Who We Are

Faculty Director

Vincent M. Southerland, assistant professor of clinical law and director of the Criminal Defense and Re-entry Clinic at NYU Law, joined the Center on Race, Inequality, and the Law as its inaugural Executive Director in February 2017. He has dedicated his career to advancing racial justice and civil rights. Vincent comes to NYU Law after serving as an Assistant Federal Public Defender with the Federal Defenders for the Southern District of New York since 2015.  Prior to his time at the Federal Defenders, Vincent spent seven years at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), where he was a Senior Counsel.  While at LDF, he engaged in litigation and advocacy at the intersection of race and criminal justice, including the successful representation of people sentenced to death across the American South and children sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. He also led LDF’s advocacy efforts around race and policing, and was lead counsel in school desegregation and employment discrimination matters. Vincent previously served as a staff attorney at The Bronx Defenders, and an E. Barrett Prettyman Fellow at Georgetown University Law Center.  He began his career as a law clerk to the Honorable Theodore McKee, Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, and the Honorable Louis H. Pollak, of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Vincent holds an LLM from Georgetown University Law Center, received his JD from Temple University School of Law and his BA from the University of Connecticut. He serves on the boards of The Bail Project, the Federal Defenders of New York, and the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Faculty Directors Emeriti

headshot of Tony Thompson wearing blue shirt

Anthony Thompson, Professor of Clinical Law Emeritus, was the Center’s founding faculty director. Professor Thompson retired from the NYU Law faculty, of which he was a member for 25 years and taught courses in criminal justice, civil litigation and leadership. Thompson is part of the Duke Corporate Education Global Educator Network and has provided executive education to a number of global companies focusing on leadership and strategy execution. He received numerous prizes for his teaching, including the NYU Distinguished Teaching Award; the Martin Luther King, Jr. Faculty Award, which recognizes teaching excellence, leadership, social justice activism, and community building; and the Law School’s Podell Distinguished Teaching Award. Thompson was recognized by El Diario in 2011 with “The EL” award, as one of the “outstanding Latinos in the Tri-State area,” for his community service. He earned his JD at Harvard Law School and his BS Ed from Northwestern University.

Deborah Archer portrait

Deborah N. Archer, professor of clinical law and director of the Civil Rights Clinic at NYU Law, joined the Center as its faculty co-director in February 2019. Archer joined the NYU Law faculty in 2018, following a distinguished career as a professor of law at New York Law School (NYLS). While at NYLS, Professor Archer served as the school’s inaugural dean of diversity and inclusion and as associate dean for academic affairs and student engagement. She also led NYLS’s Racial Justice Project, a legal advocacy initiative that worked to advance racial justice and civil rights. Archer is president of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and serves on the board of the Legal Aid Society. For many years, she also served on the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board and the board of the New York Civil Liberties Union. In recognition of her work, the New York Law Journal named her one of its 2016 Top Women in Law. Before beginning her career in law teaching, Archer was assistant counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, an associate at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, and a Marvin M. Karpatkin Fellow at the ACLU.

Executive Director

Jason Williamson

Jason D. Williamson joined the Center as its Executive Director in June 2021. He previously served as the deputy director of the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project, where he began working as a staff attorney in January 2011. At the ACLU, he focused primarily on Fourth Amendment, police practices, and public defense reform litigation.  Prior to joining the ACLU, Jason worked as a litigation associate at the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP in New York, and served as a law clerk for Judge Sterling Johnson, Jr. in the Eastern District of New York from 2007-2008.  He began his legal career in New Orleans in the months following Hurricane Katrina, first as a staff attorney for the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana, and later as a staff attorney and founding member of Juvenile Regional Services (now called the Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights), which provides legal representation for indigent youth in Orleans Parish Juvenile Court.  Jason also serves as an adjunct clinical professor at New York University School of Law. He received his Bachelor’s Degree from Harvard University in 1998, and his JD from NYU Law in 2006. Jason is a devout Rastafarian, committed husband, and proud father of twin daughters. 

Director of the Initiative for Community Power

balmd man with beard

Andrew Friedman is founding director of the Initiative for Community Power at NYU School of Law. The Initiative is an ambitious, multi-faceted effort to combine the weight and assets of a global academic institution with the nimble, community-grounded tools of advocacy and organizing. Its goal is to catalyze understanding, innovation, and high-impact work in order to accelerate social change towards a more equitable, democratic, and racially just society. The Initiative combines scholarship, field-building, experiential education, academic convenings, internships and fellowships to examine inequality and anti-democracy, and the links between the two. The Initiative works to challenge and disrupt both. Andrew comes to the Initiative after decades of work founding and leading some of the highest impact base-building organizations in the United States, such as Make the Road New York and the Center for Popular Democracy.

