Prior to SFA, Gabriela volunteered at the Legal Empowerment and Advocacy Hub (LEAH) where she learned about the power in people being able to know, use, and shape the laws that affect them. While at LEAH, she had the opportunity to work on the Jailhouse Lawyers Initiative, a national project that aims to re-conceptualize the role of jailhouse lawyers as agents of empowerment. Gabriela has also served as a Democracy Program Intern at the Brennan Center for Justice. 

Gabriela is an immigrant from Colombia and first-generation college student. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Florida where she earned a BA in Criminology and in Gender and Sexuality Studies. 

 

Photo of Jhody Polk smiling. Jhody is wearing a yellow shirt and glasses.

Jhody Polk 

Consultant, Researcher and Jailhouse Lawyers Initiative founder

Jhody Polk is the founder of the Jailhouse Lawyers Initiative (JLI) and CEO of A Light In The Valley, LLC. She is the Pathways to Research and Advocacy Fellow at the Fortune Society and Center for Justice Innovation, and is the creator of the Legal Empowerment & Advocacy Hub (LEAH), an online space dedicated to people Knowing the Law. She is the recipient of the 2019 Peacebuilder of the Year Award, the 2020 Dr. Martin Luther King’s Jr. Legacy award and named a Soros Justice Fellow in 2018. She currently serves on the board of Namati.

Jhody is known for her work as a central Florida Organizer on Amendment 4, a campaign to restore voting rights to over 1.5 million Floridians with felony convictions. She is the formal Director of Community Justice at the River Phoenix Center for Peacebuilding and served as the Director of the Alachua County Reentry Coalition 2017-2020. Jhody is a rising Tarot Reader, Astrologer, and Energy Healer. She unapologetically lives for the liberation of Black People, Power, Peace , Human Rights, Participatory Action Research (PAR), Legal Empowerment, Community Peacebuilding and Justice For All.

 

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Darren Breeden

Community Justice Fellow

Darren Breeden is Community Justice Fellow at NYU’s Jailhouse Lawyers Initiative (JLI) located within the Bernstein Institute for Human Rights. Breeden is a graduate of Bard College, received his paralegal certification in 1994, and from Columbia University in 2022. He is a staunch advocate for Legal Empowerment; specifically, the right of former jailhouse lawyers to contribute to oppressed communities by utilizing legal skills in community based justice hubs.

 

 

Headshot of Alejandra Torres smiling

Alejandra Torres '22

Tuttleman Legal Empowerment Fellow 

María Alejandra Torres García (she/ella) is a Tuttleman Legal Empowerment Fellow at the Bernstein Institute. She was previously a Masiyiwa-Bernstein Fellow (2022-2023) with the Global Justice Clinic working on issues of climate justice, anti-extractivism, and corporate accountability in the Caribbean; trauma and resilience of human rights defenders; and combatting anti-Black and anti-migrant policies. As a Fellow, she also assisted Professor Satterthwaite in her capacity as the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers.

Alejandra graduated cum laude from NYU School of Law in 2022, where she was a Derrick Bell Scholar for Public Service. During law school, she was also a student advocate with the Caribbean Climate Justice Initiative and an International Law and Human Rights Fellow at the International Law Commission. In past years, she has worked primarily with immigrants, women, children, and racialized minorities through grassroots organizing, policy analysis, and legal services. Alejandra graduated summa cum laude from NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study with the self-titled concentration, “Empire and Postcolonial Subjectivity” in 2018. She also obtained a postgraduate Specialization in Human Rights and Access to Justice in Latin America at the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá, Colombia, in 2019.

 

Christine Eldabh

Christine Eldabh

Fellow, Jailhouse Lawyers Initiative

Christine ElDabh is a fellow with the Jailhouse Lawyers Initiative at the Bernstein Institute for Human Rights. She graduated from NYU School of Law in 2023 where she was a student advocate in the Global Justice Clinic and the Civil Rights in the Criminal Legal System, a fellow with the Center on Race, Inequality & the Law, a research assistant to Professor Deborah Archer, and a volunteer with the Parole Advocacy Project. Before law school, Christine was a program officer at the Leitner Center for International Law and Justice where she worked on anti-carceral and gender justice advocacy in the US and Kenya. She received her BA from the University of Virginia.

