Risa Kaufman, Director


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Risa joined the Center in 2017 as the director of the U.S. Human Rights team. She is responsible for developing and implementing the Center’s U.S.-based human rights advocacy strategies, including elevating the Center's focus on maternal health and rights. In collaboration with the Center’s U.S. Human Rights team and the broader U.S. human rights and reproductive justice movements, she leads the Center's work to hold the U.S. government accountable for its international human rights obligations.

Prior to joining the Center, Risa was the Executive Director of the Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute, where she developed and advanced international human rights norms and strategies in the United States through research, advocacy, network building, and training, in addition to providing overall management for the Institute’s activities and operations. The co-author of Human Rights Advocacy in the United States (West 2014) (with Martha F. Davis and Johanna Kalb), Risa supervised students in the law school’s Human Rights Clinic. She is a lecturer-in-law at Columbia Law School, where she teaches a seminar on U.S. human rights advocacy.

Risa has extensive experience in public interest litigation, advocacy, and legal education with a special focus on women’s rights, poverty law, and access to justice. 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 Columbia’s Human Rights Institute, Risa was an acting assistant professor of lawyering at New York University School of Law, and she 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.

Risa 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.