Distinguished Scholar in Residence

Justine Olderman Headshot

Justine Olderman holds a joint appointment as Distinguished Scholar in Residence with the Center on Race, Inequality, and the Law at NYU School of Law and Senior Research Scholar in the Litmus program of the NYU Marron Institute. Justine joined NYU in 2024 after serving as the Executive Director of The Bronx Defenders (BxD) since 2018. As Executive Director, Justine led the organization through the COVID-19 pandemic; embraced unionization and negotiated one of the most progressive bargaining agreements in the field; oversaw the development and implementation of major DEI initiatives; expanded BxD's Early Defense program, creating an off ramp to the legal system; deepened the organization's community engagement work through the creation of the Bronx Cannabis Hub and the Bronx Leadership & Organizing Center; grew BxD's policy and organizing work, which helped secure bail and discovery reform as well as the decriminalization of marijuana and driving with a suspended license; and supported several high-profile impact litigation cases brought by BxD that radically reduced ICE's power to detain immigrants, held NYPD's use of sealed records unconstitutional, ensured due process for people facing the loss of their home through the issuance of orders of protection, and secured a first-of-its-kind, pre-litigation settlement with the City for violating the right of protestors. Justine joined BxD in 2000 as a staff attorney. During her 23 years at BxD, she also held the roles of Supervisor, Team Leader, Managing Attorney of the Criminal Defense Practice, and Managing Director of BxD before succeeding Robin Steinberg as the Executive Director. Justine graduated magna cum laude and Order of the Coif from New York University School of Law. She spent two years clerking for Judge Robert J. Ward in the Southern District of New York. She also holds a B.A. from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. 

Senior Research and Advocacy Fellow

Terrance Pitts

Terrance Pitts joined the Center as a Senior Research and Advocacy Fellow in 2021. Terrance's professional and creative work has focused on disrupting mass criminalization and racial bias in the criminal legal system- and transforming the conditions which allow violence to cause harm in communities of color. 

Terrance began his advocacy career addressing racial bias in the criminal legal system as a Project Director at the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. Since graduating from law school in 2008, he has worked at Open Society Foundations, the Ford Foundation, the Vera Institute of Justice, and in consulting roles to support transformation of the U.S. criminal legal system. As a senior advisor at the Ford Foundation, Terrance managed a grantmaking portfolio focused on substantially reducing U.S. jail and prison populations. As a program officer at Open Society Foundations (OSF), Terrance crafted grantmaking strategies and managed a criminal justice reform portfolio focused on abolishing the death penalty, ending the practice of juvenile life without parole, and transforming U.S. policing practices to make them more transparent and accountable. 

Terrance believes strongly in multi-pronged tactics to shift narratives, build community power, and disrupt systemic racism. His nonfiction film, Heaven: Can You Hear Me?- which premiered nationally on the WORLD Channel and local PBS affiliates in 2022- addresses the impact of gun violence on families in Philadelphia. Terrance is also a Firelight Media Documentary Lab Fellow. Terrance received an undergraduate degree in political science with distinction from Stanford University, a Master of Arts in Law & Diplomacy from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and a J.D. from Northwestern University School of Law. He also has studied film production, photography, and video editing. 

Practitioner In Residence

Lauren Cox

Lorén Cox is an education practitioner and advocate committed to civil rights, with a specific focus on educational equity.  She currently serves as the Senior Director of Policy, Advocacy and Community Engagement for the KIPP Foundation.  Prior to joining KIPP she led the education policy team at UnidosUS (formerly the National Council of La Raza), the nation’s largest Latino civil rights and advocacy organization.  In this role, she managed the federal education policy portfolio, and supported over 30 states in the development and implementation of state ESSA plans, particularly as they related to Latino students and English Learners.  Additionally, she developed and managed UnidosUS’ education state policy agendas and served as the primary liaison between UnidosUS leadership and the US Department of Education.  Prior to joining UnidosUS, Lorén worked for the Obama Administration in two separate capacities: first as a member of the community solutions team and then as a program examiner in the education branch at the Office of Management and Budget.  As a member of the community solutions team, she assisted in developing a training for more than 400 federal employees, across a number of federal agencies, on how to effectively execute place-based work with local communities.  As a program examiner, she managed a five-billion-dollar portfolio of federal education programs. Her passion for educational equity stems from her own experiences as a first-generation, low-income college graduate.  Lorén was previously a practicing attorney and holds a JD from the University of North Carolina and a PhD in Public Policy from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.  