 

Head shot of Bernstein Institute consultant Mela Chiponda

Melania Chiponda 

Consultant, Participatory Action Research

Melania Chiponda is an ecofeminist, popular educator, and participatory action researcher who believes in centering people’s lived experiences and realities in the creation of knowledge. To Melania, community empowerment and knowledge creation is a collective process that shifts power from mainstream knowledge systems and institutions to the people. Her research approach is embedded in participatory action approaches that bring out grassroots people's experiences, stories and struggles, and is oriented towards evidence- based advocacy and people-driven reforms that go beyond short-term reformism. The research contributes towards longer-term structural changes that are required to ensure economic and development justice. Melania has a PHd in Development Studies with a MSc in Development Studies.

 

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Ben Polk

Visiting Scholar 

Ben Polk is an international justice policy expert with subject matter expertise in rule of law, access to justice, civil and criminal legal aid, and justice data indicators. He served most recently as Global Policy Director for the International Legal Foundation, an NGO that builds and promotes legal aid systems in post-conflict countries including Afghanistan, Myanmar, Nepal, Palestine, and Tunisia. He previously served as Justice Deputy for Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis (formerly United States Secretary of Labor for President Barack Obama). Ben also has worked extensively as a legal aid lawyer (including as a Skadden Fellow), most recently managing a team of attorneys and support staff providing wrap-around legal services to people experiencing homelessness. Ben has a J.D. from Harvard Law School and an M.P.P. from the Harvard Kennedy School. Before entering public service, Ben was a management consultant for Bain & Co., based in London and working on projects in South Africa, and across Europe and the United States. While at the Bernstein Institute, Ben is working on a law review article seeking to quantify the funding necessary to provide constitutionally-sufficient public defense (a.k.a. criminal legal aid) services throughout the United States, and is also supporting Professor Satterthwaite's work as Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers by identifying the most critical indicators of independence for judges and lawyers.

 

A headshot of Kate Evans smiling at the camera

Kate Evans

Research Assistant

Kate Evans (she/her) is a second-year J.D. candidate at NYU School of Law. Kate graduated magna cum laude from Duke University with a B.A. in Public Policy Studies. Prior to law school, Kate worked on criminal justice reform and voting rights advocacy in North Carolina at Forward Justice and Emancipate NC. She has also conducted research on the juvenile justice system in her home state of New Jersey. Kate hopes to use her law degree to challenge the flawed and inaccessible U.S. legal system and promote equity and justice.

 

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Sophia Opferman

Research Assistant

Sophia, originally from Denver, Colorado, is a Junior at Gallatin concentrating in Human Rights, Postcolonialism, and Law which centers around a desire to understand the role that law has played in creating and upholding structures of inequality as well as the law’s potential, if any, to dismantle these systems. In asking this question, she takes a particular interest in decolonial movements, past and present, and the utopian postcolonial space as a model for abolition. She is concerned with human rights in both the abstract and as a tangible framework from which to approach justice and abolition. She also has a minor in Social and Public Policy. Sophia is particularly interested in the American carceral state and criminal justice system and, in 2022, was a Gallatin Human Rights Fellow, working with the Urban Justice Center’s Freedom Agenda, where she was able to join the organization's efforts to decarcerate New York City, beginning with advocacy for the closure of Rikers Island. She is also a volunteer writer at The Remedy Project, a non-profit that assists incarcerated people in filing Administrative Remedies, official grievances against corrections officers, and in-prison rights violations.

 

Tejal Jesrani

Tejal Jesrani

Former Visiting Scholar 

Tejal Jesrani is a Program Officer in the Crime Research Section of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime where she has worked for 15 years on implementation of international conventions, capacity building and applied research in transnational crime and criminal justice issues. Her current research incorporates the lived experiences and voices of prisoners to inform better rehabilitation and reintegration programs and policies. At the Bernstein Institute, Tejal will be developing the analytical framework and exploring the availability of data and appropriate methodologies for a global study on discrimination in the criminal justice system. Tejal is also on the Board of Directors of Synergy for Justice, an organization that supports local actors to collect and preserve medical and legal evidence of torture, sexual violence and trafficking in persons for use in justice and accountability processes. Tejal has also worked in the areas of immigration law, international human rights and international criminal law. She was a Dean’s Fellow at the War Crimes Research Office at American University, Washington College of Law, worked as an Attorney Advisor at the United States Department of Justice, Executive Office for Immigration Review and at Human Rights Watch as Women’s Rights Associate.