PRESS RELEASE: 2017-2019 Hanna S. Cohn Equal Justice Fellow Selected

Kristi Hughes November 29, 2017

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Hanna S. Cohn Equal Justice Fellow Selected

Fellow is Focusing on the Legal Needs of City Students

ROCHESTER, New York (November 29, 2017)  -Sujata Ramaiah, an August graduate of the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, has been selected as the next Hanna S. Cohn Equal Justice Fellow.  Ramaiah began work in September 2017 at Empire Justice Center’s Rochester office.

As part of the two-year Fellowship term, Ramaiah will focus on investigating the root causes of the dismal graduation rate of students in the Rochester City School District (RCSD) and directly advocating for youth facing long-term education interruptions within RCSD.

“In my short time at Empire Justice Center so far, I have gathered a sense of the inescapable, systemic, and disheartening problems facing students with disabilities, students of color, and students who are bullied,” notes Ramaiah.  “I have also seen the tremendous community support for Rochester City School District students and the strong desire to improve educational outcomes for our youth.”

A native of Corning, NY, Ramaiah received a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations from Syracuse University in 2009.  Prior to attending law school, she worked as an AmeriCorps paralegal in the Ithaca office of Legal Assistance of Western New York (LawNY) and volunteered for the Legal Aid Foundation of Santa Barbara County in California. She has served as a legal intern for the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission, the National Association of Counsel for Children, the Steuben County Public Defender’s Office, and the Bath office of LawNY. At the Sturm College of Law, she completed the Holistic Juvenile Defense and Advocacy Program and the Child Advocacy Program.

Out of nearly a decade working with youth, the Boys’ and Girls’ Club of America was her most formative experience. While there, she taught a literacy-intervention program for elementary students, and then led the Teen Department, where she educated teens in financial literacy, arts and sciences, post-graduation planning, and mentored students involved with the family court or juvenile justice systems. The problems facing these children inspired her to become a strong youth advocate.

The Hanna S. Cohn Equal Justice Fellowship is a prestigious fellowship awarded every two years to a dynamic, new attorney in the area of public interest law. The fellowship was established in 2002 in memory of Cohn, who was the Executive Director of the Volunteer Legal Services Project (VLSP) in Rochester for 20 years. The fellowship allows the attorney to design and implement a project to increase legal advocacy for Greater Rochester’s low-income families.

The Fellowship is made possible by Hanna’s family, through private donations to the Hanna S. Cohn Memorial Fund, and by a significant contribution from the Campaign for Justice, an annual fund drive that Hanna established to support the work of VLSP, the Legal Aid Society and LawNY.

Jerry Wein, who was married to Hanna, notes, “Our family aspires to honor Hanna’s memory and continue her indefatigable advocacy for people in poverty. The Fellows and their outstanding achievements continue to meet these goals. We look forward to Sujata building on her significant accomplishments as she embarks on her legal services career.”

Empire Justice is thrilled to bring on a law graduate with such a commitment to empowering low-income individuals. Like many of the Hanna S. Cohn Equal Justice Fellows, we believe her impact will be a great one.

Empire Justice Center is a nonprofit law firm that makes the law work for all New Yorkers, especially those who need its protection the most.  We teach the law by providing training, support and technical assistance to other attorneys and advocates so they can better serve their clients. We improve the law by engaging in legislative and administrative advocacy on issues that affect low-income families. We practice the law by providing free, direct civil legal services and impact litigation.


Kristi Hughes, Vice President for Development and Administration

(585) 295-5817