Operations Coordinator

Carolyn Schachtel Headshot

Carolyn Schachtel graduated from Vanderbilt University in May of 2022, where she studied Public Policy, Philosophy, and Human & Organizational Development with a focus in civil rights. On campus, Carolyn served as a Peer Mentor for underclassmen and spearheaded a student-run civic engagement campaign. During the spring of her senior year, Carolyn worked at the ACLU of Tennessee as an Advocacy Intern with the communications team. Previously, Carolyn served as an Administrative Intern with the Advocates for the Children of New Jersey and an Operations Intern with Civic Influencers. More recently, Carolyn interned in the Office of the President at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law. 

Legal Fellows

Ted Jack Headshot

Ted Jack is a 2020 graduate of NYU Law and an aspiring public defender. Prior to law school, Ted studied psychology and music at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, OR, where he became passionate about confronting the inequities and excesses of the criminal punishment system. At NYU, Ted focused his attention on public defense, racial justice issues, and criminal law-adjacent civil rights litigation and policy work. He participated in the Racial Justice and Federal Defender clinics; interned at the Legal Aid Society and Center for Death Penalty Litigation; and worked as an Executive Editor on the NYU Law Review, as a Research Assistant for Professor Anthony C. Thompson, and as a Student Fellow at the Center on Race, Inequality, and the Law. Ted also devoted significant time to student groups, particularly PREP (now EPIC), where he established the Advocacy Project, and Substantial Performance, where he served as both Music Director and President. Upon graduation Ted was selected to be the inaugural recipient of the Anthony C. Thompson Award for Racial Justice. Ted has spent the past two years in Detroit, MI, clerking for the Honorable Arthur J. Tarnow and the Honorable Linda V. Parker, and is thrilled to be returning to the Center to work as a Legal Fellow. 

Tolu Lawal Headshot

Tolu Lawal joined the Center as a fellow in September 2022. Prior to joining the Center, she was a Racial Justice Legal Fellow with the New York City Commission on Human Rights, working on legislative and policy analysis, public education and community collaboration, legal research and restorative/transformative justice through a race-specific focus. While a student at NYU Law, she served as the Co-Chair of the Black Allied Law Student Association (BALSA) and one of the lead organizers of the Racism Lives Here Too campaign. She worked at the Center as an intern in 2017, as well as an intern at the ACLU Racial Justice Project in 2018, and with NYU's Juvenile Defenders Clinic from 2018 to 2019. She also engages in advocacy, supporting Black and Brown-led groups committed to charting the road to liberation for all people, particularly those who are formerly incarcerated. She currently provides legal support to the Justice Impact Alliance. She is also a co-founder and co-lead organizer of Unlock the Bar (UTB), a New York-based campaign and coalition of allied and systems-impacted law students and lawyers who are advocating for a just and equitable legal profession. She received her J.D. from New York University Law School in the Class of 2019 and received her B.A. from Duke University in 2014. 

2023-2024 Paul Weiss Fellows


Zoe Chang (she/her/hers) is a 2L from Clinton, New Jersey. She graduated from Rutgers University in 2021, where she studied Psychology, Sociology, and Biology. There, she researched the ways in which racial essentialism has survived through the reconfiguration of race as having a genetic basis and the methods by which institutions increasingly validate discrimination through the deployment of "objective" algorithms. Prior to law school, Zoe worked at Roberts & Teeter, LLC, a criminal defense firm. One of her tasks involved presenting mitigating materials to emphasize extenuating circumstances in clients' lives and their accomplishments and resilience in spite of obstacles. Zoe is committed to a career in public defense and spent her 1L summer as an intern with the Miami-Dade Public Defender's Office in their Domestic Representation Unit. She is headed to the Federal Defenders of New York, SDNY for her 2L summer. In addition to being a student fellow at the Center, Zoe is a student advocate with NYU's Parole Advocacy Project and Civil Rights in the Criminal Legal System Clinic, a staff editor for the Review of Law and Social Change, and a member of the Public Interest Law Student Association's working group. 


