Rhonda Copelon

Rhonda Copelon, a founding member of the NESRI Board of Directors, had an abiding faith in the human rights of everyone, and a special commitment to women around the world. Professor Copelon was a faculty member at CUNY Law School.  She graduated from Yale Law School, clerked for United States District Court Judge Harold R. Tyler, and spent 12 years on staff at the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) in New York City, where she served as a board member afterwards until the end of her life.  At CCR, she litigated civil rights and international human rights cases with a major focus on women's rights. These included the landmark Filartiga decision, which opened federal courts to international human rights claims, and United States Supreme Court cases, invalidating the firing of unwed mothers (Drew v. Andrews) and challenging the cut-off of medicaid funds for abortion (Harris v. McRae). In l992, she co-founded CUNY Law School's widely-acclaimed International Women's Human Rights Law Clinic (IWHR). IWHR enables students to participate in groundbreaking human rights litigation and advocacy in international and U.S. contexts with women's rights advocates from around the world. In addition to her work with NESRI and the Center for Constitutional Rights, she was an Advisory Board member of Human Rights Watch, Women's Rights Watch, and a founder of and Legal Advisor to the Women's Caucus for Gender Justice. She published influential articles in the fields of reproductive and sexual rights and international women's human rights, and co-authored a leading text on women's rights. Her teaching also included Law & Family Relations, Constitutional Law, Civil Rights, and Federal Jurisdiction.