Executive Director, Human Rights Institute
Risa E. Kaufman is the executive director of the Human Rights Institute at Columbia Law School and a Lecturer-in-Law. Ms. Kaufman develops and advances international human rights norms and strategies in the United States through research, advocacy, network building, and training. Her advocacy and research focus on subnational implementation of human rights; access to justice; and economic, social, and cultural rights. The co-author of Human Rights Advocacy in the United States (West 2014) (with Martha F. Davis and Johanna Kalb), she also teaches a seminar on domestic human rights advocacy and supervises students in the Human Rights Clinic. In addition, Ms. Kaufman provides overall management and supervision for the Institute's activities and operations.
Ms. Kaufman has extensive experience in public interest litigation, advocacy and legal education with a special focus on poverty law, access to justice, and women’s rights. Prior to joining the Human Rights Institute, she engaged in impact litigation and policy initiatives as associate counsel at the Community Service Society of New York, as a Gibbons Fellow in Public Interest and Constitutional Law at the law firm of Gibbons, P.C., and as a Skadden Fellow at NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund (now Legal Momentum). Immediately prior to joining the Human Rights Institute at Columbia, she was an acting assistant professor of lawyering at New York University School of Law, and previously taught as an adjunct professor at Fordham Law School and Seton Hall Law School. She is a co-founder and board member of A Better Balance: The Work and Family Legal Center.
Ms. Kaufman is a co-editor and frequent contributor to the Human Rights at Home Law Professors Blog. Her recent posts have addressed issues including the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals, U.N. special procedures, state and local human rights implementation, and national human rights institutions. Ms. Kaufman’s additional publications on domestic human rights implementation, access to justice, and poverty law include: The Interdependence of Rights: Protecting the Human Right to Housing by Promoting the Right to Counsel, 45 Colum. Hum. Rts. L. Rev. 732 (2014) (with Martha F. Davis and Heidi Wegleitner); Framing Economic, Social and Cultural Rights at the U.N., 4 Northeastern U. L. J. 407 (2012); “By Some Other Means”: Considering the Executive’s Role in Subnational Human Rights Implementation, 33 Cardozo L. Rev. 1971 (2012); Engaging U.N. Mechanisms to Advance Economic Justice Advocacy, 44 Clearinghouse Rev. (Sept.-Oct. 2011) (with JoAnn Kamuf Ward); State and Local Commissions as Sites for Domestic Human Rights Implementation, in Human Rights In The United States: Beyond Exceptionalism 89 (Shareen Hertel & Kathryn Libal eds., 2011); Access to the Courts as a Privilege or Immunity of National Citizenship, 40 CONN. L. REV.1477 (2008); Bridging the Federalism Gap: Procedural Due Process and Race Discrimination in a Devolved Welfare System, 3 Hastings Race & Poverty L. J. 1 (2005); Preserving Aliens’ and Migrant Workers’ Access to Civil Legal Services: Constitutional and Policy Considerations, 5 U. Pa. J. Of Const. L. 491 (2003) (with Laura K. Abel); State ERAs in the New Era: Securing Poor Women’s Equality by Eliminating Reproductive-Based Discrimination, 24 Harv. Women’s L.J. 190 (2001); and Seeking Redress for Gender-Based Bias Crimes: Charting New Ground in Familiar Legal Territory, 6 Mich. Journal Of Race & Law 265 (2001) (with Julie Goldscheid).
Ms. Kaufman holds a J.D. from New York University School of Law, where she was a Root-Tilden-Snow scholar. She clerked for Judge Ira DeMent in the U.S. District Court in Montgomery, Alabama, and holds a B.A. from Tulane University.