Maryum Elnasseh is a second year law student and Root-Tilden-Kern Scholar from Richmond, Virginia. A firm believer in the power of writing to bring about change, Maryum obtained dual degrees in journalism and political science from Virginia Commonwealth University, where she graduated summa cum laude in 2020. After graduating, she joined the editorial team at In These Times, an independent magazine that provides investigative reporting on corporate and government wrongdoing and is dedicated to advancing movements for social, economic, and racial justice. As a journalist, Maryum has reported about a wide range of issues, including Islam in American prisons, the lack of funding for historic Black cemeteries, environmental justice and pipeline resistance efforts, and the proliferation of illegal Israeli settlements. Maryum spent her summer interning at Reprieve, where she was on the team focusing on indefinite detention without trial. At NYU Law, in addition to her fellowship at the Center, she is a staff editor on the Review of Law and Social Change and serves on the boards of Ending the Prison Industrial Complex (EPIC), International Law Society, and Muslim Law Students Association. She dreams of a kinder world and hopes her legal education will provide her the tools to contribute towards lasting, systemic change. 


Jennifer Fu (she/her) is a 2L from Kansas City, Kansas. She graduated from Rice University in 2020 with BAs in English and Sociology. Before coming to law school, Jennifer spent a year in Taipei, Taiwan, conducting research and organizing with workers at an Indonesian migrant labor union. Her research centered on workers' use of ICTs to organize for greater independence from an exploitative broker system despite physical restrictions on their mobility and surveillance from employers. She also previously worked in public defense, immigration, and criminal legal research. She spent her 1L summer as a policy intern at the New York Civil Liberties Union, working on issues such as sex work decriminalization and closing the slavery loophole in the 13th Amendment. She hopes to continue fighting for civil rights and economic justice as a movement-based lawyer. At NYU Law, she is a student advocate for the Global Justice Clinic, community activism co-chair for APALSA, on the leadership team for Ending the Prison Industrial Complex, and a Root-Tilden-Kern Scholar. Outside of school, Jennifer likes to paint, take afternoon naps, and walk the city in the evening. 


Fatoumata (Fatou) Kaba is a 2L from East Orange, New Jersey. In May 2022, she graduated from Georgetown University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Justice and Peace Studies. Fatou spent her summers in college working with a variety of non-profit organizations including The Salvation Army, The Women and Family Ascending Association, and The Cooperman College Scholars Program where she provided indirect and direct support to children and families in her community. She also interned with the New York Office of the Attorney General and worked with the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown Law. This past summer, Fatou served as a legal intern at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice where she researched laws and policies related to economic justice and criminal justice reform in New Jersey. In addition to her role as a CRIL fellow, Fatou is also a Root-Tilden-Kern Scholar, a volunteer for the Suspension Representation Project, a staff editor for the Review of Law and Social Changeand a student advocate in the Civil Rights and Racial Justice clinic. Fatou has always been passionate about uplifting the voices of marginalized people and dismantling systems of injustice. She looks forward to using her legal education to further service those in need.   


Coleman Powell (He/They) is originally from Louisville, Kentucky. In 2020, he graduated from Swarthmore College with Highest Honors and a special major in Comparative Racial & Transnational Politics as well as a minor in Arabic studies. After graduation, Coleman worked for two years as an investigator at Civil Rights Corps (CRC) supporting litigation challenging the criminalization of poverty and advocating for decarceration. As a law student, Coleman is interested in supporting those entangled in the prison industrial complex and exploring how direct representation can advance grassroots movements for dismantling oppressive systems. For his 1L summer, he worked at Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem on their Collateral Consequences team providing legal representation to NDS clients facing the collateral civil consequences of contact with the criminal legal and child welfare systems, including eviction prevention, employment and forfeiture defense, and re-entry matters. At NYU, in addition to being a CRIL fellow, Coleman is a Root-Tilden-Kern Scholar, the Reentry Co-Coordinator for the Parole Advocacy Project at NYU's Ending the Prison Industrial Complex (EPIC) student organization, a staff editor for the Review of Law & Social Change, and the Racial Justice co-chair for NYU's Defender Collective. In his free time, he loves exploring new bookstores, vintage clothing shops, and small live music venues. 


Soreti Teshome (she/her) is a 2L originally from Ethiopia and raised in Lincoln, NE. She graduated from the University of Chicago in 2018, where she studied Public Policy and Comparative Race and Ethnic Studies. Before law school, Soreti worked as a paralegal at the Innocence Project and a resource coordinator at Manhattan Justice Opportunities, an alternative to incarceration program. She spent her 1L summer interning at the Federal Defenders of New York. In addition to her role as a fellow, Soreti is a Root-Tilden-Kern scholar, a student advocate for the Criminal Defense and Reentry Clinic, a staff editor for the Review of Law and Social Change, and a member of BALSA. After graduation, Soreti plans to be a public defender. As a CRIL fellow, she hopes to continue exploring how lawyers can support and advance grassroots organizing and movements for abolition.